SATURDAY, Sept. 15

BORA AKSU

Bora Aksu was one of the first designers to help kick start London Fashion Week, Spring/Summer 08. Serving up a trademark collection that is all about layering and an interesting mix of fabrics, he sent out pieces that married the sheerness of chiffon with the dense quality of cotton and leather, resulting in an organic look that was disheveled and feminine. Highlights included pieces where a sheet of transparent fabric allowed beading and sequins to shine through from underneath.

ISSA

Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel returned to the London catwalk scene after having shown in New York last season. Starting the show with a trio of models wearing stripy cape-style dresses in jersey, it immediately became clear that Issa had entered a new, more casual territory. Sporty touches were out in force, but mainly in terms of the props– the models took to the catwalk carrying tennis rackets, roller skates and even surfboards. Crisp shorts, neat little jackets and laid back separates in the season’s signature print, a polka dot pattern, added to the relaxed daywear based offer. Naturally the Issa trademark dresses also featured within; short pearl or crystal embellished numbers sat alongside romantic chiffon maxi dresses in colors including sugar sweet pastels, turquoise, yellow and red. As the presentation wound up, a huge sheet of printed silk fabric descended from the ceiling. Next, a pint-sized acrobat came bounding out and climbed up the fabric piece to perform some pretty impressive exercises.

UNCONDITIONAL

Unconditional’s strength lies in the designer Philip Stephens's talent for fusing casual looks with tailored elements in a convincing way to create a distinct and achingly hip silhouette. The SS08 collection was no exception, rolling out the expected fare of androgynous, streety looks for both sexes including slouchy, tailored trousers and drawstring jackets for men, and relaxed, beautifully detailed dresses and trouser suits for women. Black, white and moss green were the colors that dominated, but a particularly attractive bubble gum pink made an appearance as well, lending a light-hearted touch to the collection.

SUNDAY, Sept. 16

ARMAND BASI

The German designer Markus Lupfer– a former London Fashion Week favorite– made a welcome reappearance on the show schedule as the new designer of the Spanish label Armand Basi. Lupfer’s touch was apparent in loose, billowing shapes with sporty undertones. Sheer, belted dresses; voluminous, tapered trousers teamed with tucked in jersey tops; and smattering of showstoppers such as short, fringed sea urchin-like skirts and dresses summarize the collection. The color range included icy lilac, grey and black with the occasional shot of vivid orange.

ELEY KISHIMOTO

Drawing on the “artificial wonderland” that is the village fete, Eley Kishimoto presented an eclectic collection that felt fittingly fragmented as it reflected the inherently chaotic carnival spirit. One of the best prints depicted multi hued landscapes complete with a line-up of trees. Charming, naïve day dresses and cute blouses were strong points, many of which featured bows and piping in contrasting colors. Also on show was the new jewelry line that the duo produced together with their new Japanese licensing partners.

DANIELLE SCUTT

A distinct sense of drama and a particular knack for reinventing the use of denim are behind Danielle Scutt’s growing appeal. A large chunk of the SS08 offering consisted of racy, stud embellished swimwear pieces and printed, spray-on tight dresses, but items such as an ultra short denim skirt with a sharply pleated hem and high-waisted jeans were also part of the deal, as well as voluminous skirts with a shiny vinyl finish.

TODD LYNN

Tailoring – infused with a healthy measure of rock chic glamour – was the order of the day as Todd Lynn unveiled his SS08 ware. It came as no surprise that the androgynous looks that hit the catwalk were inspired by heavy metal bands such as Guns N’ Roses: think black trousers fitted like a second skin, sharp biker jackets and tail coats. Some fresher entries stood out, like skillfully cut, white three-piece women’s trouser suits, that also came in a black variant with a shorter jacket.

PETER JENSEN

Peter Jensen always manages to whip the fashion patrol into a minor frenzy with his quirky shows that are based on a different muse every season. For his spring offering, several muses acted as inspiration, namely the heroines of cult film maker John Waters films: among them Mink Stole and Taffy. With these oddballs in mind, Jensen sent out everything from drop crotch denim, cropped jackets tightly embellished with clusters of pearls. If most of the outfits were commercially viable indeed, albeit being quietly quirky, rest assured that there were some pieces that infused the offer with the requisite Jensen madness: a white, frilly infant’s outfit complete with a close fitting hood tightly tied under the model’s chin, to give one example.

