Fashion Week and young designer with storm

The predatory theme on display at Christopher Kane was impressive, as was Richard Nicoll’s accomplished use of colour. But there were too many ruffles from old favourite Betty Jackson, and Giles’s collection was plain confusing

Christopher Kane

OK, so Paco Rabanne did the disc thing years ago, but Christopher Kane proved that he can do geometry too with a virtuoso tour of circles and semicircles.

In practice, this meant a series of dresses and skirts – some in mustard or pea-green leather, some in sand-coloured and taupe organza – featuring rows of laser-cut circles. Discs swayed gently against the body like pressed petals; semicircles looked like a dinosaur spine or possibly sharks’ fins. Adding to the female predator subtext, other dresses featured prints of an ape’s open paw.

As an exercise in craftsmanship and technical expertise, it was impressive – at times this was like watching some moving art installation. Inevitably, that means that these clothes won’t be the easiest to wear. Some of the leather skirts looked like Chinese lanterns. But oh, what lovely lanterns. And who wouldn’t like to be able to sweep into a room in a blush pink and oyster organza petal dress, or make a spatial statement with a short evening coat of black and cream crescent moons?

A few misfires (Marabou-trimmed chiffon negligee dresses?) were a curious lapse in an otherwise exceptionally focused show. What were they doing there? And can Kane’s uncompromising graphic vision be contained into something commercial without losing its magic? Stay tuned. LA

Richard Nicoll

Richard Nicoll took a big leap forward this season. Having previously displayed a light touch with an all-white collection, he took on colour, showing one of the most sophisticated palettes of the season.

Where other designers have sometimes seemed like children let loose in a Dulux (or let’s be kind, Farrow & Ball) factory, Nicoll made the colour work for its place, utilising it to transform simple, sporty shapes – tank dresses, T-shirt tops and shorts – into arresting eveningwear by colour-blocking them. Raspberry pink, pale camel – these are emerging as a popular combination this season, and who knew it could look so chic?

Nicoll also took the current obsession with the jumpsuit and turned it into something that was almost elegant; draping it at the top, Forties-style, and fastening it with Swarovski grey pearl brooches so that the models looked like Joan Crawford from the neck up and Germaine Greer in militant Seventies mode from the waist down.

Even when he veered into Dior territory, with a skirt suit that featured a double-layer skirt (an aqua-coloured brocade thigh-length peplum over a brocade pencil skirt, worn with a cropped jacket), he brought something new to the idea. If the ladylike formal section didn’t have quite the freshness of the fluid sportswear, it was still an exciting show from a name to watch. LA

Betty Jackson

Who knows why fashion designers are so obsessed with ruffles this season? It’s a worrying trend because it’s so very easy to get wrong.

At best – and this is seen very rarely – a judiciously placed, stiff, single ruffle on a shirt can look the epitome of chic, understated style. Especially when teamed with a great pair of trousers. At worst, you could wear a multi-ruffle top over a shirt with a scrunched-up elasticated neckline. Betty Jackson produced both looks in her show, which at times felt a little shaky and lacked a strong signature.

Her silhouette was looser than usual and sometimes veered into the land of experimental, Japanese minimalist shapes. Disappointingly, her oversized smocks, even with their drawstring waists, felt a little awkward. So too did the dresses in a rather garish, check print. Three-quarter length skirts were another tricky call. Jackson’s core clientele does not consist of adolescent Bambis who don’t care a fig about where their hemlines fall.

Much more promising were the sportier-style dresses with concealed belting or worn layered over shrunken jackets with cut-out back details, which appeared both modern and sophisticated. CA


Fashion Week is shaping up to be a publicity vehicle not only for obscure brands of vodka or mobile phones, but also for politicians’ wives. If Sarah Brown muscled in by hosting a Downing Street reception on Monday night, then Samantha Cameron also managed a photo opportunity by turning up to Giles’s show alongside Daisy Lowe and Alexa Chung.

Who knows what she made of a collection that brought together Sixties tailoring, Soho fetish shops, a trip to Thirties Berlin and a dash of Balenciaga? Not forgetting those Eighties computer graphics and bright, splashy colours.

If the collection sounds confusing, that’s because it was. Compared with some of the confident design statements we have seen this week, notably Richard Nicoll, Giles appeared distracted. Which perhaps he is; the designer is also responsible for the Italian brand Fay, as well as creating a range for New Look.

Sequinned Pac-Man motifs looked gimmicky and weren’t those shoulders on his ultra-slim-fit dresses a little too reminiscent of RM by Roland Mouret’s Moon dress? And what was the deal with all that camouflage print? Giles is used to dressing a bold, fashion-daring woman, but his references were too disjointed, resulting in a message that felt heavy-handed at times. CA


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