london fashion week: part 2

notes from the runway, including why the brits love prints and what alexa inspired.

by natalie shakur

London Fashion Week came to a close yesterday, but the energy still lingers on. What's truly special is how young many of the city's leading designers are: Jonathan Anderson is a mere 27, Thomas Tait 25, and Simone Rocha only 26. It's testament to the high profiles of British fashion schools, and the importance the local industry puts on fostering this talent. It's exciting to see the seedlings of the designers who will, very likely, become the next generation of fashion powerhouses, be it with their own labels, or at one of the major fashion brands. But the youthful undercurrent did not equal a lack of sophistication. In fact, the level of refinement and strongly edited collections was impressive. The takeaway trend? Prints, prints, prints. You think we'd be bored by now, but the Brits do prints in such a unique and vibrant way--what's not to love?

J.W. Anderson christened his collection "The Treatment Room," in homage to his experimental approach to fabrication, which included all kind of high-tech measures from heat-sealing silk to create a bubbly finish, to hand-coating cotton to imbue it with a painted, almost rubberized patina. His deconstructed uniforms managed to cover all the bases of a modern wardrobe from slouchy suiting to easy wrap dresses and flirty separates.

Louise Gray's slightly psychotic mixing of prints, textures, and shapes could be a recipe for disaster, but the designer puts it all together with such panache that it makes you want to throw out your black and gray and unleash your inner eccentric. It's all about the beautiful construction here, from the satin knife-pleat trousers and sharply-cut blazers to the silk shift dresses and bustiers that are the perfect canvas for a madcap layering of prints, metallics, floral applique, and colorful knits.

Michael Van Der Ham was also part of the mixed print parade but still managed to keep things fresh. Inspired by Spanish Surrealist painter Joan Miro and the African portrait photographer Malick Sidibe, he played with ladylike restraint (shirt collars, peplum dresses) perverting it ever-so-slightly with an asymmetric hemline here, an unexpected extra swathe of fabric there, and a dynamic collaging of pattern and texture, which added an extra energy to his clothes.

Peter Pilotto have become a kind of younger, edgier Roland Mouret in a way. Actresses love their dresses for red carpet moments because they are, in a word, flattering. They do that magical thing where they kind of suck everything in and give a structured, pulled-together polish, cosseting curves where one has them, and giving the illusion of curves where one does not. All the while, their inventive mix of prints and a vibrant color palette keep things exciting.

With Lana, Mossy, and Alexa sitting side-by-side in the front row, the Mulberry show was--as always--all about fun and fabulousness. Poodles on the catwalk, jacquard, country garden florals, and sugary shades, the brand caters to a sweet tooth, and who doesn't love a sugary treat? At the end of the day, it's all about the bags, with mini Alexa purses rendered in the aforementioned florals and jacquard and the addition of the new tote-cum-clutch Willow bag. And with the amount of girls running around the shows this week with a Mulberry swinging from their arm (us included) they're all likely to find a very good home. Rising stars Thomas Tait and Simone Rocha rounded-out the week with collections that further established their rather confident signatures: Tait's a sporty, voluminous sci-fi sensation, and Rocha's a fresh, romantic vision in white and gold (with a touch of black to anchor and a splash of neon to accent) complete with eyelet cotton, lace, crochet that showed off her crafty skills.

WANT MORE NEWS FROM LONDON FASHION WEEK? Here's the first part of our report. Plus, lots of street style! Still not satisfied? Check out all of our Fashion Week coverage here.