London Fashion Week: Women’s AW15
Having had my appetite whet by the London Collections: Men Autumn/Winter 2015 fashion shows in January (which you can read all about in my previous blog post), when February rolled around, it wasn’t Valentines Day I was anticipating; it was the womenswear collections at London Fashion Week! Across the five hectic days of LFW from the 20th to the 24th of February, I attended many of the fabulous womenswear shows and presentations, excitedly noting all of the upcoming trends for the new Autumn/Winter season. If you couldn’t make it to London yourself, or want to re-live some of the designs and trends on display, here’s my summary of all the important things you need to know from London Fashion Week AW15.
For AW15, many designers seemed to be eschewing minimalism for its polar opposite: absolute excess! Adhering to the principle of “more is more”, these designers showcased highly detailed clothes that embodied pure opulence and really showed the luxurious but still adventurous side of fashion.
A stunning example of this was Simone Rocha, who took viewers on a visual journey with her take on sculpture. Beginning with a standout black gown embellished with 3D flower petals, the collection evolved in front of viewers’ eyes, going from gothic-inspired baroque print looks, voluminous outerwear and black lace pieces to nude ensembles with sheer, boldly patterned overlays, playful floral motifs/appliques, and bright red tapestry prints – then back again, finishing the show with dark and voluminous array of capes!
Turkish designer Bora Aksu took a similarly intricate take on the same theme of evolution with his collection of feminine clothing inspired by Oscar Wilde’s “The Nightingale and The Rose”. Throughout the show, the colour palette transitioned from rich royal blue through to gold, pink, lilac, black and back to blue again, all the while incorporating Aksu’s famous embroidery and a variation of textures, including delicate lacework, sheer fabric overlays, 3D embellishments and peekaboo grid patterns. Where Aksu took his inspiration from a book, Holly Fulton took hers from the television screen; specifically the TV melodrama “Tales of the Unexpected”. Though these references may differ wildly, the collections had similar overriding aspects: both featured a variety of textures, conveyed a ladylike aesthetic (with an edge), and employed an elegant colour palette. Fulton’s collection in particular seemed suited to a glamourous night on the town, with feathers, silk, crystals, lace, and sequins aplenty, yet it was kept ladylike with modest cuts and elegant shapes. Though the collection began in white and pastel shades of pink, grey and blue, stronger colours of black, red, purple, brown and green crept in as the show progressed, adding to the “off-kilter” effect that Fulton desired without being overpowering.
Erdem’s offering for AW15 surprised everyone, elevating the label’s traditional lace and florals into something far more dramatic and impactful. In a show that juxtaposed jewel tones of red, green, purple and pink with earthy browns, black and bold leopard print, we were treated to everything from delicate floral patterns on frayed raw silk and feathery oversized flower appliques, to bright, colour-blocked lace pieces and laser cut leather. Mary Katrantzou, who is well-known for her amazingly vibrant, architectural patterns, also surprised with her show; combining an opulent Victoriana influence with elements of slick modernism. The result was a collection full of clean lines and damask prints in luxurious shades of baby blue, yellow, pink and red, in fabrics ranging from fur to quilting – all topped off with geometric 3D foam belts!
A well-known icon of British eccentricity and OTT fashion moments, Vivienne Westwood displayed a beautifully luscious collection, but also used her Red Label show as a platform to raise important political and environmental issues. Having urged attendees to “Vote Green” at the start of the show, this theme was carried throughout with touches such as tiger/leopard print, slogans commenting on the state of society (Chaos, Get a life), dramatic, almost bloody makeup and statement jewellery (thick chokers, ropes of chains and bone shaped earrings). That is not to say that the collection was too serious or monotone though, as in typical style, Westwood showed a full spectrum of tailoring, outerwear, knitwear, kitschy accessories and show-stopping dresses in an array of bright patterns.
