If the fashion industry gave out awards for Most Improved Designer, Jean-Pierre Braganza would win this season in a walk. Sure, it's still relatively early days for Fall 2012, but Braganza—heretofore one of London's less buzzy names—came out of the gate this afternoon with a show that was impressive in pretty much every way. Rich, innovative, technically accomplished, with a coherent and distinctive point of view: check, check, check, and check. Best of all, Braganza's collection was completely realistic; his clothes will have a life on the sales floor.
Braganza's starting point this season was Victoriana, and he gestured toward the reference with high necks, nipped waists, emphatic sleeves and collars, and a group of tailed mid-calf skirts that suggested something of the movement of a bustled gown trailing along the floor. More generally, he got at the covered-upness of Victorian clothes, and their sense of discipline, but he did so in a modern, personal way. One winning look, for instance, was a high-neck, long-sleeve pencil dress; the tautness of the silhouette and the dress' allover, lavender-toned granite print gave it a contemporary or even futuristic mien. Braganza has dystopian leanings, and in this show that was reflected in a certain geometric coolness: Shoulders were squared off, and draped dresses featured architectural paneling. There was also something Matrix-y in Braganza's terrific stiff jacquards. On the whole, even if this wasn't an absolutely outstanding collection, it was definitely a breakthrough one. Stay tuned.