It seemed odd to realise that this show marked the ten year anniversary of Sophia Kokosalaki's label, one of the relative few British-based labels to make the leap from London cottage industry to the Parisian big-time. For this, we must applaud her, and indeed this show is very much a celebration of Kokosalaki's resilience, independence and - not insignificantly - business acumen. At the same time, the collection she produced for Autumn/Winter was not that of a strong voice making its unique timbre heard above the hurly-burly of the crowded Paris schedule, but rather that of an increasingly-hesitant designer deigning to go with the flow. Indeed, the voice that we do associate with Kokosalaki was nowhere to be found amongst the harsh, hard silhouettes, glittering decoration and shiny shiny black leather. As with so many this season, Kokosalaki is on some kind of groupie trip, abbreviating her dresses around the upper thigh and tricking them out with hefty pointed shoulders in tissue-thin kidskin or satiné cuir. Jackets had a slight militia feel, abbreviated at waist with jutting epaulettes softened with layers of plisse tulle, and a leather trench was sliced open and laces back together corset-style around anatomic-meets-erogenous zones. Sophia softened her outlook some dozen outfits in, draping black silk tulle tightly around pastel foundations to make delicate swagged cocktail dresses that were truly beautiful. That was, until her instinct for hard-bitten architectualism got the better of her and plastic boning and crin began to extrapolate shapes into abstract (and highly unflattering) thigh-thickening ruffles that were less rock and more baroque, circa 1988. Thickly-encrusted embroidered jackets and multi-studded black denim jeans had more than a touch of the crass, flash trash of Balmain about them, ditto chain-fringed boots and bejewelled waistcinchers. Then again, if you're willing to pay Kokosalaki's not-insignificant prices for these kind of pieces, why wouldn't you just buy the originals?
Apparently, Kokosalaki is tugging a dozen-or-so designs from her decade of creation out of the archive, dusting them off and retailing them once again in her 'Pre Fall' collection. Evidently, this hard-sell review process got her thinking in some way about her own greatest hits, going some way to explain the odd, slightly out-of-place but certainly not unwelcome passage of intriguing shirred, ruched and draped silk-jersey cocktail dresses and separates in delicate, shell-like shades of coral, oyster and pearl-grey. Those seemed the only link to the acclaimed Kokosalaki of old - and indeed, the standout, desirable pieces in this down-again, up-again seesaw of a collection.