Have you ever taken the advice of the Evening Standard and spent a night looking at your watch as you try and get into Franks? Then you’ll know about queuing on foot in car parks.
Such was the scene on Brewer Street, as London Fashion Week moved from Somerset House, its base of six years, to the location behind the London stopover of Richard Mosse’s 2014 show ‘The Enclave’; the dark space and emotive pink images replaced by clean white panels and commerce erring conversation.
Rewind to last Thursday though and it was at Circus Space in Shoreditch that FKA twigs, at the request of M.A.C. cosmetics, eased, if you will, a journo heavy crowd into SS16; never has such awe been collectively translated to Instagram. Or maybe it has – real fashion has that kind of power.
The industry’s cultural investment continued across the week (Friday-Tuesday), as ties with music, or more specifically sound, were secured by numerous designers in various guises.
At Phiney Pet, south London designer Phiney Pettman presented ‘Everyday Birthday’ to a soundtrack of 90’s R’n’B: “We like to think if Debbie Harry had a sweet sixteen she would probably want to be seen in the same party dress and leather combo’s seen here” asserted the press release. IRL the presentation, held in The Chapel, All Saints House, aligned more with a cute Sunday best church going vibe, as illustrated frocks, tees and shorts partnered straw hats and polite clips.
Later Le Kilt designer Samantha McCoach continued her vocal approach to subculture appreciation, presenting the new collection in the infamous 100 Club on Oxford Street, borrowing the title of Garbage’s 1996 hit ‘Stupid Girl’, and dressing her crew in Chuck Taylors, the definitive indie shoe; trouser suits and an exploration of texture – together with a palette of red, white, black and camel – pushed the otherwise kilt specific offering further.
At Fashion East it was the nod to a particular scene that helped execute the brand-specific voice of each designer on the line-up: This Is The Uniform’s Jenna Young created a common room scenario complete with ping pong, Maccy D’s and trashy pocket money priced magazines, offset by a widescreen view of MTV brandishing, on Clash’s arrival, Little Mix. The spirit of Young’s pieces, beautiful red and white silks cut into pleated PE kit skirts, cool girl popped collar jackets and backless halternecks, was summed up in the responsibility-free lifestyle of the teenager she presumably envisioned.
In stark contrast, Irish designer Richard Malone consumed his Fashion East debut with Sylvia Plath readings, his Evelyn O’Connor created set doused in translucent sheets of plastic and clinging to his models, a mix of bright pieces in orange and salmon and cream and black stripes. Inspired by his native Wexford, Malone’s work married couture techniques and XXL ruffles with (at a glance) simpler silhouettes.
Caitlin Price, the only returning designer of the three, showed perhaps a more mature exhibit, her block colour draped models posing on abstracted speaker systems – a collaboration with Joseph Bond – positioning her street flavoured aesthetic in a richer context. Rejecting the frills of AW15, the Caitlin Price SS16 girl proved a bolder expression with new techniques, colourways and striking cutouts contouring the body. Presented across three bright rooms, a fourth space confirmed the inspiration behind her revised vision, as rave footage was projected onto a single wall.
Elsewhere live music played an effective tool in designers’ desire to provide the fullest embodiment of their current stream of thought; at Burberry, a repeat offender in the arena (and also dabbling with Apple Music), models strode past Alison Moyet, centre stage and backed by a full band; Sophia Webster’s CrazySexyNautiCool (a play on TLC’s 1994 sophomore album) collection was enhanced by Katy B, who performed a five-track set comprised exclusively of water themed tracks (the room full to bursting with sea and washing machine references).
“Despite all the chaos, it is femininity that shines through,” stated the accompanying notes for Claire Barrow’s man versus man made ‘Broken Machines’ collection. 30 looks in tableau stretched out across the ICA on Sunday morning, as the designer used a musical collaboration between Owen Pratt and Rishi Shah to illustrate her seasonal sentiment; partially functioning instruments clutched by the models echoed the sense of fear noted, literally, in the clothes. “The last items we may have available to us,” read as easy silk and 80’s layered dresses nestled between brightly coloured leathers and 90’s grey suits; a series of otherwise formal handbags adopted uneven edges and hand drawings in what was perhaps Claire’s strongest offering to date.
At Faustine Steinmetz it was the lack of acknowledged sound that fully realised the mood, characterised in cloth with new textures, curious silhouettes and an evocative vegan handbag line (an evocative vegan handbag line!). Playing up the label’s artistic sensibility, this season’s set proposed awkward physical configurations as body parts appeared from randomly placed holes in a white maze.
For Molly Goddard SS16 identified a literal break from the bleak, that is, bright pops of coloured tulle, deep red, tartan, off white satin and smocked grey playsuits – fun clothes, the type you want to run about in so much you don’t wait for your hair to dry first – contained in a dreary British sandwich factory. Overheard? Goddard’s mother, Sarah Edwards (here playing set designer) efficiently directing the girls on how to make sandwiches.
Like the best concert you’ve ever been to, London Fashion Week is a performance. Whether you’re Phoebe Collings-James throwing leaves from a brown paper bag under Theo Adams company direction at Ed Marler’s fantastic solo debut in Smiths Court, or Larry B and Jay Boogie following streetcast skater girls at Ashish and owning it, the greatest creative declarations are those with added oomph. Listen up and you’ll see it.
Words: Zoe Whitfield
Photos: Molly Goddard by Jamie Stoker, Le Kilt by Chris Rhodes, Ed Marler by Caoimhe Hahn, all other imagery c/o the PR.