After queueing for hours in the rain, elbowing through fashion hungry hordes, dodging enthusiastic security guards, peering around silly over-sized hats with lady bits painted on them (really) we bring you our highlights of the womenswear shows at LFW
London Fashion Week opened the doors to its 26th year on a melancholy note, with a minute's silence to commemorate Lee Alexander McQueen, the much loved designer. This was probably the only calm moment in the event, which included over 100 designers taking part in catwalk shows, presentations and static exhibitions, held in various locations within, as well as dotted around Somerset House. It was a frantic race against time to see as much as possible. However, this year also saw LFW produce the world's first digital schedule, created by The British Fashion Council, with designers live streaming their catwalk shows. In the future of fashion will everyone have a front row seat at each show in the comfort of their own homes?
The London Fashion Week collections appeared to fall into one of two camps; the sombre, hard edged and dustily romantic or the bright and vibrant.
First on the dark side was Paul Costelloe, who opened the week with a collection that was full of Victorian Gothic undertones. A Victorian aristocrat gone bad, stalking down the runway in dark leather, lace and velvet, with hints of rose, gold and silver brocade shimmering. Bell-shaped skirts were a short updated version of the Victorian shape, this theme continued with leg o'mutton sleeves, and corset style tops. Military trench coats and skin tight leather arm guards and leg warmers gave a modern hard-edged contrast.
Continuing this mean and moody theme, NewGen-sponsored Italian born and London based designer Maria Francesca Pepe's collection was a definite standout. Her presentation Into The Woods held inside Somerset House, conjured up an enticing nightmarish fable, of werewolves and warrior maidens deep in the forest. The otherworldly models lounged against the silhouettes of bare black trees, and whether they were the prey, predator or something between, we weren't sure. Again contrasts were abundant in the collection; light feminine fabric was patterned with claw marks, leather waders and heavy gold chains were paired with sheer trousers, and floor-skimming hemlines were offset by plunging v-necks. The palette of black and dark purple mixed with white and cream served was an emphasis to this. The mix of fabrics, velvet, fur, wool and silk was subtle but very effective. Jewellery has always been a large part of Maria Francesca Pepe's work, and this season crosses in a variety of sizes featured heavily, on rings, around the neck and on slightly kinky looking dog collars. Wolf teeth buckles also appeared in the collection. These talismanic embellishments are possibly part protection against the wolf, and part symbol of life, death and rebirth.
Another favourite was Central Saint Martin's graduate Bora Aksu, who describes his collection as 'Marie Antoinette meets Edward Scissorhands'. Slight tulip-shaped bodycon dresses nipped tight at the waist appeared in pastel shades of peach, lilac, and blue, with spiderweb-like harnesses in metallic thread and chiffon ruffles overlaid, giving a beautifully enchanted but sinister feel. Shredded black leggings worn underneath were the final fairytale touch.
Another collection straight out of a storybook was Topshop Unique. Models sported garments of rough sheepskin, thick knit and textured leather with animal headgear; antlers, fox and badger heads, the most disturbing aspect however were the monobrows. Mixing fabrics and textures are a must, but which way should we go? Clashing colour crazy, or soft goth? We say get out of the cities and head into the woods...
Illustration by the lovely Francesca Waddell-www.