Giles Deacon loves a bit of drama. His collections are filled with it, from taut suiting to sweeping ballgowns to oh-my-God-I'll-never-find-my-legs-again beruffled skirts. Autumn/Winter 2012 was, of course, no exception. Filing into a wood-panelled, banner-bedecked banqueting hall-o'-plenty was like stepping back into another age (besides the incessant beeps and tweets of iPhones and Blackberrys, of course).
Giles himself stepped back into another time for this show. It's not immediately evident when though. Deacon threw out references to Jacobean queens, but there were medieval tapestries re-engineered as jacquards on evening gowns and plate-armour cut in lurex-sparkled wool like chunky doublets. The opening numbers were topped with distinctly Victorian tailcoats, atop everything from wide-legged velvet trousers and jet-buttoned shirts to nip-waisted day dresses with full skirts. And, in turn, didn't those remind you of fifties couture, Giles' favourite historical stomping-ground, even when the thorns began to ramble as embroidered layers of tulle or laser-cut ruffles on a trained bustier gown fit for Snow White's wicked stepmother.
The fifties was the last great hurrah of London couture. Giles may not remember it fondly first time around, but if he doesn't have his head buried in the history books his nose is between the pages of a 1959 British Vogue. That's the perfect way to describe this collection: it was frightfully British. We love a good didactic frock, and Giles told us a story from Stephen Jones-hatted start to Stephen Jones-hatted finish, of a Jacobean martyr burned alive at the stake for her love of fashion. That's one take on it at least - explains the scorched invitation and holes burnt into everything from delicate chiffon dresses to tailored evening coats (at least, with the smoking ban well intact we know it wasn't a wayward fashionista's cigarillo). The strictness was interesting, and the severity too.
Not many women would wear this as is: Giles will probably patch up most of the holes, or just offer more of the fishtail-train gowns constructed from tobacco-coloured duchesse satin, lace or ribbons. However, it was impossible not to smile at Giles' sense of humour in blowtorching a giant white ballgown that looked fit for Her Majesty herself during the jubilee year. Is Giles a punk couturier at heart? Generally, this preened and polished offering seemed more the latter than the former.