LONDON — London Fashion Week is winding down — but not before some of Britain's brightest young designers showcased the inventiveness, eclectic range and irreverence that the British capital's fashion scene has to offer.
On the final day of womenswear shows at the weeklong style extravaganza, two talented female designers, each with their own distinctive visions of femininity, delivered some of the most covetable clothes seen during the week.
Fluid silk-dipped back gowns, fur-trimmed pencil skirts and beaded satin shifts in rich berry reds, turquoise and vivid purple at Roksanda Ilincic painted a picture of refined, aristocratic allure, but this season the Serbian designer decided to mix things up a bit by adding a sporty, urban theme.
Ilincic, who is best known for her glamorous evening wear and has dressed the likes of Michelle Obama, said she used parkas, hoodies and leisure wear because she didn't like how women always feel that they have to look immaculate.
The clothes may be casual, but they are far from slovenly looking. Sweatshirts had fur hoods and silk panels, while the printed puffer jacket, seen at other shows this week including Christopher Kane, was white with artistic, hand painted black ink stripes.
"As a designer you can't do the same thing over and over again," Ilincic said after the show. "It's about keeping it fresh and evolving."
While Ilincic's beloved jewel tones — worn with clashing lemon court shoes — made up the collection's rich color palette, the designer closed her show with a series of pristine white outfits. The last model, who wore a slim, long white wool dress with a frill hem and luxe fur hood, looked like a regal snow queen.
"It's quite wintry," Ilincic said of the white designs. "It's like a breath of fresh air."
Greece-born Mary Katrantzou was the other show that wowed the crowds Tuesday — though her aesthetic could not have been more different.
For her keenly awaited new collection, Katrantzou displayed experimental silhouettes, opulent rainbow colors, and crazy prints of pencils, spoons and typewriters.
Her admirers wouldn't expect anything less. Since her debut at the capital's fashion week in 2008, Katrantzou has gained a wide following with her unique flair for artsy design, extraordinary prints and architectural cutting.
Inspired by the colors of a crayon box and Victoriana, the designer opened with a series of garments that played with exaggerated structure: These included the designer's signature stiff lampshade-shaped skirts, ruffled waistlines, and babydoll shaped dresses that had ruffled chiffon skirt layers billowing dramatically from the chest down.
Then there was an eruption of intricate, all-over prints, which included hyper-real bows, clocks and spoons. One of the models wore a red dress incorporating a print of an old typewriter, while another sported a long-sleeved, high-necked maxi dress that was covered with a green garden maze print. A third wore a witty pair of yellow trousers with a pinkish waistline — the trousers resembled a giant pencil with eraser.
If that wasn't enough, one skirt was composed of dozens of actual pencils. She closed her show with a series of dresses with Victorian-inspired details including corsets and high collars.
While Katrantzou's show was wild, but also admirably creative, fun and different — design duo Meadham Kirchoff went even further.
The pair — Edward Meadham, who is English, and Benjamin Kirchhoff, who is French — threw trends and seriousness to the air and delivered a totally fun, outrageously styled show full of glitter, tinsel and a 70s disco vibe.
Circus-style face paint, psychedelic rainbow colors and sequined, flared-leg trouser suits were paraded out in a feel-good finale to ABBA's "Dancing Queen," which made the usually somber fashion crowd erupt in grins and giggles.
Tuesday's catwalk shows followed more established, mainstream productions by regulars such as Burberry Prorsum, Mulberry, Paul Smith and Matthew Williamson.
It was one of the biggest London fashion weeks yet, with Stella McCartney and McQ by Alexander McQueen both debuting in the capital.
The week closes Wednesday, which showcases menswear collections — before the fashion crowd head to Italy as Milan Fashion Week begins.
London Fashion Week: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk
Sylvia Hui can be reached at: http://twitter.com/sylviahui