“The magic word is business,” said Natalie Massenet, the Net-a-Porter founder and newly installed chairman of the British Fashion Council, on Friday.
Her speech not only rounded off the first day of the London shows but also framed her plans for British fashion – a-five point scheme that includes using the “digital revolution” to give London a global platform; reviving British manufacturing; marrying creativity with business acumen through mentoring; investment; and education, with plans to set up an MBA in high fashion at a “top London school”.
“We’ve already cracked the hard part,” she said. “We have the talent. And you can’t create talent, you can’t create vision; you can’t create an original point of view where there isn’t one. The time is right to make things happen for British fashion in a big way.”
Dressed in Burberry, Ms Massenet addressed her call to arms to a starry gathering of fashion folk including Christopher Bailey and PPR’s François-Henri Pinault at a reception hosted by prime minister David Cameron’s wife Samantha – dressed in London label Alessandra Rich – at Number 10.
The opening show of the first day had been carefully scheduled to reflect London’s new businesslike approach. Fledgling designer Zoe Jordan started proceedings in the show tents at Somerset House with a coolly commercial collection of dove grey tweed coats, Prince of Wales check tailoring, sporty cashmere knits and on-trend gold lame trouser suits that managed to look grown-up and saleable with just a kick of the edginess that buyers expect in London.
“I felt like it was a real step up for my business opening the shows,” said Jordan backstage. “Also going first means that there’s no one to compare you with, which is a bit of a bonus.”
Jordan’s slick outing was followed by a 10-strong show of new talent from London College of Fashion’s MA graduates, and then a typically eccentric collection courtesy of Bora Aksu: think baby-doll dresses and corseted shearlings that looked like they had been pulled from a particularly madcap Victorian dressing-up box.
But the standout of the day was Eudon Choi, whose intimate presentation mixed couture-like bell shaped skirts, billowing peasant blouses, mannish leather trouser suits and embellished ticking striped separates with bright Aran knits – all topped off with outsized floral headscarves and flower-strewn head pieces, to charming effect.
“I was inspired by Julie Christie in Doctor Zhivago,” said Choi after his show. “I wanted to capture the look of those strong Russian aristocratic women who survived the revolution.” We’ll buy that.