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London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: Ashley Isham

It was a right old romp at Ashley Isham's S/S 2011 show at On|Off on Friday 17 September. Camp disco meets body-conscious exoticism… with illustrations by Zarina Liew

Written by Matt Bramford

Ashley Isham S/S 2011, illustrated by Zarina Liew

Late afternoon it was the turn of Ashley Isham to display his wares for S/S 2011 at the On|Off venue, Victoria House. Amelia had beaten me there by bike (natch) and so I made my way in and joined the back of the queue. Amelia tried to persuade me to push to the front (by text) but I’m the world’s biggest scaredy cat at fashion week and so stayed where I was. On this occasion, it actually didn’t matter – I shoved my way to get a good standing spot, from where I could take pics. As I did I noticed a fashion palaver going on at the first corner of the horse-shaped catwalk. The paps were in a frenzy to capture a shot of somebody who I could only see from the back, and who was wearing a ridiculous cap that I can only describe as a disco-themed tribute to the Pontiff’s zucchetto. It turns out it was Paloma Faith.

As somebody minced down the catwalk explaining that Ashley was desperate to start and was getting bored (we were already running over half an hour late) the team soon sprang into action to get the show on its way.

Illustration by Zarina Liew

Ashley Isham is famed for his red-carpet dresses that many a celebrity is fond of. I hadn’t actually seen one of his shows before, but I was totally impressed. With so much doom and gloom and many of the designers playing it safe and producing muted, basic collections, thank heavens for Ashley Isham. Camp is an understatement with these fabulous headpieces, over-embellished frocks, glitter, sparkles, crystals, feathers, ruffles, beads and jewels. Now I know where Strictly Come Dancing gets its ideas from.

With a disco soundtrack including Wham! and The Hues Corporation, I was left desperate to grab one of the models and pay homage to Saturday Night Fever with a jazzy disco waltz.

I have no idea how to write about this collection without banging on about how wonderfully camp it was. Where to start? Well, key themes were bare shoulders, maxi-length floor sweepers, fishtail hems, silky fabrics and as much haberdashery-shop-hoard you can throw on something without actually going blind. Isham’s numbers ooze sex appeal and he’s clearly a fan of the female form. These dresses are made to emphasise the top half and the waist, and body-conscience is always key.

Wonderful headpieces constructed of artificial flowers made models look extremely exotic, and they were by far my favourite thing in the show.

I’m really struggling here. I love it, but I’m lost for words. It was utterly bonkers. You can see it all in the pictures anyway.

Colours and patterns were a bit all over the place, and while I wouldn’t want to knock this collection, if I had to I’d say it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more coherent. But when frocks make these alien-like creatures we call models look sexy, who cares?

Photographs: Matt Bramford


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