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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

London Fashion Week S/S 2011: best of Somerset House & New Gen stands.

There is so much to see during LFW that it's very hard to take it all in, but here I've done my best to round up the designers I saw on the stands rather than in shows. Including Felicity Brown, Mary Katrantzou and Cecilia Mary Robson.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Romina Karamanea skirt by Joana Faria
Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria.

For the past two seasons the good PRs for Romina Karamanea have ensured that there has been a ridiculously long queue of baying fashionistas gathered outside the venue before they will let anyone inside. And so it was that I found myself being battered around on the steps of the Freemasons’ Hall on Tuesday evening: it was late in the week and it wasn’t really what I wanted to deal with. My ex flatmate, physician a stylist that I used to work for at The Face – we fell out – elbowed her way through with a bit of a hissy fit. I was seriously considering just calling it a day and going right home. But then security announced that it was “too late for stars” meaning that the complex sticker system on invites was about to be ditched, visit this site and the PRs next to me agreed that the most important people were at the front anyway – that would include me! love it when I feel less of a pleb – and it all looked good to go.

Romina Karamanea pants by Joana Faria
Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria
Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria.

Ushered into one of the gorgeous upper halls I was seated only three chairs down from my nemesis, who of course refused to acknowledge me. Which is just fine, our relationship never recovered after she moved out of my house and refused to pay her outstanding rent. But it did make me smile. Oh happy days. A funny little girl in latex stockings was placed between us and quickly presented me with her card and a badge. I had to spend the whole show trying to take photos around her as she leaned into the catwalk to take hers, but in the grand tradition of fashion week poseurs she sure was good at attracting attention.

Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina-Karamanea-by-Lisa-Stannard
Romina Karamanea by Lisa Stannard.

For this season Greek born, Central Saint Martins trained Romina looked to abstract expressionism for inspiration, though as her press release cheekily says, basically “the designer had popped to see her artist friend Hermes for a glass of wine.” Three colour stories of white, bluey green and red explored passionate brush strokes and the patterns of natural phenomena and geology. Opposing structures morphed into one garment, voluminous swathes of chiffon colliding with cleanly structured tailoring. It was a big collection that included a smattering of menswear but my favourite pieces were undoubtedly the final ones, glorious rich red undergarments topped with sweeping patterned dresses. Utterly divine.

Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria
Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria
Romina Karamanea by Joana Faria.

I wasn’t aware that Romina Karamanea was an advocate of sustainable design until I found a leaflet featuring her work in the basement at Esthetica, where the Centre for Sustainable Fashion had a corner stand showcasing some of the designers they work with. This organisation was set up by the London College of Fashion, with the aim of “challenging and provoking the established fashion system to work towards the goals of promoting human well being and respecting nature’s limits, whilst creating beauty and style.” Fashion designers are invited to attend workshops and one to one mentoring sessions about how to implement sustainable design practices and apparently Romina is one of their ambassadors, which is very exciting news.

Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina-Karamanea-by-Lisa-Stannard
Romina Karamanea by Lisa Stannard.

But a line in the first paragraph of her blurb immediately made my heart sink just a tiny bit. And not just because of the bad grammar. “Each piece is designed to be loved and kept forever getting better over-time, hopefully like the wearer.” Along with the notion of upcycling (now a far trendier way to say recycling in fashion circles) and making the most of factory waste – both of which I hasten to add are admirable choices when it comes to making fashion – creating clothes to be worn for a long time has become a bit of a get out quick clause for designers. It’s an easy statement to trot out because high fashion is invariably all about luxury and has a price tag to match. Not many people who invest in designer pieces are likely to throw away their purchases every season.

Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
All photography by Amelia Gregory.

But let’s just stop and think a bit more here. The reality is that these designers continue to show new collections, and we are inevitably urged to delve deep and create ourselves a new wardrobe each time a new season comes around. I only very rarely buy new clothes myself but I can’t claim to be completely removed from the process because I also get really excited about new creativity on the catwalks. It’s an innate human excitement that you can’t take away, but it’s how we deal with that feeling that counts. Of course I am against throwaway mass produced fashion, but sustainability cannot be achieved merely by saying that people should treasure clothes forever, not whilst producing a new collection twice a year with no deeper links to sustainable practice.

Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory

Reading on, I applaud Romina Karamanea‘s efforts. She is careful to fully research her supply chain, reduce fabric waste, utilise low impact digital printing techniques and organic cottons. She’s an edgy designer with a big following who can really affect people’s perception of working in a sustainable way. But it’s interesting that none of this information was on the press release for the catwalk show, or on her website: after all, who wants to be pigeonholed? It says a lot about how we still perceive an ethical imperative in design.

Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory
Romina Karamanea SS2011 photo by Amelia Gregory

LFW-Cecilia Mary Robson-Andrea-Peterson
Cecilia Mary Robson by Andrea Peterson.

As well as all the shows there are of course a huge number of static stands to visit during LFW. Generally I manage to whip around them in something of a frenzy, there making mental notes of what to cover over the the ensuing months and accepting business cards but never with the intention of a proper write up on this ‘ere blog. This time though, I determined to do it properly. Because I want to support new designers that I like. Despite the fact that I myself (and this website) is deemed so unworthy of encouragement from the BFC that I made a staggering £19 from a Mercedes sponsored BFC advert over the course of LFW. It would be nice if I myself was to receive some support. Just a little bit. You know, enough to keep this darn blog rolling… because right now it’s in severe danger of death: I need to eat you know.

Somerset House SS2011 Tata Naka shoes
Tata Naka shoes. All photography by Amelia Gregory.

