Grown up glamour sells
Tuesday was the final day of London Fashion Week for women - yesterday was menswear-only - and it served to underline trends that had emerged over the previous five days: namely, print and texture, a palette of unusually vivid colours set against neutrals, sportswear in the American sense rather than a literal take, but most of all, a grown up sophistication in a city more famous for youthful androgyny and street-inspired trends.
It has been particularly interesting to witness some of London's most experimental, conceptual designers produce collections that look luxurious, sexy and glamorous in a very modern way - a tricky combination.
During one show on Tuesday, I sat next to Jo Phillips, the creative director of Cent, a London-based magazine and online site with a global following. I wanted to ask her, as an expert on cutting-edge fashion, what her take was on London designers going for the "wow" factor. Isn't this something covered by rivals in Milan or Paris?
"We are moving away from conceptual dressing on the whole because we are in a recession," said the woman responsible for helping to put Roland Mouret's hourglass dresses on the map and launching the fashion career of Victoria Beckham. Phillips worked with the pop impresario Simon Fuller to branch his business into high-end clothing, and famously told Fuller to do something about Beckham's childhood dream of becoming a dress designer: "She's a grafter with an eye for fashion. I had no doubt she'd be successful. She's one of the most determined people I've ever met."
Phillips continued: "When times are good, everyone experiments. Not just designers but women who buy their clothes. Right now, women just want to look sexy. Sexier clothes are easier to digest." And they sell, too.
Hold the hats
Another example of a designer showing gorgeously made, grown up clothes while putting her own London spin on things occurred at the Roksanda Ilincic show. The Belgrade-born designer, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow, Thandie Newton, Cate Blanchett and Kate Hudson, this season showed a collection inspired by haute couture - at least as far as the neck. Gold, turquoise and cerise silk organza dresses, long and knee-length, with Balenciaga-like balloon hems and trapeze line blouses, looked especially elegant in the venue, with its pale blue walls covered with oil paintings in heavy gilt frames.
One of the standout frocks of the week was a high-necked cerise shift with slim dresses that suddenly exploded into bell cuffs. Another was a blue and white supersized check print on wide leg silk trousers teamed with boxy jackets. On their heads, models, including the pink-haired punk Charlotte Free, wore grunge-style knitted berets "inspired by Johnny Depp and Kurt Cobain", as the designer explained afterwards. Strangely enough though - hand-knitted from strips of silk and hand-dyed in vivid pinks, blues and white - in the spirit of couture, they worked.
Anna Wintour caught off guard
LFW celebrities have been a bit thin on the ground; the front row has been strictly an editors-only zone. The British-born US Harpers Bazaar editor, Glenda Bailey, rarely comes to London but showed up to promote her book, Harper's Bazaar: Greatest Hits, detailing her decade-long reign at the American glossy.
American Vogue's Anna Wintour is a frequent visitor and over the past few days has gone to smaller events as well as those of the big luxury brands. Perhaps she regretted going to one of the final events of the week, Meadham Kirchhoff, a funky duo who like to put on a show, in every sense of the word.
Staged at the TopShop sponsored space, rows of rainbow-coloured balloons festooning pillars around the catwalk hinted that there was going to be a party. As the lights dimmed and a Spice Girls medley struck up, a dozen pink-haired Courtney Love lookalike dancers, dressed in candyfloss pastel satin dresses, danced on to the runway. Then the music changed to the French Can Can and they broke into manic dancing, flapping hands and doing high kicks, three of them right in front of Wintour.
Initially looking really uncomfortable, Wintour then seemed to give in to the moment, breaking into a nervous smile, which softened as a dance troupe of little girls in tutus rushed on to the catwalk and plié'd and pirouetted, before one took her place atop a "music box", which began to spin slowly. With all this going on, the models in Harajuku-like crazy clothes walking around the catwalk's perimeter were almost in danger of being overlooked. But I'm sure Wintour, ever the professional, will have noted them.
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