Rosemary Mac Cabe

Hemlines, heels and haute couture – your daily dose

Brown Thomas A/W 2012 – review and catwalk round-up

So yesterday you will have caught Deirdre McQuillan’s review of the Brown Thomas A/W press preview, held on Tuesday morning on the first floor of their Dublin store. Now you can catch up with my thoughts, along with a full …

Thu, Jul 12, 2012, 10:27


So yesterday you will have caught Deirdre McQuillan’s review of the Brown Thomas A/W press preview, held on Tuesday morning on the first floor of their Dublin store. Now you can catch up with my thoughts, along with a full set of catwalk shots from what is always a really impressive.

But before we get into it – you should know: the BT press preview is almost exactly what you would expect. There is a lot of pre-show schmoozing and air kissing, people really dress up (for me, that meant Marni heels and Cos grandad collar shirt) and there are snacks! Mini pastries, fresh fruit smoothies and hot caffeinated beverages. I chatted to stylist Annmarie O’Connor, Darren Kennedy and Xposé’s Kirsteen O’Sullivan and air kissed Courtney Smith (who has the most perfect hair you have ever seen in real life), while admiring (from afar) an all-white Lorna Weightman and that most stylish duo, Sonya Lennon and Brendan Courtney.

But the people-spotting was cut short by the strains of Shangri-Las’s Walking in the Sand - can we blame Lana del Rey for this sudden revived interest in the 1960s? – and the show got started. (The soundtrack was, incidentally, a standout part of the show, with an eclectic range of songs, from Sisters of Mercy to Wild Beasts, Paramore and Go-Kart Mozart.)

The show opened, fittingly, with items by the label Peter Pilotto, one of London’s greatest exports, along with Mary Katrantzou, over the past few seasons. The form-fitting silhouettes and digital prints are really going down a treat with high-end buyers, and they work so well for editorials that it makes sense they’ve been getting so much airtime! I love these prints and I think we’ll see a lot of high-street interpretations from brands such as Oasis, Warehouse and, of course, Zara.

Next up was Dries van Noten, a great label but one that is a little bit like fashion Marmite; I feel like there are people who buy Dries, season after season, and there are people who would never even glance twice at the Belgian label. Dries is a very cool brand, and one whose wearers are very cool, too; there’s very little that’s sexy or flirty about it, and the fun is in how you wear it, rather than being the overt “fun” of, say, a textured digital print or an over-the-top peplum.

When L’Or (above left) walked out in this regal-collared, high-necked Baroque creation, it could only be one label: McQueen. What we saw on Tuesday – and only four looks – was testament to the job Sarah Burton has been doing at the London label since she took over following the death of Alexander himself: striking silhouettes in seriously covetable separates. I loved the leather trousers, to which pictures could never do justice; the fit was so sexy.

When I saw this guy coming down the catwalk in this military-inspired, single-breasted coat with the shirt buttoned all the way up to the neck by Burberry, I scribbled hastily on my notes: “Gary Barlow”. You have to admit, there’s more than a passing resemblance! I love this look; very formal without settling for the white-shirt-n-tie-combo. Lovely.

A definite trend in menswear is, once again, towards the past – this tweed coat wouldn’t be out of place in a second World War biopic. This is Maison Martin Margiela, which was absence from the women’s collections, which is a pity as MMM does some of the most avant garde and interesting work in fashion, in my opinion.

This A/W collection from Dolce & Gabbana has, frankly, disappointed me. I felt as if a lot of the pieces were already too high-street friendly, as if I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in Topshop or Zara. I love animal print, but I much preferred Dolce & Gabbana’s floral corsetry for S/S.

Of course, Mary Katrantzou is going to be a big seller for Brown Thomas this autumn/winter. (It feels as if that sentence calls for a “mark my words”!) Shapes are flirty, feminine and, above all, wearable, and the prints are just stunning. L’Or (above left) was wearing a dress that appeared to be printed with car headlights, while Sarah’s had a more embellished, Baroque feel. (Baroque is a big theme, and one running through River Island’s A/W collections, too, keep an eye out for that review later on today!)

If this is what Brown Thomas has bought to show for Dior, then it’s a bit of a disappointment, although I understand the commercial sense behind it. Dior’s couture extravaganzas, the latest of which showed Raf Simons take the quite traditional, almost theatrical couture house back to block-coloured basics, are never going to sell on shop floors, whereas the more demure, ladylike take on the brand’s aesthetic, will. I would have loved to have seen a tiny bit more daring, but there’s no doubt that these are classic, reliable pieces. It’s just hard for me to get excited about a dependable item of clothing. Next!

Prada showed some beautiful mixtures of textiles in the A/W collection, something I can see easily being picked up by Irish men by investing in well cut separates from Zara and Topman. I also loved the double-breasted blazer, although at first it seemed too much, too heavy . . . by the time he’d done his round of the catwalk I was a convert. Is that the power of a well made suit jacket?

These dresses, by Roksanda Ilincic, were, hands down, my favourite pieces of Tuesday morning. I loved the block colours, I loved the simplicity. I loved the comfort of it. When so much else of autumn/winter is about buttoning up and strapping in, I felt as if these dresses belied a certain freedom that I feel should come with fashion, an avant-garde playfulness that we simply don’t see enough of. They would obviously be perfect maternity-wear, too, although pricier than Mothercare.

I was looking out for Pucci‘s trademark 1960s prints, so when these understated numbers came down the catwalk I had to take a second look at my brochure. Is this austerity in action? (I kid, I kid. Honest.) But these slightly Erdem-like numbers did take me by surprise – perhaps the folks at Pucci were influenced by K Middy this season. I didn’t love their graphic prints of yore, but I found them more inspiring and exciting than these dresses, although no doubt these will prove great sellers. The cuts are fantastic and the shapes are gorgeous – plus, I loved the slightly 1990s feel of the off-the-shoulder lace dress, above left.

