There's nothing quite like London on a sunny September's day. Particularly when you find yourself perched on a gilt chair, under a white canvas gazebo, listening to strains of Stravinsky's Petrouchka, and watching a parade of doll-like models wearing Erdem Moralioglu's dresses file past. As far as days go, it doesn't get much better than this. Erdem's shows are pretty special and his spring/summer 2011 collection is no exception. And it was so pretty.
Pale cream and white lace frocks, hand-embroidered with the sorts of flowers that flourish in the Swiss Alps during summer months, began the show. Youthful models, their hair twisted into Heidi-style corn-row plaits, wore sleeveless lemon prom dresses, nipped in at the waist and embroidered randomly with tiny red pansies. As well as his signature baby-doll shape, this season Erdem moved his fashion vision on to include satin trousers, neat shirt/blouse hybrids and skirts, mostly printed, although you couldn't quite put your finger on what the prints might have been.
The collection had, in fact, been inspired by a trip the Canadian-born Moralioglu made to London's Victoria & Albert Museum to preview the Ballets Russes exhibition, which opens on September 25. "They took me into a room and all the costumes were still in their calico covers for protection," he explained backstage. "But even through all this mass of white veiling you could see these intensely vibrant florals and colours."
Digital prints - many inspired by florals - have been an ongoing trend here all week. Never natural, often hyper-surreal, either in colour or fabric (some are enhanced by fabric to give a 3D effect), designers, ranging from Peter Pilotto to Meadham Kirchhoff, have incorporated them into spring/summer 2011 collections. Other standout trends include unusual colour combinations, such as neon yellow set against brown, or dark indigo and dirty putty shades accented by chalky pastels.
Christopher Kane's eagerly awaited show featured clashing prints and colours. What appeared to be prints of lace curtains were used as inspiration, dyed into what he called "poisonous" greens, pinks, oranges and yellows (very 1980s Versace - and remember he is designing for Versace's diffusion line, Versus). The appearance of the granny-style cardigan worn draped over the shoulders at Kane's show confirmed its imminent come-back.
In featherweight Lurex and liquid jersey crÍpe, this also appeared at Richard Nicoll and Matthew Williamson. Its main rival is not the jacket but the cape in chiffon or parachute silk. Capes have appeared on virtually every London catwalk, either as standalone garments or fly-away panels attached to dresses, that billow out behind models. Will boutique buyers insist designers leave these off when it comes to taking orders? Or will the caped-crusader look take off - literally?