Best of British: London Fashion Week

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London Fashion Week used to be the most overlooked showcases of the four fashion hubs. Not anymore. Georgia Lurie outlines what we’ll be wearing next winter according to the capital of cool.

The crowds at LFW were treated to a truly autumnal experience this season as models stalked through piles of fallen leaves at McQ and opened up their striped umbrellas on the Burberry catwalk under a shower of imitation rain.  Warm autumnal hues prevailed: burgundy at Acne, ochre at Mulberry, and LFW’s biggest colour trend, purple, seen to best advantage at Christopher Kane and Erdem.  Fur was in abundance, from Mulberry’s Where The Wild Things Are Mongolian coats, to Meadham Kirchoff’s cut and paste multicoloured jackets.  Quilting presented itself as one of the biggest trends of the season, whether at Burberry, where Cara Delevigne closed the show in a velvet quilted princess coat, or at Peter Pilotto, where puffa jackets gave a sense of three dimensionality to their signature digitalised prints.  J.W. Anderson offered a sleeker approach to the padded jacket in line with the clinical, thwarted housewife aesthetic of his collection this season.  Like Richard Nicoll, whose minimalist presentation demonstrated his frustration with the fast pace of the fashion industry and served as a comment on the vast consumerism of what could be deemed “the ASOS generation”, Anderson opened with an institutionalised white look followed by an unusual mix of PVC suits and plaid A line woolly knit skirts that both delivered the theme of his show and demonstrated his dedication to a British heritage look.

This preoccupation with a “Best of British” aesthetic prevailed, not just at J.W. Anderson but also in rejuvenated brands: DAKS, Aquascutum and Pringle.  Designers courted with tradition, playing with heritage fabrics: plaid at DAKS, McQ and Meadham Kirchoff, herringbone at Burberry and House of Holland, and the innovative use of texture at Erdem where leather was embossed to resemble tweed.  Downton Abbey mania, seen most prominently at Ralph Lauren during NYFW, was rife in London as designers seized on English country life for inspiration.  Equestrian and leisure wear were themes at Jonathan Saunders, Roksanda Ilincic and at Giles, whose motif was the country house on fire – scorch marks outlined with crystals emblazoned the dresses.  Jonathan Saunders presented country club chic with smartly tailored trouser suits in contrasting harlequin prints, and old-fashioned sportswear in his signature colour pop knitwear.  As has been seen previously at LFW young labels have been working diligently to build upon their own brand identities.  In collections that celebrated the innovation that London is famed for, these designers did themselves proud.  Christopher Kane once again outdid himself with his custom designed fabrics, sending iridescent leopard leather down the catwalk.  In a natural evolution from his S/S collection where pastel brocades shimmered, this season his look was altogether darker: deep reds, purples and embroidered, knotted floral prints.  Floral revealed itself as a trend at Jonathan Saunders, Peter Pilotto and Erdem, who also moved away from his signature Impressionistic print in favour of black lace appliquéd flowers on leather.

The trend for utility dressing, as seen at Alexander Wang and Proenza Schouler in New York, continued to London.  Military tones of olive, khaki and brown dominated at Aquascutum and McQ.  At Pringle Alistair Carr toyed with the idea of utility with a school uniform theme.  The simple straight lines of the collection sat at odds with the trend for oversized hips that manifested itself at Mary Katrantzou, McQ and at Burberry in oversized herringbone pockets.  At Topshop Unique the workwear motif lent itself to deconstructed coats, that gave way to pared down evening wear in the form of minimalist velvet jumpsuits and sparkling cocktail dresses.  Eveningwear was equally strong at House of Holland where the oversized herringbone motif was diffused onto sequinned bodices.

London is well known for its experimental atmosphere with designers such as Louise Gray and newbies Thomas Tait and Simone Rocha calling it home.  The nurturing atmosphere encourages young talent, as with Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East selection, but also inspires more established designers to really create a spectacle.  This season theatre reigned.  Both Giles and Mary Katrantzou exhibited an interest in costume.  Deacon’s romantic period performance presented bustles, luxurious velvet and raw edged silk gowns as well as ostrich feather Stephen Jones head dresses, while Mary Katrantzou expanded on her signature structure with corsetry, ruffles and layered chiffon, all in a digital print of quotidian items, exploring both the concepts of daywear and ready-to-wear. LFW’s biggest crowd pleaser was Sarah Burton’s first McQ show where Kristen McMenamy closed by seizing a rope hidden in the leaf strewn catwalk to reveal a previously hidden forest that, as she entered it, became a fanciful disco woodland, a theme that was mirrored at Meadham Kirchoff’s 70s extravaganza.  Stella McCartney gave a dinner at which she presented sartorial and literal magic as Alexa Chung was levitated in front of a captivated audience and models danced on chairs.  Burton and McCartney’s decision to show in London this season serves as confirmation of LFW’s imagination, youth, and it’s vast potential for fantasy.

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