Two down, two to go. London Fashion Week came to an end Tuesday afternoon, and not without some regret on our part. For five days, designers showed us riots of color (Roksanda's acid-toned furs, Mary Katrantzou's sorbet pinks and deep violets), texture (Roksanda and Mary again, Erdem, Burberry) and print (Michael van Der Ham's layered floral jacquards and chiffons, Preen's lumberjack checks and florals, Ashish's camo on argyle). The shows awed us (Erdem's dilapidated post-war interior set, Hunter's orange-piped waterfalls, Burberry's usual assemblage of celebrity) and made us laugh (thank you, Anya Hindmarch, for your 100 singing men). Some complained the collections were too commercial. But what's wrong with showing clothes in attractive colors and luxurious textures that don't require a fashion education to appreciate -- and having some old-fashioned fun in the process?
Read on our for what we saw on day five.
We've been smitten with Ashley Williams for a while now, beginning a couple seasons ago with her attitude-y stuffed animal handbags that reached out to the young girl in us. Williams's fall 2015 presentation had plenty of that girly stuff, but we were admittedly a bit distracted by the star-heavy casting -- Georgia May Jagger opened and Alice Dellal closed the show -- and all the unfortunate front row chatter about the "unmodel-like" size of Dellal's thighs. Oh, and the appearance of Scout Willis, also seated front row.
When that all died down, the clothes? To be clear, there is nothing haute, clinical or revolutionary going on here; Williams just stuck to her script, and that is -- surprisingly -- ok. Puerile, girly fun apparently does have a lot of appeal outside of Harajuku, hence her popularity in so-called "sophisticated" cities like London and New York. After all, whatever city you are in, regardless of age, sometimes, a girl just wants to braid her bestie's hair, snuggle up to her stuffed toys and eat raw Pillsbury's cookie dough. This collection was the fashion equivalent of that. There were great "rock stud"-like shoes, fluffy pink coats, slogan sweaters, vinyl looks, ripped jeans, and the now-requisite Paddington hats. The only thing that was missing was a sense of newness: It all seemed a bit House of Holland-ish, with no real depth or conveyance of something new. Was that the strategy? Stick to what you know? In other words, Williams not only hit a sugar rush, but rode it mercilessly. This is probably why she has collaborated with Coca-Cola this season on a collection for Browns. As a self-confessed Diet Coke junkie and decidedly non-fashion snob, there is nothing wrong with that. -- Afsun Qureshi
Anya Hindmarch knows how to put on a good show. The handbag designer, recognized for her quirky sense of humor and appropriation of icons of mass culture (last season, cereal boxes; the season before, stickers), deposited a large LED screen with roadway footage as a backdrop to the runway, over which traffic signals and speed limits flashed in neon. Models, walking solo or in trios, came out in service uniforms and knit jumper and skirt sets, paired with colorful fox fur jackets with arrows and racing stripes, mink scarves with smiley faces and traffic signals, and ladylike leather satchels emblazoned with arrows, "STOP," "GO" and no-smoking signs. The fur and the knitwear weren't just for show; both will be produced as an extension of Hindmarch's existing accessories lineup. Amusing as the accessories were, it was the finale -- 100 men from the London Gay Men's chorus, who walked out in orange construction workers' uniforms singing -- that had us flat-out laughing and amazed. From a performance perspective, it was the highlight of LFW for sure. -- Lauren Indvik
Michael van der Ham
It's fortunate that the British Fashion Council moved Michael van der Ham's show slot -- previously the hour before Burberry on Monday -- because his clothes deserve to be seen. And seen up close. For fall, van der Ham showed a lineup of dresses, knits and separates that, while not exciting in their shapes per se, were beautiful for their selection of fabrics (largely floral-printed organza and metallic jacquard), and the way they were collaged, layered, pleated, ruffled. Women searching for tasteful, dressy evening clothes will find plenty to like here. -- Lauren Indvik
Cathy Horyn didn’t invent the term "hot dogging." Anyone who's clocked time on a beach in southern California or pumped the Long Island Sound knows that hot dogging means showing off difficult stunts in sports, usually on a surfboard. So "hot dogging" can only be done when you are the reigning royalty of something, and Marques'Almeida is certainly that when it comes to deconstructed denim and raw edges.
