As ever, London designers traveled their own paths this season…Giles Deacon was inspired by Elsa Schiaparelli…Julien Madonald seemed to be channeling Hubert de Givenchy…at Eley Kishimoto, the inspiration was the city’s hot Brixton neighborhood…and, at Pringle, twinsets are forever.
Giles Deacon: With a calendar full of been-there, seen-that designers, Giles Deacon has become the hot ticket in town. It was also the only show to feature real live supermodels, as in Linda Evangelista, Karolina Kurkova, Guinevere van Seenus and Karen Elson. Deacon, who sells at Liberty, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, said he was inspired by the recent Elsa Schiaparelli show in Paris. “I love those personal eccentricities, the part-jokey, part-serious way of dressing and the amazing crafts and techniques,” he said during a preview of the collection last week. “I also like clothes that are solid,” he added, pointing to the weighty silk and metallic jackets woven with giant zigzags, monkeys or marquetry designs; skirts covered in dyed blue pheasant feathers, and silk jacquard trousers woven with a bee-and-honeycomb motif. And while the collection offered plenty of tailored pieces, there were also some that were lighter and more fluid, including a tuxedo dressing-gown dress with slashed-open shoulders and flowing caftans printed with photo prints of meteors.
There is no doubt that these are interesting clothes, beautifully cut and with a macabre British wit reminiscent of Alexander McQueen’s. The styling was too distracting, however, with tons of huge necklaces and other doodads piled on the looks. And how about those sky-high platforms that seemed to be there just to test a girl’s mettle? Deacon, who made his solo debut last season after designing under Tom Ford at Gucci, is looking to score another five accounts — including a few in the U.S. Maybe he should let the clothes speak for themselves.
Julien Macdonald: Whether Julien Macdonald is just jumping on fashion’s current girly bandwagon or possessed by the spirit of Hubert de Givenchy, whose Paris atelier he has just left, one thing’s for sure: Gone are the days of flash, flesh and tart-with-a-heart looks that are this designer’s usual fare. Instead, Macdonald showed his gorgeous knits, sparkly dresses and a more demure lady with a vintage vibe. “I’d been stuck in a rut, always doing the same thing, but this season I was really into the Forties,” he said. It wasn’t a runway full of Joan Crawfords, however. The designer likes all things Hispanic for spring, from the transparent blouses with luscious ruffles tumbling down the front to the fluffy, full-skirted, strapless confections covered in tiny silk flowers that any 15-year-old would kill to wear at her quinceaneras. This time around, his knits weren’t hidden under miles of jewels or marabou. Instead, they were used for long gold, tiered evening dresses or dotted with spherical beads on a puff-sleeved cardigan. Macdonald’s foray into prim-girl territory wasn’t exactly a complete departure from his past, though, because these looks may be cut from more fabric, but they’re still as sheer as ever.
Eley Kishimoto: There’s no place like home — just ask Mark Eley and Wakako Kishimoto, who used their ultragroovy neighborhood of Brixton in South London as inspiration for their prints this season. The design duo, partners in work and life, covered dresses with everything from flowers, paisley, checks, zigzags and swirl prints to images of the high-rise buildings down the street from where they live. “We were thinking about the African and Caribbean churchgoing women in our neighborhood whose look is so proud and considered, and they’re not worried about the intensity of what they’re wearing,” said Eley backstage after the show. The standouts included a block-print trenchcoat with bracelet sleeves; fluid dresses in checks and floral prints, and sweet cotton batik sundresses. The show was a romp — as they say in these parts — although it was too long and could have used some editing.
Pringle: For the Chinese, it may be the monkey’s moment, but at Pringle it’s the year of the twinset. The label held a “Twinset Jet-Set” party at its Bond Street store on Wednesday to celebrate the 70th anniversary of knitwear’s most famous couple. The special guests were dancers from the English National Ballet — tutus and all. The reason for this is that, in the Fifties, ballerinas from that company and from the Royal National Ballet wore the firm’s knits during their downtime and were photographed so often in them they became known as Pringle’s “sweater girls.” The twinset party was also meant to be a teaser for Pringle’s 190th anniversary, which takes place next year. The company plans to hold a special presentation in Milan during the next round of shows, and, because of that, it chose not to stage a formal show this season.
