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London Fashion Week collections showcased a stream of optimism

It began in New York with neon bright colors and boldly glamorous looks, but London kicked the fall 2009 fashion week season’s defiantly upbeat energy up a notch.

The city’s shorter (only four days long) week had an electric, dare we say, celebratory vibe to it that made a great antidote to increasingly dismal financial headlines. “I’ve had some really great nights out this week. People are really happy and high-spirited and it makes the fashion stronger,” says Markus Lupfer, the designer behind Armand Basi One.

Meanwhile, Osman Yousefzada jokes, “What recession?” John Rocha, who has weathered several economic downturns says that he’s feeling more optimistic about the new Obama administration. But Lupfer attributes London Fashion Week’s strong note to the fact that its designers already know how to wow on little funds. “London’s fashion market isn’t as big business as it is in New York, Paris, or even Milan. We’ve always had less money. It’s nothing new to have no money and to find a new way to do a collection without spending millions,” he adds.

Here are some highlights from the past week:

Osman Yousefzada
The designer sought inspiration from Blade Runner, which surfaced in the collection’s futurist undertones. Standouts were his clean, minimalist dresses such as a beige long-sleeve dress with a pleated skirt. His trousers, which usually came high-waisted, cropped with wide-legs, were a bit of a harder sell.

Armand Basi One

Plays on volume in a monotone palette of black and gray were the dominant ideas here from billowing button-down shirts with dolman sleeves and the lowest drop-crotch harem pants. Mix in high waist lines, architectural shapes and broad shoulders and you've got a challenging collection to say the least. But one doesn’t come to London for the “sellable.”

Topshop Unique
The British mega-high street chain left spring’s obsession with the ’80s behind in favor of a more futuristic sci-fi approach for its in-house label. Led by head designer Karen Bonser, the Unique team’s vision of the future looks more Blade Runner meets Mad Max than Tron. That meant a lot of volume (oversized shaggy coats, massive knit sweaters and ginormous scarves) and even more layering (a draped dress worn over a long sleeve tee with above-the-elbow gloves, over baggy sequined pants, for instance.) On the one hand, the Blade Runner brand of eccentricity seemed fresh (the idea of looking forward is a nice one in this climate) and British to the core. But on the other, it seemed heavy and unflattering for such a mainstream, high street brand (I can’t see many girls pulling off those shaggy coats and dresses). I’m curious to see how it performs Stateside when Topshop finally crosses the Atlantic in April.

Aquascutum
The 155-year-old classic British brand continued fall’s obsession with fur, using it as shoulder accents on sophisticated coats and dresses. The color red, another big idea for the season, surfaced later in the show with a houndstooth suit, dresses and separates that will probably appeal more to twenty- and thirtysomethings.

Luella Bartley
Bob Geldof and daughter Peaches sat front row while her sister Pixie walked the runway in a flirty, punky strapless number worn over a textured long sleeve Tee. The celebrity cameo aside, the real standouts came in a series of more tailored looks in chocolate brown, metallic gold and black such as an easy, A-line skirt paired with a navy cardigan featuring Luella’s trademark polka dots.

 
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