London Fashion Week A/W 2012

Feature by Alexandra Fiddes and Emma Segal | 01 Mar 2012

This London Fashion Week we heard and read about the idea that the 'trend' this season was that there was 'no trend' (as ridiculous a concept as that may sound). We, however, disagree. Although it is true that a lot of the collections shown this Autumn/Winter 2012 certainly had their own distinct personality and clearly fell within the designers' signature style and look, there were certain threads of similarity running through the work on show, whether this was in the type of fabric used for key pieces, the colour palette or elements of embellishment. [Alexandra Fiddes]

Illustration: Kristen Orme

Fabric and Silhouette:

It seems lazy for editors and journalists to cite leather as an Autumn/Winter trend; in recent years, the two have almost become synonymous. As extreme lovers of the fabric at The Skinny, we may also be guilty of magnifying its importance. It is therefore a testament to British design talent that leather, in new and exciting forms, has once again become the KEY fabric of A/W 12. Whether it came in the form of grey embellished dresses and wine coloured A-line skirts at ACNE, or in accessories and panelled looks, as was the case in
Aminaka Wilmont and Emelio De La Morena, it was king on the catwalk. The key to making leather definitively A/W12? It’s all about the effects. Treated and metallicised leather bronze gilets stood out at Todd Lynn, and plasticised leather tops at both J W Anderson and Simone Rocha made the look futuristic, cool and
covetable. The only reservation to note is that these looks will be difficult to replicate on the high street, meaning it may not be achievable for everyone.

Though leather was a hugely important fabric, velvets and silks are also enjoying a big comeback. Unique featured an elegant midnight black velvet jumpsuit and loose fitting trousers; at Christopher Kane, striping the fabrics added a fresh new take to the mix. Also at Kane, the juxtaposition of velvet against silk dresses enhanced the beauty of some of the simpler silhouettes and structures on display.

By contrast, armoured lamé (and related iridescent and metallic-effect fabrics), was heavily used in the collections despite being less commonly associated with Autumn/Winter trends. Antonio Berardi used the fabric to great effect in a variety of silhouettes, particularly in outerwear. Holly Fulton’s final look featured
an armoured crop-top that simply has to be seen to be believed. Some designers chose to literally create shimmer with sequins; Eudon Choi’s use of paneled sequin sections in multi-fabric tops presented an elegant new way of using shimmer. However, most designers used the fabrics to enliven some simple, clean silhouettes. Christian Blanken’s excellent use of what can only be described as ‘Disco Silver’ fabric (!) transformed an ostensibly simple pair of casual fit trousers into laidback, luxe-sports chic.

Moving away from fabric, the silhouettes and shapes on display this season can be roughly divided into two camps. On one hand, there was lots of extreme volume to be found; particularly in the shorter hemmed dresses of Bora Aksu. Additionally, within this camp, oversized and cocoon shapes were present. 2011 Fashion Fringe winners Fyodor Golan’s debut collection featured a beautifully constructed cocoon shaped red skirt, and ACNE’s knitwear and jumpers were loose fitting and artfully rounded in shape. By contrast, more designers were wooed with the idea of simple, sleek silhouettes already espoused by the likes of J J S Lee. Trousers, for the most part, were loose and flowing irrespective of fabric, in general, cuts were slick. We at The Skinny coined the ‘luxe-simplicity’ look to describe S/S12 collections; it was certainly present again in the A/W catwalk shows.

