After an M.A. collection that made heads swivel at whiplash-inducing speed and a couple of outings under auspices of Fashion East, Michael Van Der Ham seemed ready to take his place on the London Fashion Week schedule proper. Certainly the talent scouts seemed eager to fete him as the next great hope of London fashion, a rare example of a new London designer combining creativity with commercial acumen from the get-go.
But let's look at this objectively, maybe even coldly. What has van der Ham really offered us by way of new ideas since that graduation show? Very little indeed is the answer. His clothing since then seem merely an expansion on his original conceit, born from Warhol collaging a few frocks together in the hippy-drippy sixties. He's dressed that up with a few different conceptual disguises ever since, but the components remain the same. This season felt, again, like more from van der Ham's rag-bag of patchwork - albeit with subtle differences. His frocks largely came in one colour, jewel-like tones of amethyst, lapis or celadon velvet. rather than a hodgepodge of pattern, it was the subtle differences in the grain of velvet that gave the collage effect. Elsewhere, lurex-flecked intarsia knitwear echoed his original clashes of print, and a few tailored separates seemed to collide different garments - a tailored blazer sprouting odd sleeves, mohair jacket unfurling into an asymmetric cape at one arm.
To be honest, without the injection of pattern and colour, these effects often fell flat. Velvet is a tricky fabric to deal with at the best of times - a fraction wrong with the grain and the piece is ruined. Van der Ham purposefully laid his at odd angles, but rather than artfully spiralling around the body, lots of those dresses just looked as if they were put together with a knife and fork. Much better were whorling velvet tops with slouchy crepe trousers coloured in a single slick shade from head to hem. In mustard and slate blue, they looked polished and desirable, even if this is a game Nicolas Ghesquiere has played many a time at Balenciaga (as a side note: even though the fashion world is obsession with Monsieur Ghesquiere, van der Ham seems happier than most in the houses' recent archives. He needs to get out more. And fast). Fringe-smothered trews and those chunky tailored pieces were clunky, but endearingly so. They felt like fresh ideas still gestating - but at least they felt new. That seems to be what we're searching for, often aimlessly, in London this season. This show was adequate, but van der Ham can only get by on good will for so long. We need more, and better, from him. Pronto.