Spotlight on Irish designers at LFW
Celebrities at London Fashion Week did not outshine our homegrown talent, says Jessica Whyte
It's come to a stage in fashion where it is becoming harder and harder to pinpoint what it is that defines a successful collection. Chances are that the more celebrities you can fit in the front row, the more successful a collection it is. London Fashion Week (LFW) this season was a hive of celebrity buzz.
Vivienne Westwood was packing them in like cattle at her venue, wedging Janice Dickinson between Pammy and her twins. Olivia Palermo, Lily Allen and Pixie Geldof held the fort for Topshop Unique. Giles Deacon went a step further by having celebrities themselves take to the catwalk -- though what exactly Kelly Brook and Abbey Clancy have to do with high fashion I am not all that sure.
This article is not about slandering celebrities at fashion shows by any means, but it raises the point that often their presence makes one assume that the designer (and their PR team) have created a stellar collection. Worse still, those shows that don't roll out a red carpet beforehand, are seen as not measuring up.
With this in mind, I am delighted to report that there were great successes among the Irish contingent this season.
Paul Costelloe kicked off the week's offerings by unveiling a young, feminine, coquettish Costelloe cailin, which the designer himself confessed "is radically different to previous lines". The result was short, playful dresses, some structured and others layered, with sheer maxi dresses teamed with blazers using a colour palette of silver, pearl, grey and pink. He and his sons (who took to the catwalk with him for the final bow) are on to a good thing here -- long may it continue.
John Rocha, though always maintaining a strong, consistent following in the UK is now attracting a new, younger, trendy clientele who are seeking a more organic, elegant and minimalist silhouette -- which is clearly John's forte. They were delighted with his collection of long sheer skirts paired with corsets, flowing maxis and the most beautiful textured dresses. Adding to that some killer black-leather footwear, a few fanciful oversized hats and some very trendy black cocooned bag packs, and you have Rocha's understated elegance at its best.
Guests to Orla Kiely's presentation were treated to popcorn and a film screening of her latest womenswear and accessories collection. Yes, in case you were not already aware, Orla Kiely is no longer just a bag lady, but a fabulous womenswear designer. Her darling prints, which have won her international acclaim, now adorn shift dresses, twin sets, blouses and high-waisted skirts. Kiely's womenswear creations are sold in a very limited number of boutiques around the country, who in turn deserve major kudos, as her clothes are by no means represented enough here in Ireland.
Derryman extraordinaire JW Anderson is taking the fashion industry by storm, yet is shamefully almost unknown on our shores. His spring/summer 2011 womenswear collection is a breathtaking example of just what Irish fashion can stand for: hand-woven Aran knits teamed with sheer, knee-length skirts, as well as layered beatnik-style dresses that explode with colour. Alas though, if you want a piece of this Irish designer's creative genius, you will have to log onto ASOS.com or book a flight to London and pay a visit to Harrods or Liberty, where his designs are being ripped off the shelves.
Special mention must also be made for Suzanne Ferncombe, a design protege from the Limerick College of Art and Design, who represented Ireland at the Triumph Lingerie Inspiration Awards during LFW. She was one of 27 finalists, chosen from more than 2,000 applicants from around the world. Her entry to the competition -- a lingerie set inspired by Grecian silhouettes -- was a very strong contender and greatly impressed judges Matthew Williamson, Helena Christensen and the British Fashion Council.
Outside of the Irish circle there were, indeed, other success stories. Matthew Williamson, who typically likes to use every colour in his paint box, produced a refreshingly restrained collection. He used a more neutral colour palette to bring his sun-bleached silk dresses, high-waisted trousers and delicately pleated shorts, to life.
Holly Fulton, who is on the brink of attaining global status as a designer, produced a collection that brought a beaming smile to the faces of everyone in the audience. Building on her previous collections which have always been anchored by graphic prints, she decided to take the tempo down a notch and embrace a more wearable collection for the coming season. Glamorous dresses, short and long, exploded with colourful patterns and swimwear that would make your heart melt.
But without question, the resounding success of London Fashion Week was Christopher Bailey's tour de force at Burberry Prorsum. With such a phenomenal response to last season's aviator jacket, who could have anticipated that the Yorkshireman could outdo himself yet again?
But he has -- this season will once again be that of the Burberry girl. She will be clad in leather -- a biker jacket to be precise -- and will be able to team it with leather trousers, neon-coloured silk shift dresses, delicately ruffled skirts... whatever she pleases.
Burberry Prorsum's runway show had possibly the biggest celebrity turn out, Sarah Jessica Parker, Andy Murray, Mario Testino, Cat Deeley and Alexa Chung to name a few. But in all honesty, their presence will be an afterthought to fashion followers who will be fixated on one person, Christopher Bailey, the man who brought Burberry back from the brink of disaster to show the world the true meaning of success.