Ashish also used their collection to convey a message: one of empowerment, as they turned typical “call girl” stereotypes into high fashion excellence in their “Klute” inspired collection. The Ashish girl is certainly not one to blend in this season, with sequins aplenty, bold camo prints, glossy red thigh high boots, slinky lingerie pieces, bleached and studded denim, abundant fur trims, and jumpers literally emblazoned with SEX. One of Fashion East’s talents, Ed Marler, also put his stamp on “trashy” fashion, though in his case, it was inspired by London’s East End, and the icon that is Del Boy. Marler’s majestic wheeler-dealers, to paraphrase his own words, walked the line between taste and style in their shearling coats, silk dressing gown robes, lace-up trousers, luxe football stripes/scarves, cutout tracksuits, crested flat caps, standout dresses and leopard print details. It’s only his second showing at LFW, but he’s definitely one to watch!
Pam Hogg treated us to a more fantasy-inspired but equally risqué spectacle; starting her “demons and fairytales” inspired show with a lingerie-clad Little Red Riding Hood who was followed by dark villainesses, Ice Queens in metallics, Indian princesses in fringe and Lolita-like flower girls, all with an overarching glam rock edge. Equally theatrical (but less racy!) was Ashley Isham’s LFW presentation, which was characterised by flowing lines, excessive ornamentation and dramatic headwear. The outfits, which covered the full gamut of clothing types, from draped gowns to sumptuous knitwear, were pure opulence in jewel tones of red, green, blue, silver and gold. Despite details like shimmery cloaks, gemstone embellishment, pom-pom trims, and diagonal tassel fringing on the clothes, the stand-out pieces from the collection were the headpieces, which were curved and adorned with stand-out features like LED lights and long, waterfall-like tassels. In a beautiful, intimate show, Yufash “live you” displayed an equally seductive AW15 collection of dazzling cocktail dresses, evening gowns, structured coats and jumpsuits.
The fashion time-warp trend also looks set to continue for AW15, with designers still taking inspiration from a broad spectrum of recent decades, from the 1960s to the 1990s.
Designers championing the sixties vibe were Jonathan Saunders, David Koma, DAKS, and J Moon from Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch, although of course each put their own individual spin on the theme. Saunders played with the late sixties vibe and gave arguably the strongest modern update on the decade, employing psychedelic patterns, unapologetically bold colour combinations and strong, clean silhouettes. Koma took a vastly different approach, updating classic 60s silhouettes with interesting details such as scalloped cut-outs, PVC/leather trims, ruffles and shiny embellishments, but eschewing patterns for block colours (predominantly white, black, blue and orange). DAKS also took the colour blocking route in his motorcycle-themed collection, opting for red, nude, black and grey, with a dash of print thrown in for good measure. J Moon did colour blocking as well, with graphic, knitted ensembles that referenced the decade in a very subtle way.
Meanwhile, Orla Kiely seemed to combine the sixties and seventies, featuring silhouettes from both in her schoolgirl-inspired presentation. Set against the backdrop of a library, Kiely’s models looked preppy and smart in their boldly coloured, maths- and geometry-inspired patterns.
It was clear that the seventies seemed to be the most popular sartorial inspiration for AW15 though, with numerous designers referencing the different aspects of the decade. Burberry Prorsum combined patchwork and print in a collection that screamed seventies seduction and managed to incorporate fringing, teddy bear coats, and thigh high suede boots effortlessly. Matthew Williamson channeled boho chic, with a jewel-toned colour palette influenced by birthstones and effortless, floor sweeping looks accessorized with thick furs. Temperley London also went down the boho luxe route, with a glitz-infused collection that featured intricate tribal-esque patterns, loose but feminine shapes, and stunning embroidery. Felder Felder and Fashion East’s Mary Benson both chose to interpret the more glam rock seventies vibe, with Felder Felder using sparkle, laser cutouts, and vibrantly coloured fur to edge up more classic 70s patterns, and Benson mixing glitter platform heels, holographic appliques and an overall “gender bending” vibe inspired by 70s icons like Mark Bolan. Conversely, Asli Polat and Paul Smith chose to reinterpret more everyday seventies style. While both used a muted palette and traditional seventies checked patterns, Smith focused predominantly on masculine tailoring with a bright, mustard yellow accent hue, whereas Polat subtly channeled a mid-western Americana vibe, as well as collaborating with German teddy bear manufacturer Steiff to create huggably soft mohair and fur, both of which were used generously throughout the collection. The design duo at Peter Pilotto also incorporated an element of nostalgia in their 70s inspired collection, taking inspiration from old board games to create graphic prints in bold, almost neon colours that contrasted beautifully with their base colours of white, khaki, brown and black.
