London Fashion Week A/W 12 - Vauxhall Fashion Scout
The Vauxhall Fashion Scout has now been operating for ten seasons at London Fashion Week, organising a schedule of presentations, fashion films, exhibitions and of course, catwalk shows. Officially an 'off-schedule' event, they have nevertheless established themselves on the fashion map along with On Off and Blow as go-to carousels of the best up-and-coming design talent, helping launch the careers of names like David Koma, Peter Pilotto, William Tempest and Felder Felder. Sponsored by brands Toni & Guy, Body Shop, Fashion Monitor and, of course, Vauxhall, it is a popular destination for the fash pack, and they now run a successful showroom in Paris as well. Housed in the beautiful Freemasons Hall, just minutes from the main Fashion Week location at Somerset House, they have an extensive location with several show spaces and a good press lounge too. This season, I attended a total of thirteen shows and presentations there and also checked out the exhibition; here are some highlights.
On Friday, Krystof Strozyna presented in the upper room at 1.30pm, with marble interior and wrought iron lattice work dividing the runway into two fairly intimate rooms. A designer known for his love of the female form, the collection nevertheless had a sharp, angular aesthetic of minimal tailoring in sombre colourways. The show notes cited Jekyll and Hyde as influence, and in many ways it was the contradictions at play that made this collection the succinct and powerful message it was. Opening with a body-con dress and billowing collared cape, the designer juxtaposed modern, sporty silhouette with slightly costume, vintage Other. The hourglass shape was created by angled panelling. For all the femininity, the androgynous suiting made this a statement in subtlety, with leather collared shirts and simplistic long blazer jackets an important feature. A coat featuring cut-out side panels and side-slit gowns was masterful in its balance between girl-boy and historical elements. As well as masculine monochrome, a peach and grey palette lent a breezy, feminine edge, while electric blue was deliciously neutral, playing host to looks going both ways. Zips also lent looks a focus, and many pieces could easily be worn day to night. A previous winner of New Gen sponsorship and CSA graduate, Strozyna clearly has a handle on making collections both wearable and wow.
On Saturday, Dans La Vie held their catwalk show at 1.15PM. This was in the downstairs space, a long room with a high ceiling and a tightly packed photographers’ pit at the end of the runway. Brain child of Japanese designer Rira Sugawara, the collection was inspired by pop art of the 1960s – the reference to Marilyn Monroe in hair and lip styles were hard to miss, done just as luridly as in Andy Warhol's iconic prints. The orange and purple circle motif was reminiscent of target paintings by artists such as Kenneth Noland and Peter Blake, worn printed, as on coats, or as a headpiece. Oh-so-retro, models strutted with fashion-fabulous ferocity in circular shades and all-in-one catsuits printed with the mad mash-ups of a free imagination, or sixties style belted coats worn with skirts. With snakeskin and shiny fabrics also used, there was a slightly kitsch, trashy vibe, done with just the right level of panache. The show notes cited leading Japanese calligrapher, linguist and high priest Kukai as inspiration.
Next at 2.45pm was Alice Lee’s catwalk show. Designers Alice and Lee’s fourth season, the pair's careers under the knitted-together name began with New Gen sponsorship and now sees them collaborating with the like of Giles and stocked by Selfridges. With models' faces covered by hair and angular wedge shoes customised with paint, the mood was dark and romantic while nevertheless remaining clean and urban. The designers played with texture, opening with a collared cape and leggings, while a cardigan-slash-bomber jacket featured knit top and faux fur from the bust line down, an altogether different way of emphasising shoulder blades. Leather stitching was used on the edges and running into garments as lines, blocks, and curving up to create soft shoulder shapes. One jacket was ribbed on the bias across the back and faux fur trimmed coat lapels. Hemlines were graded, or longer at only one side. The show notes reproduced Dante Gabriel Rosetti's Sudden Light and with lyrical setting and classical literature in mind, this was futurism 'without the sci-fi', as the show notes put it. With a largely monochrome, earthy palette, cobalt blue and tomato red stood out all the more clearly. The closing look of rose mask in red, black and white, shown with all black gown summed this up perfectly.
