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London Fashion Week review: The Scottish highlights

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  • by Alice Wyllie
 

Four of Scotland’s best designers have been on parade at London Fashion Week. Alice Wyllie gives her verdict on how they fared at the prestigious event

LOUISE GRAY has always been something of a fashion rebel. Her collections are clubby, punky, irreverent and this was no different. In the bowels of Tate Modern, the styling of the show threatened to grab attention from the collection itself: models wore carrier bags in their hair, toilet rolls as rings, parcel tape as bracelets and rollers in their hair. One even had a foil takeaway container in place of a belt buckle.

This is typical Gray: naughty, silly, unwearable. The collection itself however was perhaps her most wearable to date. Ahead of the show the Fraserburgh-born designer said: “I’ve found a new confidence in tailoring and it’s exactly what I want to wear right now.”

This was a collection with a focus on grown-up, sophisticated tailoring finished in specially-woven fabrics, all with Gray’s “colour and clash” signature. Images were layered up to create abstract patterns while knots came in bright, clashing patchworks.

Overlook the toilet rolls, ignore the parcel tape and you’re left with feminine, accessible pieces; flattering cocktail trousers, peplums, swing coats, pencil skirts and shift dresses. Gray still likes to play, but, increasingly, her work appeals as much to chic, discerning women as to club kids.

Pringle of Scotland has had its ups and downs over the past decade. Creative directors have changed repeatedly and the label seems to have had difficulty deciding whether it’s a heritage knitwear brand or a serious high-fashion contender. That this season it has opted for a low-key, intimate presentation rather than an all-flashbulbs-blazing catwalk show suggests that, for now, it’s the former.

This, most fashion insiders believe, is the smart approach. Pringle has been doing knitwear well for nearly 200 years and if it ain’t unravelling at the seams, don’t fix it.

This was a simple, chic collection that whispered elegance rather than shouting fashion. Shapes were crisp and clean with winter whites and creams dominating a restrained colour palette that was dotted with caramel, black and blue. Knits were detailed, textured and technical, and made repeated nods to the brand’s iconic argyle pattern, sometimes literal, sometimes subtle. Knit jacquard trousers featured a broken Argyle pattern while a sharp cornflower blue wool coat was a wardrobe classic, if not a headline grabber.

That was the intention with this collection: not about directional pieces, but about making Pringle the go-to brand for clever knitwear.

CHRISTOPHER KANE’S signature is that he has no signature. Each of the Motherwell-born designer’s collections is entirely different, each with its own distinct identity. As such, there is always a palpable buzz before his shows, as the fashion world waits to see what the Scottish Wunderkind and toast of London Fashion Week will do next.

That buzz was heightened ahead of his AW13/14 show (autumn/winter 2013-14) after the luxury conglomerate PPR acquired a majority stake in his label. His is the first British brand they have invested in since Alexander McQueen in 2001, and the move is set to give his label the financial boost to make him a global fashion superstar.

While it’s too early for their support to really take effect, the ante was undoubtedly upped this season as he sent out a whopping 60 outfits in a show that saw him revisiting some of his most iconic looks – deep red velvet dresses, buckled kilts, floral appliqué – and giving us a host of new ideas.

Kane said backstage that he was fizzing with ideas this season and they overflowed in a collection that had three distinct elements. The first had a minimal blue camo print appearing on crisp tailoring and floppy mini kilts. Leather kilt buckles popped up on everything from dresses to coats, and jackets were boxy, boyish and often trimmed with fox fur. Urban camouflage gave way to ladylike lace, in burgundy and navy. Minimal swirls, waves and spirals of lace hugged the body or joined panels of velvet for an effect that was almost medieval, and made a strong nod to his AW07 collection. Stiff silk trousers were wide and slouchy and wide lace seams appeared to “unzip” at the shoulders and hems. One minute we had a Sgt Pepper-esque lace jacket, the next, a lace dress with a Bouddica-inspired metal neck piece.

Next up was a return to camo but this time it was delicately-layered chiffon. Then more camo kilts, but now with stubby little feathers poking out from between the pleats. More feathers trimmed simple dresses and skirts before giving way to spectacular 3D embroidery; tops and dresses bloomed with clustered flowers.

A brief reference to his AW09 collection came via layered panels of pale chiffon outlined in black before dresses and tops embroidered or printed with a brain motif. Was it a nod to Kane’s overflowing imagin­ation? Possibly, since what came next was completely different once again. Dresses and skirts – first in black then blue – that could almost have been made from tinsel.

Closer inspection revealed that each sparkling strand was painstaking 3D beading. These were fairies descended from the top of a fashionably kitsch Christmas tree. As ever, a roar of appreciation went up when Kane took a shy bow at the end of what was one of his best shows to date.

The fashion world waits, breath bated, to see what he will do when let loose with a bigger budget. This gave us a taster and proved that as well as his fizzing creativity he has the mettle to play in the big leagues.

AS THE past few seasons have progressed, Jonathan Saunders’ work has increasingly been about a celebration of the female body. This has never been more apparent than in his latest collection, which looked to Diana Dors and Hitchcockian herones for inspirations. Models had pin-up hair and perfect make-up and clothes hugged at hips and breasts with built-in corsets, skinny belts and figure-flattering full skirts. Busts were pushed up and defined, necklines were sexy and waists were nipped-in.

Saunders is known for his mastery of colour and this collection was a particularly strong example. As many designers often do for autumn/winter, he went for muddy, warm, autumnal tones. Moss, navy and oxblood featured heavily and were brightened up with shots of orange, hot pink and powder blue.

After a succession of very ladylike collections, sex is very much back on the menu for Saunders. He knows how to rein it in, however, and thrusting cleavage was balanced with prim, boxy jackets and boyish coats. Both the Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Beatrice wore dresses from his AW12 collection, but I would be surprised if they’re as interested in this one, which is no bad thing.

 

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