Old school glam, new designers

THE doors close at the E Tautz men’s fashion show during London Fashion Week, and the hustle and bustle of outdoor crowds immediately fades. There’s no bank of spotlights in the Royal Opera House’s opulent room, only a small group of photographers, no standing crowd of students and hangers on, just a few fashion writers and buyers. Pounding music – favoured at most fashion shows – is replaced by a piano playing classical sonatas as a series of models sporting refined men’s wear make their way up the isle, personally introduced by the label’s designer –?last year’s menswear designer of the year – Patrick Grant.

Welcome to the new, or should we say old, style of fashion show. E Tautz is just one of a growing clutch of labels shunning big production runway extravaganzas in favour of old-fashioned, intimate salon presentations.

“It’s reminiscent of the Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent couture salon shows in the 1960s,” says London-based designer Emilia Wickstead. New Zealand--born Wickstead, a Vogue magazine favourite, has hosted regular small fashion salons in her Chelsea atelier since launching three years ago. This year, to mark joining the London Fashion Week lineup for the first time, she went grander, taking over a room at London’s tony Ritz Hotel.

“It was still very much salon style, though. This kind of thing existed once upon a time. I wanted to show the work in a way that would make the client feel special. Fashion shows today are all about the press and the buyers, but mine are focussed on the customers. I want them to see the collection up close and feel a part of everything.”

Wickstead isn’t the only one taking an old-world approach. Hardy Amies, the historic London men's tailoring house, unveiled its new autumn collection at fashion week with a salon show at its Savile Row headquarters, showcasing a series of 1920s and 1930s sharp tailored suits set to remixed jazz music (with guests sipping champagne –?how civilised!)

Tom Ford and Victoria Beckham are the most prolific to join the Salon frey. Ford unveiled his first, much-anticipated women’s wear collection with a small presentation in New York in September. Here, photography was banned. Only buyers, private clients and monthly magazine press were invited (bloggers and tweeters were kept well away.) Meanwhile, Ford introduced the collection personally.

“I don’t want to design collections for newspaper reviews,” said Ford at the time, in an interview with Women’s Wear Daily.

“I want to concentrate on real women and the real customer. I want to have an old, glamorous fashion show where people see the clothes and [there are] great people in the audience and great people on the runway.”

Victoria Beckham, too, has won over her fashion critics with an old-school salon format, explaining each look, its cut, and fabric to a select audience.

It was Beckham’s show, in fact, that inspired Grant to tap the salon vibe.

“I loved the way she talked you through the clothes,” he says. “It feels really grown-up. I think the salon style is very suited to men’s clothing. Men’s isn't so much about trends, it's about details and fabrics. You can provide a list of details but no-one reads them. This way men can see the clothing up close and you can really tell the story of the collection.”

He continues:“Men’s pieces once bought are kept in their wardrobe for decades – they’re a real investment, so this makes the experience of buying them much more emotive and engaging. It creates a sense of romance.”