GARETH PUGH

Gareth Pugh’s presentation opened with a bang– literally, as a large balloon exploded to mark the beginning of the show. Then followed 15 looks laden with Pugh’s typical freak associations. Many of the garments were constructed using leather straps in different widths, but the collection also encompassed garments encrusted with Swarovski crystals and a men’s gilet made of shaggy faux monkey fur. A gimmicky cape made entirely of little white, fake rodents with gleaming red eyes made for a fun entry. In terms of shape, the body con aesthetic prevailed, but it occasionally gave way to a body-defying silhouette, as in the case of a pleated A-line skirt so rigid that it only made contact with the model’s body at the waistline.

MONDAY, Sept. 17

LUELLA

Cartoonish charm was the look Luella went for to mark her return to London Fashion Week that coincided with the launch of her new store on Brook Street. Although not interpreted too literally, the colors– ranging from candy hues to dip dyed jewel shades– were distinctly comic book-esque, which could be said of the Batman tees and the over-sized glasses resting on the models’ noses. The rest of the collection mainly consisted of separates including short, voluminous skirts constructed using multi-layers of fabric, high-waisted shorts and feminine, floral blouses. To mention but a few highlights, the dresses were strong, particularly the short ruffle frocks.

CHRISTOPHER KANE

Christopher Kane, the wunderkind who created headlines before LFW kicked off when most of his SS08 collection was snatched from his Hackney studio– took a sharp turn aesthetically, steering clear of the body-con look that has made him the toast of London’s fashion scene. In keeping with the frothy, lightweight mood of the season, Kane served up a collection consisting of skirts and dresses with tiered chiffon ruffles; these pieces were juxtaposed with a sportier expression materializing in tops and jackets in gray jersey, Western inspired shirts and ripped stonewashed jeans. Add to that the python print that graced dresses, cigarette pants and shirts. Our bet is that the python print will reach new heights on the highstreet come spring.

BASSO & BROOKE

Inspired by Aldous Huxley’s masterpiece, A Brave New World, and the work of designer and architect Ettore Sottsass, Basso &Brooke’s SS08 offering was a feminine affair with subversive, political undertones. The prints– the design element that is the label’s forte– were divided into two main brackets. One was based on the pills and rigid caste system of Brave New World. These influences were reworked in an abstract and geometric way to convey law and order. Print theme number two drew from the book’s free spirited oppositional force and the soft brush strokes associated with the British artist, Fiona Rae. Draped softness and blouson shapes, contrasted by a sporty edge, set the tone in terms of styling and cut.

MARIOS SCHWAB

Human anatomy is a fairly popular theme with fashion designers but the results often end up too gimmicky. Marios Schwab however, pulled it off with panache as he unveiled his fourth collection for SS08. “Taking a literal journey within the body”, Schwab (pictured above)recreated his anatomical discoveries by interweaving them in both obvious and more subtle ways into his pieces. Swirly prints generated by body heat mimicked internal organs; fabric rolled back to reveal an organic pattern underneath; material teased in ways to look like muscular structure; and strings of pearls referencing the symmetrical beauty that Schwab suggests is hidden under our skin. Sounds gory? It wasn’t. The plethora of different cuts spanned fitted, long sleeved jersey dresses with simple round necklines, easy shift dresses cut above the knee, cap sleeved tops and sheer skirts, as well as a series of structured jackets with zip details. The collection displayed Schwab’s technical flair as much as it revealed his well-balanced vision. As the slight designer took his bow after the show, we spotted more than one frontrow personality so moved by the exquisite designs that they lost their composure burst into tears. Who can blame them?

JONATHAN SAUNDERS

Razor sharp cuts and simplicity of form signified Jonathan Saunder’s SS08 collection. The sharp affair consisted of cigarette pants, lean pencil skirts, shell tops and jackets with defined shoulder lines. Prints were kept to a minimum and virtually consisted of color blocks, which exuded a controlled and geometric air sure to take American women by storm. The transition from quirky print designer to master of the clean cut explains why Saunders has decided to take the transatlantic leap next season to show at New York Fashion Week.

TUESDAY, Sept. 18

PAUL SMITH

Citing the Bloomsbury set and the sartorial flair of David Hockney as his influences, it was easy to see how Sir Paul arrived at his SS08 story that encompassed a crafty mishmash of garments including rugby shirts, long cable knits, tuxedo style waistcoats, hooded satin jackets and jersey pieces with a busy floral print. The models who strode down the catwalk kitted out in their glasses and boho-intellectual attire exuded an air of saucy, oxford professor chic. Add to that strings of chaotically arranged pearls and unkempt, long hair and voila: you’ve captured the essence of the thinking man’s dream.

