Over the door that leads into Whitehall’s 17th century Banqueting House sits a bust of James I, the king who commissioned the magnificent room, as a site for state banquets and masques — the deliriously artificial entertainments conjured up to delight the jaded court. King James might have felt at home tonight in his old surroundings, as the space was transformed into the setting for Giles Deacon’s show. Swirling lines of chairs radiated out from a spectacular, toppling centrepiece crawling with gilded foliage and fauna, creating a maze through which three decades’ worth of supermodels (from Molly Bair and Edie Campbell through Lily Donaldson and Alek Wek to Erin O’Connor and Karen Elson) glided, swaying and pirouetting in clothes that trod Deacon’s familiar line between desirable modern-day womenswear and sumptuously nostalgic costume. There was Anna Cleveland, spinning in slow circles, and twirling ribbons in a flowered frock coat; Eva Herzigova and Poppy Delevingne in bell-skirted satin frocks patched with scraps of intricate Restoration embroidery; and Alex Wek in a fluid tunic, printed with a brass-rubbing of a Tudor aristocrat, stiffly correct in her brocaded skirts and farthingale.
In amongst those elaborate period fantasies Deacon showed flowing shifts spattered with wisteria tendrils, lushly romantic ruffled gowns blooming with soft-focus foxgloves, and micro-pleated frocks printed with ghostly echoes of lace ruffs and pearl strands — pieces that navigated the tightrope between elegiac fantasy and relevance with ease. And by the time O’Connor and Elson took to the floor in vast, rustling black-swan confections, the spell was complete; another fashion week fairytale had been born.