London The fifth day of our London Fashion Week diary focuses on one of Britain's most enduring houses.
Burberry shows the best of British
Questions questions. London Fashion Week raised more than it answered. Like, what's happened to the pushy shoulder? Are flats the new heels? And where on earth has the It-bag gone? Even the glitzy Burberry Prorsum show on Tuesday evening, which closed the five-day event, failed to reach any real conclusion. It only added to the dilemma. Burberry had flown hundreds of international big shots to London to see the show, including Joanne Coles, the Yorkshire-bred editor of American Marie Claire and the star of Running In Heels (the reality TV show which authenticates the fictional The Devil Wears Prada).
Burberry had purpose-built an aircraft hangar-sized structure, you couldn't really call it a tent, to house the show in the courtyard of Chelsea College of Art and Design. At the after-show party, held at the swanky marble-interiored Burberry HQ nearby, one entire wall was given over to a video screen showing a speeded-up film of the building of this, followed by the actual catwalk show. I'm not sure which was more impressive, or costly.
Chatting to fashion-editor friends from Vogue over canapés, we agreed this felt like New York or Milan. Given the choice of London's venues, ancient and modern, how strange such a brand would not have used this to its advantage though? Burberry's designer, Christopher Bailey, used the label's signature trench as a starting point for the collection (with sleeves that ended in a knot at the shoulder and a triple-layered hem ending in zips that curled up and around). He then went off at a tangent with iced pastel dresses. These were a bit like the super-short Herve Leger bandage dresses worn on the red carpet but made from fabric twisted into complicated knots in shades of iced mocha, melon, lemon, lilac and beige. Worn with trashy platforms and occasionally fur "chubbies" (a cross between a coat and a jacket) the effect was high-octane glamour erring on vulgarity.
Burberry must have sold a heck of a lot of raincoats this year. This event cost a fortune and I'm not sure it entirely paid off. I tried asking Victoria Beckham her opinion at the after-show party but couldn't get her to leave the paparazzi. Talk about making an entrance and exit. She spent more time being photographed by them than she did at the actual party. In case you are interested she was wearing a baby doll dress of her own design with giant Minnie Mouse-style Marc Jacobs platforms. All very predictable. It would have boosted her fashion cred no end if she had rocked up wearing Doc Martens, like the ones in Heikka Salonen's presentation at the Fashion East show staged in the dark and slightly creepy vaults under Somerset House, the official HQ of London Fashion Week, which she watched earlier.
It is interesting to note the pop-star-turned-clothing designer popped up at this show which featured young unknowns and startlingly new trends. Salonen's cream and white slightly sporty clothes all teamed with beaten-up brown Docs were refreshingly different to anything we'd seen on any other catwalk apart from Jeremy Scott's show, which was inspired by The Flintstones and was mad. Ah yes, Doc Martens - remember those?
Several trendy young stylists have been walking around in Raf Simons for Doc Marten versions all week. Catwalk shoes were mostly preposterously high - staggeringly so at Mark Fast and Bernard Chandran. However, when flats did put in appearance, like the androgynous shiny black brogues at Meadham Kirchoff, they floored it. The other raging fashion debate involves shoulders. A season after shoulder pads pushed everything out of the way, suddenly they are conspicuous by their absence. Next season is still about the "statement" shoulder, only this time it's not the silly supersized variety, rather, what lies beneath.
Forget Michelle Obama forearms, the naked shoulder is the new erogenous zone. It sort of began in New York where Rad Hourani used zips to reveal flashes of flesh where the collar ends and curve of the arm begins. The trend continued in London. Louise Goldin even incorporated ping-pong balls into intricate knits to push up fabric to emphasise a bare shoulder. Most designers covered their options, sending out a smorgasbord of shapes, except Roksanda Ilincic, who showed her collection in a proper British venue, a Victorian gilt-strewn, chandeliered library at Whitehall Place.
Her Forties-inspired satin siren gowns looked like those worn by the Silver Lady figure on Rolls-Royce cars. Perfect for Kate Winslet in her remake of Mildred Pearce. Ultimately fashion is about choice. No clothing company would dare offer up just one thing anymore. Hang on a minute though, isn't this exactly how Burberry made its fortune?