London Fashion Week: A Retrospective


I woke up on most days during London Fashion Week with the anthem of our glorious city, ‘London Calling’ by The Clash, on a loop in my head…and there it stayed for days. The punk electric guitar resonated in my head at the oddest times, causing me to hum it while waiting for a show to start; while tweeting; while sitting in taxis and, most annoyingly of all, when I tried to go back to sleep again.

Then I remembered how the song was played during those magnificent New Year fireworks which welcomed in 2011, as lots of drunken revellers sang the lyrics to ‘Auld Lang Syne’ badly (or was that just me? I can’t remember). Anyway, I digress. There is no explanation for why The Clash’s apocalyptic musical rant accompanied me throughout LFW. Or why I seemed to see Stylist’s pug Lenny everywhere I went (dogs were very popular at LFW this year). Or how Jodie Harsh’s hair is more lopsided than I had thought, which I discovered sitting behind it during the Unconditional show. (I would say a combination of wind and not enough Elnett was to blame there.) All that aside, let’s get down to the important stuff. Here is my retrospective of some of the key Spring Summer 2012 shows.

Day 1

Paul Costelloe
Discussing his influences for his SS12 collection, Costelloe said: “I found a lot of inspiration in the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? starring Bette Davis. The collection is innocent yet dangerous, with a neutral colour palette emphasising the 1970s Paris-inspired silhouettes.” The 1962 film’s influence was seen across minimalist dresses with scooped neck-lines, pin-tuck waists, striped swing jackets and oversized button detailing, most of it in a white, pearl and neutral colour palette.

The theme later moved on to a softer, more feminine vibe, including micro-minis and thigh-skimming baby doll dresses with a modern vintage emphasis, in shades of coral, mint and pistachio green (think Parisian pastel macaroons). Detailing included empire lines, exaggerated puff sleeves, tailored frills and flirty ruffles, which were at times a little repetitive, but they were the only low points.

The collection, for the most part, was youthful, elegant and pretty, with a sugary sweet twist running through it. For menswear, loose-fitting fabrics such as linen appeared in crayon brights, along with a mix of softened tailoring in grey and deep indigo – influences drawing on Edwardian conservatism fused with New Romantic frivolity and a slight hark to the 60s.

Corrie Nielsen
Nielsen was chosen by John Galliano as the winner of Fashion Fringe in 2010, and since then her creations have been something of a talking point, championed by leading magazines and online media. Where her AW11 collection was a mix of Elizabethan influences, for SS12 (her second collection), she drew inspiration for  ‘Arbiter Elegantiarum’ (meaning ‘a judge or authority in matters of taste’), from Oscar Wilde’s gothic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. She also referenced 19th century men’s tailoring fused with a contemporary Japanese vibe. Staying true to her signature aesthetic, tailoring featured architectural shapes swathed in luxurious fabrics and folds of pleats across hips, collars and sleeves and coats with bustles.

The Japanese theme came in kimono-style wraps dresses and origami-style pleats on the sleeves and backs of fitted jackets, creating beautiful silhouettes on the catwalk as models walked slowly to haunting music and soft birdsong, as though under a spell. Set against a colour palette of white, black and navy, punctuated with hues of lime and yellow, stand-out pieces included a structured gathered white tulle dress and a metallic grey dress with polka dot print and up-turned hem.

All in all, a collection with a nod to the Victorian era, but with a modern theatrical twist and a Gothic vibe, which combined clever detailing and accessorising, including statement heels designed by United Nude shoes. Nielsen is without doubt a modern couturier, and her craftsmanship and eclectic creations continue to make her one of the fashion industry’s true visionaries.

Sass & Bide
“A clash of the bold, the strong, and the obscure” characterised Sass & Bide’s SS12 show ‘Seekerstate’, which was an explosion of colour referencing a patchwork of ethnic colours and textures, with a 21st century take on tribal.

A heavy African influence was seen across ethnic prints on mini skirts, billowy chiffons, draped flowing fabrics and beaded panelling on tops with Aztec-style embellishments, worn with statement necklaces made from bright neon materials.

This season also marked a bolder and more extreme design aesthetic than usual for the Australian design duo, who defined the collection as ‘opposing forces’, which might explain pretty batik print navy and white polka dots and later an armour-esque beaded detail body – very female warrior chic. Geometric shapes were embroidered with light-catching sequins, and a cream silk dress with splits to the front, back and sides was so elegant and luxurious, it could have easily been one of Alber Elbaz’s creations for Lanvin.

