LONDON — From young talents like Alexa Chung and Simone Rocha to London design veteran Jasper Conran, London Fashion Week showed off a diverse range of womenswear ideas for the upcoming autumn and winter season with a busy day of catwalk shows Saturday.
The spectacle is bringing much needed color and verve as gray London shakes off its winter blues amid the first hints of warmer weather. A look at some highlights:
House of Holland
London may not have Paris’s haute couture or Milan’s grand fashion houses, but the British capital has always been proud to be the wild child on the style front.
That irreverent, street-wise London sass was on full display at House of Holland’s show, where designer Henry Holland threw together ’80s power dressing, Asian dress details and loud, clashing tie-dye prints for his latest collection.
Holland said the show was all about the rebellious, and indeed these were flamboyant, look-at-me statement clothes. Models opened Saturday’s show with tailored coats and jackets in the traditional Prince of Wales check – albeit in bright orange and paired with slinky green velvet animal prints.
Then came everything from patchwork print kaftans, oversized silky pussy bow neckties to denim overalls, all worn with berets, clunky platform boots and plenty of attitude.
Quilted jackets and miniskirts, Mandarin collars and obi tie belts brought an Asian aesthetic. The designer emphasized a “global citizen” as his show’s theme and incorporated traditional Cambodian textile techniques into the urban mix.
Monastic Chic at Jasper Conran
Who knew monks’ garbs could be so fashionable?
High necks, long sleeves, dropped waistlines, skirts that brush the calf or ankle: Veteran designer Jasper Conran took inspiration from “monastic” shapes with a new collection of utilitarian, sleek tunics and dresses that quietly exuded sophistication rather than screamed glamour.
Conran, a founding father of London Fashion Week, dialed down his signature flair for color for the upcoming autumn and winter season, opting instead for a mostly severe palette of earthy browns, rust, mustard and indigo.
The designer focused on dresses that rival the comfort of sportswear. Some outfits – like several brown-all-over sweater dresses – bring to mind something a friar might wear. But Conran always kept things modern with a thigh-high side slit here, a slashed neckline there, a bright sporty piping or geometric color blocks.
Conran ditched the covered-up look for the show’s final section, a collection of architectural column gowns. The colors are still understated here, but bare shoulders and sheer organza panels brought out the drama.
Simone Rocha Impresses With Imaginative Show
Designer Simone Rocha turned in a bold, confident show impressive for its variety and thoughtfulness. Even American Vogue editor Anna Wintour skipped her signature sunglasses for a closer look at the stunning array of ensembles.
Rocha seems to grow in stature each year, earning her reputation as one of the major new talents on the London scene. She said the theme Saturday was “intimacy, privacy, security, femininity.”
There was no single look to the show, but Rocha did experiment with outfits that used sparkly bras or camisole tops on top of dresses. Elaborate coat-dresses, some with gauzy skirts, appeared, along with ethereal, pale pink dresses and one extremely gaudy gold number.
A series of gorgeous, black-themed floral dresses, many tiaras, some whimsical Alice In Wonderland dresses and updated baby doll outfits also turned up.
Rocha’s approach was playful, but her fashion intent was serious, and she made a point of using some slightly older models and also ones who were not rail-thin.
She said after the show that she had asked many of her close model friends if they would take part in a show about intimacy and exposure.
“Last season was all about my family, and by the end of it I felt so exposed, like telling everybody about my aunties and uncles,” she said. “I felt like I needed to look in, and I looked at all these photographs of women being exposed.”
Alexa Chung Shows Quirky Classics
Model and TV presenter Alexa Chung has a loyal fan base and her many admirers flocked to Saturday’s show in London’s redeveloped King’s Cross neighborhood. They weren’t disappointed as Chung offered a new collection featuring her quirky, feminine take on classic designs.
For her second London Fashion Week show, called “Off the Grid,” the designer announced she had lost all interest in “prettiness” and was imagining a “gaggle of women” who have retreated to California’s Big Sur coastal wilderness to regroup.
Some of the models wear long coats with matching head scarves that are evocative of the American prairie. Many of the deceptively simple dresses emphasize the shoulders, giving the women an outline of physical strength, and much of the outerwear is masculine in style, particularly a forest green suit.
Chung showed an easy, eclectic touch in a collection that included long black coats, several sexy gold dresses, and a few beautiful green midi dresses, including one that she wore to the show.
Story: Sylvia Hui, Gregory Katz