The new venue for London Fashion Week’s spring 2016 collections – a spruced-up grungy car park in Soho – spoke of edgy attitude while the clothes exuded nostalgic handcraft and heirloom quality. Not a clash of ideas - with British ingenuity many collections are romantic, light and feminine but add something darker.
London designers whose talent has been rewarded with financial input, through British Fashion Council awards, international competitions or private backing, are concentrating their minds on making sales as well as shockwaves, but remain wonderfully perverse in their inspiration.
And in their attitude. Mass luxury is not their thing - their fabrics and decoration are so painstaking and individually crafted that they will sell only to the rich and rarefied, who will love the work but may not even know about the slightly warped inspiration. Individually crafted pieces spell the death knell for trends - be who you want to be, not what the season says you must, a significant attitude shift.
Yet a current yearning for homespun crafts and values creates synergies between collections. Look for rough, matt yet soft fabrics - textured linen, hopsack, cheesecloth and lawn, worn smocked or peasant style (Peter Pilotto or Eudon Choi), puff sleeves innocently Victorian (Temperley), bell style and fluted (Roksanda) or Tudor-meets-1980s bombastic (JW Anderson), shredded and mended fabrics painstakingly handworked and embroidered, a plethora of intricate cotton lace and dark floral prints off a Medieval tapestry, from Anthony Vaccarello's rocking styles for Versus to Emilia Wickstead's decorous brocades and Mary Katrantzou's patchworked silks. And ruffles on everything, even the shredded denim and sheer nude chiffon at super-cool Marques'Almeida.
The Big Day
The top names are concentrated on one long day with Burberry, as Britain’s top luxury label, the centre. Take their little crunchy lace dress, add a sharp military jacket or short, dark trench replete with gold braid and buttons, add a big, black rucksack and off you go. Earlier we enjoyed Antonio Berardi’s mix of high-glam red carpet and sportswear - dark brocades overprinted with modernist silver or crystal-beaded gowns trailing a chiffon trenchcoat as a train, Roksanda’s ruffles, big dresses and Constructivist colours and Erdem’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful, highly worked Victorian damsels, based on women prairie pioneers who went mad through the isolation and embroidered mementoes of their past life on their worn-out clothes. Still to come were Christopher Kane’s spikier vision of a girl damaged yet redeemed, in cocooning grey knits with bright rough-sewn patches and optimistic neon lace and patchwork, and Thomas Tait’s newly sophisticated, alluringly strange 60s/70s remix of white tunics with embroidered portholes, floppy flares and tough leather and jeans.
Best of the rest
Gold stars also to Simone Rocha's beautiful, voluminous, Japanese-inspired silks, Jonathan Saunders' gloriously coloured, East-meets-30s glamour mixed prints and stripes, Mary Katrantzou's extraordinary layered-beading minidresses and JW Anderson's 80s/60s mash-up, fresh and thought provoking. As London should be.