Osman Ahmed reviews London Fashion Week A/W12 in words interspersed with Rebecca Hawkes’ visual diary of highlights from the runway and the people attending.

And so another one bites the dust. London Fashion Week ended triumphantly with flocks of international press, buyers, celebrities and show-goers touching ground to witness the runway shows, presentations and unbridled creativity that give London its fashion creditability. But this season was certainly more serious – especially given that the British Fashion Council just released a report forecasting sales to exceed £100million. London Fashion Week has finally come of age. Without losing their unique sense of fun and creativity, designers offered collections that were covetable and conceptualised with commercial appeal, placing London on the global fashion map.

Erdem married classicism with sex appeal by using patented tweeds and an eclectic colour palette inspired by Penny Guggenheim, the kooky art collector. Tweed with mixes of cobalt blue, chartreuse and shocking pink was cut into a Chanel-like suit with an accentuated waist and defined shoulders, as well as cocoon coats and shift dresses, resulting in a slim silhouette rich in colour and craft. His signature digital floral prints were infused with black lace and leather skirts and bodices, and his shoes matched his dresses with modern Perspex wedges, crafted by Nicholas Kirkwood. The struggle to introduce sex appeal yet maintain his brand’s ladylike DNA was clear, but Mr Moralioglu succeeded and in doing so became a highlight of the week.

Not unlike his peer, Christopher Kane also gave us a collection of girly dresses with a dark undercurrent, something that is becoming his forte. This season, the darkness was literal with the show opening with black and pinstriped fur coats, skirts and sweaters – a take on city slick, which was emphasised by the city skyscraper he chose to show in. Kane took elements from his previous collection, such as the origami construction and the floral motifs and found ways to make them fresh. So rose patterns returned in lacquer red plastic wires woven into lattice cardigans and clutch bags, giving them an industrial edge. Futuristically cut jackets and dresses came in blood red and indigo blue moiré and with cutaway panels and leather piping, adding an element of tough sexiness. Later looks consisted of angora wool and chiffon with beaded roses in head-to-toe lilac purple, matching the colour of the carpet that covered his catwalk and seating for guests. This collection was much tougher than last and the beaded chainmail dresses, purple leopard prints and city boy stripes suggested a predatory aggression.

Marios Schwab stuck with the same femme fatale character from last season, designing a collection of long sheer dresses over nude body stocking tops encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Giles Deacon also presented grand eveningwear in his “Jacobean fairy tale” inspired collection, which verged on couture in the level of craft and workmanship. The silk ballgowns were achingly romantic; featuring laser cut briar patterns, crystals sprinkled like snowflakes and appliquéd roses.

Elsewhere, glamour took the Trans-Siberian route to the runway for Issa and Osman, who presented a collection far removed from his usual minimalistic architecture.  The fusion of East and West has never been on Osman Yousefzada’s radar, despite his Afghan roots. His signature structural shapes were infused with rich chinoiserie. Capes were embroidered with metallic brocade and precisely cut blouses featured bright, oversized matryoshka floral patterns, also referenced by Daniella Helayel at Issa. Helayels’s offering was a mishmash of Eastern dressing, or at least what she thinks that means. Jersey dresses featured earthy paisley prints and models were styled with Slavic headscarves and slightly tacky velvet leggings. Other dresses were trimmed with fur and her take on Beijing glamour lead to create sheer black tulle flapper dresses with only a sprinkling of gold sequins for modesty. Her collection may have been inspired by the famous journey from Moscow to Beijing, but the references were inconsistent.

Asia also majored in Peter Pilotto’s show following designers Peter Pilotto’s and Christopher de Vos’ trip to Japan and China. Their prints were an elaboration on last season’s, but new elements such as beading and striped fur gave them an element of dimension, and swathes of dark navy velvet flattered the silhouette and put forward a sense of grown-up glamour. Patterns inspired by Chinese opera masks resulted in floral sensuousness and metallic beaded dresses that were red carpet-worthy. Starting with something familiar was a clever moved, and allowed them to keep within proximity of the collection that was so successful last season.

Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy’s showcase of London’s rising stars, almost failed to impress. Maarten van der Horst, the first in the line-up, was inspired by Mexico, but his execution failed him. The rose printed satin worked, but the weird leotards didn’t. There’s something there – van der Horst just needs to figure out what it is and make it clear and concise. Marques’Almeida presented a series of black and yellow denim, and as a result, their collection was one-dimensional with limited scope. In their show notes, they describe their aesthetic as ‘nonchalant aimlessness’, which pretty much summed up the collection. Nevertheless, James Long shone and his sexy intarsia dresses shimmered down the runway and woke up every editor that was beginning to doze off.  His consultancy work for Versace was evident in the strong, distinctive dresses with fringed hems that opened the show. Long, a knitwear maestro, also demonstrated his adaptability with quilted leather jackets, silver teddy bear fur coats and printed velvet pieces that were colourful and wearable. This collection shall have surely won him his own spot on the schedule next season.

Another rising star that shone was Michael van der Ham, the Dutch-born designers making waves with his collage effect designs. After it was announced that his clothes will be stocked worldwide by Net-a-Porter.com, the international press and buyers flocked to see his show. For Spring, he showed that he could do print and for Autumn, he showed he could do knitwear, which came in an intricate mix of cashmere, boucle, viscose stretch and mohair yarns in graphic shapes. Could it be that the collages of fabric that appeared in his earlier collections, which were virtually impossible to produce, are long gone? This collection will no doubt be a success, and van der Ham’s compromise to create beautiful clothes that women want to wear is earning him serious fashion cred.

