After the shows in New York, it's nice to see color again on the runways, and on Sunday, two of Central Saint Martins's most distinguished alumni — Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou — used it to great effect, combining color and print in pleasing, harmonious ways.
Jonathan Saunders showed his spring 2016 collection in a plastic greenhouse of sorts (a more modest version of Burberry's iconic show venue), which appeared to be constructed for the occasion. A few editors complained of sunburn, but it made for a dazzling display, lighting up the vivid hues of the designer's clothes. Saunders has been mixing colors and prints in interesting ways for many seasons; but for the past two, he has done away with a lot of the fussy fabric-mixing, appliqués and funky silhouettes so that the interplay of color and print are in focus.
The show opened with a series of dresses and separates in bold, vivid stripes — a Saunders signature — cut on the bias to look like racing flags. Later, he combined wallpaper prints in inverse shades — one coat paired neon yellow, a medium pink and a rich raspberry; a skirt had layers of cool and warm pinks and periwinkle — which was a total delight for the eye. Jackets, some cropped to a point below the ribcage, others in suede and wrapped kimono-style, helped bring some variety to the silhouettes, which were generally flowing and streamlined. The collection did at times resemble Dries van Noten's last two showings, but Saunders is by no means the only designer who has been influenced by the Belgian printmaster's work.
Mary Katrantzou is another designer who has been influenced by van Noten on occasion, and she too showed a collection rich in color and print — only far more varied and complex, and given extra dimension with sheer layers, texture and shine — inspired by the cosmos. On a runway covered in aqua cellophane, the first models walked out in short A-line dresses in a melange of tiny jewel-like patterns that — with their mesmerizing intricacy, sheer layers, crystals and sequins arranged for a starry ombre effect — could be hung in a museum alongside Rodarte's dresses. These gave way to deeper-colored dresses, quilted and given a metallic sheen, and to even more vivid print-mixing — this time floral — but minus the sheer layers and the sequins. Until it seemed the prints could not get more complex, Katrantzou broke free, introducing a series of quilted dresses (still short) with sculptural, ribbony ruffles cascading down the sides and backs, and a series of striped looks, their colors tempered by black. It was a collection of variety and complexity, and yet it was masterfully cohesive.
While Saunders and Katrantzou feasted on color this season, Preen, which is known especially for its print and color mixing, toned it down for spring 2016. The palette was confined almost solely to black, white, pale pink, silver and gold — which made two sheer lacy dresses in the middle (one in electric blue, the other in an orangey red) pop. The reason, according to co-designer Justin Thornton, is that a restrained color palette just feels more modern. The collection swung the pendulum from ultra-feminine — tailored dresses in soft pink, black florals and white lace, with flowing skirts, plenty of ruffles and cutouts — to overtly masculine, with oversized black coats and slouchy, high-waisted pants tied with steel rings, paired with white oxfords that, even ruffled, had a masculine edge. As such, the collection lacked the cohesion that made Katrantzou's finale so powerful.
Another designer who had a bit of an off season was Alice Temperley, who opened Temperley London's show with white cotton dresses embroidered with tropical florals that seemed well-suited for a beachside vacation; later moving into the softer, longer chiffon dresses (also embroidered with florals) that are her signature, but that wouldn't be right for a beach resort. Then came a series of dresses and jumpsuits festooned with disco sequins and swinging tassels, which were hard to imagine for a trip anywhere outside of Vegas. The whole thing had a vacation feel, but it just wasn't clear what kind of vacation these clothes were meant for.
Issa had more than just another off season. The label, which catapulted to international fame after Kate Middleton wore one of its wrap dresses for her engagement announcement, lost founding designer Blue Farrier in 2013, and under Creative Director Jamie O'Hare, it hasn't produced a good collection since. The clothes, mostly dresses in conventional sheaths and wraps, were as bland as bland could be: you could have told me they were designed by any number of the contemporary brands that show in New York and I would have believed you.
Unlike most other design labels in London, Topshop Unique doesn't attempt to put forth new ideas or set trends. Rather, it does a pretty good job of synthesizing what's already out there, styling it in interesting ways and making viewers — both those sitting in the audience and the hundreds of thousands watching via livestream — pause and think, "Huh, that's Topshop?" The celebrities in attendance boost the brand's standing too, though this season they were a little less spectacular than usual, with Cressida Bonas and Alexa Chung sitting front row alongside Anna Wintour; Suki Waterhouse and Bella Thorne were there as well. As for the clothes: polka dots, cable knit vests, faux fur stoles, leopard and florals were on heavy rotation, worn with cute little heels alternatively adorned with bows or fuzz.
The show day ended on a good note with Pringle of Scotland. Designing a ready-to-wear label around the theme of knitwear isn't an easy one, but Creative Director Massimo Nicosia handles the challenge with aplomb, creating knits with attractive, contemporary shapes and pleasing colors, and cleverly printing knit motifs on silk to further his theme.