Michael Van Der Ham has a conundrum on his hands. How to create a high-end luxury product that still resonates with the hand-crafted quality that so marked out his earlier collections? It's creativity versus commerce: Van Der Ham can certainly patchwork a dress together terribly artfully, but when the dress itself become art does it cease to be fashion?
For spring, Van Der ham cleaned up his act. Gone was the endearingly clumsy student approach - that faux-naif quality that so often made it seem as if Van Der ham had hodge-podged his rag-bag dresses together from a few pairs of old curtains. This wasn't art, it was commerce - and that isn't a criticism. Instead of dress as conceptual artwork, Van Der Ham offered frocks as just plain old frocks. Except there was nothing 'old' or 'plain' about them. Neat cocktail numbers drifted effortlessly across the body, scarves wrapping around the torso, defining a waist and sometimes tumbling from a shoulder in a breezy, easy train. Van Der Ham condensed his trademark multi-fabric patchwork into bold, graphic prints, slicing them up again and re-working them with brocade and bubbly textured matelasse. Clever boy - so often that patchwork has bulked-up both the size and the price of his clothes. In comparison these prints looked effortless.
If we're grabbing at fashion magazine cliches, what Van Der Ham offered for spring was a 'total look'. Those prints not only decorated dresses - the bread-and-butter of any young fashion label - but trousers, t-shirts, clutch-bags and a Christian Louboutin shoe collaboration. He pumped out half-a-dozen versions in different colourways, blocking the prints with turquoise, mauve and peach on the trousers in cotton sateen. The breadth of his dress shapes - from mid-thigh to ankle-length and everything in-between - guarantees something for every woman, not only the very young and very fashionable who've made Van Der Ham their go-to wardrobe. There's a rack of separates back in the showroom too, ripe for the picking from international boutiques. If there's any justice in the world, they'll be queuing for a piece from this satisfying and timely delivery on Van Der Ham's immense talent.