London is always under construction and so is its Fashion Week. Change is upon the collections for spring/summer 2016. While some designers keep London's reputation as the ever so progressive and rebellious fashion child alive, there is a certain sense of reminiscence in the air this season: a reminiscence of handmade garments, an intricacy in design and pattern and the return of a long gone passion for arts and crafts.
Ever since John Galliano made his comeback to the international fashion scene, leaving top-notch editors in awe by his “Artisanal” debut collection for Maison Martin Margiela in 2014, handicraft seems to be the next big thing in London. The runways for spring 2016 are packed with delicacy, hand-woven or hand-stitched fabrics, vivid patterns with an extra bit of detailing – from millefleurs to Arabian artwork. This development can be seen through all ranges of London Fashion Week, at the newly relocated main venue at Brewer Street Carpark, as well as with less popular showcases and up and coming designer brands.
Luxury fashion house Kristian Aadnevik proofs the point, as the designer stages a magical fashion show at the old library of the Royal Horseguards Hotel. Soft colours from rosy pinks to lily whites, Greek drapes and feminine floral prints, models that strut the runway as if they stepped right out of one of the many storybooks of the library shelves. Aadnevik creates an illusion and pays attention to every single detail. From the naturally flowing hairstyle to the models' rosy cheeks, from exquisite black lace to leather lacings and zip-ups that modernize the collection. Aadnevik's Midsummer Night's Dream is a well thought out showcase that turns Titania into a fairy girl of the twenty-first century.
It is that kind of attention to detail that makes London fashion such a pleasure to watch this season. Even amongst the younger and less popular designers, there are some whose great artwork should be recognized. Romanian designer Dorin Negrau showcases a collection of his start-up label of the same name at the Oxford Fashion Studio during London Fashion Week. Staying true to his Romanian heritage, Negrau presents traditional jackets and vests with incredible beadwork accompanied by flowing tulle and satin skirts.
Many accessories are used as the elaborate designs of London's crafty revolution continue from hemlines to shoe laces. Designer Anya Hindmarch constructs both dresses and accessories in almost psychedelically repetitive graphic patterns. Mary Katrantzou mixes and matches her wild array of prints on her eighties-inspired buckle boots.
One to master the art of mixing various patterns and cultural codes into one fashionable kaleidoscope is designer Jasper Garvida with his label Éthologie. Within the overwhelming set of a Persian carpet store, Garvida showed a collection of ornamental garments, that combine the intricate patterns of Persian and Arabian worlds with the style of Eastern European folk and gold-studded Rock'n'Roll. Èthologie's spring 2016 contains a mixture of international references, turning flared skirts, blouses and minidresses into a glittering melting pot, that Garvida stirs and seasons without ever letting it become too much.
Of course, a sure address to see true British craftsmanship is Kensington Gardens, where Christopher Bailey, season after season, displays his wonderful visions for Burberry. He did not disappoint when it came to lavishness and intricacy: trench coats of pillow lace and delicate translucent shift dresses with black floral appliques moved on the runway to the soothing sounds of a live orchestra.
But there is much more to London's newest Arts and Crafts Movement. After a triumphant show last year, Serbian designer Marko Mitanovski teamed up with four remarkable sculptors to add to his spring '16 collection. He unconventionally used leather and latex, forming it into scarred and violated surfaces, creating fabrics that remind of burnt organics or even fossilised garments – an entirely different take on the meaning of handicraft. Mitanovksi pushed further and used the rediscovered abilities of the artist to create something between dress and sculpture: something innovative, somehow disturbing, but because of that even more powerful.
This might be the next step, the future of the new arts and crafts. It appears to be, as the movement towards intricacy seems to have taken Milan runways as well. Miuccia Prada adorns her spring/summer collections with various layers of satin and hand knit veils. And everyone knows the huge impact that Ms. Prada's designs use to unfold. Here is hoping for Autumn/Winter 2016.