Style Fashion

Friday 29 August 2014

Irish fashion designers strut their stuff

Constance Harris

Published 24/02/2014 | 02:30

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From left: Peter Pilotto, House of Holland, Sibling, Burberry Prorsum, John Rocha
From left: Michael van der Ham, Marques Almeida, Issa
From left: Helen Lawrence; Holly Fulton, Simone Rocha, Tom Ford

THE Irish had a great, if not triumphant, London Fashion Week presenting for next autumn/winter 2014/5. There was John Rocha's gorgeous show which featured new silhouettes and where he declared he still had a lot to give the fashion scene, even after 35 years of showing, thus scuppering any retirement rumours. Then there was Danielle Romeril winning TopShop NewGen sponsorship, thus free, huge, fantastic show space that got her seen by a lot of prestigious press and buyers – it's a pity we can't get something that generous happening in our own Showcase.

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We also had edgy knitwear label, Electronic Sheep, conquering Asia and setting their sights now on the US, and Lennon Courtney's UK launch at the Savoy Hotel which turned into a near-rave for the jaded Somerset Set (the fash-pack).It was so packed out the cast from Made In Chelsea nearly didn't make it in. (Social disaster or blessing – you decide.)

Orla Kiely was still keeping it all very George Gently – 1960s nightclub and young independent women lifestyle – featuring lots of high-waist, short dresses, pussy bow blouses, A-line skirts and hand-knit look cardis, all with oodles of truly excellent short coats and printed pvc trench coats, which are sure to be a big hit.

And finally, but not least, Simone Rocha's meaty show, which yet again proved the capital's faith in her and drew Anna Wintour to her benches. Simone knows Anna well, having met her many times since she left Central Saint Martins and so is not one to go embarrassingly uncool and gushy about the coup.

Simone Rocha's collection deserved Wintour's recognition.

There is a tendency in fashion media to talk about a designer getting more grown-up. Tired of it as I am, it does apply to Simone Rocha's evolution in the last two seasons and to this aw2014/5 presentation. It was full of the kind of style women love. There was romance and street cred. There were brilliant accessories such as snakeskin, high top, bovver boots, brogues, gorgeous court shoes with her trademark Perspex sole, sheepskin covered bags, pretty belts and necklaces.

I, for one, can't wait for the two Rocha collections to hit the John Rocha store in Dover Street, London and Havana in Dublin. But though the Irish are doing great, I am very much of the opinion that fashion is in creative crisis with not a lot of newness emerging. While there was joyous colour and enthusiasm, everything on show in London had been seen before. It's all, still, very, very retro.

I seek near-desperately for a hint that a fantastic life-force might explode out of London again as it did in the late 1990s when Alexander McQueen, Anthony Symonds, Giles Deacon, Julien Macdonald, Lainey Keogh and Philip Treacy all emerged.

The scene then was full of strong contrast, diversity, sexual energy, drama, lack of political correctness and all was not as cosy with the media and celebs as it is today. It was exciting.

And though it was a period that seemed to celebrate the strange, good designers such as Paul Smith, Preen and Roland Mouret also grew strong.

The only similarity I could see between London then and now was it was back to showing nipples. Not since the late 1990s have I seen so many boobs on show.

Is this a good thing? Or a sign of desperation? Time will decide.

I was very appreciative of the gorgeous colour on show. Lots of clashing reds, pinks, yellow and oranges with contrast black or dark green. Next winter is to be boldly coloured with some designers favouring colour blocking such as at Burberry and Tom Ford while others, such as Issa (who was back on form), went for patchwork effect.

And while Sixties 'modernism' was a strong theme along with pop art detail (Prada started the trend), tribal is a growing theme as it offers the opportunity for rich embellishment and the use of sumptuous fabrics, trimmings and such.

I have long been a fan of Michael van der Ham, and his collection for next season didn't disappoint me. It was full of his penchant for unusual fabric combinations and colour.

Meanwhile, Tom Ford also presented a grown-up crowd-pleaser of a show. I liked his sequin dresses with American football numbers. Ford, who always shows fur, was into exotic leathers; crocodile effect on boots looked trend setting.

The ripple effects of Valentino's AW 2013/4 nun-ish collection continued in others such as Barbara Casasola, which was simple, demure, yet dramatically sexy for its plainness and dramatic use of sheer fabric.

Fans of Peter Pilotto will be glad to hear that they have moved their look on and that we can look forward to their continuing presence in our wardrobes. They've changed their shapes and their motifs and it was all gorgeous.

House of Holland attracted the young and cool set such as Daisy Lowe, Eliza Doolittle, Kelly Osbourne and Lily Allen. It was, as always, a bright, uplifting, casual wear affair.

Other British names whose clothes I think are what women like to wear (and they too attract the hip set) are by Holly Fulton (who could be Britain's answer to Marni) and the very ladylike Emilia Wickstead.

In the Fashion East show, Ashley Williams presented a very youthful, sweet collection which was up the street of sponsor, Top Shop, while Helen Lawrence's sculptural shapes, with mixed textures such as plastic overlaid on felted wool, showed me that this young woman is one to watch.

Streetwise, the London blogger and stylists were sporting faded two-tone dip dyed hair, big and baggy layered up clothes (it was cold and wet after all). But that didn't stop them wearing staggeringly high platforms (you take your life in your hands when you wear those around Somerset House's cobbled courtyard) with white wedge soles, to flat trainers in white or with white soles. So white soles are key in London street fashion right now.

Themes for next season? Clashing of shapes, textures, motifs and colour.

Loose and oversized, to body hugging and sculptural. Separates are definitely king – especially oversize sweaters and coats with 3/4 trousers.

Details were in sheepskin, goatskin and snakeskin accessories with ostrich feather and fur giving a luxurious finish.

And lots and lots of great coats. Thank God.

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