In lieu of any designer heavyweights showing on the catwalk during the opening day of London Fashion Week, the British Fashion Council put two of its leading ambassadors in charge of welcoming the industry to the five-day event.
On Friday evening, Samantha Cameron hosted a reception at Downing Street for international guests including Salma Hayek, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg, American Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and fashion industry power players, such as Victoria Beckham, Manolo Blahnik, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey and Anya Hindmarch.
Cameron said London Fashion Week has never been better organised or as consistently “creatively exciting”. She said: “When I speak to buyers from other countries, they tell me that London is now an absolute ‘must-have’ city for fashion.”
In a short speech, Cameron praised Natalie Massenet, executive chairman of Net-a-Porter and newly appointed chairman of the BFC, for her focus, energy and vision. “Spend five minutes with her [Massenet] and you feel you could accomplish anything.”
Massenet, alongside culture minister Ed Vaizey and BFC chief executive Caroline Rush, spoke of London’s strong fashion credentials during an opening reception on Friday morning at Somerset House.
Massenet, reading notes from an iPad, said she was proud to be chairman at a time when “British fashion has never been more globally recognised and successful”.
Speaking later at Downing Street she thanked overseas guests for attending, including Versace for her “exemplary support of young British designers”. Versace has worked closely with Christopher Kane since he graduated from Central St Martins and in April will launch a collection with London College of Fashion graduate JW Anderson, for Versace’s diffusion line Versus, in New York. Having built up a UK based business with international clout and internet expertise herself, Massenet has much to offer in terms of supporting fashion businesses in London.
Massenet spoke of fashion’s digital revolution, the sight of British designers on the red carpet for the Baftas, and the recent deal between luxury conglomerate PPR and Kane, a star of fashion week.
“There isn’t a store or fashion publication that isn’t looking to London fashion to update their business,” she said.
Vaizey said the government were also keen to work with the BFC on developing UK manufacturing with more “Made in Britain” products.
Reflecting on her trip to New York fashion week, which finished on Thursday night, Massenet said that despite its strong and well executed collections, she had been struck by “a palpable and growing excitement for what would lie ahead in London”.
This season it is reported that a record numbers of buyers, including key representatives from influential American stores, will attend London fashion week.
Tom Ford, staging a full-scale catwalk show in the capital on Monday, has helped attract interest while other splashy shows include London debuts from L’Wren Scott and Rihanna, who will present her first 120-piece collection for River Island on Saturday evening .
There will be 56 catwalk shows by designers including Kane, Anderson, Jonathan Saunders and Simone Rocha, all of whom underpin London’s reputation of delivering the stars of tomorrow. Many of the shows will be broadcast on London fashion week’s new YouTube channel.
Relative newcomer Zo Jordan, the first designer on the catwalk on Friday morning, said it was a huge honour to open fashion week. “We are different to a lot of designers that London fashion week have gotten behind before because we are a more of a luxury contemporary brand than a directional fashion one,” she said.
Jordan’s collection is already selling well at Harrods says Helen David, head of womenswear for the department store.
Using architectural references, from a modernist door handle print on a top, to a pixallated Hong Kong skyline motif on trousers, to sharp edges on the shoulders of dresses, Jordan explained she had sharpened things up a little for autumn/winter.
Matching black and white check trousers-top sets, pops of orange and a vague ’60s feel to dresses look set to have commercial appeal whether selling online or swinging from a rack.
In line with London’s make-over from the fashion capital that once showed three-legged trousers in dingy car parks, the London College of Fashion’s MA course made its fashion week debut at the Royal Opera House and across the globe via livestream with collections by 10 designers. These were made up largely of wearable clothes and current trends.
Highlights included a tight collection of dresses and separates by Yi Xie, whose use of a curvy pleat effect let colours pop whilst giving the surface of the clothes a 3D effect.
Head of the college, Professor Frances Corner, explained that showing during fashion week emphasised its commitment to promoting students. “We have graduates working in all parts of the world. We want to help to launch them into the London fashion scene whilst ensuring they are also seen as part of London, the global fashion player.”
Severe-looking leather corsets, exaggerated shoulders, shades of muddy greens and gunmetal: Aksu’s latest womenswear collection may feature lots of tough design elements, but his signature romantic style still shone through on the catwalk Friday.
The London-based designer opened his show with a series of ivory crocheted dresses worn with high, buttoned-up shirt collars, and followed with all-leather ensembles of capes, bomber and cropped jackets and pencil skirts.
Later, models wore sweet baby-doll dresses in clouds of light pleated chiffon, but the best pieces layered the contrasting textures in one outfit: a suede corset worn over an ethereal navy blouse, or a gunmetal leather dress under a billowing, sheer purple cape.
All the models wore delicate, metallic headpieces that framed the face, an accessory that managed to look modern and nodded at flapper style at the same time.
CENTRAL ST MARTINS GRADUATE SHOW
Jersey dresses with strange bulging shapes, head-to-toe blue outfits with stiff pleated wool, and baggy skirts and tulle capes for men are just some of the more outlandish creations showcased at Central St. Martins’ fashion graduate show on Friday.
But viewers don’t go to this showcase looking for wearable pieces - they go looking for tomorrow’s star designer. The event was most famously the place where the late Alexander McQueen became recognized as a major talent, back in 1992 when he presented his graduate collection.
Standout pieces during Friday’s show included black dresses adorned with rope knots and super shiny PVC ensembles by Eilish Macintosh, who won the L’Oreal Professionnel Creative Award of the year.