If backstage at Jez Eaton’s Trashion show seems a little bit too calm, the couture show was the exact opposite. Eleven designers with 11 sets of models, props, costumes and nerves crammed into the backstage area similar to particles of gun powder. One flame and the room might explode.
Without the crazy attention-grabbing props from the Trashion show, I was free to concentrate on all the other activities going on backstage… Models were preened en masse, often with several pairs of hands at a time. Some lounged on the floor while body paint dried, while others stood patiently while make up artists carefully and attentively fake-tanned their bums. I helped with this job once. I didn’t pay quite so much attention.
A show with 11 designers was always going to be spectacular and from the get go, we weren’t disappointed.
Joanna Fleming was first with her show, named Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The ‘good’ featured bride-like models in soft A-line dresses in a range of sheer pastels. Ruffles, floral embellishments and diamante worked together to give a soft and impossibly delicate look to the collect. Dry ice covered the catwalk, and out came what I imagine is the ‘evil’ part of the collection, although it still looked pretty good to me. Long draped silk dresses, in similar pastel hues, wafted past us. The floor length hems managed to imitate the movement of the dry ice as they billowed along. Despite the matching colour palette, the backless dresses and diamante ties managed to contrast in many ways to the first collection, even the pace of the models was transformed, from a shuffling wedding march to a power walk that would have make Beyoncé proud. I hadn’t realised it was possible to have so much attitude while wearing floor length silk… Chiffon shoulder pieces and bouffant hair completed the look.
Ada di Vincenzo was next. Black body-con dresses were transformed with heavy structured shoulders and contrasting linings, offering a flash of neon colour on the black fabric backdrop. Sheer draping, long bell sleeves and solid plastic accessories were used to stunning effect.
Rosaline Francis Holmes announced herself with her name emblazoned on screen in a news print style font. Using such fabrics such as bold peach leather or grey starched linen, the show was the first of the night to offer a mixed palate of colour. A model in a sheepskin coat looked as snug as a bug in an Ugg, whereas the pale grey starched dress had the effect of a skirt blown up by the wind, which always only happens on a busy street in front of hundreds of people… Strands of diamante, like glittered cobwebs, were the threads that held the collection together.
Leanne Garnett managed to form a collection out of heavy black fabric while layering it in a way that reminded me of florals. The soft ruched fabrics matching the feel of a bouquet. Add to this high funnel necklines and asymmetrical hems and the look is both playful but secure. A nervous Leanne was dragged out for her bow, by the hand of a model, and was met with rapturous applause.
Meganne Murrin’s show was titled Alien Armour and it was very obvious to see why. The outfits all incorporated snake skin style material, heavy black plumage and distorted shapes. The robotic movements of the models made the catwalk resemble a factory conveyor belt gone haywire, as the machine churned out radically different models. One of the most eye-catching pieces consisted of a full length playsuit made from a heavy black leather top joined to a pair of snakeskin legs. Fierce black feathers ran the shoulders, through the back of the top and down to the ankles. Foghorn Leghorn can only dream of looking this good.
Studio_805 by Andrew Bannister featured what appeared to be jack-in-the-box puppets come to life. Full length playsuits patterned with oversized diamond pints in pastel colours were worn with jaunty dice headwear… and that was just the men! One of the only girls of the collection wore a red and white playsuit and looked very much like a classic American Candy-Stripper. If the colours and patterns weren’t startling enough, the look was topped off with a rectangle of fabric, identical to their outfits, affixed over the mouths of models. The other alternative was a set of red, plastic lips, gaping open and giving the models sporting them a creepy doll-eyed look. Combine these lips with tweed trousers, horn rimmed glasses and an eye patch and the look is Dr Who in an alternate universe.
After a short break, because even models need to be fed and watered, the second half of the show started with Nikola Bertok. Sheer, chiffon trousers were tucked genie-like into ankle boots. Tops made from heavy fabrics were made lighter with an organza bow. A sheer black skirt looked as through it was inspired by a peacock as it trailed petrol-blue fabric and beading. A long black velvet dress embellished with an anchor headpiece(?) and full length trailing gold ribbons proved to be a bit tricky for the model wearing it as she kept having to stop to lift the skirt to stop her foot from catching the key hole detail at the hem. Nikola is also showing his collection at London Fashion Week in the autumn so I can imagine that much more will be heard from him soon.
Kayleigh Valentine’s collection felt like a deleted scene in Grease where Sandra Dee and sexy Sandy have a showdown. Sweet pastel dresses were accessorised with heavy black leather, studded belts. Raw floaty hems were toughed up by leather jackets. Alternatively, leather jackets were softened by shocking pink lining. Even the hair was Grease, tied into flippy ponytails, or teased into big bouncy curls.
I can only imagine the amount of talcum powder needed to slip the models into the pieces from Joy William’s latex collection. Sheer black latex was sexed up further with the addition of ribbon corset fastenings and suspender belts. A structured red skirt with black detailing reminded me of one of those tourist-tat Spanish dolls, but only if the dolls were wearing funnel necked, one armed latex tops. The potential for condensation under the lights for this collection were huge.
Peachy leather, hessian and fur sound like an unlikely combination but worked brilliantly when put together by Flik Hall. A high-waisted hessian tulip skirt was attached to a peachy nude leather slash neck top and featured a visible zip at the back. A black and pink panelled shirt dress was made extraordinary with the addition of a black fur panel running from middle to the hem of the dress. A female Teenwolf appeared to be on the loose when a pink leather and black fur bolero was worn with black hotpants and a sheer camisole. Add to this collection a print of an arm flexing a bicep(!) to every piece and Flik Hall’s mannequin parade is complete.
Last but not least, Sarina Poppy’s Beauty and the Beast show brought the fairy tale to life as sparkly-tutu-wearing, petal-scattering fairies skipped down the stage. An Irish fiddler played while a pirouetting dancer twirled her way up and down the catwalk, her sparkly red voluminous skirts floating up to reveal black and red frilly knickers. And no fairy tale show would be complete without Red Riding Hood. A full-skirted Riding Hood adorned with a sparkling hood managed to charm the tux clad wolf and they moseyed arm and arm back up the aisle… perhaps even living happily every after.