One of the incidental pleasures of London fashion week is its occasional surprise-sightseeing opportunities. It's not every day, after all, that the fashion crowd finds itself invited to sit on gold chairs in Spencer House, once the city abode of an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, and now owned by Jacob Rothschild. Suffice it to say that the breathtaking eighteenth-century decor conclusively puts the Windsors' Buckingham Palace in the shade.
The setting tells you all you need to know about the in Graeme Black has among a certain breed of private-minded clients, the kind who quite obviously are at the furthest possible remove from the regular youth-driven, raw-edged shenanigans of the London shows. As an ex-assistant of Giorgio Armani, Black is to London what Ralph Rucci is to New York: someone who applies his own convictions to design in luxe fabric and conceptual decoration without much troubling to fall in with the external flow of trend. This season, he said his collection evolved from "taking the wrong turn" at the London Natural History Museum and ending up in the mineral room. That detour prompted curviform shapes, marbled prints, and internal textures vaguely suggesting crystals. The silhouettes—basically Poiret wraps over short, fitted dresses—didn't vary much, and might prove awkward for anyone with less-than-perfect legs. It looked better when he relaxed the structure in a softer bouclé knit coat or threw in a metallic sequined blazer or stepped up the sense of occasion with a white feathered cocktail dress. There's a sense that Black's is a world isolated and—who knows?—even insulated from any of the realities that motivate most women to buy.