...fashion in retrospect

by Dara Lang
From New York, we cross over the Atlantic Ocean, approx. 5580 Kilometres, landing at the Spring/ Summer 2009 collection in London. Separated by a vast ocean the extensive distance between both cities clearly emphasized the vast difference in trends, thus bringing forward a whole new chapter of our Spring/ Summer look.

London, as always, reflects street style and individuality; designers here as opposed to New York thrive on raw, eccentric and innovative designs, each trying to be more unique and creatively challenging as the other.

If New York’s colour was yellow London painted the catwalk, blue. The first designer that springs to my mind is Aquascutum who’s love for colour (which apparently relaxes the designer, Michael Herz) delivered true British sophistication with blue prints, which was seen everywhere and anywhere from belts, to hems, to frills, blue clearly set the mood for their professional and classy clientele. Other additions to the blue crew include Temperley who's collection, entitled “Romantic Odyssey,” was filled with beautiful draped blue chiffon dresses, gathered at a shoulder and adorned with art deco--jewelled crowns that sat with British pride on the models' heads. Armand Basi also embraced the colour blue with blue-sequined harem trousers, and whilst his show was largely dictated by a sorrowful black, his eye catching cobalt blue lantern skirt helped scream oomph and excitement in his collection!

Looking back to New York again, I was particularly struck by the great interest in the detailing that designers had with the top half of the body, London on the other hand calls our attention to the great amount of volume and experimental shapes in skirts.

Through the help of ballerina skirts, frills, pleats and layers, designer’s such as Charles Anastase and Roksanda Illincic graced their shows with delicate peach gowns and Victorian suspenders that maximized and blew up in size with tutu skirts bunched up underneath. Thus, creating a great amount of commotion around the hips, as the models strutted down the catwalk with attitude in their ultra high platform heals.

Designers at London Fashion Week also seem to be fascinated with curvaceous, geometric shapes which reflected a futuristic and space age theme, which was exemplified in Richard Nicoll who, besides his striking colour palette of fuchsia, vivid pink and tangerine created tailored jackets with crisp-cut mini bubble shaped skirts. Peter Pitollo was inspired by intergalactic travel and minerals from far away planets and enchanted the catwalk with soft sculptural shapes and encrusted printed dresses.

Others however, favoured Pac Man. Yes, Pac Man is back. Saint Martins graduate Louise Goldin crafted quite peculiar but nevertheless fantastic knitwear with moulded tops; see through dresses secured with bra tops and panelled body suits that enveloped the body and helped warp the silhouette into various forms. Similarly, Todd Lynn and Giles Deacon designed sculptural dresses with over sized shoulder pads sourced from what seemed to be, computer game characters, with puffed out skirts, acid bright pink, gold, red and turquoise prints, PVC and huge metal helmets!

Christophe Kane embarked on a similar concept, and in this case created characters that took inspiration from wild animals. The most impressive piece was a jersey dress with a 3D print of roaring gorilla face that looked as though it was about to burst its way out of the fabric. Other great features included leopard print cashmere cardigans that teamed up beautifully with orange, yellow and green fluorescent pleated skirts and jackets with circular motifs that helped convey flare and movement to the fabric.

However, moving away from toys and fictional characters, it seems that with the rise of obesity, designers (also noticed in New York) are encouraging more healthy lifestyle with the rise of sportswear which was illustrated with Stella McCartney’s designs for Adidas, Peter Jensen’s track suits and Josh Goot’s high-waisted trousers styled with tucked in sporty vests.

Prints and bright, optimistic colours were a big hit throughout the shows, however what seemed to captivate designers were kaleidoscopic and psychedelic patterns which appeared in Sinha-Stanic’s and Josh Goot’s collections. Erdem’s Canadian roots brought elegance with wonderful surreal and dream-like floral prints on long dirndl skirts and my favourite number, a strapless pale blue floral printed gown with flower motifs on the top half of the bodice. Jaeger seemed to be in the same frame of mind with a bohemian, 1960’s Woodstock hippy feel with tulip prints, caftan dresses brought a much more relaxed and calm feel.
This dream like and organic theme, was beautifully complemented by the colour white which in most cases appeared at the beginning of the shows, could be looked at as a catalyst, as when refracted in a prism white reveals all the colour components which appear throughout the rest of the collection.

And so, as we leave London for Milan and as I look back at all the shows I notice that despite the current credit crunch, designers seem to be looking on the bright side of life, promoting a healthier, brighter, and futuristic lifestyle, whilst encouraging us to regress back to our childhood fun and games with Pac Man whilst dressing up in our favourite fictional characters.

The message is apparent…work hard, play hard, wear bright colours, in particular shades of blue and embrace the beauty of nature (and don’t forget to put flowers in your hair)!