The Vine

The British Invasion

Looks from (left to right): Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto and David Koma.

I have always been a big fan of British designers, so was excited to learn that The British Fashion Council was bringing some of London’s rising fashion stars to Hong Kong. Since 2008 the BFC has been showcasing the work of talented Brits under the London Show Rooms initiative and this was the first time they have hosted an event in Asia (via Los Angeles nonetheless).

Yesterday I spent the morning at their showroom at The Space to meet the talents behind labels including E.Tautz, Jonathan Saunders, Marios Schwab, Mary Katrantzou, Nicholas Kirkwood, Peter Pilotto, Roksanda Ilincic and Todd Lynn. There were also three new generation designers on display – Holly Fulton, David Koma and Louise Grey – but more on that later.

Shoes by Nicholas Kirkwood

 It was interesting to see the clothes up close and personal (they were exhibiting the recent spring/summer 2012 collections), especially since most Asian editors tend to skip the London shows in favour of Milan and Paris. I’ve always found this perplexing considering that the London shows have gone from strength to strength in the past few seasons. I was chatting with designer Marios Schwab and he was commenting on how the recession has brought out the best in British designers. I couldn’t agree more – once again we are seeing the edginess and creativity that London lost for a while when designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney decamped to Paris.

Controlled volume at Roksanda Ilincic (left) and body-con dresses at Marios Schwab (right)

So what were the highlights? First up were Schwab’s sexy body con dresses made from power mesh and Swiss lace. Underneath were layers of  contrasting or brightly coloured fabric which shone through the mesh to create a shadow effect. While the silhouettes looked curvy they were far from constricting – in fact the mesh is stretchy and soft, and is designed to move with the body.

Mary Katrantzou’s work meanwhile belongs in a museum. Not only are her digital prints exquisite – there were florals, crushed aluminium cans, colourful aquariums and 3D bows – but she is really starting to play with technical fabrics. One floral shift dress was made from plastic that is used to tint windows, which was then bonded with fabric. I hate biker jackets but there is something romantic about her floral zippered pieces.

Plastic dress by Mary Katrantzou (left) and digital prints at Peter Pilotto (right).

Men’s wear label E.Tautz is also worth checking out. The brand is firmly rooted in Savile Row tradition, but in 2009 the very stylish Patrick Grant took over and added his own fun, sporty twist through fun colours, textures and patterns. He plays with proportions on tailored pieces as well – think of it as the British version of Thom Browne and you’ll get what I mean.

The three new gen designers on display couldn’t be more different. David Koma focuses on sculptural shapes with heavy embellishment and for spring he was inspired by Polynesian tribal motifs which are set into dresses, while others had 3D beading that resembled holograms.  Holly Fulton also went tribal with an Art Deco slant – she overloaded on  embellishments ranging from mother of pearl to crystals, but never in a tacky way. Finally there was Louise Grey  whose handmade dresses featured collages of ribbons, beads and appliques. I think all three are set to be fashion stars, but I am especially interested to see how Koma’s line develops.

Looks from Holly Fulton (right) and E.Tautz (left)

Next year the BFC has plans to take the initiative to Beijing and Shanghai.

The whole event made me  think about what we are doing here in Hong Kong to support local talent.  I haven’t seen a  local designer for a while that has excited me like Katrantzou has.  Hong Kong designers where are you???

Read more about the British designers at

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