Extraordinary cut. Dramatic silhouettes. The sound of an audience bursting into spontaneous applause after an atmospheric build-up. Sounds like the good old London we used to know. It took Boudicca, the reclusive East End–based duo, to stir up the city to a level of excitement that’s been mourned since Alexander McQueen departed for Paris. Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby’s collection, crafted entirely in black with the exception of one dress, was a beautifully considered sequence of darkly feminine glamour, with extra sparkle provided by the original use of Swarovski crystals.

Boudicca is not an overnight student phenomenon, and that’s a good thing. Shaking off a five-season reputation for cryptic presentations in dank venues, Broach and Kirkby seized their debut appearance in the official British Fashion Council tent as an opportunity to hold their talent up to the light for the first time. What was revealed had an accomplished, distinctive, sometimes couture-like quality that showed through in striking lace dresses, taffeta skirts with deep knife-pleat flounces, slithery asymmetric jersey, deluxe blousons and puffy down jackets.

The detailing showed all the ingenuity and skill of a couple who have devoted years to questioning and refining their vision. Dresses often came overlaid with lace tied on like an apron; skirts were crisscrossed with ribbon in back or exploded at the hem with extravagant godets, one decorated with giant black silk roses. Amid all the layers of black, the models’ limbs and faces were adorned with crystal transfers, an effect building to a finale of a girl who appeared in a sparkling silver jacket and headpiece. And that was when Boudicca won the London season’s first ovation.