London Fashion Week Lesson One, Day One: To Thine Own Self
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16 February 2013
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Being obsessionally experimental about particular fabrics or even a single garment type can be a smart route to getting noticed as a young designer start-up. Here’s the trick: Go into an idea in a deep way, specialize in it, keep at it, and sooner rather than later, people will start recognizing who you are. On the first day of London, there were three examples of this: Christopher Raeburn, who’s forged ahead as London’s commander in chief of upcycling, palmer//harding, who’ve built their business from white shirts, and Marques’Almeida, whose thing is denim.
Christopher Raeburn’s enthusiasm about the “provenance” of the makings of his clothes is infectious. Backstage at his presentation at Somerset House, he suddenly loped off to grab a checked duffel coat off a rail and declared, “Look, this was dead-stock YSL fabric! And the toggles—made from U.S. military parachute rip cord!” In the next breath, he was sheering off to point out that the blue suiting in the collection would “normally be found on pool tables,” and that the material of a bomber jacket is ex-army of the poshest kind, “made by Hainsworth, who’ve been making British ceremonial fabric since 1783. When you see the guards outside Buckingham Palace, that’s what they’re wearing!” As for the patchworked black-and-white stripes? “Russian Navy Breton sweaters we cut up. They wear them under diving suits.”
Kudos to Raeburn for sustaining his sustainability policy, and for branching out into accessories—like the cap and backpack that match that checked fabric.
Palmer//harding staged a static presentation at lunchtime, followed by Marques’Almeida’s salon show in the Portico Rooms of Somerset House. Here’s our favorite bit—not just double-denim, but triple, and sometimes quadruple in one look:
Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida have been developing that shredded-edge technique since they were at Central Saint Martins, working toward their master’s degrees under Professor Louise Wilson. What she teaches is the fashion version of “To thine own self be true.” (She taught Matthew Harding of the white-shirt duo, too.) There’s no fast-track to fame and fortune in this industry, but funnily enough, in our era of oversaturation of imagery, having one message, one product—and sticking to it—can earn a designer a nice little niche.