British Vogue‘s December issue brought on a strong sense of nostalgia for me. A specific article, The Secret History of London Fashion Week, chronicled LFW from the `80s to present. After reading the piece, an abundance of emotions got my creative juices flowing, and a whirlwind of images fled through my mind. Truth be told, I had not really known LFW until recently but I remember the iridescence that fashion had as a whole. In the article, a series of designers, supermodels and buyers went into detail about the many tribulations the show endured over the years. But the focal points – Lynne Franks, a major PR Director and Stevie Smith – the mastermind behind collection Body Map, were the most inspiring. It was they who- with the exception of Vivienne Westwood and her line – were trailblazers for what London fashion was to become.
“Our LFW debut was called Cat in the Hat Takes a Tumble With the Rumblefish,” mused Smith. “We created a way of dressing using jerseys and sweatshirts that wasn’t just for skinny people, we had old, young, fat and thin on the catwalk. Even my mum.” His vision was beyond making pretty clothes and being conventional. Body Map was a breakaway from the norm other Fashion Designers were concurring with at the time. Even Franks’s concept was avant-garde “I persuaded one my clients to sponsor a tent [in Olympia] and up it went. The lawn collapsed after a few seasons and we had to move, but this marked the start of a new mood in fashion – it was fun and funky and young.”
Though it’s not quite as prestigious as fashion week in Milan or Paris, London Fashion Week is still the best place to showcase collections of both old and young. Matter of fact, London is ahead of all fashion corners for cultivating fashion design. But the `80s and early `90s were a pivotal moment in fashion, as most designers of today who are creatively schizophrenic draw inspiration from fashion of that time. And not just London, during the `80s fashion on a global scale became so baroque that the concept of colours and shapes held no barriers. The more abstract your dressing, the better. This was a philosophy that resonated with the fashion elite, rock stars and the hip-hop scene.
Body Map is a proven testament of playing with design concepts waywardly, and boldly. There’s fierce determination to make a statement in the collections. A great prime example of this is this piece worn by Uma Thurman:
and this punk-inspired pink, green and blue outfit:
As we move into modern times, Body Map’s concept was applied rather unconsciously by Toronto-based fashion designer Blaine Degannes of Rain Anthology:
Considering Dagannes had no background in fashion, I reckon his fashion history was extremely limited. Maybe if he did more research, it would have been easier for him to connect the dots. A reviewer of Toronto Fashion Week (where Dagannes debuted) stated his line Caribbean influenced, I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing, but it’s good when a fashion designer is influenced (much like Stevie Smith) but their upbringings. Degannes has the right idea, just not at the right level.
I do feel sorry for the pioneers who scavenge for talent now, the problem with a lot of fashion designers (much like aspiring fashion journalists) is that they’re too consumed with being something they’re not. They’re either overly processed and pretentious or stiff and dull. But all isn’t lost.
Russian designer Alexander Terexov takes the same concept and adds a resort feel to his Spring/Summer 2010 collection.
It’s safer, and glossier. But it doesn’t stand out. It’s a collection constructed for fashion-conscious pretty girls who like pretty things.
However, my when eyes trail to UK-based Ziad Ghanem‘s spring/summer 2010 collection and it gives me hope. Not just because I like punk, but because his collection is a sign of the times. With the state of the economy, we’re looking for inspiration and he gives us that by taking the Body Map concept and revitalizing it:
Very British, very fun. That’s the word! Fashion was supposed to be fun. It’s okay if historic elements are prevalent. But while art and fashion are merged together, you’re supposed to enjoy wearing the garments.
Another favorite of mine is Berlin-fashion line C.Neeon who know how to the colour and print concept seamlessly.
Bare in mind they’ve been around for a long time, but the vision was there from the beginning, that’s why they’ve come this far.
Admittedly, I have a lifetime of fashion purgatory ahead. Before allowing my inner fashion feline to emerge, I held on to what I thought I knew: Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Balmain. I liked what I thought I liked, and that was what I knew, but thanks to discovering Body Map, the eccentric world of British fashion has given me a new outlook. Not just for what to wear, but for my fashion life in general.