Finally, a quick note on two micro-trends. We’ve been keeping our eye out for examples of the ‘Van Der Ham effect’ on designers for the past few seasons. Increasingly, designers have been taking risks, and utilising his signature patch-working and multi-fabrication techniques. This season, multi-fabrication was everywhere, with garments being constructed from a variety of contrasting panels. The result was a wide proliferation of asymmetrical hemlines and interestingly structured garments. The look was mostly used in tops, skirts and outerwear, particularly at Choi and Unique. The second micro-trend also has its roots several seasons ago, but now stands firmly in the design zeitgeist of London’s talent. This season, separable collars, such as the plastic and lace ones as seen at Simone Rocha, or in Asku’s collection, were the order of the day. [Emma Segal]

Colour and Embellishment:

The A/W 12 collection from Mark Fast, entitled Questions In A World Of Blue and inspired by the David Lynch lyrics, was drawn from a colour scheme of dark grey, ivory, navy blue and dusty pinks. Garments were sexy, continuing with Fast's trademark elastic look, with short hems, double slits, bare shoulders and cut out pieces on hip bones and waists. Textures were soft, emphasised by the cosy soft fringes of what looked like raw wool used as beautiful details. For the closing of the show, there was a display of bright, intense cobalt blue pieces; the embellishment here was glittery stripes over knits and overlays of black beaded fish-net style body jewellery.

The use of raw wool as a design detail was also seen in other collections; namely those of Simone Rocha and J Js Lee. The resulting look of these embellished garments was more subtle but no less beautiful, much like the overall collections themselves. J Js Lee, never really one to go for all bright colours, produced a cream and ivory heavy collection with hints of smokey grey and diluted yellow. Up close a few of the minimal garments had tiny amounts of raw wool coming through the fabric in pale dove grey in graduating density around necklines and down arm seams. The work of (John's daughter) Simone Rocha was a body of work full of simple shapes – drop waists, above the knee skirts and biker jackets. The use of boning, lace, tufts of raw wool and also crocheted wool on necklines and collars elevated the collection to something ethereal and otherworldly, which was emphasised by the use of ivory throughout. Additionally, LFW debutante Sophie Hulme used subtle amounts of lace as detailing in her tough but still feminine garments. Unexpectedly, the lace was made up of dinosaur shapes! Genius! This dinosaur element ran through her collection, appearing as laser cut sections and gorgeous gold jewellery.

In comparison, lace decoration was a bold and central feature in the stunning work of Turkish born Bora Aksu. Based on American outsider artist Henry Darger's In The Realms of the Unreal, a story of the Vivian girls, so unsurprisingly the collection produced was full of fantasy. The colour choice here started with a lovely mix of dusky pinks and muted greys before offering splashes of fuchsia and orange later in the show. Pencil skirts, jackets and capes (and billowing short dresses towards the close of the show) were given interest in the form of a large lace-like repeat pattern used in and on a variety of textures of material. This lace print was taken from old fabrics, tapestries and 1950s wallpaper samples. Complex knits, ribbons, pussycat bows and 3D flowers also added contrasting details. Aksu's work was, yet again, breathtaking.

So, prints as garment embellishment were prevalent in the LFW A/W 12 collections, but were generally very specific to each designer's style. For example, Mary Katrantzou changed the mundane into something outstanding, taking everyday dreary objects – spoons, clothes, hangers, a bath, a typewriter to use as a starting point (our favourite was possibly the pencil skirt with a pencil print!). These were then used with a colour synonymous to the object itself. Here in places the knitwear was made to resemble the print itself.

Another print aficionado, Holly Fulton gave us a burst of exotic, hot house prints in her distinct art deco style, a stunning new print element was in the form of a swarm of butterflies rising from a trouser hem, this look was met by a gasp of appreciation from the crowd. Again bright fuchsia and cobalt blue were a hit on the runway, at Fulton's show this was paired with black. More embellishment came in the form of lavishly jewelled earrings and necklaces and the fringing of fabric on the last look shown.

Hints for Autumn/Winter 2012? When choosing a colour, go for either innocent ivory, all hues of grey (from dove to charcoal), berry pinks and orange, or bright eye popping blue. Fabric is of the utmost importance - whether this be plasticised, leather, metallic, velvet or silk - think opulent and unusual. Shapes are simple, oversized or sleek. Detailing and embellishment are to be considered carefully, it can be a subtle sprinkle of wool stitches or an in-your-face overlaid body piece. Remember, like the designers, start with your own signature style and go from there. [Alexandra Fiddes]