Alice Dellal, suspended on a steel cage above a tank of lukewarm water and set to be naked in, oh, twenty minutes or so. And she still manages to make us all laugh - what a trouper!
No-one was entirely sure what was going to happen as Alice hit the water. The estimated twenty minutes actually amounted to around three before Helen's suit was completely dissolved. As Alice was lowered in, and the suit began to break away from itself, the pattern climbing through the current, clinging to Alice's skin and spiralling away in polymer arabesques through the quickly-clouded water, the whole studio fell absolutely silent. Wonderland is an accurate name indeed, as this was a truly wonderful experience. And of course, there's still more to come...
The print on the fringe dress disintegrates, dispersing dye throughout the water tank as Alice swims through her underwater ballet.
Helen Storey's definitely 'dry clean only' jeans have their first (and last) handwash.
The press day is always worked to its fullest by Ms Mandi Lennard: this time, the theme was ‘Mandi’s Basement’ and we exited with a Sopranos-style paper lunchbag full of Brooklyn’s finest bling. Of course, this didn’t outshine the clothing on show, but Mandi has the distinct advantage of representing some of London’s hottest talent.
As I am apparently somewhat of a HOH-aholic these days, so of course I made a beeline for Henry’s tartan-trussed corner, which frankly was hard to miss. The arcane accessories - Atalanta Weller’s tartan-heeled platform hiking boots and mink sporrans by Katie Hillier - looked surprisingly covetable, while the tailoring of Henry’s kilt-pleat trenches, courtesy of Saville Row’s Norton & Sons, was beyond-impeccable. Gareth Pugh’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ show retained his usual flair for spectacle (as our film aptly demonstrates), but in the showroom his collection has quietened down to include the luxury of intricate intarsia knits, knuckle-deep Kopenhagen Fur mink and beautifully bonded wool jersey and patent leather (as opposed to vinyl or PVC) to form his playful polyhedra.
Luxury, of course, is second nature to Roksanda Ilincic and her clothes heaved with Swarovski crystals, fox and bales of stiff silk cascading down classic cocktail frocks. In a very different vein were the part Alpine, part Early Learning Centre playful prints and sportif shapes of David David fresh from his first catwalk showing at Fashion East. Off the runway, Danielle Scutt’s collection (shown this season as lookbook instead of catwalk show) butched-up her usual femme fatale aesthetic with quilted shoulders and a clever way with lumberjack checks, and Nova Dando knitted crin, illuminated hoop-skirts and covered a record-case in sparkle (later assuring me there were headphones to match) in her inimitable costume dramas.
The only problem with the scene a la Lennard? None of this stuff is in the shops until Autumn – window-shopping at its most fiendishly tempting…
Representing a whole scion of British fashion, the Relative press day is a chance to examine both established names and up-and-coming labels side-by-side – and the joy of seeing original, beautifully constructed clothing up close is always palpable. Of course, the rails of Christopher Kane were much-thumbed, and justifiably so. The intricately-worked pailette and passmenterie surfaces of his flapper dresses and cropped jackets were fascinating, likewise his weighty armorial arans with cable-knit outlined in silver chains and studs – nevertheless, utterly wearable. Louise Goldin’s fur-trimmed intasia-knitted ‘Inuit In Space’ collection (my words, not hers) was as striking off the catwalk as on – the space-age Pierre Hardy boots especially were worth a second glance - all too often small details like those can pass you by. Emma Cook’s ‘Lonesome Susie’ collection suggested the prairie isn’t such a bad place after all, if you can dress in Cook’s patchworked Gothic gossamer lace, tie-dyed latex tiers and ‘Dolly Does Dallas’ Swarovski-fringed showgirl dresses. Away from the London Catwalks, Preen’s Kurt Kobain-inspired checked cocoon coats with buckled sheepskin scraps managed to walk that fine lined between refined and edgy, while the chunky, clunky, skyscraper high heels of Charlotte Olympia (designed by Charlotte Dellal, sister of our Wonderland model Alice) seem to be popping up everywhere. Relatively speaking, it was pretty much all a hit.
At the recent Miu Miu press day it must be confessed that the Autumn/Winter 2008 collection came as something of a shock. Back-to-back with Spring’s whimsical harlequins, next season the august Mrs Prada seemed to turn her back on all frippery, focussing instead on jockeys: sleek, streamlined, taut and toned, with initials appliquéd in leather on the chest. Although appropriately rounding off this weekend's Grand National, the consistent use of simple shapes, techno-fabrics and sports-derived garments seemed a self-referential return to Nineties Miu Miu staples after the more elaborate styles of recent seasons. It also offered a clean contrast to the elaborate guipure-festooned offerings of the main Prada line, set for a closer inspection in a week’s time…
The AI press day is always a must-see for anyone with a taste for putting the more cerebral on their back. This season, as always, all was not as it seemed from the intriguing and interesting wares on offer from Adam Iezzi and his always effusively-helpful team. Ann-Sofie Back's OK!-inspired collection was striking on the runway, but up close the surprise was in the painstaking workmanship of her satin dresses (beautifully festooned with Paris Hilton inspired diamante body-piercings), and ironic wearability of her 'knicker' garments, even when a g-string gusset danged from a shoulder like a postmodern spaghetti-strap. Marios Schwab's collection made compulsive viewing (my strong opinions on the matter have already been fully-expressed), but after the show, backstage and Paris showroom his garments still hid secrets: unzipping his signature grosgrain sheath, we were met with this sinister countenance in the lining. The mesmerising images came courtesy of artist Tom Gallant, who combines the Japanese art of kirigami with the decidely Western passtime of pornography in his Morris & Co. etched X-rated images, utilised by Schwab throughout his 'Yellow Wallpaper' collection. Jeweller Jacqueline Rabun launched her own label in 1989, but is gaining fresh plaudits for her innovative signature designs: sectioned triptych rings and bangles in different metals, worn individually or combined together. The surprise here even came unbenownst to the designer: apparently, when combined and in movement on the body, the metals create a magnetic charge which holds the piece togther.
