LONDON, United Kingdom — Can a collection about the Arctic be seen as exoticism? Peter Pilotto's offering for Autumn/Winter 2016 took this vast geography, inhabited by a range of different peoples, and packaged it into clothes that referenced not only snow and ice, but Nordic jumpers, Inuit patterns and the Aurora Borealis.
On the one hand, it was a collection that sparkled with ideas, techniques and embellishments: long maxi coats with snow flake jacquard patterns, a dress made from glacier-like blue liquid satin, boucle patching with polar bear motifs and jacquard detailing resembling Sami (or maybe Nenet) embroidery, just to name a few. You sure felt the might of the designers' imagination and mastery.
But on the other hand, pausing on the idea of the Arctic as fashion inspiration, there was nothing here to elevate the collection beyond a frozen version of typical Africa-inspired outings that reference the Maasai, the jungle and leopard prints. Backstage, the designers talked about this icy landscape as a “dream trip” they had yet to embark upon.
Nonetheless, there were some outstanding statement pieces here for anyone into strong patterns and gorgeous colours — the metallic lace dresses with chenille embroidery were especially good — but it might be the coats that become the bigger hit. The show also contained pieces from a new jewellery collaboration with Atelier Swarovski, including chokers, bracelets, earrings and pendants inspired by “molecules of nature.”
Overall, the collection was more print-centred than Spring, something the designers explained as "wanting to bring back print again." When pressed for an explanation, they added only that they like a strong print, something that's evident even for those with a fleeting knowledge of the brand. Still, it points to the constraints that such a strong identity can put on a young label. You fill a slot for buyers and consumers, but it can come to define you too tightly.
A hand-painted coat, made in collaboration with artist friend Caragh Thuring, seemed to point the designers towards new adventures, breaking away from the high-tech feel of the brand. Post show, the duo said they wanted to do more of these kinds of collaborations. It sounded like a wish for more creative freedom — and with designers as talented as these — you wonder what more liberty might bring.