It is a rare accomplishment when a designer produces a spectacular runway show that has the flash bulbs popping like strobes, while also creating clothes that real women will desperately covet. Nicole Farhi achieved just that on Monday with a near note-perfect autumn/winter 2010 collection, which dexterously merged a ladylike, polished sensibility with, ahem, bondage overtones. She did it by using staid tweed and camel and transforming them into something utterly fresh and deliciously subversive with lashings of shiny black PVC.
From the first piece, a short-sleeved, short jacket in gleaming PVC over a black wrap dress, to a series of slender, double-layer evening dresses of gossamer-fine tulle, she used layering, texture and fine cutting to deadly effect.
By adding a shiny black patent belt to an immaculately cut camel coat, Farhi transformed a garment which every woman knows rarely matches up to the hype into something genuinely flattering. PVC edging on a wrap camel coat achieved the same feat, while a curvy little camel jacket teamed with a sharp black PVC skirt gave the outfit a fresh, futuristic feel.
For other daywear pieces, she carved a perfect little on-the-knee skirt from caramel-colour wool or fine tweed, giving it clever little stand-up gathers at the waist; and she used red leather for a perfectly cut wrap skirt. She also turned nubbly black, red and white tweed into a mannish, on-the-knee overcoat, and a short, collarless jacket — both destined to become wardrobe classics.
But it was Farhi’s eveningwear which should have any woman with a big party next winter panting to buy. Gorgeously textured cloque was used for a narrow dress with a funnel neck, and for a slash-neck shift which fell insouciantly off one shoulder. Her clever layering technique was employed for a long, nude-tone slash-neck top, over a beaded vest and narrow trousers, and for a heavily beaded, ankle-length black sheath worn under a sheer, batwing overdress. In both cases, the glitz was ravishingly muted by the sheer layer. A sculpted, long-sleeve black dress studded with tiny gold beads was another stunning formal offering.
Less dressy options included a series of little dresses in plain and print, some with gather, origami or drape detail.If every female over 35 will covet Farhi, every female under 35 will love the military-meets-futuristic autumn collection from the other major Jewish name on the catwalk schedule, Louise Goldin.
The models’ straggly hair and panda eyes, together with the muted tones, gave a somewhat grungy feel, but beyond the gimmicks it is clear why the Über-talented and innovative 28-year-old was the British Fashion Awards’ Emerging Talent winner in 2008 and last month won the 2010 Fashion Forward prize. Goldin showed a series of body-con pieces, some inset with fur, others with acrylic, leather or — more bondage allusions — PVC, in loden, navy and black, some of which are strictly for the catwalk, but many of which will translate into wearable — if fashion forward — pieces for autumn.
There were asymmetric mini-skirts, some with stiffened peplums, or double layers featuring stiffened, asymmetric top layer over straight short skirt, and clever, fitted jersey jackets with big safari pockets and visible zips. Other highlights were a short dress with cinched waist and origami folded skirt, and a futuristic take on the duffle coat in blue with leather and vertical fur strips.