The decision for Matthew Williamson to return to show in London is a puzzling one. His polished, preened vision of femininity and multi-million pound business hardly holds truck with the capital's famed reputation of young guns showing frocks reeking of blood, sweat and tears in disused car-parks. Case in point: Williamson used the Old Battersea Power Station to show his S/S 2011 - but by the time he'd finished with it it resembled nothing less than a chi-chi upper-East side showroom worthy of any Manhattan matriarch.
The same is true of Williamson's approach to his inspirations - whatever he alights on, it's bound to be glossed-up, embellished and polished to a multicoloured sheen. This season, Williamson hitched his show to the safari bandwagon - a designer theme this spring and already a high-street staple for winter. Was it really worth seeing another reiteration of this oft-rehashed idea? Williamson did put his own slant on it, namely embellishment, dripping fringe from hems, braiding yarn into corset-dresses and creating trompe l'oeil animal skin effects with hundreds of thousands of tiny beads. If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, frankly it was - you hit your limit less than halfway through. It also managed to utterly overwhelm the rest of the collection, both in sheer volume and glittery razzmatazz. More's the pity, as the stand-out pieces were the simplest - wide-legged high-rise trousers in camel or navy suede and a collarless beige jacket slung over petrol-silk cargo trousers and periwinkle poplin shirt (hardly sounds safari though, does it?) Next to those, the evening and cocktail dresses looked tortured, their bodices twisted into strapless corsets, skirts dropping into those flowing Sienna-Miller-does-Talitha-Getty chiffon kaftans he loves so much, in this instance with odd parachute ripcords inserted to fussy it up a bit.
Technically, you couldn't fault it. The execution was pristine, the models superb (Jessica Stam being the highlight), a nice mix of editorial and commercial covering all the signature Williamson bases. His customers will love it. But where was the emotion? It sounds schmaltzy to say, but that's one of the things we come to London to see, and it simply felt as if there was nothing more to these ritzy clothes than surface.