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London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Catwalk Review: Caroline Charles

A long glance back at the past with Caroline Charles' riviera ladies, September 17th 2010.

Written by Satu Fox

Monday saw the dawn of fourth day of London Fashion Week and delightfully the first day of ethical fashion presentations by intriguing designers. First up on 1 Greek Street was the delightful Lu Flux, medicine followed in the afternoon by the Esthetica Innovation Award winner Ada Zandition – Congratulations!

2pm was the start time for Ada Zandition’s presention, information pills which in the grand scheme of things was actually a catwalk in a presentation space. Showcasing the possibility of up-cycled materials Zandition produced a collection which had the group of women behind be swooning over the designs.

In the run up to London Fashion Week, sales Katie Antoniou interviewed Ada Zanditon about the trials and tribulations of being labelled an ethical fashion designer. The problem really arises with the assumption that ethical fashion is boring and unfashionable, that most heinous of sins in all things fashion related, it is what everyone is trying their best to avoid and it is a situation increasingly exasperated by all the street style photographers lurking around every venue…

Alongside designers such as Christopher Raeburn and Lu Flux (whose review will be appearing later on today…) to name but two of Ada Zanditon’s contemporaries are trailblazing cutting edge aesthetic, proving there need not be the distinction between fashion and ethical fashion, for surely the time is arising where all designers need to consider their ethics when producing clothes for a commercial purpose: namely where are the fabrics come from and who are physically making the clothes.

In an answer to a question at the end of the interview, Zanditon touches upon the difficult reality of encouraging more people to achieve sustainable fashion; “I only think the planet can truly convince people of the importance of sustainability. I’m sure most people living on the coast of Bangladesh are highly convinced that we need to live in a more sustainable way as they are effected daily by climate change.” This appears to be a common fault in humanities mentality, we cannot live beyond today, nurtured on the idea that natural resources are infinite, it is incredibly hard to convince that materials are becoming increasingly finite as of yet, items still appear in their thousands on shop floors.

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

We’re seeing a bit of every decade this season and for Caroline Charles, there it was the 1950s, this with hats set at jaunty angles and prim belts with bows on. The happy sounds of the decade on the soundtrack helped to set the scene and the models looked as if they came from an era when Vogue still had illustrated covers and women had time to set their hair. It’s always interesting to see a high-quality collection that is directly influenced by a previous era because it is by necessity always a pastiche – genuine vintage ensembles from a supposedly beloved decade often disappoint because they look wrong to us; a hem is unflatteringly long or the whole outfit is too baggy. Our ideas about what looks attractive and fashionable have undergone a seachange.

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

It also comes with political baggage. Fashion is a female dominated industry after all and yet clothes aren’t always kind to us. Dressing as if you come from any time before the feminist movement can smack of denialism; it really wasn’t that wonderful to be a woman before the sexual revolution, purchase as anyone who watches Mad Men will agree. A poodle skirt appeals because it comes from a supposedly more innocent time, one we might want to identify with, but 1950s cheesecake America is a construct, one that was created partly through fashion.

Illustration by Kayleigh Bluck

Charles avoids infantilising pin-up girl style or cheerleader kitsch, preferring instead to dress a slicker and more mature woman. By incorporating glitter she makes the collection contemporary and made the 1950s seem fresh instead of dusty and dated. There was even a flash of knicker under a mesh tutu and, stop me if I’m getting too academic about this, but in a season where Mad Men is a recurring inspiration, perhaps rather than reproducing a 1960s aesthetic she picked up on the show’s ability to make an old decade we think we know inside out appear new again. After all, if you lived through the 1950s, you were as excited and surprised by new shapes and trends as we are in 2010.


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