LFW: SIMONGAO F/W 2014

London Fashion Week comes to an end on a very cold note from a very new designer. This is Simon Gao’s first runway exhibition at London Fashion Week and the Chinese-born designer took seasonal considerations to heart, dumping piles of snow (yes, it was fake) at the top of the runway. Instead of loud music, we heard the wind blow, the beat of a single drum, and wind chimes. The wind chimes are significant as they are seen in the necklaces around the necks of many of the models as they walk.

For a rookie designer, this fall/winter collection is surprisingly mature and complete. Careful layering, precise folds, and unique cuts take winter wear seriously but without sacrificing beauty along the way. Gao’s winter aesthetic is austere, though not quite minimalist. Frequent use of turtlenecks and buttoned-up collars mixed with clean, precise lines give the appearance of a collection that’s ready to endure a winter as tough as this one, or possibly even tougher.

Gao put a lot of coats in this collection, and that’s appropriate given we’re not overly familiar with his style. His coats are extremely well designed, and one trench-like piece with a multi-stripped collar almost gives one the illusion of popping out from beneath a snow bank. This are nice, full, well-sized coats that will keep one warm, but won’t suffocate whatever one might wear beneath.

A lot of fleece, wool, and leather come into play with the outwear, while cotton blends dominate pieces such as jumpers and dresses. His color palette stays simple with blacks, whites, greys, and browns. Heavy knits and cinched in waist with a touch of blue mohair in one look keep things interesting. Only one print appears in this collection. Perhaps those will come in later seasons, but for now Gao seems focused exclusively on designing clothes that make sense.

Ending the week with a new designer was a risky move on the part of the British Fashion Council. That Somerset House was just as full of celebrities for the last show as it was the first is attributable in part to just how seriously fashion week is taken. This is certainly been a very impressive array of shows. Event management improved dramatically over last season, despite all the weather related issues. London doesn’t always get the credit it deserves as a major fashion capital, but it has demonstrated this week just how important and dominant it is as a European leader in fashion.

Now, on to Milan!

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