What We Saw at Day 2 of London Fashion Week

Designers took us from the '70s to the '90s and everywhere inbetween.
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Designers took us from the '70s to the '90s and everywhere inbetween.

Hellooo, London! Our fall 2015 collection coverage is continuing across the pond, and we're bringing you reports on the best of the UK's up and coming design talent, as well as its most established houses. For more of our London Fashion Week coverage, click here.

Mother of Pearl

Gwyneth Paltrow, Winona Ryder, Claire Daines, the photographs of Craig McDean and David Sims, the stripped-back styling of Melanie Ward, grunge -- those were among the many '90s references Mother of Pearl cited in the show notes for its fall/winter 2015 collection, the first in the brand's history to be shown in a formal runway setting. MoP, which was founded by Damien Hirst's former partner Maia Norman and has been helmed creatively by Amy Powney since 2011, is known for its mix of sporty and feminine, frequently combining track jackets and varsity stripes with floral prints, dresses and skirts. For fall, Powney eschewed the jewel tones and pastels favored in seasons past, opting for a palette that combined dark aubergine, banana yellow, Pepto Bismol pink and mocha brown. Perhaps the colors are an acquired taste, but they -- and the busy wallpaper florals printed on dresses and separates -- seemed to detract from the clean, sporty lines that MoP is celebrated for.

More successful were the accessories, which the label has been expanding in recent seasons. The brand introduced its first leather tote, the most interesting variations of which were decorated with stripes of dyed shearling. But our eye was on the dark slingback smoking slippers styled with plain white socks, which called to mind another of our favorite '90s references: Michael Jackson. -- Lauren Indvik

Jasper Conran

I like Jasper Conran's clothes. They're clean, classic and require zero styling effort -- a printed blouse and a pencil skirt, or a dress and a silk bomber jacket and, zap, instant polish.

Conran covered the runway at his fall 2015 show Saturday with dead leaves, which he used to present a collection in a traditional fall palette: charcoal, moss, burnt umber, yellow ochre, indigo, plum -- colors Conran borrowed from the portrait paintings of Augustus John. The materials were simple but luxurious: Glossy cashmere and suede coats, dresses and skirt suits; sleeveless tops and vests in haircalf and sheepskin; and silk and velvet dresses, many done in geometric prints. The clothes were largely unembellished, save for some scalloping details on the suede pieces and floral embroidery on a navy georgette shirt and dress. Easy does it. -- Lauren Indvik

Emilia Wickstead

What would a modern day Grace Kelly wear? Emilia Wickstead, likely. The designer specializes in pretty, feminine dresses in floaty textured silks (and for fall, tweeds) with fitted bodices and full skirts. Fall 2015 showcased many of her core looks, done in solid Easter egg hues and, later, in a black and gray and orange plaid. A cream wrap blouse with matching trousers, belted tightly at the waist, looked truly glamorous, while a long-sleeved, calf-length dress was sexed up in patent leather. Wickstead didn't push her boundaries as much as she has in previous seasons, but it was a fine, polished collection. -- Lauren Indvik

Orla Kiely

Orla Kiely must have had back-to-school on the brain for her fall 2015 collection, as her presentation was set in a charming mock library, complete with an adorably dressed, bespectacled “librarian” manning the returns desk and “shushing” show goers for dramatic effect. Models walked one by one through the space, browsing the stacks, helping each other with math homework at the communal desk in the center and whispering among themselves — set to a very fitting soundtrack of Björk’s mid-‘90s hit, “It’s Oh So Quiet.” 

The clothing had a schoolgirl feel as well, with scholastic cardigans, A-line skirts, silk collared and tie-neck blouses peeking out from underneath sweaters and dresses in retro silhouettes. The punchy color palette, which included sherbet orange, emerald green and a yellow that can best be described as the shade of a No. 2 pencil gave the collection a youthful kick. If we were still in school, these would be our dream uniforms. -- Alyssa Vingan

Sibling

The deviant street style of the New Yorkers in the early ‘80s, teen outcasts carving out identities by way of goth rock, suburban outsiders turning pastels on their heads — the sugary, playfully subversive Sibling trio has always looked close to home, to the codes of their youth, for inspiration. This season, designers Joe Bates, Sid Bryan and Cozette McCreery continued down the celebratory lone wolf path, imagining an icy, small-town girl dressing with exhibitionist flair to disguise her shyness. This meant: ladylike fine knit twinsets in electric blues and neon oranges, oversized, almost unraveling hand-knit bikers and hand-crocheted and latex mini dresses.

