London-based Luella Bartley designed her collection this past summer as Europe was enduring its vicious heat wave and she was coming to the end of her pregnancy. So it’s no surprise that her spring line was full of breezy pieces meant to float off the body while keeping spirits from wilting.
The title of the collection was “a tribe called Luella,” a group which clearly shares some anthropological traits with the clan of Bananarama: There were outsized overalls worn over tiny tops; loose, lightweight cotton and silk blouses; dresses wrapped with ropy braided belts; and generously cut menswear pieces, like a giant V-neck sweater worn as a mini or a billowing blue cotton shirt with soft drawstring trousers. And though there were some tweeds worked into the mix, they steered clear of serious; Luella’s tiny minis and flaring boleros piped in Day-Glo are in no danger of being mistaken for Chanel (although her increasingly great handbags could start their own cult).
For decoration, Bartley strung her models in fetishes of all kinds: cheery leather skulls, crossbones, smiley faces, and hearts, as well as a few tiny Net MD Walkmans supplied by her corporate sponsor, Sony. If 2004 brings another cruel, cruel summer, at least the Bartley tribe will be dressed for it.