Suzy Menkes at London Fashion Week: Day Two
The military-map prints that Christopher Raeburn has made his signature are taking fashion to an interesting new place at London’s Summer 2015 collections.
A silky sportiness is a fresh new message: dynamic or casual clothes in fabrics that used to be considered fancy.
“I’m bringing in a lot more femininity, and new fabric developments like organza and parachute silk,” said Raeburn, who in just five years has made an impact with his re-fashioned products from army and air-force suppliers.
The most striking pieces were in an iridescent fuchsia fabric created when parachute silk morphed into nylon in the 1960s. While Italian organza gave an airy lightness to a crisp shirt-dress.
Colours, like patches of dawn pink and pale blue, were inspired by the view from a flight over what Raeburn called “the epic fields of decommissioned aircraft that pepper the Arizona desert”.
No wonder the designer needs an aerial map – and he is smart enough to print it on an easy silk T-shirt.
The graphic blocks of colour and geometric lines in Jasper Conran‘s collection were a sharp lesson in smart attire.
But whereas the designer has been known for dressed-up outfits in fine fabrics, this show was about using choice materials for simple and sporty clothes. These ran from a silk T-shirt to a silk cr?pe dress to a silk chiffon baseball jacket.
The other elements that broke up the simple silhouettes were blocks of colour or abstract scribbles, giving an extra dynamic feel.
Conran has been on the London calendar for over 25 years, and it is impressive to see how he can move forward within his own aesthetic.
Duro Olowu is the essence of the multicultural dynamo that is London.
“I am a British designer with a Nigerian heritage and an important business in America,” said Olowu, as he showed his new collection, inspired by Saint-Louis in northwest Senegal.
Phew! That all sounds rather chaotic. But on the contrary, the clothes were about smoothing out the contrasts. First came the pin-up glamour of the 1940s – shapely long dresses with ruffles at the back from spine to ankle, worn with wedge sandals.
Then there were fluid dresses playing off polka dots. These circles were simple, or done with an African feel. Yet the designer also took the dusty pinks and pale turquoises from the ceramics of St Ives, Cornwall.
Olowu’s magical mix included sporty but fluid pants, ostrich-feather cloaks and brocade appliqu? on silk. His secret is quality: the finest fabrics, dense colours, imaginative patterns – and good design.
Ten years on, Marchesa has stepped away from the red carpet, lowered the wattage on Hollywood glamour and celebrated its birthday with flowers.
Georgina Chapman and Keren Kraig, the duo behind the brand, claimed a “modern-gypsy Woodstock spirit”. But by coming back to show in London dresses that were a mass of embroidered flowers and only intermittently sweeping the floor, the Marchesa look seemed gentler and had more of an English free spirit.
Designers Keren Kraig and Georgina Chapman with models
A pre-dawn sky grey dress with full sleeves, and with pastel flowers and feathers cascading down the front, could only be destined for walking the bridal aisle. But many other pieces were light, short and summery – especially separates when a whorl of white flowers topped narrow trousers; or when a simple top teamed with a skirt was covered in flowers.
“It’s our tenth anniversary, we were coming back to London and we’ve always loved flowers – but this is more languid,” said Georgina backstage.
The collection was still full-on in terms of decoration, with intense handwork and some floral overload. But it felt as though the Marchesa pair were taking glamour on with a lighter touch. Three-dimensional birds flying across a black skirt were even slightly menacing. And by cutting down on sugar, the show had a sharper taste.
House Of Holland
Henry Holland sent out a lazy collection, focused on flowers, but without the irony that gave earlier House of Holland collections their wit and edge.
The storyline was supposedly young groupies out for a good time at seedy backroom gigs. But the problem with floral is that flowers are intrinsically innocent, and also a staple of summer fashion. A designer needs to radicalise or digitise the concept.
That is why when Holland abstracted flowers like a Matisse cut-out, worked them into crunchy lace or created floral star patterns, the effect was more inspiring.
The real irony was that Henry Holland’s own smudgy-flower T-shirt, as he took his bow, was one of the more original pieces on the runway.