Simone Rocha encased white Linton tweed mini dresses in tulle, and put clear plastic backs on 1960’s mini dresses with shaggy panels of loose wool threads at the front: an inventive play on texture mixing. Her interest in construction and form was clear and has established her as a key young designer on the London scene, despite her famous fashion family.

Texture also took prominence for Thomas Tait, a Central Saint Martins classmate of Rocha, who delivered a collection of brilliant coats with rounded shoulders and flashes of moss green velvet, marigold yellow leather, and perfectly cut trousers. Tait’s collection was a refreshing blend of clothes to wear and a display of his craft. Louise Gray, on the other hand, who presented a collection of techno acid fizzle, failed to grasp the attention of critics or buyers with her repetitive collection. Present were her favoured bright fluorescent colours that seem fun at first and a headache not long after. For a selection of only 23 looks, the collection was packed with unnecessary excess – Blackberry Messenger prints, C.S.I. tape stiletto boots and over-the-top Nasir Mazhar hairpieces. There were some notable Scottish cashmere pieces in gradients of bright colours, but as Gray’s show notes stated, this collection was about “everything, all the time”. In this case, too much of something – or everything – is definitely bad enough.

Before the Meadham Kirchhoff show, rumours were circulating at the Topshop show venue that the designers were furious because the models were unable to dance down the runway. In the end, the dancing didn’t matter – the runway was turned into an illuminated dance floor à la Saturday Night Fever and seats were dusted with glitter and strings of party decorations. The clothes were equally decorative with rainbow hued chiffon baby doll dresses, silver and gold tasselled trousers, sequin bustiers, striped fur boas and fur jackets with cartoon monster motifs made by piecing together dyed furs. Sounds scary, right? But this collection also surprised the audience with a range of accessible pieces, including silver brocade tailoring, denim with quirky cartoon appliqués and graphic sweaters. This may seem like the usual Meadham Kirchhoff party, but at closer inspection, everyone’s invited – even if you aren’t painted blue.

Corrie Nielsen was one of the first designers to show on Friday, and her collection was a reflection of her Scottish ancestry, which lines back to Robert Burns. Her collection of strictly cut Royal Stewart tartan with swathes of chiffon and layered pleats was cleverly constructed but evidently influenced by the work of Alexander McQueen. One of her final looks, a dark navy duchess satin cloak was almost an exact replica of an A/W08 red cloak that also closed McQueen’s show. Nielsen’s construction was precise, but her ideas were unoriginal. Holly Fulton was one of the last designers to present on Tuesday, however it seems that she didn’t get the memo about winter’s climate. In an industry when one can order next year’s collections straight from the catwalk, it is difficult to pinpoint where exactly the consumer’s interest lies. Fulton’s collection of printed silk mini dresses in a strict palette of fuchsia, black and turquoise was frighteningly unsuitable for harsh climates but abundant in her signature prints, which was inspired by the D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. For Fulton fans, the collection was certainly a feast of her delicious prints, but otherwise not much else.

There is a fine line between costume and fashion and Mary Katrantzou was careful to keep that boundary when she produced her latest fashion thriller. Saturation took a key theme with the collection being divided into seven distinct sections, each featuring prints composed with from objects associated with a single colour in shades of white, blue, green, ivory, yellow, red and black. Models were in a statement hue from head-to-toe and their silhouettes were varied from Elizabethan corsetry to Victorian bustles to floating chiffon smocks with flamenco hems. This experimentation came as a result of Katrantzou wanting to explore new silhouettes to emphasise embellishment and embroidery, which came courtesy of collaboration with Ecole Lesage, the esteemed French Haute Couture embroidery house; a first for a London designer. The collection drew an emotional response from the audience and the decorative sculptures will sure to be interpreted into versions with commercial appal. However, given the international group of shoppers who like their Katrantzou undiluted, I wouldn’t be surprised if these ornate items will be selling like hotcakes, as well.

At the equally theatrical McQ, the newly revamped diffusion line of Alexander McQueen, the runway was paved with autumnal leaves (from where exactly, at this time of year, is still a mystery) and was set against a backdrop of enchanted woods. The clothes were equally magical, with burgundy devoré velvet in a leaf-pattern on evening coats and extravagantly huge, petticoated skirts and flower-embroidered tutu skirts. The collection majored on a classic McQueen silhouette with nipped-waists, full-skirted outline transposed onto military coats and jackets, and dresses in khaki cloth or embossed leather. Kristen McMenamy closed the show in a feminine white dress with a tight waist and a full skirt in a snowy shade to match her own skin and silver hair. As she followed a rope lying beneath the copper leaves, she entered the woods to walk into a creepy-looking hut. As one non-fashion show-goer commented, ‘It felt more like theatre than fashion.’
Dramatic, yes, but this was definitely fashion, and more importantly, it was London.

Words by Osman Ahmed
Images & layout by Rebecca Hawkes


Christopher de Vos, Christopher Kane, Corrie Nielsen, Ecole Lesage, erdem, fashion east, Giles Deacon, Holly Fulton, Issa, James Long, Kristen McMenamy, Louise Gray, Maarten van der Horst, marios schwab, Mary Katrantzou, McQ, Meadham Kirchoff, michael van der ham, nicholas kirkwood, OSMAN, OSMAN AHMED, Peter Pilotto, Rebecca Hawkes, Simone Rocha, Thomas Tait,