The collection also featured a collision of colours and materials, with bold statement red, black and gold and disco-like metallic leathers and twisted white neoprene on a couture-inspired cocktail dress. Seekerstate oozed femininity and versatility and was another covetable collection…if you’re not afraid to be experimental.

Basso & Brooke
B&B’s signature aesthetic of bold digital prints has defined most of their collections since 2005, and there was no change this season. Prints were softer than we’ve seen before, though, including parrots, spots, florals, stripes, swirls and a tropical effect all clashing against one another, with some garments separated by Aztec panels. Gone were the kaleidoscopic shapes seen in previous shows. As the press release stated, the influence for SS12 came from a journey by car from London to Beijing – “driving for weeks in the relentless Siberian twilight, watching its bleak and brutal landscape”  – and so the collection’s theme ‘Tropical Constructivism’ was born.

Set against a colour palette of trademark brights and new statement shades including aqua, acid lime green, citrus orange and deep purple – clashing prints adorned knee-length silk dresses and flowing maxi gowns, on sheer silk and chiffons, with plunging necklines and draping cleverly accentuating prints and complementing silhouettes. Capri trousers teamed with shirts also appeared alongside relaxed summer suiting such as jacket and skirt combinations. B&B’s digital prints may be busy-on-the-eye, but they cleverly manage to evolve from one garment to the next and, while shapes are sharp with angular lines, the overall look is soft, feminine, and highly wearable.

And there’s more…
During day 1 I also fell in love with a male model from Paul Costelloe’s show; nearly passed out from heat exhaustion having gone for top-to-toe leather when London decided to give us a mini heatwave; and I was also asked a total of I-can’t-remember-how-many-times where my wrist-bling (aka, my bracelets) was from. So for anyone who didn’t ask, they’re by Stella & Dot, and lots of Hollywood starlets are also fans of the designs (a big thank you to Mission PR for those). I also walked straight into Boris Johnson coming into the BFC show space with Erin O’Connor, which was the strangest coupling to see when you’re still trying to wake your eyes up at 9am. Oh, and later on I had the most decadent afternoon tea consisting of cupcakes and cocktails (yes, I thought it sounded strange too), at The Mayfair Hotel (official hotel of LFW), and I highly recommend you all try the Caramel Espresso Martini. I tried it a few times…

Day 2

Hello, Flower Power! – with a hint of tough-but-pretty 90s grunge-chic thrown in, across girly floral prints such as roses on a straw fedora, Oriental-style poppies on denim, French marigolds on a delicate shirt and an explosion of sequinned sunflowers on separates and dresses.

There were also graphic prints and patterns like brick walls and chess boards across skirts, shift dresses and ankle-length sheaths with a plunging V-back or eye-opening thigh split.

Ashish SS12 was most definitely a case of fashion meets fleurs, even featuring footwear that made the models look as though they had been strolling through an overgrown meadow: heavy boots with wild flowers spilling over the tops. How very ‘Courtney Love meets the countryside’!

Julien MacDonald
A tour of Asia was the inspiration for Julien’s SS12 collection, which would explain some of the vibrant patterns, hats and dragon embroidery. Sharply tailored tuxedos, backless blazers and tough, armour-like quilted leather and military top hats injected a masculine feel at the start of the show, but later made way for cut-out leather bodices on evening dresses, barely-there gowns with intricate embroidery detailing and soft draped dresses toughened up with metallic belts.

This was a journey into modern glamour with a twist of the avant-garde, on a colour palette of monochrome, canary yellow, deep blue and nudes. Embellishments included metallic tassles and shimmering beading. Styling details such as dip-dye coloured wet-look hair (also seen at Thakoon during New York Fashion Week), huge racer sunglasses and post-box red lips made this collection the usual high-impact affair we expect from Julien.

House of Holland
Holland’s SS12 collection ‘Pastel Punks’ marked his tenth time on the LFW catwalk, and just as we’ve come to expect from the designer and master of the slogan jumper/tee (despite Katharine Hamnett having introduced it long before him in the 80s), this collection was the usual mix of signature bold, colourful and statement pieces.

Inspired by the punk and ska revival of the late 70s, his SS12 creations were a mix of feminine shapes and androgynous silhouettes. Cloud-print denim, shirts in a candy colour palette, braces, zip-front leather shorts, mesh tops and snakeskin across skinny trousers, belts and heels appeared, as did re-worked tartan in pastel tones on jackets, trousers and pinafore dresses. It was the usual clash of colours and prints…and, as always, it worked.

