Scots designer fashions debut triumph

JONATHAN Saunders came from Glasgow in a riot of colour and set London Fashion Week on fire. Traditionally, London lacks the outrageous media circus associated with Paris or Milan, but yesterday they flocked to praise the 25-year-old after his show.

The editor of Vogue and top department store buyers, crowded into the small backstage space to congratulate Saunders - a rare event in London, which barely registers on the fashionistas’ Richter scale of celebration.

He was far from his roots - in Burnside, Glasgow - but the new Young Pretender from Scotland indisputably earned his place among the big names with a stunning solo show.

There was something for everyone - from body-hugging, Lycra mini-dresses and catsuits for the streamlined body, to bright, patterned and billowing chiffon kaftans and blouson tops that would look stunning on a large woman. In between were his own versions of this season’s favourite, the sweet dress, with fitted bodices and short fluttery skirts.

Saunders was overwhelmed by the response to his show, typical of a man who talks himself down modestly as a disorganised person who is left in a filthy state by the technical side of his work.

Speaking after the show, he cited his influences - even a tad obscure to those in the know - as "the 1920s modernist work of Vasarely, mixed with Escher’s monochrome optical and spatial illusions, Japanese manga cartoons and the Memphis design group’s work".

Recently, Saunders summed up his attitude to the luxury goods market at which his clothes are undoubtedly pitched, saying: "My clothes are very expensive, but the fact that I am practising a craft - the technical skill of printmaking - just about appeases my conscience."

He has also admitted to neglecting all household chores when he is immersed in work - but is fastidiously disciplined when it comes to his designs.

"My style of work is particularly mucky. It involves a lot of colour separation, which is very technically challenging and laborious. I am a very scruffy and disorganised person usually, but my prints are a contradiction."

Saunders’ beautiful prints are so complex in design that it is hard to believe a computer is not involved, but, he explained, every colour is hand-printed on a screen and the most complicated have 18 colours.

"We have also developed new techniques - it’s very hard to print the designs on stretch without distortion, and we also have a new technique for incorporating printed metallic foil".

The prints themselves are unique, based on mathematical concepts that give a 3-D impression, a geometric riot of cubes, facets, prisms and optical illusions receding into infinity.

Saunders has been the subject of fashion insiders’ buzz since he graduated with an MA from Central St Martin’s School of Art in London last year, having completed a first degree in printed textiles from Glasgow School of Art.

He has already received an award for his graduation collection and sponsorship from Top Shop, as one of the chain’s hand-picked New Generation designers.

The London show was his chance to reveal his work to a wider public and in a season when prints are dominating nearly every catwalk, Saunders stood out ahead of the competition.

His talent has already been recognised and used by other top designers. Alexander McQueen’s best-selling parrot feather print last summer was his work, he has recently designed prints for Chloe in Paris, and has received the ultimate accolade for a print designer - being asked by Christian Lacroix to help revamp Pucci, the original glamour label for prints.

His own business is still at the fledgling stage. He and his small team work from a studio in Brixton. Until yesterday he had no stockists - now he will have the headaches of production and delivery.

Selfridges’ head buyer, Suzanne Tide-Frater, said: "I was very impressed and thrilled with the show. He needs time and support to grow and develop - in Britain we’re too keen on hyping designers and then forgetting about them. A talent like his should be here for the long-term."

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