Irish designers put their stamp on spring shows

Detailed designs and strong prints were centre stage at London Fashion Week with our own Jordan, Rocha and Kiely leading the charge, writes Rachel Marie Walsh in London

Irish designers put their stamp on spring shows

LONDON Fashion Week was a heady mix of floral inspired creations for next spring with colourful prints and intricate embellishments to entice fashion-hungry consumers into the shops.

Detailed craftsmanship on dresses, coats and accessories featured prominently on the catwalk, with many designers playing up to their British heritage to attract more customers.

Burberry’s chief creative director Christopher Bailey presented an “English Rose Garden” themed collection of dusty pink, lavender and yellow lace dresses, teamed with its trademark trenches.

Fashion favourites Christopher Kane and Vivienne Westwood also drew inspiration from nature, playing with appliquéd motifs of buttercups, carnations and orchids, huge floral corsages and printed fabrics featuring traditional floral paintings.

“It’s been really strong this season and I think basically you could get your whole wardrobe from things that have gone down the catwalk in London,” said Laura Larbalestier, buying director at luxury boutique Browns.

“I’ve seen a lot of exaggerated volumes and kind of quirky shapes. There are some really interesting new proportions that we have seen in the last few days,” she said, adding that designers Christopher Kane, Peter Pilotto and Simone Rocha stood out this season. American designer Tom Ford opted for a more sensual look for his latest showcase, which featured oversized biker jackets and knitted dresses embellished with sequins in raspberry, midnight blue and silver.

“You have surface and texture and you have fabric and that was very important to this collection,” he said, adding that his brand had been insulated from the economic crisis. “We deal with a different level of customer — it’s just because at this stage in my career I want to make the very, very best,” he said.

Bora Aksu opened Fashion Week. He confidently drew on his Turkish roots for this collection. Frilly tiers, tassels, crochet and patterned-lace embroidery were present throughout. Cuts were generally loose, giving knee-length skirts whirling dervish movement. Some editors bemoaned Aksu’s lack of colour for autumn but they couldn’t complain about this offering. Korean designer Jackie Lee, young British designer Christopher Raeburn and Londoner Jean-Pierre Braganza also featured on the opening day.

As usual, there was a strong Irish showing. Zoe Jordan is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and perhaps the eagerness to see her little one influenced this collection. “I wanted to move away from the static digital prints we’ve seen so much of and give the collection some speed,” the designer said.

“Pretty Rebels,” as its called, is full of baby pink and powder blue. The key look was grown-up skater chick, which translates as loose, polished and bearing graffiti. On Saturday morning, models in hoodies, shift dresses, shorts and leather jackets whipped around the show space to the electric sounds of Annie, the Norwegian popstar. Jordan designs for the ex-tomboy she is: everything is comfortable and luxurious but still cool. Logo tees come in super-soft crepe-de-Chine, the platforms are flat and shorts are silk-jacquard.

Orla Kiely’s guests observed models in a “natural” habitat: a specially-constructed safari campsite. This presentation was styled by Leith Clark, the ex-Voguette who makes Keira Knightly look stunning for premieres, and inspired by Suzie Bishop, the 12-year-old adventuress in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom. The girls wore Bobby socks, berets, flippy skirts and blouses with Peter Pan collars. Prints were sweet polka-dots and Kiely’s signature flowers. The bags were totally impractical: flat panda and fox-head purses with shoulder-straps. The wide, candy-coloured sandals were similarly girlish. Fans of Kiely’s colourful kitsch will be spoilt for choice next spring.

A river of well-dressed people queued in the rain for the delayed Rocha show, but all was forgiven as The National’s The Geese of Beverly Road blared from the speakers. The opening lyrics — “We’ll take ourselves out on the street/And wear the blood on our cheeks like red roses” — signalled the beginning of a red and rose-filled show. Blooms weren’t printed but hand-woven from silk and yarn.

I loved the wide-brimmed hats twisted from organza piping. Continuing Spring 2013’s preference for sheer over short, there were several transparent georgette-satin gowns in black or white. Strategically-placed, raw-edged layers kept them ladylike. As the song continues, it was “awesome, totally genius”.

Jonathan Anderson is having a very good year. His spring stint as a guest designer at Versus, Versace’s sister label, was well-received and early this month Women’s Wear Daily reported that luxury giant LVMH is eyeing a stake in his brand.

Saturday’s show was the Antrim native’s most feminine to date. He started out in men’s wear and always experiments with gender codes but this was something new. He called it “avant-bland” : throwing conventional fitting or draping out the window and wrapping graphic cuts of leather around the body to make dresses, tops and skirts. Shoes were flat, black slides. Prints were bolt-shaped, while pleats resembled corrugated iron. In this season of pink, flounces and flowers, it was a stand-out show.

Simone Rocha was the final Irish designer to show. She helped with the John Rocha show on Saturday but apart from a soundtrack provided by her brother, this effort was all her own. The collection was a magnificent mix of prim and tough.

This season also saw the addition of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik to the fashion calendar, who presented a footwear inspired by the turn of the 20th Century.

He used rose-printed silks, lace and metal buckles handmade in Europe, craftsmanship Blahnik hopes to revive demand for.

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