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September 17, 2012 12:00 pm
It’s not exactly a revelation that fashion is preoccupied with youth, but there was a particular air of freshness and innocence to several of the shows on Saturday morning with playful patterns, crisp white cottons – and a 12-year-old schoolgirl as muse.
Design duo Clements Ribeiro based their show on Suzy Bishop, the brooding, Françoise Hardy-loving schoolgirl heroine of recent Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom, set in the 1960s.
The inspiration wasn’t too literal – no knee-high socks – but it blended 1960s colours and shapes, as well as a touch of the 1940s, with a practical hint of school uniform and girlish details. Think prim on the surface, kooky and a little bit messed up underneath. The designers looked into their archive for many of the motifs, such as a “Mrs Simpson” check, which appeared on A-line knee length skirts, a prim shirt and crop trousers; and a foxglove flower print, which decorated easy silk shifts, skirts, shirts and trousers. Brooch-like clusters of paillettes and sequins decorated demure 1940s cardigans and simple monochrome shift dresses, while jelly shoes in black patent or glitter finish underlined the “off-kilter chic” of the look.
The mood was more carefree and playful at Kinder Aggugini, where models had been made up with fake freckles, and wore Swedish Hasbeen clogs as the designer imagined a girl pursuing the freedom of being at sea. Pinafore minidresses and dungarees came printed with mermaids, anchors, seahorses and swordfish, rolled-up shorts echoed Mediterranean fishermen, and little hessian jackets with stripe or gingham trim suggested rope rigging. A pair of red silk dungarees worn over a printed top made the audience in the Somerset House marquee reach for their camera phones, and perhaps their wallets in six months time, while the final Octopus dresses were a witty triumph. Long fluid gowns came with black velvet at the top which became devore Octopus tentacles creeping down to the hem on layers of sheer peach or black chiffon.
See-through windcheaters and parkas printed with snorkelling scenes emphasised the importance of outerwear – hardly surprising given the unreliability of the British summer – and at Daks designer Sheila McKain-Waid created them in sheer white parachute nylon, worn over white dresses.
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Of the transparency and layering which informed much of the collection she said, “it was inspired by a picture of Madame Vionnet in the 1930s, she took two scarves and made a blouse by draping them together, so they were both sheer and opaque where they crossed together”. The start of the show focused on fresh, light pieces in chalky white – a simple thin-strapped shift with the Daks check rendered in white sequins, an apron-style dress, jerkins, and loose jackets. Waid said the Daks woman is, “confident and knows her style, I try to create pieces that update the classics”. The Daks trench had been stripped of its lapels, or reworked as a cape. Founded in 1894, Daks is a historic British heritage brand on a quest to modernise, but many pieces, such as a minidress made from sheer, stretchy tulle, might just be too young for the Daks demographic.
Designer Henry Holland’s schtick is young, fun and all about pop culture, and judging by the number of collaborations he takes on he doesn’t take himself too seriously. With his coterie of twenty-something scenesters such as Alexa Chung and Pixie Geldof watching the show held in a drab concrete car park, Holland went back to the 1990s and rave culture, with acid-washed and tie-dyed dresses in rainbow colours, bejewelled beanies and loosely draped flowered silk dresses, while metallic biker jackets added a hint of glam rock.
The mood was festival and summer of love, and another tribute to the theme – albeit the 1960s rather than the 1990s – came from a surprising source: Jasper Conran. Known for dressing society women, and his Designers at Debenhams range, Conran isn’t exactly the first person you would associate with the counterculture, but 1960s Americana, with a bit of country and western thrown in, was behind pink and yellow suede minidresses with the kind of punched pattern you might find on a pair of cowboy boots, dark denim jeans and jackets, some customised, patchworked dresses, mini skirts and sequin tunic dresses.
With the exception of Holland, who is immersed in a scene, however self-consciously commercial, these shows were about admiring youth from a distance rather than creating the kind of new cultural movements London is known for. However, if youth is wasted on the young, at least Saturday’s shows will give consumers a chance to relive it via fashion.
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