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Essay

Essay: The Devil is in the Detail

by Lara Johnson-Wheeler on 7 November 2018

Lara Johnson-Wheeler rounds-up the London S/S 19 Womenswear shows, looking to the off-kilter attitude to design that London pioneers.

Lara Johnson-Wheeler rounds-up the London S/S 19 Womenswear shows, looking to the off-kilter attitude to design that London pioneers.

Taking an overarching view of the London collections this season might seem simple. For S/S 19, designers showed their strengths. Many of London’s delegate continued as we have known them to do - this womenswear season was safe in many ways. Whilst there were new faces on the schedule - Riccardo Tisci and his much-anticipated Burberry debut - and landmarks to be celebrated - ten years for both Mary Katrantzou and Victoria Beckham - the season as a whole presented the off-kilter attitude to design that London pioneers.

Matty Bovan and Molly Goddard have both made names for themselves in womenswear exploring the eccentric, re-evaluating notions of 'pretty' and 'ugly'. Bovan’s collection had been created in the days of the UK’s summer heatwave and the clothes took on the feeling provoked by the madness of heat. Hessian and tulle dresses were paired with Stephen Jones’s headpieces of rubber gloves, feather dusters and plastic sushi. Bovan’s mash-up of reality and surrealism extended into brilliantly eccentric pieces, quintessential in quality.

Feeling the heat herself, Molly Goddard’s collection showed in a market-setting, complete with cabbage-carrying models. Where copycats have exploded like many-headed hydras, spewing puffy tulle all over the high street, no-one has created off-beat femininity like Goddard has. For S/S 19, her dresses were sheer, tighter, sexier, riffing on flamenco costumes and ice-skating garb. The palette was cheery, yet erratic, in florals and ginghams with three all-white looks truly bringing the heat.

Goddard’s references spoke of holidays, and yet, simultaneously, of home. Whilst her marketplace could have been set in Spain, as Adwoa Aboah and Edie Campbell strutted past, it could have comfortably been Portobello Road. Accessories designer Anya Hindmarch also took the idea of home comforts to heart in her immersive space at Banqueting Hall, creating the world’s largest bean bag. Furthermore, this highly curated three-day event featured bedtime stories read by Poppy Delevingne and Claudia Winkleman and Derek Blasberg and Edie Campbell. Guided morning meditations, lullabies, Richard E Grant and even Radio 4’s Shipping Forecast was read live to music on the Chubby Cloud. Whilst I doubt I’ll be investing in the Chubby Collection, the Chubby Cloud installation was a canny move for column inches.

Molly Goddard S/S 19

Celebrating her ten year anniversary, Mary Katrantzou explored collecting. Stamps, lamps, butterflies and jewels were transformed into peculiar delights, in trapeze dresses, an ornamental trench coat and illusory evening-wear. Katrantzou’s archive was presented from under a round curtain and the close of show, celebrating a decade of designs. Katrantzou the collector tapped into a nerdy pastime, the hobby of one who carefully works. It was clear in this collection that she has retained the strength in her craft and it was a joy to see it celebrated in this way.

Continuing to jump from strength to strength, this season was one of inner interrogation for Simone Rocha, as she looked to her Chinese heritage. Whilst Rocha explained that she was referencing the Tang dynasty with her wide brimmed hats overlaid by veils embellished with tiny flowers, nods to the designer’s fascination with bees and beekeeping could also be discerned. In this collection, Rocha focused on details, combining her personal tastes with references mined from her familial background.

In thoughtful, considerate and eclectic ways, S/S 19 served a strong set of shows. And for many of these designers, the devil was in the details.

At Burberry, all eyes were on Riccardo Tisci. In asking Peter Saville to redesign the logo for the house and pasting it over the old, Tisci inadvertently showed his cards for the collection early. This felt very much like a collection that took moments of old and garnished it with the new. Proper Burberry trenches and tartans walked the same runway as bold red graphics and Tisci tasseling. While the collection lacked the cohesion that will surely come from a few more seasons at the house, Tisci - the self-confessed Anglophile - certainly made a statement. A number of models walked with burgundy red passports strung around their necks. These passports are a British symbol to right of abode in the UK as well as EU citizenship. After Brexit, passports will return to blue. Tisci has been taking note of the feeling in London right now, and this collection concisely reflected a longing for the past with a need for the new.

It would be easy to dismiss this season as simple. But take a closer look at the collections and it is evident that designers dug deep. Whether into their own archives or taking inspiration from literature, art or travel, London’s contingent created hidden elements in each presentation. In thoughtful, considerate and eclectic ways, S/S 19 served a strong set of shows. And for many of these designers, the devil was in the details.

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