The Best Of London Fashion Week

Immediately following the New York shows, the fashion flock decamps for London, followed by Milan and Paris, for a week of shows in each city. This month I’ll be bringing you a roundup of the best of the spring 2012 shows from each locale, starting with London.

One of the first – and certainly most established – designers to show in London last month was Paul Smith, who riffed on the classic button-down and trousers combo with sporty and dressy versions of the boy-meets-girl staples, ranging from a sleeveless polo with plaid cropped pants to a crisp white shirt paired with medallian print pajama bottoms that were reimagined to be totally appropriate for the office. Sweet!

At Burburry Prorsum, Christopher Bailey presented a colorful, artsy-craftsy take on Burberry’s signature trenches, which boasted crocheted, beaded, and woven leather lattice details (as did the bags and shoes) in optimistic shades of purple, cobalt, and pea green. He married this old-world craftsmanship with a distinctly 21st century touch: the show was live-streamed from Kensington Park, where passersby got to watch celebs like Sienna Miller, Samantha Cameron, Rachel Zoe, Mario Testino, and Kanye West watch the show.

Christopher Kane furthered spring 2012’s trend of uplifting patterns and color with easy Sixties-inspired shift dresses, crop tops and boxy jackets defined by razor-sharp folds and splashed with granny-chic wallpaper-esque flowers (some embellished) in shiny shades of cobalt, pastel pink, yellow and mint green, all accessorized with luxe shower shoes.

Giles Deacon was inspired by swans this season, which manifested in lovely cygnet prints splashed across feather-trimmed dresses and form-fitting gowns (including one downy white number overlaid with blood-red feathers), along with silvery sheaths, suits and sexy laser-cut metallic leather pieces.

The multiple muses behind Louise Gray’s spring 2012 collection were Gala Dali, Claude Cahun, and other strong 20th century women, whom she channeled via short tweed suits, sequin-dusted chiffon frocks, and surrealist sweaters, all in the riotously colorful, multi-culti textiles that have become her sartorial signature.

Roksanda Ilincic’s Crayola-bright collection found the designer fashioning turquoise, neon pink, mustard, and painterly navy and white plaids into artfully twisted and knotted dresses and skirts that draped softly around the body as comfortably as a favorite sweatshirt.

Meanwhile, at Temperley London, Pippa Middleton sat front row as designer Alice Temperley unveiled a collection inspired by Grace Kelly in “High Society” and Michelle Pfeiffer in “Scarface” (think: floral column dresses, negligee-style gowns, sexy smoking tuxedos and ruffled tap pants). It was, in a word, swellegant.

Vivienne Westwod kept things relatively simple this season for her Red Label line with beautifully tailored, nipped-waist suits, flirty off-the-shoulder ruffle blouses, and cardigans elongated into dresses  – rendered in elegant shades of indigo, cornflower, and beige, and offset by abstract prints and pretty plaids. The theatrical hair and makeup added a bit of catwalk drama.

And in the Ones to Watch category, the third collection of recent Central Saint Martins grad Thomas Tait stood out, thanks to its elaborately pleated fabrics and sporty, almost architectural silhouettes, all of which felt very of the moment.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

October 11, 2011