The Genteel
February 25, 2021


Burberry Prorsum Womenswear S/S 2013. Photograph courtesy of Burberry Prorsum.
DAKS LFW SS 2013 details
In the fine details for DAKS S/S 2013.

Thanks to London Fashion Week (LFW), this year's Olympic host city was brought to life once more. Submerged in a cacophony of floral patterns, eccentric prints and bursts of neon yellow accessories, the elite fashion troupe descended on the cultural hub and filled the otherwise sallow streets of London with vibrant confidence, colourful sophistication and creative panache over the course of five days.

Unlike at many other similar events, the vast majority of sagacious style enthusiasts left their latest skyscraper heels within the safety of their closets, instead recognising the unquestionable benefit of wearing brogues and pumps in a historic city riddled with uneven streets. With challenging cobbled pavements surrounding Somerset House, where many of the presentations and exhibitions were being hosted, the androgynous studded slipper made its way onto LFW's trend list. Busy schedules and mad dashes around the city meant comfort was pushed straight to the top of the essential style list.

For much of the week, there was a break in the deluge of heavy rain as a burst of unexpected sunshine ruptured the otherwise grey skies. Blazers were slung across shoulders and dark-rimmed Ray-Ban sunglasses found themselves precariously balanced upon the noses of a great number of journalists, bloggers, designers and buyers.

Antoni & Alison kicked off the proceedings on day one with its hand-painted collection, "New Work." In a simplified exhibition of some of the key ideas demonstrated in the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, models were transformed into the pages of an artist's abstract expressionist sketchbook as they sauntered with military precision to the beat of a uniformed marching band.

Paul Smith LFW SS 2013
Impossibly cool bursts of primary 
colours for Paul Smith S/S 2013.

Loosely fitted silk shift dresses, which had once offered themselves to the established designers as a blank canvas, acted as a larger than life explosion of the brand's original S/S 2013 preliminary drawings. Decorated with exquisite patterns created by hand from thick strokes of ink, smudges of charcoal, scribbles of paint, a peppering of pencil and colourful spray-can prints, the collection presented itself as the perfect celebration for the brand's 25th anniversary this year.

The second day of LFW began early; stylishly sleepy queues curled around the perimeter of the Courtyard Show Space long before the 9am start time in feverish anticipation of the DAKS presentation. Running only ten minutes behind schedule, a myriad of minimalist models with slicked-back ponytails and softly shaded nude lips bobbed down the catwalk under the beam of bright spotlights. Set against a plain oyster grey backdrop and dazzling white chequered backboard, the collection offered a palette of greys, whites, autumnal browns and blacks to the crowded tent.

The designs themselves were premised upon simple lines and clean-cut shapes; a burst of detail could occasionally be seen, often on the back of garments in the form of buttons, zips or spaghetti straps. Heavily outlined pockets and chequered patterns briefly offered a sharp contrast. Although there was a distinctly minimalist feel to the presentation, Sheila McKain-Waid, DAKS' head designer, explained before the runway preview that various "abstract artists have led the creative direction of S/S 2013's fabric choice and cloth construction."

Katrantzou demonstrated to her global audience that fashion has become a key cultural connection between countries, keeping alive traditions that are potentially at risk of extinction.

After the fashion coterie had recovered from the brightly painted faces and eccentric designs of Vivienne Westwood's Red Label on day three, they faced the impossibly cool burst of primary colours offered by Paul Smith within the industrial setting of Central Saint Martins at Granary Square. A selection of sharp reds, yellows and blues formed distinct blocks of colour alongside a mingling of white, navy and green. At other times, these bright hues exploded into Smith's iconic stripe patterns, flowing naturally around the models' slender frames. Every so often, the carpeted white runway embraced an eruption of graphic prints and lace, worn by sharply tailored masculine-inspired models boasting traffic stopping red lips and intensely mirrored sunglasses.

Many of the garments were loose and free flowing, whilst cigarette pants, androgynous blazers and fitted blouses moderately adjusted the tailoring tune. Although chiffon, silk and lace played a key part in the collection - offering a distinctly fluid feel to the garments - the introduction of tighter fabrics drew the eye across the muscular angles of the toned female body.

Once the soft smile of Paul Smith had left the length of the runway, the fashion crowd was presented with a complex and perplexing presentation from Jonathan Saunders in his central London show space. Moving away from his trademark patterns, he transformed himself into a magician of motifs, bringing out fish scale palettes that dripped over garments made from intriguing combinations of compelling fabric. Sometimes the scales presented themselves as loosely attached palettes, whilst at other times they appeared deeply entrenched within the threads of the garment. Occasionally, they merged into polka dot prints and repeated teardrop patterns as Saunders continually enchanted the audience with his complex textile tricks.