J.W. Anderson differentiated himself from other designers by choosing to reinterpret the often damned shapes of the eighties. Working with patent leather, corduroy, tassels, sequins and lurex in a host of bright colours, Anderson channeled Saturday Night Fever for the modern woman. Topshop Unique’s catwalk also featured a decidedly eighties vibe, though in a more subdued fashion than Anderson, and with more of a focus on the label’s traditional British heritage roots. This doesn’t mean that the Topshop Unique girl was boring in comparison though, with her wardrobe that ranged from luxurious everyday pieces and cuddly fur trimmed outerwear to sequined, dandelion print shift dresses and ostrich feather trimmed satin cocktail outfits.
Rounding off our tour through the decades, Shao Yen and Fashion East’s Caitlin Price both paid homage to the nineties. Yen’s presentation, titled “Flesh”, was an exploration of musculature and blood which centred largely on knitwear, with models sporting striking topknots in their hair and oversized accessories that brought it firmly into 90s territory. Price, meanwhile, played with the concept of a high fashion, south London Rude Girl, mixing satin and “princess-like” silhouettes with visible thongs, gelled baby hair, tracksuits and nineties crop tops.
Though the English weather tends to be dark and gloomy come autumn/winter-time, a subset of LFW designers proved that this year, your wardrobe doesn’t have to be. Indeed, get ready to provide your own sunshine with primary brights, stand-out colour blocking and all the clashing colours you could imagine!
With a name like “Rainbow Wheel”, you could guess that the Fyodor Golan show would be a bright affair; and it certainly lived up to expectations! Inspired by the beauty of modern life in urban surroundings, the collection featured building prints of skyscrapers and toy shops, flower-inspired shapes/embroidery, sequined sportswear, and a collaboration with My Little Pony that saw Ponies painted across chest pieces and embroidered onto dresses! The colour palette was similarly memorable, contrasting pale pink, ruby red, black, lilac, cobalt, and neon shades of green, orange and yellow. A veritable rainbow of bright colours was also on display at Roksanda Ilincic’s show, which featured structural silhouettes splashed with psychedelic wave prints in pink, orange, cobalt, purple and maroon. Despite the bright colours (often associated with summer), this was undoubtedly an autumn/winter collection, as was evidenced by the layers upon layers of clothing that each model wore. It also kept drama and texture at its core, with tactile fur coats, stoles and clutch bags, suede shoes, blanket-like dresses, and every outfit cinched in at the waist with a metallic disc belt.
Minju Kim, who showed as part of Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch, continued this trend of using bold blocks of colour in her “Hero’s Eyes” collection that was based on superheroes with magical powers, but had a distinctly princessy edge too. Similarly to Golan, she contrasted pastels (blue, yellow, pink) with more vivid colours such as red, black, and white, though in her case these were primarily paneled in bold, geometric shapes or used in cartoon prints. Rather uniquely, she also topped off several of her outfits with hot pink/bright blue acrylic “crowns” reminiscent of Wonder Woman. Like Kim, Charli Cohen’s “Fight Club” collection balanced girlishness and fierce inner strength, in this case through colour-blocked sportswear pieces such as bra tops, leggings, oversized t-shirts, bodysuits and trackpants. Though her colour palette was slightly more limited, the cobalt, fuchsia, navy and dark pink stood out beautifully against the traditionally expected colours of black, grey and silver.
Hong Kong-born Minki Cheng also used black and other dark colours to provide a contrasting backdrop for bold colour accents; specifically, neon shades of green, red, pink, blue and white. Inspired by the neon lights and signs characteristic of his hometown, Cheng created bold, cartoonish shapes from glowing silicon, adding further interest to his looks through futuristic silhouettes, geometric patterns and cut-out knitwear. Geometric shapes were also prevalent in Eudon Choi’s collection, specifically in the form of circles and colour blocked rectangles. In a show heavily focused on outerwear and inspired by the Japanese architectural movement, Choi contrasted bases of black, navy and brown with bright white, yellow, teal, shocking pink and red.