The look was inspired by Blondie, with a touch of Gloria TNT — the assertive aesthetic of a precocious punk making “grown-up” styles all her own. The fluorescent orange latex dresses (embellished with Mongolian lamb fur at the hem), the safety pin-covered, sheer black mini dresses, merino sweaters reading “Call Me" — what young cool (and maybe a little clubby) girl wouldn’t desire these? As for the client who doesn’t need to sneak into the bar? There are some gorgeously dark, sheer black hand-stitched cocktail dresses that will read chic at any age. -- Ashley Simpson

 Julien Macdonald

Julien Macdonald's overtly sexual clothes aren't for everyone, but you have to admire the handiwork of his show pieces: painstakingly cut-out and paneled with net, lace, beadwork and embroidery. The former creative director of Givenchy showed a fall collection made up almost entirely of tightly fitted dresses in electric colors: black, scarlet, fuschia, emerald green, cobalt, silver. Little was left to the imagination, and -- the shorter dresses excepted -- models walked in small, restrained steps up and down the runway. What modern, body-confident women could wear such clothes? A quick glance at the front row suggested there's more than a few beauties willing to try. -- Lauren Indvik

Markus Lupfer

I was nearly overwhelmed by cuteness walking into Markus Lupfer’s fall 2015 presentation. White bunnies were playing in clear, globular habitats hanging from the ceiling, with carrots dangling overhead as decorations. This clued us in on the designer’s inspiration for the season — fairytale forests and enchanted woodlands — and this theme only became more apparent once we saw the models.

Standing (or lounging on rope swings) among a tangle of twigs and suspended wildflowers, Lupfer’s ladies were decked out in wilderness motifs, including shimmery jacquards printed with baby deer, garden gnomes and squirrels, oversized florals and a beanie with pointy animal ears. While there were plenty of girly dresses and some bejeweled knits, the collection also had a tomboyish feel — the dark color palette was reminiscent of the deep woods, and most of the looks were paired with metallic sneakers. One of our favorite pieces was a mock-camo parka, which is ideal for any girl who’s really looking for an outdoor adventure. -- Alyssa Vingan

J.W. Anderson

Thus far this fashion season, designers have taken us to the '60s, the '70s and the '90s -- but until J.W. Anderson's show, we hadn't yet had a chance to revisit the '80s, that heady, glamorous era of strong shoulders, generous sleeves and shiny synthetic fabrics. Anderson's clothes had all that and more: tunic sweaters decorated in brush strokes, layered over green corduroy trousers and ruched knee-high boots adorned with silver flowers like side spurs; boxy leather coats buttoned up the side; tulip-shaped wrap skirts in red and ash white leather, one worn with a striped velvet sweater, another with a shimmery blouse with generous gigot sleeves and a peplum. It was hard to imagine many of these clothes in a contemporary setting -- they were perhaps too literal in their adoption of '80s shapes and fabrics. Other looks managed to combine an '80s feel with something more modern and quintessentially Anderson, like a white clay blouse with a soft, high neck gently gathered at the waist, worn over a multi-layered fringe skirt of the same hue. -- Lauren Indvik

1205

Boring, yet bonkers, sedate but sexy. Paula Gerbase of 1205 flies beneath the fashion radar — but make no mistake, she does this by design. The CSM grad Gerbase (who's also artistic director of the Hermes-owned shoe label John Lobb and former apprentice at Savile Row's Hardy Amies and Kilgour) is a designer's designer. In other words, think of all the creative directors who present slick shows, then take a bow at the end in a surprisingly sedate "work uniform" (yes we mean you Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham and Phoebe Philo): these ladies would probably tap Gerbase's 1205 for those critical moments. Why? Because Gerbase is a designer's equivalent of a Sophia Coppola or a Maggie Gyllenhaal — one who trades off an understated, high luxe that flies in the face of street style peacocks. All this, yet Gerbase hits a commercial sweet spot, a dark mystery that few marketers have cracked.

Gerbase's fall 2015 collection is filled with sedate, almost sleepy looks and defiant in that confidence. Clinical and nearly nunnery-like black and white looks had a twist with diaphanous layers and interesting shoulder details. The bland palette was matched by design: culottes, boxy coats and purposefully shapeless dresses, but yet, it was all so strangely perverted and uncomfortably sexy. And here is the magic: the wearer would know that these garments were cut by the most trained hand, with the most luxurious of fabrics — and that knowledge is powerfully sexy. The question remains: At over £300 a pop or so, will customers buy 1205, or the copy cat, cheaper quality versions on high street, of which are plenty? (Uniqlo first comes to mind.) -- Afsun Qureshi

Simone Rocha

In just a few seasons, Central Saint Martins grad Simone Rocha has become one of the buzziest designers in London, already known industry-wide for her romantic, Elizabethan aesthetic. Her fall 2015 show was set in London’s historic Guildhall, and as guests entered the space it was nearly pitch black, save for some light streaming in from a backdrop of stained glass windows. The collection was inspired by French artist Louise Bourgeois (whose family ran a tapestry business), and the richness of the materials paired with dramatic shapes made for an impressive collection.

