Bouchra Jarrar is clever. Not just the clothes, but the woman herself. Case in point: she shows her ready-to-wear collections in haute couture week, leapfrogging her rivals and showcasing her winter 2012 collection in January. Of course, that also means she's showing winter clothes in - get this - winter, a fashion heresy that has become a prophecy, what with the proliferation of pre-collections throwing the seasons skew-whiff. It also means that in Jarrar's case the all-important lust factor is coupled with the survival instinct - there were more than a few wool-and-tweed coats the audience simply wanted to claw off Jarrar's models and sling over their own frozen carcasses. Clever girl.
This season, survival could have been Jarrar's inspiration: her collection was filled with firm tweeds, bridle leather harnessing and hefty fur snoods coiled around her models' necks. But survival wasn't the feeling you were getting - there was nothing hardy about Jarrar's clothes, this was pure luxury. Its all well and good grabbing attention by showing on the haute couture schedule, but as a young designer you're pitting yourself against some pretty fierce competition. This season, Jarrar played the couture houses at their own game, enlisting no less than Lesage to embellish a backless vest with feathers. The tailoring too had a touch of couture, in the fullness of a peplum pulled taut in back, a belt magically disappearing into a full trench, or a sleeveless coat blousing from the shoulder-blades, the palette of faded teal and French navy Donegal fastened tight with hefty brass buttons.
That sportswear feel is something Jarrar has made a leitmotif, and that is something that stands out in couture. There's an ease to her clothes: whether a seed-pearl crusted ballgown or a grey trousersuit, they are something you can picture real women really wearing. Her trademark wide, bi-colour ribbing snaked its way around necks and along coat revers not only in this collection, but across many of the audience members sporting her sharply-tailored coats and compact cashmere sweaters. Seeing women actually wearing the clothes that come out on the catwalk? How about that for a unique couture week experience.