#SuzyLFW: Love In The Time Of Brexit

What is ‘Britishness’, especially in fashion?

So many words have spilled out over the last year about the essence of being British – at a time when the united Europe ideal is crumbling and upheavals seem to rise like molehills across the planet.

I see London Fashion Week more for its quirky attitudes (typically British!) than for any major statements. Yet there has been something moving about the determination of designers to push forward when they face double jeopardy: the threat of separation from European suppliers who make so many of the clothes – and equally buy them.

But on the runways, the feeling is not of panic or despair. Quite the opposite. Designers are simply raising the game. And, if anything, using angst to push forward.

Simone Rocha

Echoes of praise rang out for Simone Rocha’s pursuit of prettiness for grown women, with the full-skirted outfits worn by Chloë Sevigny through Jade Parfitt and Lily Cole.

“I was thinking about security, privacy and intimacy – and that made me think of the human body with the idea that there was almost an invasion of privacy,” said Simone, who added that the intimacy element encompassed Michael Powell, director of 1948 film The Red Shoes, and her reaction to Louise Bourgeois, not just her fine arts but weavings from the artist’s own clothes.

On the runway, the effect was simple and lovely: that women of all ages could look equally noble and underlyingly seductive in outfits – mostly dresses – that followed the female form, curved in at the waist, after drawing or underlining the bust. This concept of subtle sexuality that never slipped into vulgarity was a tour de force. Female force.

Halpern

Erté, the pseudonym taken by Russian artist Romain de Tirtoff, was the inspiration for American designer Michael Halpern, who rose to fame with glitter dresses that became a worldwide trend.

His early view that politics – meaning President Trump – could be faced off only by fashion escapism, now seems close to British designers fighting off Brexit. But this show was much more about art than politics.

The designer moved away from pure glitter – although there were silver and gilt on many looks – from shimmering dresses to coats with rich, shiny swirls. It was the Art Deco patterns inspired by Erté, whose work the designer had found among his parent’s books, which illuminated Halpern’s work.

“I’d go through it and it was just so enthralling to see when Erté had things that morph into others – animals that become fish, that become trees – and every time you look at it you see a different colour,” explained the designer.

The result was sinuous figures, shown in the half-light of London’s Park Lane Hotel ballroom, still with a glitter and glimmer but in a highly sophisticated way and offering a similar sense of bravado in the face of hard times.

When Halpern launched his glitter, his work was seen as “a star is born”. But this deeply thought out show proved that he has more to offer than surface sparkle.

Molly Goddard

The puffy dresses for which Molly Goddard is famous seemed gracefully controlled this season – especially in the vast space of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office compared to previous events in a glorified kitchen.

The outfits appeared first on models walking primly down stone steps. But then, as they climbed up on the runway, full skirts grew into a swirl of light materials with a whoosh up of air below.

The wearers fought with the fabric as if the future depended on it. Then the light fantastic experience calmed down as slimmer knitwear (Molly’s fashion college subject) took our attention. This extension into well thought out daywear was a strong step forward and offered another smart workday dimension to the designer’s image as a party girl provider.

This was a fine show in every way: well planned, well cut, still fun – but it showed Molly growing up in a most delightful way.

Alice Archer

With her unadulterated passion for flower embroideries, it is always intriguing to see what new Alice Archer has to show.

There were just 14 dresses, but the decorative additions were all offering different flowers or fruit. Apples, she explained, were influenced by the birth of her baby. But art is always close to the designer’s work.

“This season is inspired by Cranach and his paintings,” Alice said. “This season is different because there are apples again, and also pearl embroidery to be more sumptuous. The embroideries are taken from actual medieval woodcuts and interpreted into colour.”

There is something childishly sweet, but also womanly about Alice’s garden explorations into art and history, including the Manolo Blahnik’s flowered shoes on the models’ feet.

Jasper Conran

“Brexit is hell,” said Jasper Conran with such venom that he might have suggested a riot on the runway.

But then he added a few more words: “Turning a tracksuit into a dress”.

That idea of ‘sportifying’ his collection was a smart move. Because with very muted colours, in comparison with his more familiar bright shades, the clothes looked purposeful and wearable.

“It’s the idea of taking things that are sportswear and transposing them into dresses – the comfort and ease of sportswear with a little bit of sexiness along the way. Just a hint!” The designer said.

On the runway, Conran managed to turn the complex into apparent simplicity, with colours slithering across the soft fabrics.

If only softening the complexity of UK/Brussels negotiations could be as easy.