Emma Hill at Mulberry rarely strays far from the brand’s quirky British heritage image and this season the show was billed as a return to the Seventies – “the years of a young Mulberry brand”. There was also a focus on leather clothes, which gets to the brand’s core as a leather goods house, and a theme of “an irreverent English country garden”. All in all, it was a familiar strategy – going back to a company’s roots when there’s a whiff of financial uncertainty – after annual results in June fell short of analysts’ expectations.
Gardens don’t usually come with a sense of irreverence, but in Mulberry-land this meant mixing up native flora and fauna with tropical prints and surprising elements such as a repeat pattern of a gecko. Similarly, this wasn’t a prim or fussy tea party floral, but a more graphic 1970s version.
A bower of flowers arched over the catwalk at Tuesday’s show, which was watched by Jessica Ennis, Kate Moss and Lana Del Rey among other celebrities, and said florals, sometimes with geckos intermixed, appeared on loose dresses in peach and mint green, shorts and tops, jacquard peacoats, jacquard flared trouser suits in a peachy bronze, and printed on to oversized leather boyfriend biker jackets. A key piece, these jackets also came in cotton tweed and washed canvas. Tapping into the Seventies were maxidresses, leather flares and printed silk flares, while the overall vision was easy and laidback, with a play between feminine fabrics and prints and more boyish, military and vintage-inspired outerwear. And Hill’s tip for next season’s key bag shape? The tote, specifically the Mulberry “Willow” tote with a purse fastened to the outside.
Another British handbag label with a sense of fun is Anya Hindmarch. This season she showed her Pomp & Pleasure Collection (the title was after Samuel Coleridge) on a large revolving stage with tableaux resembling scenes from a 18th century romp rendered in paper cut-outs. Bathrooms, bedrooms and drawing rooms featured paintings with moving eyes, women in wigs in the bath and the boudoir, all as a backdrop for bags. The bags themselves included top-handle totes in two-tone leather with shoulder straps, damask zip purses with curtain-style tassels (each one takes eight hours to make by hand) as well as a box clutch, tote and purse printed with a saucy image of a man and a woman’s feet in 18th century shoes intertwined and engaged in what moralists from the period might call licentious activity. More appealing eccentricity came from apple and pear-shaped minaudières, or shell-like clutch bags, covered in silk moiré and the Marano – a moiré clutch which plays Vivaldi’s “Spring” concerto from the Four Seasons.
With their gang of exotically dressed groupies, and is-or-isn’t studied air of the counterculture Meadham Kirchoff couldn’t be more different from Conservative party business ambassador Anya Hindmarch. However, Meadham Kirchoff also went back to the 18th century for its show, with dresses with low, corset-look busts, full skirts with panniers, puffed sleeves, stockings and ruffles. Not that it was historically accurate – it felt more like a Disneyfied, fashion-mad Harajuku girl’s take on the look. Gradually, as the show set against silk screens and flowers progressed, everyday items such as sweatshirts, denim jackets and a T-shirt with Minnie Mouse on it entered the mix. Was it wearable? Not exactly, but the workmanship and the playful spirit were laudable and the designers are building up a cult following should the label ever decide to go more commercial.
Roksanda Ilincic is a designer who has become more commercial in recent seasons, with the result that her dresses have been more visible on celebrities and in the media, and this season’s show included a series of wearable fitted dresses with blocks of different colours – blush, royal blue, white and bright orange – arranged in graphic patterns. The less commercial pieces suggested more of a 1970s influence, with puffed sleeve maxi dresses in a sheer wet-look fabric and royal blue silk.
Simone Rocha, daughter of Dublin-based London Fashion Week veteran John Rocha, only graduated from the Fashion MA at Central Saint Martin’s College in 2010, but has already had plenty of press attention. This show was inventive but restrained for such a recent graduate and focused on simple shapes and neutral colours – apart from flashes of neon at the end – in interesting fabrics. A gold crocheted, body skimming shift dress, white tweed skirt with embroidered panel and voluminous coats and skirt in organza embroidered with large sunflower-like blooms were highlights. White was also dominant in the show, having been popular with designers all week. London Fashion Week delivered plenty of new, creative surprises, but some things – like white and florals for summer – never change.