In the final show of LFW, H by Hakaan Yildirim also used contrast to great effect, with a strong colour palette that juxtaposed black, white and beige with red, green and blush pink. The aesthetics of the outfits themselves were a further juxtaposition, with the label’s trademark femininity (seen in the lace up corsets, fur coats, figure-hugging dresses and statement head scarves) tempered by a masculine edge (seen in several looser cuts, tailored trousers, and boxy suit jackets). For added impact, several looks were actually one colour top-to-toe, proving that a single bold colour can shout just as loudly as several contrasting ones. Amanda Wakeley followed a similar track in her AW15 collection, which continued the brand’s diversification into daywear. The collection overall embodied pared-back luxury, while the most noticeable pieces were the single-colour ensembles (in red, orange, white, black and navy) and those with interesting details such as pops of colour or fringe detailing. With the strictest colour palette of the week, Osman Yousefzada went one step further and limited himself to only red, white and black. Rather than leaving the collection flat, this allowed the red to resonate all the more, and also permitted Yousefzada’s creativity to shine through in his innovative textures (sculpted crepe, spongy leather-like synthetics, and plastic treated velvet to name but a few) and fantastic patterns such as cobweb lace and marble.
In striking juxtaposition to the bright bold colours displayed by some, several designers chose to focus on the darker side of fashion, balancing this more sombre colour scheme by infusing their collections with statement-making high drama.
Gareth Pugh, the established master of dark drama, didn’t disappoint with his patriotic, ten-year anniversary return to London Fashion Week. Pulling reference from across the UK, Pugh displayed a military and revolution-inspired collection of “modern armour”, where each model graced the catwalk with a bold St. George’s cross painted across her face, in stark contrast to her all-black outfit. That is not to say the clothes were boring though, with particular points of interest including leather breastplates/shin-guard boots, duvet-like padded dresses, ceremonial-style hats dripping with chains, and hand-cut black drinking straws attached to outfits in order to create unique texture and movement. Inspired primarily by the magical realm of Narnia and the battle between good and evil, Zeynep Kartal’s LFW collection also had a bit of a military edge, thanks to touches such as chainmail-effect bodices, lace up knee-high boots and cape silhouettes. The main focus of the collection was creating drama though, with Kartal using sequins, feather trim, silk paneling, sheer fabric, and embroidery in contrasting dark and light colourways.
Taking a similarly theatrical approach to AW15, Sadie Clayton combined her signature aesthetics of copper and sculpture with elements of witchcraft and an exploration of her own spirituality. The culmination of her efforts was a powerful, other-worldly collection of dark garments that replicated the texture and composition of crystals/stones through considered combinations of glitter tulle, leather, wire-trimmed knitwear, and hammered copper sheeting. Emilio De La Morena also embraced metallics for the new season, though his metals of choice were muted gold, silver and bronze, rather than copper, and these were combined with deep greens, royal blues, moody purples, cherry reds, and an underlying base colour of black. The collection was decidedly eveningwear-focused and consisted largely of draped yet structured dresses that combined velvet, brocade, mesh, and mosaicked sheer panels.
In somewhat of a departure from his usual aesthetic, for AW15 Julien Macdonald went down a more gothic –inspired route, infusing his catwalk with PVC, textural black pieces, flesh-baring cutouts, skintight dress silhouettes, and embellishments aplenty. Of course though, it wouldn’t be Julien Macdonald without a bit of glamour, which came through in jewel tones of red, green, purple, blue and silver, as well as feminine touches of sequins and lace. This balance of romantic femininity and dark edginess was also perfected by Phoebe English in her AW15 presentation, though in somewhat of a more raw, ethereal fashion. English’s fisherwoman-esque models were wrapped in sweeps of shrimp netting, froths of gothic tulle and sheer organza, all of which juxtaposed beautifully with more mannish aspects such as wide-legged trousers and latex sleeve garters. Moreover, a pared-back colour palette of only black, white and a little bit of pale pink allowed all of English’s fantastic detail work and construction to take centre stage.
