Electrifying London – Fall 2019 RTW

Part 2

Riccardo Tisci named his second collection for Burberry Tempest”, which referred, per his press release, to “contrasts in British culture and weather.” The climate—both in political and environmental senses—is a hot-button subject in these stormy times for the U.K. Yet it’s Burberry’s role as a global brand to somehow project a positive message across markets and generations. Tisci’s intention, he said, is “including, not excluding.”

This time, he flipped the order of the show to begin with his proposals for youth—girls and boys—followed by new interpretations of the beige-based formalwear for grown-ups he’d begun in his first collection. Tisci’s affinity for streetwear is well known from his work at Givenchy. His viewpoint on British street style is filtered through his nostalgia for his experiences as an Italian fashion student at Central Saint Martins in the edgy heyday of ’90s music and club culture—but London now is a very different, and he thinks, “less free” place. “I observe a lot, now I am living here,” he said. Tisci drafted in MIA—who also studied at Central Saint Martins in the ’90s—to provide mashed-up soundscapes for the show: “She says the same things as me—that we need to help young people to have their voice.”

Michael Halpern, London’s resident New Yorker, was the first of his young generation to make a break for glam—taking the risk of going for full glitter-disco escapism (inspired by his mom’s Studio 54 days) as a reaction against the gathering political gloom. Americans immediately recognized him as one of their own—his clothes have been populating upscale wardrobes since he graduated Central Saint Martins MA in the class of 2016.
Now that exaggerated glamour is an actual movement, Halpern took license to push it to a new level, leading his audience to the Deco ballroom of a Park Lane hotel, and immersing them in an extravagance of Erté-inspired drama. “My parents had books of illustrations by Erté at home, which I pored over at a child. He did all these incredible drawings of sinuous, serpentlike women and images that went from flowers into animals, to you didn’t know what,” Halpern recalled. “So I just started draping . . . .”
For those who’d wondered if Halpern could go beyond his hit signature sequined ’70s flares and corsets (which have been much-copied), this was his answer: voluminous hooded opera coats, richly beaded floor-length halters with crystal chokers, lamé tissue Deco prints cut on the bias, a gold and black embroidered ’20s pajama suit.

Mary Katrantzou worked with the themes of elemental natural forces for her Fall collection. “Earth, air, fire, water.” Perhaps this theme was important to know, perhaps not so much. The most apparent thing about her collections these days is how much Katrantzou has become a demi-couturier. Her show, with its rainbow color palette and exuberant use of ruffles and ostrich feathers seemed to place her somewhere in line with the social history of British couture—a decorative mantle passed on by the likes of Zandra Rhodes and the London dressmakers of the ’70s and ’80s.

Except in Katrantzou’s time, her line reaches a far more internationally based clientele, some of whom collect her work, season by season as souvenirs of her themes, almost as they also buy works of art. Strangely, then, the most extravagant pieces in this collection can be judged as her most commercial—such as the intensely beaded, multicolored dresses smothered in swirlingly collaged motifs of flowers and vegetation. In an era where mass production makes less and less sense for either designers or for wealthy consumers seeking rarity, this is increasingly the way planet fashion is spinning.

Molly Goddard may have risen to fashion stardom on the wings of her ethereal tulle dresses, but peel back the prettiness and you’ll find that there’s an earthy soul in her designs. “Dressed for the storm,” was how the designer described the look of her new collection. To that end, models marched out with balaclavas wrapped around their heads and all-terrain knee-high boots on their feet. What’s more, each one of her gorgeous party looks was layered over a pair of no-nonsense gray trousers.
There were wind machines installed along the runway this afternoon to amplify the tumultuous metaphor. Charming full-skirted smocked dresses in neon green and pink silk were blown up in the air Marilyn Monroe–style, though as Goddard insisted, the special effects were staged with Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy’s ill-fated 19th-century British heroine, in mind, and not the 1950s blonde bombshell.
Goddard seemed to be challenging the notion that style-conscious women might have to choose between the levity of her tulle frocks and the strong shoulders of her pin-striped suiting. With her new collection she made it clear the two are hardly mutually exclusive—indeed the tailoring was rendered with a more confident hand than ever. Overall the collection was one of the designer’s strongest to date, and further proof that Goddard has what it takes to steer her brand in the right direction, come rain or shine.

Christopher de Vos and Peter Pilotto tend to look for print inspiration in unexpected places, and this season they found it in the holographic works of Zsolnay, the famed Hungarian ceramics brand. Colored in shades of woozy brown and pink, the resulting patterns recalled late-1970s wallpaper. There were other references to the world of interiors, as well, including a mottled red velvet pajama-style suit replete with tassels to rival the drapes of the fancy venue.

Like several London designers, De Vos and Pilotto have been thinking along quintessentially British lines lately. Their checked woolen jumpsuits and skirtsuits were finished with glittering crystal-encrusted buttons and spun with Lurex thread to fit the more-is-more mood. If that weren’t decadent enough, the feathered trimmings satisfied the opulent brief and were used liberally on mini bags and pussy bows where sequins might once have ruled the night.

The scene on Richard Quinn’s runway this afternoon was like something out of an enchanted secret garden: sprigged with flowers and crawling with vines. The designer has played host to a number of surprise guests—most notably Her Majesty the Queen—and today he invited Freya Ridings, the rising British singer, to perform on a grand piano that was lit by a gigantic chandelier.
While last season Quinn chose to open his show anonymously (his model was completely swathed in black satin and tulle, down to the head covering), this time he kicked things off with a very recognizable face: Adwoa Aboah. With her roots spanning Europe and West Africa, the gorgeous model has come to represent a new kind of British beauty. She was dressed in an embellished tartan evening coat, and a model in a beaded houndstooth skirt suit followed behind her—both looks picking up the thread of British heritage fabrics.
Quinn has made his studio in Peckham something of a laboratory for print innovation (he’s opened up the facilities to students as well as his fashion peers), though judging by the range of couture-led shapes—buoyant puffball ball skirts and billowing trapeze coats—he’s pushing himself to dizzying new technical heights.

Head over to Vogue Runway for the concise London Fall 2019 RTW report.