Electrifying London – Fall 2019 RTW
Victoria Beckham’s first look—a white windowpane-checked skirt suit, and red blouse, worn with zingy scarlet stretch-leather spike-heeled boots—was an instant mood-lifter. That vibrant red—let’s call it VB vermillion—must do well for her, because it was scattered through her Spring collection, not to mention liberally repped by audience members.
Here, for Fall, it popped up again, threaded through her proposal for pepping up the season in a collection she called “an A-Z of a woman’s life. She’s a lady, but she’s not ladylike. She’s proper, but she’s not prim.” Since she’s come back to show on home ground in London, there’s been something less clinical, more approachable about what Beckham does with her ready-to-wear. It hardly warrants a conceptual narrative to interpret this: She puts together flattering shapes and combinations of color which are persuasively easy to wear—and all the more persuasive if she wears them herself, because there are millions of women and girls who hang on her every press appearance and Instagram story.
Menawhile, fetishism and sexuality in fashion is a Christopher Kane specialty subject. “We always do sexy in a different way from other people. Not obviously, but there’s always an undertone,” he said backstage. “Me and Tammy, that’s what we do.”
In the era of #MeToo, this is a topic many designers are shying away from, but as far as Kane’s concerned, the sex drive is part of human nature—and if we’re honest with ourselves, isn’t the ability to code a tiny frisson of kink into the way we dress one of the great pleasures of fashion?
Kane said he and his sister have spent an eye-opening time researching into fetish worlds—people with a sexual interest in balloons, rubber, food, liquid. A couple of the terms were spelled out as slogans: “Looner” and “Rubberist.” Closer inspection showed the siblings at work channeling erotic electricity into the details in all the different, subtly suggestive, double-take ways that make up the Christopher Kane story of “Oh!”
The designers who play to operatic volumes and embellishment are having the time of their lives at the moment. Erdem Moralioglu has been a lead voice in that choir from his beginnings as a designer—as a matter of fact, he was more of a soloist in London at that time. Now the unbound extravaganza of fabulousness which Pierpaolo Piccioli has brought to Valentino since he took over the reins has created an atmosphere in which young designers—like Moralioglu—are going full throttle.
And so, by pure coincidence, to Italy, where Moralioglu happened to fall in love with the complicated life story of Principessa Orietta Doria Pamphilj (1920–2000), who turned into his Fall heroine. He became totally absorbed in her story—her early life was broken apart when her father was arrested for resisting Mussolini’s Fascism—when he was introduced to her son, Jonathan. Visiting the 1,000-room palazzo she lived in as the sole inheritor of vast dynastic wealth, the designer became obsessed “with how we deal with what happened in the past, and how we move forward with it.”
Richness, gorgeousness, formality and a touch of darkness—it was an Erdem character-led fantasy at its best.
For the Preen’s show, designer Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi hired a South London warehouse and had it painted up like the legendary Manchester nightclub the Hacienda, complete with Ben Kelly’s road-marking graphics. But when the models came out, they were wearing clogs—factory-worker footwear that dates back at least to the 19th century. They also read up on Maypole dancing, Morris dancing, Scottish reeling, and other forms of traditional British country dancing that still survive at village fetes and holiday gatherings.
Thus references to grunge, Victorian petticoats, kilts, and Morris men’s costumes got caught up in their Fall collection. Anyone who ever drove up a motorway to dance all night at an illegal rave in a field—as Thornton and Bregazzi did—will clock the snippets of blankets and the cozy outerwear as fragments of that memory. Their signature pantsuits got jazzed up with the tonally matched Morris-dancing rosettes and streamers.
Later, there was a moment for more glammed-up partywear, the kind of poufy, puff-sleeved dresses that London girls wore to clubs like the Titanic and Annabel’s in the early ’80s. Some of that appeared on trend with the ’80s-retro looks Hedi Slimane reinvented at Saint Laurent and now continues at Celine—current, in other words.
The real takeaway from Roksanda for next season was the strength of the day clothes, from the oversize tunic-like shirts—a recurring London theme—in vivid hues worn with trousers cut with a gentle curve to them to one knockout piece of outerwear after another, with wadded silk-print scarves worn over a capacious jacket or coat that was then secured with a belt to the gleaming color-blocked nipped-waist parkas.
Roksanda Ilinčić has always had a fluent conversation with her audience. You want a statement-making evening dress, elegant but not stuffy, pretty without ever being saccharin? She has them aplenty: in yellow taffeta strewn with feathers, magenta duchess banded with mustard stripes before exploding into the latter color or on the back, or a show-stopping number in tobacco taffeta, which dramatically fell in billowing tiers to the floor. What impresses here is the sense of complicity. Despite its opulence, her eveningwear has a real sense of movement, never constricting or constraining, nor does it attempt to put women on some ridiculous pedestal.
JW Anderson’s collection has come on leaps and bounds in terms of sophistication and grown-up-ness. Somehow, he’s able to pull off both variety and coherence these days. He can do exaggeration and drama—like the huge Cardin-like wraparound jacket—or a quietly chic gray cape with equal skill. But when it comes down to it, the showcasing of his perfectly tailored mannish-feminine trousers is what really had his audience walking on air. Anderson showed how, with that one purchase, a woman could get something she can flex for day with any jacket or coat, then put them with a superbly chic asymmetrically draped tunic for evening. For all the elaborate fashion that is going on today, it’s really the simplest, most practical pieces of design that turn out to be the things women respond to in droves.
Head over to Vogue Runway for the concise London Fall 2019 RTW report.