There’s a fresh fashion wave washing over this city’s shores. Emerging labels such as Basso & Brooke, Sinha-Stanic, Ashish and Eleykishimoto Ellesse are infusing the London runways with optimism, not to mention offbeat prints and lots of sparkle — be it Swarovski, sequined or diamanté. And while the young designers are making their first forays onto the catwalks, more established names such as Paul Smith, Julien Macdonald and Alice Temperley are building on their strengths with solid, salable collections that do the city proud.
Paul Smith: It’s all about hay rides, hockey sticks — and sneaking ciggies in the school parking lot. Paul Smith’s girl has a closet full of classics: kilts, cowboy shirts and wooly knits, and she knows how to strut them. This season, she can choose from pleated minikilts, skinny plaid trousers, tweed capelets and cropped, nubby sweaters, all in a ultrarich palette of pumpkin, sage and mustard. “I think overtly sexy fashion — bare breasts and bling — is starting to level out,” said Smith after the show. “This has a boyish feel to it, and I think it reflects a very modern way of dressing — taking things from your mum’s wardrobe or wearing your dad’s old jacket.” Smith also turned out Empire-waist silk smock dresses in deep purple, olive green and claret, and a high-waisted, double-breasted plaid coat for the demure girl who lurks inside every naughty teen.
Julien Macdonald: Ever since he bid au revoir to Givenchy and hopped on the northbound Eurostar, Macdonald has been on a winning streak here. Last season, he began stripping off the excess details that had come to characterize his London runway shows and started showing off the genuine goods. For fall, his skinny, sharply tailored trouser suits, belted wool coats, sparkly knitted vests and colorful sweater coats all hit the mark. The fab fur jackets — made from chinchilla, sable, mink, and lippe cat and tinkling with small Swarovski chandelier beads — helped make this a first-rate collection. “It’s Miss Marple goes to Florence — with a little Glam Rock thrown in the middle,” said the designer backstage after the show. “They’re clothes you can actually wear. I’m developing my style. I can make lots of different things, you know.”
Basso & Brooke: They’re very naughty boys. Brazilian-born Bruno Basso and British Christopher Brooke, partners in business and life, called their show Succubus — and with good reason. Their spectacular cartoon prints were a spicy, sinister mix of “Yellow Submarine,” the Brothers Grimm and the local XXX shop: topless ladies emerging from shark’s noses, partying dogs and rats, mechanical fish and comically disembodied breasts. Finally, there was that mythical blonde bombshell Rapunzel, orange flames licking the ends of her long, wavy locks, on the back of a floor-sweeping coat dress. Though the patterns stood out, however, many of the silhouettes were tricky: leggings, fussy capelets and awkward pouf sleeves.
Basso & Brooke, winners of last season’s Fashion Fringe event, have also linked up with the Italian clothing manufacturer Aeffe, which will produce and distribute the collection starting this season. “There are no big strategies, no sales targets. This is not about marketing,” said Massimo Ferretti, who owns and runs Aeffe with his sister, designer Alberta Ferretti. “We’re having fun with fashion.”
Nicole Farhi: Nicole Farhi went to Russia — no, not the nation of overnight billionaires and their glittering companions — but the country once ruled by the Romanoffs in their regal style. “I saw the collection as very poetic,” Farhi said. “I had a picture of the Romanoff family in the studio and was inspired by their austerity and poise.”
The results were romantic and rich, with bottle green or claret taffeta dresses detailed with velvet bows at the waist, flower-printed silk crepe dresses with velvet trim and silk brocade pants and jackets. Dark sequins sewn on to diaphanous black blouses added a tiny bit of sparkle, while black lace sleeves on a blouse provided a touch of Tuesday Addams.
Temperley: Keep on knitting! Although Alice Temperley tried to infuse a little Spanish crackle and pop into her collection with embroidered, beaded shawls and long, tiered dresses, they simply paled in comparison to her sensual knitwear. There were liquid black wool dresses with deep V-necks and hot-pink intarsia patterns; lovingly crocheted evening dresses and smock tops with tie backs, and swingy black skirts with contrasting red pleats. Temperley’s coats, too, were a wonder. She punched up a black military number with hot pink piping and layered a black, waffle-textured wool coat over the luscious knits.
Ashish: Indian designer Ashish picked up his fashion wand and dusted his fall looks with sequins. The designer’s glittering collection featured deflated minipouf skirts, vintage sweatshirts with logos such as “Quality Is Caring” and sleeveless, diamanté-encrusted athletic tops overlaid with chiffon. He also showed plenty of graphic prints — musical notes, cigarettes, skeletons, children’s toys and colored cubes — which adorned everything from overcoats to poodle skirts to tracksuits.
Eleykishimoto Ellesse: Courrèges meets Chilly Willy the Penguin on the slopes of Saint Moritz. And believe it or not, it works. In their second season of a three-season deal designing for the Italian activewear label Ellesse, husband-and-wife team Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto gave ski slopes around the world some badly needed style. They splashed penguin, shooting-star and flame prints across everything from featherweight fleece and ski jackets to A-line skirts and ski overalls. Their marine blue Courrèges-style ski coat gave an urban edge to the standard ski suit, while their navy and white knee-skimming trench coats were young and sharply tailored.
Sinha-Stanic: Sinha-Stanic, the Fashion Fringe runner-up that also signed with Aeffe, steered clear of prints and color. Fiona Sinha and Aleksandar Stanic, who are also partners in life and work, kept it simple — or so it seemed. The collection was based on Depression-era clothing and featured clean shapes: skirt, coat and pinafore dresses in shades of cream, gray, khaki and purple. At a closer glance, however, distinctive details were everywhere: knotted shoulder ties on strappy satin tops, sequins — in the shape of an apron — on the front of a pinafore dress and intricate beading around the hemline of slip skirts.