Monday, 4 November 2013

#ESPspotlight REVIEW: LONDON FASHION WEEK SS14 - DAY ONE: Catwalks, Exhibitions, & Snogs, Oh My!

My mental mindset going into London Fashion Week Spring / Summer 2014, was to be a zen-like sponge. Calm amidst chaos; I would be nothing, but take everything in. It took mere moments to achieve my 'sponge'-like plateau literally; as I queued for entry into the grand Freemasons Hall, at the mercy of typical (wet) London weather. Since interesting scenes were forming outside the building however, on this occasion, I didn't mind.

First running into my LFW Fairy Godmother - also known as Felicities PR head honcho, Ali Lowe - the chance meeting gave me a welcome opportunity to thank her for one half of my carte blanche event calendar. As she went off in search of reliable mobile reception; I ran into another familiar face, that of MTV starlet, Little Nikki, who I first encountered headlining Rock The Belles back in January. A quick catch up later, and the only way to prevent the rain from ruining my excitement, was to watch the sights; as many a brightly-attired fashionista, tottered their way to the end of the line. More than the rain however, it was the slow / non-existent pace of the queue 20 minutes after Yeashin's catwalk presentation was scheduled to start, that was getting my goat.

Yeashin catwalk invitation, courtesy of POP PR...

Finally inside, and ushered up to the Hall's Vestibule, the buzz was electric as we waited for the show to start. Starspotting with one eye, and setting up my cameras with the other; I could tell from the staring and whispers that 'Someone' sat in close proximity to my vantage point, but my angle prevented their identification until after the show had finished - but more about her later...

The lights went down, the audience hushed, and the collective anticipation became electrified, as the first model passed through the historic, wrought iron gates...

Yeashin's colour palette centered around pastels. The main material of choice was satin, and the embellishments mostly consisted of pleats, petals and pearls. Each model's uniform began either with bone straight tresses, adorned with a thin, simple braid crown; or sailor-style, white hats which, for reasons I've yet to put my finger on, brought visions of a young Jackie Kennedy to mind. Girly chiffon and ribbons aside; all ended with beige, pointy courts topped with a single large pearl at the toe. The collection had a flirty, 'living doll' type of feel overall, dated in the simple lines and shapes of the 60s. Skating far too close to the border of boring, it was the minutiae of detail that brought the works back from the edge. The saving grace was Sass, and minutiae was where it was hidden. The length celebrated Mary Quant, while ruffles - not an invention I can usually stand - and thin brown (leather?) strips that ran the length, or width of some garments added a nice touch of bad to the good girl ensemble.

Though not really to my personal taste, one Lianne Le Havas - my earlier-mentioned, seated neighbour - was completely taken with everything the line had to offer. Welcoming and approachableMs Le Havas had these choice things to say, when I questioned her about the show:

ES: "I heard you describe the Yeashin collection as "Pretty, Lovely, and Playful". Would you say that's the kind of thing that best suits your style? How would you best describe what you're looking for throughout Fashion Week?"

LLH: "I'm always looking for stuff that I consider to be innovative. And I think that's what London Fashion Week is about; in that way, it makes it the most creative and anticipated. Watching that show, I felt exactly that sense, I got exactly that from it. It's interesting textures mixed with other textures that you wouldn't expect. I loved the collars with the stuck on leaves - they were really, really cute; and I loved the styling as well. The girls looked really pretty, and really feminine. I think femininity, and celebrating the female form, is what I personally look for at Fashion Week; but I love when they use textures as well."

Dedicated to decadence in all its forms, seemingly every alcove within the beautiful structure placed singular works of upcoming talent in the spotlight; ahead of their full collection debuts in the Graduate Showcase scheduled two days later...

Back in the refined foyer, I was far from keen to return to the outdoor queue as security were strongly coercing me to do, when the deluge that I escaped earlier, had gone up a good 12 notches in under 30 minutes. Rebelling against 'The Man' and his nonsensical rules (why would I exit the building, only to rejoin the queue for re-entry, when I've already produced my tickets for two later shows? Silly rules have to be ignored - sorry!) I instead chose to focus on the buzz of activity in a part of the building I had not ventured into before. Passing through the dark and heavy, wooden double doors, decorated with stained glass; I was immediately greeted by one of several handsome representatives, physically perfect for Louis Walsh's next manufactured vanilla boyband, modelling azure-blue tee-shirts, boldly emblazoned with the slogan: 'Fancy a SNOG?'  in an 'innocent' white script. Laden with waiter-style, circular silver serving trays, filled with miniature cups of vanilla, cherry, or chocolate frozen yogurt, capped with raspberries, blueberries, and broad, cheeky smiles; it seemed wholly rude to reply with anything short of: 'Don't mind if I do!'

Tangy refreshments indulged, it took a matter of moments for me to register my surroundings and The International Showcase Exhibition, celebrating Fashion Scout's 'Ones To Watch'. Helen Lawrence, Hannah Williams, and Renli Su dressed one side of the room, opposite Merit Award Winner, Yulia Kondranina, and Copenhagen-based International fashion label, MUUSE on the other. Festive sounds were provided courtesy of co-sponsors Nude Audio, whilst free makeup makeovers were provided courtesy of The Body Shop's new 'Colour Me Crush' range, who also made good use of their sponsorship placement.

