For a clearer picture of the fourth day of shows at London Fashion Week let’s start at the end – or the evening, to be precise. The gilt-edged invitation from the Earl and Countess of Mornington to celebrate The Global Fund’s Green Carpet Challenge Collection at their family home, Apsley House, Number One London, was just the sort of “heritage, money can’t buy”, experience that overseas fashion visitors can’t resist.
And why would they? Sustainable evening gowns from designers Christopher Bailey, Christopher Kane, Erdem, Roland Mouret and Victoria Beckham to raise awareness for the fund’s amazing work in Africa were all on show in The Duke of Wellington’s old gaff – along with the designers themselves and a mix of high society and even more lofty celebrity.
But just what to wear for such an event? Look no further than many of the day’s collections. Antonio Berardi started off the day with a more relaxed take on his signature dressed-up look. Yes, there were rhinestones, yes, there was lamé – but for next season Berardi had successfully added a youthful twist with oversized sweatshirt shapes and flippy short skirts, such as a standout pink crocodile cloque top and matching knife-pleat skirt.
More than a few of the guests at Apsley House were sporting Roksanda Ilincic – and for good reason; she makes great, flattering dresses with a quirky kick. Her latest collection didn’t disappoint, with striped panelled shifts in yellow, cream and black that ended in fluttering ribbons of fabric just below the knee, or strapless dresses patchworked from 3D flowers and squares of sheer organza.
On to Christopher Kane and a collection packed with ideas for after dark, all inspired by time spent dissecting flowers at school as a child in Scotland. Cue petal-shaped sheer “windows” on shift dresses, floral graphics cut out of bonded pastel satins, iridescent “spun carbon” separates in rainbow shades and sheer organza skirts covered in appliqué orchids. It was a masterclass in inventive technique led by Kane himself. “If I can’t do something myself, I won’t ask others to do it,” he said backstage, talking through the myriad of methods that create his madly beautiful designs. The flower theme will no doubt look just as good hanging on the rails of his first standalone store – announced just before the show, and opening in Mayfair’s Mount Street next year.
It must be tough being known for making pretty dresses that girls love to wear when your heart is set on something edgier. Erdem is such a designer, and today tried to shake up his ladylike image with a monochrome collection that spliced and diced sheer fabrics with panels of tweed, feathers and strips of embroidery to varying degrees of success. Like Kane, Erdem harked back to school days – boarding school in fact and an androgynous “girl who thinks she’s a boy” – but at times it simply looked like a bunch of fashion students had been let loose on a bridal collection.
By contrast, Marios Schwab is an edgy designer who has courted the red carpet for the past few seasons. For spring he worked on “airbrushed” shift dresses inspired by pop artist Allen Jones, all bolted together with giant staples in a colour palette of black, white and red. The results were both sexy and a little unsettling, but would certainly get a girl noticed.
The big show of the day was, however, Burberry Prorsum, no stranger to celebrity and paparazzi dressing. Christopher Bailey’s palette this season was sugary pastels, and his fabrics veered from slouchy knit to knicker-baring sheer, spiced up with a finale of heavy crystal studded skirts and coat dresses. It was a sweet look that sometimes lacked real fashion bite, but will no doubt end up on the front row camera fodder, including Sienna Miller and singer Paloma Faith.
Sometimes the fantasy of after-dark dressing falls a little short of reality. Peter Pilotto announced a commercial forthcoming collection with Target just before their show – and then went on to showcase their least commercial collection to date. The mix of fabric and print looked as cool as ever, but the stiff A-line shape skirts seemed a little too unwieldy to ever make it in to real life, however chichi the dress code on the invitation. Osman, for his part, tried out some new skirt shapes this season with much more believable success. Asymmetric point hem dresses over slim pants looked new, as did sheer lace over shorts, which made London’s current obsession with all things see-through seem like an almost viable option.
It was hard not to feel a little nostalgic at the Tom Ford outing that rounded off the day’s shows. The designer had created a mirrored runway space decked out with banks of sofas and beige carpet that had all the elements of his most memorable shows for Gucci in Milan.
The designs on the high-shine runway also spoke of the good old, bad old, days with crystal-studded mini dresses made from what looked like broken multicoloured mirror balls (all with matching thigh-high boots) and sheer lace dresses that skimmed the floor, not to mention a finale number in black sheer net with a silver crystal corset. Who knows to what events Ford’s ultra-wealthy customers will wear these dresses, but wherever they are going, you’d sure as hell want to be on the guest list.