By Joe Fritts
If New York is the capital of easy, ready-to-wear fashion, London is most certainly its opposite. Aside from Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week, London is clearly the most directional, with a keen eye pointed squarely on the future. London is the home of Fashion East, the foundation that has launched the careers of Roksanda Ilincic and Jonathan Anderson. Marques ‘ Almeida got their start here and snatched the LVMH Prize in 2015. The shows here are the ones to watch, because while they may not have the extravagance of Milan or the name recognition of Paris, this is what we will be wearing in years to come.
Of the most beautifully executed presentations came from Gareth Pugh, who introduced his collection as a short film. Pugh has been creating experimental garments for the past decade or so, but this collection showed what a visionary he is. His column dresses and cage body suits are sleek, sharp, and very eerie. It is clear why Pugh isn’t a well-known name outside of the fashion world, though in the past, he has dressed Róisín Murphy, Kylie Minogue, and Beyonce. Pugh has done for construction and rigidity what Rei Kawakubo did for deconstruction, and though conceptually, they are polar opposite, they live in the same dream world of extremes.
When 90’s trends are revived, they come in two camps: early 90’s grunge or mid 90’s hip hop. This year is the 20th anniversary of the murder of Gianni Versace, and it looks as though Donatella Versace wants to commemorate that point in time. The shock of color that appears within the collection is a neon chartreuse, definitely a nod back to one of the color trends of the late 90’s. Donatella’s Versus line was sexy, simple, and even refined. Glen plaid played a huge role in her collection, and even with a male model walking down the runway in a matching plaid hat, shirt, and boy panties, he looked office ready, if only the kind of office one would imagine Donatella running. This is her best work to date, and her brother would be proud.
London was also a welcome return to form for Jonathan Anderson’s designs for his eponymous label, J.W. Anderson. Since the label will undoubtedly take on new fans with its upcoming collaboration with Uniqlo, this collection was a great reintroduction to the brand. Finally ditching the unflattering draping and odd fabric choices of recent seasons, Anderson gives us what he’s best at: natural fabrics in a simple palette. Footwear has always been a strong segment for the brand, though it has flown under the radar for years. No longer will that be the case, as the hiking boots with espadrille soles that stomped this runway will surely be one of the most coveted items coming out of London. Anderson has also brought back his flare skirts and dresses, which were meticulously executed. One dress, a vertical striped number, was actually hand stitched leather with sequined fabric panels. This attention to detail is what got him to Loewe, where his work has rescued that house.
Not all stars shine so brightly. Nicola Formichetti, the man most famous for creating Lady Gaga’s most iconic looks and dragging the Mugler name through the mud, showed the third collection for his line, Nicopanda. Walking down a runway decorated with shipping boxes (this should sound familiar,) the show was presented as “buy now, Prime now,” a take on the “see now, buy now” models employed by Moschino and Burberry. For those who took that opportunity to own the runway just hours after it was shown to the world should take comfort in knowing that since the items were available for same-day shipping through Amazon, they were also eligible for free returns.
Regardless of the innovation and vision of London Fashion Week, the diversity of New York was part of what gave the designs a new dimension. London had markedly fewer people of color, size, and gender expression. When we see people on stage or on television that look like people around us, we find things more relatable, and better understand our differences. The overall scope of London Fashion Week is welcome, but depth perception is necessary to really see a horizon.