Fittingly, the first truly international-feeling show of London Fashion Week was pulled off by its greatest export and most accomplished crowd-pleaser. The British designer Luella Bartley, a fashion-journalist-turned-designer and close friend of Kate Moss, has shown in three major capitals in the past decade. She returned to her native city in 2007 only to be crowned the Queen of Cool, a label she has enjoyed pretty much ever since.
Few other home-grown designers could have attracted most of the newly arrived big shots to their shows (such as US Vogue's Anna Wintour, the Net-A-Porter boss Natalie Massenet, the style guru Jefferson Hack and US Elle's Kate Lanphear), let alone have them perched on the edge of their gilded chairs in a converted West London dairy, waiting for the show to start. No pressure. This blonde mother of three has learnt exactly how to mix the right amount of oomph with the right amount of aaaahhh.
It takes a tomboy to understand that somewhere deep within every grown-up woman lurks a little girl who misses dressing her dollies. Bartley, who spends her free time surfing near her home in Cornwall, tapped into the zeitgeist and came up with something cheerful, polished and pretty in that edgy way she has made her own. Her collection had the effect of making both hardened hacks and fervent fans, including Peaches Geldof, Alexa Chung and Fran Cutler, get all misty-eyed.
Key pieces included a structured dress with a kind of stuck-out skirt (created with detachable hip pads that will be sold separately), tulip-skirted suits with jackets fastened by fabric bows and pom-pom shift dresses. These were worn with a pretty kitten heel designed by Michael Lewis. Handbags by Katie Hillier, with a youthful take on the classic Chanel style, complemented the outfits. The entire show was charming, directional and preposterously commercial.
"I want the black dress with the cut-out heart," gushed Mary McCartney (Stella's sister) backstage. "It's so good to see real-life clothes that are fun not boring. It made me want to rush out and shop." Only a handful of designers generate a similar outpouring of passion. One is Christopher Kane, who despite only graduating from Central Saint Martins in 2006, has been relied upon to come up with something totally new every season.
His show in the Topshop space shortly after Luella's on Monday did not disappoint. How, where or why he settled for checked gingham dresses in wispy fabrics with chiffon insets and acute interest around the bust was irrelevant. His show felt so fresh and cheerful that no one cared that he has gone off in a completely different direction. Wintour joined an A-list front row alongside Donatella Versace (for whom Kane has worked) and buyers and press from the four corners of the world.
"Sculpture, purity and antiquity" were the inspiration behind the dazzling spring/summer 2010 collection of the design duo Meadham Kirchhoff, who are considered a London Fashion Week must-see. (You might not have heard of Edward Meadham or Benjamin Kirchhoff, but they are considered the thinking man and woman's favourite.) They opted for layering, with tunics over skirts, trousers and shiny black flats with heel "accessories" that struck another blow to heels.
For a summer collection, it appeared fairly dark but was made mostly in cotton (it was sponsored by Cotton USA). Roomy pink Lurex tops were in fact glitter transfers on cotton, and were worn over crunchy cotton trousers that had a slash at the knee, making them look like galoshes. Marios Schwab's was another unmissable show. The German-born, London-based designer also opted for layering, volume and a deconstructed approach to his outfits, creating an almost sari-like shape.
Finally, Jaeger, the iconic fashion brand established in 1884 and known for superb tailoring and luxurious evening wear, offered another vision for next summer. Key themes were gold, which appeared in soft Lurex jersey tops and metallic lace cardigans teamed with high-waisted, bell-shaped trousers - also with a gold and white print - and monochrome punctuated by colour-popping accessories in apple green, yellow, red and, just in case there wasn't already enough, gold.
New shapes included a roomy "half-moon" trouser, which featured in playsuits, and chic interpretations of harem pants that were inspired by the 1970s fashion photographer Guy Bourdin. The novelty shag-piled carpet on the catwalk heightened the 1970s feel, as did the huge, round tortoiseshell sunglasses, which, by the way, are a ubiquitous trend regardless of the designer.