With fresh-faced designers barely out of college, archaic venues and a distinct (even single-minded) focus on craft over commerciality, the London collections can sometimes feel a little bit like fashion camp - and I don't just mean Julien Macdonald. That's not necessarily a bad thing: there's something endearing about fashion fledglings taking their first faltering steps before a captive audience and, truth be told, we're all waiting with bated breath for the next hot young big thing to explode onto the scene.
Did the earth move for S/S 2011? Not really. Most designers seemed to be quite satisfied with offering exactly what was expected of them, with a few offerings sidling rather close to ever-popular pre-collection fayre as opposed to offering something new and exciting. But the new and exciting is what fashion should be all about - and is precisely what press and buyers come to London to see.
Don't write the week off too quickly - this was a less English malaise, more an all-pervading mood of the season. London may have been safe, but it still had high points. Witness the first solo show of Michael van der Ham, one of those hot young things barely a year out of Central Saint Martins. His ode to Adrian and Surrealism expanded on his much-fêted make-do-and-mend patchworkery (what did I say about fashion camp?), moving us on just enough to be compelling. He's so green behind the ears it seems churlish to complain about the lack of really new ideas on his catwalk - Mark Fast, on the other hand, should know better. What was new in this collection, really? PVC panels, quivering crystals and a few thousand kilometres of fringing don't make a collection fashion-forward or forward-thinking. After five seasons on schedule, it's time to say something new.
Marios Schwab reasoned so too - hence his collection came a little out of left field. Schwab was inspired by tattoos, Navajo tribes and greasy biker gangs, but for the first time with this cerebral, considered designer, the influences were immediately evident. For some, that change was too much - many people couldn't see past the Joan Jett wigs and fright-club make-up. Extract the clothing from the mix and Schwab was making a compelling point about mixing hard and soft elements in a contemporary wardrobe, layering leather and lace into a strict mix that could only have come from his hand. It felt like an idea half-developed, with the best yet to come, but it was interesting and brave.
The really great designers in London managed to stay utterly true to themselves, while creating something that seemed exhilaratingly different. Case in point? Richard Nicoll. He picked up on a favourite theme of his - the mid-seventies, very specifically Angie Bowie - and worked it out in a restricted, restrictive palette of black, white and spanked-flesh pink. It was a great show, exhilarating even, because you felt Nicoll was showing us exactly how things should be done for next season. Longer lengths, transparencies and whiter-white disco futurism seemed sharper and sleeker here than anywhere else. Nix that. They were just better, fact.
Mary Katrantzou's collection had a similar sense of assurance. Maybe that comes from the strength of a single-minded designer with a pure and uncompromising vision? Katrantzou printed room settings across her clothes, exploded a kaleidoscope of colour over her fabrics and dolled girls up in extravagant Victorian lampshades reconfigured as graphic pouf skirts. The fact it looked utterly convincing and desirable is a mark of her talent, but the palpable optimism at her show came from her sheer guts.
Speaking of optimism and guts bring us to Giles Deacon's homecoming, of sorts - I'm not sure if a two season sojourn on the continent warrants tears and fluttering hankies, but it certainly merits celebration. For Deacon, as newly hired-hand at Ungaro, this show was about reiterating what his Giles label stands for: colour, couture detailing, and a wry sense of humour. Elastoplast-print ballgowns, ostrich mohicans, Pacman Fairisles and cartoonish pin-ups as curvaceous as Jessica Rabbit. Tongue in cheek chic. You couldn't help but crack a smile, and maybe that's what London's all about too.