In the wildly premature world of fashion, September means one thing – an escapist’s foray into next year’s summer collections. As 2012 rolls towards a close, September’s London Fashion Week made for a high-octane and notably British finale. Tweeds and tradition, however, were ousted and replaced with a truly diverse representation of British culture.
Nasir Mazhar, the street-style milliner, presented his debut collection of accessories and clothes, bringing a true flavour of Hackney to proceedings. Mazhar, born and bred in East London and of Turkish Cypriot descent, is recognised for his inventive approaches to sports caps and headwear. For fashion week he recreated a Hackney barbershop, complete with kids MC-ing and kicking back in barber chairs, whilst sporting Mazhar’s collection of caps, backpacks, sportswear and slogan t-shirts.
The designer, who trained under costume hatmaker Jane Smith, cites East London’s youth culture as inspiration – “punks, rude boys, rude girls, Rastas, religious clothing”.
Another Hackney-based designer with a penchant for counterculture is the reliably experimental Louise Gray. The Scot brought a refined version of her punk-edged aesthetic to the catwalk at the Topshop space in Bedford Square. Youthful bomber jackets and printed leggings in Gray’s trademark geometric print and tabloid scribble were paired with ladylike knee-length dresses and tailored coats. Gray reinterpreted traditionally formal garments, like pinafore dresses and collared shirts, by layering them in clashing tones and patterns. This all helped to produce a consciously evolving slant on the designer’s well-crafted aesthetic.
The designer referenced breezy summers through fifties dresses with cut-out backs and brassiere tops. However, there was nothing sedate about this collection and Gray reminded us of her non-conformist nature with tartan platforms, giant mirror disk rings and earrings, and cartoon crowns pencilled onto the models’ eyebrows (a bit of Jubilee, a bit of Vivienne Westwood perhaps?). The designer was sponsored this season by none other than Barbie, a pairing that must be seen as a stroke of genius. Gray’s world is one of dress-up: post feminist feminine without flaunting. One thing is for certain, Gray has put her sponsorship to good use, creating a collection that could teach Barbie a thing or two about breaking the rules.
Fashion Week refused to let up on the senses, East London duo Meadham Kirchhoff creating a world of pop-culture infused Rococo luxury. With the collection entitled ‘Meadham Kirchhoff, A Cautionary Tale’ the designers defied convention by sending models meandering around a catwalk of draped screens and original wallpaper, whilst nibbling cupcakes. Corseted jacquard dresses were worn over drainpipes and paired with white denim style peplum jackets. Dishevelled extravagance came to mind, the craftsmanship of old-style couture clothing offset by popular culture.
At Vauxhall Fashion Scout in Holborn’s Freemason’s Hall, Leutton Postle brought their craft-inspired aesthetic back to the catwalk for a third season. AW12‘s oversize knits and ochre hues were replaced by a collection of tunics, croptops and loose shirts in a cleaner palette of citrus, blue and white. The pair’s fondness for fringing and tassels was reinstated, but this time destined for sunnier climes.
Crocheted cobalt-blue crop tops with yard-long tassels and multicoloured beading formed a tribal beach holiday aesthetic. Orange and fuchsia mesh flares, metallic fabrics and glitter platforms injected 70s disco into the equation. Meanwhile, there was a definite accessibility to Leutton Postle’s collection – two-tone shirts with crisp oversized collars and geometric patterned shorts were sure-fire winners, with real commercial potential.
From the burgeoning group of East London designers at Fashion Week, trends seemed to be dismissed and focus fell on having fun with clothes and producing garments that celebrated cultural abundance.