The news regarding London Fashion Week can only be summed up in one word: disturbing.
A quick rundown of various events and showcases indicates that more and more designers are going for looks that actually could waltz off the runway and straight onto the street. Never fear, there are still a few clothing ensembles that appear to be fashioned by and for creatures of far-off galaxies. But the austere, faux-conservative look appears to be nudging the bizarre and the off-the-wall to the penumbra surroundings of the fashion spotlight.
In Twitter-useable words, that means you can still see them. But they look more out of place than perhaps at any time in recent memory. Has the fashion world finally been tamed to cater more exclusively to bourgeois/nouveau riche tastes? Or have designers finally wised up to the idea that Seventies-style fashions (an oxymoron if ever there was one) can be used for inspiration but not as outright archetypes?
Consider some of the offerings showcased at London Fashion Week, as smartly covered by the U.K. version of Vogue magazine. It’s all about ready-to-wear these days, it seems:
Ready-to-Wear Goes Sassy…and Tall
Paul Smith’s collection uses a mix of classic and flowing lines. Every outfit – even the ones that mix Mondrian-like patterns with psychedelic colors – looks as comfortable as it does striking. It helps, of course, to drape those tailored-yet-roomy creations on models who could win the Olympic women’s volleyball gold medal without having to ever leave their feet.
Ready-to-Wear Also Goes Sexy
Maybe the skimpier designs of Yasya Minochkina ought to be called “ready-to-tear-off”. Sure, there are plenty of pastel-themed outfits that don’t reveal much more than an ankle bone. And those, naturally, are deserving of polite applause. A couple of short-skirted ensembles, as shown off by models who look far more suited to the women’s fleet-of-foot Olympic soccer team, command attention. Even in still photos. More videos, please. (One caveat: One ready-to-wear Minochkina outfit makes use of white bicep-to-wrist sleeves. Like you’d wear that to Starbuck’s? Seriously?)
Ready-to-Wear Can Still Be Weird
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. The presence of bizarre fashions isn’t endemic just to the outlandishly chic or hopelessly haute. Nine – count ‘em nine – of nine photos published on Vogue.co.uk highlighting creations from a designer who shall not be named achieve the near-impossible: The collection, taken in any order, shows both a progression of strangeness as well as a regression in appeal. Good news: No one short of a majorly drug-addled rock queen is likely to slither anywhere near these outfits. Bad news: There are still plenty of drug-addled rock queens out there.
Handbags Go Creatively Aerial
Billed by Vogue as “Cirque du Soleil for handbags,” Anya Hindmarch’s show featured models in “scuba dresses” who paraded up and down the catwalk. Until the lights suddenly dimmed to reveal an atmosphere of stars and planets—the latter of which then began to rotate. No, spaceships didn’t suddenly appear and release hordes of aliens in designs made for slithering rock queens. Instead, Hindmarch’s collection of handbags descended from the overhanging firmament, hanging very close to spectators. Some of whom, Vogue notes, were tempted to reach out and grab one for themselves. And then, the bags exited from whence they came, along with two models performing a sort of aerial dance on the way up to the ceiling. The idea? The hanging handbags are lighter than air. Maybe it’s overly obvious. But did anyone else think of exploiting the idea that way?
Loungewear Goes Disco/Biker/Leather
But in a really classy, if occasionally overdone, way. Tom Ford’s designs make use of white leather and oak-toned crocodile. Oversized wraps mix with under-length skits to create a look that’s at once alluring and slightly dangerous. The audience was seated on light blue velvet couches and the models paraded along a black lacquered-runway. The environmental approach might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But the mixture of clothing, models, staging and environment left no ambiguity as to where these fashions were to be worn. And seen. And that’s all.
Classy Can Still Be Fun. And Classy.
That’s not as easy as it sounds, what with the vast polarities of fashion taste that currently exist across planet Earth. Go for a safe, conservative look, and the marketplace may snooze right through the entire parade of tweed, stripes and khaki. Follow the Burberry approach, though, and classic fashions can take on qualities of timeless, unbridled fun. OK, OK, there’s a lot of lace being draped about in the Vogue photos. But when taken altogether, the Burberry fashions exude immediacy, not sentimentality. A couple of sheer blouses and some strategically placed dress lines don’t hurt, either. Pink shoes and playful handbags add to the fun. Burberry and Fun. Who knew?
It is of course to Roksanda Ilincic’s credit that she’s known for pushing color into fashions in ways that sometimes focus attention on lesser-used areas of the spectrum. And the geometric patterns showcased in this year’s outfits certainly draw focus and possibly even praise. The triangular black shapes that jut out from the backs of her models’ heads – while obviously carefully thought out and placed – have little other effect that calling to mind various intergalactic amazons who have successfully subverted star ship commanders. Maybe less angularity? A slight stroke of color rather than the all-black that looks like the model had a pre-runway accident with presentation board? Well, at least the black matches up with the belt. And sometimes the shoes. There’s always next color next year.
There are other notable exceptions to the faux-conservative themes that adorn Vogue’s site, of course. Including one where models are dressed in bug-like outfits, complete with antennae caps that make the geometric headgear look almost tasteful. As well as a few color-clashed concepts that are always good for imagining just how far one shouldn’t take a pattern or scheme.
Overall, though, the ready-to-wear space at London Fashion Week seems a step or two away from…normal.
Make that a leap or two. A distance that, so far, seems to be making all the difference.