Shao Yen earned his fashion stripes at CSM then with Hussein Chayalan and Alexander McQueen, while his own label has been picked up by Dazed & Confused, Style Bubble and won him bespoke commission from Björk in 2009. The Taiwanese designer presented a sportif collection this season at the Vauxhall Fashion Scout. Sipping pink cider, the crowd were somewhat overwhelmed by themselves as photographers, bloggers and the like vied for positions to capture the best angle. For the second outing of outfits, however, PRs cleared the space and things could be viewed far better without worrying you were about to crash into someone else's lens. A knitwear designer by trade, Yen integrated heritage British fabrics into evening and sportswear looks. As with many designers this season, orange was a favourite shade, as in the ensemble featuring silky pant and baseball cap, as was turquoise, both of which popped against darker designs, as seen in the long haired orange sleeves with the black dress. The tweed parka was particularly witty, and models wore either trainers or stilettos with sporty socks. Keeping beauty clean and simple, the collection was fun and wearable.
Carlotta Actis Barone showed at 7pm on Saturday. By far the most dramatic of the shows, the set was filled with smoke from the models’ entrance to the runway before the first look came out. Known for choosing inspiration from extremely controversial issues, Barone this season looked to the Holocaust for source material. The translated Arbeit Macht Frei, Work Liberates, was a key motif; models wore wellington boots, a symbol, in this case, of drudgery and discomfort; the words were also worked onto nude tights material onto bodysuits, dresses and leggings, in shapes reminiscent of the death camp gates themselves. Models had back-combed birds nest hairstyles and smoky eye makeup extended onto the nose to with skull-like eeriness. Capes also featured, as symbols of religion repressed, and the colour palette kept to a strict and sombre purple, blue and black, referring perhaps also to the colours of bruised human skin. The dramatic layered gowns in rich tones worn with boots captured the fragility of the human spirit and completed the drama and poise of the collection. We can only ask ourselves, though, if we have come to a point where we can remember this dark moment in history through fabric and fashion?
As part of the House of Evolution showcase which featured two other brands, Zeyneb Tosen’s collection stood out by far. Held at 4pm on Sunday, the first runway show for the Turkish designer was a runaway success. Inspired by Japanese Samurai, the collection refrained from appearing too costume-like. Using peplum shapes, it focused on clean lines and layered tailoring, with narrow pant silhouettes. Opening with monochrome, orange and oxblood were also used to delicious effect. There were wonderful pieces with what appeared to be cherry blossom outlines in clean orange printed onto white, as well as lightning bolts printed onto a darker background. The models wore their hair in a folded bun on the crown of their head and had hair extensions added at the back, a fierce, androgynous look. Having opened her flagship store in Istanbul and won Elle’s Best Upcoming Designer award, we hope to see even greater things from Tosun.
The Pam Hogg show at 7pm on Sunday was by far one of – if not the – biggest dates on the Vauxhall calendar. Running extremely late and packed to the rafters, it was only through previous experience that I knew to make a beeline for a little ledge along the back wall that offers a full view of proceedings and none of the claustrophobia of a very full room. Set to a manic soundtrack of sawing violins, the collection began with an A-line skirt dress with long sleeves and over-sized bonnet combination done in panelled PVC recalling some mad, over-sexed Little House on the Prairie character. Jamie Winstone made a catwalk cameo in one such look. A catsuit in the same material with faux fur patch on the crotch had all in the front row smirking. Also shown were catsuit and playsuits in fine chiffon, some with ruched details, which exposed models' bodies, and the final look, where a girl walked out in nothing but a bonnet and some ribbons to hide her modesty, was the ultimate in Lolita-like innocence and sexuality.
Lako Bukia showed at 7.30pm on Monday. It was an elegant collection with grace, but nevertheless full of attitude. Set to a soundtrack of remixed Lana Del Ray and distorted electro sounds, towering models with futuristic war-paint makeup of thick geometric eyebrows wore a mash-up of 70s minimalist and fetish references. Inspired by the Georgian superstition that breaking mirrors brings bad luck, tailoring such as shirting, jackets and narrow pants used a high-shine silver fabric, often using cutout, dagger-like panels. A darker silver jersey was also used in dresses with shirt collars and A-line skirts with lightning bolts of sheer revealing bare breasts. While the sleeveless jackets in boucle wool and leather shirt collars provided sombre backdrop, these flashes of frailty and the closing gown, with long sheer sleeves and full chiffon skirt in black and one shoulder encrusted in what looked like an entire broken mirror, were heart-stopping in beauty of a clean but twisted kind.
Shows at Vauxhall Fashion Scout are always a joy, not only for discovering new names to look out for, but also because staff are always extremely helpful. The team also run a blog that is a must-have resource for the week. The other thing about Fashion Scout: you never know who you might meet there, be it small-time blogger, too-cool editor, or even someone vaguely famous. To Fashion Scout, I raise a glass of complimentary champagne.