The 'See-Now Buy-Now' headlines of last season may have died down, but London Fashion Week's AW17 season is shaping up to be its slickest and most commercially appealing in recent years. Maybe that's because some of its most famous young upstarts are not that young anymore and have thriving businesses to grow.
Or, perhaps it's that London's fashion industry as a whole is all grown up, thanks to the highly organized efforts of the British Fashion Council (BFC) over the years — a fact made plain when the BFC hosted its first ever global Fashion Awards at Royal Albert Hall in December.
Whatever the reason, the shows are looking ever more polished and a little less eccentric this season, with wearable clothes to match. (Not that we'd ever want London to lose its flair for the wonderfully weird - this is what makes LFW special!) Here are some of the standouts so far:
Fresh off her new store opening in New York, Rocha pushed her romantic aesthetic into a more utilitarian place. Referencing military uniforms in her velvet suiting and coats and leather cross-body bags, this collection seemed more grounded in the everyday than any other she has done before.
Gone was the youthful pastel pink and yellow of previous seasons, replaced by a richer, more sophisticated palette of black and brown with occasional bursts of red. Even her florals, some done in leather, and lace had a more practical, real-world feel.
And driving home the more grown-up sensibility: a cast of women of all ages, including the 73-year-old Italian former model and actress Benedetta Barzini and 70-year-old American-born model Jan de Villeneuve. Simone isn't the first to celebrate older women on the runway this season, age diversity was trending in New York.
And, while this seems like a no-brainer from a business perspective — the women with the most disposable income to spend on luxury fashion, are generally a lot older than the average catwalk model, with women between the ages of 55 and 64 splurging the most — it's still all too rare.
But, judging by the giddy reaction on Instagram, there's clearly an appetite for a broader range of beauty. Let's hope more in London follow Rocha's lead.
The takeaway: More older models, please. And we never knew we needed a velvet trench until now.
If you didn't already know from the ever-increasing number of women who wear his accessories around town (could his handbag game be any stronger?), Jonathan Anderson is on a bit of a winning streak.
In the six years since he launched his women's line we've watched him evolve from making conceptual statements about gender fluidity to fully embracing, and redefining, glamour and femininity.
For aw17, Anderson deepened his study of the feminine in a series of dresses that made no big sweeping statements other than, 'wear me.'
These were confident clothes for women who dress to be noticed: ostrich feathers mixed with silk florals on one dress, slinky metallic chain mail on another.
There was also a leather moto jacket cropped to bra size worn with a swingy silk skirt, and a pair of relaxed, slouchy trousers styled under a full-length Margot Tenenbaum fur (it's a thing this season, mark my words.) As wild as all of that sounds, it looked great on the body. Chances are high it will on the sales floor too.
The takeaway: First Prada and Proenza Schouler for spring, now this. Feathers are more than a flash in the pan.
Like J.W. Anderson, Topshop Unique's second direct-to-retail show had no big themes. The press notes described the aw17 woman's style as kaleidoscopic.
And the collection was indeed a bit pick 'n' mix, with a little something for every possible kind of Topshop consumer, in every possible climate: slogan sweatshirts for the free-spirit in spring, a floral slip dress for the romantic in summer, and a shearling and leather coat for the city girl in winter (the collection hits stores this week, after all.)
The takeaway: The big shearling jacket is turning out to be one of aw17's biggest outerwear bets, this collection will let you buy into it early.
It's hard to make a skirt suit look progressive and interesting. And yet so many designers seem determined to do exactly that this season. Mulberry's Johnny Coca is the latest to cleverly rethink our workwear, giving it a retro, slightly sexy spin.
The France native was inspired by the English countryside, the British aristocracy, and the Seventies for his third Mulberry collection.
And the end result was a lineup of dresses and tailoring that mixed free-flowing, voluminous shapes with vintage florals and heritage fabrics: 'We went to the archive of Mulberry Home from the Seventies and took a lot of prints from the past,' Coca explained backstage. (Coca studied interior design at the Ecole Boulle in Paris.) 'The collection has a strong sense of heritage. It's the Seventies made modern.'
His approach worked best with his opening dresses and broad-shouldered skirt suits done in tan and tobacco plaids embroidered with lace — each look paired with a different bag (small, round and structured, oversized, soft and scrunchy, so much to choose from!) and sexy, leg-hugging, over-the-knee boots.
The evening portion of the collection, lilac and mint coloured dresses in voluminous padding, was less consistent. And that's mostly because a nighttime look inspired by a horse quilt, as these dresses were, is such a hard sell (no matter how pretty the fabric.) Awkward padding aside, there was plenty for a Mulberry fan to love.
The takeaway: The power suit continues to be full of surprises. And in other news, purple is everywhere for autumn! If you're looking to go there, consider Coca's easy, cut on the bias dress in shimmery lilac.