Want to see the face of London fashion circa right now? Look no further than Christopher Kane. No one else combines the creative innovation (hell, the man’s barely 30) with commercial clout (PPR have just acquired a 51% stake in the label) quite like him. And his show today was a major-league show—52 looks presented to an audience of 900. Not for nothing has this been called a greatest-hits collection. This was classic Kane, sumptuously done. We saw sexed-up camouflage, louche off-the-shoulder micro-dresses, gothic-y velvet gowns and floral appliques. Not breaking particularly new ground perhaps, although surely he can be allowed a season off. Besides, he needs to consolidate his ideas, particularly when a store of his own is widely rumored to be around the corner.
Meanwhile, if you want to see the face of London fashion circa 2018, check out Fashion East’s future power threesome: Claire Barrow, Ryan Lo, and Ashley Williams. Lulu Kennedy’s non-profit never fails to pick the rising stars. Barrow and Williams are both preoccupied with teen subcultures, but in markedly different ways. Williams’ heroines were dreamy rockabilly fangirls in cloying pastels and Elvis’s visage emblazoned on their frocks. Barrow, on the other hand, paid velvet-swathed homage to graveyard-dwelling goths. Lo’s inspirations, however, were a little more far-fetched. The powder-pink confections and reliance on fun fur came spiked with irony and showed that there are still British designers exploring extreme feminism.
At Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Bailey took inspiration from the Profumo Affair, the legendary 1960s political sex scandal that, when you think about it, is the perfect ruse for a heritage brand to introduce some megawatt sex appeal. There was a glut of PVC and leopard print applied to trench coats, ultra-narrow pencil skirts and shift dresses. Yet there’s also an enticing primness—let’s not forget that Christine Keeler, the call girl at the center of the scandal, was a convent graduate. There were silky separates and cashmere sweaters – pieces that will no doubt catch the attention of those who dress the Duchess of Cambridge. The future queen dressed as a sixties prostitute? Outrageously, entertainingly British.
Some designers, when basing a collection on a foreign culture, would spend months totally immersing themselves in it, but that’s just not the Tom Ford way. Many of the pieces in his show seemed to come from the folk art of a distant race, one with unlimited access to sequins and nappa leather. “Cross-cultural multi-ethnic” was how Ford disingenuously termed it, and it’s this playfulness, where others would be deadly serious, is why we love him. That, and the fact that his designs are so instantly desirable, even if we don’t quite have the lifestyle for them. There were a few classic Ford flourishes—a lot of velvet and buttery suede—but apart from that, it was pure global fantasy. A bit of crystal-encrusted chinoiserie here, a bit of quasi-Native American weaving there. Ford knows that he’s a craftsman, not an artist—or for that matter, an anthropologist—and is all the more honest because of that.
JW Anderson has always been a subtle contrarian. As his menswear gets more frivolous and fetishistic, his women’s grows more serious. And in a season of sex, punk, and acid brights, Anderson—until now a designer deeply committed to his themes of celtic mythology, English eccentricity and unstable aristos—has gone all minimal. It’s safe to say few were expecting this. It was a brave move, and, while not as instantly loveable as some of his previous offerings, marked him as a designer unafraid to plow his own furrow. Here were monastic shapes, leavened by masterly flourishes of pleating and cutting, androgynous styling and plasticky fabrics in black, white and mustard. But then, going against the grain is what London’s all about.