History plays a big role in British fashion, as it does in life. The most powerful designers tend to dig into the past, but, at its best, this gives depth and decoration to work that looks relevant to today.
Mary Katrantzou: Interior lives
Ostentation and minimalism: Those two different lines of research were on Mary Katrantzou’s mood boards backstage. One was about Victoriana, which meant corsets, body armor and intensely delicate handwork. The other was Bauhaus, with streamlined clothes printed with that name, while sculpted skirts included garments in the tea-shop shapes that Mary had explored much earlier in her career.
“The prime message of my show is the juxtaposition of two threads of thought that have been prevalent in my work in the past,” the designer said. “It’s something that I want to celebrate and continue discovering. It’s about the synergies between the form and looking at the decorative art and how these come together.”
Mary had to endure anti-fur activism on the runway, although there was no fur in the collection. But with that interruption over, she was able to show this intriguing idea of looking at the world of interiors, rather than fashion closets.
Even if some of the decorated pieces were overwhelming and the Modernist pieces like Space Age dressing, her work for Fall 2018 showed how far she has come from the early days.
She explained the development of technique, saying “it’s bringing silhouettes and techniques into womenswear. I looked at draping, which meant taking part of the trompe l’oeil work that I’ve done in the past, but draping it. So the lampshade skirt I’ve done before is now about looking at how a Victorian lampshade would look in the Bauhaus frame of mind. And looking at the conceptual ideology behind them both.”
It all sounded so complex, but the clothes were much easier to understand than the description. Although Mary excels in print and pattern, that might mean just a trouser suit with a curvy jacket and a tidy pattern of squares. What stood out was the ease with which the designer is making the complex approachable – which meant a wise step forward towards reality and ease.
Peter Pilotto: The Scent of the Seventies
The Persia of the past and secessionist Vienna were the twin inspirations behind the collection of designers Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos. And you could feel the richness – the designers called it “a hothouse of winter hedonism” – from the set decoration of tablecloths in shades of ruby red to burnt orange, and the colorful, hand-fired plates designed by the duo.
The clothes lived up to the setting of Tramp, a club big in the Seventies, which seemed to be an inspiration for the design duo. Their mohair jacquard and satin dresses, glowing with red lighting, had a hint of decadence. But kaftans and kimonos did not have that languid Middle and Far Eastern style.
Instead, the work seemed classy, uptown and with some intriguing workmanship, such as tasseled belts – a Seventies favorite.
So it all had a hint of the psychedelic era and some appealing floor-sweeping dresses and lush trouser suits that may have been inspired by historic Persia. But ideas taken out of context do not have the urgent energy that this ‘nice enough’ collection was lacking.