London Fashion Week kicked off on Friday. The weekend presented a riot of colour and plenty of prints (and one designer even reveals a little more than usual) but there were also signs of a newer, streamlined message. Here, some highlights
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John Rocha cited the south of France and artists Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Serra as starting points for his latest collection. But even stronger, although unstated, are the similarities to Bill Gaytten’s SS12 Haute Couture collection for Christian Dior – particularly the way he uses organza for transparency.
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It was difficult to figure out the Serra influence (and for that matter, the Goldsworthy). Best guest: the juxtaposition black and white, Rocha’s nod to the artist’s paint stick compositions. Here, the less overworked figure-skimming dress comes off more successfully than the lantern-style skirt with lace overlay.
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Issa, a label that was little known outside London before Kate Middleton wore a deep blue wrap dress for her engagement announcement, channeled the South Pacific for its spring/summer collection. Spot the toucans amid the loud botanical print in Crayola colours. Also spot the fresh orchids as head accessory.
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Issa designer Daniella Helayel clearly keeps the Duchess of Cambridge as a muse and consistently tweaks her core silk jersey offerings. This halter dress was one of several in solid colours or more abstracted prints that could easily end up on Ms. Middleton.
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The ratio of looks that could be worn for lunch with mum – such as this twinset and lace skirt – was much higher than those that could not (as in, a midnight blue sequin bustier with high cut panties).
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Vivienne Westwood, London’s grand dame of fashion drama, showed a mix of tea dresses that, while slightly twisted, seemed tame given her history of all-out eccentricity. At least the painted faces and floral headdresses helped lend a little colour and kook.
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It was almost as if the entire show was a lead-up to Westwood appearing at the end – in shredded pantyhose and knickers, no less – to make a statement about the environment. A manifesto on Climate Revolution appeared on guests’ seats. This, she insisted, was the takeaway message.
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Unique, the directional range from high-street chain Topshop, was right on trend for spring with streamlined silhouettes and strategic sheerness. Often this can be more challenging than louder, wilder layering.
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In restricting the palate to black and white with hits of sweatshirt grey, lemon yellow and dusty pink, the collection expressed a mature sensibility while maintaining a street spirit.
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Anyone who declared colour blocking to be dead was premature. Because if Paul Smith is showing it – especially on breezy chemises and drawstring dresses that remained uncinched – it’s not going anywhere. Here, he added a patch of floral print.
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Tailored blazers, a Smith signature, could be described as fabric blocked for spring. This one, with its satin lower half, almost appears as if treated with a glossy topcoat. Smith’s restraint felt fresh, especially on a day filled with plenty of print and embellishment.
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Which is not to suggest he steered clear of impact. Stripes, a predominant motif throughout New York, have clearly crossed the pond (they also showed up at Acne, Margaret Howell and Temperley on Sunday).
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Oh, and the stripes were also out in all their vertical and horizontal holographic glory at Jonathan Saunders, which has the distinction of being the first and only fashion show to take place in a raw space (soon to be developed) within the Tate Modern.
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Saunders, who has been a longtime proponent of prints, showed more skin this season and simplified his silhouettes – pencil skirts were it. The effect was slick and slinky. Certainly, as Saunders confirmed, they were disco-ready.
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Backstage, Saunders also called the collection “non-referential.” In a sense, the abstract striping and ombré droplet patterns (not shown) could easily have been framed flat and mounted on a gallery white wall. Not because it was art – no, Saunders would not want it defined as such – but because it had lasting impact.