Suzy Menkes at London Fashion Week: Day Three
Miniature palm trees with branches made of shocking pink feathers rose from gilded trunks – this was the runway backdrop for the Matthew Williamson show. The setting was glamorous, colourful – and from a country hot in every sense.
But while in his younger, Ibiza-loving days the designer’s clothes were always steeped in sexuality, his approach is now more subtle. The peep of skin as blouses were draped to reveal a flash of midriff hit several style targets: primarily the hyper-fashionable shirt, but also the soft trousers and easy skirts that go with it.
The evening dresses might show a leg as the models walked, tossing a waterfall of frills above the flocked carpet runway.
In recent collections there had been an overdose of sequins. For Summer 2015 the sparkle was present but under control. It was the same story for print: big, bold variations on the palm frond, or more garish hibiscus flowers, but often for sporty pieces.
The models exuded what the programme notes described as “relaxed glamour”, inspired by David Bailey’s photos of models from the 1970s, but this seemed too ‘done’ for today’s more casual look.
The basics of a Marios Schwab collection is the human body. He has, in the past, even produced collections devoted to mapping out the skeleton under the flesh.
But this season, the show was a light rendition of body sculpture. Early outfits were in colours of putty and clay, and were recognisable wardrobe pieces – from a two-piece raincoat to a dress. Typical of the illusion were shirt and skirt, the shoulders scissored out, then veiled with transparent hosiery material.
This see-through effect appeared later in elegant illusion dresses that veiled the body lightly.
Perhaps the most intriguing of the designer’s thought processes were the fragmented prints that he said were inspired by the volcanic ruins of Herculaneum. They looked perfectly wearable.
The secret of artistic inspiration is not that an audience understands the source, but that onlookers feel the vibrations of emotion. I was impressed by the idea that so much thought had been compressed. And that the end result might be a streamlined dress in petrol blue – a colour that ran through the collection.
I admire Marios for staying with his concept of deep thought and wide visual imagination, but never forgetting that clothes must not be so conceptual that they are unwearable.
Richard Nicoll is known for concise tailoring. That is what took him to Cerruti’s design studio and how he built his own brand. This season’s general fashion focus on the tailored shirt and sporty soft wear ought to have been his moment.
But the Nicoll woman went in a different direction, with the tailoring so fluid it almost ran away, while the pastel colours – pretty macaroon shades – looked like this summer’s trend.
It started well with simple dresses, silvered and twinkling fibre-optically in the light. Unusually, Nicoll had ‘partnered’ this season with the Disney fairy, Tinker Bell, and that flibbertigibbet from Peter Pan seemed to have cast a spell over the whole collection.
Out came sporty tops and shorts in a shiny lilac, with matching iridescent bomber jacket. Or a long dress in a whisper of turquoise chiffon, worn over a polka-dotted slip. More solid was a onesie, opening at the sides and sharply cut.
But the show often felt as though Nicoll had taken a sip of the magic potion from Alice in Wonderland, making even relatively simple pieces like knitting look girlie to a fault.
Once I had accepted this major change of direction, I found fine pieces, including a polka-dotted jacket with matching shorts.
But changing tack so dramatically is a dangerous game to play in a fashion world where a brand has to stand for something definite.
Paul Smith, like all tailors, is a man who enjoys a straight line. If there were any curves at the designer's show, I missed them – apart from the bodies of the sporty models and a squishy handbag.
The rest of the show was about stripes, a nautical-meets-office parade of jackets, skirts and dresses, perhaps with pleats to add another layer of lines. It all added up to a fresh summer look, where the most daring development was a dress with red, sky- and inky-blue lines and a waft of (straight) feathers at the hip line.
The clothes seemed smart and woman-friendly – in that they would work as hard as we do. But all those stripes and straight lines lacked soul. Then, suddenly, right at the show's ending came a sharply cut white shirt, softened with smudgy blue flowers – and the same pattern caught up in dark navy pleats below.
This was a fine example of the soft-and-sharp effect that could have had more traction in the rest of the collection.