John Rocha
“Seaweed, sculpture and handcrafting” provided the inspirations behind John Rocha‘s SS12 Collection, as did mythical warriors, “fishing on the Amazon”, and the mysterious woodland. Composed of crochet, appliqué, tulle panels and marabou trim, shapes were set to neutral tones ranging from ecru to cream and a gothic black.

Dresses were fitted with a heavily corseted and sculptured bodice, weighted down by tiers of silk and feathers creating a visually heavy texture. Raffia lampshade dresses, sheer ruffled midi skirts, flesh-coloured mesh and wide-leg silk jumpsuits were teamed with amazing gravity-defying sculpted wire headpieces. Some hung with shreds of leather, others featured curled feather horns and one (my favourite) boasted a mohican-esque full feather trail. Chunky textured and rustic platforms in black and gold looked clompy and uncomfortable to walk in, though.

In contrast to the heavy, structured dresses came crisp, white, tailored suits with a twist, faux fur collars and pockets, intricate detailing and craftmanship for which which Rocha is known and loved. It was a collection that stood out, not just for being weirdly wonderful and wearable (you’ll fit right in if you go down to the woods today), but mainly for its lack of pastels and neon colours which have been exaggerated across other designers’ lines for SS12.

Vivienne Westwood
Westwood’s SS12 ‘Red Label’ collection featured her usual signature figure-enhancing draped dresses and structured tailoring with a twist, all of which are wearable and highly coveted each season. Spring Summer will be no exception, particularly with the additions of sexy black cigarette pants, striped shorts, cropped trousers, pretty puff sleeve cardis, loose tees and leather biker jackets – all of which were both simple and elegant. The eccentric Westwood came later, not just in the bird’s nest hair and neon make-up on models, but in strapless tulle ball gowns and a stand-out scrunched metallic mini dress.

Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, who appeared on the frow, said of the collection, “So pretty, I want to wear it all, I will wear it all”. Yes she will wear it all, as she’s the current face of the brand. Oh, and I almost forgot, those studded leather clutches – very cute indeed.

And there’s more…
During day 2 I also spotted Sienna Miller outside Somerset House having a fag; the Grazia team stuck in fashion traffic in their champagne-coloured LFW Range Rover; a poodle wearing Burberry; Olivia Palermo in Tom’s Kitchen (does she actually eat?!) and later on in the evening, and probably the weirdest ‘sleb spot’ of them all, Radio 1 DJ Simon Mayo at the All Saints and Not For Sale launch party. Why? Apparently he supports the charidee. Fair enough. I supported the fabulous array of cocktails on offer and told all four guys in the band Azari & III (they played live), that I want to be their backing dancer. As you do…

Day 3

Nicole Farhi
Think shiny, happy people and you’ve got the theme for Nicole Farhi’s SS12 collection. Set to a palette of cheerful, bright hues, tulip-shaped silhouettes and masses of floral prints, Farhi’s inspiration was “the bright bunch of flowers in a Delhi garden”. With a variety of textures and layers such as nylon and airtex jersey, cotton pique, raffia and towelling, the collection was a diverse mix of outfits, with stand-out pieces including sheer floral nylon fused on cable cotton knitwear and striped sequins on organza. Accessories included Judo belts and clear glass chains.

Holly Fulton
Holly Fulton’s SS12 collection drew inspiration from “Vegas meets Margate”, with a heavy injection of the swinging 60s fused with glamorous clashing prints like corals and waves , zebra-print and African tribal patterns – the sort you might expect to see glittering along a Versace catwalk (not that I could imagine Donatella on a sun lounger in Margate).

In a selection of 30 looks, there were mini-dresses, wide-leg trousers, flowing maxi dresses, cropped print bomber jackets, 80s-inspired bustiers, and geometric print bags. Detailing included feather trims, seashells and a colour palette of monochrome and vivid shades of orange, yellow and turquoise (neon brights). My favourite part? The mirror-ball tasseled skirts – so Vegas, so disco-dolly!


Designer Philip Stevens collaborated with Una Burke on his SS12 collection, providing stunning leather accessories which brought structure and statement to his designs.

Muted tones in terra and monochrome were followed by bold neon colours, and his exploration of colours and fabrics which flatter the male and female form were out in force. Stevens took his inspiration from a Mancunian’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’. “There were different sections within the dream,” he said, referencing the variety of styles within his show. There were elements that crossed both genders, fusing the boundaries of masculinity and femininity.

