The fashion caravan has moved on to London for the Spring-Summer 2016 shows, and what began quietly on Friday soon catapulted into extra loud territory on Saturday. So loud, in fact, that you might have been at a music festival like Glastonbury. Running late into the Hunter Original show, where the runway had been transformed into a mud pit with a backdrop that resembled the inside of an enormous camping tent (glamping anyone?) your jet-lagged correspondent thought so, anyway, when coming face to face with Stella McCartney.
“Oh, look at you in your casual London weekend look,” she teased, nodding to my windbreaker and slacks.
It was actually proper for the occasion. Hunter’s iconic rain boots are standard festival attire. In his program notes, Alasdhair Willis, the creative director of Hunter, and also McCartney’s husband, gave special thanks to “Kate, the original festival icon,” and I am presuming he was speaking of Moss, not Middleton. His spring collection reminded me why Hunter continues to have relevance more than 150 years into its history, which is that clever designers like Willis go beyond reinventing the wheel each season. Rather, he adds new layers to an already richly textured story. Plus, the boots are cute! A version in pastel ombré would brighten any rainy day, as would matching anoraks and windbreakers of soft pink, peach, and lavender hues—and these were just the styles for men. Women’s looks included parkas laced with neon yellow ribbons that dangled like streamers from the sleeves, and Hunter clogs, also super cute.
Pink was also the theme of Emilia Wickstead’s spring show, which featured a venue with pink wall-to-wall carpeting that matched many of the dresses, which were offered in floaty versions as well as her signature sculptural silks. Spicing things up, she added an eye motif (pink eye?) to several looks rendered in Swarovski crystals, and a finale of fantastic formal gowns with long sleeves and long skirts in colorful wallpaper florals that really made an entrance.
A slightly more nuanced sweetness ruled the day at Simone Rocha, where the rising star of British fashion wowed the audience beginning with her lavish venue, the Lancaster House mansion that neighbors St. James Palace, and ending with the poetic designs. The clothes, primarily tea dresses that looked slightly oversized and antique, as if they might slip off the body, were tinged with what appeared to be light stains, but also trimmed with plastic braiding that wrapped around the body like fiber optic cables. The accessories were particularly eye-catching, jelly sandals or silver shoes and pear-shaped bags with clear plastic handles.
Anthony Vaccarello is clearly breathing new life into the Versus Versace collection, a new addition to the London calendar this season that came with every imaginable cut-out combination of black slip dress and black leather jacket, trimmed with lion’s head medallions, all of which looked sexier with a live performance by The Strypes.
Saving the best for last, Jonathan Anderson, whose label is J.W. Anderson, showed an enormously satisfying collection on Saturday afternoon that fused big creative ideas with covetable and (somewhat) wearable fashion, which as any designer coming from London knows, is not so easy. Outfits comprised of harem pants and jackets with big, puffy shoulders, in contrasting black-and-white squiggle prints, topped with two cross-shoulder bags crisscrossing the body, were a lot to take in visually, but you could see the intelligence in them as you began to take the items apart in your mind.Some looks came with teeny-tiny bra tops, or form-fitting ribbed knits with lightly ruffled trims in soapy pink and green, or long slip skirts printed with more squiggles. The soundtrack included samples of dance music and pop songs from many eras (through to current day Bieber) with Fran Lebowitz’s spoken word commentary on the nature of fame and fame seekers, which seemed a pointed message. Anderson, who simultaneously designs the Loewe label that will be shown in Paris in two weeks, looked exhausted when he took his bow, as if he had really put his heart into his signature label this season, and with this show, he went from critically lauded to very big deal.