Queen of clicks
With Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet on board, London Fashion Week is upping its digital game, writes Francesca Fearon
Someone told me that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley was sitting in the front row, along with actresses Kate Beckinsale and Vicki Zhao Wei at Burberry Prorsum. I couldn't see them from where I was sitting, but my source wasn't even at the show. She was watching online.
London Fashion Week has been live-streaming the catwalk for many seasons now, but the techie geeks at Burberry have come up with a Smart Personalisation service, allowing those with touch-screen devices to connect with the catwalk. By scanning a garment, devotees can watch a video of how it was made. There is also a Runway Made-to-Order service to allow those watching online to personalise key accessories.
Meanwhile, Unique at Topshop in collaboration with Google+ launched an access-all-areas view of its show with cameras attached to outfits worn by Jourdan Dunn and Cara Delevingne. There will come a point in the future when staging a catwalk show in front of an audience will become a thing of the past - but for the fact that people-spotting adds hugely to the entertainment.
It is part of the new direction Natalie Massenet, the founder of Net-a-Porter and glamorous new chairwoman of the British Fashion Council, is outlining for her global master plan to make British fashion a leader in digital innovation. "Our asset is our creativity, but now it is time to amplify that voice," she says.
Judging by the audience of top international buyers and press, who 10 years ago might have missed London, the city has now become a must on the itinerary. Monday's line-up included Burberry, Erdem, Peter Pilotto and Giles. There was also Christopher Kane, who joins the super league now that 51 per cent of his business has been acquired by the French luxury empire PPR, which also has majority stakes in Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.
The day included a show by Tom Ford, who chose London to stage his first major fashion show since 2005, while the day before, fellow American L'Wren Scott had served up shepherd's pie (for lunch), gilded tailoring and her boyfriend Mick Jagger to the fashion crowd in her first show to be held that side of the Atlantic. Hollywood's top stylist looked to the mosaic patterns of Gustav Klimt's paintings for her siren dresses, while working a ladylike 1940s silhouette for her tailoring.
The ladylike aesthetic still holds fashion in its thrall, with Grace Kelly lookalike A-line coats and short-sleeved dresses worn with white gloves at Temperley London, and pastel pink coats and dresses (sometimes subverted with pearly pink PVC versions) at Roksanda Ilincic. Simone Rocha's collection, inspired by her Chinese and Irish grandmothers, was sweetly dressy with simple lines, crafted from an intriguing wafer-mesh fabric in medicine pink, sparkly tweed fabrics and faux fur. Henry Holland at House of Holland, meanwhile, found a way of mixing ladylike with sporty wit - whether by fur-lined baseball jackets and sweat tops worn over full skirts, or some madcap acid house prints for shrunken trouser suits.
There was a trend for sporty sweat tops or boxy jackets, floating around the body and worn over gathered skirts - a look for the tall and super-slim. Fashion was also very covered up. Many designers showed roll-neck sweaters under flimsy dresses and collarless jackets - notably the Brazilians Lucas Nascimento and Issa. But, rather surprisingly, so did Matthew Williamson, who discarded his body-con silhouettes and boho party girl aesthetic for a collection full of geometric tailoring and unembellished fabrics, save for some long dip-dye fringing on evening dresses.
Mulberry's collection was mostly jackets, coats and giant sweaters - therefore very covered up, but for exposed ankles (pants were cropped short). Nevertheless, the magnified checks and botanical prints that blended symbols of sorcery made for a desirable look.
Burberry Prorsum's signature trench coat came in animal prints or canvas with gold metal trim or, rather subversively, with latex storm flaps; but what caused a stir was the sheer latex skirt that showed off the heart print on Cara Delevingne's knickers. Models were otherwise sheathed in shiny python skirts - worn with kitten wedges so they didn't look overtly sexy. Nevertheless it was still racy, a vibe that designer Christopher Bailey doesn't often push.
"The idea was about mixing heritage and established things with gravitas, with something a little bit sexy, subverted and naughty. Cheeky enough that it makes you smile," he says.
Vivienne Westwood, whose early work will go on show at a major exhibition about punk in New York this year, produced a collection full of allure and demonstrated how to create flattering dresses without a safety pin in sight. You can't imagine a punk wearing her cardigans and little leather gloves today, which shows how things have changed.
At times one felt that London was treading water with the ladylike look: it seems as if fashion is waiting for something big to happen that will move us off in a new direction. Even minimalism is losing its charm. Preen's vampy punk look might be one, certainly timely, answer, with dark, zippered tailoring, black leather and flocked tartan skirts.
London's printers were also trying something new: Mary Katrantzou was inspired by vintage black-and-white prints - all shadowy and soft-focus landscapes for her graphic, oriental shapes. The almost demi-couture collection was romantic and faintly melancholic, and certainly offered something different.