No time for lunch, I head to the On/Off space at Victoria House for the Bora Aksu show. The show notes allude to 1950s silhouettes, inspired by the hourglass shape of ants. In true form, Aksu puts a wild spin on a theme. Rather than prim housewife frocks, he delivers sculptural mini dresses with majorly padded hips and cinched waists. Crochet and mesh inserts cheekily reveal and conceal as the girls walk. There’s a protective feeling in rows of pleated ruffles stand out like vertebrae and puffy panels; armour in ladylike, fragile fabrics.
Back over to the Somerset House, I slip into a front-row seat to score a better view of the Jena.Theo show. Their ode to India is a vivid range of heavily draped sari-style separates and harem pants. Many pieces can be worn different ways, making them not only stylish but super functional.
So far one of the biggest challenges to doing the shows is simply keeping on schedule. Last minute invites are being sent to my hotel all day so I do my best to check in there as often as I can. Upon one trip I discover tickets to Felder Felder and Hannah Marshall. I get to the venue with ample time to spare but there is an insane crush of people outside. The crowd gets more manic as Amber Rose arrives, casually strolling by in a black skin-tight outfit. There’s a huge push for the doors which a promptly shut and ticket-holders, myself included, don’t get in. How frustrating! I make the most of it by heading upstairs to the designer exhibition space, to get up close and personal with a variety of collections. Scoping out tissue-thin leggings and delicate underpinnings – could totally see Lady Gaga in these – by Marjan Pejoski, then I’m on to the Orla Kiely presentation. It’s a short film by director Gia Coppola and perfectly captures the sweet nostalgia of a 60s girl-about-town, caught on grainy Super-8 film by her doting beau.
The last show of the day is PPQ, and it starts nearly 40 minutes late. Again, there’s a total crush of people at the venue but I’ve learned my lesson and I squeeze in near the front of the line, despite not having the correct colour of invitation. The collection is very 80s, with colour-blocking in bright yellow, teal, and fuchsia, eye-popping graphic prints, and exaggerated bustlines, either via pointed bra or layered cups. It surely serves its fanbase well; the front row is dedicated to London club kids who have gone all out with getting dressed up for the show. Hopefully when they hit the dancefloor in their PPQ SS11 fez hats, they’ll be more securely fastened than the one that was worn with the opening look, which soon slid off. Beyond the novelty club scene, this 80s moment feels like old news to me.
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Opening day of London Fashion Week: not only am I a first-timer navigating this city but it’s also my first time doing a full show schedule circuit. A bit daunting, but my excitement for today’s line-up quickly takes over. The BFC Catwalk Show Space is at Somerset House, a beautiful historical building. First up is Paul Costelloe, who revives 50s and 60s silhouettes with mod shifts and accordion-pleated skirts. The models have a playful vibe with tatty undone beehives hairdos. This collection is for the mod girl-about-town. The crowd burst into applause when Costelloe’s six sons took to the runway in the designer’s classic suits.
In contrast, Maria Grachvogel makes a distinctly modern statement. Her roster of A-list fans includes Angelina Jolie and Yasmin Le Bon. The collection begins with a minimalist palette of nude, pale silver, and blush before bursting into the vivid acid-tripping prints. Each print was hand-painted by Grachvogel! Everything has a sense of ease; hemlines skim the ground, deeply draped blouses ripple and float behind their wearer.
Fortunate as I am to have a driver this week, it can be total chaos as soon as a show lets out. I’m rushing to find my car in the crowd so that I don’t miss a show I’ve been looking forward to all day – Canadian designer Jean-Pierre Braganza. The show doesn’t disappoint – it’s his signature digital prints done delicate. Opening looks have fragmented graphic lines that map out the form of the body. Soft pastels set a girlish tone for the flower children who float by with white feathers tucked into teased plaits. I’m on a big floral print kick these days so the romantic pink rose print pieces catch my eye straight away. From someone usually dedicated to 2-D prints, the real treat comes from unexpected texture, be it supple sky blue suede, rows of ruffles with fraying edges, and short fringe-like detailing. One of my favourite footwear designers, Nicholas Kirkwood, has created shoes for the show, accented with textured tufts.