It’s a given that every designer, whether they are based in New York, London or Paris, strives for a unique aesthetic that sets them apart from the international crowd. Yet, no designer jettisons their aesthetic quicker than those from London. Caught between a crossfire of commerciality and the desire by the capital to fulfil a characteristically “creative” quota, they often leave behind the better parts of their work, which is a shame.
Among last year’s Central Saint Martins’ MA leading lights was Nensi Dojaka, whose stringy little lingerie dresses were both convincing and compelling in odd colour palettes and conveyed in a sexy sophistication that held their own even in the MeToo era. Debuting at Fashion East this season, though undoubtedly the star of the show, it felt a little like she had reigned it all in for more sombre tones and tweaks on the tuxedo-style dressing. It was still interesting but it would have been better for us to have seen her MA collection again – because, let’s remember, not everyone will have. We’re too quick to ask designers to reinvent what they have just shown us, but what won’t have even been seen by half of the fashion press and buyers - let alone the wider public. We talk about fast fashion in the context of sustainability yet why are we not thinking about the sustainability of the businesses and the brands themselves?
Of course, this works both ways. We get bored too.
At Huishan Zhang, the designer spoke about the natural evolution of his collections. He’s well-known for an eveningwear aesthetic and it’s one that easily traverses the eras. Here, he picked out the 90s as a reference point, though it felt more in keeping with the 60s for couture-like shapes in cocktail frocks and ball gowns. He added sequins to proceedings which were a more vibrant approach from the red-carpet dresser who explained that the overall idea had been to trim down volumes and focus on a clean silhouette.
Something which also came through at JW Anderson. He’s a designer who has more than just one greatest hits record among his collection. This time around, he chose to play the track circa 2012 – for elongated Peter Pan collars on supersized swingy jackets just as had been seen at Erdem prior (we saw said collars at Marc Jacobs last week). He did his kick-flare pants again and even rendered looks per check patterns, huge A-lines and a murky colour palette. It was focused but it was also a reprise from the past and put a spotlight very much on the early 2010s, which is interesting to see as we begin 2020. Notably, the knitwear looks, which looked like cape-cardigans and went into dresses, one colour on top and another below, were particularly gorgeous and are bound to be buyer hits, as will be the shoes: furry and with diamante anklet straps.
At Erdem, the shoes were of the fugly variety – flatforms and clompy with Bright Young Things-inspired gowns of lace and beads alongsideglamorous fur jackets. It’s terrain that has long been a comfort zone of the designer ever since he became one of London’s favourites. Yet one can’t help but think back to those earlier collections – in much the same way of Simone Rocha, who has such a signature now that one needn’t necessarily see the new collection to know what the next season will be about. That wasn't always the way.
For Autumn/Winter 2020, Rocha had some new additions: bags, semi saddle styles that are sure to be a success and bridal. Three looks came out at the end in an interesting move mirrored by Tom Ford in LA last week where, increasingly, a whole host of designers are seeing the appeal in the getting-hitched market. And, potentially, if you’re not going to play the greatest hits, this is the best new terrain to forge with conviction – because what better way to buy into a brand than saying: I do.