Wednesday, February 25, 2009

London's 'cool girl' starts growing up

Runway looks from the collections of, from left, Aquascutum, Luella and Twenty8Twelve (Chris Moore/ Karl Prouse)

By Suzy Menkes

LONDON: Sienna Miller, shaking her honey-blond hair over a cardigan that just about covered the rear of her black hose, had no doubt about who would wear the clothes she and her sister Savannah designed.

"She's a cool London girl," said the 27-year-old actress, talking about the Twenty8Twelve line shown as part of the current London fashion week.

The perpetual focus on an ever-renewing young generation seems to be the mark of British fashion: always the hip chick, never the adult. But there are signs in this London autumn 2009 season that the role model is growing up.

As "vintage" models Yasmin le Bon and Susie Bick walked gracefully down Aquascutum's runway, the models, as well as the well-thought-out clothes, gave British fashion a reality check. It also offered the house check, used for the first time by the designer Michael Hertz, who showed a slim dress covered with the graphic pattern as well as tapered pants, worn with a fresh white blouse and classy, but not heavy, outerwear. A lightweight rain cover that slipped over a top coat was a practical and stylish look.

It has taken Kim Winser, the company's chief executive, a few seasons to turn around this heritage house. But now it seems to have reached the right blend of inventive and classic. Inserts of thick lace and a rag rug of a coat pieced together emphasized the tactile effects of imaginative fabrics, while big sleeves tapped into a current trend. And in a wise move by the designer, doing his first solo collection, houndstooth and plaid checks accompanied Aquascutum's own pattern, which came in just the right dose.

With girlish glee, Peaches Geldof grabbed the arm of her dad, Bob, as a bubble of a gilded skirt walked the runway at the Luella show. It seemed destined for her or the members of the Girls Alive band down in the front row - or for any of the hard-partying teen generation looking for a little (very little) something to wear.

Last season, Luella Bartley captured the flower garden spirit of Old England. But the show Monday went punk, from the soundtrack to metal hardware to hair that favored spikes, bunches and shocking pink. This 1980s revisit did not hide the designer's skills as a tailor with a lively, youthful touch. Her khaki or uniform gray jackets, decorated with hooks and eyes or with the garter-belt clips that seem to be all the rage, made for good strong looks for young London.

Danielle Scutt is a rock 'n' roll designer who had in the front row the peripatetic fashion observer Kanye West. If he had blinked he might have missed this tiny 14-piece collection, which Scutt called "focused." That focus was, inevitably this season, on a 1980s silhouette, with dramatic flame-red wings on the lapels of a sharp suit. Wildly colored patterns on dresses or on a bodysuit offered another look for this warrior woman, who strutted her stuff, flesh on view through cracks in a silver-sheen dress.

Julien Macdonald is on the young-and-showy register. And this season he turned to sexy 1980s clothes with bravura. There was a whisper of Balmain, where the designer Christophe Decarnin's ectoplasm has spread through the international season. But Macdonald has been doing upbeat sexiness since the start. He may have dosed this collection with sharp shoulders and what the model Stella Tennant called "1980s attitude," but he also included the spidery knits that jump-started his career.

The collection had all those details that are London trends: exposed zippers, big sleeves and brief skirts. There were also icicles of embroidery, great gobs of mirror and crystal that gave an even harder edge to the silhouette - but that seemed fun.

There was another, but romantic, take on the 1980s from Roksanda Ilincic, whose big shoulders were as soft and rounded as Mickey Mouse ears - and fierce only when crystals embellished the shoulders of a pantsuit or bold gilded metal circled the neck. An insertion of masculinity was a step forward in Ilincic's sweet-as-sugar world. There were still ultra-feminine dresses that were whorled into a giant flower, vast bows at chest and waist and lacy black bodysuits under liquid panne velvet. Yet the clothes look increasingly polished.

Jasper Conran has always been on the side of women, but there was a new thrust with the Carmecitas, who gave an erotic and exotic edge to Monday's collection. Conran's firm tailoring was there, slender black suits given a touch of Spanish grandeur. But dresses, lacy, full-skirted or in a semi-sheer fabric, the better to see the garter belts, won the day - and the night, where a network of grosgrain and velvet ribbons gave a sensual glamour.

Article continues at

No comments:

Post a Comment