Maybe it’s these perpetually grey skies hanging over London, but it does the eyes and heart good to see color: hot pinks, ruby reds, rich burgundies, and oh-so-cool blue tones. It’s London Fashion week!
London Fashion Week is the first stop on the European leg of the international fashion circuit following New York and just prior to Milan and Paris. Alongside this high profile event runs The Exhibition at London Fashion Week: the British Fashion Council’s official static exhibition of fashion design talent. Over 210 designers display their wares here; it’s really a trade show for accessories and ready-to-wear and the selection is incredibly eclectic. Think tartan hunting caps, sequined clutches, tie-dyed velvet pants, and chiffon shift dresses liberally embellished with plastic telephone cords—I feel like Alice in Wonderland here as I find whimsical eye candy at every turn.
My favorite booth has got to be the one occupied by a group called Scottish Textiles. They represent a selection of Scottish designers (who use home-grown textiles, naturally). The clothing is certainly suggestive of traditional highland looks. It’s bold and colorful, some with jagged edges, some with artful gathering, and some with serious detail-attitude like eight different belts wrapped around the waist. Oh, how I would love to hit the town looking like a modern day Braveheart princess!
Another must stop at The Exhibition is Esthetica. Known as “London’s sustainable fashion initiative,” Esthetica is a group of designers whose clothing is both eco- and ethically-friendly. Ladies, let me tell you, gone are the “crunchy,” “granola,” and hemp potato sack days of environmentally responsible dressing. Esthetica
features booth after booth of beautiful, funky, and sophisticated clothing and accessories from established eco-labels like From Somewhere, Noir, Katharine Hamnett, and fresh newcomers like Mark Liu, Pibiones, and Green Knickers.
GreenKnickers’ hemp/silk underwear is seriously adorable and at £20, this is something that more than just the select few can actually afford and feel good about. I fell hard for Nahui Ollin’s amazing handbags—they’re handwoven from candy wrappers and soda bottle labels. It’s so inspiring to learn all about these new ethical policies and ecological techniques and especially to see something really beautiful created from something that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
To cap off my fashion-filled warm-up to fashion week, I head across town for the Ann-Sofie Back runway show. It should be a good one. Back is a Swedish designer, widely admired for her sophisticated minimalist aesthetic. Her Autumn/Winter 2008 collection does not disappoint. She has created several pieces that marry the masculine and the feminine, such as a menswear-inspired jacket with lace detail or a drapey silk vest. Tops, dresses, and slacks are all loosely fitted with not a princess seam in sight. Colors are basic—black, grey, and white with a few red and aqua accent pieces as the show goes on. One of the highlights is a white button-down silk shirt with one arm and one batwing. But it isn’t just your standard batwing (if there is indeed such a thing as a “standard batwing!”); this one drapes down a foot or two past the model’s fingertips.
All in all, it’s a lively show set to the music of an old school cartoon—I can’t place it exactly, but it reminds me of classic Warner Brothers tunes, complete with sound effects, and it really brings a fabulous energy to the runway. All too soon, the show is over and so is my day. I’ll be back with more!