London Fashion Week And Theatricality
- BY: RACHEL HOLLIDAY
- Mar. 2, 2016
As home of the famous West End play houses, one could argue that London itself is the home of theatricality. From the looming, Baroque architecture of St Paul's cathedral, to the street mimes donning head to toe metallic paint, it seems that even the smallest alley of the British capital has some sort of staged element to it.
Although haute couture fashion is primarily left to the Paris haute couture shows, London Fashion Week seriously gave the French houses a run for their money when it came to theatricality. Gareth Pugh didn't shy away from avant-garde da da-ism when he sent his models down the runway hidden behind Hannibal Lector masks. Then there was Sophia Webster's gothic fairy-brides, that made her normally outrageous shoes seem somewhat plain. Finally, Erdem took a more understated approach to theatrics, with a lavish stage set, yet clothes we would still strut down the street in.
So what exactly does make a show haute couture? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as expensive, fashionable clothes produced by leading fashion houses. However, surely if this was the case, most of the shows from fashion week would be considered haute couture?
Boffins at the Academy of Couture Art separate haute couture by its exclusivity. They state: Haute couture is not only made-to-order for a specific customer, it is usually made from high-quality, expensive fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finish, often using time-consuming hand-executed techniquesí (Source: www.academyofcoutureart.edu)
It's hard to deny that haute couture often comes with an air of theatricality. Although haute couture isn't necessarily the only theatrical form of fashion, these particular collections at London's Ready To Wear shows are not something that we are likely to see the street style stars wearing.
Fancy rocking a literal star-spangled banner or a Miss Havisham gown? I'll let you take a closer look at the collections and then you can decide if you're brave enough?
Lady Gaga is an avid fan of Gareth Pugh and looking at this collection, we can totally understand why! Shocking, avant-garde, with an underlying elements of the strong femme, we could imagine this entire collection hanging happily in her wardrobe.
The first few garments were relatively tame compared with whatís to come. Beige, layered suit combos brought to mind the idea of #girlboss
And then the tide turned and things got a whole lot more bizarre. A model in a straight-jacket style corset dissolved as a literal star spangled banner took to the catwalk. With a feminine 1940s quiff and post-war suiting, we were left with a certain air of Uncle Sam in the air.
But we had seen nothing yet. The Silence of The Lambs was coming. A disturbing juxtaposition between a 1940s silhouette and a Hannibal lector mask, we were left wondering if these looks were some sort of satirical feminist reference to women's rights.
Although many of the cinched cape jackets and pencil skirts would be happily welcomed into our wardrobe, I think we will give these disturbing masks a miss. The hollowed out cheeks? We'll give those a miss too! Although they add to the creepy theatricality of the collection, I doubt that looking like a corpse will ever be in fashion.
Although Sophia Webster's shoes are a big hit with the fash-pack, they are a little out there! From the famous butterfly shape to thigh-high laser cut numbers, if you want to stand out, her shoes are right up your (rainbow) alley.
Guests who attended the show at the St Barnabus church were uncannily welcomed by a corpse bride. This gothic greeting was suddenly juxtaposed with oh-so-pretty colourful shoes, that came daintily and often dotted with butterflies and flowers.
Whimsical, gothic and theatrical, the collection was inspired by 80s cult classic movie Beetlejuice.í Luckily, the shoes didn't give us quite as many nightmares! Stand out pieces included knee high, lace up heels, adorned with the brands signature butterfly and lace Mary Janes.
The clothes, however, were completely mindboggling. Ranging from deranged fairies to Miss Havisham's modern cousin, it seemed like the characters from our childhood nightmares had materialised in front of us.
The bags were equally as gothic and had a certain Tim Burton appeal to them. Death puns were all the rage.
Upon leaving this church scene, viewers were left with a longing for pretty shoes, alongside a nightmarish confusion about what they had just witnessed.
Erdem's show came with a side of voyeurism. Presented in a lavish and theatrical reproduction of a full-size living room, models strutted around the set, allowing the audience to see them through the windows. The house itself had a certain era of nostalgia surrounding it. Brown decor, an overturned piano and floral wallpaper brought around memories of that long-lost Aunt you may have forgotten. Erdem cited Mrs Danvers, the Winters' deranged housekeeper, as a reference. (Source: Vogue)
Despite the theatrics of a haute couture collection, the clothes themselves were refreshingly wearable. Demure with a hint of Edwardian elegance, the prints made reference to a kind of decaying glamour. Chunky cut-out crochet and tweed presented a certain air of Seventies.
Classic vintage suiting was all the rage, with double-breasted jackets adorned with worn rose prints, and flared kimono blouses with Peter Pan collars.
The floor-length dresses had a certain tattered yellowing to them, which, one again, brought on comparisons to Dickens Miss Havisham. Ruffled high necklines and frilled skirts gave them a sense of Bourgeoisie.
As the model's returned for their final runway stroll, they set themselves amongst the set, slowly fading in, as if they were in a painting that was beginning to dry. Finally: theatrics and wearability has found a happy medium.
To conclude, does the theatrically of these shows make them more couture than ready to wear? No. As by the very definition of haute couture, the fact that these garments are not made to order makes them not haute couture. Furthermore, each collection, despite its outrageous elements, has garments that we would be likely to see walking down the street. And haute couture is not street wear. Unless you're Lady Gaga, of course!