The first looks out were made from black velvet — in flower-shaped two-piece sets — followed by tweed, heavy tapestry-like cloaks, sheer black lace dresses and wool outerwear. From the get-go, the clothing looked regal, especially nearing the end of the show when the color palette made its way from dark neutrals to a brilliant blood red. To add to the drama, models walked the runway with their long, matted hair wrapped around their necks, many with strands of pearls layered overtop. There was also a series of lighter, dreamy pink dresses and two-pieces, some of which looked like cloud formations, and others covered with bright florals. As a finishing touch, a few of the models had flowers applied to their faces, only adding to the feeling that we weren’t just watching a fashion show — we were in the presence of a work of art. -- Alyssa Vingan

House of Holland

Henry Holland titled his fall 2015 show “Uptown Urchins,” which seems slightly ironic considering showgoers walked down a metal staircase into a former concrete construction site far below street level to enter the venue. In keeping with the theme, the runway itself was lined with caution tape and had one more important factory-like quality: it was a conveyer belt.

When the first model stepped onto the moving runway, the crowd let out a roar of excitement. The clothing was a fun play on all things uptown, getting an urban update for the girl that Holland calls a “trustafarian street urchin” in his show notes. Classic houndstooth and plaids were made more funky by blowing up their sizes and rendering them in bright shades of pink, blue, orange and red. The yellow and black hazard tape motif came through in striped blouses and dresses, and “fancy lady” furs got a downtown girl makeover with chevron print in purple, red and pink. Those were the pieces we’d imagine seeing on the likes of Alexa Chung, Harley Viera-Newton or Pixie Geldof, all of whom were sitting in the front row, dancing to the show’s Drake and FKA Twigs soundtrack.

For the finale, the models took a final ride on the conveyer belt to Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and although they tried to stay in character, many couldn’t help but bust a move themselves. -- Alyssa Vingan

Timur Kim

Timur Kim is a fascinating young Korean/Russian London-based designer who is as talented as he is angry. He explains what led to that anger: "Being half-Korean in Russia, having a runaway father and being gay, with all those consequences." But there is a flip side: "I was surrounded by very diverse forms of art, the overpowering domes of the churches and majestic architecture of St. Petersburg. I also frequent weekend tours to exhibitions and art galleries, ballet and opera, all thanks to my mom. Only now I want to be brave enough to share my feelings, how I feel about it. Right now it's anger." 

That rage came through in disturbed, fringed and nearly hatcheted patched denim looks, mostly in the deep purple hues. (If anger was a color, what would it be? Purple, apparently.) Then came the harsh words that come with denim: bleaching, dyeing and tearing it apart into tiny little pieces. The anger was raw, as if Jack the Ripper had a go at the denim. Phew. Young angst. Heavy, perhaps too heavy for a 20-something. But then again, that was McQueen's thing at about that age, and we all know McQueen produced some of the best collections known to mankind. But because we see the potential in Kim so much we would suggest: seek anger management, live long and prosper so we can enjoy your designs. And more ripped denim please, perhaps created with the soundtrack of Pharrell's "Happy" in the background. Or, for heaven's sake, have a drink. -- Afsun Qureshi

Ashley Williams x Coca Cola

Ashley Williams presented her collection "Ashley Williams x Coca Cola" for iconic retailer Browns at its South Molton flagship. Williams, a graduate of Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East, has in her short career traded upon her girly, puerile vibe that has the feel of billionaires dressed up in Hello Kitty gear and pigtails. The cutesy slogan dresses and cute animal bags (though the latter are really just a grown-up version of Claire's accessories) are a massive hit. How do we know this even before the collection hits the shop floor? Because of social media, of course. Handbags in this collection are wait-listed owing to Browns's marketing team's acumen: they posted the items on Instagram prior to the launch. The lesson here? Mohair, elephant shaped bags get a lot of love, especially when cleverly marketed. And if Coca Cola wants to move into the fashion market with a unique strategy of singing for the undersung, well, we are watching. Closely. -- Afsun Qureshi