All That Glitters

Next month, London’s National Portrait Gallery will open an exhibition called ‘Bright Young Things’, devoted to Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the colourful, rebellious, extravagantly stylish citizens of London’s social scene in the 1920s. It was a reference picked up explicitly at Erdem, where the designer collaborated with exhibition curator Robin Muir and sent out a collection glistening with metallic shades, flapper pearl embellishment and glossy harlequin prints. But there were echoes of it, too, all across the last full day of London’s shows; at JW Anderson, in his slouchy greatcoats and dresses seemingly carved from piles of tinsel; at Bora Aksu, in the designer’s familiar swirling ruffles and at Christopher Kane, in the designer’s Deco-geometric outerwear and relentless variations on the slip dress.

Taken in isolation, each show felt like a logical evolution of the designer’s past work. But it felt nicely coincidental that, at the start of this century’s own Twenties decade, there seemed to be such common ground with the decadent, rule-breaking inhabitants of Beaton’s pictures — people who played fast and loose with gender-codes, who lived in a world packed with fantasy and dressing up and improvised a very contemporary concept of glamour. And that improvised, unexpected quality was what stood out watching the collections yesterday — the glistening, foil-covered floor at Erdem; the puffs of celluloid that clung to Anderson’s coats and knits; the loosely-layered, colour-splashed lingerie at Aksu; in Paula Knorr’s slinky metallic evening wear (shown against a suitably Beatonesque silver curtain) and the supersized, gleefully faux embellishments at Kane. That’s what London fashion has always been about, from Hartnell to Clark to Meadham Kirchhoff — an approach that lives, and lasts, in the dazzle of the moment.

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