The press show junket has begun, and as always our first stop is the Hoxton street showroom of the indomitable Mandi Lennard. In the past one has been accosted by hunks of raw meat (luckily just a tricksy bit of trompe l'oeil), big-cat prints or a raven strewn ode to Tippi Hedren in The Birds - just a scary as the real thing for a hardcore ornithophobic like myself. This time, Mandi's theme was Roller Disco - check the Xanadu-inspired pastel shades spiralling around her showroom space, lifted from the Miami Vice sequin beach scene on an Oasis frock.
As always Chez Lennard, the talent was the real focus - two of British fashion's heaviest hitters of late, Roksanda Ilincic and Gareth Pugh, are her clients, and accordingly her rails were suitably packed with standout showpieces. Pugh's latest collection - as our Paris collections assert - felt like a decided step forward in his aesthetic. With everyone doing soft, floaty femininity (without much invention, truth be told) it was fascinating to see a designer like Pugh tackle what at first glance appears to be the polar opposite of his sartorial trademarks. In the showroom, many of those catwalk pieces were even more impressive - the exquisitely french-seamed horizontally-sliced tunic-dresses in dove-grey silk-chiffon, for example, or knitted masses of silk cord. My favourite was a fabric that, at first glance, resembled a square-pattern jacquard, but which in actual fact was a tightly-woven mass of ribbon crafted into simple coats and narrow trousers. Don't even imagine the cost - or the amount of time investing in its painstaking construction.
Painstaking construction has become Roksanda Ilincic's leitmotif: if last season felt like one giant step forward for her, this season continues at the breakneck pace of increasing focus and sophistication. Its not difficult to imagine Ilincic clothing a remake of Bonfire of The Vanities, summarising as Tom Wolfe's tome does both the eighties leaning of her silhouettes, and the Manhattan sophisticates who suddenly would seem perfectly at home in her handcrafted demi-couture. Ilincic's clothes are a bold statement - check those shades of amethyst and celadon-green contrasted with black, the lame-fronted cocktail jacket or pencil-slender bias columns with the broadest or dairylea triangle-shape torso that recall nothing less that Joan Crawford in her MGM heyday. Appropriately enough, Roksanda's latest fan is another Joan with a fondness for a stronger shoulderline, whose couture heritage will no doubt ensure she appreciates the finer details of Ilincic's line.