Wednesday 28 September 2016

The Year of the Irish as once again London casts its spell

London Fashion Week may be in a Soho carpark but the fashion was beautiful

Constance Harris

Published 28/09/2015 | 02:30

Models on the catwalk during the J JS Lee Spring/Summer 2016 London Fashion Week.
Models on the catwalk during the J JS Lee Spring/Summer 2016 London Fashion Week.
Models on the catwalk during the Jean-Pierre Braganza Spring/Summer 2016 London Fashion Week show
A model walks on the catwalk duringthe Eudon Choi Spring/Summer 2016 London Fashion Week show
A model at the Gareth Pugh Spring/Summer 2016 London Fashion Week show

In 1997, when I first started attending, London Fashion Week (LFW) was held in the grounds of the Natural History Museum in Kensington, in several giant 'tents', with many show stages and extensive exhibitors areas.

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Today, it is in a car park in Soho's Brewer Street with just one stage for shows and one floor for exhibitors. Brewer Street is where many of Soho's sex shops are located, right next to the theatre district, cafes and restaurants, so it is always jammed with people and cars. And so, at LFW for s/s 2016, the taxi men were complaining about the traffic jams. I was complaining about the chemical fumes in the exhibition area from recent decoration, and exhibitors were worried about older, car park odours. There wasn't even an area for the young and the hopeful, the deliberarely mad and the badly dressed, to strut their stuff and be snapped by style-guides.

But complaints are as naught when there is beauty to be found - and there was much beauty in the collections of the designers showing at LFW for spring/summer 2016.

Peter Pilotto and Erdem were full of mastery and beauty. I loved Giles naturalistic motifs on striking evening gowns. Gareth Pugh was, as ever, the fashion renegade, using drama and turning fashion and preconception on its head.

Labels such as Fyodor Golan, Bora Aksu, J. JS Lee and Eudon Choi were evocative and good. I loved Jean-Pierre Braganza's collection, which played with hemlines and sculptural tiers of fabric to create movement. Julien Macdonald, finally, finally, is back doing what he does best - utterly, sexy decadence. Or is that utterly decadent sexiness?

Themes were consistent. It was very much about not showing legs, or at the least, just flashing them. Long is in. The jumpsuit continues to be a staple though in some collections it seemed more a dungaree. Varied lengths within a piece, was a key look. Deeper-than-usual pastel colours (blue, green, pink) were strong across many of the collections, as was clashing print, tiered waves of fabrics, the long culottes and bare shoulders or bare back.

Shirts were the new frontier: we saw them patch-worked, sharp and sophisticated, broken down, cut out, embellished, embroidered and so on. They looked great with everything, from maxi skirts, culottes, mini skirts, shorts, trousers, all of which were in next spring/summer's offerings

As part of Irish Year of Design 2015, the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCI) rolled out an initiative to bring Irish designers to LFW to showcase their work. Called 'In The Fold', eleven Irish clothing, accessories and jewellery designers exhibited in a salon-like environment in the ICA, on The Mall. New labels such as Jill de Burca, Natalie B Coleman, We Are Islanders and Capulet & Montague were among those invited to take part.

"It was really busy," Aisling Farinella, who project directed the initiative for the DCCI, tells me. "We had some really good people at it - Vogue Italia, important retailers like Koh Samui, Selfridges, Matches all visited. I think the event has been very positive.

"The designers are so motivated after it. They feel it was a great platform for them; they now know where they need to be and what they need to do. Long term, we would hope that this would be happening for each fashion season in order to support and grow the reputation of Irish design internationally."

On the night In The Fold opened, Paul Costelloe was showing just around the corner in Regent Street. Full of energy, surrounded by his family, and a loyal following, Paul told me he still loves what he does. He expressed great interest in the In The Fold young designers collective and visited them the following day.

Danielle Romeril, who has won prestigious New Gen placement for several seasons, presented an installation show, also at the ICA and featured shoes from her new collaboration with Kickers. In the lead-up to LFW, in an article in the Evening Standard, she was featured as one of the top ten to watch.

Simone Rocha's show was in the opulent environs of The Stable Yard, also on the Mall (beside Charles and Camilla's home and also Buckingham Palace). Though Simone is seven months pregnant, she delivered a big show, full of beautiful femininity in luscious silks teamed with her trademark textures of woven plastic and Perspex.

Speaking to her afterwards, Simone said that with this collection, her notions of femininity were broadening and perhaps, even a bit confused. She was realising the vastness of women and their roles.

Simone recently opened a new shop in London's exclusive, designer filled, Mount Street. A Chinese friend of mine tells me Simone is approaching cult status in China.

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