What difference solid investment makes to a designer was clear to see on Jonathan Saunders’ runway. The power and optimism of his latest collection sliced through the good shows of the week (and it has, on the whole, been a very good week for British fashion) to be one of the standouts of LFW so far, and one of the best the designer has ever produced.
The line of vividly coloured pillars that ran down the centre seam of the catwalk set up the proceedings beautifully. Saunders is a brilliant colourist, after all, and a master printer and both were at the heart of this collection. Cue a high-necked flirty dress covered in a swirling Op art-esque print, worn with scarlet dominatrix laced boots. Anyone who has seen Allen Jones’ exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts will know the type of boots, just as any fan of the artist Bridget Riley will recognise the print references.
But this was more than a gleeful celebration of colour and print, this was a masterclass in how to wear them. From the insanely all-over-stripes and squiggles in tones that shouldn’t have worked together but somehow did, to blocks of potent brights and pleats of graduating shades of mauve, violet, plum and burgundy. The key to their accessibility was the easy-to-wear wools and crepes in silhouettes that remained rigorously edited throughout: a ski jumper with trousers that flared from the knee, the simplest shifts, car coats and killer pleat skirts.
‘There had to be a real honesty about the brand and what I love, that was my focus,’ said Saunders backstage. Asked to sum up what his brand stands for in three words, he didn’t flinch: ‘Femininity, modernity and colour.’ His mission, to get more women out of their comfort zone and into kaleidoscopic colour – even those of us who are utterly freaked out by the thought – could not have been more perfectly executed.
As for his recent investment from Eiesha Bharti Pasricha, who also invested in Roksanda Ilincic, helping the designer open her first flagship on London’s Mount Street, had ‘alleviated the anxiety’ he said. And it showed, all the way down to the breezy easy music, George Michael’s Careless Whisper.