Abandoning his trademark bustier mini dresses, Marios Schwab’s fall silhouette focused on the contours of the female body in its entirety. Dresses cut from top to toe so narrowly they proved near impossible to walk in, the initial slew of pieces were strategically dissected to reveal plain denim (as pictured above), puff-pastry-like-growths in colorful chiffon or subversive prints created by the artist Tom Gallant. Watching the models proceed down the catwalk with little doll-steps made for quite an eerie experience and demonstrated the extremity of Schwab’s new direction. A couple of slim line, ankle-skimming coats completed the columnal idiom and the contrasting proportions of cropped ostrich feather chubbies and sleeveless pea coats reinforced the silhouette further, nailing a look that is likely to set the tone for what’s to come next.


Proving that he’s a talent worthy of all the praise, Christopher Kane yet again sent out a collection displaying unique vision combined with commercial viability. Basing his offer around the contrast of light-as-air-chiffon, chunky knits and jumbo sized sequins, the presentation began modestly with knitted ponchos and cable knit jumper dresses before giving way to showstoppers constructed using a combination of cobweb-like structures, chiffon, and strategically inserted sequin-embellished sections. Just like his fellow London “It” designer, Marios Schwab, Kane has started to think longer, as evident in the latter part of the collection when hemlines started to creep downwards.


The season’s most recurrent theme, couture of the ’50s, seemed aptly applied to the label Aquascutum since the house was founded in 1951. Drawing on the label’s heritage and the dynamics between perfection and imperfection, Graeme Fidler and Michael Herz presented a coat-based collection that included as many as 22 different pieces of outerwear. Working with a wide spectrum of cuts, the diverse plethora of coats took shape in modernized versions of the classic trench or military jacket; as well as a series of couture-inspired styles featuring anything from double collars and swingy godet skirting, to oversized shawl collars and semi capes. The second installment of the show consisted of dresses. Here too, variety was key. There were fitted, drop shoulder versions created using contrasting panels of color and material; jacquard sack shifts; and short, one-shoulder styles with ruched details.


Urban landscapes and familiar landmarks served as the starting point for Basso & Brooke’s mildly outlandish a/w 08-09 collection. “Gaudi’s organic structures inform the darting and cutting of sleeves and waists; the whipped peaks of Moscow’s Basilica are evident in the shoulders of dresses and shirts,” read the show notes. Urban landscapes were also referenced in digitally manipulated prints, albeit in a more abstract way, forming swirly or kaleidoscopic patterns.


Introducing the fashion pack to a new, more feminine chapter of his career, the rock stars’ favorite designer, Todd Lynn, drew inspiration from Victoriana taxidermy and ”the pallor of gothic glam” when creating his a/w 08-09 collection. Key looks for women included sharp belted coats, ultra high-waisted trousers and fitted, cut-to-kill dresses. The taxidermy part of the theme was put into place with the use of different animal skins– pony, sheep and goat to mention a few. Add to that further examples of inspiring textures such as crushed patent leather, cashmere, raffia and glazed taffeta and you’ve got the base of Lynn’s offering, namely the play on textural opposition.


Intricately constructed, according to a Tudor-like vein combined with a certain samurai inspired expression, Nathan Jenden’s showing highlighted an indulgent attention to detail. Box-pleated capelets worn over ruch-fronted jackets sat next to ankle skimming mermaid cut skirts and origami style blouses with ruff collars and frill cuffs. Having started off as a monochrome affair, the latter part of the offer was dominated by gold and silver with the occasional injection of metallic blue.


The Balenciaga-like couture vibes that marked many of the London shows was evident even at Armand Basi, surprisingly enough, since the Spanish house has never been associated with ladylike elegance. Inflated shapes and a riotous, jewel-like palette signified the collection. Dresses stood away from the body and featured dramatic gatherings at the waits; coats came in cocoon or A-line shapes with softly sculpted shoulders and defined waistlines. Pretty and wearable, it was, but what Basi’s sportswear inclined clientele will make of the collection is yet to be seen.


Tux jackets constructed using double shoulder pads combined with sexy corsetry made for a typically Laugesen-esque affair. In keeping with last season’s silhouette, pants were skinny and high waisted, exuding glam rock vibes aplenty. Adding a feminine touch, royal blue brocade lent the collection a sense of decorative splendor and simultaneously homed on to the season’s revered couture vibe.


In keeping with his spring ’08 idiom, Richard Nicoll’s fall offer centered around a play on texture and a geometric approach to cutting. The contrast of light chiffon and organza with dense fiber fabrics such as satin was used for separates with neat, square shoulder lines and structured tailoring with a mannish edge. Old-school decadence was served up too, and took shape in oversized satin bows that adorned blouses and jackets, both at the front and the back of the garments.


Giles turned his back entirely on the romantic mood that signified his spring offering. In its wake appeared a dark and sinsiter parade of gothic looks inspired by the Roger Corman film “Masque of the Red Death,” which celebrates gothic femme fatale glamour. Dresses and coats that had been randomly slashed, seemingly with a sharp knife, conjured up images of old-school slasher films; other horror related pieces were the dramatic, floor sweeping cloaks worn over transparent dresses that appeared toward the end of the presentation; whereas separates adorned with fish scale–like sequin added a sense of subtle surreality and structure.


Citing “Britt Ekland in ‘The Wicker Man’ and the witch museum in Boscastle, Cornwall,” as her collective source of inspiration, Luella was another London designer channeling the dark world of horror. The first deathly pale model to step on to the catwalk wore a towering witch’s hat and an A-line black coat with wide, bracelet-cut sleeves. Leaving aside the horror gimmick, this initial look served to indicate what was to follow– namely a perfectly wearable collection. Short, puff sleeved chiffon dresses and taffeta mini skirts, followed by a series of glam-gothic cocktail dresses made out the feminine part of the offer, while jodhpurs worn with shrunken jackets with fitted cuffs infused the affair with a tomboyish quality.


