LONDON – Christopher Bailey’s final show as Burberry creative director dominated London Fashion Week on Saturday. Bailey is leaving the popular brand later this year after a 17-year stint that helped it regain its prominence as a global fashion power.
Newcomer Simone Rocha and veteran Jasper Conran were among the designers showcasing their latest styles as fashion week kicked into high gear. Some highlights from the style extravaganza:
A BURBERRY FAREWELL BRINGS DOWN THE STAR-STUDDED HOUSE
Animal rights activists may have hassled the high-fashion crowd entering the Burberry show, but once the 1,300 guests were safely inside the event turned into a lovefest.
The affection was for Christopher Bailey, who is leaving Burberry later this year after serving as creative director and chief executive, among other jobs. Bailey’s final show was a milestone for him and for the company he helped revive.
He dedicated his farewell show to organizations that support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
“There has never been a more important time to say that in our diversity lies our strength and our creativity,” Bailey said.
The spectacle was part fashion show, part performance art and part laser lighting display. It ended with Bailey walking down the fog-filled runway to a prolonged standing ovation from a crowd that included Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Chelsea Clinton and many others famous fans.
“It was exquisite,” said Miller, who seemed near tears moments after the show ended. “One of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen. It was brave and it was political and it was beautiful.”
Clinton also seemed overcome with emotion.
“It showed so much humanity, so much of what he is as a person,” she said. “I’m just so glad I could be here and see it in person to celebrate Christopher as he goes on to the next chapter.”
Model and actress Cara Delevingne made a now-rare catwalk appearance for Bailey and the Burberry brand. She closed the show wearing a regal, rainbow-themed outfit and leading the other models through the finale, which was set off by a spectacular laser show.
The audience was filled with luminaries, including actor Idris Elba and actresses Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, and Naomi Watts. Former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, also were in the crowd.
The show featured many references to the familiar Burberry check, which was worked into a number of jackets, caps and tops, along with some gorgeous gowns and stylish bomber jackets.
PRETTIFIED TAILORING AT SIMONE ROCHA
Dainty lace, ruffles, pretty bows: Simone Rocha’s latest collection may include every girly cliche, but there’s more than meets the eye.
The young designer, known for her modern take on sweet, doll-like looks, dressed models in frilly gold or black tulle and lace dresses over slim tailored pieces such as a buttoned-up shirt or a trouser suit. The outfits were finished off with mannish brogue shoes or furry flat slippers.
There were exaggerated puff sleeves, embroidered roses, fur trims and rich floral brocade fabrics, perhaps a nod to the John Constable portraits Rocha referred to in her show notes. They were certainly a match with the show’s venue, an ornate red and gold room adorned with giant candlelit chandeliers in London’s palatial Goldsmiths’ Hall.
Rocha did break away from delicate dresses, and those were some of the show’s strongest looks: Belted, double-breasted patent leather coats that came in a striking red or military green, as well as red and navy plaid outfits adorned with a tinsel-like trim.
ELEGANCE AND RICH COLORS AT JASPER CONRAN
Designer Jasper Conran pared down the in-your-face, bombastic style some rivals have adopted for London Fashion Week. Instead, Conran showed an elegant collection that relied on many monochromatic outfits with subtle shifts of texture and drape to set them off. The apparent simplicity, offset by the detailing and workmanship, made for an often captivating result.
“I think it’s very much what I’ve learned in my career. These are the things that I know,” said Conran, one of the founding designers of London Fashion Week. “So it’s an expression of quite a long time of learning.”
Conran described the basic elements he used as navy, white and sulphur yellow, with a wide variety of other unusual colours and textures weaved in. He found expressive ways to mix and match, but also relied on one colour from head to toes walking the runway in matching, understated shoes. Most models wore their hair long and natural, giving the collection an airy, ethereal feel.
When shades were mixed, it was frequently striking — as in a surprisingly effective dress that paired olive green with dark brown.
Trousers and some dresses were often pleated, and lightweight parkas set off some outfits. Conran seemed to show a special flair in various shades of yellow, including a hooded yellow parka that seemed both practical and sexy.