At Fashion Fringe, you always tend to feel the star attraction isn’t really the clothes OR any famous faces on the front row – it’s the Honorary Chair of Judges. In previous seasons it’s been the pepper-pot sized bombshell Donatella Versace, who has now been succeeded by no less of a fashion powerhouse and instantly recognizable demi god than JOHN GALLIANO. As he swept into the room to take his seat, buffered on all sides by his entourage, the audience of hardened editors felt suitably starstruck. *Thrills!*
But this year, that was far from the peak of the evening. The fashion showcase that pits three up-and-coming designers for a prestigious prize is never predictable, and as the first looks started to circumnavigate the room, we craned our necks to take in Alice Palmer’s techno-knits; taking the established, very-London idea of using knits for whole outfits a stage further - to the level of eveningwear. The RCA graduate, now a working designer, created lurex pieces inspired by fossils. The pleats and concertinas worked surprisingly well as trendy, easy-to-move-in frocks as well as sculptural artefacts.
Next out were Jade Kang’s ultra-glam, ultra-red-carpet party dresses. Silk satin fitted structures, on top of which were layered great swathes of silk chiffon drape in a pantone colour spectrum of apricot, cream and tangerine. The LCF trained, Korean-born designer might have been vying for the Fashion Fringe trophy but the dresses clearly had ambitions for Oscar night.
Finally, we watched open-mouthed as Corrie Nielsen’s collection swaggered down the runway. Inspired by 18th century caricatures of the aristos and establishment of the time, her models each had a different variation on the Madame Pompadour be-talcumed bouffe. As the line up progressed, the outfits grew larger and larger, until the final girls were virtually dwarfed underneath huge wedges of upholstery – either shoulders, bustles, hip-panniers or draped bibs. Phew! Some of the looks were outerwear, in grey wool, others trousers and elaborate swaggy blouses, while the final looks were polished evening suits, rendered in a decadent number of meters of silk.
Crowned as the winner later in the evening, Florida-born Corrie, who trained at Central Saint Martins and then worked at Vivienne Westwood for six years, betrayed the influence of her employer's early work, as well as echoing Galliano’s own visual flourishes. The main difference was that the dresses looked as though they’d been tailored to perfection, then pumped up with a powerful jet of helium. Wow – we weren’t expecting that, and we were more than happy to have been present at the spectacle; quite possibly the first of many!
- Naomi Attwood