London has long been the home of disruptive fashion – lest we forget, this is the city that unleashed Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. So the search is always on for the next great fashion talent to emerge from this chaotic, creative metropolis. With this in mind, the must-attend show at this week's London Fashion Week was Matty Bovan, who is widely regarding as a rising star of rare calibre. Although barely out college, Bovan is armed with the kind of raw, unpolished talent that Britain does so well. Expectations were high for his spring/summer 2019 show.
Before the event, Bovan's show notes spoke of the designer's unease at a Britain overshadowed by social inequality, Brexit and austerity. The solution, Bovan tells us, is to "bang a drum, hard, for the idea of being yourself". The flamboyant Bovan presented this idea of self with full-skirted ladies from another era, moulded into a joyful collection of corsets and crinolines, festooned in offcuts of glorious fabrics.
Made from repurposed rubbish and other people's leftovers, Bovan's vast skirts consisted of haphazard pieces of cloth, topped with deconstructed pieces of clothing executed in brash colours and craftsy finishes. Who knew rag rugs could be so appealing? Exciting, fearless and audacious are all words that apply here, but Bovan's crazy melange was handled so adroitly, it was also light, beautiful and wildly glamorous. There is something dreamlike about Bovan's work, which for all its deshabille charm, is also immaculately constructed, like the dresses for a present-day costume drama.
On a very different note, Victoria Beckham marked the 10-year anniversary of her eponymous label by decamping from her usual New York Fashion Week slot and coming home to London. In New York, she was embraced for bringing a little London savvy to the US, while, ironically, for her return, she brought a definite Big Apple note back to the UK. Beckham has had to fight hard over the past decade to prove she is more than a bored ex-pop star and this, her spring/summer 2019 show, demonstrated exactly how far a designer can come in a decade. Gone is the severe tailoring of her early work, replaced with the louche, fluid cuts that she has made her signature. The show opened with Stella Tennant wearing a lace-trimmed camisole top, teamed with side-fastened wide trousers and topped with a simple masculine blazer.
Next came a poppy-red dress that hugged the torso, before falling in a soft handkerchief hem. Such asymmetry became a theme, appearing in tops, skirts, dresses and even trousers – including those Beckham wore for her curtain bow. Patterns appeared as tiny, intricate, almost dazzling graphics, worn head to toe, while elsewhere a simple voluminous black dress hung from a sparingly cut strappy neckline. Overall, this was confident, assured and filled with daring colour combinations (duck-egg blue and mustard, for one) that proved that Beckham has grown into a designer to be reckoned with, even if she had to do it all the hard way. What a homecoming.
Another designer who chose London for her big moment was Alexa Chung, the It-girl-slash-model-slash-TV presenter. Long admired for her personal style, launching her own label was always going to be the next logical step, and she unveiled her first fully fledged collection in London. Chung took travel as her inspiration, and the result was a series of laid-back looks, mixing comfort with practicality.
Gleaming vinyl macs, vintage-looking silk dresses and tailored boiler suits were the order of the day, along with bandeau bikini tops worn with city shorts, and even a box-cut double-breasted suit in all-white. Details came as bucket hats or postcard patterns splashed across dresses, while a thigh-slashed sequined dress provided a grown-up air. Wearable, admirable and very Chung, this is the label for you if you are a fan of her offbeat personal style.
J W Anderson’s show, meanwhile, was a slight departure for a designer best known for blurring the line between menswear and womenswear. For spring/summer 2019, the brand focused entirely on women, in a collection that felt unexpectedly feminine. Clad in pirate-style bandannas, models paraded in lace-edged, mid-length dresses piled over tasselled maxi gowns or wide-legged trousers. This was a conversation about layering (such as a tunic top over a fringed, striped skirt), but presented in a freshly imagined way. Dresses were stripped back so that only the surface beading remained, while strappy tops sat over slightly flouncy mini capes.
Temperley London also delivered a strong show, opting to use models such as 64-year-old photographer Ellen von Unwerth and a pregnant Arizona Muse. In possibly one of her best collections to date, Alice Temperley offered a glittering array of lavishly decorated, but ultimately simple, pieces. A belted shirt dress (or was it just a dressing gown? Does it matter?) shimmered with silvery pink beading, while box jackets were festooned with sawtooth edges in shiny metallics and huge embroidered patches on the back. The dresses at which Temperley truly excelled were delicate layers of nude tulle layered with big, bold sequined flowers scattered haphazardly, tumbling down arms and sFandersonkirts.
Also celebrating 10 years in the business was Mary Katrantzou, who, in a pleasing touch, dedicated her notes to thanking all who have helped her achieve success. Fittingly for a designer who has ploughed her way through the visual lexicon of collections and collecting, this offering, too, was all about the hoarding of precious items.
Choosing five themes – stamps, insects, perfume, jewellery and art – the stamps were beaded on to dresses, while a trapeze coat dress was covered in 3-D butterflies, ready to flutter away in the breeze. Beading and embroidery lay under layers of protective plastic, while a dress became a trompe-l'œil perfume bottle, tightly nipped in at the waist. It was another fitting nod to London's ever-present creativity.