That bit of moaning done and dusted, here’s the low down of the best bits that I saw at Somerset House, both in New Gen and on the main stands. Some of it will have appeared on the catwalk, but if we didn’t make it to the show for whatever reason or didn’t get tickets I’ll cover it here instead. Note to designers: we’d prefer to see your catwalk show wherever possible. I’ll cover jewellery and Esthetica in other blogs.

Somerset House SS2011 Grazia helium dogs
Grazia helium dogs.

Tata Naka
This Georgian sister duo is one of my favourites – I used to style with their clothing a lot, most memorably in a shoot I did in the first ever issue of Amelia’s Magazine. They used to have quite a high profile but that has taken a bit of a nosedive in recent years – probably due to their decision to place more emphasis on creating a solid commercial business. But over the last few seasons they have been slowly creeping back into the centre of the fashion storm and I was very sad to have missed their presentation this year. My own error entirely. This season, like fellow independents Tatty Devine and Drowned in Sound (a very good music website) they were celebrating their 10th anniversary. Whilst perusing the gorgeous printed and embroidered kaftans and playsuits I got thoroughly distracted by a mad buyer who was trying on all the clothes and demanding fabric and colour changes. She was no doubt very important but downright scary: she watched over me whilst I deleted a photo of her (only wanted to get the outfit on someone to be illustrated, honest guv)

tata naka by genie espinosa
Tata Naka by Genie Espinosa.

DavidDavid
Two brothers, one who designs, the other with the business brains *oh why wasn’t I born with a business minded sister? sigh* DavidDavid have been on my radar since I first spotted their unique geometric designs in Mandi Lennard‘s press office many a moon ago. Back then I presumed some feisty young club kid was responsible – but I was clearly wrong: at least one of these designers was seen carrying his kid through the courtyard at Somerset House. Upstarts they ain’t.

Somerset House SS2011 DavidDavid
Somerset House SS2011 DavidDavid

This season’s collection was fetchingly presented against the light beaming through the window… pastel blocks marched against white and grey backgrounds on signature simple tees. But I think what I’d really like most this season is a chair covered in their fabric.

Somerset House SS2011 DavidDavid
DavidDavid.

Felicity Brown
Felicity Brown was discovered in one of the funny little New Gen huts: all froufrou dip dyed cascades of silk ruffled fabric, it reminded me of some much loved 70s dresses that I own. Inspiration was found in the shameless females in paintings of Toulouse-Lautrec. Since graduating from the Royal College of Art Felicity has worked with loads of top designers including Mulberry and Lanvin. Utterly fabulous.

Somerset House SS2011 Felicity Brown
Somerset House SS2011 Felicity Brown
Felicity Brown by Monique Anderson
Felicity Brown by Monique Anderson
Felicity Brown by Monique Anderson.

Mary Katrantzou
I was intrigued by Mary Katrantzou last season but sadly we were not to be recipients of a catwalk ticket – and thus missed the lampshade skirts in action. I nevertheless enjoyed a close up view of her digitally reworked prints of classic 70s glamour photography from Newton and Bourdin.

Somerset House SS2011 Mary Katrantzou
Somerset House SS2011 Mary Katrantzou
LFWSS11 Mary Katrantzou_KitLee
Mary Katrantzou by Kit Lee.

Yang Du
Yang Du was another designer that grabbed my attention last season. She creates huge surrealist sweater dresses in playful designs, and I was particularly taken by the crocodile top. But full marks also have to go for her display, which was really quite special – huge blow up eyeballs, lion finger puppets and masks… and not forgetting the helium dogs (see above for a picture). Oh hang on, they were a freebie from some magazine… still great though.

Somerset House SS2011 Yang Du
Somerset House SS2011 Yang Du
Somerset House SS2011 Yang Du
Somerset House SS2011 Yang Du
Yang Du by Genie Espinosa.
Yang Du by Genie Espinosa.

Klavers Van Engelen
Klavers Van Engelen were spotted in the Eastern Block room. Beautiful relaxed European design from these Dutch designers.

Somerset House SS2011 Klavers Van Engelen
Somerset House SS2011 Klavers Van Engelen
Klavers Van Engelen by Fiona M Chapelle
Klavers Van Engelen by Fiona M Chapelle
Klavers Van Engelen by Fiona M Chapelle.

Cecilia Mary Robson
The Cecilia Mary Robson collection was absolutely adorable and right up my street – watch a movie of these cute brightly coloured patch work dresses and skirts here.

Cecilia Mary Robson by Andrea Peterson
Cecilia Mary Robson by Andrea Peterson
Cecilia Mary Robson by Andrea Peterson.

Bebaroque
I only spotted the fabulous Bebaroque beaded tights as they were packing up to go home, and so didn’t get much of a chance to check out what they were made from and how well they might stand up to some heavy wear. But they sure looked bloody brilliant. Scottish designers Mhairi McNicol and Chloe Patience studied at the Glasgow School of Art before hooking up to start their hosiery business. If you fancy sending me a pair to test drive I’d sure like to give them a go ladies.

LFW SS2011 Bebaroque

Christopher Raeburn
Where to start with Christopher Raeburn? He appears to have made that tricky transition from Esthetica to the loftier climes of New Gen. Which is a good thing. Since we first started to champion his environmentally friendly designs he has expanded his anorak making repertoire – I really loved all the new bright colourways with giant spot prints. But I’m still smarting over the fact that he declined to give me a leftover rabbit, despite my very vocal appreciation of these cleverly designed little buggers and despite the continued support this blog has given him. And having seen lots of other apparently more *emminent* fashionistas carrying said rabbits around tucked smugly under their arms. Hurumph.

Somerset House SS2011 Christopher Raeburn
Somerset House SS2011 Christopher Raeburn
Somerset House SS2011 Christopher Raeburn
LFW SS2011 Menswear Andrew davis
Andrew Davis with his rabbit.

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