On Friday morning, London Fashion Week kicked off at its new official venue, the Brewer Street Car Park; and whatever reservations we had about the event being headquartered at a car park were squashed: the made-over industrial space feels like an ideal, slightly edgier showcase for the hundreds of designers emerging from the UK capital. And its location in central Soho ensures that the London public will be aware of it, too.
"Being at the center of London's most creative and inspiring locations amplifies the buzz surrounding our incredible design talent," Natalie Massenet, chairman of the British Fashion Council (and, until recently, chairman of Net-a-Porter), said of the location choice in an e-mail to Fashionista. "This season sees our commitment to consumer engagement stronger than ever, with citywide events and showcases, and a dedicated public LFW hub in Golden Square."
Indeed, the jostling crowd positioned in front of the car park all day long made fashion week feel bigger and more alive than it ever had at Somerset House, albeit a circus for those trying to get in.
Headlining the day was Zandra Rhodes, who made her return to the LFW schedule Friday after a nine-year break. The day before her 75th birthday, the eccentric designer admitted that even she gets nervous: "It's very exciting to be back, and be a part of it, but I was quite scared about opening [fashion week]."
Her mind was swiftly put at ease as the industry flocked in, pinks as bold as Rhodes's own hair welcoming them as they entered the presentation space. The collection was a melange of candy tones, from the tip of the sheer visors to the petals strewn around the models' toes. Get past that slight shock to the senses on a dreary London day and there were actually some highly wearable pieces - a simple silk shift dress with a bold banana leaf print (a classic Rhodes motif first created in 1976), and a floor-length caftan that had us dreaming of warmer climates with a fruity cocktail in hand.
A palette of oranges and blues followed, this time anchored by hand-painted batiks inspired by a landscape drawing from Rhodes' sketchbook. The entire collection was created using textiles from Malaysia in a bid to promote work from that region to a broader audience. While the heavily embroidered denim didn't strike much of a chord, there were covetable items again in silk crop tops and bold wide-legged pants.
Elsewhere, Edeline Lee provided one of the highlight collections of the day — a breezy, feminine line achieved through pastel shades and simple shapes ranging from tailored dresses, crop tops and asymmetrical skirts to opposing box-cut jackets.
Step closer, however, and you realized the real work was in the detail. Lee said she was inspired by artist Richard Diebenken’s Ocean Park Series. "I was interested in the way he divides his proportions, and the way he uses color, which led to me experimenting with mixing different textures and print together. I ended up just stitching lots of it together, and it became this quite fun collection." That patchwork-like approach begat everything from a cotton silk jacquard to a lurex pearlescent tweed.
If the clothes hadn't been enough to win us over, the Elms Lester Painting Rooms venue would have. An Edwardian painting studio that once supplied all the West End theatres with their scenic backdrops, it was dressed up for Lee with artwork that complemented her graphic collection.
While that might have won her most Instagram-worthy setup of the day, it was Fyodor Golan that took the crown for most-shared toy. Those in the front row walked away with a bold red robot thanks to a collaboration with 1980s TV series "Transformers."
Needless to say, that theme translated to the show too, where access to the Transformers archives of hand-drawn illustrations resulted in manipulated artwork appearing in distorted, houndstooth repeats alongside mixed variations on allover prints.
Despite that, there were few pieces to write home about with the exception of items like oversized shirts with exaggerated voluminous sleeves, or updated slip dresses that wouldn’t look amiss on Courtney Love. The only piece we'll really all want, though, is the sweater with the Transformers print plastered across the front of it.
My seatmate Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, put it perfectly: "This is character couture. We've seen it with Jeremy Scott, we saw it last season from Fyodor Golan with My Little Pony, and here it is again. It's about the childhood memories of this generation of designers translated in a way that really feels relevant for right now."