London Fashion Week takes itself awfully seriously nowadays. Once the place for relatively unknown designers hoping to make it to Paris or New York, the rise of British labels from Mulberry to L’Wren Scott has made London – now dubbed the fashion capital of the world – the place to be. It’s also precipitated sleeker, lavisher shows (champagne flowed at Tom Ford; guests in dinner suits arrived in Bentleys). “We’ve gone very luxe,” says Mulberry’s creative director Emma Hill. There is certainly a place for luxury at fashion shows but, as designers strove to assert themselves as serious contenders in the fashion game, the sense of fun and playfulness which has always set British style apart from its European counterparts was absent from many of this year’s collections.
Enter Anya Hindmarch. Described by Tatler as having “the biggest balls of anybody in the fashion industry”, her shows to date – think Louis XIV carousels and Victorian sweet shops – have never failed to thrill even the toughest of critics. This season the theme was ‘Cascade’: 50,000 dominos in 37 colours revealed the new collection of bags as they fell. It took 7,559 man hours to create and there were no rehearsals, making it Anya’s riskiest show to date. The result was breathtaking.
It’s not difficult to see that the collection is inspired by colour: tasselled bags in bright greens and reds were placed alongside vintage inspired striped clutches, experimenting with colour and shading. Hindmarch took inspiration from the aesthetics of games to play with making the colours dramatic, fun and easy to wear; clutches feature domino spots and backgammon spokes. “The collection wasn’t so much inspired by me playing games,” she explained, “but by their graphics. The beauty of a backgammon board, say, and how it allows for the mix of three different colours.”
Fashion moguls, journalists and bloggers were delighted by the spectacle. “The bags rose from beneath waves of colour and broke through domino mountains and the guests ooh-ed and aah-ed in time with the jaunty, slapstick music”, gushed Alice Olins in her review of the show on Anya’s World, which was inspired by ‘Mr Domino’: world record holder Robin Weijers, who builds art installations from hundreds of thousands of coloured dominos.
Hindmarch’s creativity even made it into the customary free gifts; in keeping with the playfulness of the collection, some of the guests were given ‘Anyagrams’ of their names which were made into bracelets. (Find your own Anyagram at anyagram.com – the results can be hilarious.) Once again she managed to pull off an extraordinary and wonderfully unpretentious show. This is a designer at the top of her game who deserves to be taken seriously. She summed up the essence of London Fashion Week at its best: “The show is about communicating who we are and I don’t like the idea of just being a slick fashion brand, I want to show our nutty British side too.” Hear hear, Anya. We can’t wait to see what you’ll come up with next.