London Fashion Week: Blasts from the past
People keep calling for designers to look into the future, but rarely has a season been so obsessed with the past as London Fashion Week, which wrapped up Tuesday night with a reception in 10 Downing Street.
Designers often reference history, but this season they mined the past more obsessively than ever before. Most especially in the major statement shows of the week – Preen, Erdem and JW Anderson.
Erdem referenced The Age of Silver, working closely with Robin Muir, curator of Bright Young Things, an exhibition of early photography by Cecil Beaton, held in the National Portrait Gallery. Also the location of this show referenced the young aristocrats of 1920s London, which so fascinated the tabloid press of the era. It made for a marvelous series of looks at Erdem, by its designer Erdem Moralioglu. The latest collection by the Turko-Canadian creator to stem from the gilded age of Anglo-Saxon gentility, and all the better for it.
Stupendous pearl encrusted mannish blazers; black jacquard sexy suits; frou frou flapper dresses – many looks topped by giant marabou feather plumage. On top of that, the excellence of draping and rouching were the latest reminder that here in the UK, Erdem is the nearest thing to haute couture one can find.
Jonathan Anderson also harked back to the 1920s with the most acclaimed show of the five-day London season. A day earlier, Preen referenced Don’t Look Now, the 1973 psychological occult thriller, about a couple searching for their dead child in Venice. Mingling the checked jackets of the architect played by Donald Sutherland and the gilded theatrical costumes worn by Venetian nobility. The Preen duo of Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi cut with abandon, combining black ruffle dresses worthy of the Festa del Redentore with white virginal smock tops. And wowing with dresses that combined golden vestments and Argyle sweaters.
Add singer to the list of designer Hussein Chalayan’s professions. Chalayan went on a fashionable Aboriginal “walkabout” of his own life and ideas, in a show where he also sang and wrote the lyrics to four original tracks. Accompanied by producer Mark Moore and keyboard player Dan Donovan inside the famed dance theater, Sadler’s Wells. His off-beat draping and dark theatrical style, a charming reminder of Chalayan’s exceptional skill as a designer, in a blast from his own past.
On Sunday, the reigning queen of London volume, Roksanda Ilincic staged a brilliant piece of Cultural Re-appropriation. Inviting British-Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum to install No. 976 Net, a massive fabric installation that referenced fishermen and their net found in Cornwall and Bataan. Staged inside the Durbar Court of The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, a beautiful 1866 structure riddled with architectural lifts from the Indian sub-Continent. The result was a thrilling show – with bravura color blocking; raw outerwear; cascading volumes with multiple layering and technical cotton taffeta with hand painted brushstrokes.
Every single day in London, long-time European residents working in the fashion industry bragged with relief to FashionNetwork.com that they had managed to achieve settled status from British immigration authorities. So, it seemed fitting for the Serbian-born Roksanda that she staged her show inside the Foreign and Commonwealth office, located right next door to Downing Street.
Across Green park, Irish-born Simone Rocha showed inside Lancaster House, which doubles for Buckingham Palace in the Netflix series, The Crown. A frequently beautiful display of dresses which used elements of baptism clothes, birthing smocks and Aran sweaters this was a collection of great charm, though not of that much news. It felt like a designer – however poetically – treading over already visited ground.
In fashion, one always has to admire a veteran, and there are few more venerable designers than 74-year-old Paul Costelloe, who staged a polished performance inside the Art Deco ballroom of the Waldorf Hotel.
His big idea was a great one – high-tech body suits and leggings in graphic techy stain glass colors, worthy of Mark Rothko. Worn – on the way to the gym - underneath elongated Scottish tweed of Italian fine wool coats, the look was definitely spruce.
Costelloe cuts a tad too generously – with one too many highwayman collars and bouffant puff sleeves; especially his jacquard evening wear. But that is clearly what his fans most admire. So, when Paul took his ovation down the carpet steps of the ballroom he won an enormous cheer, beaming and bowing before slowly leaving the runway, the applause still ringing.
Believe it or not, after attending 20 shows in London this weekend, Costelloe won the biggest cheer of the season.
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