Newcomers and established designers alike took audiences on flights of fancy on Day 2 of London Fashion Week Saturday, which showcased an eclectic range of women's wear creations from the elegant to the whimsical, from the eminently wearable to structured works of art.
Britons Jasper Conran and John Rocha, two of the fashion week's most established names, both showed Saturday, with the former delivering a surprisingly fun and youthful collection and the latter wowing the crowd with the sheer technique that went into his sculptural creations.
Also featured Saturday was Kinder Aggugini, former designer at Versace; Huishan Zhang, a Chinese-born talent who delivered a refined debut show of reworked Chinese motifs; and Moschino Cheap and Chic, which is showing a full catwalk presentation for the first time at London Fashion Week.
Conran's signature look is pared-down British elegance, but for next spring he offered up a playful selection on a retro Americana theme: Psychedelic flowers, blue jeans, stars and stripes, Woodstock and multi-colored patchwork.
Models walked on a catwalk made of a bed of faux grass to the tunes of Carole King, and the look was part cool cowgirl, part folksy flower children. There were denim vests, shorts and straight cut jeans, some embroidered with flowers and doves, others adorned by a silver sequined hem. Later models wore crochet, patchwork or kaleidoscope print dresses.
Prints were childlike and irreverent (think huge print of a cherry on a white shirt) and the palette was as cheerful as it gets: Bubblegum pink, coral, mustard, lime, and a tangerine that Conran called "Fanta orange."
Voluminous hooped skirts, ruffles and layers of sheer organza dominated the catwalk at Ireland-based John Rocha's show, which resembled a beautiful English garden of sculpted flowers.
A red strapless dress with an exaggerated tulip shape opened the show, its large organza ruffles imitating the frail petals of a flower.
The hooped, textured skirt then appeared layered over trousers and under sheer organza jackets. It was also repeated to great effect in a host of pastel colors: Pale lavender, mint, lemon, before appearing in gun metal, champagne, black and white. Models all wore large matching hats made of folds of organza that sat like tinted clouds on their heads.
Former Versace designer Kinder Aggugini began the day with a show inspired by fishermen and the freedom of being at sea. His spring collection was themed around the traditional naval palette - blue, red and white - but he washed out the colors for a faded, carefree look to fit his "gone fishing" theme.
Gingham and prints of island life added girlish charm to the relaxed shapes, which included pieces like pinafores, low-slung shorts and men's style shirts. Hand-painted clogs pulled the looks together.
Aggugini cleverly sneaked in the ocean theme in several standout pieces: A navy blazer had a white-dyed hem to imitate the sea's waves, and a black velvet gown had a design of octopus tentacles that reached to the floor.
"It was all very fresh and sweet, very well made, very cute. It all worked," said Hilary Alexander, a veteran British fashion editor who attended the show at London Fashion Week.
Newcomer Huishan Zhang delivered a sophisticated debut collection Saturday that impressed the crowd with his fresh take on traditional Chinese motifs.
The tailored Chinese silk dress, the cheongsam, was updated with detachable, crystal-embellished collars, subtle prints and a refreshing palette of mint, sage, sea green and violets.
Dresses had high necklines and modest hemlines, but the way the silk hugged the body oozed sensual femininity. Prints of sparrows, pagodas and mahjong tiles lent playfulness to the elegant clothes. Silhouettes were clean and unfussy, adorned sometimes with sheer, wispy capes.
Zhang, who recently graduated from London's Central St. Martins college, spent a year working at Christian Dior before setting up his own label. His first season collection has been picked up by two retailers.
"He's delivered clothes that are appropriate for all age groups, and that's something that's quite difficult to do for a young designer," said Anne Tyrrell, a London-based design consultant. "He's one to watch, definitely."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)