The spring collection, meanwhile, continued to be all about the glam Scottish heiress. “She’s still in her castle, but she’s moved from the library to the conservatory so it’s about florals, plants and an outdoorsy feel,” said designer Stuart Stockdale. The palette was a mix of Mediterranean colors — turquoise, teal, marigold and hot pink — and subtle flesh tones. There were Forties-style textured silk sundresses covered with flower prints, rich jersey intarsia wrap dresses, flower-print silk dresses and little pink tweed jackets with ribbons woven through them. The knitwear had a turn-of-the-last-century feel with William Morris-like intarsia designs in lavender and mint; reversible cardigans made from printed woven silk on one side and knitted cashmere on the other, and…drumroll please…classic Pringle sweaters with a circular argyle pattern.
Preen: Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi, the design duo behind Preen, are known for their intricately cut and tailored punk-rock clothes. The duo turned out a winning collection for spring, following the less-is-more approach. Cotton jersey tops and dresses were clean as a whistle, but still interesting when adorned with rows of tiered ruffles or sculpted shoulders. Trousers and shorts were rock ’n’ roll cool with sections of diagonal knife pleating, and some even sprouted pannier-type extensions at the hips. A cotton camp shirt the color of brown paper was anti-sweet and chic with piecrust trim. When these designers loosen up, the results are wearable and cool.
Boudicca: Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby are fashion’s Morticia and Gomez Adams, favoring a dark and spooky approach that has won them a cult following. But don’t let the post-apocalyptic strap-happy styling fool you, because Broach and Kirkby are accomplished tailors who cut a mean jacket and trousers. This time around, they turned their careful hands to crisp, dark denim with the requisite leather straps and pleated, paneled appendages resembling fins. But even tough girls need to give that urban armor a rest, and here they can choose from softly draped neo-goddess dresses in cornflower blue or black chiffon. The Boudicca girl can also opt for black floral lace, either quite feminine in the form of a racer-back dress or edgier when printed on a sharp bracelet-sleeved jacket.
Jonathan Saunders: Designer Jonathan Saunders first wowed the fashion crowd with the bird-of-paradise print he created for Alexander McQueen’s pirate collection in spring 2003. Saunders has since parlayed that exposure into an eponymous collection that is now in its third season. His intricate and colorful prints are usually one part Pucci, one part high tech Eighties. For spring, there was more of the same, but the clothes are more wearable and didn’t have as hard an edge. Black bodysuits with Swarovski crystal straps and detailing looked fresh, as did dresses and tops with sheer panels and color blocks. Saunders closed his show with gently swaying floor-length skirts in turquoise, tangerine and gray patterns, which were pretty and also showed that this otherwise one-note designer can make progress.
Miki Fukai: Silver metallic, sun-bleached denim and jumpsuits combined together sound like a potential recipe for fashion disaster, but somehow Miki Fukai pulled it off. Models shimmered like mermaids in sparkling silver or cobalt blue metallic gym shorts, wide-legged pants, backless tanks and loose shirts that were vertically split into half-metallic, half-white cotton. Denim and patchwork went hand in hand: Every strapless sundress or pleated A-line, knee-length skirt had a sprinkling of patches in dark, faded and white denim. The collection was cool, simple and sometimes androgynous, yet packed with details, be it the three-dimensional buttons scattered throughout or Fukai’s signature use of intricate weaves.
Emma Cook: Emma Cook clearly realized her elfin designs were getting a little tired, and that even pixies need a change of wardrobe every so often. Although the collection featured her signature bell-sleeved dresses, appliquéd leather motifs and prints of birds, flowers, sycamores and leaves, some fresh designs bloomed, too. There were crisp white denim culottes, cropped, puff-sleeved leather jackets and draped jersey dresses with built-in harem pants. Draping, in fact, continued throughout with Grecian-inspired dresses: pale pink with knotted busts, chocolate-colored tube dresses and others with hemlines that fell in gathered drapes or knotted at the knee. The best looks, however, were a series of ice-blue cotton pieces: cute cropped overalls, a knee-length raincoat, a puff-sleeved blouse and wide-legged tailored pants.