London Fashion Week, as it stands, is founded on graduates from Central Saint Martins M.A. - lest we forget, the show programme impressively listed the great and good alumni that bolster the Brit fashion pack from old hands such as Jonathan Saunders and Peter Jensen to this season's new kids Mary Katrantzou and Mark Fast. It seems fitting, therefore, that our first show report of the Autumn/Winter 2009 season should come from its latest installment. In a sense, the Central Saint Martins show is a microcosm of fashion as it stands, picking up on the prevalent trends, and sometimes even creating them: witness the aftermath of Kane's exceptional bodycon championing three years ago. Hence, as with any fashion week, this show was not without its startling highlights - and some pitfalls. Witness the continual hemming and hawing debate over long or short, some designers making an emphatic statement either way and others oscillating between ankle-grazing to barely crotch-clearing. Trends already taking shape for the season were given full work-out: brocade popped out, shoulders were once again emphatic and a surfeit of velvet from some gave the endearing impression that the graduates had knocked-up their collections from old curtains. Menswear was strong, as we have come to expect over the past few years: Wayne Fitzell's hardy workwear called to mind interwar Eastern European labourer's garb in the best possible fashion, with hefty shapes in a subtle palette of anthracite, slate and mossy tweeds and mohairs shot through with nubby blue wool. Likewise, the definitively fuss-free offerings of Matteo Bigliardi - a monochrome parade of stripped-back super-minimal tuxedo dressing free of any extraneous detailing - had an elegant (albeit slightly camp) air of Bryan Ferry and Bowie's Thin White Duke, by way of Cardin-coated modernism. Despite this, my two favourites were both womenswear: showing side-by-side, Laura Mackness and Harrods Design Award winner David Koma made the audience of heavyweights sit up and take note. Koma's collection built on his sexy and sexualised B.A. collection, with elaborate coils of zips, clanging tails of chains and tubular metallic applications around wrist, hem and neck. The shapes were simple and curvilinear, voluptuous of hip and must and super, super-short. Firm, focused and energetic - albeit very much in the vein of Mugler, not to mention Mr's Kane and Schwab (there are far worse to be compared to) - Koma's is a name and aesthetic with some mileage. Mackness' collection was something else: pepped full of eye-socking, jaw-dropping colour (sulphur-yellow, salmon, jade green and flocked black in a single outfit), playful trompe l'oeil and again boundless energy, the naive simplicity of her outfits belied work that was anything but. There was an air of Ettore Sotsass' Memphis movement, the Italian design movement that made bad taste good, juxtaposing historical pastiche, parody and a hint of kitsch and colouring the whole lot in the saturated hues of Technicolor - hence a 'fur' jacket and cape rendered in primrose-yellow lollipop sticks provided plain, silly fun. But in these dark times (and after an hour's show) that fun and energy seemed to be just what was needed.
But in these dark times, that fun and energy seemed to be just what was needed.