The last time London fashion was in such full flower as it is now was in the mid to late nineties. That was when Antonio Berardi emerged as a designer of merit. He was of the McQueen and Chalayan generation—and Berardi shows had that giddy, party, fight-to-get-in atmosphere that many of the major ones did. Everybody was in the thrall of club culture, of dressing up to get dressing downs from door whores and having a good time. And yet this mood dissipated eventually, in large part because many of the London designers went their separate ways, moving to other stages in other fashion cities. Berardi was no exception. Being of Italian descent, he moved to Milan.
Now back in London, where he's showed for the past three years, Berardi seems to acknowledge the power of that earlier time—one that has shaped the clubby atmosphere and inspirations of the current crop of young London designers, too—but refuses to look back too much. "We thought about looking back but came to the conclusion that if you've done it, you've done it," he said after his show. "The collection also had to be about what you didn't know as well as what you do."
What he didn't know involved a concentration on glamorous sportswear. But even when Berardi makes daywear, it is that nightclub attitude again. "I wanted it to be more sportif than usual," said the designer. And it was as sporty as Berardi is ever going to get in its concentration on separates, its stripped-back moments, its layering of sheer with solid in a more casual sense, the use of Aertex for evening—even the extended apronlike peplums had something casual and sporty about them. But sport for Berardi is dancing in a club, not running on a track.
It felt very him, which the designer was happy to chalk up to the good influence of London itself. "You can have your own voice here, and that's the great thing that we're good at," he said. "That's why I came back." Something for the new generation of London designers to remember if and when they are attracted to other climes.