It was an all-new Summer of Love for Jonathan Saunders today. Psychedelic sunsets shifted on screens at the end of the catwalk. Giant globes glowed like alien suns while trance music drowsily droned and opium poppies shimmered on organza. Skirts of tiered pleats, starburst floral prints, sheer Western shirts, and colored granny glasses made the models look like Manson girls minus the murderous instincts.
Saunders never met an altered state he didn't like, but all that lotus eating has yielded a distinctive fashion voice. Today marked exactly ten years since he showed his first collection. A decade ago, he was already a print master of repute for people like McQueen, so it was inevitably the prints that critics honed in on. They didn't much like the rest. Funny, that. Saunders' new collection was dazzling proof of how far he's come—but also how close he still is to the boy who, broke in a room in Brixton, made clothes for his girlfriends. He claimed it was the energy and eccentricity of those same friends who inspired his latest looks.
Well, we should all be blessed with such besties, because the collection Saunders created around them was a perverse delight. Working on menswear has reshaped Saunders' approach to womenswear, starting with the color palette (he is such an accomplished colorist that he'll confidently walk a fine line between beautiful and ugly), following through to a slouchy tomboy quality in shorts, track pants, and the satin bomber jackets that were Saunders' own favorites. There was a seductive ease in the clothes, but there was also challenge. The designer's appetite for the lurid found expression in collages of fabric, pattern, and graphic print.
It's true that much of the show's impact lay in its styling and production. But that only made it truer that you could dissect the forty-two looks into dozens of infinitely desirable individual pieces. Retailers were already rubbing their hands together with glee. "Breakthrough," crowed one.