Meanwhile, both Jean-Pierre Braganza and Pringle of Scotland proved that dark drama isn’t solely for night-time outfits; it has its place in daytime casual looks as well. Braganza’s “Excelsiora” collection took inspiration from strong women and heroism, with sharp tailoring, symmetrical structures, deep colours, bold stripes, fighter jet prints, and aviator jackets combining to truly embody the female fighting spirit in sartorial form. Pringle’s focal point was, as ever, knitwear in all its forms, from chic and chunky to sleek and slinky. The collection was a study in texture, combining the aforementioned range of knits with beading, slithers of mink, fringing, and wavy jacquard. Extra-long scarves topped off the majority of these classically autumnal yet decidedly dark looks, proving that come autumn 2015, we’ll be able to stay stylish and warm!
It is often said that fashion and art overlap significantly, and for their autumn/winter 2015 offerings, certain designers took this as literal inspiration, creating collections that blurred the line between the two.
Christopher Kane showed a prime example with his collection, which featured bright, “lovers lace” renderings of nudes from Kane’s own life-drawing classes, intertwined to form artistic patterns. Other highlights included electric shock- inspired patterns on sheer dresses, reflective dresses with considered cut-outs, velvet smoking suits, and other playful combinations of texture and colour that subtly hinted at Kane’s theme of a sensuality and tasteful sexuality.
The “Cocktails and a Murder” collection by Tata Naka was similarly artistic, with some of the outfits even featuring contemporary portrait works printed onto them (the face printed jacket in particular was a standout!). Tata Naka presented a playful yet sophisticated array of clothes, mixing ladylike silhouettes with graphic prints of dragons, leaves, poppies, geometric blocks, and the aforementioned facial portraits – often juxtaposing several of these in one outfit! A distinctly Asian influence could also be seen in several outfits whose traditional Japanese silhouettes had been given a 21st century update, as well as in the models’ styling.
Seemingly a sartorial take on school-time art lessons, Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s show had a distinctly arts and crafts feel, mixed in with a significant dose of seventies influence. The collection displayed a juxtaposition of softness and strength, spanning from multicoloured, geometric tartans to lace and ditzy floral prints, all in autumnal colourways of black, grey, blue, red, yellow and orange. Asymmetric frills, 3D floral appliques and lattice lace detailing further added to the feeling of childlike whimsy, yet the clean silhouettes and pared-back styling of the collection kept it overall inherently wearable.
Edeline Lee’s “Pop-up Art Cut-out” line, meanwhile, was a true hybrid of art and fashion, full of striking patterns and colours reminiscent of mid-century pop art. Aimed at “dressing the artistic woman”, the clothes were confident and playful, with interesting cuts and textures kept elegant by clean tailoring, colour blocking and an amazing attention to detail. Taking Lee’s pop influence and more refined playfulness to the next level, Sophia Webster’s “Freak Like Me” collection of statement footwear and bags was a veritable extravaganza! The space circus themed show was not only a riot of colour, pattern, glitter and sequins, but also featured a truly astounding array of wearable art accessories, with bags and shoes adorned with speech bubbles that featured tongue-in-cheek slogans, a lust-worthy Coca Cola collaboration, stunning metallic butterfly detail shoes, and wicked leopard-print knee-high lace-up boots, to name but a few.
Xiao Li also seemed to take inspiration from pop-art in her AW15 presentation, which had further overriding themes of “mass consumerism” and “genetically modified foods”. Sticking to an autumnal colour scheme of black, orange, maroon, brown and blue, Li plastered her loose-fitting shapes with bold, oversized prints of everyday paraphernalia such as tomatoes skewered on forks, giant perfume bottles, and stencil cut outs of classic trench coats/jackets/jeans.
