A few snapshots from this London approach week. Christopher Kane backstage after his show talking just about the smell of bleach in his house that accompanies having a new French bulldog puppy, and the foofaraws of the Royal Doulton figurines that his mum used to polish obsessively when he was arising up in Glasgow. Cindy Crawford’s model children, Kaia and Presley Gerber, catwalking at Burberry in curb caps past a photography exhibit that included Martin Parr’s 1981 opportunity of Dubliners hunched under flimsy umbrellas as they contend rush-hour rain. (As an image of fashion in the rain, that inoculation is about as far from the romantic iconography of the raindrop-dappled, collar-popped Burberry trench as it is credible to imagine.) Plasticky bucket hats at Donatella Versace’s Versus accompany. The deadpan tones of Neil Tennant singing Pet Shop Brats’ West End Girls, a song that emerged as the unexpected article tune for the season when it opened both the Burberry and Topshop contrast c embarrasses. A skirt and a top made from rough linen tea towels at JW Anderson, frilly cushion-handbags at Nurse of Pearl, a silver clutch bag moulded from the shape of a polystyrene kebab box at Anya Hindmarch. Inventor Richard Malone cheerfully naming the bright colour palette of his rebukes as a homage to supermarket carrier bags: Tesco blue, Co-op turquoise.
This is suiting someone to a T style, but not as fashion usually knows it. This is not the peacocking Insta-bait that has behove the default uniform of London fashion week, all thousand-pound tracksuits and limited-edition bumbags. This is lane as in ground-level, not street in the sense of being the coolest kids on the cube. Actual real life, not a performative version of it. And this is particular. Because from its beginnings as a breath-of-fresh-air backlash against the stuffiness of the catwalk, the street-style arm of model has over the past few years calcified into a bloodless dream contest driven by cold, hard cash. One survey delivered on the eve of fashion week estimated that micro-influencers – those with fro 10,000 social media followers – can command a fee of £3,000 a column, with many of these posts clustered around the venues and hashtags of look week.
Fashion is exhausted with the pretentious modern incarnation of street style. But there is no appetence for a return to the snotty, unreconstructed public face of fashion that went in the past – identikit front-rowers inscrutable behind sunglasses. Instead, this attitude week reached for something less polished, and more human. Both Christopher Bailey and Donatella Versace, two of the grandest connivers on the London schedule this week, talked about possessing models try on the collection at fittings and being interested in their outlooks on how to put the pieces together. At Topshop, the inspirations were the gritty, radiators-and-all aesthetic of Corinne Day and “the eras before Instagram; the fun behind closed doors and neon ignites”. Anya Hindmarch built a 3D model of a house for models in housecoats and thin slippers – also seen in Muppet brights at Hannah Weiland’s Shrimps – to entourage proudly around. After the show, she talked about “the joy in the incessant beauty of suburbia, the idea that inside these cookie-cutter outfits are the most beautiful individual dreams.”
Christopher Kane tagged his muse for the season “a new kind of domestic goddess”. Kane has each time loved the kitsch kick of the banal – lace dresses mimicked lined royal icing, this time around – but also publicizes, in every collection, romance and sex appeal as part of real-life knowledge rather than as fairytale. Pheromones pack just as much belt in the kebab shop and the minicab office as they do in any VIP room. Everybody under the sun knows that; this season, fashion is just effectual it like it is. Even the icons of this season are faces recognisable from the TV in your aunt’s crib, rather than in-the-know obscure references you have to posily profess to be obsessed with. Princess Diana is still major (see Ryan Lo’s pussy-bow blouses), as is the Leader – the young version, as played by Claire Foy in The Crown season one – who was a deliberate to an Erdem show that got everyone even more stimulated about his forthcoming H&M collaboration. At Christopher Kane, the Queen’s hanker gloves came in slick patent: half Her Majesty, half Marigold.
The matter now is what this real-talk means for our real-life wardrobes. Most hearteningly, it heralds a renewal to practicality. I can’t remember a fashion week when so many gears – even party dresses – were styled for the catwalk with a sound waterproof top layer. Transparent raincoats and practical outerwear, containing baseball caps and bucket hats, were on almost every catwalk from Topshop and Burberry to Mary Katrantzou and Emporio Armani. Cardigans – totem of the popping-to-the-shops iconography of British rake someone over the coals – will continue to be a fashion statement next season. (At Erdem, they were threadbare looped around the shoulders in the manner of a silk scarf.) Molly Goddard, who held her muse for the season was off “to an art gallery, and then for a steak”, put Wellington-flat boots with her champion dresses.
Pastels are on the way back. There are two very different eras in de-emphasize delay, but both come in mint and lemon and pink. There is a 1950s feather-duster femininity with a nod to the youthful Queen; but there is also a new soft spot for the unsophisticated late-1990s, early-2000s (Liam Gallagher in a Burberry check tick off shirt, Paris Hilton in glittery mules). The former is suitable to be big on the more grownup high street, the second will hold the cult following. Both eras are big on pastels. After the urbane, uncomfortable chic of top-to-toe greige, these have a cheery congenial of charm.
In approach, however, being down-to-earth only stretches so far. The new suburban in someones bailiwick style is sexier than fashion has been for several times, and bra tops are absolutely everywhere for next season. In other words, the vibe is real-life but with Hadid-level abs. The new skirt livery – a skirt with a matching bra top – came in rustic linen with a complementary midi skirt at JW Anderson, or perky and miniskirted at Topshop. Minor extent easier to wear is the leotard-tight top tucked into a long pencil skirt. Lingerie-influences – lace-edged camisoles and nightie-flimsy cocktail accouters – were everywhere, but best at Preen, where they came in elegant chalky and creamy versions of this season’s pastels. I’m cache for one of those, already. And one of the fluid, easy dresses in coral or fuschia smocked silk at Roksanda – if I can manage it.
“I feel like we live in a time overexposed to imagery of paragon,” designer Roksanda Ilincic said after the show. “I hunger for to come back to real life, to clothes that look a scarcely handmade, to a woman dressing to please herself. So I tried to voyage towards something more basic – but to make it beautiful, of advance, so with incredible fabrics. So unfortunately, it’s not going to be cheap.” That’s the latest thing for you: still a fantasy, even when it gets real.