Prints are playing with optical illusions and an hourglass silhouette while 'street' fashion is gaining ground.
London Fashion Week round-up: prints, grime, florals and tribes
More prints please
Prints are seen as a London "thing", which more recently has spread to the four corners of the world, influencing designers globally. Perhaps this is why designers specialising in this niche in this city constantly feel obliged to move the genre on a notch. Print dominated day four of London Fashion Week.
Peter Pilotto kicked off with optical illusion swirls interspersed with "reef" knots normally found on shipping chart cabinets. Since their launch in 2008, Pilotto and his partner Christopher de Vos have built up a strong following of clients who like their clothes to be intelligent in conception but glamorous as well.
This season, the silhouette was hourglass, featuring prints that are sympathetic to whatever body parts lurk beneath zingy greens and blues. For instance, pencil skirts hinted suggestively at thighs with colour being bleached out in strategic areas, as if they might even have been heat-resistant.
Antonio Berardi's print was sequins. Christopher Kane's boxy tailored collection gave a nod to the 1960s, both in shape - the main silhouette was the above-knee shift - and fabric. Gold and silver metallic brocades and sliced leather jackets were teamed with box pleat skirts and flat shoes.
When you talk about the "London look", inevitably you will be referring to street fashion, something that the British capital is known for. In recent years, LFW has grown up so much that it has been in danger of losing the characteristic that made it special.
Two designers "keeping it real" yesterday were the Scottish CSM graduate Louise Gray and the London milliner Nasir Mazhar, who creates headpieces for Lady Gaga.
Staged in the TopShop venue at the defunct Eurostar terminal at Waterloo station, this was Gray's first catwalk show under the New Generation banner, which is sponsored by the English giant.
Gray's crazy prints and styling were fun but not as original as the gritty cool of Mazhar's work, which takes its inspiration from the city's cultural "tribes".
The south Londoner brought along children from districts such as Stratford, Dalston and Brixton to model his signature box-peak "Bully" caps in mismatched animal prints, along with takes on the African-printed turban and a hyper-bright hijab.
This season, he added bags to his repertoire, including duffels, backpacks and beach bags realised in neon-bright fun fur with netting and leather. Tiny travel bags were trimmed in marabou.
The collection was inspired by the grime music genre, which is being compared to punk and garage because of its street "uniform". "Grime is the last subculture in England," declared Mazhar. "People dress in a certain way. They talk in a certain way. It comes from the London streets."
And next summer, it's coming to a fashion boutique near you.
Florals came in metallic browns and cornflower blues. Dresses featured two layers, one semi-transparent, giving the effect of tissue paper used in wrapping.
In the presence of both Anna Wintour and Samantha Cameron, wife of the British prime minister, Erdem Moralioglu showed his range of pretty, delicate florals in shades of blue and fresh yellow in the Wedgwood blue ballroom of London's Savoy hotel. He also included cobweb-fine Chantilly lace, in shades of lilac and primrose yellow and Cornelli cotton lace sewn on flesh slips to give a nude effect.
Another London-based designer famous for his collage effect as well as prints is Michael van der Ham, who does stage costumes for the singer Björk. Van der Ham featured graphic black and white prints
alongside patches of pink or pale green brocade, which blended seamlessly with the flow of his ladylike garments. Backstage, he explained how he had used fabrics of a similar weight, such as crêpe de Chine and silk, alongside slub silks featuring see-through metallics to create exciting textures.
Tribes on the tweetwalk
There was a tribal feel to Burberry, with African beadwork on collars, belts and platform shoes and a brushstroke print. The latter is bound to have the same effect as the "aviator" in terms of high street copies come summer 2012. Wide corseted belts cinched in
military tailored long jackets. There were also dirndl skirts, colourful zigzag patterned knits and pleated dresses. Although there was no single standout "it" item as such, there were new takes on the classic parka, cropped in buttery shades of brown suede, and huge shopper bags and chunky raffia wedges.
This season's gimmick was "tweetwalking", courtesy of the chief creative officer and self-described geek, Christopher Bailey, in partnership with the social networking website Twitter.
"Twitter is instantaneous and I love the idea that streaming a show can be in many different forms," said Bailey.
He explained his collection as being about "the most detailed hand-crafted pieces and fabric innovation, creating a beautiful physical experience that is communicated digitally in dynamic and diverse ways. I love balancing those two worlds".