London is the city famed for its cosmopolitan creativity. The hook: here’s where to find tomorrow’s stars - skip this city at your peril. Who knows who/what you will discover lurking in the East End, and with the magic dust of past successes like Westwood, McQueen and Galliano glinting with a mystical encouragement, this is the week that draws the bold, witty and whacky together, all of whom are hoping, like X Factor contestants, to be the next ‘big thing’ and change the way we dress forever.
Here fashion celebrates the fantasy and ‘feeling’ it evokes as much as it plays with proportion, cut and construction. This is home to the tailored shapes of Savile Row as well as the safety pins, bondage and anarchy of Punk. While other cities have bigger budgets and businesses to worry about, London can express itself with an escapist ‘devil-may-care’ attitude that makes it so charmingly unique. Here, freshly graduated students show alongside the established, in a mishmash of ideas that collage together and create a dynamic, important fashion voice.
When in Rome, and all that… and when in London it is not the suits and the stuffy you want to see, but the NEW generation. This season, Fashion East – the initiative that launched names including Gareth Pugh and Erdem under the careful watch of its founding mentor Lulu Kennedy – showcased Ryan Lo, Claire Barrow and Maarten van der Horst. Lo presented a delightful ‘Pretty in Pink’ tinsel and sequined explosion, while Barrow propped up the bar for a static show inspired by the perils of alcohol. Van der Horst, on the other hand, recycled and reinvented Tesco’s plastic striped carrier bag. Inspiration, you see, can come from anywhere.
This season Matthew Williamson celebrated SS13 and fifteen years in fashion, and on the runway, with a show venue that seemed nestled up in the clouds as it overlooked St Paul’s Cathedral. The collection combined the hot pink and icy blue palette of his now iconic debut ‘Electric Angels’ collection and a trip to India, offering mirror embroidery that looked like scattered shish, which refracted the light, creating joyful pigments of colour. Williamson’s show led with break-neck speed to Vivienne Westwood's Red Label presentation (one of her finest) then Paul Smith, Mary Katrantzou (who turned currency into carefree print) and Jonathan Saunders - not forgetting a pit-stop at Manolo Blahnik’s opening in Harrods - before the Philip Treacy spectacle that really ‘defined’ the spirit of London. It has been twelve years since milliner Philip Treacy last staged a show at LFW, and this one proved to be more than worth the wait. Invited guests scrambled through security at the Royal Courts of Justice where Lady Gaga, wearing Isabella Blow’s pink burka (as you do), came on stage to announce the one-night-only collaboration between ‘The World’s Greatest Milliner’ and the iconic costumes of the Late Prince of Pop Michael Jackson. No one was expecting that. The Michael Jackson soundtrack was on full volume; ‘You Wanna Be Startin’ Something’ was the only song that could start this stylish tribute show. Gold turban led on to ‘The Glove’ (Yes! The sparkling glove!), and then ‘The Vest’ (MJ’s white vest), ‘The Blazer’ (Bad, Billie Jean and Thriller!!) - was this pop history or fashion? Michael Jackson lyrics boomed out ‘Can You Feel It’ and even the most po-faced fashionista couldn’t help but smile, applaud and stop scribbling pointless notes to instead gawp and enjoy at the incredible one-night-stand spectacle of pop history and beauty. From the (actual!) Thriller jacket to Philip’s Ship Hat, it was a show where images not words could be the only justice. As Lady Gaga sat mesmerized on the front row (initially on the floor as the seats were so jam-packed), one couldn't help but think that Isabella Blow and Michael Jackson were surely having the time of their lives on their front row cloud.
From heaven to hell, as Monday’s schedule was so jam-packed you wondered how many would still be standing for J.W. Anderson. Berardi went urban sportif, Christopher Kane cut demure organdy and organzas alongside rose embossed biker jackets, mixed with rubber, plastic and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) bolted shoulders, while Erdem looked at 1950s sci-fi to spice up his prints and angelic-spiced dolly dresses. It's this variety of the unexpected that makes London so exciting; here's the week where you'll see everything from Giles' couture-like gowns to Paul Smith’s global vision of clean cut ‘Englishness’. Only in London would Anya Hindmarch stage her 'Pomp and Pleasure’ collection using spinning carousel of dancing handbags on a Hogart-esque etched set, created by Michael Howells – yes, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde ‘a handbag’, was bought to life by anamatronics and they flirted, danced and were a lot more playful than many a model.
You see London is all about fun. Creating a hub of commerce and creativity is simply a bonus. Here, ‘anything goes’, from Michael Jackson to dancing bags. Here, menswear sidesteps into womenswear – from James Long to fashion-darling J.W. Anderson - and everyone is left in a state of childlike wonder, allowing every rule-breaker a welcome place on schedule. With Burberry’s slick streaming and full techicolour trenches, to Topshop Unique, the first-ever show to be watched by 2 million people, it is not fair to class London as less important that the other cities. J.W. Anderson, whose capsule collaboration for Topshop caused a frenzy, is an example of a ‘new’ guard designer set to reinvent London. He designed a restrained, refined runway collection of tailored pinstripes, feminine lines and crisp white statement frills, all perfectly polished and poised. Simone Rocha and James Long's look to the future were similarly impressive, while Meadham Kirchhoff's exploration of fantasy and fairytale was a fitting end to this show-stopping week, sealing the promise of London’s ‘Happily Ever After’.