It is a fashion cliché that a woman designer creates for herself and presents a show in her own image. The men are supposed to have a wilder and more soaring imagination.
Two powerful female designers at London Fashion Week took personal positions. Victoria Beckham focussed on herself – but with an increasingly wide vocabulary that included talking purposefully about colour. Think grass green and purple.
SIMONE ROCHA was in a different century; old Ireland with its ancient traditions, lost in the midst of time, where Wren Boys would hunt for the birds and ask for money by knocking on the doors of grand houses that have now seen better days.
https://www.instagram.com/p/B2c3e-rHTXY/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfixStaged within the faded walls and soaring ceiling of Alexandra Palace – London’s landmark Victorian colossus – the designer presented a vivid and mysterious collection.
“I wanted it to feel like they are coming to knock down doors to come in and parade in a circle,” said Simone, whose ability to conjure up a country and its culture was exceptional. She achieved it subtlety with a pattern of faded Delph china on feather-light tulle or mixes of a black coat and layered white frills with a religious air.
Strong Irish female faces walked the catwalk, including theatre actress Olwen Fouéré, Jessie Buckley and Simone Kirby, creating a cast of characters. They increased the feeling of both theatre and reality that the designer does so exquisitely. Add pearls to the neckline, embroidered berries and daises, with shiny brogues to the feet and there was Simone’s mix of ultra-femininity and independent strength.
There were other frissons of discomfort: tangled strings of raffia; a soft red dress that suggested blood dripping down the body. And it would be impossible not to feel a touch of the Brexit situation with the UK tearing itself apart and a proud, Celtic Ireland being caught up in the fallout.
Simone has reached that fine fashion position that can best be described as magical reality – an intense and charming light-weight prettiness stepping forward on hefty brogues, even if they are studded with pearls.
VICTORIA BECKHAM has loosened up in many ways; she brought bright shades of green, russet and purple into her one-time plain colours; she created loose, breezy dresses and streamlined knits. There was a bold, open space for the models to walk the marbled floor. And, whereas at the start of her fashion career a decade ago she had concentrated on body-conscious, fitted dresses and teetering high heels, now there were dresses skimming the body, perhaps even with a cascade of ruffles.https://www.instagram.com/p/B2cEPpPn0ZT/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfixEven though the designer herself took a bow in trousers with a straightforward shirt, her brood – husband David, with daughter and three sons – responded eagerly to pink trousers and Papal purple. The designer was branching out, with patterns not only floral, but also scribble prints that looked streamlined and modern.
“I need to talk about colours,” VB told me. “We looked at last season and there were certain codes that had become part of our DNA – colour being one of them. And so for us, it’s all about using a strange mix of colours. We do have lots of neutral colours that we’ve mixed together but then there are real pops like the bright purple, bright green, the lemon, the pink.”
“At the beginning of the season we were watching movies, mainly from the 70s, listening to different music and then we put it all in what we call the VB blender and came out with this season’s character. I wouldn’t say there is a reference from any particular era.
“Dresses are a big story this season. Lots of volume, lots of different prints for us that feel quite luminous, being on such a dark background. Lots of ruffles that when girls walk almost feel like they’re dancing around the body. There’s a real sense of freedom in these dresses. Lots of volume but they are very, very light.”https://www.instagram.com/p/B2cE_dEHEdS/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=dlfixOn the day of the collection, the new Victoria Beckham beauty line was also launched online, reflecting the designer’s modern take on how products and their contents and packaging should reflect concerns for planet earth.
VB has all the right ideas. But what was hard to find in her collection was anything that soars beyond reality, abandons the practical and reaches that defining moment when fashion is more than just nicely designed clothes.
The show had the right vibe, starting with the grand British building with a towering ceiling and marble floor. But for all its colour and energy, it missed that soaring spirit or a touch of madness that is at the heart of the art of creative fashion.