I’m quite partial to a knitted design – one of my favourite designers is Mark Fast, whose spun creations I yearn for, and I loved the A/W 2010 work of graduate student Phoebe Thirlwall. I’m also very fond of Craig Lawrence, whose work I have followed and celebrated, and so I was eagerly anticipating his intimate salon show at The Portico Rooms at Somerset House, the perfect surrounding for the debut of his S/S 2012 collection. An excitement it appeared that was shared by everyone else attending London Fashion Week… The queue for the presentation wound round the marble staircase of Somerset House, and snaked along the grand hall – a bit of a change from what Matt Bramford had seen the previous year.
Craig Lawrence is a London Fashion Week must-see. For six seasons, before he graduated from Central Saint Martins and set up his own label, Craig produced knitwear for the outlandish designer Gareth Pugh. He showed his debut collection for A/W 2009, which won him The British Fashion Council’s NEWGEN sponsorship. The Council’s faith and support continues, as this season sees Craig celebrating his sixth season under the sponsorship. As I was finally ushered into the room and asked to find myself a square inch of space, I spotted blogger Susie Bubble on the front row. I realised what a hot ticket this show was, and thought that maybe next year’s space should be rethought, regardless of the atmospheric surroundings. By the time the doors were closed, every seat in the room had been taken, but in this close setting, I couldn’t have asked for a better view of the clothes.
Craig’s primary inspiration for the collection was the seaside photo sets of British documentary photographer Martin Parr. Parr is known for projects that explore modern life in England, and for his sense of humour that runs through his photos. He claims that the seaside is one of the most fascinating places for people watching, where we lose our inhibitions and where true personalities are unveiled. As the first looks of Craig’s collection were presented, the influence of the British seaside towns was clear, but rather from the depths of the sea, instead of the beach and its holiday makers. The models were enchanting sea creatures. Adorned in the metallic threads of a fisherman’s net or wrapped seaweed, in the colours of the ocean and washed up treasures and sun baked sand, with headpieces like sea coral reefs. Craig presented a rich and textured collection of knitwear in a palette of pastel and muted hues, run with metallic details.
Last season’s moody palette of dark metallic blues, purples and black was replaced with a lighter, gentler combination of creams, pale mint greens and pinks. As the models swayed down the short catwalk they glistened with every step. Craig Lawrence collaborated with Swarovski Elements for this collection which gave a sparkle of luxury to his intricately knitted designs. Swarovski Pale Crystal yarns and fibres had been woven into individual pieces, which caught the bright lights of The Portico Rooms as the models revolved to face each wall of the room. The Swarovski crystals were also sewn in to other designs as pure embellishment.
It was apparently the idea of the Essex phenomenon ‘vajazzling’ that inspired Lawrence’s use of Swarovski crystal fibres for this season, but with this influence aside, it was a sophisticated and refined concept that pushed the collection to another level. Craig’s material of choice, unique Kyototex metallic yarns, keeping to the sea-theme in cream and shell colours, were woven into the designs, adding to the luxuriance and feminine appeal of each look.
Layering was an important detail across the whole collection. The dresses and skirts were flowing, with knitted bralets, metallic leggings and tights worn underneath. There was also a mix of body-con wrap pieces, worn over designs such as a flowing lace-hole knitted maxi skirt, or tank top dress, and super wearable raglan-sleeved tops with elasticated vests which would add a perfect metallic shimmer for day or night. The Swarovski crystal embellishments added texture, and luxuriance. The draped designs left the body effortlessly, as the narrator explained how the pieces were knitted without elastic to create a looser, relaxed fit.
One of the best things about a salon show is the chance to gain a greater understanding of the make up of the collection. For each of the 18 looks, a very well spoken narrator took the audience through the individual components, and explained the techniques undertaken. This replaced the usual upbeat modern song, and was a welcome point of difference. Through this, the salon show to me felt like a proper couture show, harking back to old fashion houses and buying appointments. There was a real sense of charm and nostalgia to this which I know is also an influence that Craig cites from his childhood in the countryside town of Ipswich.
It was great – the audience was able to learn so much from the commentary. The narrator gave away details of craftsmanship that made you study Craig’s work as it came out one by one. We learnt that many of the pieces were created from a single thread to maintain the weightlessness. Indeed some of the designs looked like finely spun gold fisherman’s nets, and the models were beautiful sea creatures that had been caught in the webbing. The narration really helped to emphasise the level of work that had gone into creating this collection.
This was not the only aspect of the salon show that ensured it achieved a polished finish – the show was also styled by Dazed and Confused’s fashion editor Kate Shillingford, who has been a strong support of Craig’s career from the start, and oversees the creative direction of the label. Her expertise was really evident – no hanging yarn was out of place, the handmade shoes from Natacha Marro shoes fitted with the otherworldly air, and the delicate woven headpieces made by Steven Doherty were a superior finish acting as sparkling coral reefs, encased around the models heads.
I was mesmerized by Craig Lawrence’s embellished and shimmering sea-bed inspired offering. The pastel tones, metallic yarns and crystal details were subtle, serene and luxuriant. It was a fantastic collection that fully demonstrated his ability for producing knitwear that is challenging yet wearable, and significantly as a young designer, constantly pushing forward.
british fashion council, Craig Lawrence, Crystals, Ella Dror PR, fashion, Gilly Rochester, Katie Shillingford, knitting, knitwear, lfw, Mark Fast, Martin Parr, Matt Bramford, Meagan Morrison, Megan Thomas, Metallic, Miranda Williams, Newgen, Phoebe Thirlwall, Presentation, S/S 2012, Salon Show, Somerset House, Swarovski, Womenswear
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