London Fashion Week A/W 12 - Vauxhall Fashion Scout

Blog by Rena Niamh Smith | 21 Mar 2012

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

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 

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

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