Modern romance: trends and looks from London Fashion Week 2016

Knitwear, dark dresses, military chic with lavish embellishments, short, girly styles mixed up with sensuous, hyper-feminine collections

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 9:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 9:00pm

Frill seekers

Frilly dinner shirts aside, designers have been dusting down their history books in their quest to find new ways of making a white cotton shirt interesting. Alexa Chung favours a Victorian piecrust frill (shades of Lady Di circa 1981) and there were plenty to be found at Mulberry and Paul Smith where they were teamed with long pleated cuffs.

Temperley London whipped up voluminous pirate shirts with big sash ties, but Osman out-collared them all with his Restoration style, that had frills so large they caped the shoulders.

Flick flares

Wide-legged and high-waisted trousers ruled the roost in New York, which is great if you happen to be a beanpole, but not for everyone else. So London’s cropped kick flares might be the answer.

Not only do they flatteringly hug the body and flick out wide just above the ankle, they are perfect to show off those fancy new python ankle boots from Burberry. There were sexy tuxedo versions at Antonio Berardi and Topshop Unique’s looked super-cool in black or whitewashed leather with a dogtooth coat. Alexander McQueen came up with a longer bondage version, split up the side to show off a dainty heel.

Top brass

It was all polished and parade ready at Burberry, Mulberry and Temperley when military coats (and capes at Mulberry) came with shiny gold and silver buttons.

Military looks are a winter favourite with designers and last year it was all combat gear and camouflage. There were a few khaki green military aviator style jackets and a greatcoat over printed dresses at Topshop Unique, but this season it was officer class with lots of shiny buttons, sharp tailoring, fancy frogging and topstitching, especially from Mulberry’s new creative director Johnny Coca.

Dark drama

Sarah Burton’s dark dreamy world had the Alexander McQueen audience on the edge of their seats watching her ravishing boudoir dresses embroidered or trimmed with dreamlike symbols and trinkets. This mood for Gothic romance was pervasive: spun out in beautiful ruffled black dresses with pale chintzy blooms at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, or twinkly black tweed pouffy-skirted dresses, distressed and unravelling at Simone Rocha. Black velvet and sheer fabrics added a sensuous allure to embroideries at Erdem and Temperley. These dark romantic looks were the most dazzlingly poetic dresses on the catwalk.

Precious moments

Girls with their hair whipped up in deconstructed chignons at McQueen or pulled back at the nape at Peter Pilotto had their mussed-up tresses scattered with precious jewels – Peter Pilotto’s were the fruits of its collaboration with Atelier Swarovski. It looked so beautiful it is bound to spark a raid on the family heirlooms.

Ryan Lo’s girls looked like sweet little princesses wearing a swag bag of Bond Street jewels.

Christopher Kane talked about “beauty expired” and the notion of “lost and found” in his collection and pinned sparkly antique gems on dresses and jackets. No two earrings matched and it didn’t matter where you pinned a brooch, even on a short dress sleeve, as long as there were plenty.

Modern cocktail of ideas

One could write a whole chapter on the many ideas flying about at J.W. Anderson’s show, from undulating structured skirts to minis pieced together with leather or satin cloud-shaped patchworks edged in zips. Then there were the funnel-necked sports tops encircled with zips and satin coats with wide studded belts. His creativity has no brake pedal. Anderson calls it “modern cocktail” and the vibe was definitely evening. The short girlish look is a recurring theme with lots of short dresses in sparkly colours at Mary Katrantzou (embellished with Rodeo style crystals), Topshop Unique, Sibling, Ryan Lo. Lamé, Lurex and Glam Rock sequins are the favourite materials of this look, but all grounded with some seriously clompy footwear.

Bag (and shoe) ladies

Anya Hindmarch’s spectacles are a highlight of London Fashion Week and her big pixilated cube show set was repeated in the multicoloured pixilated marquetry on her bags and coats. The Orsett is her new release, a relaxed long tote with a handle that can be converted into a hobo. Big straps are quite a trend and the new Patchwork bag at Burberry featured a trench belt buckle. At Mulberry, bags were tough looking and capacious or as tiny as a key fob on a long chain. Making her catwalk debut was Charlotte Olympia, whose shoes ranged from silver rocket-heeled ankle boots to Perspex heeled sandals with a fur foot strap

Say it for the boys

Officially, Burberry and Tom Ford will show their men’s and womenswear on the same catwalk come September. Julien Macdonald, however, has been adding the phwoar-factor to his runway with hunky, muscle-packed beefcake wearing his storm-trooper trousers and flashy tuxedo jackets for the past couple of seasons. Osman is the latest to do menswear, sending Little Lord Fauntleroys down his catwalk in poppy-patterned suits and floppy neckties. Clearly, binary shows, the new buzz phrase, have a future.