A dark winter Friday in the UK, and dark, yet also daring and dashing, opening day at London Fashion Week, with startling shows by Edward Crutchley and KWK, party animal punch Mark Fast and folly at Huishan Zhang.
Edward Crutchley: Medieval madness and modern mode
London Fashion Week got off to a suitably genderless start with the latest display of hipster historicism by Edward Crutchley, whose knowledge of fashion history appears encyclopaedic.
Crutchley is such an historian of fabrics and fashion in general, he explains the historic roots of looks in his pre-shoe release just in case anyone gets something badly wrong.
By Edward’s standards, this was restrained affair, and all the more wearable and commercial as a result. His opening surcote – or medieval French overcoat – in black-and-white gauze jacquard was superb; as were funnel neck recycled polyester parkas; oversized wool coats and natty hand crocheted jumpers.
Edward’s tailoring keeps on getting stronger – from drop shoulder melange wool town coats to oversized V-neck jackets. Throughout, he showed many clubbers versions of the coif – the traditional habit of nuns – though made club ready when paired with beanies.
A series of woodcut prints – dating from 1665, from illustrator Richard Breton’s The Drolatic Dreams of Pantagruel – photoshopped into cartons, were the stars of other cool surcotes, sheathes and tops.
And, just when you thought Edward was playing too safe, out came some naughty neighbors; either in matching silk taffeta and layered ruffle pants; or, en route to a leather bar, a beefy dude in chained cod-piece biker, blouson and thigh boots.
All backed-up up by blasting industrial cyberpunk from Bob Casey, an ideal accompaniment and juxtaposition to this first-rate collection from Crutchley.
In a word, someone should really hand over the reins of a storied Paris or Milan house to let Edward work his magic. He makes fashion history hip.
Huishan Zhang: Damp squib drama
The pre-show press release promised so much, but the latest collection from Huishan Zhang didn’t really deliver.
It was meant to be a moody Hitchcockian femme-fatale moment. In case you didn’t get the point, the musical opening was a snippet from Bernard Hermann’s soundtrack to Hitch’s classic, Vertigo.
But, the gals on the runway were about as close to Kim Novak or Grace Kelly, as a hostess at a Holiday Inn convention is to the Ritz.
Too often his detailing was too obvious – sprinkling bugles beads and sequins onto a formless black woollen coats or mid-calf skirts and blazers doesn’t make them any better than banal.
Zhang is not without talent. His pale gray funnel neck trench and a series of sequined gowns at the end had a certain élan. But they did not save this collection.
Those in search of a good fashion copywriter, however, should hire whoever wrote Huishan’s program notes.
KWK: Avant-garde avatars
Darkness at midnight with far-fetched fantasy from KWK by Kay Kwok, in an impressive display of what this designer likes to term ‘Experimental Expressionism’
Models carried, rather than wore, many of the looks in this show, so elaborate were the structures fastened, pin and glued to each passage.
Giant plastic wings; sticking out scabbards, yards of tulle, two-metre-long inflated silver snakes, golden sea monsters were all wrapped around a series of after-hour looks. All the way to a mammoth gold heart, three times as big as the model’s torso.
At times, it was almost as if Kwok was auditioning for a job at Thierry Mugler, so much transport hardware was attached to the clothes. But rather than Thierry’s Cadillac chic, this was avatar avant-garde, and a great 10th anniversary show by the brand.
Staged in the basement of The Vinyl Factory, a marvellous shop for classic and retro LPs, the show featured a brilliant soundtrack, custom-produced by the violinist, voice and Nike ambassador Daria Fisher.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, who lived up the block in 1811, used to say that poets were the unacknowledged legislators of the world. If he were alive today, and at the KWK show he would have probably said that role falls today to designers, and in particular Kay Kwok.
Mark Fast: So typically Fast
High-street couture from Mark Fast, a clever clubbing creator, who is big in Asia and happening in the UK.
Fast’s fashion is, fortunately, not fast fashion. Especially his excellent knit wrapped dresses, finished with peekaboo cut-outs and extended floor scraping sleeves. Or his mini jackets paired with mini for cocktail hour chic. All badass and body con.
Lots of monograms, logos and Mark Fast graphic T-shirts; and some signature footwear – especially his bravura matelassé pointy boots with spike heels.
“Typical Fast motifs are revamped with the allure of the dark,” explained Fast in his program notes. Adding that he wanted to draw “on the alluring calamity of underground scenes, projecting the intrigue of a secret party.”
In a co-ed collection, Fast also showed some great puffer tunics, arm accessories and micro boleros.
Presented in a random office block with a metal plate floor, this autumn/winter 2023 collection had plenty of vim and vigour. Fast’s future rightly seems assured.
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