The Savoy hotel was the site of one of Roksanda Ilincic's strongest shows to date, perhaps her strongest ever. It certainly heralded something of a departure for the designer, while still being essentially true to who she is. Ilincic cut through the ladylikeness that is usually her stock-in-trade with something a little more loose. This new, loose woman might still be wearing maxi dresses and skirts, bishop sleeves, an array of collars, cuffs, and perhaps even a ruff (!), but she doesn't need to expose flesh to prove she's not uptight.
A snatch from "Groove Is in the Heart" played at the beginning and the end of the show—the most repeated song of LFW—but the soundtrack was really a paean to Northern Soul, the British music scene that was based around up-tempo, obscure American soul songs from the sixties. That music more accurately defined this collection, with its high waists, fluid lines, and long hems that echoed the seventies (the Northern Soul movement's heyday) and could perhaps be seen as a nod to the early-nineties rare-groove scene's appropriation of the same trends. "I wanted an element of fun and the unexpected with those long dresses and big hats," Ilincic said after her show. The hats she speaks of were giant baker-boy caps—another Northern Soul reference.
That was essentially the fun of the collection; these were clothes that could have been danced in during amphetamine-fueled nights at Wigan Casino, Northern Soul's spiritual home. There, fashions for girls were long, plain, and somewhat traditional—and could be witnessed in the almost disco-Amish look of Ilincic's gray, "wipe-clean" laminated organza dresses that comprised her finale outfits. The reference gave the collection a weird kind of activewear feel, and an ease that wasn't there before.
Added to this were the perverse experiments in texture and color: One dress had a precise patchwork of thick white laminated tweed, a black wide-weave gazar, various-colored cotton tweeds, and a neon yellow accent sleeve. Which sounds horrible, but these experiments purposely played on the knife edge of vulgarity without ever quite falling off. Ilincic cited the color experimentation of the artist Josef Albers—which she called "rigid, masculine, and precise"—as an inspiration, and she handled it deftly. There was also a Milton Glaser-style graphic quality to many of these clothes that rescued them from the realms of the kitsch seventies and gave them a fluid, fun feel. Altogether, the collection reflected some aspects of the designer that haven't been explored in the past, and was all the better for it.