c.2014 New York Times News Service
c.2014 New York Times News Service
LONDON — They were the New Elizabethans, with regal frills on puffed-up sleeves wrapped with trimmings of dull gold. A small diadem or golden paint on the forehead signaled their royal status. Rebellious and seductive, they stepped out in furry alpaca slippers tagged with a gilded chain, wearing a suit in python leather or shiny black pony skin — and striking a lot of attitude.
Were these young women retro punks? Maybe, in their bright plaids. Were they sexually aware? Surely, in semitransparent dresses — one scarlet woman wore a see-through red dress with a lattice of wool lace.
And what made them royal? The puff sleeves and a light, graceful padding rounding out the hips.
“It was the Elizabethan exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery,” an emotional Simone Rocha said backstage, referring to “Elizabeth I and Her People,” which closed last month. “The women looked so regal and beautiful, and I was thinking about how to translate that into a young rebel.”
Following the tangled thread of British history and sewing strands of it into their inventions has been a particular skill of London designers like Alexander McQueen. But Rocha did her weaving and delving so effortlessly, tracing a curve with a line of glassy transparent flowers or giving a gilded edge to a tartan dress. When accessories stood out, they were clear statements: a flat portfolio bag in lush fur or brogues with transparent heels.
There were none of the much-copied pearls, which had been Rocha’s trademark. Like all strong designers, Rocha had moved her aesthetic on — beautifully.
The return of wild patterns and colorful prints can be traced to London designers who have been frank, fearless and free with color and form. Yet there is a general sense that digital effects are on the wane, having made a dramatic rise in the early years of the 21st century, then spread speedily to Main Streets around the world. So it was even more of a tribute to Peter Pilotto and Christopher de Vos that their manic amalgam of patterns for the Peter Pilotto collection was so well realized.
The secret was keeping to a streamlined body shape, so that even when a yellow and black wasp-patterned bustier was paired with a colorful checked skirt, the geometry kept the outfit under control. Verve and vivacity kept the show going at a fast pace, so once a wildly colorful outfit hit the runway, it was on to the next. Among the florals, stripes and sun rays, the dresses bearing digital pictures seemed most like yesterday’s trend.
Jonathan Saunders had an explanation for the heaps of discarded old televisions and speakers that served as his show’s backdrop: He wanted to make something out of nothing.
In his own words, the show was about “getting fabrics developed to create texture and depth.”
That often meant recycling bits of material, like squares of silver satin strung together in a way that allowed peeks of flesh, or outfits that included pinstriped suiting fabric as part of a patchwork.
“It’s fascinating what we perceive as precious,” the designer said about his magpie attitude, which came through as two parts 1980s to one part 2014. Amid the put-together pieces were big, bold coats and dresses, simple in shapes but intricately put together. Some of the outfits seemed too complex, but the mixes of color and patchwork effects took Saunders back to his position as fashion’s cool graphic designer.