What happens when the rest of the world catches up with the one thing that makes you special? You move on, of course. Many London designers were at the forefront of the recent digital print revolution, but now the high street has bought into print technology in a big way. Where do the originators go next?
“It was important for me to strip away the colour from my collection this season and focus on the image and the mood,” said Mary Katrantzou of her marvellously melancholy show that took late Victorian landscape photography as a starting point. “I’m normally a positive person but this darker approach just seemed to feel right for now somehow.”
The result was a masterful display of technique and innovation in ghostly greyed-out shades of what Ms Katranztou called a “monochrome rainbow”. Starkly architectural dresses in starchy organza were printed with shadowy outlines of trees or the criss-cross of iron bridges, sometimes veiled in layers of chiffon or with soft colour picked out on blossoms or as an iridescent background. It was a brave move for a designer who has made her name with whimsy and eye-popping colour – and it worked.
Likewise Jonathan Saunders, who started out a little more than 10 years ago as a purely print-based designer, also felt it was time to move things on. Swapping clashing print for layers of texture at his outing at the City’s Royal Exchange, he mixed fluffy mohair with sleazy vinyl, shinny chevron embossed wools with devoré velvet, flock leopard and laser cut “lace” with appliqué florals and felted wools, all in a pallet of muddy green, blush pink, burn orange and teal blue.
Thea Bregazzi and Justin Thornton, the duo behind Preen, took Derek Jarman’s cult punk film Jubilee as inspiration and gave it the couture polish of a classic Richard Avedon photograph: elegantly tailored trouser suits came with silver-zipped peplums, biker jackets dotted with a scattering of leopard spots, mohair knit sweaters encrusted with crystals and tartan dresses had a pouf of pleats forming a bustle back, all in hard red, black and white. “I’ve never really liked that combination of colours,” said Ms Bregazzi after the show on the 32nd floor of a towering new office in the city. “But sometimes it is good to challenge yourself to something new.”
Witness Richard Nicoll’s combination of elements from his hit menswear show at London Collections: men earlier in the year and womenswear that majored on shades of concrete grey, tangerine and café au lait, not to mention Marios Schwab’s cape silhouettes over short shift dresses topped with a wide brimmed bohemian felt hats and rich velvets and gossamer layers that all had more than a touch of The Lady of Shalott about them.
By contrast, Mulberry upped the luxury ante with a mix of heavy plaids – often as super cosy sweaters as an alternative to the coat – rich tweeds, butter soft leathers, fur trims and increasingly investment priced bags in exotic skins (the new Suffolk bag in Oxblood Alligator costs a cool £18,000). Matthew Williamson looked to the northern lights for a new take on his dip-dyed ombre dresses and added a snowstorm to his finale just for good measure.
Emilia Wickstead gave tartan tweeds, rose prints and offbeat colour a distinctly 1940s flavour. Topshop Unique played with shiny vinyl – a big fabric trend here in London – sequins, full skirts and slouchy folk patterned knits, as well as scoring highest marks for internet savvy with a social media campaign that tipped in to “oversharing”. Paul Smith overloaded mannish tailoring for women with rich colour and graphic block print. And Vivienne Westwood embraced holograms zebra stripes and lamé for her Red Label show.
As for L’Wren Scott, she moved on to London itself, leaving her previous show home of New York to reveal a collection inspired by Gustav Klimt and a lunchtime seating plan that placed her other half, Mick Jagger, between Anna Wintour and Daphne Guinness. On the menu: shepherd’s pie. On the models: 23-carat gilded shoes and tattoos, as well as curve-hugging gold-accented sheaths and skirts and gowns.
And onward we go.