ERDEM

Effortless yet indulgently feminine would be a fair description to use for Erdem’s SS08 offering. A parade of dresses in all possible guises dominated the range. There were flowing, floor-length options in Erdem’s signature botanical prints; trapeze style numbers in chiffon or silk; multi-layered, pleated pieces; and fitted, cap sleeved options with sharply nipped-in waits lines. The body hugging, structured cuts added balance to the collection as a whole, but it was the pieces with movement in the fabric that worked the best. Shape and print was not the only components considered by Erdem. Drawing on the art of couture, a timely inspiration as the show coincided with the opening of V&A’s anticipated exhibition: Golden Age of Couture– the designer added intricate detailing such as beading, bow trims, embroideries and crystal embellishment to many pieces.

SINHA-STANIC

Opening the show with a slew of separates that were reminiscent of water both in terms of the wave like cuts and the azure blue color, Sinha-Stanic moved towards a more body defying silhouette, bar a few skinny trousers and body-con dresses. The simplicity of some pieces, such as the short-sleeved jacket with a seamless, cut away collars, suggested Montana-esque influences, although the design duo stated African tribal costumes and shamanism as their inspiration. Decoration was sharply edited and consisted of oversized, rectangular sequins that surrounded the neckline of some dresses and encrusted the surface of a mini skirt. The color scheme was delicately considered too, complementing the azure blue story that launched the show, were soft shades of oyster, mellow orange and crisp white; black, often used for leather pieces, gave the range a tougher edge.

JENS LAUGESEN

Jens Laugesen infused his sharp tailoring with a glam rocker style derived from David Bowie and Iggy Pop. These references were easy to spot and took shape in a consistently narrow silhouette executed with the precision of a surgeon’s knife. Key pieces included tuxedo-style tailored jackets teamed with sausage-skin-tight lycra pants; a more feminine look - though far from whimsical - factored in too, and materialized in short dresses featuring zips and bustier details; puff sleeved, double breasted gold lame jackets; and structured, circular frocks cut well above the knee. The palette was monochrome with the added sparkle of metallics and Swarowski crystal shine.

CLAIRE TOUGH

Clare Tough’s spring offering was a sporty affair centered on the New York artist, Jean Michel Basquiat. Capturing both the essence of Basquiat’s art, personal style and the city in which he lived, Tough based her interpretation on streety ‘80’s silhouettes materializing in softly cut blouson jackets, dungaree shorts, relaxed parkas, and short shift dresses. The look was brought forward with the help of screen printed graffiti motives; a subdued palette referencing the grayscales of the city; multi-colored knit embroidery mimicking Basquiat’s lively brush strokes; and prints featuring The Statue of Liberty. Towards the end of the presentation a series of pieces adorned with 3D streetscapes of New York emerged. These components only distracted from a visual expression that was confident and unique in its own right, without gimmicky showpieces.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 19

MATTHEW WILLIAMSON

No one thought anything could divert the attention from Matthew Williamson’s collection that he decided to show in London to celebrate10 years in the industry. They were wrong. All eyes were fixed on the minute man in a hat jumping on stage with his entourage to play a few riffs. The catwalk performer’s name? Prince. As the fashion pack collected their calm, which proved a difficult challenge indeed, they witnessed Williamson’s take on a global nomadic theme, a somewhat recurrent influence of his, which spanned tribal influences and Native American references. Waistcoats in suede with beadwork detailing; light-as–air chiffon dresses with ethnic prints; metallic skirts and shorts teamed with simple tees or beaded tunic tops; safari inspired shirts and jackets: just what you’d expect to find if embarking on a round the world expedition.

RICHARD NICOLL

The “king of shirt” Richard Nicoll opened his show with a shirt that was sheer and structured, standing away from the body like a halo. Apart from being an eminent shirt maker, Nicoll proved that he can design tailored jackets and dresses too. These asymmetrically cut separates were often reminiscent of Comme des Garçons 1980’s silhouettes though built-up shoulder lines on the outfits were softened by the relaxed, flowing lines of the trousers on show.

