So many beautiful clothes, so little time: London Fashion Week produced its busiest day Monday, with blockbuster shows including Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Kane and McQ by the Alexander McQueen house all jostling for editors' attention.
The fourth day of the weeklong fashion extravaganza saw a futuristic punk aesthetic marry beaded florals at Kane, the hottest young designer showing in the British capital, while Burberry's design chief Christopher Bailey dished up a luxurious collection of English tweed, herringbone and corduroys.
Observers said Kane's autumn and winter show, one of the most eagerly anticipated of the week, highlighted the unorthodox creativity and emphasis on craft that set London's young designers apart from those in other fashion capitals.
"Young British designers these days are reaching ever stronger heights with digital printing," said Hilary Alexander, a veteran British fashion writer. "The emphasis on arts and crafts, the embellishment of fabric — they're not afraid to experiment."
Kane, who is known to pair traditionally feminine details with tough futuristic touches, delivered a memorable collection that featured purple leopard prints, intricately beaded floral separates and sheer purple and red dresses embroidered with oversized velvet flowers. Black leather detailing kept the look modern and edgy: Thick leather piping adorned most garments, and some of the dresses also had black leather shirt collars and sleeves.
One of the standout outfits was fire-engine red from head to toe: A long red fluffy turtleneck, paired with red wide-leg trousers with a black leather trim down the side.
"I liked the colours, the beading — it was so lovely," said television presenter Alexa Chung, who sat in the front row along with model Yasmin Le Bon, American Vogue's Anna Wintour and Samantha Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Over at Burberry, the emphasis was on classic Englishness. There were riding jackets galore, as well as velvet quilting, herringbone wool and tweed caps — and of course incarnations of the brand's most famous garment, the trench coat.
Bailey, who has been at the helm of Burberry for more than a decade and is credited with revitalizing the once-fusty brand, said he wanted to merge city style and country living.
"I like the idea of celebrating the country, celebrating the town," he said.
Bridle leather straps, shearling parkas and quilting were evocative of the horse-riding country lifestyle of the English upper class, while cute owl drawings and appliqués on some of the collection's T-shirts and sweaters, as well as gold metal fox belt buckles, were a fun and quirky take on the "country" theme.
A huge range of coats and jackets made up much of the collection. Some were cinched in with candy-coloured belts with bows, while others had masculine tailored shoulders and large pouches. Cropped, down-filled puffer jackets were paired with tweed ruffled pencil skirts, giving the ladylike look a sporty twist.
Colours were rich and autumnal, with mustard, burgundy, blackcurrant and forest green, while wide horizontal stripes in gray, navy and honey kept the look young and vibrant.
Bailey likes to put on an entertaining show. This season he closed his display with a clap of thunder, a realistic torrent of rain falling on the show tent's glass windows and a finale of umbrella-toting models walking down the catwalk to clear confetti.
What could be more British?
"I quite like celebrating rain," said Bailey. "I like the romance. I quite like the melancholy."
There was also an autumnal feel at the debut of the McQ line, a new offering from the fashion house of the late Alexander McQueen, now headed by Sarah Burton, who gained worldwide fame last year for her design of Kate Middleton's wedding gown.
The McQ line is designed to be a more affordable range for a younger, less affluent crowd. The prospect at a first look at Burton's legendary handiwork drew a frenzied crowd Monday night, and they arrived to find the catwalk — in fact the entire stage — thick with fallen leaves. One end of the hall was transformed into dark woods, giving the entire set a forested feel.
Most of the models had strange, saucer-like hairstyles, giving them a space-age, inhuman feel, and many wore military-style coat dresses embellished with beading and embroidery. Thigh-high lace boots and long trench coats added to the look. A Scottish influence was felt throughout, with some of the male models dressed in kilts.
Some of the black flared dresses with colour bursts on the front were dramatic, but overall the line lacked the imaginative spark long associated with the McQueen house.
Other designers showing Monday included Erdem, Pringle of Scotland, Osman and Peter Pilotto, whose slim-line colourful dresses drawing on Japanese and Chinese traditions drew an impressive response.