It says a great deal about the hectic pace of the London fashion week schedule that the first day I've been able to sit down, take stock and put pen to paper - metaphorically - about my overview of the British collections is the third day of Milan fashion week. And I skipped the capital without even finishing - there were a dozen Spring/Summer 2012 menswear shows overlapping with Milan's first day, none of which I got chance to see. More's the pity - some of our best talents are in the menswear scene right now. I was excited to see almost-old hand J. W. Anderson (a veteran of the London scene - at 27?!) and the new boys Shaun Samson and Matthew Miller. But pictures will have to suffice.
The great thing about London is ideas. The execution may not always be perfect but it always throws off more forward-thinking fashion than any other week. Maybe I have high expectations of designers there - it didn't strike me as an especially vintage round of shows, although we saw some great collections. I hated about a quarter of what Richard Nicoll showed for spring. That said, I absolutely love the other 75%, segueing from graphic sixties shifts into ethereal floating chiffons and georgettes in the best pastel palette in all London town. The pictures couldn't do them justice, the way they moved on the body was sublime. Jonathan Saunders' scrollwork slips were also beautiful, tapping into an old-school vein of feminine frippery where its enough to look simply lovely without a moody, broody subtext. Palm Beach housewives on acid? Yadda, yadda, yadda. These were great, simple, saleable clothes in bright colours and interesting cuts that women will want to wear. No shame in that Mr Saunders. We saw more great clothing in that ilk from Marios Schwab - clever curvy dresses darted about the body in subtly veiled pastels - and from Erdem, who upped the sweet factor until our back-teeth ached for a collection that was utterly wearable and yet subtly subversive in its' relentless pushing of the pretty pretty. That's a difficult mix.
Those are all top performers in London, but Simone Rocha's collection this season ranked up high with them. More's the pity that her show was a tiny, off-schedule affair tucked into a sweet, slightly decrepit salon space off Regent Street. If there was justice in the world, half-a-dozen of London's lingering losers would be bumped off the schedule and Rocha would have had them fighting in the aisles to see her lace-injected tulle tailoring, transparent plastic and sickly-sweet mix. Lulu Kennedy - fashion's fairy godmother who supported Rocha via her Fashion East initiative for the past two seasons - was sat front row, a 'told you so' smile playing across her lips. Ms Kennedy, I hang my head in shame for not listening earlier: now I'm a true believer in Rocha's burgeoning talent. Rocha's show also shared a sensibility with Palmer/Harding, the label of Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding who set up shop and NewGen exhibition stand with little more than a clutch of white shirts. But what shirts. There was nothing more refreshing in London than their intricate (but not too intricate) pleated poplins, set at a believable price-point and appealing to both men and women. I'll be unpicking them some more over in Paris, and trying to get images to do them justice.
For me, the most interesting moments came from the wild wolves of London fashion: Mary Katrantzou and Meadham Kirchhoff. Very different views of femininity, but both of which have found an echo in Milan - at Prada, of all places. Katrantzou's nature versus nurture theme was synchronised to Miuccia Prada's fusion of (wo)man and machine. They both even referenced Chryslers: Katranzou crushed hers into an amorphous blob of printed steel, or chopped it into tin cans clattering around a spiral-cut frock. Prada printed the flame-licked decals and go-faster fins of dragsters onto her chiffon dresses. They both achieved the same aim, crashing together traditional femininity with something sleeker, harder. They also both had a focus on wearable separates and fluttery, pretty bits of chiffon to undermine the strict machine-age and make this a wearable proposition.
Meadham Kirchhoff's offering was more troublesome - but causing trouble is what fashion should be all about (Vivienne Westwood taught us that forty years ago, albeit sans her 'Dame' prefix). Meadham Kirchhoff were obsessed with 'the girl on top of the cake', the fluttery, pretty ballerina, the enduring archetype of femininity. Miuccia Prada dissected her stereotype too, in the prissy pleats of her chiffon dirndls and her Miami Nice pastel shades of powdery banana, strawberry and milkshake pistachio. Marching out atop reclaimed pieces of dragster racers, that sweet little girl suddenly looked brutal and menacing - just the same effect as the eye-socking, disconcerting Meadham Kirchhoff show, all glitter platforms, Kawaii cashmeres and creepy-cute powderpuff frocks.
Milan Fashion Week continue today, with Trussardi's first womenswear collection by creative director Umit Benan (his first womenswear collection ever, in fact) and a hotly-anticipated Versace show.