In an intriguing exchange of fashion week capital style this season, it feels like New York is the new London and London is the new New York – owing to the amount of young and emerging downtown designers that currently populate the former (Eckhaus Latta, Monse, Area), and the amount of names in the latter who have put a renewed focus on evening wear, something which has traditionally belonged to the uptown aesthetic of NYC.
Roberta Einer, at an intimate dinner at Claridges, on the eve of LFW celebrated the launch of her bespoke evening wear line, 10 seasons since beginning the brand. “Ten seasons, I can’t believe it!” exclaimed the designer, dressed in her signature sequins via dazzling disco palazzo pants. “For me, this [bespoke] is something that I always wanted to do.”
As a designer well known for her penchant for beading, embroidery and very maximalist textile design, it felt like a fitting next step to finally embrace – and in a time of Brexit, a relevant way to appeal to a more international client base (something all designers will need to think about).
Which was certainly something Richard Quinn was doing in what was surely his best collection yet – though one with perhaps a few too many obvious other designer references (in Prada-like roses, for example).
The spectacular three opening looks had an early days Balmain (Olivier Rousteing) grandeur to them – the most extravagant of Pearly Kings and Queens ensembles one had ever seen with one reading “God Save The Quinn” on its back. Big bulbous shapes that lent themselves to couture, of all the designers showing in London right now, Quinn is the one that would easily be able to hop on a Eurostar should the offer of a French house come up; or indeed take on the reigns of somewhere like Oscar de la Renta when the time comes. The Leigh Bowery themes, though, need some sort of finesse or to evolve beyond what has become too much an obvious RQ trademark. What his collections would look like and where they could go without them is an exciting proposition.
Michael Halpern, also known for a trademark, his sequins, opted to leave those behind somewhat in his own approach to international dressing that felt in line with a resort wardrobe as opposed to the classic ladylike glamour of last season. Focus was on prints and bolts of color – cobalt blue and neon pink in shirt dresses and cocktail frocks. In this instance, it felt like the original aesthetic for which he became so popular was lacking and we’d like to have seen it back a little more. It’s a shame that young and emerging designers feel the need to evolve so quickly that they erase what was their defining USP, which can result in rendering them a little too ordinary when actually they are or could be extraordinary.
Over at the Royal Opera House, amid the ready-to-wear madness, came a moment of calm by way of Atelier Zuhra, the Dubai-based couture atelier, which has plans to open up a Paris store in the coming months. Established by Mouza Al Awfi and now run by her daughter Rayan, a pastel rainbow of dresses paraded out in the standard “couture” aesthetic – splaying feather skirts and buoyant gowns on pin-thin heels. Though for couture, more attention should have been paid to fabrications that looked the part – and short-at-the-front-long-at-the-back skirts required more consideration when it came to their lining.
But as the first two days of London Fashion Week got under way, the show fulfilled the last spot in the fashion saying that “three’s a trend” – as Maison Rabih Kayrouz, the Paris-based couture-showing label from Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz opened the doors to its Mount Street store on Friday morning (the lineup being: Roberta Einer bespoke, Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Atelier Zuhra).
“It’s about the universe, the spirit [of the house], it’s not just about one rack of clothes,” he explained as he gave a tour of the former Marc Jacobs and Celine interim store. The idea being that couture and ready-to-wear sit together under the same roof to bring the whole world of Maison Rabih Kayrouz – known for its clever and subtle though not avant-garde tweaks and cuts. “It’s all about the construction,” he explained, pinpointing a room featuring the toiles of couture pieces so as to see the incredible creation process that goes into them. “Couture pieces have no limit in the collection” – and this was the perfect way to see them, couture’s impact overall, clearly also having an impact on London this season.