Phoebe English Got Me Drunk at Her London Fashion Week Show
Riding high on the back of her previous collection, which was undoubtedly one of last season's best, not to mention an amazing fashion film (moody enough to make Christian Bale look positively glowing in comparison), Phoebe English’s Fashion Week offering was majorly anticipated to be totally major.
A Central Saint Martin’s graduate who doesn’t do "loads of crazy patterns!" or "OMFG-mad silhouettes", she’s sort of become my paragon for the future of British fashion. I feel like, without her, we’re all destined to wear things designed by Philip Green’s kids and Anna Della Russo. Which is scary, in the most part because I really don’t look good in diamante. So a lot was riding on Phoebe’s show today, but as soon as I walked in and saw a bottle of vodka on every chair, it was obvious she wasn’t going to disappoint.
Last season, English’s collection was sexy, aggressive and dark. Somehow, at times, it even managed to be all of those things and bubblegum pink simultaneously, which is pretty impressive. Using a mix of viscose, sculptural heavy knits and plastic fringing, each outfit looked increasingly like the hallucinations of someone on a lot of morphine with a lot of issues. Freaky nurses wearing latex pencil skirts were succeeded by oversized industrial wool jumpers in dental rinse pink. It was beautifully constructed, very clever and very new. Worth a brief mention is Phoebe’s dad, Simon English, who is consistently dominating the front row of her shows (and the aforementioned queue) with his enormous beard. So fash.
Anyway, into my coffee the vodka went, and on with the show. For some reason, the person who cast this seems to have been the only sane casting director who showed up to #LFW. Don’t get me wrong, I understand models need to be tall, skinny and 14, but why can’t they all look as dewy and fucked up as these ones? The majority of them also had calf muscles, which – and this is unfortunately nothing to do with addressing the body image issue (because yawn) – was great, simply because they looked 100x times better. Please don’t fire anyone for that.
Encouragingly, there was also a distinct lack of it-girls, or even familiar front row faces at this show. Not that I mind them, it’s just that, last time I was in this room, one of the Sugababes was sitting opposite me and trust me; it is impossible not to stare for the entire duration of the catwalk when someone is that close to the brink of a nervous breakdown. They all do this weird thing where they feel that they have to say something about every single look that goes down the runway. I get really obsessed with trying to read their lips because I’m so certain they’re just mumbling non-sequiturs. Oh, and look, I’ve been distracted by them already and there weren’t even any there. Sorry!
This time there was no PVC and definitely no pink. Instead, English created a collection alive with a sense of its own production. Unlike the heavy, lux plastics from AW12, this show was pretty humble in its simplicity, with an emphasis on process and craftsmanship. I suppose it was a bit like "Less play, more work"’, something Jack Nicholson would definitely never say. Drawing “increased richness from plain fabric”, black and cream muslins interlocked together with intricate cutaways and shapes that were at once voluminous and precise; un-hemmed and scissor-straight at their raw edges.
Instead of freaky nurses, the models looked like possessed seamstresses, complete with metal mouthpieces and paint-splattered shoes. Despite a consistent theme, it didn’t ever look too much like costume, and even the wide-leg trousers and backless shifts were rough and wearable. Maybe not back to the studio they came out of, but definitely somewhere.
Jewellery was heavy and bold, moulded in brass from crassulas (weird plant things), and was clamped between the model's teeth or over their ears. Despite the obvious stifling connotations of mouthpieces (which featured at Dominic Jones’s show this week, as well), these looked more aggressive than restrictive. Still, I think having train-tracks was about as much metal as my mouth will be taking for, well, ever.
Knitted and bugle beading reinforced what has undoubtedly become the Phoebe English trademark, organic embellishment, bringing the collection together and putting it in sync with last season. The paint-covered shoes and a tailor’s chalk blue detailing added a tongue-in-cheek self-awareness to the otherwise muted show. Overall, It was a triumph of informed minimalism and without a futuristic collar in sight. Thank you for that, Phoebe. And thank you for the vodka.
Follow Bertie on Twitter: @BertieBrandes
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