Friday 28 April 2017

Designers set the pattern for a new season

London plays host to the world's top fashion talents this weekend and the Irish will grab lots of the attention

Red alert: Simone Rocha’s delicate designs for spring summe
Red alert: Simone Rocha’s delicate designs for spring summe
Paul Costello designs at London Fashion Week
A swirl of colour from Richard Malone’s SS17 collection
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

New York threw everything it had at the style world's glitterati and top buyers, from snow and blizzards to a handful of scantily clad Kardashians, but the fashion pack came away feeling slightly underwhelmed and all the more intrigued about what London Fashion Week, opening tomorrow, will offer across 51 catwalk shows and 32 presentations for autumn-winter 2017.

True, there was colour in the Big Apple especially from Sander Lak, the genius at Sies Marjan, the exciting new label to arrive into Brown Thomas this season. Victoria Beckham's collection was very empowering and her tailoring focus produced an update on the double-breasted jacket which came with folded-back detail.

But as the fash pack chased elusive yellow cabs around Manhattan, there was absolutely no doubting the curiosity building for London Fashion Week (LFW). Expectations are high, not least because of Brexit.

Hard, soft or grey, the ominous shadow of Brexit will be the elephant at the end of so many runways this weekend and designers are painfully aware they will have to deliver innovation.

Paul Costello designs at London Fashion Week
Paul Costello designs at London Fashion Week

Veteran Irish designer Paul Costelloe is remarkably positive but is taking a 'glass half full approach' given all that he has experienced in the cut and thrust of the rag trade over the years.

The Dublin-born, London-based designer is currently enjoying something of an Indian summer of popularity. His high street Living collections for Dunnes Stores are a lifestyle hit across womenswear, menswear, children and homewares. Back on the LFW show schedule since last season with a new zeal after a break for a few years, Costelloe is certainly pulling in the crowds.

The 71-year-old achieved packed out, back-to-back shows on the opening night of LFW SS17 and tomorrow night, he kicks off at teatime in Aldwych with a show full of romance and theatricality, infused with lots of Tudor references.

Costelloe's fire power includes strong sleeve details, long dresses that he doesn't label maxis (see left), tweed from Magee of Donegal and colour-wise, he has produced some interesting hues, like his silver grey florals (right) from SS17, so expect to see lots of burgundy, moss green, some gold and lashes of ink.

"I enjoy keeping the brand alive and I don't have to answer to anyone," said a defiant Paul who clearly plans to take the opening day of AW17 by storm with a photocall on London's Waterloo bridge featuring his six sons dressed in tweed suits from his new 'Cheltenham' collection.

Meanwhile, Simone Rocha, who grew up in south Dublin's Ranelagh and attended the High School, Rathgar, arrives in London after being the toast of New York for the last week.

She recently opened her second store, an uber cool, high-ceilinged white cube on Wooster Street in NYC's Soho district.

The store has been filled with judiciously chosen installations and interior pieces which inspire her creative path and provide the perfect back drop for her SS17 collection of strong reds and borderie anglaise white dresses, bias cut patchworks, trenchcoats and frilled Prince of Wales checks. Talk about the hottest ticket at LFW.

Rocha never fails to deliver and her SS17 triumph at Southwark cathedral last September was like a religious experience, visually thrilling for all those lucky audience members.

Rocha is running in the big leagues, as fashion bible Vogue acknowledged this month. In December, she was named the British Fashion Council's British womenswear designer of the year - 23 years after her dad, John, was crowned with that title.

Saturday at LFW will be a very crowded space with three big names: Fermanagh-born JW Anderson, New Zealand's Emilia Wickstead and Rocha all showing an hour apart in the afternoon. However, Rocha's thrilling genius with subversive femininity will ensure the fash pack make that dash across town.

The 30-year-old has gone from being John Rocha's daughter to John being Simone Rocha's dad, and back in her native Dublin, Havana in Donnybrook is her sole Irish stockist. Rocha is proving imminently collectible: she has been savvy to include big ticket buys like coats and dresses right down to earrings - which are entry point at €185.

Meanwhile, Dublin-born designer Zoe Jordan is another chip off the old block and moves fast, just like her Formula One dad, Eddie. Fresh from NYFW, Zoe has chosen not to do a catwalk show or installation in London.

"The fashion industry overall is still a little unsure about the real and long term impact of Brexit," she says. "But, for now at least, through our international stockists in central London, we saw a huge increase in sales since news broke, with the decline in currency making it more affordable for Asians, Americans and customers from the Middle East... Obviously it's hit our input costs too, but for now that's been more than outweighed by increased international purchase power."

Closing day belongs to Wexford man Richard Malone who will have a two hour presentation. Malone, made a name for himself at CREATE in Brown Thomas, is marked out by the influential British Fashion Council as 'One to Watch'. We will.

Irish Independent

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