London Fashion Week spring-summer 2013
London retains its crown as the world's fashion capital with an explosion of vibrant prints, sheers and wacky materials, writesFrancesca Fearon
A week ago it was confirmed that London has retained its title as the most fashionable capital in the world for the second consecutive year thanks to the winning combination of the Olympics and the Duchess of Cambridge, who was doing her bit for British designers on her Southeast Asian tour with Prince William.
The results come from an annual poll conducted by US-based analytics company Global Language Monitor, which compiles the top 10 list by studying international print and online media. Judging by the number of international bloggers and tweeters filling the rows at the spring-summer 2013 London Fashion Week, London could yet make it a third year in a row: technology has turned us all into front row guests.
Topshop's Unique show attracted two million online viewers last Sunday. Mulberry live-streamed its 1970s English summer garden medley of biker jackets and long tiered dresses in kooky gecko prints. Burberry, meanwhile, set up a live link online, and in its swanky new Regent Street store for 500 invited guests. It is one of the first luxury brands to understand the importance of social media and works hard to ensure its customers from Hong Kong to Houston feel part of the action.
The Burberry Prorsum collection is all about the trench, and these made a statement appearing in metallic pinks and mauves, and a red that fades out to vibrant pink. Chief creative officer Christopher Bailey played the colour spectrum in his collection, with a fade-out effect in tones of blue or green on coats and silk dresses, but took it to its luxurious heights with the iridescent tones on a peacock feathered trench and "kingfisher" corseted dress. With his colourful lamé print separates and shiny jewel-coloured pin-up girl dresses, perhaps Bailey has his sights set on the red carpet brigade.
Prints are still a story in London in the hands of labels such as Preen, Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou. Katrantzou took a poke at the economic problems of her native Greece by printing dresses with the pre-euro drachma and German mark notes abstracted and blended with lots of old postage stamps in a witty but stylish way. Preen was making a comeback for a five-year sojourn on the New York catwalk with a modern, graphic look worked in reptile prints and blocks of black, white and navy.
Christopher Kane raided his toolbox for nuts, bolts and gaffer tape to pull together his collection like Dr Frankenstein creating his "monster" - which incidentally features in this season's T-shirt print. Shoulder seams, origami folds and belts on ladylike dresses were held together with bolts and wing nuts, while gaffer tape and plastic, jelly-like bow-patterned lace turned sugary pink frocks and skirts into something infinitely edgier. Kane said it was inspired by gift wrapping with bows and tape.
This season Erdem looked to the work of Zenna Henderson, one of the first female sci-fi writers, who in the '50s and '60s wrote about "The People", humanoids from a distant planet. Erdem brought these female clones down to earth, blending them into '50s surroundings. Well almost: splicing reptilian skins and space-age plastics with baby blue couture-style satin and lace dresses, and working with toxic colours such as sulphurous yellow and acid orange embroidery, took his collection into a weird and wonderful other world.
Colour blocking, pleating and mixes of sheer and opaque are proving to be new areas of experimentation.
However, these ideas evolve into abstract patterns of colour at Roksanda Ilincic. David Koma offers highly constructed dresses that combine linear strips of monochrome and colour with the layering of sheer over pleats and honeycomb print, which looks as complicated as it reads.
Jonathan Saunders makes the trend look strong and futuristic by contrasting matt, metallic and hologram in a very slick way, while Paul Smith worked the theme confidently in a range of mannish separates including buttoned-up shirts and high-waisted cropped trousers, and a series of breezy pleated dresses.
Huishan Zhang's couture-style lace and cute birdie and sampan-printed silk dresses hit the catwalk for the first time, and Simone Rocha presented a crisp collection in contemporary broderie anglaise patterns and giant daisy lace. These are two talents that will grow and bloom in future seasons as fully-fledged members of the London scene.
Making a statement was Vivienne Westwood, who waved a banner calling for "climate revolution" on television at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics and then unfurled it again in government offices where she staged her Red Label show. The clothes were early '50s-inspired tailoring, twinsets and Capri pants, and dainty floral dresses worn by models with Grace Kelly headscarves and prim post-war hats.
But the zaniest moment was Philip Treacy's millinery show that featured Lady Gaga in a pink burqa as MC, a cast of black models and Michael Jackson's soon-to-be-auctioned clothes teamed with Treacy's sculptural headpieces.