September 14, 2012 11:27 pm

London Fashion Week: day one

A quiet opening was in keeping with Emilia Wickstead’s intimate presentation of elegant full skirts and fitted bodices

The first day of London Fashion Week is always a slightly muted affair. Many of the press and buyers are coming back from New York, which means that there are no unmissably big names on the day’s schedule. This season the inaugural Friday seemed quieter than ever, without the customary presentation by the British Fashion Council, and the usual luminary/politician/survey du jour to declare proceedings open/trumpet the importance of British fashion.

But quiet and understated isn’t always a bad thing, at least not at Emilia Wickstead’s intimate salon-style presentation at her atelier in Cadogan Place. Wickstead has dressed Samantha Cameron and the Duchess of Cambridge, and her show based on Truman Capote’s “swans” – socialites such as C.Z. Guest, Marella Agnelli, Gloria Guinness and Babe Paley – played up to her society reputation. The shapes echoed the 1950s and early 1960s, with full skirts and fitted bodices, fitted pencil dresses and tops with peplums. The palette – buttercup yellow, mint green, soft pink and duck egg blue – were all inspired by a photo of Marella Agnelli taken by Horst in 1967.

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Highlights of the chic collection included a long yellow and white gown in textured cotton with a fitted bodice, full skirt and open back, a debutante-style dress in black silk with costume jewels at the neck, and black and white vertically striped circle skirt with a matching top. Cutaway backs on several garments modernised the silhouette, while the technique of printing onto textured cotton gave a freshness to classic elegance. Wickstead says she started her business, which combines ready-to-wear and made-to-order, “with the approach of understanding what women want” and added that she wanted to capture the intimacy of the salon show. “I aspire to dress the kind of women who used to go to them,” she said.

Maria Grachvogel is another name known for having loyal clients who appreciate a female designer’s understanding of how they want to dress. Fluidity is her defining trait, and as usual the show was based on draped and bias cut silk dresses, wide floaty trousers and a few jumpsuits. This season there was also a play on sheer fabrics, which worked well in a few instances, less successfully in other outfits that fell short of her reputation for being flattering. Three-quarter length pink sheer organza culottes would be a hard look to pull off by anyone. The same goes for some of the colour combinations. Print trousers, in a northern-lights-meets-pond-slime print were slightly unappealing, but darker blood and volcanic red mineral prints (one of which was called Igneous Intrusion) were far more seductive. A nude jumpsuit with plunging front and buttercup yellow bias cut silk dress was among the best looks.

Bora Aksu, a London-based Turkish designer, also played with opaque and sheer silks in a pretty, girlish show. Mini dresses, some baby-doll, some very gently shaped or draped, came printed with art deco floral patterns, wrapped in organza or layered with chiffon, and with little cape, collar or apron details.

Newcomer Corrie Nielson, too, made use of translucent or sheer fabrics, wrapping a tailored pale gold jacket in tulle, or on a clear dress with an opaque green palm leaf print. Her preoccupation was with shape and structure (as well as, surely, John Galliano’s oeuvre) as she showed evening coats with stiff sack backs, oversized Rembrandt-like blouses, domed peplums and even a black dress that looked as if the model had come to a fancy dress party as a rectangle.

A more conservative approach to silhouette reigned at London Fashion Week veteran Caroline Charles’s show, the better to emphasise prints on high summer sarongs, mini shorts, wide trousers and poolwear included feathers, tropical fish and psychedelic flowers. Bring on day two.

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