Roksanda Ilincic's collections have become known for their couture-like standards, drawing on old-school techniques like stand drapery and hand-whipped hems and the frippery of corsages and chantilly lace overlays for their impact, all swathed in yards of expensive and expansive silks, velvets and furs. All in all, hers is an aesthetic you could never imagine translating to the high street, at least not with any degree of success. Those words are now ripe for eating - preferably with a Bellini - as Ilincic unveiled new collaboration with Whistles, a capsule collection of seven pieces shown at Soho's Bob Bob Ricard Brasserie. The intimate, salon-style brunch setting - packed with fashion week staples including Jade Parfitt, Fashion East's Lulu Kennedy (and early Ilincic supporter) and Mandi Lennard - was classic Ilincic, as indeed were the clothes themselves. Ilincic and the Whistles team have cleverly restricted to cocktail frocks: after all, these are what Ilincic made her name with, and the seven dresses shown were perfect examples of exactly why she's become such a hot ticket.
Her gowns came in syrupy silk-satin in black or navy, or acid-bright shades of turquoise, cerise and vermillion accented with black grosgrain ribbons, corsages and net inlays. Draped asymmetric gowns reminiscent of Ilincic's earlier collections contrasted with a chartreuse and navy sheath with exaggerated bow and firm bustier dress smothered in exaggerated flowers, both similar to her much acclaimed A/W 2009 show. Regardless of echoes of Ilincic past, the seven-piece collection worked as just that - united by the recurring corsage motif and the above-the-knee cocktail length.
Despite the high street name accompanying hers on the label, Ilincic's Whistles outing is decidedly a premium collection, with pricepoints of £175-£300 understandably accompanying the workanship and high-quality materials of the collection. But this seems to be just the point - Jane Shepherdson, Whistles' C.E.O. and director of womenswear, explained that the collection would only be showcased in select Whistles stores, and the range will also be sold through Selfridges, Harrods and Dublin's Brown Thomas. What's more, only 80 of each garment will be made in this, the first of a three-season deal with Ilincic.
For Shepherdson and her team at Whistles, it must be gratifying that the collection seems so utterly right. Of all her British compatriots, Ilincic is the one whose talent has never (and possibly could never) been harnessed by the high street. And while the idea of a range at any other retailer seems alient with Ilincic's aesthetic, the high-quality and (dare we say it) slightly more mature customer base of Whistles seems a perfect match for Ilincic's style. The collection itself is available mid-September, to coincide with London Fashion Week. And, as if that isn't enough to whet your appetite, Jane Shepherson hinted at discussions for an accessory line in the near future. Form an orderly queue now...