x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Variety is the spice of London fashion

Reports from London Fashion Week and the autumn/winter 2011/12 season continue.

Marios Schwab, who often nudges fashion into new pastures, offered an exquisitely old-fashioned vision this time around at London Fashion Week.
Marios Schwab, who often nudges fashion into new pastures, offered an exquisitely old-fashioned vision this time around at London Fashion Week.

When the world's top trend forecaster, David Wolfe, predicted a "style standstill" recently, few took him seriously. The idea that the twice-yearly designer ready-to-wear shows would suddenly grind to a juddering halt, trendwise, seemed impossible.

To say London has been devoid of trends and new looks would be inaccurate. There have been lots. It's just that every single designer's vision of what autumn/winter 2011/12 should look like is different, as if they are merely orbiting, not landing on, Planet Fashion.

Funnily enough, this hasn't detracted from the enjoyment of London Fashion Week. In fact, seeing each designer tap into his or her unique DNA, creating a sort of "best of", rather than seeing the same shape or form over and over again, has been rather exhilarating. Indeed, the sheer variety of clothes, quality of craftsmanship, fabric and design has risen as a result.

As customers become more selective, demanding more for their money, designers are responding by creating covetable clothes, which cannot be recognised by the season - clothes in novelty leathers and exuberant textiles (often hand-developed in mills in Italy) that couldn't possibly be mimicked by Primark or Zara.

Mary Katrantzou's joyful prints were not just intricate and exquisite but the silks, velvets and tapestry-like knits looked every inch as expensive as they no doubt will be.

Marios Schwab's conceptual leatherwork, which moulded the body, swathing this way and that, sometimes dripping in pearls or cowboy-style buckles, could no more be mass-produced than Concorde.

Schwab, the half-Greek, half-Austrian London resident and scientist of contemporary fashion, can usually be relied upon to nudge clothes on to pastures new. This time there was something exquisitely old-fashioned about his vision of modernity.

Contrasting early 20th-century essays discussing the legacy of ornamentation and craftsmanship in an era of industrialisation had inspired Schwab. Incorporating a pearl necklace within a draped detail on a streamlined dress was his argument that ornamentation is necessary even within a minimal form. The American fashion journalist described his collection as "maximal minimal."

This also summed up the startling presentation of the British fashion label, Meadham Kirchhoff.

Staged in what was once Old Billingsgate fish market in the City of London, just by the River Thames, the catwalk here incorporated a macabre art installation of wire stuck through with wilting flowers, scrawled notes and candles - the idea being that this was an epitaph to the designers' last collection.

No one is more vocal about their hatred of fast-turnaround trends (kick-started by the Japanese designer Kenzo Takada in the 1970s, by the way) than Edward Meadham and French-born Benjamin Kirchhoff.

At their show, models dressed in red, white or black urban sporty clothes stormed on to the runway, all walking too quickly for bloggers or anyone holding up iPhones or Blackberrys to capture an image.

Now this is a trend: throughout LFW (and New York), models have been directed to practically run down runways. Apparently, mobiles can register movement only up to a certain speed. This, reader, is the new fast fashion.

To see more of London Fashion Week click here