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August 21 2014

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In New York, Young London Calling

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It’s surely a coincidence—right?—that the first day the London Showrooms and its clutch of young designers hit New York, so did a blast of rainy, London weather.

It didn’t stop the mass of editors who came for the Showrooms’ press viewing at the Soho Grand yesterday, where Mary Katrantzou, Holly Fulton, Michael van der Ham, J.W. Anderson, and more of the city’s up-and-comers (and their collections) were holding court. No surprise to find a crush at the penthouse suite. Interest in British fashion feels greater than at any time in recent memory. “I feel like London’s been an emerging talent itself for such a long time and I think it finally felt like it emerged,” said the day’s hostess, Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council’s ambassador for emerging talent. “There’s been a real coming together, a critical mass of talented people who have been working away quietly and methodically for such a long time. Suddenly we had really strong collections from Meadham Kirchhoff [above], Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane, Erdem; they look mature now—they’re proper small businesses who people are really taking notice of…there’s a buzz with substance behind it in town.”

Katrantzou agreed. “I got a feeling that with some people, something clicked, and it was very real,” she said of the response to her Fall show (left). “They came to the showroom and you felt that it was very positive—I was amazed to feel that response.” Her koi-pond print pieces and fleurette-dotted dresses remain showpieces, but Katrantzou also expanded into knitwear this season, an especial boon for retailers. “It brings a completely different story for people to buy into,” she explained.

Men’s designer Tim Soar was also celebrating a season of firsts: his first full womenswear collection, with menswear-inspired pieces, like a raw-edged tuxedo jacket and a blocked, backless dress that had begun life as men’s suiting separates. In its first season, the line has already been picked up by some of London’s best stores. Looking at his covetable leathers, like a long, black leather skirt and a fur-collared varsity jacket, it wasn’t hard to imagine why.

Holly Fulton’s Coco Chanel-in-Scotland-inspired collection was also on display, with bright red lip prints not only appearing on silk maxi dresses and printed pants, but also on oversized enamel earrings. Fulton is working on a new project, she whispered, one that transcends the fashion sphere—her graphic prints being especially adaptable to such things—but wouldn’t say more for the moment.

Jonathan Anderson of J.W. Anderson—another menswear designer who recently added women’s to his repertoire—was exciting special attention as well. (Mower singled him out as especially promising among the new guard.) His paisley-print tops (left) and angora knits—long dresses for women, cropped sweaters for men—were exciting in a kind of loony, late-sixties way. His collection looks modern, but as Mower pointed out, Anderson, like many of his compatriots, is using older techniques and long-established craftsmen; his outerwear, for example, is made by the same factory that makes jackets for the English gunmakers Purdey and Sons. Meadham Kirchhoff, showing in a room across the penthouse, sources English-made Linton tweed (the same tweed, incidentally, Coco Chanel herself used to use). “One thing I’m really excited to see is that all this great production is being done in the U.K. It’s really precious to all of this generation that things are made by craftspeople near home,” Mower said. “Without being tub-thumping about sustainability and the rest of it—that’s [just] what’s close to them.”

Photos: Courtesy of the BFC

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