This is the last day of London Fashion Week and I find that I’m actually rather sad about that. London’s “week” is only five days, the shortest of the big four, and even then, the majority of major designers are crammed into the middle three days. Not being sufficiently far enough on the inside of matters, I don’t understand why more designers don’t show here. From this perspective, London is the most well organized of the four, with plenty of opulent settings if that’s what one desires, or more basic facilities for labels on tighter budgets. I don’t know what budgets here tend to run, but certainly it can’t be more expensive than New York or Paris, and I don’t know of any major editors or buyers who skip London. So, why not show here and make LFW a couple of days longer? Is it the weather? Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m in no hurry to move on to Milan tomorrow.
The work of Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida is a perfect example of why London Fashion Week is so exciting. Here are two young designers, one coming from Vivienne Westwood and the other from Preen, merging their talents to take fashion in a different direction, one that identifies more with individual tastes and styles rather than trends or rules. In fact, many design rules crumble a bit under the influence of these two. Winners of last year’s LVMH prize for young designers, Marques’ Almeida represents a dynamic future for British design and I would love to see more like them.
Underscoring that sense of individuality this season, Marques’ Almeida made the decision to not cast their show today with the usual spate of models who, by this point, have very tired feet and bags under their eyes that are difficult to hide. Instead, the duo cast more “natural” women of various ages and sizes. As a result, what we saw were styles that work for women with wider hips, or broader shoulders, or something other than a perfectly flat stomach. The women, and the fashion they wore, were more like you, the people who ultimately buy the clothes. While this isn’t the only show where this has happened this season, how Marques and Almeida treat women is more flattering and void of condescension.
Right from the start, the duo gives us a sense of their version of practicality. An oversized red/white gingham checked shirt, which may or may not be used as a nightshirt, is under a tie-dyed slip dress, with mesh heels. Mesh plays a rather heavy role in providing both layer and texture to this collection; it’s a high-tech fabric that rather feels a bit like plastic but is much more malleable and cooperative. Prints throughout the collection are lively and amusing, with bright colors on some, exaggerated houndstooth on others, and repeating appearance of ginghams, all crafted in ways that are sort of traditional, but put together in ways one might not have considered before today.
Grabbing a lion’s share of the attention are a set of immense coats, so puffy and quilted that they almost look like flotation devices. To say these coats are huge would be an understatement, and I can see one encountering a bit of difficulty trying to squeeze behind the wheel of a car or settle comfortably on public transit while wearing one of these behemoths. They look fun, though, and are likely to be among the first of many items to sell out.
A lot is already being said about the shoes as well, which have the letters M and A built into their construction. I apologize for not having better pictures of them for you, but shoe fetishists are going to put those on their “must have” lists for this fall.
There is a lot of layering, asymmetric hems and shapes, and generously full cuts. Colors are very bright and run the spectrum. Some edges are raw and frayed, but most are finished off rather nicely. There are occasional touches of faux fur, a bit of denim, and a touch of leather, but none to any extreme. The few crocheted pieces in the collection are understated but incredibly well done and their long size makes them attractive for those who like to snuggle.
The Marques’ Almeida collection a wonderful place to end our time in London. This is a wonderfully accessible line of clothing that any woman can wear and enjoy. If this is the future of British fashion, I do hope we start spending more than five days here so we can enjoy it all.