The Central Saint Martins M.A. class of 2008 had a lot to live up toif they had any doubt about that, they could have glanced at the front row and gotten very nervous indeed. There were the alumni who have gone before them to spark up London fashion week: Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Richard Nicoll, and Todd Lynn. (Louise Goldin, this year's knitwear sensation, would have been there too, but was ill in bed with the flu.) Also gathered were ranks of industry professionals, buyers, and fashion executives from Puma, who were giving out prizes for accessory design (40,000 worth of Saint Martins student-designed trainers were sold in stores last year).
Why do all and sundry turn out to inspect what is, after all, a student show? Partly to take the temperature of what young people are thinking, and partly to be first to crown the next star. This year, though, was a quiet one, with only a couple of outstanding collections. The first was from Mary Katrantzou, who used giant trompe l'oeil digital prints on bonded jersey dresses in the shape of necklaces. The other was by Simone Shailesshe swept up a L'Oréal trophy for her loopy cardigans and sweaters made out of chunky fringed tiers, which had been inspired, she explained, by "girls with funny big hairdos." Shailes is another talent to join the likes of Louise Goldin, Clare Tough, Sid Bryan, and Hans Christian Madsen, who are knitting up a minor storm in Londoncollectively stirring interest in extreme, cobwebby, multi-patterned, and sculpturally textural effects (and a rising craze for woolly chubbies). On the whole, though, an unusually subdued and polite cohort passed out of Central Saint Martins this year, a group more focused on making wearable clothes in beige, black, and white than rocking the house. Is that a sign of the times?