Catwalk

Jonathan Saunders

Just when you thought you knew where the LFW season was heading – punk, decadence, expensiveness, polish, polish, polish - up pops a show that jolts and provokes.

Sex. Yes, SEX. The three-letter word that hasn’t been used in a while, what with all the minimalism of recent seasons threatening to suffocate us all with good taste.So it was refreshing to see Jonathan Saunders throw breasts, waists and hips into the ring with his powerful show at the Royal Exchange tonight.

‘British 1950s pin ups, Allen Jones sculptures and lots of David Lynch,’ he rattled off backstage. ‘Misery and tits! Tortured womanhood!’ he added, always one to puncture any serious question about empowering women with a blast of humour.

This sexy strong retro power woman was a departure for Saunders, from the first strappy bustier and skirt that flared from a belted waist in sturdy army green worsted, appliqued with vinyl flowers, we knew he was heading into new territory.

More vinyl and other materials one might normally associate with a sex shop followed – rubber, patent leather, plastic - first in prim pleated skirts and black liquid-shine, second-skin dominatrix tops, then in corsets worn on top of the finest devore velvet dresses that were kinkily cut out under the bust – it really was quite rare to see such a display of bosoms a la Diana Dors from Saunders, even if he had started to lean towards a sexier attitude last season. His last ode to sex was a full on white tailored rubber dress which looked effortlessly sophisticated.

But perhaps the most sophisticated thing about his collection was the colour – always his starting point when he begins a new collection, before the silhouettes or concepts, when he’s alone with his intuition, it’s the palette he likes to nail. And in this he is the LFW master. Well who else can take us from olive and sludge brown through orange, azure, crimson, flushed-nude, jade and scarlet?

As for the trademark Saunders prints, they were non-existent. He’d used texture instead, juxtaposing mohair and rubber, he said, and ‘the most expensive lace I’ve ever used’ – cut into beautiful, rippling velvet-stencilled dresses. The vinyl corsets are of course an optional extra.

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