The naughty little sister of the fashion capitals, London seemed, this season, to be finally growing up – the result of years of intensive work by the British Fashion Council on developing its designers’ commercial sense as well as their creativity.
In the old days, the typical London collection might be an innovative and wild but ultimately unwearable, uncommercial explosion of colour and texture – often with that undergraduate-art-project feel about it.
For autumn/winter, however, the fashion fates combined to reassert the talents of London’s veteran brands such as Amanda Wakeley, John Rocha and Nicole Farhi (under the auspices of Joanna Sykes) as well as to prompt younger designers to enjoy the inherent qualities of luxury winter fabrics.
The most striking example was Topshop’s Unique collection, revealed in a catwalk show at the Tate Modern’s immense Turbine Hall exhibition space. The high-street store known for its fun, witty and, above all, youthful clothes, went heavy on 1970s luxe, with generous cocoons of luscious mohair, belted wrap coats and neat, lace-trimmed dresses in many shades of blue.
It wasn’t dull, however. A patchwork of colourful furs offered a more flamboyant look, a style that was seen at Roksanda Ilincic, who also panelled together furs in one coat. Elsewhere, her collection was restrained but beautiful, featuring blocks of cream, blue, maroon and Persian blue, layered and printed on full midi-length skirts and dresses cinched in with metal belts.
Panels of colour – a development on the colour-blocking separates that have obsessed fashion for some seasons – were also seen at Nicole Farhi, with pale blues, greens and tan woven diagonally across tops and coats; and at Issa, in the second season for the brand’s new creative director Blue Farrier. Her silhouettes were more adventurous than Issa has been known for, but with rich colours, quirky prints and the occasional long, fluid dress, Farrier will keep the long-standing fans happy while gaining new ones with her fashion-forward cuts.
Oversized raglan-sleeved jackets and coats were a nod to the looks of the moment, but the classic blanket-style scarves swathed over the opening looks offered a homespun vibe.
Burberry, too, sent out big, geometric blankets folded over the models’ shoulders in one of the best collections by the creative director Christopher Bailey. As always, a couple of steps ahead of the fashion pack, his coats and bags bore beautifully hand-painted floral designs in rich autumnal shades and a consistent silhouette saw a mid-calf hemline, a narrow raglan sleeve and a cinched-in waist on wrap coats draped with printed scarves.
A few other designers also bucked the minimalist trend, with Osman covering silken tops and dresses in ultramarine Turkish tile patterns popped with bright yellow, while Erdem’s guipure lace and embellishments felt rich and gothic.
Julien Macdonald produced one of his most intricate collections – blindingly golden, with beaded tulle in patterns that evoked a dark fairy-tale forest. And the knitwear maestros Sibling showed complex crocheted, knitted and laddered woollen evening wear and suits.
Among the silken ruffles and giant silk flowers offered up by Rocha were extraordinary appliquéd florals on full-skirted evening gowns.
In contrast to the old-fashioned glamour of these elaborate dresses, some designers looked to the future, with the Fyodor Golan duo creating a sort of high-tech streetwear – baseball caps combined with holographic fabrics, vivid metallic leather and four-square cuts. They were also sponsored to create a skirt made of Nokia phones and tablets: an obvious marketing plug, but beautiful nevertheless.
David Koma continued his futuristic lines, too, with body-con leather corsetry and crinolines showing why he is the artistic director of original body-con brand Mugler.
The biggest trend of the season is the return of black as the major colour. It was evident in everything from Christopher Kane’s oversized androgyny to the sleek, sexy chic of Amanda Wakeley; and from the Mrs Robinson-style velvet knee-length dresses and floor-length skirts of Tom Ford to the little black dresses at Marios Schwab.
Black might have been the top trend, but the biggest story of the season involved no clothing at all: it was the launch of Mulberry’s new collection of bags designed with the model of the moment and face of the brand, Cara Delevingne. Following the departure of the brand’s creative director Emma Hill last year, there was no fashion collection on show. Instead, Mulberry and Delevingne have created a series of highly finished Bayswater-style handbags, made in England, that turn into backpacks and come in three sizes and finishes.
It makes sense: if you’re going to be wearing the season’s minimalist chic, a big, posh handbag is probably just what you need.
• View our London Fashion Week slideshow at https://www.thenationalnews.com/lifestyle