The chic and unique of London Fashion Week

Among the diverse collections of London Fashion Week, Topshop’s Unique show is a cracker, and Burberry, Erdem and others have plenty worth ogling

Hunter have launched their brand to an international audience with their debut London Fashion Week show.The collection featured designs for both men and women, with wellies reworked to include a heel for women. Video: Reuters


Fashion is now the UK’s second biggest industry, worth an impressive £26 billion (€32 billion) to the economy and employing more than 800,000 people. The scale and confidence of London Fashion Week grows exponentially every season, at a pace inconceivable 10 years ago.

So who says frocks are frivolous? Topshop’s Unique show in the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern, for example, is its biggest ever, with huge crowds in attendance (including Kate Moss in the front row) and even more standing chock-a-block in the gallery to witness the collection, which is showcased by 37 models on the catwalk. Burberry’s show in Kensington Gardens was even more elaborate, and causes traffic chaos.

The Unique show is a cracker. Its theme is the rebellious streak of British heritage – “all about the soft girl wanting to be tough” – even if that includes a cropped blue Aran knit. This is assured, accessible street style that doesn’t break any conceptual boundaries. Grey knits sparkle, shaggy waistcoats are shrugged over ponyskin skirts, tulle peeks out under the hems of grey pinafores and a long snakeskin-effect trench is both stylish and practical. Layering and textural contrasts make it work – shearling tunics over silk prints, jackets overlaid with fake fur and beaded tattoo motifs on the sheer bodices of long dresses. Longer lengths are noticeable, as elsewhere.

Margaret Howell
Heritage is also Margaret Howell’s forte. That designer, whose Irish flagship is in Rathgar, has a consistent tomboyish aesthetic. Her sartorial vocabulary, adored by the French and Japanese, translates into slouchy trouser suits, Crombie coats, parkas and shirt dresses – country clothes for city living – and she delivers them in new variations of traditional British fabrics: corduroy, Prince of Wales check, grey wool, denim and tartan.

Elsewhere Jasper Conran plays to his strengths with severe, sexy tailored suits for day and curvy dresses in nude silk tulle for play.

John Rocha’s monochrome silk georgettes, chiffons and organzas are handworked into his familiar silhouettes with long velvet coats and velvet crochet dresses for romantic winter grandeur.

At Burberry, singer Paloma Faith gives it her all in a live performance accompanying the show. Harry Styles of One Direction is among the celebs in the front row.

The collection, with its handpainted leather trenches and shearling jackets, may encourage fashion victims to spray their own with similar graffiti, although Burberry’s painterly Arts and Crafts motifs might be difficult to copy. Bold Navajo-style blankets are slung casually over delicate dresses in watercolour prints, giving everything a touch of the wild outback. At the finale, models parade the blankets, each embroidered with their own initials.

Although it is hard to find a common theme in London’s diverse collections for winter, Burberry places an emphasis on craftwork and surface decoration, a theme that also runs through shows by Mary Katrantzou, Jonathan Saunders, Holly Fulton and John Rocha.

One of the most beautiful is that of Erdem, the Turkish-British designer who is now a global success story and who benefited from an award of £200,000 two years ago. He takes the stuff of 18th-century romance – black velvet, brocade, Chinese and Indian embroidered silks – and reworks them with jewelled embellishment and lace in a modern way for a collection that is dark, sensuous and feminine but not easily copied.


Wearable art: Exhibition of Irish jewellery and accessories

Rian (and not “Rain”, as the British Fashion Council called it) is an exhibition of Irish jewellery and accessories that was opened last night in London by Ambassador Dan Mulhall at the Barbara Stanley Gallery, near Hyde Park, to coincide with London Fashion Week.

Those taking part, from the North and South, include Una Burke, known for her adventurous leather work; plus jewellery from Melissa Curry, Joanne Hynes, Garvan Traynor, Eily O’Connell, Eoin M Lyons, Lynsay Raine and Miriam Wade; glasswork by Karen Donnellan; sculptural knitwear from Derek Lawlor; wearable art by Rachel McKnight; and LAF Design’s innovative use of discarded materials.

Barbara Stanley’s venue has become the only London gallery specialising in Irish art from leading as well as up-and-coming Irish artists. Gemma Williams from Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, who is completing a book on Chinese fashion designers, is the curator of Rian. The exhibition runs until February 27

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