GILES

Romance and madness were in the air as Giles sent out his SS08 collection. First out was a cluster of gray looks, including a neat dress in midi length, featuring inside-out seams. This story gave way to an altogether more indulgent expression where babydoll dresses adorned with ribbons and bows mingled with bell-shaped, structured pieces and cocktail dresses decorated with layers of fabric leaves. Offsetting the sugar sweetness was the injection of less conventional materials such as punky, black latex and a shaggy textured material akin to the materials favored by Prada last season. Features like subdued print depicting the face of Kate Moss; a sinister Bambi print; and a cap complete with cat ears, added a touch of quirky girliness that suited the Giles spirit well.

AQUASCUTUM

In line with the feminine air that had taken of the designers showing at London Fashion Week, Aquascutum abandoned its military inspired look in favor of color blocked shift dresses and simple skirts; cleverly detailed trench coats. If the shapes occasionally felt a bit inhibited, details such as a pretty rose print and a swirly seascape patterns added some punch.

NATHAN JENDEN

Inspired by Aztec priestesses and mad Mexican empresses, Nathan Jenden offered a slice of frothy perfection with skirts constructed using multi-layers of chiffon, cotton and gauze; pieces featuring richly embroidered organdies; and a dress hand painted with gold leaves. The color scheme was mainly pale with heady flashes of raspberry and orange adding drama. Jenden’s uninhibited vision of exotic females boasting eccentric wardrobes is something we’d like to see more of.

THURSDAY, Sept. 20

ANTONI&ALISON

To celebrate 20 years in the fashion biz, Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts, the brains behind Antoni &Alison, decided to invite the fashion crowd to Curzon Cinema and introduce us to a very special friend: Nicole Kidman. The actress wasn’t there to greet us in person, but what was to be unveiled on-screen scored more than enough gold stars. Filmed with a handheld camera a la dogma style, Kidman acted out different “portraits” each time she emerged wearing a new outfit. In keeping with celebratory mood, the entire collection was party based: there were jersey dresses with cake icing frills; a pair of gold taffeta shorts with a matching party hat; and a cotton poplin skirt with a birthday cake print. The film ended with Antoni asking Kidman, “So why did you decide to do this piece of work?” Kidman smiled and pointed to the slogan on her tee, designed of course by the birthday creatives’. The text read; Antoni & Alison are brilliant geniuses!

MODERNIST

The play of contrast was the force behind Modernist’s SS08 collection. Although many pieces revealed good cuts, there was a basic problem apparent: too many details. With built up shoulder lines, criss-crossed straps, racer back cuts, harnesses, knots and pleats featuring in almost every outfit, too many shapes were fighting for attention. A more relaxed attitude to detailing and experiment would have worked a better. The color palette was edited more carefully, consisting of shades of gray, lemon yellow, black and white.

BIBA

The pre-show hysteria prior to Biba’s first show two season’s ago had been replaced by a melancholic calm as the fashion pack took their seats to find out if the new, in-house creative team would do a better job at re-inventing the iconic label than their predecessor Bella Freud who departed in June 2007. Taking inspiration from a journey starting in England and ending up somewhere in the Far East via North Africa, the collection consisted of easy day dresses, cropped trenches, high-waist trousers, frilly chiffon blouses and tiered maxi dresses that literally drew on Biba’s archive. The offer somewhat failed to inspire. To revive a label such as Biba is no mean feat as its original raison d’etre was socio political and not merely style driven. It would take more than a dig around in Biba’s archives to successfully revamp a heritage as powerful as that.

FASHION FRINGE

Critically scrutinized by a panel including fashion heavyweights Tom Ford, Christopher Bailey and Natalie Massenet, design duo Maki Aminaka Lofvander and Marcus Wilmont bagged this year’s Fashion Fringe prize with their label, Aminaka Wilmont. What caught the judges’ eye was the label’s modern approach which fused innovative tailoring techniques and sports influences, a mark they applied to mini dresses, parkas, cropped trousers and blouses with over-sized sleeves.

Here, a summary of the collections of the other three finalists:

Andrea McWha’s core ingredients were body-con dresses adorned with zips, patent leather jackets, and a crop of skirts and dresses in chiffon that lent the presentation a softer touch.

Fluid in shape and conjuring up images of life on another planet, Dejan Agatonovic’s dress-based collection featured prominent rope-detailing, decorative draping techniques and defined shoulder lines.

Graeme Armour served up a collection largely consisting of barely there separates. Made of panels of sheer organza, tops and skirts revealed undergarments in eye-popping colors.


- By Emma Holmqvist, London Correspondent