Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Last Day of Fashion Week

Last day of LFW and it started early. First show: 9 am. Peter Pilotto, a young designer who has made a name for himself with clothes which are very easy to understand, although I was surprised to hear a woman whose judgement – and sophistication – I really admire say, 'These clothes don't speak to women'.

But they do to girls. And this is the dichotomy in London fashion at the moment. Young designers – under thirty in some cases – are creating what they know, which is usually high street fashion. They do it well – but no better than many famous high street names. So the runways of London are awash with simple ( I won't say dumb) clothes which junior editors love. Simple tube minis; ditto dresses with rather too many frills and pleats… what's not to understand? But what I cannot understand is why American store buyers are here looking at clothes which are basically American, but without the flair and sass that gives them that extra punch.

It is always difficult for me to write about Fashion Fringe@ Covent Garden because if I praise, people think, 'well you would'; if I don't, it is 'so, you made a mistake'… forgetting entirely that I take no part in the judging process. But I am proud to say that Erdem followed up on his very strong show last season with a develoment of his delicate floral themes. The workmanship in his dresses – the only garments that seem to interest him at this point – is stunning. It was flowers, flowers almost all the way, but there was another English country archetype: lace, mainly white but some lavender blue. This collection was a controlled and yet complex play with surface textures and subtle colour, but it needed a development of the simple fifties' shapes of last season. I would like to see the palette broadened with some directional cuts and then watch to see where this talented man's romantic sensibility will lead to. As it is, he is totally on track and has created an Erdem sensibilty that has a huge and enthusiastic following from journalists, buyers and the public. I am proud of him.

The same is true of Basso and Brooke (also winners of Fashion Fringe @ Covent Garden) who also showed yesterday. They are print boys and have since thier very first collection produced stunning computer-generated patterns of great complexity. Maybe because Bruno Basso is Brazilian, the colours are fibrantly powerful. This makes them not right for the young customer, who would probably find them rather overwhelming, but stunning for the sophisticated woman over 30 or even 40. These are strong looks that need a strong character to carry them off. I love B&B because they are international in sensibility and, in very strong contrast to the virginal English look we see so often on the London runways, attract the assured because they are assured in themselves. All of that being said, they need to work on their shapes. No matter how fabulous the prints, they are not truly fashion if they are not supported by intelligent cutting, good shapes and a range of garment types. None of which is a criticism of designers who, were they in Milan, would have British designers and buyers fawning, I would guess.

Still on prints and colour, I was so impressed with Jonathon Saunders' show today. The only word that describes his simple little shapes, which were a canvas for softly beautiful prints in delicious colours, was ethereal. Although poetic (Keatsian, perhaps) would also do. Delicate yet solid, this was an exercise in transparency and silhouette, with quite strong lime, lemon and rasberry pinks shaded by floating layers of white gauze and silk for a magical effect like delicate frosting on fruits, berries or autumn flowers. It was simply lovely.

Talking of flowers, it is still the custom on some runways to offer the designer a large bunch of florists' flowers. The designer takes them with smiles of delighted surprise, although paying for them out of the company budget. But I have often thought the flowers go to the wrong person and it should be the audience that gets them… or the brandy… or the platinum card… as an acknowledgement for sitting through a god-awful show. There are plenty, and I sometimes think that I have sat through them all at various times and in various shows across the globe.

I felt a little that way with Roksanda as the feathers piled up on her clothes. At first, they were under control, only hanging from the heels of otherwise perfectly inoffensive shoes, then peeping somewhat incongruously from the tops of the shoes, then on the sholders, then ever bigger until I felt we needed a society for the protection of chickens and their feathers. Why, Roksanda, why? Seemed like fowl play to me.


Victoria Beckham at Fashion East; © Alan Davidson