By its very nature the fashion industry is in a constant state of change. In 2015 however, the rate and reason for transition isn’t exclusively the work of trends; the factors that led to Meadham Kirchhoff’s refrain, for example, are felt across the board.
It’s noticeable in the discussions that present themselves post-show, in the increased (and increasing) focus on casting and diversity, and in the way collections themselves are shown, both as an event and across the internet and social media. Something is occurring.
As well as Meadham Kirchhoff’s no-show, Richard Nicoll, Nasir Mazhar and Whistles were all missing from the schedule this season; elsewhere Gareth Pugh’s label – celebrating a decade anniversary – made its first London Fashion Week appearance for several seasons (cue one of the most absorbing SHOWstudio panel discussions of AW15).
Of those who did show, the strongest form of communication came via presentations. Young designers particularly, eloquently used the medium to translate their ideas.
Marking Shrimps’ second season on the schedule, Hannah Weiland presented her debut ready-to-wear line in a striking Emerald City-on-another-planet style landscape, courtesy of set designer Suzanne Beirne. Knitted sweaters, cropped kilts and faux shearling coats adopted a 70’s vibe, pushing the label’s soft aesthetic into new territory.
Hours later on the same day in the same space, Molly Goddard announced her arrival in perhaps the most fantastic way, with a live life drawing class. Not for novelty factor did it make such an impact – speaking to Clash ahead of the show (here), Goddard informed us she’d been looking at bohemian art students.
Instead the allure was in the details, the sheer thought behind it, the relationship between the clothes (an extension of the label’s house code, with frocks in new textures and mature colourways) and the occasion, sartorially and beyond.
At Fashion East, Caitlin Price focused on ‘the ceremony of dressing up and going out’, according to her press release; hence mirrors posed the only set addition. Under a soundtrack of garage and with kiss curls intact, models donned Nike Air Max 1 Moire’s and played on their phones, a nod to Price’s south London roots. Despite the feminine applique, bow tied sleeves and accurately placed faux G-string details, the looks of real silk and silk polyester were clean, strong, precise.
At Mary Benson – another Fashion East newbie – the contrast couldn’t have been greater. Models were arranged around a central station, sat or stood beside large scale light up signs, faces scrawled on by make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench. Titled ‘Gorgeous’, the collection blended soft hippy vibes with a harder, shinier glam rock look, enhanced by a collaboration with platform king Terry De Havilland.
Returning for a second season, Ed Marler’s cockney themed salon show possessed the same relaxed atmosphere afforded his peers. A set concocted of velvet headboards and a Del Boy esc bar (courtesy of Derek Hardie Martin), provided ample spirit for what followed: lace up flares and sheepskin corsets, leopard print tights and football scarves as shawls.
On Sunday, NEWGEN designer Claire Barrow presented ‘High Flyers’, underpinning the mood with an airport ready grey carpet, a vast array of wind machines and a mixed selection of radios (and stations). A collaboration with Tatty Devine produced trompe l’oeil earrings (mini wind blown umbrellas from afar), accessorising a collection of screenprinted silks, heavy coats of leather, suede and wool and squiggle fronted monochrome.
At Sophia Webster meanwhile, The Welsh Chapel took on a circus theme with a ‘Freak Like Me’ presentation designed by Shona Heath. While downstairs contortionists flexed the muscle, models upstairs were fitted with a selection of spheres and orbs, legs protruding south in knee high leopard print boots, slogan heels and butterfly backed sandals.
London Fashion Week is a tradeshow for clothes. It would be easy to define presentations, even catwalk set design, as just for show, for the ‘Instagram generation’ if you must, but delve deeper and the practice can appropriate a collection’s content, offer an instant understanding of the designer’s thoughts.
Likewise music. Ashley Williams’ collection was all about the girls and so Owen Pratt offered The Primitives and L7; Sibling’s pink punk was named after the Blondie track ‘Call Me’, so come the finale Debbie Harry pierced eardrums; at Ashish, Larry B paired the loud, proud and provocative designs with a spoken word voiceover from the film 'Klute'; the Ryan Lo girl, being a “self-contained queen of her own heart”, saw the show climax with Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’.
Fashion week is about clothes and buyers and business (there’s a reason they get the best seats at traditional catwalk shows), but it’s the details that define, and ultimately sell, commercially and spiritually, a brand. Autumn Winter excelled at this.
Words: Zoe Whitfield