Were I thin-skinned, I would've taken offence that this
was the only occasion ALL day when the 'Magic Mirror' failed...
The premise of the 'Magic Mirror', was to tweet the colour of your wardrobe, to receive reply with the colour makeup guides that you should be wearing to match. Never one to pass up the magical wonders of a brush palette, I decided it would be irresponsible of me not to test drive the special social media booth for you all, and so here is Yours Truly, giving the interactive mirror a whirl between shows...

The earlier-mentioned Fashion Scout 'Ones To Watch' were a brilliant trifecta in diversity of styles. As hard as I tried to find a hook that would allow me to identify with the works of Renli Su, I could really only appreciate the collection for what it was - whether it be the confines of theatre, or a 'cotton field chic' catwalk, was really the dealer's choice. Hannah Williams was really more for the upmarket clientele. The gray, rubber-like finish of her handbag and coat centrepiece drew the intended attention. The simple detailing of her embedded logo added an elegance that I'm sure will land her in upscale boutiques in no time. It was Helen Lawrence however, who commanded most of my attention. Youth, vitality, and futuristic edge coursed through her entire body of work. From the plastic skirts - the inspiration for which came about completely by chance whilst crafting her garment structures - to her innovative use of contrasting colours and materials, Lawrence somehow managed to create a happy crossroads between 1984 and 2084, that landed us squarely in the here and now.

Renli Su
Hannah Williams

Helen Lawrence
Yulia Kondranina changed my intentions of attending her show, with one look at her 2012 collection. Her floor-length tassel dresses and blazers were hypnotic from the moment I laid eyes on them. With attention-grabbing shapes that had you performing 'Proud Mary' on the spotlight stage of your mind, it came as no surprise when the designer explained the story behind a little red dress that had Rita Ora's stylist adhering to that old 'You break it, you buy it' adage, after her Glastonbury performance earlier this year...The biggest shocker of all however, came when Miss K talked me through the mechanics of the presentation that won her this year's Merit Award. It wasn't the intricacies involved in creating these new knitted and crochet designs, with contrasting textures and textures that floored me, but the fact that she'd seen enough tassels to last her a lifetime, so much so, that she would only design new pieces on private commission...I mean, sick of tassels? Can you imagine?

Rita Ora - Glastonbury 2013
Yulia Kondranina 2012

The collective works of the many talents that under the MUUSE banner, were definitely worth the stop. Global brands aside - it naively never occurred to me, that London Fashion Week focused so heavily on anything other than British designers; so seeing the ideas that came from creatives taking their work to an entirely different cultural stage was an awakening in, and of, itself. The many points to note about this jacket from the 'Contemporary White' collection by Eun-Jung Lee for instance - an absolute masterpiece in my eyes - were just one of the things that piqued my interest...

'Contemporary White' by Eun-Jung Lee
MUUSE Magazine Online Archive 

The works of Bernard Chandran on the catwalk were next, and I have to say they were the first to take my breath away from this new season (Kondraninaian tassels notwithstanding). Dependent upon the level of brazen on your wardrobe's audacious scale, his sexy selection would either transform you into a whirl of colour on a blank canvas, or a shiny, unwrapped Christmas cracker - think fun, flirty, and girly Gucci, meets the prosaic, pseudo-sheen of Primark, both happily co-existing on a fashion rail. Unwrapped presents aside; from the sheath cuts to the pleating, to the jewel embellished straps, to the playful, yet elegant jumpsuits and marvelous red maxi dress - the entire collection was practically WGSN trendcast verbatim, which made me awfully glad that I paid close attention to the fashion tarot of Lorna Hill...

The only detail that I couldn't thank the global organisation for teaching me ahead of time, was how to pinpoint one specific era of influence, when it borrowed from the best of so many. Eventually I had to surrender to the idea that Bernard Chandran's SS14 collection was a celebration of fashion throughout the ages.

Model uniforms this time consisted of simple, pale skin and eyes so as not to overshadow, or clash with the clothing, topped off with a bold red, lo-shine lip, for a kiss of chic. Loose, borderline messy single ponytails kept hair subtly framing faces; some crowned with unconventional tiaras, headchains and headphone accessories - complete with iPod, whilst others sported nothing at all, just to keep up the variety. Toes really did twinkle, in sandals and slingbacks of assorted heel heights. The 2-3 inchers dazzled in their own right, but the flats were where my bubble burst. Jelly shoes are as much of an insult to fashion, as Jedward is to music - and yet that's exactly what they were reminiscent of. Thankfully, the strength of the new line as a whole, was strong enough to overlook the horrible similarity.

Tassel Queen Yulia Kondranina was the final catwalk of Day One. After the excitement of the day's earlier discovery, I was eager to get a good look at the next step in her creative evolution. Keen to explore an avenue as far from the festive fringes of her previous line as possible, the Aztec knit and crochet patterns in varied, contrasting colours successfully achieved her goal of distinction - although it was unfortunately not in a way that was remarkable enough to compare, in my humble opinion. Barely there makeup and slicked back, loose tendrils gave hair a 'wetlook' effect; most of the models stayed on their low-heeled, slip-on sandals, thus capping the final uniform look of the day.

It wasn't until I exited the building into the still pouring rain, that my adrenalin rush began a steady descent, and I realised the full capacity of the Fashion Week bubble. Though darkness now surrounded, inside and out, I finally recognised the mystical powers of Freemasons Hall, and all that was contained within it. No mood enhancements needed, the high from Day One was enough to carry me back to my front door, ready to refuel, and do it all again after some much needed sleep...

Stay Tuned for Day Two but in the meantime, catch up with the day in pictures on the ESP Facebook Page!
ES ;)