Ransacking the Exhibitions

On the official day one of London Fashion Week, for the past three seasons, I've been roaming the exhibition stands at Somerset House, sniffing out pieces to wear in a Susie Styles It column for LFW Daily.  The point obviously isn't to see me pull ridiculous expressions and kick my legs up in a jaunty fashion but it's to shine a spotlight on the exhibition part of London Fashion Week, where away from razzle dazzle shows, there are serious rails of clothing waiting to be picked up by stockists and noticed by press.      

By and large, the designers and labels I picked out for four outfits to run in the paper all shied away from a show or a presentation and instead concentrated on the business of selling their wares, an astute choice that doesn't make you any less of a designer.  Esteemed consultant Jean Jacques Picart's recent quote in this Business of Fashion article, "‚ÄúFor young brands, success will come if they don‚Äôt pretend to compete with the big names" is a sound reasoning for the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. 

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Day 1 – Yang Du A/W 12-3 cashmere poncho and bag

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Out of all the designers here, Yang Du probably created the biggest stir as the playful knitwear designer staged a Noah's Ark-themed presentation in Paris as part of the ON|OFF initiative.  She's remained true to her calling for all things cartoonish for A/W 12-3, as she puts her own spin on the Bible tale by having swans, crocodiles, owls, flamingos, tigers and giraffes all try and clamber on to this imaginary Noah's Ark.  She relies on enlarged poncho shapes and sleeveless shift dresses to carry her almighty menagerie of animals as well as the stupendously cute leather backpacks that come in an array of species, my favourite being the menacing-looking owl.  It's got a bit of an Angry Birds-demeanour, no?  The fact that a backpack reminds of an iPhone pastime that has killed off MANY hours of productivity, is only going to make me more enamoured with it.    

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(Photographs by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital)

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Day 2 – Eun Jeong A/W 12-3 printed dress coat, Atalanta Weller for Maarten van der Horst A/W 12-3 shoes

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Eun Jeong was a Fashion Fringe winner back in 2008 but since that winning collection of fluid tailoring, it seems EJ has changed her tact a little by injecting a touch of digital print into her latest A/W 12-3 collection "After Flower".  It pays off as the odd composition of Tetris blocks, polka dots and bouquets of roses really works in this print and for me, one of the strongest pieces was this silk faile printed dress coat that feels like a quirky take on Sunday Best attire.  

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Day 3 – A.Knackfuss A/W 12-3 sheer peach shirt, Vassilisa A/W 12-3 silk skirt, Atalanta Weller for Maarten van der Horst A/W 12-3 shoes

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A.Knackfuss aka Alice Knackfuss took part in the Showroom Belgium initiative, which showed its wares at LFW for the first time.  We all know about Belgian prowess as their schools continue to produce designers that go into employment into houses but there are as yet, not as many independent and solo brands as there are in London.  Knackfuss could well be one of them.  Born in Munich but based in Brussels, Knackfuss began in menswear but has decided to debut a menswear-inspired womenswear line.  She's out to conquer some female-male imbalances as she points out in an interview "What‚Äôs weird is that 80% of fashion school graduates worldwide are girls, while 80% of the best designers are men."  She admires the uniform aspects of menswear that she has translated to this first A/W 12-3 collection, inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, who in 1955 made over a thousand paper cranes.  A rough handcrafted paper fabric therefore graces the sheer shirt that I picked out, which felt delicate and tough at the same time, much like the rest of this balanced and well-articulated collection.  

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I've written about Vassilisa's silk scarf designs before and for the past two seasons, she has advanced from silk scarves through to skirts that flare out with the help of some tulle lining.  In her A/W 12-3 collection "Snakes and Foxes", she uses print to convey those animal without resorting to using fur or animal skin, something that a lot of designers have gone down the route of.  Not that it's a santimonious ploy on the part of designer Nadja Solovieva, seeing as pastel snakeskin print and little foxes heads bobbing about on a skirt, are actually far more effective than using the real deal raw materials anyway. 

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Day 4 – Vilshenko A/W 12-3 silk shirt, Hermione de Paula A/W 12-3 embroidered skirt and matching gauntlets, Atalanta Weller for Maarten van der Horst A/W 12-3 shoes

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Vilshenko is also another Russian rooted label that I've written about before.  Designer Olga Vilshenko does a good job of synthesising elements from her Russian roots and bringing them bang up to date, be it through cross stitch prints or tasteful tailoring.  The fan printed shirt that could also have been depicting a bird's plumage was the perfect counterpart to…

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Hermione de Paula's celebration of nature, or rather a highly curated menagerie, belonging to an imaginary collector called Marguerite.  De Paula's A/W 12-3 collection "Marguerite's Menagerie" centres around this fictional character who is a dreamer that allows exotic animal and floral prints to swathe around her body.  Along with the usual dark twisted florals that De Paula has become known for, she adds monkeys, exotic birds, flying fish and bees as well as a 3D dimension of feather embellishments and bead embroideries to adorn her muse.  In a season of seriously "RICH" collections, De Paula really indulges and invests in this Marguerite character and comes up with gold as there are few young designers that chase decadent and fanciful dreams of this nature.  Who else would include 17th century inspired gauntlets and boot chaps as lavish accoutrements to the rest of the collection?  I felt ready to pose for a Fran√ßois Boucher portrait, whilst sitting in Kew Gardens somewhere.  That was when I was only wearing the solitary skirt and the matching gloves.  

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35 Replies to “Ransacking the Exhibitions”

  1. I really enjoyed your blog ‚Äì Don’t forget to visit us at Boutique 73 for Women’s Clothing. We stock gorgeous tea dresses, vintage Levis shorts, and a variety of jewellery! We add new stock every day.
    Boutique 73 xxx

  2. That Vilshenbko shirt made me pause and suck my breath in. ITs one of the more quiet pieces in this pictorial, but it is gorgeous, and reads as a really unique neutral piece that will go with anything. Lovely!

  3. Such a good idea that you are giving exposure to up and coming talent. I love all the designers but I have to admit Yang Du is my favourite, love the bright colours and animal/bird inspired designs.

  4. Girl, you look sick! I almost fell off my…mat (just finished yoga) when I saw that owl dress…Whoo Hoo (couldn’t help it ;). And then I scrolled down to that killer red dress. What?!
    Oh, and can we be real for a minute. You look so much better than the models in these outfits. It’s like those clothes were made for you.

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