x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A city of wild dreams and serious schemes

Fashion week diary London catwalks are famously a source of innovation (read: crazy ideas). And sometimes - particularly after a season of conservative glamour in New York - an explosion of colour and print is welcome.

London catwalks are famously a source of innovation (read: crazy ideas). And sometimes - particularly after a season of conservative glamour in New York - an explosion of colour and print is welcome. Holly Fulton's first own-name catwalk show (away from the Fashion East co-operative that made her a star last season) certainly was. Hemlines on her cocktail shift dresses, which sparkled with Swarovski (her sponsor) crystals, were either short or floor-length and came in a riot of tropical shades such as yellow, orange and turquoise. She also created an edgier, youthful dress code for evening wear: high-waisted slim trousers, colourful silk blouse with graphic New York skyline print and white, high-top Louboutin trainers embellished with spikes.

Yet it's not all about youth: a collection that is both edgy and yet classically British also goes down a treat here. Daks, a heritage brand founded in 1894 in the City (London's financial district), owned since 1991 by the Japanese clothing giant Sankyo Seiko, and designed by an Italian, Filippo Scuffi, is the type of superbrand (it's huge in the Far East) that validates London's position as a serious fashion capital.

In his second season, Scuffi, demonstrated how to make an old brand relevant and desirable, without resorting to gimmicks (the house check surfaced only twice). Using the Vogue fashion editor turned show stylist, Cathy Kasterine, was a smart move too. She teamed pieces inspired by aviation with precision to show proportions that were slightly eccentric and yet showed off the quality of workmanship and luxury fabrics.

Highlights included a quilted cape worn with matching Sherlock Holmes-style hat and skinny trousers; and slouchy cable knits worn belted over slippery satin long dresses with flat brogues. The result was that aristocratic look that exports so well. At 9am, when the Daks show was streamed live to 502 Daks shops throughout the Far East, it was 6pm in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan - by a remarkable coincidence, the shopping hour. Watching this you could almost hear the tills ringing.

Topshop Unique, the "designer" part of the high-street brand, tapped into British outdoor sports and will no doubt be a huge money-spinner. Models sporting furry hats, in the shapes of woodland beasts from the fox to the stag, wore a mad, layered look consisting of cosy fleeces, waterproof jackets and pom-pom knits, ripped up then fastened back together with zips. The show was choreographed by Katie Grand, another influential stylist, and was as over-styled as Daks was meticulously pared down.

Such is the split personality of London, which, rather than confuse, continues to lure crucially important buyers and press to the UK capital, hoping to be shocked by how crazy and, equally, by how commercial catwalks here can be.