Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Fashion and conceptualism

Christopher Kane

Jess Cartner-Morley, in the Guardian, one of Britain's most intelligent and thoughtful fashion editors (her degree is in history) says this of the shows at London Fashion Week:

I start with the designers' ideas rather than the clothes themselves because ideas, rather than clothes, were what this week's collections seemed to be about. If London fashion week was uncharacteristically commercial last season, this week it retreated back underground. Last season's blockbuster collections were replaced by arthouse looks that made little attempt to appeal to the mainstream.

And while new ideas are a necessity for a good fashion week, they don't make a good fashion week by themselves. Great catwalk moments are made when a designer can take an idea and turn it into clothes that are not only original and interesting but beautiful and desirable in their own right. Alexander McQueen and John Galliano are the current masters of this - but although both are British, stage their catwalk shows in Paris. One of the most promising students of this on the current schedule is Noki, who makes his collection entirely out of second-hand clothing, giving punch to his message of sustainability by creating fantastical catwalk pieces that are more haute couture than hair shirt.

The bad stuff happens when designers drape fabric on to models in order to represent their ideas in a literal way, instead of really setting their mind to thinking through how to make those ideas work as clothes. The result is that the catwalk looks like a bad puppet show. But the flipside of the cerebral attitude of London designers is that when the clothes do work - when they go the extra mile, add the touch of magic that transforms the ideas into real clothes - they tend to be much more interesting to look at than clothes in, say, New York, which are usually great for making your legs look long but not exactly food for thought. Christopher Kane, Todd Lynn, Sinha Stanic and Giles Deacon all hit the jackpot, delivering collections that felt like clothes, not concepts.

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