18-Aug, 16:48

11:19, February 18 302 0

2018-02-18 11:19:05
Fashion Review: London Fashion Week Goes Over the Rainbow

LONDON — The show that effectively started London Fashion Week almost didn’t.

Backstage — with his first collection independent of the Fashion East emerging-designer platform, which has supported him the last three seasons — Matty Bovan was jubilant but woozy.

“I’ve had food poisoning today, so I feel like absolute death,” he said on Friday. “But good. Yeah, good.”

A thrilling victory in the face of nausea — what could be more fashion week than that?

The world itself is nauseous: America reeling from its latest episode of gun violence, Britain perched on the edge of leaving the European Union. And still fashion week keeps its mulish course, a carousel spinning madly. Even within the industry, the velocity of change has the business off-balance.

“It’s a chaotic moment,” Christopher Bailey, the outgoing president and chief creative officer of Burberry, said later that day. “It’s a difficult moment to process, because there is so much going on: So much unpleasant stuff, so much change with the way people are engaging with fashion, with companies, the way people shop. As an industry, I think we’re questioning our behaviors, our values, the ways we’ve historically done things. There is so much turmoil.”

Against all that, beauty is not a solution, but it can be a balm.

Beauty is what Mr. Bovan delivered. With his home-cut bangs and a blue domino of makeup around his eyes, Mr. Bovan is the latest of the young talents that seem to continually surface from London and its fashion schools. His new collection paid tribute to his grandmother, who died last summer.

In her honor, rough-hewed tweeds fit for the moors were refashioned into ball gowns and — because this is Mr. Bovan, whose style tends toward the apocalyptic — exploded, buoyed by crinolines and tulle, and worn with paint-splattered furs meant to look like “roadkill on a remote country lane,” as his notes cheerfully put it. (Let us hasten to add they were faux: London Fashion Week was again noisily visited by anti-fur protesters.)

If they’re more destined for a magazine page than a shop near you, so what? There’s a reason that Mr. Bovan has rallied the industry, including his powerful stylist, Katie Grand; Coach, which supplied him with customized bags; Stephen Jones, the milliner on call at Dior, and many others of similar stature. (It was Mr. Jones who made the fabulous net-wrapped Mylar balloon headpieces that floated above Mr. Bovan’s finale models.)

“Carrying the weight of the world on your head,” Mr. Bovan explained, “in a very stylish way.”

For clothes to bear the weight of the world, you could do worse than Jonathan Anderson’s. At his J.W. Anderson show on Saturday, the designer offered a collection of outdoorsy resilience, less fussy and fashionable than many of his previous ones. He had brought his men’s and women’s collections together for the first time since the early days of his career, and the combination seemed to cool and calm them both.

Mr. Anderson will probably never give up his allegiance to the odd, but here was terrific proof that he doesn’t have to: drop-waist dresses toggling between pleat and plain, mac skirts and great knits, and swoopy leather trousers that buckled at the ankle (nominally for men, although Mr. Anderson noted that women have been buying his men’s collection, too).

And anchoring it all: his latest collection with Converse, in neon vinyl. Those’ll fly.

“How do you crack the back of everything and go forward again?” he wondered aloud backstage. “We’ve been going for 10 years now. We have to go forward in an optimistic way and change it, to make it exciting again.”

The changes aren’t merely cosmetic — he is streamlining and simplifying his shows and his business, combining his men’s, women’s and pre-collections, and holding an open search to find the photographer for his next ad campaign — but those will mean less to his customer. What will mean more: Here were terrific clothes.

There were lovely pieces, too, at Simone Rocha’s show, held in the palatial Goldsmiths’ Hall, as gilded and ornate as Ms. Rocha’s collection. To her usual dolly frocks, she added more tailoring, suits done in her own style, which is to say, elaborately ribboned and bowed. There’s no swaying Ms. Rocha from her customary course. But her signature becomes her, and toughness need not be plain.

It certainly wasn’t at Halpern, where no sequin is spared in pursuit of glamour. “It is a resistance dressing however glamorously you want,” Michael Halpern said.

The designer can seem one-track-minded in his relentless pursuit of a disco — Taana Gardner’s “Work That Body” was thumping away on the soundtrack — though he insisted his clothes are not necessarily only for parties. “I think that there are so many women now who really don’t care about dress codes, and what’s appropriate for day and what’s appropriate for evening,” he said.

The woman who wears Mr. Halpern’s half-zebra, all-sequin jumpsuit for a morning commute on the subway has my compliments. Personally, I don’t really believe she exists.

But the designer is talented and now much buzzed-about; extending himself out of the narrow confines of his current glitter will be his challenge. “There’s a line between what I do and costume, and fantasy,” he said. “But I like to play with that line.”

Mr. Halpern is a relative newcomer, three seasons on the schedule, while Mr. Bailey, of Burberry, is one of the longest-serving stewards of British fashion. That evening, he showed his final collection for the brand, the culmination of 17 years, nearly a lifetime in fashion terms.

But even with a collection called “Time,” Mr. Bailey’s swan song wasn’t a retrospective.

“I didn’t want this collection to be some maudlin sad thing,” he said. “I wanted it to be optimistic but talking about the past as well.” (There’s that word again, “optimistic” — one that crops up when optimism is needed, rather than in ample supply.)

It’s a noble sentiment, to go off on a note of newness. But it’s also a bit of a shame. Over the course of his years at Burberry, he took a trench coat supplier and pushed it to the forefront of British fashion. Even if his recent collections have fallen a bit off the mark, he has earned a victory lap.

His new collection wasn’t bad but it was thin: a thrift-shop-style mix of bits, a jumble of track suits, logo-fied sweats (a new/old Burberry logo retrieved from the ’80s and ’90s archives to compete in the yet-again logo-saturated luxury market), long ball skirts, clompy sneakers, printed shearlings and so on.

Where he seemed to pour most of his passion was into rainbow-striped pieces — rainbow even worked into the Burberry check — to telegraph support for L.G.B.T.Q.+ charities; Burberry will also make a substantial donation to three, the Albert Kennedy Trust, the Trevor Project and the ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association).

Yes, glamour can be resistance. When Cara Delevingne sashayed out at the end in a rainbow-striped, check-lined faux fur cape to the strains of “I Feel Love,” she brought an energy the collection generally lacked. A rainbow light show followed. Burberry, the giant of London, is capable of fireworks when it pleases.

So was Mr. Bailey. With a small bow to all four flanks of the room, he took his final turn. Standing ovations are rare in fashion, but the room rose to its feet. They felt love. And now, the next chapter.