Mary Katrantzou LFW SS 2013
Mary Katrantzou S/S 2013.

Moving away from the juxtapositions of graphic colour blocking often seen in his previous collections, Saunders instead allowed the garments to shift in an extended continuum between bright hues and nude bursts. Occasionally, the indistinct colour scheme slipped into rich autumnal shades before bursting to life again with cool blues, greys and whites.

When the stunned audience thought every rabbit had been pulled from Saunders perfectly tailored hat, he introduced fresh layers of complexity; round sunglasses boasted mirrored lens, shimmering metallic fabrics contrasted against sharp zigzag stripes, whilst grungy red-lipped, punkish models added an almost sci-fi feel to what could have otherwise been interpreted as an aquatic-inspired deeply paradoxical collection.

There was certainly a much deeper, darker feel to this season for Saunders - perhaps as a preliminary introduction into the inner workings of his mind. It was, as he declared after the show, "The hardest collection I've ever done." With changes between outfits from front to back and a use of fabrics that left you wondering what on earth had actually been used, assigned the split personality of the clothes presented by Saunders to probably being "some interesting philosophical point about lubricious comings and decorous goings, and the fairy tales of first impressions."

Topping off a thought-provoking day, Mary Katrantzou introduced an exotic, cultural exploration upon a catalogue of extraordinary silhouettes. Continuing with her interest in the use of patterns, prints and motifs, Katrantzou brought bank notes, stamps and distinct passport markings to the catwalk. As the central focus of the garments, these bold designs drew the mind to memories of far-flung travels and souvenirs collected with the intent of holding onto the sights and smells of moments otherwise difficult to recollect.

Burberry Prorsum LFW SS 2013
Burberry Prorsum S/S 2013.
Photograph courtesy of Burberry Prorsum.

Katrantzou demonstrated to her global audience that fashion has become a key cultural connection between countries, keeping alive traditions that are potentially at risk of extinction. She demonstrated how fashion unwittingly connects us in this modern age thanks to the global scale of the textile and manufacturing industry. What we wear tells a story; the materials may have started their lifespan in Cambodia before travelling to China to be made and then Britain to be sold. Suddenly, what Katrantzou has managed to fit into the geometric patterns and bold prints of her collection seems unimaginably vast.

Such an extensive novel of travel and experience was teased onto the luxurious blank canvases offered by A-line skirts, shift dresses, sheaths and shirtdresses. As Katrantzou's lively show progressed, there was a distinct break away from the bold use of colour and print; a more monochrome palette descended upon the runway focusing instead on the simple outlines of each pattern. Despite stripping back the complex shapes and tones, the designs remained equally as aesthetically appealing.

After an evening at the Royal Courts of Justice with Philip Treacy and Lady Gaga on day three, it was with a burst of fresh morning air that the fashion crowd awoke and took to their Twitter accounts to break into rapturous conversation about Peter Pilotto and his bright tribal-inspired graphic prints on the morning of day four.

By mid-afternoon, Burberry Prorsum had demonstrated just how pliable the boundaries of British fashion really are. With a diverse selection of inspirations, ranging from Outer Space to an East London Park, the iconic brand explicated how the British city should really be dressing amidst a confusing tangle of classically wrong stereotypes. Stain and metallic fabrics, plastic silhouettes, pops of eccentric bright hues and minimal whites all played a part in the versatile collection demonstrating just how many unique trends can be incorporated under the diverse umbrella of the Burberry fashion house.

Mulberry LFW SS 2013
Mulberry S/S 2013 goes back to the luxury
of the brand's English craft heritage.
Photograph by Vladimir Potop.

Later that evening, every aperture on Twitter seemed to be filled with discussion of the J.W. Anderson collaboration with Topshop, which was celebrated at a bustling launch party later that night. Cute red turtles found an unlikely partnership with repeated zebra motifs and quirky bat designs within the wearable and versatile designs as the successful designer took on the animal kingdom for his latest collection.

For the final day, Mulberry pulled out all the stops by bringing a canine onto the catwalk. Groomed to within an inch of its life, the black-furred pooch bobbed alongside models dressed head to toe in luxurious brown fur, billowing storms of black and navy, gusts of gold, amber and burnt orange hues and sensual snowy white capes. References to silver and mint green were occasionally made, bringing the collection back into spring, whilst great interest could be seen paid towards subtle texture and explosions of sporadic pattern. The real stars of the show turned out to be Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo who graced the front row and brought an array of media attention to the high profile fashion show.

As the stylishly dressed - albeit rather worn out - fashion pack move on towards Milan, there can be no doubt that Britain has once more done itself proud. 



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