Jonathan Saunders had a lot to live up to this season. Regardless that he has been an important part of London Fashion Week for 8 years - minus a few seasons when he decamped to New York - it's been in the last three seasons that he has truly proved what he is capable of. For AW 11 he had fashion editors swooning at his tight tailoring and William Morris-esque prints, and we were reminded why when we arrived at the show on Saturday evening to be greeted by his PR girls looking devastatingly hot and chic in that collection.
Thanks to a sneak peek at his SS12 offering in a brief studio visit a fortnight ago, we knew that he was moving away from the strict silhouettes. 'Not a pencil skirt in sight,' Jonathan told us. Instead the mood boards of Edwardian portraiture, underwear and Dan Flavin art installations pointed to something looser and more romantic. But it didn't prepare us for the divine collection that he showed in a vast office space in Paddington. The stark room was filled with flourescent tube lighting, providing the perfect simple backdrop to his softer shapes. Yes the silhouette has changed, but the essence is the same. Opening with a beautifully cut full-skirt printed dress, which was followed immediately by a short and shirt look in the same print, it already felt like a natural continuation from AW. But the delicate polka dot pj silk looks that followed showed the progression and Jonathan's confidence that he's way more than just a man who can work a pattern, he can cut with the best, and understands what a woman wants to wear better than most female designers. Softly pleated circle skirts, art deco prints and waffle knit cardigans, narrow knits and barley there chiffon skirts, intricate embroidery on light as air tops and dresses, and cleverly cut and detailed ivory dresses, are everything you will want to wear next summer and more. It's a collection that could have looked demure at the hands of many other designers, but thanks to the genius colour play, and of course that it is Jonathan Saunders, this was seductive from beginning to end.
In London there is always a designer who garners attention, for some it is immediate and burns out quickly, but for others it takes time. Jonathan has always had the press's gaze on him, but it's clear from his last few collections that now he is really starting to enjoy it.
- Kay Barron