I was blown away by Holly’s debut in A/W 2009 – a collection of designs influenced by my favourite movement, generic art deco. Mix that with jewel colours, rx luxurious materials and contemporary shapes, and I don’t see what there isn’t to love. When my ticket arrived, I didn’t care that it was standing, I was in that queue at 1.30pm, ready and waiting. I checked Twitter before the show, and saw that Marie Davies, the Junior Fashion Editor at Drapers had tweeted details from the show notes as being ‘dressed for Vegas but holidaying in Margate’, and that she was expecting ‘fruit machines and neon lights’. I thought that Holly’s previous collections had already channelled a little bit of Vegas ‘glamour’, but what would come of the British seaside resort combination?
When I got into the BFC Tent, I was determined to ensure that I got a good spot to take photos of Holly’s creations. I found myself at the end of the catwalk, and deliberated on where to stand – floor, or step, floor or step. The lady next to me, also holding a camera, smiled at me, and made way for me to stand next to her. I asked her if she had spotted who was on the front row (Hilary Alexander flying the Fulton flag in one of her printed dresses). She told me that she hadn’t noticed anyone, and that Holly was one of the few shows she attended, and solely because of her ‘pretty special’ jewellery. Suddenly, this lady’s name came to me, Julia Hutton-Squire, the editor of Adorn London, a jewellery-dedicated website that I read religiously. She was welcoming and friendly, and it was a pleasure to meet and enjoy the show with her.
In the darkness, the Aeroplane remix of the Cassius song The Sound of Violence began to play, a favourite of mine, so a very good start. To match this upbeat tempo, Holly opened her show with a signature bright canary yellow look. A pair of wide cut trousers, detailed with a black deco print, and a short sleeve checkerboard pattern top, in the same colours. And straight off, some jewellery! As the model walked, a huge pair of sea shell hoop earrings swung from her ears. Holly’s press release had said the show would take some influences from the sea, shell grottoes actually… were sea themed accessories going to be it? Mermaid-models having finished dressing in their eclectic outfits, to load themselves up with the spoils of the sea bed? Fantastic!
Holly’s Versace influences became clear over the next few looks – when I spotted a peek of zebra print in a clutch bag that a model wearing a retro style brown and orange printed playsuit carried with her. This animal print stood out, in the middle of the looks, and worked as the collection’s most Vegas-fabulous designs. The first was a zebra print bomber jacket, cropped enough to rise and show an enviable flat stomach, which was paired with a white mini skirt, printed with an art deco and zebra pattern. The second was a flowing, European-esque jumpsuit, teamed with those shell earrings again. In a later look, a zebra pattern strapless top was worn underneath a white patent leather mini skirt, which was embroidered with a beautiful red coral design. This strapless top, from my position, looked like silk, but I learned later that it was actually intarsia knit, and part of a collaboration with Caerlee Mills, a Scottish textile mill who produced a number of pieces for this collection. Looking back at the photos from the show, these pieces are now easy to spot, but it is only with close inspection that you can see they are knitted and not printed silk. I loved the combination of these woven materials with Holly’s usual printed silks.
The exotic vibe carried on, with Holly presenting some of her signature body-con mini dresses and a couple of sexy swimwear looks. Holly also cited the work of American photographer Slim Aarons as an influence, who notably took photos of the social elite. It is his 1960’s pool-scene photos that reverberate in this collection. I was previously familiar with Aaron’s work, as one of my favourite jewellery designers, Merle O’Grady, was influenced by the same set of photos for her S/S 2011 collection. The photos are supremely kitsch and stylish, and I would recommend that you go and check them out. The bandeau swimwear was great, a nice addition for the range – although the white and black deco print bikini was worn by the most gorgeous model, and it was actually her I couldn’t keep my eyes off, rather than the bikini!
On either side of the swimwear, were some fantastic mini dresses that were adorned with pop colour fringing, macramé beads and sequins. The sea theme continued through with shell, coral and wave prints popping over the dresses in blue and pink hues. This was definitely a show that said ‘Welcome to Summer‘. All Holly needed to top these off was a fantastic pair of shades – and there were Cutler and Gross to step in with some pretty special acetate sunnies to complete the look.
Holly loves a contrast, and we spanned a decade to the 1970’s with some silk wide leg trousers and a grand flowing maxi dress in sea flora prints. These were stark black, mixed with electric turquoise and would work as a glam evening choice. The continued narrative of prints, the sea, animal or natural, really helped bring this collection together. The illustrations of the coral, the seahorses, and the waves were kitsch, playing back to Slim Aaron’s photography. These looks also made the best of the Louboutin mules in patent black. It really is Holly’s choice of accessories that make her stand out for me – this run saw glossy totes, angular bags, in monochrome checks, studded cuffs, and of course the necklaces, which have become part of the Holly Fulton signature as much as the mini dresses.
The show closed with a short mini shift, that came down the catwalk as a delicious offering of influences all at once – tribal zebra, delicate sea shells, and clashing colours, orange, black and white, finished off with dreamy pink tones. Add the pink sea shell earrings and patent peep toe shoes, and it was signature Holly Fulton.
Some critics may say that this collection didn’t see Holly push any boundaries, and show us something new, but for me it was a confident show, and she is building an aesthetic that her brand will no doubt grow steadily and successfully upon. Let’s give dues to a designer who can make the unlikely combinations of sequin, fringing and body con work with seashells, zebra print and Vegas influences. For me it was fantastic Fulton.
- London Fashion Week A/W 2010: Holly Fulton
- Holly Fulton: London Fashion Week S/S 2014 Catwalk Review
- Holly Fulton: London Fashion Week A/W 2013 Catwalk Review
- London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: Holly Fulton (reprise)
- London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: Holly Fulton