Friday, 8 March 2013


London Fashion Week is renowned for its experimental nature, focusing the spotlight on young designers that are making their name by taking risks and being playful. A few well-known London designers are slowly building a strong reputation (Giles Deacon and Henry Holland, for example), but it's arguable that the true star of this season was Christopher Kane - showing his first collection since French luxury brand PPR acquired his eponymous label, all eyes were on the young designer and he did not disappoint. 

It is often argued that there is no way to be original in fashion nowadays - Georgian designer David Koma, however, is looking to break the mould by using cold, industrial materials and sculptural silhouettes to create a look that is aimed directly at the future. The designer recently stated that this collection was influenced by a collection of Vinyl LPs that he had, and the reference is extremely literal - the first look was an architectural take on a skirt-suit, the curved neckline based literally on the shape and texture of an LP. The fabric reappeared frequently in the collection, first to accent chic leather jackets and later to contrast the femininity of soft, semi-sheer mini-dresses, leading to a collection that towed the line between severity and serenity whilst remaining consistently chic. 

The next highlight came courtesy of fiercely talented Greek designer Mary Katrantzou. Quickly building a reputation in the industry for her stunning screen-prints and hyperbolic silhouettes, the designer's latest offering saw her move towards a more relaxed silhouette alongside a more muted colour palette. The result was a remarkably subdued collection that managed to be both conceptual and highly wearable - with the exception of a few particularly exaggerated pieces, the cosmic imagery worked beautifully with loose, oversized jumpers and narrow skirts. Other looks favoured proportions that almost resembled lifesize origami, with sharp points engineered in metallic gold that lent an air of drama to the overall aesthetic of the show. Katrantzou also showed progression with a series of midi-length leather dresses that had been embossed with industrial landscapes - proof that the designer's mastery of printing technology is advancing with each collection that passes. 

Cementing Burberry's reputation as the go-to label for London's stylish youths, Christopher Bailey took the iconic trenchcoat a step further with his use of latex and animal print, accidentally creating two of the season's biggest trends in the process. No longer reserved for dodgy fetishwear, the collection showed latex jackets and latex skirts that were ridiculously wearable and definitely a fresh take on the sheer trend that has been around for the past few seasons. Whilst some looks remained true to the more classic Burberry aesthetic (think sharply-belted trenches in camel and black), it was when Bailey took risks that the true highlights of the collection emerged. Blood-red snakeskin and even cow-printed leather were among the more unusual nods to the animal-print trend, and it was Bailey's keen eye for styling that made the looks a success as opposed to a train-wreck. It came as a surprise that perhaps one of the most chic looks of the show was a snakeskin pencil skirt belted with a latex vest, but it is the reason that the collection was a success - it takes talent to take materials that shouldn't work on paper and incorporate them into a fresh, wearable collection. If this is the case, then Bailey arguably has the talent and the vision to introduce new concepts to the general public in a way that is rarely seen. 

Saunders' latest collection was all about the contrast between tradition and modernity. Silhouettes were rooted firmly in the 50s - wide A-line skirts with nipped-in waists and tight tops were reminiscent of Dior in his heyday, placing emphasis on an hourglass figure. However, although there were the classic wool and mohair jumpers that would be expected of a winter collection, the designer also chose to sex things up, introducing both rubber and latex to give a fetishistic portrayal of the 50s housewife. Whilst the collection began with latex A-line skirts teamed with cosy knits, as the show progressed we began to see leather corsets teamed with sheer floral-print blouses, creating a provocative look that left little to the imagination. It's clear that Saunders' intention, like that of many other designers, was to celebrate the female figure, but by avoiding cliché and taking a more controversial route he made sure that his take on the female form was the most memorable. 

Considering that PPR have, in the past, made stars of little-known designers such as Alexander McQueen, the brand's latest purchase have helped to propel Christopher Kane into the spotlight. Many had already predicted huge things for the young designer, but now with the news comes enormous expectation and luckily his A/W '13 managed to justify the hype. Clearly feeling the pressure to please all crowds, Kane showed a mammoth 60 looks - some argued that quantity led to a collection that wasn't as consistent as it should have been, but it's hard to complain when the quality was so high. The show began with a series of simple looks that toyed with proportions, creating a top-heavy silhouette reminiscent of Lurch from the Addams Family - a concept that doesn't exactly sound flattering on paper but was subtly executed to great effect. We swiftly saw a transition into Kane's own take on the hugely popular camouflage print - sticking to a predominantly blue colour palette and adding flourishes such as fur trims and cut-out silhouettes took the print to new places and made it luxe enough to justify a high-end price tag. Throughout the collection Kane's imagination knew no bounds - from laser-cut florals and floral embroidery to shaggy jumpers and jewelled dresses, Kane's ambition and versatility proved that he was worthy of his huge investment. Whilst many argue that the key to an incredible collection is cohesiveness, the sheer breadth of Kane's aesthetic is commendable, and I look forward to seeing the designer's transformation into a major player in the fashion world.

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