On the Runway

Day 3: London Fashion Week with Basso & Brooke and Matthew Williamson

Matthew Williamson Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms

Matthew Williamson Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms

Basso & Brooke Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms

Basso & Brooke Spring/Summer ’11; Photo by Anthea Simms

Getting up early was certainly worth it to catch the first show of day 3: Basso & Brooke. Low attendance means I score a front row seat. I’m sitting across for the legendary Stephen Jones, a master milliner. There’s collaging of cursive script, floral, and croc graphic prints. The design duo’s method of digital printing gives the lightweight silks they are printed on a surreal, romantic quality.

I pop upstairs to the designer exhibition rooms at Somerset House to see the presentation marking Ann-Sofie Back’s 10th anniversary. She’s added “Atelje” to her label’s name, signifying an elevated level of quality and craftsmanship. The slow, dazed disco hits throbbing into the room create a haunting mood ideal for the looks she sends through a freestanding red illuminated doorway. Its minimalism with a hint of the occult; first look out is a white sleeveless shift that has been soaked with water to achieve nearly transparent appearance. Sure, you’re not going to walk around in a dripping wet outfit but the key points to take away are simplicity, and transparency.  

Next up, Mulberry. This label is certainly having a moment on this side of the pond, since every other girl I’ve spotted since arriving is carrying one of their handbags. I head to the ballroom at Claridge’s Hotel, decorated in uber-girly hot pink floral arrangements, to check out their ready-to-wear line. A parade of fresh-faced redheads with identical fringed wigs showcase a range of very wearable separates (lots of lightweight coats and wide-leg trousers) and adorable cocktail dresses. Even if it isn’t your personal taste, you have to admire a designer who creates pieces sought-after by both youthful powderpuff girls and chic ladies about town alike. Oh, and the bags: signature styles like the Alexa are reissued in saturated shades of eggplant and sapphire blue.

A much-needed pause in my schedule allows me the time to sit down, eat, and blog. Finding a bit of downtime during fashion week is a struggle so I cherish it. I head to Antonio Berardi early on; in another off-site venue, the show is held at The Great Hall in Westminster. I’m reminded of Paris when I enter into the regal building and climb a winding staircase to the ballroom. Row upon row of slim gold chairs await their guests, and I’m wondering which of the front row seats will be taken by A-list followers of Berardi. He is synonymous with curve-enchancing frocks and a pares bold structure with lighter sheers and femme texture. The collection stays true to Berardi hallmarks; but there are some pleasant surprises along the way which keeps a sense of modernity amongst the formalwear. An all-white suit riffs off of the classic tuxedo but there is a false lapel effect and as the model strolls past I can see there is no separation between the lapels and the ‘top’ underneath; entirely one piece with blending seams to tease the eye.

It’s been a long day of running from one off-site location to the next, sometimes trying to coordinate with my driver, other times navigating the tube and winding London streets. One important tip that Liz, our Fashion Director, taught me is that when in doubt, just look for well-dressed people to find the venue! A few times this week I’ve been saved by following a distinctly un-pedestrian pair of emerald YSL pumps or lacey cocktail dress. Luckily, for my final destination, the Battersea Power Station for Matthew Williamson, I’ve got my driver handy. The venue is so remarkable, with a modern catwalk erected inside the decrepit abandoned station. Sure to start late, I grab my seat to score a good view of the celebs trickling in. Once the photographer frenzy over Sienna Miller, Cat Deely and Olivia Palermo quiets down, the ultra-glam show is underway. Animal print, massive fringe, embellishment, crochet, ombre dyes – it’s all of the standby Williamson elements in a stream of St. Tropez party-hopping numbers. Harem pants get matched with cropped, boxy jackets, and skimpy corsets meet high-waist wide-legged trousers. Easy summer pairings. Volume comes in box pleating on the back of a jacket, undulating ruffle skirts, and a gown’s train that kisses the ground before looping back up to attach at the shoulder blades. A standout is the purple ombre crochet dress – a mouthful, but well-executed and wearable. Parachute silk gowns finish the show, tethered by woven harnesses. This show hit its mark straight on, and will certainly please Williamson devotees.