By: Emma Sells Follow @EvjSells
1. Antonio Berardi 2. Thomas Tait 3. Mother of Pearl
Striding purposefully down the catwalk, Thomas Tait's models looked like military personnel in a fabulously styled Seventies sci-fi adventure. It wasn't just the slicked back hair and boldly painted eyes or the courtyard walls around us moodily lit in red. It was the slightly off-kilter colours - mustard yellow, red, cobalt blue, emerald green and black - the angular cut of the masculine coats and jackets, the trousers pieced together from geometric blocks of colour, the pointed leather ankle boots. Even the more feminine pieces, mini pleated chiffon skirts, asymmetric, iridescent gowns and a clutch of dresses made up of different colours and textures, had a whiff of Star Trek about them. Unlike a lot of London's young designers he'd focused on the creative rather than the commercial. The result? A brilliantly executed, stand-out collection.
Wed never done eveningwear before, so we thought wed do it with a more relaxed feel, said Jane Shepherdson at today's Whistles presentation. And so they did. These were dressing up clothes for the girl who's more comfortable being a little bit scruffy and undone than dressed to the nines. From swinging silk vests and full midi skirts to cut-away dresses and louche, loose fitting trousers, the shapes were minimal and quietly directional in lilac, ice blue and green. There were plenty of details to note too; pleated inserts, flashes of sequins, printed checks, faux fur, ponyskin and slides (yes, for winter). It was the perfect blend of sophisticated cool - expect to see London's most stylish clamouring for it next season.
The Antonio Berardi woman has been gradually getting more and more of an edge over the past few seasons. Even the show notes described her as stern this morning. Its not that shes lost any of her femininity or sexiness, just that shes toughened up a bit - and thats no bad thing. There wasnt a trouser in sight, of course, just, short, figure-hugging mini dresses in jewel toned duchesse satin and floor sweeping gowns mixed in with cleverly cut tailored jackets and elegant coats. And the shoes, designed for the third season by Rupert Sanderson, ran from over-the-knee boots to glittering sandals, the finishing touches for seriously modern power dressing.
Huishan Zhang is another designer who knows how to conjure a good dress. The Chinese designer is one of NEWGENs rising stars thanks to his canny knack for blending his Eastern heritage with a Western aesthetic. His collection was terribly pretty without veering into girly-girl territory. One dress in rich pink velvet dress was striped with cream lace, another long sheer gown was beautifully embroidered with flowers, another had an embroidered cream bodice and fluffy tiered skirt. His separates were strong too, from the printed swing coat to the ripped velvet tunic and pencil skirt. Remember his name - he's only going to get bigger.
1. Whistles 2. Mother of Pearl 3. Michael van der Ham
Richard Saja was the artist chosen to work his magic on the Mother of Pearl collection this season, channeling William Morris and Arts and Crafts references into colourful needlework featuring unicorns and cherubs. The sporty, skater girl feel of past seasons had been swapped for a more romantic and refined girl dressed in long sleeved, princess-line dresses, delicately embroidered blouses and bomber jackets and lightweight, finely beaded skirts, and those skater shoes replaced by embellished stacked loafers. It was beautiful, and the cool girls will take apart the looks and style the pieces with denim and sweatshirts.
There were some pretty pieces at Michael Van der Ham's show; dresses embellished with sequins under stiff, opaque layers, boldly printed sweaters with lace pencil skirts and colourful printed shot silk dresses with velvet bodices that echoed the mismatched patchwork that first got him noticed.But the coloured tights and high heeled loafers were a too-literal take on his sixties influences and the huge Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern felt too big - a more intimate setting would have suited it better.