Professional poseur (and actor) Billy Porter in a shocking pink satin jacket was trying on hats – fluffy, feathery creations – while mad hatter Stephen Jones talked about the subject that is dominating London Fashion Week: Brexit.https://www.instagram.com/p/B2Z3Oc0Hnj-/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfix
“Our generation is fine,” said the milliner, as he twirled a feathery head piece, “But if you are 13, 14, 15 it is really going to change your perception of the world. In the way that the Second World War changed everybody’s view of the world. It’s as big as that.”
“Older people don’t realise what they’ve done and how much it is going to change,” he continued. “The European Union was created because neighbours always argue and the EU was to make all those people have relations with and understand each other and bring people together. It was very difficult to do that. But it is so easy to break it apart.”
The sombre situation contrasting with airy, feathery clothes in vivid colours summed up the fashion attitude as the British Fashion Council faces uncertainty for the UK’s political future and its current chaos.
As Caroline Rush, Chief Executive of the BFC puts it after two years of political manoeuvres: “It is the usual: talking to the civil servants in the government, but they don’t seem to know what they’re doing, so it’s quite tough.”
“For those people from the EU who have jobs already, they will obviously be part of a transition – but we don’t know and we will have to wait and see. From what we understand, it is that the UK is open, but whether that will be reciprocated in the EU we just don’t know. And that is the biggest challenge – if you know what you’re dealing with, you can plan.”
A fine collection from Molly Goddard expressed in a mix of airy prettiness and more solid simplicity how to mix two different spirits. On one side the tulle skirts and dresses bouncing out from the waist. But with that wafting lightness, a reality check of loose coat, leather bag on the shoulder and boots as well as dancing shoes. It would be hard to find another British designer with quite such a sense of creative reality.
A prim buttoned black cardigan with a layer of fluffy fruit-coloured skirt? Why not? The voluminous clothes with which Goddard started her career suggested a party animal focused on fun. Now, as the world becomes darker and more uncertain, the designer has twirled her light fantastic clothes towards a more sober reality – that’s still feminine in a 21st-century way. Think of sweaters with ribbon ties; or denim used for a shapely top worn with a short, flowery chiffon skirt. The show was a perfect example of a designer moving forward – in her own groove.
You could not miss the chandeliers at the Halpern show. There they were, grounded but grandiose, hanging low above the floor of one of those British ballrooms from the grand old days. But for the American designer, a New York native who has found a place for his fanciful vision in London, the flittering grandeur was the perfect backdrop to his sparkling clothes. Although, compared to the glitter gulch of his past collections, these evening outfits were, relatively speaking, low key.
“Funny Girl – the 1968 movie – was my favourite growing up and I wanted to contrast how Barbra Streisand looked in the film with big drapes and purses in the 1970s to this kind of world now,” the designer said backstage. “It was amazing. These women would have big beautiful things, encapsulated in these huge voluminous drapes. And that’s where some of the gowns came from.https://www.instagram.com/p/B2Z1okrnRFt/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfix“A lot of these women had to mend their own clothing to keep wearing it,” he continued. “So, a lot of the burnt-out lamés and organza expressed the feel of the fabric getting a bit older and having to redo it to keep that momentum going.”
Whatever the influence of dreams of Ziegfeld Follies and research in America, Halpern has moved his spangles and sparkles to a much more sophisticated level. And at a disturbing time in world, the designer managed that difficult balance between tawdry and stylish.
Rejina Pyo, Korean by origin, but trained at Central Saint Martins, is one of a flood of talented designers who have come from overseas and she seems to have a feel for how women want to dress today.
The library books filling the walls of her show space were both a reality check and had a wistful feel that books are objects of the past – but not so with Regina Pyo’s clothes! They were practical and desirable, starting with plain colours and moving to a crescendo of shades from pale to vivid grass green.
Everything seemed on target and as though the designer, who has worked previously with UK-based designers Christopher Raeburn and Roksanda Ilinčić, had found a way of reflecting both a London spirit and her Asian side. Or as she put it: “dressing as an everyday phenomenon, both mundane and extraordinary, for women all over the world”.
Roland Mouret, of French nationality but a long-term resident in the UK, said before his show on Sunday that he asked himself the purpose of a runway show – even though he had chosen an original and poetic venue in the back garden of the Royal Academy of Arts.
“I’ve always celebrated and embraced a collaborative spirit,” said the designer, explaining that instead of an “autonomous” collection he had worked with other creatives: jewellery artist Marla Aaron, K. Jacques, whose sandals are inspired by the South of France, and recycling Berlin hat maker ReHats.
The result was tailoring cut on a curve that removed any stiffness and made a simple jacket wrap over vertically striped trousers, while in anther soft tailoring example, a jacket flowed over a loose top and trousers that looked equally good in its male version which was coloured in shades of pink.
This subtle and gentle tailoring is the leitmotif of Mouret’s style, which keeps a soupçon of French-ness even though he has long since made England his home.
Duro Olowu, who is British and of Nigerian origin, said, as he showed his new collection in front of a private audience, that the desire to leave the European Union included a kind of racism within the UK.
As a designer, Olowu has always been inclusive and he has used his cultural knowledge and interest in art as sources of creative stimulation. This season the artistic combinations of patterns and textiles were inspired by Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s wife during the 1960s. Her detailed drawings of their travels served as a prompt for the designer, who added this influence to his African styles.
Olowu, who lives between London and New York, is horrified by Brexit.
“I am concerned about the cost if we leave Europe, but it’s more heart-breaking just the emotional and social repercussions,” he said. “Should we make clothes that reflect how we feel about this? Should we be campaigning against this more vocally? What if the people who are getting us out don’t know what they are doing?”
Yet Brexit is not a disaster to everyone. Anya Hindmarch, taking her invitees through a maze of walls, led her audience to letters: historic stories, often still in the original stamped envelopes. Moving and often highly personal words, such as a series of letters to a son from a distant father, this collection was also the inspiration for the Hindmarch handbags which were made with an envelope flap and maybe a decorative stamp.
Hindmarch’s stance on Brexit is: “Let’s get on with it”.
“Honestly, I am not that worried – we had duties before we went into Europe – and I think that we will do a deal. I’m not scared. Everyone is ready for it. It’s a bit like the year 2000 when everyone was so scared and thought the whole world was going to melt down. I just don’t think it will. Business are creative – the worst thing is not knowing. But it’s like water finding its way somewhere. Everyone will find a solution.” Brave words. And maybe true words.
But Stephen Jones underscores the daunting task for British fashion companies to cope with this brave new world.
“In my work room, I have Monica who is Italian, Raffa who is Spanish, people from Belgium and from all over Europe. We draw on the whole world as well – but mostly, we draw on Europe.”