Faustine Steinmetz not only showed an artistically inspired collection, but also displayed it in a very artistic way: having models pose in circular vistas, as if on display in a museum. To paraphrase Steinmetz herself, it was as though the models themselves were the pictures. In terms of the clothes, she remained true to her roots as a sustainable designer, handcrafting each piece of the collection, from the paint-stroke hair accessories and textured, brushed wool pieces to the textural, silicone painted jeans and painted faux-denim pieces. Similarly, Kim Stevenson, one of Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch, maintained her focus on sustainability and ethical design, taking a traditional, textiles-based approach to make truly unique designs layered with texture, colour and intricate detail.
Autumnal Flora and Fauna
Come autumn-time in 2015, it also seems that we’ll also be taking our sartorial inspiration from nature: specifically, all different types of flora and fauna. Think thick faux furs, dark, forest-inspired colours, and autumnal flower prints.
Apu Jan’s collection, entitled “Deep into the Woods”, literally took inspiration from an imaginary enchanted forest landscape. Branches and antlers adorned the models’ hair, while thick knits and intricate, tree, animal and fairy prints in delicate colours evoked a feeling of wrapping up for a walk through frosty, bare-branched woods. Angel Chen, another of Fashion Scout’s Ones to Watch, seemed to take inspiration from a mystical woodland as well for her “Bunny with Short Legs” collection. Playing with bold colours, childishly thrown together styling, a Boy Scout theme, and twig-adorned accessories, Chen captured the whimsy and romanticism of a childhood jaunt in the woods.
Emerging designer C.J. Yao took direct inspiration from flora and fauna too, with an outdoorsy, all-weather, almost hiking appropriate offering in a similarly autumnal colour palette of deep blue, brown, grey, burgundy and a myriad of greens. Indeed, several of her structured, easily layered garments featured details such as bold leaf prints, or faux fur/shearling trim, which brought a lush, feminine feel to an otherwise slightly androgynous collection. Jasper Conran’s show was also influenced by an autumn forest and its inhabitants, with models even walking down a catwalk carpeted with fallen leaves. Conran took colour (more so than pattern) inspiration from woodland in an elegant collection dominated by earthy shades of green, black, brown, plum, mustard and navy, and subtly played with animal-like textures through use of fabrics such as cashmere, knitwear, suede, velvet, and fur.
Little Shilpa stood out with her wild, animalistic and earthy “Feral Nation” presentation. Her handcrafted animal headpieces were the stars of the show, from the silver glitter parrot headpiece to the golden gazelle horns, but that is not to say that the clothes in the collection weren’t impactful too. Made of neoprene, plastic and parachute silk in camouflage colours and patterns, and often supplemented with liberal amounts of sequins and coloured feathers, the overall impression for viewers was of warrior women at one with the nature around them. Meanwhile, Belstaff created a correspondingly rugged collection which took inspiration from female adventure. The Belstaff explorer was protected from nature by natural, animal fibres/fabrics such as fur, shearling, woven wool, mohair and leather, and stayed within a natural colour scheme of white, brown, grey and khaki.
Lucas Nascimento’s AW15 collection, meanwhile, eschewed fauna for a purely flora theme, with bold, large-scale autumn florals in varying colour combinations of black, white, burnt orange, deep purple, royal blue and forest green adorning the majority of his clothes. Antonio Berardi brought glamour to a similarly botanical theme with his show, which was inspired by a tree growing on the construction site of the Frank Gehry-conceived Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Juxtaposing beautiful floral and leaf-print jacquards in vibrant (almost neon) colours with architectural structures and masterful draping, Berardi managed to have real fun with his colour and pattern combinations, as well as effortlessly blurring the line between day and eveningwear.
Michael van der Ham, meanwhile, applied his signature ethereal touch to a subtle floral theme. His AW15 dresses were a mid-winter dream in chiffon and tulle, with bold, floral embroidery and delicate flower-patterned fabric mixed to create a tactile and elegant collection that covered nature’s spectrum of colours, ranging from inky, dark hues to pastel shades of peach/blue/grey, and even a few bold pops of orange, red and lime!
That about summarises my highlights from LFW AW15; I hope you enjoyed this recap as much as I enjoyed the shows, and that you remember to check back for my SS16 recap!