Rich and luscious, Erdem presented one of his most accomplished collections to date, where embroidery, lace and intricate beadwork co-existed with a natural-inspired, blurry print. These impactful elements were applied to shapes that didn’t stay faithful to any one silhouette; short and structured dresses– shoulder-less and fan pleated or sharply fitted with long balloon sleeves, to mention only two examples– sat next to ankle-length, tiered lace gowns and floor-sweeping, cocoon skirted duchesse satin dresses.


Vivienne Westwood’s first London catwalk appearance in over a decade made a welcome return. Showing her Red Label, the less exclusive line in her stable, the designer sent out a collection that didn’t leave out any of her trademark features out: tartan skirts, hourglass dresses cut on the bias; belted coats with round collars and asymmetrical fastenings; and pinstripe trousers suits were all part of the deal. Add to that an array of jumper dresses worn with thigh-high leather boots and you’ve got the essence of the collection in a nutshell.


For a/w 2008-09, Peter Jensen found his creative call in Mike Leigh's work, “Nuts in May,” a film telling the story of a set of wholesome but eccentric characters on a miserable camping trip in England. Being a rather schizophrenic affair, as befits the film’s storyline, the collection went from über simplistic to mildly bonkers – think ’70s-style waxed cotton jackets with metal press studs and straight leg trousers, presented alongside outfits that appeared to have been blindfoldedly pulled from an op-shop sale rail, as in, say, a tin foil and tulle skirt matched with a boxy drawstring jacket. As ever, Jensen can afford to loose his inhibitions during show time, as his clothes are always wearable, no matter how quirky the theme they stem from.


The British heritage brands are on a high, and Jeager London is no exception. Showing for the first time at LFW, the multifaceted showing incorporated precise tailoring and other couture-like elements as well as influences drawn from the swinging sixties and the world of sportswear. As messy a mix as it sounds, the collection stayed focused as fringed ponchos and shaggy jackets sat nicely next to elegantly cut flares and structured mini skirts. Since outerwear makes out the foundation of the brand, there was a great selection of coats and jackets on show including cape style versions, military styles and belted swaggers. Not leaving aside eveningwear, the latter part of the collection was dominated by a series of floaty numbers made of snakeskin printed chiffon, which echoed wunderkind Kane’s signature look of last season.


The familiar images of unhinged starlets being papped in various states of undress served as the inspirational source behind Ann-Sofie Back’s fall offering. The asymmetrical cut of skirts and dresses that played a pivotal role within the collection drew upon Kate Moss’ heroic dress-saving efforts at last season’s Golden age of Couture Gala; whereas a mini skirt made entirely out of G-strings referenced the revealing knickerless shots so sought after by the gossip press and its readers. The paparazzis’ favorite muses, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, were both paid homage to; Spear’s famous pixilated crotch-shot inspired the signature print of the collection, and Hilton’s multiple piercings materialized in embellishments on silk jersey tops and dresses.


Clean, crisp and architectural are adjectives one has come to associate with Osman Yousefzada’a aesthetic, and the designer’s AW 08 offering didn’t veer far from that description. Sending out a collection based upon structured layering and a vibrant, zingy color palette, proportions were primarily short as skirts and dresses hovered well above the knee. Colorful scarves strategically tied around the models’ hips, waists or shoulders softened up the rigid quality of the cuts, although they sometimes only served to distract.


Eley Kishimoto’s fall offering, Bonnie Bunny, drew on quintessential British country living with a cartoon-like twist and a certain surreal quality. Shapes were, according to usual Eley Kishimoto standards, simplistic but decidedly cute, serving as perfect canvases for lively prints, vivid color blocks and stripes as well as decorative elements such as covered buttons and a smattering of frills and froufrou. The standout prints of the season depicted large-scale harlequin shapes and abstract bunny rabbits.


To mark her second LFW presentation, Louise Goldin sent out a series of “Futuristic Eskimos", complete with a fur trimmed hooded parka appearing towards the end of the show. As for the rest of the looks, the silhouette was primarily structured with either square or rounded shoulder lines, lending the aesthetic a space age silhouette. As to be expected, knitwear played a pivotal role and came in multi colored graphic patterns, zigzag and stripes. Pierre Hardy was the man behind the vertiginous heels that complemented the collection- not a bad collaborator to get onboard for a designer having showed on schedule only once before.


After having taken a season off the LFW catwalk schedule to look after her baby boy, Sonny, Emma Cook made a welcome return. To mark her comeback, Cook sent out a collection that was celebratory quirky and at times decidedly glitzy. Oozing a combination of Dolly Parton glamour and showgirl brassiness, the range was dominated by tie dye effect, second-skin-tight tops and mini dresses elaborately constructed combining western fringe details, crystal sparkle, bespoke lace and shiny latex ruffles. To save the collection from entering a too feminine a territory, Cook injected military influences that took shape in sturdy wool coats and a reoccurring field-style hat: a juxtaposition resulting in commercially viable yet satisfyingly idiosyncratic look.


In a homage to 50’s couture– a stylistic vein many London designers latched on to this season– and the French postwar singer Juliette Gréco, Paul Smith’s trademark boyish silhouette, as pictured above, gave way for an altogether more feminine affair, marked by New Look-proportioned skirts, neat cardigans, swing coats and ladylike dresses. Although the key silhouette and the sketchy rose prints wouldn’t appear out of place in a Hitchcock heroine’s wardrobe, there was still space for a few mannish trousers and offbeat stripy jumpers.

– Emma Holmqvist | London Correspondent