I find it interesting how some designers command more respect from their audiences than do others. For many, this age of digital imagery shared instantly from the front row, one wonders if anyone is actually watching the show or just watching their cell phone. At one of the early shows this morning, there were hardly any faces actually looking at the runway. Instead, it was a sea of phone screens capturing what they could have seen better, and more comfortably, at home. I don’t understand why one would want to waste the opportunity of sitting front row by looking through a phone screen.
Jasper Conran’s show was noticeably different. Set in the luxurious Claridge’s hotel, one of the first things I noticed was that guests here were dressed for the occasion, even if it was a Saturday morning. Women wore dresses or nice suits. Men wore slacks and sport coats. If there was anyone in jeans, they were more than three rows back.
His guests were also more polite. Yes, they had cell phones, but they didn’t keep them up in front of their faces the entire time. People were actually paying attention to what was happening on the runway rather than trying to get a stream for Snapchat. One got the sense that they actually appreciated the work and effort that had gone into the fashion. During the finale walk, guests hands were free so they could actually applaud, something we don’t hear nearly as often as we should.
If Jasper Conran demands a bit more respect than some labels, perhaps it is, at least in part, because he doesn’t try to turn his runway into a spectacle. He does his best work, he puts it on the runway, he takes orders, he goes home. Not once does one feel the need to run to the lobby for a bag of popcorn.
What we get from Conran this season are his re-worked thoughts on masculine silhouettes. Nothing too far a stream, mind you. He likes keeping his looks simple enough that one doesn’t need a booklet explaining how to put them on. He does take the scissors to a few things, though, so we see strap dresses and tops scattered throughout the collection, a form of deconstruction without actually being deconstructionist. Looks such as this:
He also played extensively with proportions and necklines, giving his women plenty of options while still maintaining a very basic masculine form. Pants are still tapered, shoulders tend to be broad, and sleeves tend to run long. The effect is rather like he’s presenting variations on a theme without being too terribly literal about the theme.
He also tosses in a nice mix of fabrics. For example, this red mohair sweater comes early in the collection.
He has plenty of other sweaters, some even in mohair, and he does other pieces in red, but this one stands out as its size hints at something borrowed from a partner’s closet, something so large it’s intimate.
Conran also plays a bit loose with his color palette, running through chocolate, berry, navy, greens, cream, black and white with dabs of scarlet, orange, pink and royal blue. That being said, the red, black, greens and browns are his favorites and he typically works the other colors in around them. This piece is a good example:
Even in using multiple colors, however, he still keeps the looks refined, even to the point of sometimes feeling restrained. Conran doesn’t go for the eye-popping surprises that we see on a lot of runways. There’s nothing here that’s likely to give anyone a heart attack and not much that even runs the risks of offending. This is perhaps the most visually shocking piece in the entire collection:
No kidding. That’s pretty much it. On some other days, I might even say this collection is boring. However, after some of the styles we’ve seen this morning, it’s actually nice to see a collection that doesn’t require a lot of head scratching and research to try and figure out what’s going on. Conran’s straight-forward approach is appreciated by people who don’t think it strange to not look at fashion through their phone.
Typically enough, he ends the collection with a set of gowns, some beautifully done with sequins, another variation on the strap dress, and then ending with a stunning white gown with an abstract black print. This is the piece that drew gasps from his audience. He still keeps with his theme, as can be seen in the shoulders and straight lines of the dress. The print is stunning, though, and the perfect level of excitement for ending the show.
Jasper Conran isn’t a designer with a live band at the end of his runway. He doesn’t throw a raucous after party. Instead, he’s a designer whose audience respects him and his work. And it shows.