London Fashion Week is as much about concept as it is about clothes.
Editors and buyers descended on this city beginning on a cloudy Friday and into a rainy Saturday to look at shows of handbags and glittering shoes shown in near darkness; squishy, spiraling dresses festooned with hooks and copious zippers; or shredded tweed coats that mixed Victoriana with punk references. Far more than the collections shown in New York, these London designers expect a customer to really commit to a complete look.
This was the case at Jonathan Anderson’s show on Saturday. His label, JW Anderson, is one of the city’s major highlights, namely because it is challenging in a fun way, like solving a Sudoku puzzle with clothes. His designs are often described as futuristic, but his fall collection rather calls to mind a retro vision of the future, like from the 1960s. A common refrain through the show of tunics worn over pants with flared legs, each piece with zippered bands that presumably could be removed to shorten them as desired, would have looked delightful on Twiggy (above). His warped skirts with stiff, striped ruffles that looked almost plastic and warped skirts shown with trapeze sweatshirts in scuba fabric created a silhouette that even the most devout fashion-believer would find challenging, to say the least (below).
But his energy is contagious, and the more you looked at his spiraling, layered knits, the silky white trench coat with a foot-wide belt covered in grommets, the squished marshmallow skirts, the small leather kerchiefs bedazzled with shamrocks pinned to a dress or a coat, the more you bought into his vision, whatever it may have been.
Likewise, Simone Rocha continues to befuddle convention with wispy gowns in black, white, or scarlet red shades, embroidered with simple flowers in shower mat patterns (below, left). As usual, these created an extremely strong image on her runway, to which she added this season an almost polar opposite in heavy tweed and jacquard coats and dresses, in inky black colors, that had an intentionally frayed quality to the point of almost falling apart. They looked Victorian in their overall shapes and effects, but as the show progressed, Rocha cropped the looks above the knee, and as the models wore no stockings, the resulting attitude – and these giant black coats over bare legs – was more aligned with another British sartorial tradition, that of punk (below, right).
Legs also played an important role in the runway show of Charlotte Olympia the night before, since the designer Charlotte Olympia Dellal had cast her models all in black clothes, against a black backdrop and black runway (below). All you could really make out were the shoes and bags, glittering spectacles on platforms that seemed to pay tribute to David Bowie, and clear framed handbags that had nothing inside them at all. Now that's a concept.