In New York you often have to skip through presentations in two minute slots, especially in the Milk Studios set up where you have multiple rooms to get through in oh, 10 minutes. It feels rude to flit through designers work in this quickfire manner but that’s also a result of the convenience of a presentation. Back in London, I’ve been lingering longer. Thus far, the presentations are where the most interesting (although not necessarily the best – there’s a difference) work has been coming through. In the newly configured BFC presentation space in the South Wing of Somerset House and also off-site,London’s new-NEW gen has been blossoming. The BFC have really made an effort to try and accomnodate everyone that has something to say on-schedule with more presentations than ever – sometimes just with static models, sometimes with rotating mini-shows, sometimes with fashion film and elaborate sets.
One New York editor declared after the J.W. Anderson show yesterday that in one day of LFW, he had seen more inspiring things than he had seen in the whole week of Ne York. High praise indeed. I can’t help but think that has something to do with the fact that everything from the exhibition space to the presentations to the shows themselves, there’s a broad range of things to see – a diverse landscape, dictated not by trends but by designers’ own personalities and desires. Presentations doesn’t automatically mean inconsequential small fry and likewise shows don’t necessarily guarantee power player winning collections.
I may have been bleary eyed from getting back from New York but Faustine Steinmetz woke me up with her debut presentation at LFW. Here’s a designer who really used a presentation opportunity well to capture people’s imagination. In the ICA, in addition to models standing static in clothes, Steinmetz had set up pillars dedicated to various branding objects that a big Parisian house might have. Steinmetz is cheekily poking fun at the system where a clothing brand is big enough to package their own bottles of water, but also seriously questioning what would go into the making of her own brand, should she advance far enough. So we have Faustine Steinmetz pens and sweets next to a model lounging around in a hand woven Faustine Steinmetz swimsuit. Shop signage and logos read “Faustine Steinmetz – Paris, London, New York… Birmingham, Roubaix, Detroit.” Of course…
But in between these hilarious stabs at branding were some very serious clothes. Steinmetz’ enthusiasm for handcrafted garments that embody a true spirit of luxury hasn’t waned. Riffs off of denim is still Steinmetz’s thing and she explores techniques like laminated thread, hand pleated Japanese shibori as well as repurposing second hand denim and reweaving into a new dishevelled state. From yarn to weave to cut – Steinmetz emphasises the UK-grown small scale production of her garments. Those are important take away points but she need not ram it down your throat. The clothes sell themselves because they look…. so cool! Sometimes, clothes don’t need eloquent descriptions.
I did not get any Russian vibes from Trager Delaney’s debut presentation (more like a showtation) but Lowell Delaney and Kim Trager were looking at the modern constructivist Russia – stripped down, bare and almost uncompromising in its nature. There were moments of whimsy that crept in like the fruit print and the running men (spot the sports giant logos) but the duo were keen to pare it back, just like the space where the show was. I love that in one black taped-up sign reading “No Way”, that summed up Trager Delaney’s cool irreverence.
I was so excited about Shrimps’ first presentation that I kept on squealing “Shriiiiiiiiiiiiiiimpssssss!” to anybody that would listen to why I think Shrimps is so great. Designer Hannah Weiland has cornered all things fun faux fur in just a couple of short seasons but she’s ready to venture beyond her furry cage. She’s also keen not to be known as a theme-driven princess of kawaii – she deliberately created a modernist set inspired by the architect Gio Ponti, which then contrast with the whimsically illustrated silk pyjamas made with Poplin, which in turn also contrasted with the jackets – sleek and chic in leopard print, animal hair and of course, pops of candy coloured faux fur. Weiland also went a bit “lady” by designing her own line of stingray finished handbags to go with the pearl-encrusted manicure and pearl-edged clutches. It was good to see Weiland not fall into the trap of being known purely as a kitsch kookster (she said she could have had models dressed up as bunny rabbits and had crustaceans scampering around) and instead she went for a well rounded and mature take on the Shrimps girl and that paid off.
Orla Kiely has its audience and aesthetic down. Her world is already well-defined but getting LA artist Alia Penner to live paint flowers onto perspex at the presentation added a real stroke of difference. The clothes were still sweet as pie but Penner’s participation certainly spiced things up.
More yelping the when I learned that Louise Gray had done all the prints for the new Lulu & Co collection. Yay, any Louise Gray in a season is better than none at all. Space rave meets Sun Ra in what was a rambunctious outing for Lulu Kennedy’s brand. You can tell Louise was involved just with one look at the prints. It also had other Louise-isms like tinsel-covered hoops. It’s also great that Lulu & Co. gives Gray a more commercially-minded vehicle to channel her distinctive prints. One of everything please. Including the hoops, despite not having pierced ears.
I didn’t quite understand what happened with Antipodium and the departure of creative director Geoffrey Finch (he went to Topshop) but the changes don’t seem to have dented the brand. With Daniel Mcilwraith as head of design, who had worked with Finch for a long time, Antipodium’s quirks are very much still present. You can’t get more odd than having televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker as a central muse. That doesn’t translate into errr… loud 80s suits and you’ve been Tango-ed make-up. Instead, Mcilwraith looks at the world of cult to extract what are wearable but not boring clothes. Neon jacquard denim, embellished biker jackets and zip-up gingham tops anchor the prim meets sex vibes. Best print I’ve seen so far at LFW goes to artist Victoria Sin’s “Healing Hand” rendition of mascara, jewels and lips with braces, seen on dresses and bomber jackets.
I’ll be revisiting Danielle Romeril again when I get a chance to sit down with her properly but she came up with an all mightily impressive first presentation that took us until her world. Inspired by Romeril’s own camping experiences, these girl scouts were set up to be self sufficient – foraging for their own food and looking awesome in different riffs off of khaki, incidentally chiming in with Marc Jacobs’ take on military garb. Romeril’s penchant for beautifully developed fabrics shine through though in the French lace overlaid with camouflage applique and the mix of crochet over leather. You could see these clothes in either a country or an urban setting.
Phoebe English has just taken over the window at Dover Street Market London with her S/S 15 collection. She follows Nicolas Ghesquière’s AW14 collection for Louis Vuitton. That’s a huge leap of faith on the part of Dover Street Market and English showed exactly why with what I think is one of her best collections yet. White muslin dabbed with paint like an artist’ test, black and white acrylic paint swirled on geneously on to mesh, what looked like basketball court netting trapped in between organza and cotton strips knotted and configured into a grid-like structure – these are the sort of ingenious use of unexpected materials that first brought English to prominence. What I love most is that through the seasons, English has never really compromised or gone “commercial” and that people like DSM love her for that.
And finally Claire Barrow also got a say on the preso schedule, late one evening. Down a dark alleyway off Marylebone High Street in a dark basement, she presented her take on her imaginary super nurse characters, out to save the world from a lethal virus. Actually does the tale really matter when all we’re loving is Barrow’s beautiful handwork as seen in the pussy cats leaping across patchwork skirts and painted leather pieces. Barrow finds it difficult to fully explain the narrative that is going on in her drawings but actually, the fact that they’re ambiguous leaves a lot to the imagination.