With the Baftas happening across town from Sunday night’s shows, it was a reminder of how important evening wear can be for a fashion brand. Getting a star photographed in your dress, and then splashed across social media is marketing gold. Thanks, in part, to the British Fashion Council teaming up with Bafta, over 20 attendees wore British designers, some of whom are showing at London Fashion Week.
However, what plays well on the catwalk does not always translate on to the red carpet. Ruth Wilson wore a silver suit by Antonio Berardi which had an unflattering Starlight Express meets principal boy look, rather than Hollywood royalty, and Erdem’s dress for Laura Carmichael from Downton Abbey was a touch drab compared with his usual designs. Would they have been better off plucking something from Sunday’s catwalks?
Matthew Williamson is not as popular on the red carpet as he was in the early 2000s but he still gives good glamour. This season he moved away from the hippy luxe look he often favours towards a harder, hedonistic disco vibe. There was a clear seventies influence to Mongolian fur chubbies dyed pink and blue, a maxi dress sequinned with black and white stripes in giddying starburst stripes and a black silk jumpsuit with thin straps and sheer panels dotted with white stars along the sides.
Marios Schwab is the kind of designer actresses go to to prove they have edge – he has been worn by pouter Kristen Stewart – and It girl Joséphine de la Baume wore a navy gown with sheer top to the Baftas on Sunday night. This season Mr Scwab played with tailoring, underwear detailing and sheer fabrics on a show of mainly dresses. In among A-line black mini dresses with touches of lace, or buckled collars, there were also dresses which looked as if they have been made from draped swaths of scarf silk in off-white and eau de Nil, then secured with a moulded leather bodice.
These uneven length handkerchief hems are popping up across fashion week, and also made an appearance at the Jonathan Saunders show. Alongside oversized maxi coats with leg o’mutton sleeves and roomy bomber jackets, Mr Saunders showed bias cut silk dresses with asymmetric hems, decorated with a pattern of patchwork squares. Mr Saunders designed a special print – an old fashioned floral – then cut it up and used it in patchwork squares with raw edged stitching across the collection, calling it a “DIY inspiration”, and “the beauty of something that has been vandalised”.
Mary Katrantzou’s show offered rich pickings for future red carpet clothing. Inspired by symbols, she created long and short dresses covered in lace that, up close, looked like stitched-together scout badges and were patterned with road signs. For the actress keen to show off her body there were sequin mini dresses with pleated sections to the skirts and panels of military badge-inspired appliqué, and for anyone who likes the focus to be on her body of work not the work on her body, there were long, sleek, high-necked lace gowns which recalled Greek orthodox church robes. For anyone who, like Angelina Jolie prefers a trouser suit, these came in rich blue and silver brocades with slim trousers and straight jackets.
Tailoring is Paul Smith’s signature, but this season the designer was taking it easy in a collection inspired by pyjama dressing. Silk pyjama shirts, wide leg trousers, dressing gowns, tunic tops and nightshirt dresses came in richly coloured paisleys, florals, silk tie patterns and broad stripes, often mixing several prints in one outfit or look. Other easy pieces included tailored jogging bottoms and a boyfriend cardigan. The second half of the show focused on more structured tailoring: wide trousers – which are picking up on a trend which began in New York – tapered trousers and mannish coats in fine wool suiting. There were no surprises here, but Mr Smith cuts a mean jacket/coat/trousers and it was suitably easy to like.
Tailoring is also a Vivienne Westwood signature and this season her Red Label show (a diffusion line) recalled the Melanie Griffith film Working Girl, thanks to overtly 1980s looks such as a pinstripe double-breasted jacket and skirt worn with fur coat and big sunglasses. Short jackets in London bus red and grey tweed came with exaggerated rounded lapels, and lapels which formed two sides of a heart. Swing shaped and belted tweed coats also hinted at a forties wartime undercurrent (you could imagine someone stashing rationed goods under them) as did pillbox hats and headscarves. It was a dive into the Westwood archives, as it often is, but somehow felt a bit lacking in the usual streak of energetic eccentricity.
While Ms Westwood stayed on familiar territory, at the Pringle presentation in the grand gilt-adorned surroundings of Mayfair’s Savile Club, newish designer Massimo Nicosia seem excited about pushing the 200-year-old brand forward with radical technical innovations. He had created fabrics using 3D printing, and incorporated them into garments using traditional knitwear techniques. Thus a short navy jacket came with a textured section of a raised triangular, argyle style pattern on the sleeves which was created using 3D printed nylon powder, and a white jumper had a series of vertical white strands in between cable sections.
Mr Nicosia said: “It’s the first time ever 3D printing has been used in such a wearable way . . . and it can be dry cleaned!” Mr Nicosia’s modern craft approach to knitwear – seen on fisherman-knit jumpers decorated with sequins laid on their side like dinosaur scales – may be the key to interpreting this heritage brand for 2014 and ensure that Mr Nicosia is in for the long haul.
Knits were also an integral part of designer Joanna Sykes’ cosy-luxe vision for Nicole Farhi, which went into administration into July, and was subsequently bought by Maxine Hargreaves-Adams who also owns Fenn Wright Manson. Engineered patchwork knits in shades of baby blue and camel, and a basket weave sweater in grey and navy suggest that the statement knit is here to stay. Speaking after the presentation Ms Hargreaves-Adams said they were hoping to improve on the “mixed messages that have been going out over the last couple of years” and recapture the core Farhi customer, someone who is “very secure in their fashion sense, and at ease with who they are”. She added that a small collection of bags – about eight to 12 pieces – will come out in the autumn.
Shortly after the Nicole Farhi presentation Mulberry unveiled their latest accessories: a capsule collection of handbags designed in collaboration with model Cara Delevingne, which convert into rucksacks. Mulberry group’s shares may have fallen 27 per cent in January, sending them to a four-year low, and it has no creative director (hence no proper catwalk show) but perhaps the model of the moment, with her 1.46m Twitter followers and 4,296,639 Instagram followers is a panacea for any of Mulberry’s brand woes.