Colin’s Column | Looking Back at London

Backstage at Erdem’s Spring/Summer 2013 Show | Photo: Morgan O’Donovan for LFW Daily

LONDON, United Kingdom — Are we talking about London Fashion Week or a festival of childish self-indulgence? For me, fashion design is about cut, shape, body and proportion, as it always has been. But sadly, many of the recent London shows featured banal shapes hidden under a riot of digitally created patterns, sometimes in the crudest of colours. Just imagine if there was an embargo on the use of colour and pattern and designers had to show clothes in toile. We would then see plainly just how bereft of technical skills some of the most lauded of London designers actually are.

The culprits are not only the young ones, but also experienced designers with long track records. Jasper Conran and John Rocha, for example, should be ashamed. Although I do have some sympathy for them, as they must surely look at the kind of fashion that’s being hysterically praised in the press and think, ‘Oh, well, what’s the point of having standards if nobody knows what they are any more?’

But enough preaching. Here’s what I liked most at the London shows.

My greatest pleasure from the week was seeing Christopher Kane come out blazing with confidence and present a collection that was perfectly judged, well cut and completely controlled. I thought it was very beautiful and sophisticated — even witty. Indeed, the collection proved that Kane lives up to the hype and can rightfully call himself a true force in London fashion.

Burberry’s Christopher Bailey is well up there at the top of the mountain and like a skilled climber, this season, he stood at the pinnacle and firmly planted the brand’s flag as an international beacon for London fashion (the only one, currently) with a collection that was pitch perfect. The iridescent colours were beautifully subtle and the trench has never looked so glamorous.

Which leaves Erdem, the only other designer worthy of serious comment this season. In the past, I worried that he was settling into a cosy routine of beautiful fabrics and accommodating shapes. But this season, not a bit of it! His delicacy and sensitive assurance are still there, but with this show he advanced his aesthetic as smoothly as a Maserati slips from one gear to the next. This man is a true designer. He doesn’t swing from one ostensibly new idea to another each season, because he is mature enough to know who he is. His colours — strong but never crude — and his embroidery work distinguish him from the crowd.

For the rest, silence is the kindest thing, although I loved the prints at Antoni & Alison, who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the label Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts launched with £200 in 1987 and still enjoy a loyal following despite being largely ignored by the press. I also liked “Pomp and Pleasure,” Anya Hindmarch’s witty presentation — orchestrated by Michael Howells with a long sideways look at Hogarth’s London — which had the audience, who already love her bags, roaring with laughter, which is no small feat on the final day of a tiring fashion week. Also appealing were the crispness of Rag & Bone in their brief, but totally modern guerrilla warfare of a show and the masterly tailoring and embroidery of Fyodor Golan.

Not a hint of the nursery school in any of them, thank heaven.

Colin McDowell is a contributing editor at The Business of Fashion.

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  1. Such a relief to read this article and I completely agree with Colin.
    Perhaps some fashion designers should should come back to the basics and focus more on style, body proportion, and cut.
    It’s more of a cacophony of self-absorbed designers that forgot about the rules of style!

    stylealphabet from London, London, United Kingdom
  2. The digital crated pattern, indeed, is quite a trend and very popular among the customers. However, I do believe that the designs with deep thoughts and sophisticated ones will forever be cherished. And people can tell what is a good digital print and what is not.

    Wei Lan from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. ” Just imagine if there was an embargo on the use of colour and pattern and designers had to show clothes in toile. We would then see plainly just how bereft of technical skills some of the most lauded of London designers actually are.” Excellent point. I am really hoping Hedi Slimane literally makes people shape up again.

    Josh from New York, NY, United States
  4. festival of childish self-indulgence – sounds likes sour grapes from the man who so championed basso and brooke… we mostly live in a 2d world, who cares about cut!! just give me that t shirt kanye’s wearing………and shoot me for your blog.

    Fat Dave from London, London, United Kingdom
  5. I was watching majority of the shows with disbelief, thinking just this. I feel the tempo and expectation of designers has accelerated, with an expectancy of performing at increased speed, producing large quantities. This is propelled by the power of the High Street, and the insatiable need of constant newness. Of course this will result in cutting corners, and more of a reliance of media that allows for big impact in a speedy manner. I also think the fashion colleges are to blame to a degree, as the focus on technical skill is much less focused on, than for the designers to “find themselves”, and striving to be the next “it-designer”. You always see a totally different level in craftsmanship come Milan and Paris. But this of course is also because we compare individual designers in the broader context, to massive conglomerate brands, with unlimited funding and corporate set ups. Only Burberry can truly compare here in the UK in terms of available resources, to assure perfect cuts and finishing season after season.

    Day Movaro from London, London, United Kingdom