Why is it that so many designers are surreptitiously delving into horror movies to rev their engines? Only last night, Giles Deacon was murmuring about Roger Corman's The Masque of the Red Death. In New York, the Mulleavy sisters disclosed their liking for Japanese slasher movies. And last season, Christopher Kane was crazed for Carrie, Stephen King, all that. And now here's Luella Bartley, talking about "Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man and the witch museum in Boscastle, Cornwall, where we live," before adding, "I wanted something a bit raw and pagan." What's this? Generalized cultural anxiety seeping to the surface in the form of fashion?
But, oh, stop. We're attending to a Luella collection here, and what we see before us is something (as the designer puts it) "cute but always a little sickthat's my girl." So there she is, working a quirky twisted-felt witchy hat, a short gray coat, a puff-sleeved peasant blouse, and high-heeled clogs, for starters. Happily, it didn't get much scarier than that, for the collection was dense with easy-to-wear pieces rather than sinister subtextfitted black-and-red-check country jackets with puffed sleeves, cord jodhpurs, smocked blouses, a great herringbone single-breasted coat with perked-up shoulders, and a slew of accessories. Hard as it is for any designer to think of anything new to put on a bag, Bartley's English-village observations sparked the idea of taking the jingly bells and multicolored ribbons of Morris dancers' costumes and loading them onto satchels and totes.
In other words, it wasn't to be taken terribly seriouslyexcept for the fact that, eight years on from her first showings in Portobello, Bartley is now the mother of three under five, with a proper brand to her name and a knack for keeping it young and witty. Kudos to her for that.