What an evening. The penultimate night of Oxford Fashion Week, the ‘Concept’ show, was impressive to say the least. Behind every piece was imagination, creativity, innovation — and then some.
Arriving at the Randolph Hotel, first came an hour of casual socialising, which I expected to be a rather dull prelude to the main event. However, what began as awkward small-talk soon turned into the buzzing chatter of style enthusiasts. Yes, here was a room filled with people who all shared (cliché as it sounds) a passion for fashion. And you could tell. Spotted were: two sequined jackets, one oversized lizard ring, six statement necklaces and an exquisite floor-length kimono. One might have said the show had already begun. There was even a miniature dog there, bejewelled lead and all. Musing around, I asked a few people what they were looking for in the show. “Adventurous outlines”, “creative shapes”, “experiments in structure” were just some of the answers, or as one American put it, “something wild, wacky and damn good.”
The show certainly lived up to these expectations. First came an exploration of structure clearly influenced by the Amazon jungle, with Trine Young showcasing dresses inspired by exotic flowers, both in colour and texture. Indeed, the theme “imitating the natural” was channelled by a number of designers across the show. James Hadric created grey “dishevelled” suits that might have been inspired by fossils, whilst designers Rebecca Marsden and Why So Serious used glossy bits of fray akin to seaweed. Meanwhile, one design presented by Alysha Dalamal had a “volcanic” feel – think textured black jacket, red-palette leggings and sheer, smoky grey fabric. All used organic structures inspired by the environment. There also emerged a number of looks stemming from the “urban jungle”, with Rebecca Elley using black pieces of rubber in her designs. Monochrome industrial forms featured particularly in men’s fashion, as seen by James Pilcher.
The main focus, however, was shape, shape and more shape. Trust me, the term ‘oversized shoulders’ meant nothing until now. The basic peplum skirt was another structure hugely exaggerated, as was the severely belted waist. All this experiment gave way to some seriously bold outfits. Channelling a futurist space vibe, designer Hughes Jennifer Jade had his models wear metallic visors, whilst Francesca Walosa created the most unusual piece, a jacket that also paired up as a head-scarf.
But it was Anoosh who stood out. If it was Anoosh who closed the show, it was also Anoosh who stole the show. Saving the best till last was never truer. As soon as the first model appeared, all eyes were glued to the catwalk. (Hell, even the dog, which had, up until this point been sleeping, decided to fix its attention). These outfits were certainly the most experimental, conveying the essence of what it is to be imaginative. One outfit played on the tartan dressing gown whilst another infused Eastern harem with English bridal wear, the model wearing both a belly dancing top and a wedding veil. Indeed, Anoosh created a selection of mesmerising headpieces which took various shapes, from a bubble to horns to a fringed lampshade. Yes, really. And if this wasn’t ‘out there’ enough, the model wearing the fringed lampshade pulled behind her a Pixar style lamp as she walked down the catwalk. Don’t ask me how, don’t ask me why, but it worked.
Of the twenty designers who took part in the Concept show (twelve of which were backstage) very few failed to impress. Almost every designer had something original to bring to the table, or should that be catwalk. Here we had clothes which were not only pieces of art but pieces of sculpture. Whether you would be brave enough to actually wear the clothes is another question. (Although if I could ever own a jacket as beautiful as the peacock creation by Rebecca Marsden I would be a very happy bunny indeed). Enigmatic and captivating, the show was a real success, or in the words of the American, “wild wacky and damn good.”