After trying on just about everything within arm's reach and keeping Adam well past closing time at A.I. it was down the road to Foubert's Place to cast a beady eye over Modus' latest wares. With clothes offered from London labels including Erdem, Biba and Felder Felder, alongside sportwear and even the august wares of Calvin Klein, there was something of a bazaar atmosphere to proceedings. Amidst this influx of product, it was the Atelier Swarovski annexe which really caught my attention (I'm a sucker for some glitz), in particular these curiously playful doodads (well, can you think of a better term?) from the otherwise sleek and sinister Giles collection.
The genuinely gruelling round of press days continues, and yesterday gave us a chance to sample the wares of two houses whose Haute Couture histories are inextricably intertwined: Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent. Ever since the sensational Saint Laurent show in Paris in February I had been hankering after cramming myself into any one of a dozen samples, and yesterday afternoon I finally got my chance (under the watchful eyes of Anoushka and Kerri of YSL, of course). In person, the clothes were less stark and severe than the show made them seem: weightless tweeds were bonded with contrast fabrics as opposed to heavily lined, while feminine peplums and dirndl skirts flounced out from handspan waists. Papery flocked fabrics were used instead of velvet for architectural shapes held stiff from the body, but still light as tissue - all the heft, it seemes, was saved for Pilati's strong platform-soled boots, just the thing for the YSL woman to march into an uncompromising future.
Just around the corner, but a million miles away in concept, was John Galliano's wares for Christian Dior. The dark, slightly sinister rigour of Pilati's vision couldn't have contrasted more with the effervescent lightness of Galliano's offerings, inspired by the pastelised optimism of Jackie Kennedy's wardrobe and the creations both Monsieur Saint Laurent and his oft-overlooked successor Marc Bohan. The pre-collection by contrast was far darker, with Autumnal shades of merlot, anthractite and every shade of black worked into strict hourgrass siilhouettes with whorls of fabric across the hips and bust.
Bottega Veneta's low-key offerings were a rather quieter affair after these two juggernauts of French fashion, but sometimes the most iportant things can be said with a whisper. Tomas Maier, creative director of the house, was content to walk rather than run, slowly developing the line with beautifully worked wool jersey, gabardine and bias-cut wool-silk mix evening dresses which hissed luxury from every perfectly-finished seam. Intreccatio leather was subtly bound in crocodile, while in the mens collection an otherwise mundane cotton sweatshirt was invisibly lined with cashmere: the true definition of stealth wealth.
Being stuck between a rock and a hard place doesn't seem quite so bad when you're at Karla Otto - particularly when the 'rock' is an Emilio Pucci quartz-crusted clutch and the 'hard place' is the tough, tundra-ready carapace of Marni's winter tweeds.
Representing talents as diverse as Givenchy, Nike and Hussein Chalayan, it's unusual to see such defined themes running through the collections. This season, there was something of a Flintstones feel, with sliced and diced minerals decorating everything from evening bags to necklaces to printed shirt-dresses. Puccis's clutches, belts and necklaces decorated with great splinters of rock-crsytal were stunning statements pieces, while Marni's wood-hewn heels were hefty, hulky and immediately covetable. Riccardo Tisci's severe Catholic wool coats embroidered with jet-studded soutache ex-votto hearts were examples of typically faultless Givenchy tailoring best examined one-on-one, likewise the rocky textures of Hussein Chalayan's evolution-inspired show which were even more stunning close-up. Despite the extreme theme, Chalayan's print separates (and pretty much whole 'Chalayan' line) demonstrated his skill at distilling his concept into have-to-have-it pieces - hopefully to be harnessed to the hilt in his new collaboration with Puma.
With this focus on heavy-duty action, Viktor & Rolf's staple-gunned evening frocks and cobweb knits lead the way. This season, V&R said 'NO' to sewing - in theory at least - but luckily not to their usual beautiful finish, even when studded with half of Ryman's finest stock. Suddently, a desk job seems oddly appealing for Autumn/Winter 2008...
Wednesday night provided an odd evening's entertainment in the presentation of a very usual series of dark and pure fairytales, courtesy of ghd, Mandi Lennard and Shine. But these fairytales were no pantomime (despite the dames): the dresses for Goldilocks, Tinkerbelle and the Wicked Witch of the West came courtesy of Preen, Roksanda Ilincic, and Giles respectively, tricked-out in a glossy monochrome checkerboard by Gareth Pugh which paid tribute to the new patent effect 'dark & pure' stylers from ghd. The feel was decidedly tongue-in-cheek - or should that be chic, with Johnny Woo leading Jeanette, Rusella and a host of East London's finest in these witty, high-camp interpretations of classic tales with a moden twist, all inspired by the transformative powers of the humble hairdo.