The UK capital witnessed a dazzling display of technical virtuosity - on and off the catwalk, says Hilary Alexander.
London Fashion Week belonged to the new generation as the digital-age designers dominated the catwalks and cyberspace with dazzling displays of creativity. While Vogue editors-in-chief from seven countries, international fashion commentators and buyers watched from the front rows, the world was watching "live" on the internet.
Burberry streamed its show live to 150 countries from a digital screen in Piccadilly Circus. Commuters got daily updates on screens at more than 60 stations on the London Underground. People without show tickets chilled out at the open-air café on the cobblestones at Somerset House, LFW's fashion HQ, and watched the catwalk action live on an outdoor screen.
The buzz of high-tech activity was more than matched by the technical virtuosity on the catwalks. Christopher Kane engineered a liquid-look plastic into the seams and contours of his slimline sequinned and crocheted dresses. Mary Katrantzou gave Italian knitters nightmares as they laboured to translate her digital prints of Fabergé eggs and Meissen porcelain into cashmere and Lurex jacquard knitwear. Giles Deacon based a dramatic print on Paul Delaroche's The Execution of Lady Jane Grey . Holly Fulton sprinkled her New York-skyscraper prints with pearls, metal and pleated leather.
"Collage-couture" was the focal point at Erdem, where vivid abstracts were printed on fine cashmere, tweed and lace which seamlessly morphed into silk faille. Burberry Prorsum's Christopher Bailey unearthed Fifties looms to weave his autumnal, flecked tweeds and crunchy wool bouclés; Betty Jackson discovered a new Italian "teddy bear" fabric, knitted from alpaca and angora.
The experimentation was just as prevalent at the more established labels. Clare Waight Keller at Pringle created knitted coats from rabbit fur and Fair Isle, and sweaters from mink and Merino wool. Neoprene, patent leather, shearling and English tweeds came together for a sleek-chic, outdoorsy wardrobe in Joanna Sykes's first collection for Aquascutum, and Emma Hill at Mulberry took inspiration from the countryside, with hedgerow and feather-print silk maxi-dresses teamed with leather coats and anoraks.
Last night, Dunhill, one of British menswear's best-known names, staged its first fashion show, at its London headquarters in Jermyn Street. The show was an introduction to Menswear Day, which brings London Fashion Week to a close today. Meanwhile, in Milan, the focus is on women for the opening day of the third-city stop on the designer calendar for next autumn/winter.
Key trends: below-the-knee skirts; pleats; collage fabric mixes; spots and dots; wine, olive, red, pink, orange; hoods, capes and cloaks; fur-trim knits and jackets; the sleeveless, tailored vest; devore and velvet; jewelled sweaters; buttoned-up shirts with neat collars; epaulettes; fake and real fur; wooden heels, rubber soles; dropped-waists, hip-belts.