The design duo repeated many of its manoeuvres for fall, but with a crayola box full of diversion: there was a bright orange, emerald green and Barney the dinosaur purple, which suddenly moved into pastels (including what by now surely must be called a Gwyneth Pink). Oh, and for those yearning for a full-length biker jacket in lilac rabbit fur with a ripped shoulder then, voila, there it was. But they also looked forward, and here they introduced a newness to the mix which showed they were not resting on their laurels. Fabrics that looked like off-cuts from a Benares sari shop and sequins and see-through tulle were played with gently, but to great satiety. On the accessories front, let's be clear: I am no fan of mules, those clunky, horrible "pig trotters" as they say in the UK. So I've been patiently waiting for some clever designer to spin their magic on this dreaded footwear and make me like them. These mules had me finally, finally sold. For that, an extra gold star. -- Afsun Qureshi
Across the street from Marques'Almeida, fellow Fashion East alumnae Helen Lawrence showed off her capsule collection of knitwear, primarily in moss green, black and oatmeal -- comfort colors. There was only a handful of looks, but that was a good thing; the consumer doesn’t need more, just better. No one understands the allure of knitwear as a comfort thing more Helen Lawrence and her English ilk (like Sibling), and Lawrence manages a rag tag coolness mixed with Dickensian street urchin. There were deconstructed, artful layers, and the kicker: very cool leg warmers. But this presentation was about the atmosphere, which had us yearning for a hearth, a roaring fire and a bowl of hot gruel -- or hot toddy. So sitting here in a Pimlico pub with a drink in hand technically before the witching hour of 6 p.m., while the wind howls outside? Well, we only have Helen Lawrence to blame. -- Afsun Qureshi
From MiG fighter pilot suits to repurposed parachutes and aged English military garb -- Christopher Raeburn has a way of transforming and recycling harsh-modeled, extreme-to-the everyday materials into day-ready sportswear, sporty coating, even delicately feminine shifts. The chief inspiration for the fall 2015 wares he showed at Somerset House Tuesday afternoon? Fluorescent life-jackets and safety rafts, taken straight from sea and given second lives as electric orange duffles, anoraks with deep blue faux fur detailing and oversized, menswear-influenced parkas. Naval blankets took on second lives as ocean-reminiscent pea coats; and fitted, pillared dresses were made casual in Japanese wool denim. Black leather backpacks -- with bright orange or deep blue fur covering the backsides -- promise to be future street style staples. A handful of thick, handwoven wool sweaters gave an element of artisanal homeyness to a storm-shaded, city-ready collection. -- Ashley Simpson
There's always a carnival-like atmosphere at Ashish -- after all, he's is the rock star of designers, with bonafide groupies who cheer on each look with unabashed enthusiasm. The electrical charge in the air and the pure love for fashion within the audience can kick the "meh" out of the most hardened fashion cynic. At this stage of the game, the clothes almost don't matter -- they are in a way just a side show to the love that surrounds him. Still, we know the collection is going to be something flamboyant and camp; this is after all the designer who convinced us to wear rainbow sequins for daytime. For fall 2015, he daringly mixed camouflage and argyle prints, and then added patchwork fur, plus his requisite sequins, to the mix. When Jourdan Dunn came out on the catwalk, her camo manicure had us, well, nailed.
The lingerie pieces and the full-on fire engine red looks all told a story of no-holds barred sex in its most feral, gurning form -- take that, "Fifty Shades." The models also sported multi-coloured mohawk-ish hair similar to the 'do sported by the show's super stylist, Anna Trevelyan. When Ashish took his bow in a sweatshirt (that had "pussy" written out in sequins), the crowd surged up as if Tom Brady had just clinched a Super Bowl touchdown. Ashish has tapped into a feeling, hitting upon a formula that cannot be taught or explained. -- Afsun Qureshi
H by Hakaan
For his fall 2015 collection, Hakaan Yildrim looked to "Grey Gardens," the cult Mayles documentary that follows the lives of endlessly odd socialites Edith Bouvier Beale and her daughter in their disintegrating, reclusive gothic estate. It was an unexpected focus for Hakaan -- a man who favors body-conscious, futuristic, overtly sexual construction. Here, he brought an innately crazed, off-center sensuality to life with floor-length leather gowns in cherry red, garden-printed skirt-top combos drawn in lace and sculptural, cutout-centric cocktail dresses in spring green with cross-stitch detailing. A series of head wraps read straight Edith Beale -- as did a beating soundtrack, screaming out the eccentric’s campy “I think this is the best costume for today” as girls walked the runway in plush oversized pink fur coats and all-black, fitted leather looks. The slits, in classic Hakaan style, were thigh-high. This collection may reference "Grey Gardens" -- but it's meant for a trip outside the mansion. -- Ashley Simpson