The Outer Limits – A LFW review

by Katie on October 25, 2010

Fashion embraces outsiders.  However, in an industry that mockingly refers to shoes that aren’t high enough as “selling heels” and where eyelids remain unbatted at a navy taffeta cloak with a 12ft train worn to a funeral, there are still some designers stubbornly carving their own path through the fashion landscape.

Over last month’s London Fashion Week I attended the shows of three labels that, whether through their aesthetic vision, ethical standpoint, or sheer determination, refuse to relent to the sound of the crowd.

The organisers of the On/Off space at London Fashion Week can’t have realised how much interest that an email announcing former McQueen, Gareth Pugh, and Jonathan Saunders intern Ada Zanditon’s receipt of this year’s Ethical Fashion Forum Innovation award would generate.  The ensuing crush for her show, held in the annexe leading to the main catwalk space, was an obvious signal that the London College of Fashion graduate’s star is on the rise

Taking the Egyptian pyramids and the naturally-occurring fractal geometry found in the formation of coral reefs as her inspiration, the designer put a mathematical spin on this season’s escapist mood, using these influences to create a sophisticated selection of conceptual, yet commercial, pieces.

Juxtapositions of texture were in evidence again as Zanditon worked chiffon, iridescent silk douppion, vegetable tanned leather, and recycled trench fabrics into strong architectural silhouettes, even choosing to either embellish some of her ware with repeating pyramidal structures, or to tessellate these structures into complex, dramatic shoulder pieces.  A muted palette of gold and black was offset by flashes of burnt orange and turquoise.  Zanditon’s intricate Kaleidoscopic prints, using a fusion of water colour and high-resolution photographs of coral formations, enlivened the occasionally stark, minimalist aesthetic.

This was Serious Dressing™ which, despite the conceptual flourishes, would easily find its way into the wardrobes of the Imans and Shakira Caines of this world and I would expect to hear Zanditon’s name mentioned in the same breath as other Serious Dressers, such as Maria Grachvogel and Roksanda Ilincic, within a few seasons.

Sometimes words are not enough to convey a designer’s vision and, days later, the story behind the Spring/Summer 2011 catwalk show by Sergio Pires and Nicholas Humprey (aka Romeo Pires) still had me deep in thought.  I had read that their ‘Blueish, the fourth sex’ collection was inspired by the writing of Simone de Beauvoir, but there was obviously a larger concept at work here.

Set to a backdrop of pounding industrial techno, the models’ dishevelment hinted at a global disaster yet to come.  The clothes were, on the whole, over sized and, whilst both women’s and menswear was shown, the collection felt ambiguous without lapsing into textbook androgyny.  Waistbands were dropped to almost indecent levels, the audience and models’ blushes spared by their smock-like linen shirts and heavy braces.   Angular cutting, folds, and pleats, plus Geisha-like white painted faces indicated a Japanese influence.   Natural fabrics in a stark palette dominated the show, although later printed pieces in black, pewter, rose, and yellow depicting skulls, nails, and brushes added to the macabre post-apocalyptic air.

Overall, an astounding and thought-provoking collection.

Live music, free cider, jelly, and jewellery for meat.  Somebody, somewhere, had somehow thought that this was an adequate pay-off for attending the late night Adam Entwisle show – but I wasn’t having any of it.  A better party up the road (the Selfridges Westwood shoe exhibition) was happening without me and I was FURIOUS, especially after receiving La Chutzpah’s text informing me of the divine Roisin Murphy’s attendance.

Grabbing a copy of the press release as I found my seat, my interest was instantly piqued.  “Roger Vadim”.  “Barbarella”.  “Retro-Futurism”.   This was critical catnip.  Whilst fashion is on a constant conveyor belt of revivalism, Pierre Cardin and Courrèges produced iconic space-age collections in the 60’s – could this be the point where fashion eats itself?  Would the former Buddhist Punk designer pull off a contemporary collection from these influences without sliding into ironic kitsch?

The draped dresses and jumpsuits in block colours were certainly more sophisticated than Jane Fonda’s Paco Rabanne-designed sci-fi S & M wardrobe, and the models’ sleek bobs and conical up-do’s made a refreshing change to the mussed hair seen almost everywhere else.  Asymmetric details added edge, and a restrained use of colour meant that abstract lava lamp prints remained within taste boundaries.  Whilst the execution could have been sharper, the only real misfire in my opinion were the peaked and buttoned shoulders on some of the pieces, which strayed a little too far into the costume department for my liking.

Entwisle chose to explore new frontiers in a season where most designers only travelled as far as former British colonies, and this felt like a transitional collection for him.  I hope he continues on his journey – who knows where he could take us next?

Review complied and written by Lee Clatworthy for www.

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