It feels as if Lanvin can do no wrong at the moment. Along with Céline, the brand has been blazing a trail for French fashion for the past few seasons, under the considered direction of fashion’s favourite cutie, Alber Elbaz. I love, love, loved every piece here. Exquisite draping, a beautiful, understated colour palette, and that neck detail on Theo’s dress. Stunning.

This Gucci look is perfection – the silhouette of this buttoned-up coat is to die for. The Italian fashion house always does menswear exceptionally well, although it is difficult to pinpoint particular trends in menswear as A/W seems very much to steer towards 1940s / 1950s silhouettes, military accents and layering. No complaints here, mind.

I was sitting next to Kirsteen O’Sullivan, and we were loving this model, who was ridiculously beautiful. But aside from him, I’m loving the biscuit tones of this Tom Ford get-up. It’s nice to see a break away from the beige / black / navy uniform to something a little different, without entirely losing the plot. Well played, Tom.

And it’s back to the ladies for another of Brown Thomas’s big sellers, Diane von Furstenberg. After all of the muted shades that had gone before, her bright yellow prints were a breath of much-needed fresh air, and I think everyone fell a little in love with her sequins-n-prints combos. There’s something so unmistakably feminine about her designs; it seemed as if the models themselves even relaxed into it slightly, with a little more hip-swaying, a little bit more of a pep in their step. Lovely.

In terms of wearability, Deirdre hit the nail on the head when she remarked on the easily-translated vibes of Helmut Lang‘s A/W collection. I’d already seen these gorgeous swampy prints on My-Wardrobe’s A/W preview mailers, so in a way I felt slightly jaded when they came stomping down the catwalk, but the slightly punky aesthetic of these pretty prints is really well executed by the brand.

This is a great aviator . . . but great aviators are ten a penny these days. I was more interested in the shoes, and I suspect they are Kurt Geiger, than I was in the Alexander McQueen clothes in this case. Perhaps fashion-show fatigue was setting in.

Ermenegildo Zegna – try saying that five times fast! Myself and Kirsteen, my next-door neighbour for the show, were loving this model. Look at those cheekbones! He was great. I wasn’t loving this look quite so much, although I can appreciate the mixing of textures in the form of the light corduruoy in the trousers and a heavier coat. A little long for my tastes, mind you.

Acne has been big news – have I said that a lot; are you still even reading?! – for the past few seasons, and no more than this season, with several high-street stores producing their own variants on the Swedish brand, called, in many cases, “Scandi” or “Scandi girl”. I was hoping for more from this A/W selection. I don’t know what – maybe some more separates, some leather. I felt a distinctive lack of enthusiasm for these, which are . . . “nice”.

Alice & Olivia is a new brand for Brown Thomas this season, along the lines of Zadig et Voltaire or, perhaps, the Kooples. There are definitely some very cool pieces here, but ones I would be expecting from Warehouse or French Connection, and at those prices. I’m not sure I’d be forking out too much for their sequined jacket, despite how much I love a good bit of sparkle.

I loved the Balenciaga pieces. Cool, distinctive, different. The prints surprised me, and the leather pencil skirt, second left, was gorgeous. Leather just never fails to impress, in my book.

When I think of Belstaff, I think of flying jackets and outerwear, so I was surprised and delighted at just how sexy these pieces were. The flared trousers were a breath of fresh air in an otherwise skinny horizon, and Yomiko’s slashed-to-the-navel dress? Stunning.

The menswear was more in line with what I would expect from Belstaff, although the slim trousers (top), were a slightly One Direction-y move. They worked for the look, but I can’t see them being picked up by Irish lads.

Saving the best for last? As we come to the end (phew!) of our round-up – almost – BT began bringing out the big guns. Here is a selection from Céline, for whom Phoebe Philo has been designing a range of slightly androgynous, versatile and mix-n-matchable (important!) pieces. I have written down in my notes: simplicity, separates, textured blazer (except I can’t figure out a way to bold my handwriting).

On to the K Middy section of proceedings, with designs from young Brit, Erdem. L’Or’s floral print was a real standout, but it’s Sarah’s flirty, flippy, flowy lace dress that I can see on celebrities as far as the eye can see. Film premieres, the winter version of Wimbledon (which would be . . . ?) and so on. This dress knows no limits, except financial ones, as it’ll set you back more than a grand.

In a way I felt as if Victoria Beckham‘s appearance at Wimbledon had ruined this selection for me; I felt uninspired and as if I had seen it all before, a mere three days earlier. These pieces are seriously form-fitting, and, while they are lovely designs, I couldn’t help wondering who would wear these – and thinking, no wonder she designed a diffusion range while she was pregnant. There is no way anyone who’s expecting a baby – or even experiencing some mild gas – could get into one of these.

Another big seller for Brown Thomas is Stella McCartney, and this season’s selection draw more than a little inspiration from the upcoming Olympics. Sporty touches were everywhere and there were several wearable, wardrobe-staple dresses in the collection. It’s no wonder it sells well; Stella knows what women want. But the big question is, does Tom Ford?

My personal jury is out on whether Tom Ford knows what women want to wear, but he does know what looks good – and these zip-detail dresses were a definite favourite. We don’t have a back view, but the red dress had an open back which was particularly gorgeous. And then, of course, the show ended on Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar dress or, at least, the version you’ll be able to pick up in Brown Thomas, for a mere few months’ rent.

And that’s me! Over and out. Taking a break from typing for, oh, 10 minutes. See you on the other side. Congrats for getting this far. Please leave comments to let me know it was all worth it. Etc.

Quick note: All photographs copyright Alan Betson / The Irish Times. No permissions for duplication, reuse or distribution.