British designers have achieved the balance between creative flair and commercial nous
London Fashion Week has been another creative success – British designers know they have nothing left to prove on that front. But its success over the past few seasons is increasingly owed to its shrewd business acumen.
Traditionally, the capital has been criticised for producing collections that push creative boundaries but fail to live up the commercial clout of New York. Today, though, that sentiment couldn’t be further from the truth. The creativity is still there but what the spring/summer 2013 collections prove is that creativity and commercial nous are not as diametrically opposed as we have been made to believe.
This seems to have fed into a greater confidence in this year’s shows – something that was particularly evident in Michael van der Ham’s collection. The Dutch designer came into his stride by reworking his signature patchworks and daring to show an unusual degree of restraint – something that will no doubt go down well at retail. Fyodor Podgorny and Golan Frydman, the duo behind Fyodor Golan, also nailed this. On Friday, their collection of dramatic gowns retained the couture-like quality the brand is known for without requiring a Lady Gaga-type persona to carry them off.
The same was true of fashion favourite Mary Katrantzou. There’s no doubt her prints are impressive but this season they felt ore digestible and, therefore, wardrobefriendly, than ever before – evidence that she’s talking to retailers about what sells.
Maria Grachvogel was a big name on day one and this season she too seemed more attuned to what her customers wanted. Instead of showing at her usual spot in the ornate surroundings of The Savoy, she opted for the clean backdrop of the fashion week tents, which she confessed was a deliberate move, in line with this season’s paired down aesthetic. The collection was practical, with easy summer dresses and loose fitted shorts that sat alongside her signature draped printed dresses, helping to make the collection feel more complete.
But a sense of fun was still present – and nobody does it quite like Henry Holland. Don’t be fooled, though; the collection was his best to date and despite the fact his dipdye dresses and ode to 90s grunge was nothing new, they are exactly what his customers want. Antonio Berardi did what he does best too. He’s proved himself to be quite the red carpet king recently, so it was only natural that he updated the holographic and carbon fibre beaded dresses that went down such a treat for his autumn collection.
With Net-A-Porter’s Natalie Massenet joining the British Fashion Council as its new chair, it will be interesting to see how this critical success continues to develop into a commercial one.