London fashion week no longer home of the bonkers

As British design talent embraces bright colours and pattern, London is emerging as a leader in the use of print.

Read Jess Cartner-Morley's fashion week roundup

London's reputation as the home of bonkers fashion may be on the slide. After a week in which British design talent has embraced bright colour and pattern, the capital of print might be a more accurate description.

At Mary Katrantzou's show, it become clear that London, more than any other of the fashion cities, – New York, Paris, Milan – now owns print. Throughout the week many of London's most talented designers, including Jonathan Saunders and Peter Pilotto, produced heavily printed collections. Even the trenchcoat maestros Burberry featured bold African prints.

Katrantzou is not a name that is well known away from the bubble of the fashion industry, but the Greek-born designer is already hugely influential even though her label is just three years old.

Despite never wearing anything other than black herself, Katrantzou's collections always use explosive colour. In previous shows the designer – who once studied architecture – has used ornate interiors, Ming vases, and Fabergé eggs as inspirations, to unique effect.

Before the show started, it looked as if flowers, specifically carnations, were to be the basis of her explosive prints. A carpet of red, yellow and pink carnations, planted neatly in blocks of colour, dominated the centre of the catwalk. Sure enough, carnation prints that looked almost hyper-real featured in the show and were best on a beautiful stiffened trouser suit.

This was not some retro flower-power suit; this was a modern piece of tailoring with a powerful and unexpected print.

Other motifs that featured in the collection – some obvious, some pixellated – included fish, plumage and coral reefs.

But it was not just nature that inspired the designer – industrial materials also figured in the show.

The skirt of one dress was constructed from hundreds of crushed tin cans and car parts.

Backstage after the show, Katrantzou commented on the American artist John Chamberlain, whose sculptures are created from crushed steel and old cars. "I wanted to make metal beautiful in the same way that flowers are," she explained.

Roksanda Ilincic is a label that was once little known beyond the fashion industry but which has recently received a boost as a result of being worn by Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron. In Ilincic's collection , featuring hot colours such as saffron and fuchsia, there was evidence of some first lady pandering. A couple of the designer's more muted and less dramatic dresses looked destined for a certain No 10 closet. But it is rather unlikely that Ilincic's newest catwalk accessory – a couture-style beanie hat knitted from thick strands of raw-edged silk – will segue easily into Cameron's wardrobe, even with her best fashion ambassadorial will in the world.


Imogen Fox

The GuardianTramp

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