With plumed headpieces of raven or cock feathers, the models resembled nothing less than Victorian pit-ponies tricked out for an East-End funeral.
Ann Demeulemeester takes her fashion very seriously indeed. A sombre, sometimes po-faced proponent of Goth attire, inspired variously but consistently by Patti Smith lyrics, religious vestments and 19th century Romantic poetry, Demeulemeester's output by and large adheres to Sir Henry Ford's paradoxical maxim: you can have it in any colour as long as it's black. This season, with so many others taking up similarly pious tones - at least in their devotion to inky hues - Demeulemeester took the opportunity to do what she loves and strip her palette way, way back to pure monochrome. Not a single hint of hue relieved her funereal procession - indeed, even her whites were restricted to shirts, occasionally dropping hems to become a looped-up neoclassical draped gown. The focus, however, was on thick, heavy black, multi-layered and textured: damask, jacquard and three-dimensional bubbled cloque and astrakhan enveloped the body in organic shrouds of fabric shredded, folded and buttoned across the torso. With plumed headpieces of raven or cock feathers, the models resembled nothing less than Victorian pit-ponies tricked out for an East-End funeral (maybe that's where the mourners' handkerchief-invites came from too). The appearance of Demeulemeester's menswear only served to underline this: boys with the cadaverous pallor of a Rimbaudian consumptive, stony-faced and clad in pallbearer's get-ups of high, starched collars and black coats swinging glistening silver chatelaines. Later, obsidian and jet chiffon billowed in floor-length evening gowns, and the final looks sported pewter bells that tinkled delicately as the models made their exits. It was all, in a melancholy way, very beautiful. Those creased, crumpled and misbuttoned layers swathing protectively over the body found an echo in Meadham Kirchhoff's romantically ravaged collection in London, and there was a similar elegiac romance and decadence distress to these dandified black princes (and princesses) of elegance. But a few too many styling tricks spoiled the broth somewhat - those feather headdresses for one and arachnid multi-belted leather corsetry for another. Equally, after her serious yet uplifting outing last season, one can't help but wish that Demeulemeester would lighten up on the sturm und drang somewhat.