When we think about London fashion, our default setting is to think: creative, exuberant, eclectic, perhaps crazy, maybe not even all that wearable. That is and it isn’t true. But the capital has a sophisticated eveningwear dynamic too, even if it’s not quite so obvious (though those sequins, when spotted, should give you a hint).
Julien Macdonald Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
“It’s a shame not enough London designers make red carpet,” noted Julien Macdonald post-Autumn/Winter 2016 show, one that came with more than its fair share of dazzle – in fact, it’s quite likely it compensated for the potential lack of it anywhere else, such was the splash of sparkle and flash of flesh for dresses that were made with only one hour of the day in mind: the bewitching – not witching – hour. “We can do glamour in London!” he enthused as his backdrop of glittering ladies and military men (think tight trousers, no tops, tattoos, and knee-high boots, it was a serious look) made for quite the tableau. “Everyone wants to look youthful and sexy. It’s about celebrating the body, showing it off – we spend so much time at the gym working hard to get it.” And he makes a fair point. Why, then, would you want to hide it?
Golden ladies, pop singers Selena Gomez (left) & Taylor Swift (right) but also top model Heidi Klum (center) all dazzled on the red carpet in Julien Macdonald numbers.
Perhaps the obvious answer is lack of occasion. “Red carpet, yacht, or nightclub,” flags renowned fashion editor Charlotte Pilcher of the Macdonald woman’s favored haunts. “Lace, sequins, body-skimming, plunging – it’s for a girl who likes to get the party started. Beyonce, Shakira, Selena Gomez, all shaking their booty in a Macdonald,” she says. For there’s no doubting these are ensembles that require confidence and occasion – Netflix and chill need not apply. Pajamas and Doritos will not make the grade for accompanying accessories.
VIDEO | JULIEN MACDONALD READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 LONDON
VIDEO | JULIEN MACDONALD READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 LONDONPosted by Nowfashion.com on Sunday, February 21, 2016
“It’s about an attitude,” continued Macdonald, blue cocktail perfectly in hand, disco beats booming loud and proud, his own fashion microcosm springing aptly to life in the background. “And that attitude can happen at any time – be it 20, 40, or 60.” And that’s true, there is no age limit when it comes to his creations – this man leads the sparkle democracy: it’s about a frame of mind as opposed to necessarily that elusive “woman” that fashion so loves to be fascinated by. If you're game for a party, he has the dress for you to enjoy it in.
Emilie Wickstead Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
But while Macdonald might be the obvious go-to, there’s an emerging hit-list of other designers that know how to do more than just make a “creative” impact on the catwalk. Step forward Emilia Wickstead, a firm red carpet favorite, she strikes the balance between something feminine and ladylike but that also has an elegant grandeur rooted in a sense of occasion. “Think updated Grace Kelly in High Society with a whiff of English rose,” describes Pilcher. And everyone from Alexa Chung – clocked in her Autumn/Winter 2016 front row – to Gigi Hadid and Kate Middleton wear her designs: taking them from demure, cute, and quirky to sassy and look-at-me, to classic and romantic.
From it-girls Poppy Delevinge (left) and Olivia Palermo (right) to bombshell Gigi Hadid (center), all have already opted for Emilie Wickstead to attend fashion events or more popular award ceremonies such as the MTV Video Music Awards.
Wickstead looked to photographer Erwin Blumenfeld’s Fantasies for her latest offering, reeling off “fanciful and fresh,” “romantic and yet not so romantic” in her show notes. What materialized on the catwalk was a collection that traversed hard denim in cutesy cuts to floor-length gowns that came with a sense of restraint. Yet there’s always an ease to the Wickstead design – it’s not intimidating in the way that a full-on attack of sequins might be.
David Koma Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
A London name managing to do both, however, is David Koma, the Central Saint Martins-trained and Mugler creative director designer who marries hardware bling with svelte silhouettes that sure make an impact, so precisely made are they, but can be dialed down or up depending on the occasion. And that’s exactly what he’ll tell you too.
VIDEO | DAVID KOMA READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 LONDON
VIDEO | DAVID KOMA READY TO WEAR FALL WINTER 2016 LONDONPosted by Nowfashion.com on Monday, February 22, 2016
“I never think about eveningwear – I consider it occasionwear. It’s more for events,” he considered backstage at his show this week – a queue of glamazons, all front row previously, waiting to congratulate him. Because Koma has legions of fans – be it for his own eponymous line or for Mugler. Between the two brand’s Instagram accounts, he counts Doutzen Kroes, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence, Penelope Cruz, and Lupita Nyong’o as fans. But with sharp silhouettes that pull you in just right and sparkle in all the right places, it’s hardly surprising. This season was an ode to his signature self with a tailoring, texture, and reference to sculptor Frank Cota added in.
On the more demure side of the spectrum is newcomer Alice Archer: she graduated in 2013 from the Royal College of Art, having studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths and Central Saint Martins and last year had a capsule collection launch with Browns, Alice Archer for Browns.
“I like the decadence of it, the luxuriousness,” she said when asked what it was about the eveningwear side of life that appealed. Taking an oil painting aesthetic, she transposes it onto her designs through a combination of embroidery and print. “I think there is the desire for the elaborate,” she noted, going on to cite her inspirations as historical scenes, something very very romantic and that English rose with a twist thing. That’s not to say you couldn’t rock one of the jackets or pencil skirts or indeed the eveningwear dresses out during the day; it’s all about how one styles it, after all.
Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION)
And when it comes to bastions of the exquisite, Alexander McQueen will have you rocking out your sheer couture cut-out gown (to reveal hips) with a pink puffer jacket bedecked in butterflies, as though they had just landed on it to rest for a moment, and a multitude of trinkets tangled beautifully in the hair. The label decamped from Paris back to London this season – so ideally adding the idea that the capital can do dressing. “Alexander McQueen is the go-to favorite with the heavyweight A-listers – holding onto their heavyweight awards. The high priestess of serious gowns with a regal glamour, poetry, with drama, of trains, of corsetry and cut,” sums up Pilcher. It’s true: Cate Blanchet, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, and Marion Cotillard are all among the women that grace the wondrous McQueen world. The hallmarks, always the same, always played out to spectacular effect. The only down side? “Rags to riches, when you take off the gown you are back to rags, the Cinderella effect,” says Pilcher.
Hollywood glamour, best actress Academy Award winners Cate Blanchett & Marion Cotillard and actress Amanda Seyfried are big fans of Alexander McQueen's creations.
What is always so fitting about the Autumn/Winter season (though for how much longer it will be as we know it, who knows?) of February shows, is that it falls over awards season. So while the see-now-buy-now element of the new fashion system starts to kick in (and confuses everyone along the way), we’re already playing our own game of: see-now-see-on-the-red-carpet-tonight, or whatever night said awards show is. Let that game commence – the Oscars are, of course, still to come. Now, will it be McQueen, Macdonald, Wickstead, Koma, or Archer?
The dramatic Julien Macdonald Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear show finale, London (photography by Guillaume Roujas)