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London Fashion Week highlights

ShortList’s style director picks the year’s best designers

London Fashion Week highlights
Danielle de Wolfe
24 February 2011

This February’s London Fashion Week proved to be one of the best in recent history, and upheld its reputation for a being a hotbed of unbridled home-grown creativity and craftsmanship. With 21 officially scheduled runway shows and presentations, alongside countless spin-off and satellite showings, there were five names which stood head and shoulders above the rest.

James Long

Long worked with stylist Bryan McMahon for his presentation and stuck to the winning formula of his acclaimed spring show. The collection was heavy on texture with a fusion of moody shades taken from a colour palette inspired by a “dusky, rainy setting for an anti-perfect world” such as bruised purple and thunderstorm greys. Elongated and soft silhouette coats in boucle knit and tweeds were mixed with dense hand-knits in multiple yarn, layered over dip dyed polka dot shirts in ink. Missoni would be wise to watch Long, as his contemporary spin is exactly what the Italian label could benefit from.

Topman Design

Topman might reign supreme on the high street, but when it comes to its niche premium line the stakes are always raised. The autumn 2011 show proved this point with stylist Alister Mackie’s take on a collection inspired by a “smoky Parisian jazz club during the early hours in the 1950s”. Humble heritage fabrics were married with romantic rockabilly elegance, embodied in standout pieces such as tweed and tonic herringbone suits in a signature fifties fit. Retro print silk shirts, high-waisted trousers and fur-trimmed coats were other highlights.

Hardy Amies

The first collection for the historic house of Hardy Amies, Claire Malcolm drew on the period of Sir Hardy’s life when he was a prominent figure on the European society circuit in the 1930s. The label is now firmly back on the fashion map with a feel of Tom Ford about it (in a good way), but with an English twist. These are leisure clothes in luxury fabrics such as the structured and unstructured blazers in Prince of Wales and windowpane check and midnight blue tuxedos with silk crêpe-de-chine shirts.

Lou Dalton

“Influences range from the frustrated and disillusioned Seattle ‘scene’ through to the discomforting ruthlessness of the criminal Russian underworld” Dalton’s description of her collection, while intriguing, did not even come close to doing justice to what was the most sophisticated she has ever shown. A collegiate colour palette of felted wools, intarsia knits and an oversized silhouette for coats and sweaters prevailed, while trousers were soft and wide legged in fine tailoring wools, often paired with mohair knits (my favourite, in cream dipped at the hem in raspberry) while tailored jackets were cut short on the body. Bravo!

Oliver Spencer

Showing for the first time on Man day, Spencer presented his line towards the end of the day, at just the right moment, when energy levels were dipping and in need of a serious jump-start. A firm favourite and a regular on the pages of ShortList, our anticipation was rewarded and by no means disappointed with a show that was full of character and desirability – using a casting of ‘real’ guys from friends and ‘family’ mixed amongst the models. Camouflage print was given a new lease of life when mixed with traditional tweeds, while suits had a washed and creased finish, making them very ‘believable’ as garments you might have had forever. We’re hoping Olly will be back on Man day next season.