Circumnavigating an obstacle course of crammed auditorium (3,000 requests received and 300 tickets issued were the murmurs I heard), bottleneck single escalator and great glass elevator up nineteen flights, was an inauspicious start to the Jonathan Saunders show. An admittedly-spectacular view across London town only counts for so much. 'This had better be good' was the ubiquitous utter, as fashion editors took to their seats and the sun began to set.
They needn't have worried. Saunders' Autumn/Winter 2012 collection was good. In fact, it was superb. Scratch that: it's the best he's ever shown. And Saunders is one of the best Britain has to offer. How about that for a triple-whammy? What was so great? Focus. Saunders knew exactly what he wanted to say and precisely how to say it. It was strict, richly-coloured, and covered every aspect of a woman's life, from floral-splashed evening, to pattern-heavy day, via thick knits, a touch of sport, and a jump-out gotta-have-it series of trapunto-quilted suiting in grape, raspberry and palest powder-blue. Saunders wasn't afraid to clash those either, or to layer a narrow burgundy silk-jacquard blazer over skinny emerald trousers, topping an eggshell suit with a chartreuse waistcoat and vermillion shirt. Print may be what he built his business on, but extending his colour sense to those single-hue separates upped the ante. He's blocked out colour like this before, but he was content to let it do the talking away from complex graphics.
The print was another story entirely: subtle in tonal woven brocades that resembled tweed, arresting in blown-out photographic florals, sometimes rendered as embroidery and combined with a tartan-knit cashmere. That was the sort of mix that shouldn't have worked on any level, but effortlessly looked like the most modern way to dress imaginable. A combination of casual and formal, sport and city. Maybe that's what was just so great about this Saunders collection - and about his recent work in general. Despite taking inspiration from the past, and satisfying a weary, fashion-famished audience, it felt like the crux of Saunders' point was dressing real-life right now. That's refreshing, inventive and rejuvenating. A tour de force.