There were deconstructed suits and blazers with shorts (some leather), leopard print vests, print dresses, structured leather jackets, mutated suit trousers with sheer panels, studded ankle boots and, my favourite, Breton Stripe jumpers, with slogans including ‘Sex Toy’ and ‘Sailor Boy’. Strong points within the collection included the mix of opposing textures and fabrics and the intricate draping of lengthy material on dresses and t-shirts. Accessories perfectly complemented the colour tones of garments, including thick neck cuffs, body harnesses (very Lady Gaga) and belts. All in all, a stunning collection and the choice of music (mixed by DJ Jodie Harsh) had me shimmying in my seat…especially when 80s Madge played out!

Fred Butler
Since graduating from The University of Brighton in 2003, Fred Butler has expanded her portfolio of clients to include Bjork, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Beth Ditto. Hosted by fashion blogger Susie Bubble, her SS12 event at the Portico Rooms marked her first ever on-schedule show. Zandra Rhodes and Pandemonia turned up, one sporting trademark pink hair, the other sporting a gold lamé dress and inflatable big hair (I think you can guess which is which).

As I walked in, with the magical instrumental music of Patrick Wolf playing around me, models appeared as art installations or interplanetary-esque creatures, clad in yellow, blue, orange and purple. There were swirls of multi-coloured fabric around the neck and shoulder lines, rainbow hairbands, fluorescent organza, slinky tubular arms, bug-eye style oversize sunglasses that reminded me of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka in Charlie in the Chocolate Factory, and circular tie-dye patterns suggesting an aquatic creature spiralling its way through the deep blue sea. It was a multi-sensory feast of colour, texture and sound.

And there’s more…
On day 3, I sat a bit too close to Pete Burns at one of the shows and scared myself (although, he looked more frightened of the paps and one wonders why he puts himself through it if he doesn’t enjoy the attention. Surely he can just order clothes online…); I was also politely moved aside (a bouncer with manners – who’d have thought it?) by one of Anna Wintour’s henchmen – she’s even thinner in the flesh and I could feel a waft of cold, icy air as she sashayed past me (I couldn’t really, I just said that for effect). Oh, and I tried hard not to follow hot British model Douglas Booth home after seeing him on the frow at Nicole Farhi…

Day 4

Christopher Kane
Drawing on a space-age theme yet again, Christopher Kane’s SS12 collection was a high-octane mix of influences from shimmering leather to electric blue brocade. There was also a nod to the 60s with short hemlines, box jackets and slashed shift dresses, while floral applique made an appearance on sheer fabric.

Detailing included sequinned denim, plastic flip-flops/sandals embellished in crystals and gems, sparkle-encrusted skirts and jackets and uniformed sets such as sleeveless golf sweaters paired with embroidered A-line skirts . Those aqua-filled gel clutches from AW11 also made an appearance again too, this time filled with sequins.

Jasper Garvida
Nominated for the Designer of the Year award at Fashion Finest this year, Jasper Garvida’s SS12 collection brought together contrasts of light and shade, day and night, hard and soft, and black and white. His inspiration for the show was the painting ‘Autour d’un Point’ by bohemian illustrator and artist Frantisek Kupka, and also former editor in chief of American Vogue, Diana Vreeland – chosen for her eclectic and individual sense of style.

The collection was a mix of monochromatic animal and geometric prints on silk gowns and mini dresses, some with flouncy frill detailing, others with metallic padding, moving into shimmering metallic gold and silver embellishments on white and black mini dresses, skirts and trouser suits. It was a combination of elegance meets a slightly futuristic disco edge. I loved the opening mix of the 80s track ‘Self Control’ by Laura Brannigan, too.

And there’s more…
On day 4 I  saw top fashionista trio Anna Dello Russo, Emmanuelle Alt and Julia Restoin-Roitfeld together and later told Dello-Russo I admired her work and eccentric sense of personal style; she smiled sweetly and asked me if I was from I-D magazine. I still don’t get why. Maybe it was my Westwood punk dress matched with heavy boots by All Saints and studded/ripped leather biker by Muubaa…I looked a bit avant-garde. On day 4 I was also just inches away from one of the most boring people in music, Katie Melua.

Day 5

Mary Katrantzou
For SS12 Mary Katrantzou continued her interest in abstract trompe-l’oeil prints, combined with the “Battle of the garden of Eden” for inspiration. The collection was a mix of a rich floral spectrum including lavender, yellow and vivid green blooms. Other bright statement prints included birds, flamingos, coral and the magical world at the bottom of the sea, captured on tailored trouser suits, stiff puff ball cocktail dresses, draped asymmetric dresses and gowns with long trains, some of which looked as if they were dipped in neon yellows and pinks.

