Louise Gray is London's Christian Lacroix. Few in the capital love fashion as much as she does, and as with Monsieur Christian it's impossible to sit through one of Gray's shows without beaming from ear to ear. As with couture's finest, however, there has occasionally been a disconnect between Gray's catwalk exuberance and her retail appeal.
No more. Gray has been polishing up over the past few seasons, so much so that her Autumn/Winter 2012 offering was positively commercial - in the most hyperbolic sense of the words. The crazed styling was typical Gray: towering Mudd Club mohicans, Liquid Sky eighties make-up, a trashy, hillbilly prom-queen mash-up of nineties drag queens and eighties movies. Warpaint blusher and towering quiffs screamed Joan Cusak in Working Girl. Maybe that was just me.
The real action, however, was below the neck. There were coats - sleek, chic, banded in crazy brocade but with classic shapes that would suit anyone from sixteen to sixty. There were brief dresses in every colour under the rainbow - including an especially Grace Jones/Jean-Paul Goude monochrome opener with knee-high, spike-heeled boots. There was metallic leather, there were beaded tassels, there was a fuchsia wool dress with triangular chunks cleaved out of it, layered over a printed cotton shirt. There were outfits that meshed together seven-or-eight(een) different colours, with nary a repeat.
Sounds like unhinged exuberance? You're half-right. This collection somehow, somewhere, made perfect sense. It gelled. There felt like a fresh layer of refinement to Gray's offerings this season, an uptown polish that meant it was easy to imagine well-dressed matriarchs wearing these clothes, as well as the edgier echelons of London fashion that already flock to her for a humorous high-fashion fix-up. Considering the fact Gray trotted out bubble-wrap cobbled into make-do-and-mend wrist-gloves, that's really saying something about her level of expertise. With this quality clobber on offer, a bit of kooky styling wouldn't scare the horses. A pithy summary of London's Lacroix? Two words darling: absolutely fabulous.