Behind the scenes at London Fashion Week with Hilary Alexander

A new season, a new venue, and a new look for London Fashion Week – the hotly-debated relocation from Somerset House to the ‘underworld’ of the Brewer Street car park in deepest, darkest Soho proved surprisingly successful – once you were there, and if you stayed there.

Everything was bright, white and light. While London’s roads were a never-ending source of nail-biting worry and despair, the shows, when you finally got to your seat, rarely failed to exhilarate.

London was on a high for spring/summer 2016 as designers revealed in the drama of creating exuberant, exciting clothes.

Jonathan Saunders

jonathan saunders lfw hilary

Jonathan Saunders’ location – a transparent, mirrored marquee under blazing sunshine at King’s Cross - was apt; this was one of the hottest shows of the week in every sense. He took a trip Far East, by way of Africa and India, mixing paisley, brocades, silks, satins and knits in a swirling cavalcade of sumptuous colour and sinuous silhouettes. Obi-belts, kimono-coats and one-shouldered tunics sashayed past. Fringed sashes swung from robe-coats over pyjama-trousers. Bias-cut long dresses were paneled in a patchwork of rainbow multi-pattern, and mixed-stitch, multi-colour knits came with sarong-skirts.

Jonathan Saunders is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Preen

Punk met pretty in Justin Thornton and Thea Bragazzi’s Preen collection, which mashed-up wildflower prints, floaty dresses, lace and ruffles with hard-edge tailoring, “bandage” bodices, hi-shine metallics, raw-edges, over-printed animal patterns, and silver rings which fastened collars and loosely-slung belts. Delivered primarily in monochrome, the collection was shot with occasional jolts of acid-orange and cobalt.

Preen by Thornton Bragazzi is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Paul Smith

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Now enjoying his fifth decade in fashion, Paul Smith retains the ability to surprise. Alongside his wearable and accessible menswear-inspired classic trouser suits and easy dresses (with sleeves!), he slipped in a must-have sashed robe-coat in orange satin over cropped white trousers, a dungaree-style beige satin knee-length shift and pinafore-style “dungarees” over a floral blouse. Minimalist, bi-colour shifts in navy and hot-orange contrasted with collage-print dresses overlaid with large, abstract motifs, and a dramatic ‘brush-stroke’ coat in bright blue and white, belted with knotted leather thongs.

Paul Smith is available at Fenwick Bond Street, Bracknell, Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Leicester, Newcastle and York.

Barbara Casasola

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Streamlined, sleek and shiny in a palette of snow-white, black, berry-red and taupe, Casasola’s collection was an exercise in the new body-consciousness. She showed cutaway-shouldered and cut-out waist tank-dresses, long coats, and louche trouser suits which slithered down the body in liquid satin, and her signature “clingfilm” knits were often slashed from knee to ankle.

Barbara Casasola is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Markus Lupfer

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You can rely on Markus Lupfer to add an off-the-wall element to his collections and this season was no exception. Lupfer took his inspiration from “luchador”, the Mexican wrestling dice game, embroidering his bomber jackets, party-shorts and little dresses with figures of a masked wrestler. The Mexican theme also embraced desert flowers embroidered on his easy separates.

Markus Lupfer is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

House of Holland

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Henry Holland and Hunter S. Thompson, author of “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”, made for a marriage made in hell – the hell induced by overdosing on chemical substances, or exposure to the mayhem of crazy clashing colours, bizarre accessories and freaky prints. “Psychedelic, trippy and eccentric,” Holland promised; the show was all that and more. Take neon-bright cactus prints, hectic furs, animal-patterns, ostrich-plumed shoes, football socks, and striped knits with a passing resemblance to skintight Victorian bathing costumes – and then embellish and embroider everything with giant, sequined bugs and you’re about halfway there. Fun and frantic.

House of Holland is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Eudon Choi

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Intrigued by the Victorians’ fascination with fairy lore, Eudon Choi created a magical collection in cotton, linen and lace which relied on drawstring details to make volume appear or disappear with a single, gentle pull. Caped trench-coats, draped skirts and ruched shifts with asymmetric hems in navy, white, grey and sky-blue floated like clouds around the models’ bodies.

Eudon Choi is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Mother of Pearl

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Creative director Amy Powney offered a contemporary take on Victoriana, mixing cottage garden-floral, off-the-shoulder peasant dresses with sassy pleated skirts and short-dresses in bright checks and shades of pretty-in-pink. She overlaid long, petticoat slips in botanical and lobster/crab-prints with a layer of sequined sheer and accessorized pie-crust collared and full-sleeved dresses with boaters, bow-trim plimsolls or frill-top boots.

Mother of Pearl is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Osman

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Osman’s ‘Mexican wave’ collection was a tribute to Frida Kahlo (with menswear, too), featuring crisp, white shirts with little ribbon neck-ties, long black skirts, flounced trousers and party wear, and vibrant brush-stroke prints in cobalt, orange and white.

Osman is available at Fenwick Bond Street.

Vivienne Westwood Red Label

vivienne westwood lfw hilary

Given the platoon of placard-waving “protestors”, Vivienne Westwood’s Red Label collection was surprisingly garden party-friendly. Floral tea-dresses, button-up blouses and long pencil skirts, ditsy flower-print dirndls, silky pastel trackies and shorts, botanical-print trouser-suits and sharp if slightly off-kilter tailoring predominated. There was the occasional slogan T and button, a couple of leather harnesses buckled over tight knits, and the expected cleavage-busting corsetry, but the overall impression was wearability; nothing to frighten the horses.

 Vivienne Westwood is available at Fenwick available at Bond Street, Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Leicester, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells and York.

By Hilary Alexander