We caught up with five admirable collections in London on Sunday, none of them quite masterpieces, but each showing designers grappling with their DNA and the desire to define their universe through the medium of fashion. JW Anderson, Erdem, Christopher Kane, Nensi Dojaka and S.S.Daley. Some days, in certain seasons, it’s important to trust designers’ visual ideas and not the verbal explanations of their collections. Like this Sunday in London Fashion Week.
JW Anderson: Collab with Clark in the Roundhouse
A busy sunny Sunday in London. It opened with the latest collection from the enfant terrible of art-inflected fashion JW Anderson, in a novel collaboration with Michael Clark - a visual meditation on the meaning of fandom.
Dancer, choreographer, filmmaker and video artist, Clark has previously linked up with the likes of designers BodyMap, performance artist Leigh Bowery, and musicians Wire, Jarvis Cocker and Scritti Politti. Hence Anderson’s invitation was a drawing of a big black phallus by Clark. The same image was on giant boxes that greeted guests at the Roundhouse, where the show was staged. Along with a giant hand giving silver-tipped two fingers and Coca Cola boxes, where the logo and tagline were rewritten to read “Enjoy God’s Disco, is there nightlife after death?” The very same images seen on the opening plasticized T-Shirts, worn with ragged hemmed pants. Later, models donned Tesco bag print shirt dresses and upside-down smiley t-shirt frocks. The Northern Irish designer’s sense of novel silhouette’s seen in his faux shearling tubular tops with small pockets at the ribcage, so the models looked like they were cupping their own breasts. He even sent out white T-Shirts, ragged woollen jumpers and leather totes on which was written Michael Clark in green. And married the two names in a JW anchor logo Breton sailor’s shirts featuring the name Michael Clark also in green. Though the heart of matter was Anderson’s extended silhouette, were shoulders, pockets and pant legs jutted out like upside down isosceles triangles. Seen in beige trenches and plum-colored cotton pants. Along with his uber humungous 18-inch-wide lapels that ended halfway down the arm. “In September last year I was looking through Michael’s archive and I thought I cannot look at someone else’s archive without looking at my own. So, I took one element from every single collection from the past 15 years and merged the two archives. When I was in university Michael was a huge inspiration. So, this is reconciling the past, because ultimately the job of a designer is a series of rejections of certain things,” Anderson explained, standing before God’s Coca Cola.
No designer does delightfully distressed Victoriana better than Erdem Moralioglu. Ever since he moved into a Bloomsbury townhouse, his collections have increasingly referenced the denizens of the neighbourhood. Going from intellectual grand dames one season to fallen women this season. Specifically, their ghosts, who could be heard rambling about an attic in the pre-show soundtrack inside Sadler’s Wells. Erdem’s big discovery was that his new home had previously been part of an extended institution entitled A Home of Hope for the Restoration of Fallen Women. Some 3,216 had passed through their doors, and their descendants appeared in the murky light of this show. And what a great collection it turned out to be – with Erdem’s jet embroidered trench coats in wool jacquard, or his tight wee school marm’s jackets worn with a metallized taffeta bustle skirt. He finished half the collection with balloon sleeves in clerical style calico, or batwing sleeves in faille. Ruffled and rippled over every second look. These days, nobody in London really drapes even half as well as Erdem, who wowed with asymmetrical lace dresses in acid yellow or black. Intricate and enthralling, they looked magnificent. As did beautiful metallic floral fil-coupé Crombies; several jade encrusted ivory faille dresses; and the stunning finale – Victorian crystal embellished layered tulle dresses that were, well, quite perfect. “The Home of Hope was considered a benevolent environment, though records reveal a riot incited in the square by intoxicated residents who had missed their curfew, which might suggest otherwise. Perhaps there was a sense of unravelling revelry in the bones of the house too?” ruminated Erdem in his program notes. One could quibble of the sheer murkiness of the staging inside Sadler’s Wells Theatre. But given many of the Fallen Women’s doubtful past that was probably inevitable. The mood was grand, but never grandiose. The hems were often ragged, the dresses had a sense of some naughty personal tale. The clothes were historic yet never retro, since Erdem’s courageous sense of cutting and proportion made them all feel very new. In a word, Erdem is the nearest thing to couture that exists in London, blessed by the rich imagination of a truly exceptional designer. Or should we say Canadian accented couturier.
