Renowned as the most envelope-pushing of the four international fashion weeks, London often throws up a ragtag bag of trends to sift through.
But this time round, something unusual happened, as an overarching theme quickly emerged.
Gothic drama - be it tough or tender - was the unifying thread that ran through so many AW16 collections, kicking off with models in Hannibal Lecter masks at Gareth Pugh.
It wasn’t all macabre mischief, though; this was a stand-out season packed with want-it-now pieces and gasp-worthy gowns.
These are the looks that have already got us excited about what to wear next winter...
After 14 years on the Paris schedule, Sarah Burton and the Alexander McQueen team returned to the brand’s home, and what a return it was. Burton said her muse this season was traipsing home from a lavish party, almost sleepwalking, which explained the ivory silk duvet-like wrap and bed jacket, as well as the astonishingly beautiful slew of show-closing gowns, gossamer-thin and encrusted with tattoo-like smatterings of sequins. Even daywear was styled dramatically as lean, black tailored jackets came with body harnesses and trousers with bondage straps. But it was the daring cut-away party frocks that dominated for this creature of the night.
TOPSHOP’S TOUGH GIRLS
Night fell at Topshop Unique, too, as delicate stars sparkled on a backdrop of black velvet and sequinned dresses. The show notes described a ‘rebel in a rush’, which translated to a brash clash of textures and references: kohl-eyed cool-girls stalked the runway in wide-collared coats, schoolish knits and leather minis, their hair a mess and their attitude don’t-mess-with-me. Feminine flourishes came from flashes of fuchsia lace with lipstick to match, but the overall look was anything but ladylike.
PREEN’S TEEN SPIRIT
A similarly boy-meets-girl dichotomy was in play at Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, where classical florals were offset by severe lace-up boots for the first handful of looks. But by the time a pair of khaki and dark red check coats exited, and strains of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit could be heard, it was clear we were looking at an ode to goths and grunge. There was colour too, in the candy pink, moss green and ruby rouched velvet dresses, but then oodles of black ruffles returned for the finale, adding up to the irresistible allure of a good girl gone bad.
BURBERRY’S PUNK PATCHWORK
In a show titled Patchwork, there was an uncharacteristically punk spirit alive at Burberry, too, thanks to more tartan coats (that’s one autumn outerwear trend ticked off), boots strapped with gigantic buckles and navy net tights that twisted round models’ legs. That title isn’t literal, however, it refers to all the favourite things creative director Christopher Bailey threw into the mix: military overcoats, sweet brocade and metallic midi dresses, stylised florals and a moody Seventies colour palette. Patchwork? Yes. But in Bailey’s hands, it was far from hodgepodge.
TEMPERLEY’S NAUTICAL ADVENTURE
Sticking doggedly to one theme was Alice Temperley, who sailed away on a swashbuckling voyage, showing a mix of naval-influenced separates (complete with swirls of embroidered frogging), ruffled fish wife skirts and voluminous pirate blouses. But the prettiest interpretation of the seafaring aesthetic came with the diaphanous dresses emblazoned with vivid sailor tattoo motifs that echoed those dreamy McQueen gowns. This was a shipshape collection and no mistake.
ERDEM’S NIGHT OWLS
Set against a backdrop of antique furniture and covered chandeliers, the Erdem show conjured a tattered chateau in the 1940s, and there was something Miss Havisham-esque about the flowing, long-sleeved dresses, most in muted greys and blues, some with leg o’mutton or fluted sleeves. Save for a trio of trouser suits and a couple of coats, this was an exclusively after-dark affair, the kind of collection made for a beautiful recluse to wear as she wanders forlornly through the halls of her ramshackle mansion.
KANE’S LONESOME LADIES
Christopher Kane had a recluse in mind for AW16 as well, but his was a modern-day hermit; a hoarder who hides behind messy hair and a plastic rain cap on the rare occasions she does venture out. And while this catwalk conception was undeniably kooky, it gave us hordes of chic pieces too: buttonless camel coats, floral slips, maroon midi dresses and lots of cool oversized sweaters. The frond-edged tailoring and ribboned dresses were a tougher sell, but fashion week is as much about inspiration as it is compiling a shopping list, and Kane gave us that in abundance.
GET THE LOOK
Tallia Storm clocked up more fashion week miles (and costume changes) than possibly any other front-rower at London Fashion Week. The singer displayed her brand loyalty at the Sibling show, wearing a pretty pink two-piece from the designers’ recent collaboration with River Island.
River Island Design Forum Flower Print Denim Skirt, £38, and matching Bralet, £32 (www.riverisland.com)
BUY IT NOW
As seen on countless clothes horses this fashion week, a bomber jacket is a spring essential, and it doesn’t get much cooler than M&S’s silky quilted number. How to wear it like a fashionista? Go slightly oversized and style with a pencil skirt and ankle boots.
Marks and Spencer Limited Edition Quilted Oriental Bomber Jacket, £65 (www.marksandspencer.com)
For years, industry folk have been banging on about how the biannual fashion shows should be brought in line with the seasons, with the clothes available to buy straight off the catwalk. Now, Burberry has brought its men’s and women’s brands together and started showing two ‘seasonless’ collections a year, while Tom Ford is taking a season off in preparation for an autumn show that will actually take place in autumn, rather than six months ahead. These kinds of moves are easier for bigger brands to engineer, however, so it remains to be seen whether this is a trend other designers will follow.
Encompassing two spring trends in one - ruffles and sportswear - but warm enough to wear now, the Boohoo Poppy Ruffle Sweater is a bargain, at just £15. Everyone’s a winner (www.boohoo.com).