On Valentine’s Day, and on the eve of London Fashion Week, I find myself asking the philosophical question, what is beauty?
For Alexander McQueen, there was beauty in everything. Even in the things that ‘normal’ people found ugly, he said he could see beauty. Oscar Wilde, the daddy of irony, said though that ‘it is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances’.
The London Fashion Week line up this season will no doubt take a bit of home-spun wisdom from both of these fashion icons. A nimble dance will play out between the strange and the beautiful, and indeed, everyone will judge everyone else by their appearances.
Erdem is back this season. Flashback to September and it was his post-nuclear holocaust models that created a sensation. Not exactly beautiful, yet it was difficult to call them ugly either. They were skinny, they were pale, and they were hungry. I would have said that his is the last look you’d want to adopt for Valentine’s Day. But this season, he goes all baroque on us. It is floral summer tapestry on sheer fabric and cut-out waists. Romantic creations that even the most cynical of us may look at and say: ‘Oh, that’s actually somewhat remotely kind of wearable’.
Meadham Kirchhoff, my favourite duo, return with more cartoony bridalwear. In their usual Madhatter meets Aishwarya Rai meets a festooned wedding cake kind of way. Theirs is a look that I would definitely recommend for Valentine’s Day because it is both romantic, yet poking fun at itself. Recently, the duo launched a capsule collection of T-shirts in collaboration with Amazon.
‘Mother May I? takes inspiration from our ongoing collection of thirties playful and kitsch paraphernalia,’ they say, ‘including whimsical paper dolls.’
Yes, I see it all now in a blinding flash. Amidst tasks like designing wrapping paper and taxis and other such important stuff, the pair will steal into London Fashion Week this February.
Taka-Naka – Tamara and Natasha Surguladze – say that their inspiration is everything from photography and art to music and first love in a 1980s American high school. The outcome is crazy preppie-wear, with neat collars and buckled shoes, but in prints that would be just as much at home in a wigwam as a Seventies disco. Of course, one might say that American high schools aren’t the most romantic places to be at the moment. But, maybe it’s the beautiful-ugly thing again, where romance exists alongside darkness and violence.
So, what is to be the Valentine’s Day outfit from this London Fashion Week collection?
Alice Temperley’s crimson and ivory outfits are just stylish enough, with Japanese elegance and a too-cool-for-school attitude.
Christopher Kane’s romantic retro-rose dress with its sexy cut-outs and sheer hem may just provide enough flyaway charm. Or, just for fun, Sister by Sibling’s Bjork-type swan dress with what looks like white lace hose worn as a mask on the face may just spice things up in a Fifty Shades of Grey kind of way.
Look out for our coverage of London Fashion Week from 15 to 19 February.
Photos by Norbert Severin