Lycra prints of pigs and mice starred in the latest collection from Christopher Kane, presented on an obscure cast in an obscure show-space on a side street in Angel Islington. The animals fighting for space on body-con cocktail and party dresses, in an erratic collection. Which began far too quietly - a series of dresses, with shoulder straps so stiff they sat up vertically. Often embellished with springtime floral embroidery – they were prim and yet not polished. Halfway through, Kane suddenly hit his stride, as he sent out sequined dresses and several lacey femme fatales looks that were seductive and chic. A pair made in contrasting bands of sequins and chiffon were really brilliant. You could see the models were the happiest in the show. A pity there were not more like them.
Nensi Dojaka: Semi-sheer sassy sophistication
Gazillions of buyers at Nensi Dojaka, the LVMH prize winner, who has carved out a really large social media following. Her reputation based on innerwear as outerwear lingerie chic. A packed house inside Alva Coachworks, a converted garage in an industrial corner of Islington. Nothing industrial about this collection, body con bravura to the max. Where bras, brassiere or bra tops featured in almost every single look. Opening with a bra under a mesh top, worn with leggings that flared suddenly at the ankles into tulle ruffles. All manner of mesh tops, skirts, dresses and tunics followed, exposing endless limbs and bums. Dojaka adeptly cut some razor-sharp cocktails, with gauze and lace inserts, that all finished well up the thigh. No doubt about it, Nensi understands and knows how to flatter a woman’s body. Just that in a winter collection one could have done with a little more clothes that might keep the Dojaka damsel warm. For the finale, Nensi pulled out some big gun runway stars – like Mariacarla Boscono – in a sinful red gown. Or Adut Akech in black lace tights, leotard, sequined bra and transparent skirt, and Imaan Hamman in a silvery sequined bra, panties and skirt. One could practically hear the pulse of the old heterosexuals in the audience beat much faster.
Not every designer gets an Oscar nominee to open their runway show reciting Tennyson. Then again, not every designer is as talented as LVMH Prize winner S.S.Daley. Sir Ian McKellen, whom most people would know as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, recited the famed lines of Alfred, Lord Tennyson The Coming of Arthur: “Wave after wave, each mightier than the last, till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep.” The same phrase seen on T-Shirts worn by fans and admirers in the front row of this show. A co-ed display presented in the bowels of a central London, practically underneath CentrePoint, the maudlin skyscraper once described by a Tory Prime Minister as the unacceptable face of capitalism. Attired in loon pants, oversized peacoat and a tugboat captain’s cap, McKellan sauntered around quoting Tennyson, before the cast in this co-ed show appeared. Daley likes poetic fashion – men in silken striped double-breasted jackets, topped with a keffiyeh, and paired with tight jodhpurs. Slightly improbable but very now. Daley’s gals are seaport bar amazons in massively gathered skirts, Moll Flanders blouses and oodles of attitude. Altogether, it’s the Artful Dodger meets Querelle. Enjoying a drink in a fantasy bar, where patron Jean Jeannette wears silk calico shirts over-printed with expressionist illustrations of naked youth, their artillery fully exposed. However, ultimately, this was a rather half-baked collection – epitomized by several daft looks where Wedgwood plates were glued on to knits and tops. A chrysalis collection, a designer finding his way, and yet a breath of fashion fresh air, as a creator creates unexpected visions. That’s the ultimate goal of great fashion. For S.S.Daley is a work in process – both the brand and the designer.
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