The beauty of nature later clashed with industrial textures including metallic detailing and plasticised folds and pleats. The stunning block-colour array of carnations in the middle of the catwalk also perfectly complemented the collection – and would have made an amazing window box (if you lived in Big Friendly Giant land, that is).

“I wanted to keep it light, keep some of the structure but loosen it up,” said Osman of his SS12 collection. “They’re just pieces my chic women want to wear.” Those pieces included lemon yellow apron-fronted dresses and pleated skirts – some of which were cropped at the front; slash-necked blouses, fringed-hem cocktail dresses with embroidery detail, super-slim trousers with with short vertical cuts at the front, and draped tops with a Grecian-esque feel – all on a muted palette with the odd injection of cobalt blue or acid yellow.

Osman also brought a new kind of spice to his collection, drawing on inspiration from “Japan and Gloria Swanson”. I could see elements of Swanson in the pieces he created, particularly in those outlandish feathered hats.

Meadham Kirchhoff
Meadham Kirchhoff’s SS12 collection was just about as bizarre as it gets. With balloons, lots of them. But then we’ve come to expect theatrical things from the design duo. Think fairground meets catwalk and you’re there. Powder puff girls opened the show in candy-coloured satin mini dresses, dancing to a Spice Girls soundtrack, sporting coloured wigs and cutesy smiles.

The collection itself was a mish mash of colours and textures, including baby doll dresses, chequerboard cardis, fluffy bolero jackets and stacked wedged sole shoes in metallics. Crazy, colourful and totally the sort of thing you could see Katy Perry wearing at the next MTV Music Awards. Candy-goes-POP!

David Koma
Renowned for his ultra body-contouring silhouettes, for SS12 David Koma reinvented the warrior woman, incorporating Polynesian tribal motifs on bodycon, along with his signature sculptural dresses, geometric cut-out tops, white sheer appliquéd dresses with leather panelling, tailored black dresses and dresses which featured sequinned panels. The colour palette was a mix of white, turquoise, acid yellow, candy pink and black, with details including leather fringed belts and shimmering 3D iridescent mirrored perspex detailing.

And there’s more…
On day 5 I had an enormous craving for candyfloss (blame the sugary sweet Meadham Kirchhoff show); bumped into Marie Helvin in the Claridges toilets, who told me I had lovely eyes; saw lots of hi-tops and flats at Somerset House (my feet were crippled by heels by day 5) and finally went to have a look around the brilliant LFW exhibition (not that the free glass of fizz swayed me or anything). Later I popped out to the official Blackberry 7 launch party as a guest of the team, which featured Jessie J, McFly, Ellie Goulding and Wretch 32. It also featured a nifty concept whereby you could order cocktails at the event by BBM – clever, huh? Not if you own an iPhone like me.

SS12 trends
After all that, you’re probably wondering what the key trends for Spring/Summer next year are. Well, lucky you, I’ve compiled a list.

Candy colours
Seen basically everywhere, particularly at Meadham Kirchhoff, Jonathon Saunders and Mulberry. Think ice-cream meets candy shop pastels. Cute cute cute!

Crop tops
As seen at Henry Holland, Acne and Topshop, paired with high-waisted skirts and long shorts, for that edgy…edge.

From florals, to paisley, to under-the-sea corals and fishies, to aztec, prints were everywhere, worn with plain heels or sandals to keep the clashes on top. Think Peter Pilotto and Mary Katrantzou.

From mint to duck-egg blue, tone pastels with similar colours or clashing bold colours. Topshop and Temperley are good places to start, if you want inspiration for how to wear the shades next season.

Think Caribbean beaches, bold sea blues, palm tree greens and orange, well, oranges. Seen on mini dresses and flowing gowns, and box jackets for day or eveningwear. Mary Katrantzou and Matthew Williamson both championed this trend for next season.

Sass & Bide, need I say more? Those girls know how to work this trend. As do Burberry. Pair your own tribal look with plain accessories to keep the attention on the outfit.

Pastel, acid, lemon, neon. As Coldplay once sang, “It was all yellow…”.

Inflatable animals
As seen at Mulberry. Now you can finally own that leopard/panther/giraffe you’ve always wanted.

Anna Wintour smiling (at Nicole Farhi)
This will not be a trend repeated for AW 12…

In summarising my retrospective of LFW, I think it’s important to end where we started off: with The Clash. In case you didn’t already know (but of course you do), the title ‘London Calling’ came from the BBC World Service’s broadcast announcements – “This is London calling…” – which were used to identify the station during World War II. So because I will always associate LFW SS 2012 with this song, here is the video from 1979, so now you too can go around with the tune stuck in your head for days to come.


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