Eric Wilson's Front Row Diary: Sex Was on Fire for Two Anchor Designers of London Fashion Week
“The Birds and the Bees” was the theme of Christopher Bailey’s spring collection for Burberry Prorsum, but it was the unfiltered model Cara Delevingne, sitting in the front row, who gave the CliffsNotes version of sex ed. Wearing a black tuxedo jacket with nothing underneath, her breasts threatened to spill out onto the runway at any moment, upstaging even Kate Moss who sat next to her, too cool for school (pictured, above).
Well, sex turned out to be on the brains of both Bailey and Tom Ford, the two anchor tenants of London Fashion Week, though with very different results. Bailey, who now runs the Burberry ship as its chief executive, offered a sweet ode to romance with nothing racier than a sheer black dress that offered a hint of the body beneath. But Ford went there. I mean, really went there. As in, bejeweled pasties, thigh-high stockings and mini-skirts over a mirrored runway there (pictured, below).
The jaded front-row types might not have been scandalized, but frankly, that might be because fashion has been desperate for some button-pushing these days, and no one knows how to provoke quite like Ford. His spring collection looked like the result of a love affair between Helmut Newton and Joan Jett. Besides that, he brought back some excellent flared trousers, exaggeratedly elongated to accommodate ridiculously high platform shoes, so the models looked as if they were walking on stilts. And for evening, he reduced a black gown to a mere suggestion, a few bar stripes mostly covering the relevant parts.
If that’s too hot for your taste, the Burberry collection was more approachably PG, with softly tiered dresses with butterfly bows in pleasantly dusty jewel tones (pictured, below), and, for the bees, a jacket design with a wasp waist. The lively book cover prints, when seen in the finale, showed a rainbow spectrum of color, which also happened to be another important story of London Fashion Week.
Roksanda Ilincic played up high-contrast effects, with red-and-pink jackets that practically popped off the runway, while Peter Pilotto composed dresses that look like a cross between stained glass and graffiti. And Thomas Tait, the LVMH Prize winner, offered double-face dresses of pale pink with deep pink lining, and tunics that looked like orange and red checkered racing flags rendered in abstract. Perhaps too abstract when seen in a derelict vacant building undergoing asbestos removal, with what appeared to be guano covering the steps and without what appeared to be functioning exits. Shame he didn’t use his prize money to rent a less toxic venue.
Two standouts from the week were Christopher Kane (pictured, below left) and Erdem (pictured, below right), designers who, like Mary Katrantzou, are taking full advantage of new fabric developments to create remarkably textured collections, with clothes that look like more like three-dimensional collages than plain old dresses. Kane used a nautical rope motif, a nod to bondage, he said, turning it into a kinky form of lace that trapped the body (he also showed a blouse that was completely see-through). And Erdem Moralioglu took his audience on a jungle adventure, with incredibly ornate gowns made of emerald and black feathers, or delicate black lace with frond-shaped appliques that wowed.
At London's finale on Tuesday, Simone Rocha ended things in a church, at St. Andrew Holborn. Her show started heavy, with funereal black dresses improbably trimmed with marabou, and ended on a high note with velum-thin trouser suits and coats decorated with sunny red flowers, and white lace jackets finished with scallop borders. It was a winner.