Understatement is the new black
It may have been a directive from her new backers to get the flashbulbs popping, or it may have been a natural desire to make those same backers sit up and take notice, but whatever impelled the prodigiously talented Nicole Farhi to produce for her Spring/Summer show last September lots of unwearable wisps of nothing held together with strings of delicate sequins has, thankfully, deserted her.
For her Autumn/Winter 2011 catwalk show on Sunday, the third day of London Fashion Week, and one of more than 150 shows on a hectic schedule, Farhi was emphatically back on form.
In a sleek, slick show which featured a tiny palette of colours comprising a gorgeously flattering French navy, cream, black, grey, white and rare jolts of colour via red or burgundy, she managed to strike the perfect balance between grown-up elegance and a pared-down, ozone-fresh aesthetic which will give her collection appeal across a wide age spectrum.
Flawless sculptural lines and a sporty, New York vibe, made even the simplest pieces desirable. High-waisted crepe trousers, some narrow, some wide-leg, were teamed with cropped, wide lapel jackets or with close-fitting, long-sleeve tops, plain or lavished with sequins. High-waisted, A-line skirts in flannel, pony skin or, for evenings, sequins, were teamed with simple sleevless tops tucked in or belted, or with sheer black shirts or close-fitting long-sleeve tops.
There was a wonderfully slouchy, slightly mannish, 1970s-style trouser suit in grey, a dead-simple, batwing sleeve dress with curving zips, and beautiful coats, including a navy priest's coat with cinched waist, bell skirt and wide sleeves, an oversized white parka, and a fresh take on her classic, wrap, shearling coat, in black wool, with vast cream lapels. For evening, there were sharp little A-line sequin-covered dresses, an immaculate floor-length navy crepe gown with cap sleeves and a perfect black tuxedo trouser suit, as well as wide-leg crepe trousers teamed with a crepe top, artfully cut around the neckline.
At Jaeger, design director Stuart Stockdale, was rocking a similar grown-up, understated vibe. In front of Jaeger's current owner, Harold Tillman, who has put Jaeger on the market after reviving the brand from near-death, Stockdale showed slouchy trousers and oversized short jackets with vast curving collars and revers, beautifully cut military coats in cream or tobacco; a sumptuous, oversized shearling coat with a collar big enough to be seen from space; tiny, cropped jackets in cloth or leather, and a gorgeously simple, belted crepe dress with invert pleat. Stockdale, who also had a pared-down palette of shades - olive, saffron, black, burnt orange, cream and the odd flash of turquoise - created a clever accessory, too: a sharp, collar-shaped scarf in mohair, that adds an edge (and warmth) to a simple coat or jacket.
Fyodor Golan, a collaboration between the Russian Fyodor Podgorny and the Israeli Golan Frydman, showed a beautiful, luxe collection of mainly eveningwear under the umbrella of Vauxhall Fashion Scout, which showcases new design talent. An unexpectedly mature collection - barring the odd leather gladiator mini-dress for the cameras - the designers showed exquisite, bias-cut dresses in navy crepe, a wonderful ecru leather frock coat, a bravura long gown in cobalt with tiny black bra top, sublime long and on-the-knee dresses in textured leather, a sublime, floor-length gown in ruched silk chiffon, perfect little sheer evening shirts and tops, and day and evening trousers given strangely appealing textural interest with extraneous folds of fabric.
Intriguingly, there seemed to be two competing sensibilities operating in the Fyodor Golan collection, one raunchy and one demure. By combining them, Frydman - who trained at London's Istituto Marangoni, and has worked with Alexander McQueen, Raf Simons and Issey Miyake - and Podgorny seem to have achieved a beautiful, edgy, yet still wearable collection.
Young designer Georgia Hardinge, who also showed under the Vauxhall Fashion Scout umbrella, was another exponent of a restrained palette. She used nude, pale grey, rich cream, black and a digital print in a sort of murk to create a collection of extraordinary accomplishment, maturity and wearability. She showed ravishingly well-cut, curvy little dresses with just-to-the-elbow sleeves in plain wool crepe, or combining plain and digital print, often incorporating her "spine" theme into dresses, skirts, jackets or trousers. It proved a clever device to give added texture and interest to beautifully pared-down and infinitely desirable pieces.