Get Happy - Uppers (and Downers) at London Fashion Week

The last thing anyone expects from London Fashion Week - either on the catwalk, or off it - is sunshine. Especially in the middle of February. And especially at the start of an era that's already shaping up to be one of the most volatile and uncertain in recent memory. In New York, the winter collections (or at least, the perception of them) were shrouded in politics and pessimism. But London, after a 2016 dominated by Brexit and its aftershocks, kicked its season off with clear blue skies and pale spring sunlight, and with shows suffused by the most unexpected emotion imaginable; joy.

 

Fyodor Golan Fashion Show Ready to Wear Collection Fall Winter 2017 in London (by Guilaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)

 

Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman are exactly the type of young designers you'd expect to feel challenged in this current climate. Winners of London's Fashion Fringe award back in  2011, they're in that transitional moment between hot new talent and establishment figures. And having their usual slot shifted to the schedule's first morning had clearly been a jolt to their usual process. But the duo's mood, both on the runway itself and backstage after the show, was positive almost to the point of boisterousness. Triggered by their shared love of the Powerpuff Girls, the collection was unabashed in its exuberance - bristling with dip-dyed blocks of colour, with fabric swirled into languidly draped dresses, spattered with DayGlo-bright Post Its or blown up into puffy outerwear silhouettes. Leopardskin and camouflage prints came layered with overlapping Op Art grids or drenched in cartoon hues, and muted separates streaked with ribbons in primary reds, white and blues. So was it a statement? "Yes, but not in an aggressive way!" the designers laughed afterwards. (Still, as any pre-schooler can tell you, it's generally safer not to mess with a Powerpuff Girl.)

That same bright, spirited mood kept coming through all across the first day, in a rainbow of different flavours. At Eudon Choi, the starting point may have been the austere Austrian modernist Adolf Loos - but the outcome saw Choi's slouchy, outsize separates energised with jolts of pumpkin, jade and French blue, and with punchy, graphically linear accessories. Haizhen Wang, the designer who won Fashion Fringe the year after Fyodor Golan, surrounded his models in a warehouse of stacked boxes - but perked up their mundane routines and staccato pinstripe uniforms with safety-belt strips of flame red and canary yellow. Roberta Einer, who's set up her own label after stints at McQueen, Mary Katrantzou and Balmain, arranged her models into a lazily aristocratic tableau that underlined the enduring appeal of privilege's bubble. Nostalgic inter-war period shapes, rich embellishments and playful colour combined to create a vision that sat somewhere sweetly outside of time.

Even Marta Jakubowski, who’s built her reputation on strict, seriously-cut tailoring, got in the spirit; her wadded dresses, lean velvet tops and high-waisted trousers came in hip-hop shades of fuchsia, amber, cherry and violet, shown in a presentation space draped in bolts of the same electric fabrics. And rounding off the day, PPQ (the party animals of London's fashion schedule, ever since they were founded in the early Nineties) may have gone starkly monochrome - but did so with a breezily eclectic approach which blended beatnik stripes, bathing belle ruffles and swathes of snow-white fur.

But is it what fashion should be? When fashion (as Coco Chanel was so fond of saying) is something drawn from the times around us, shouldn't it be angrier, or bleaker, or more disrupted than London's first day allowed? Perhaps it should - but then, when it comes down to it, the simple act of making clothes in the first place is grounded in optimism. Clothes cover and comfort us; they embody our identities, and our affinities; and in a social media-driven world which makes its mind up (and then changes it) at lightning speed, they increasingly speak for us. So there was something comforting, and surprising, and ultimately inspiring, about London's Day One rainbow coalition of designers - Estonian, Chinese, Israeli, Latvian, Polish-German, English, South African - and the way they chose to meet the season head-on with hope and optimism, instead of anxiety and fear.

 

Read the latest fashion features and trend reports in NOWmagazine.

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