Schoolgirl Uniforms and Marie Antoinette: Highlights From London Fashion Week

Schoolgirl Uniforms and Marie Antoinette: Highlights From London Fashion Week
From left: Looks from Simone Rocha, Meadham Kirchhoff, and Thomas Tait's spring 2013 runway shows.
((l-r) Stuart Wilson/Getty Images; Tim Whitby/Getty Images; Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

Simone Rocha launched her line in 2010 with Fashion East. She held her first solo show, a cozy outing in an ornate old building on Portland Place, last September. This season, she reached the big British Fashion Council tent. And yesterday, the designer turned out one of the most exciting collections not only of her career, but of the season thus far. Rocha’s fresh spring clothes marched out to the Stone Roses’s “I Wanna Be Adored.” It wasn’t hard to love her plastic neon or white daisy lace looks, which came in the form of loose, girly dresses or boxy separates. We’ve seen Rocha experiment with fabric – particularly lace trapped in plastic — in seasons past. But this time around, it didn’t seem like she was pushing to discover her aesthetic; in fact, it was apparent that she had figured it out. Yes, Rocha is finally comfortable in her own signature Perspex-soled shoes (which, it should be noted, were shown in camel, gold metallic, black, and white for spring).

Her clothes, inspired by schoolgirl uniforms, embodied a punk-tinged innocence – both rebellious and sweet. White bouclé dresses with sheer inserts were particularly angelic, as were the spiked white or black halos that models wore atop their messy, pulled back hair. And her bouncy, voluminous drop-waist silhouettes and demure ruffle details were packed with romance.

On the trend front, London gave us a barrage of sporty fashions, which isn’t surprising, really, considering the city just hosted the 2012 Olympic games. Richard Nicoll’s grey and neon skirts, frocks, and windbreakers were among the best athletic looks we’ve seen. Youngster Thomas Tait, one of the city’s most promising up-and-comers, also turned out a collection with active-wear influences, which he appropriately showed in a graffitied skate park yesterday morning. Like Rocha’s collection, Tait’s thick silk shorts, collared vests, neon yellow sweaters, and T-shirts had a school uniform sensibility. But certain elements, like white pants, shocking blue silk jackets, and some striped sweaters and collars, had a strong gym-wear feel.   

London Fashion Week closed out with a show by Meadham Kirchhoff. Comprised of Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, the duo, who are angst-y in attitude but immaculate in their designs, have become known for quirky, intricate collections that transcend trend and reason. Per usual, their spring show was like nothing we’d seen yet this season.

Meadham Kirchhoff always craft an elaborate stage for their sartorial visions. Last season, it was a flashing disco club. For spring, the pair set up small scenes of French velvet chairs, cakes, and flowers in the center of the catwalk. Models came out dripping in finery, like crystal-embellished gloves and stockings, a floor-length red and white polka dot chiffon frock, heavily embroidered short-sleeved peplum jackets, ornate bloomers, and thigh-high boots garnished with bows. “It’s actually called ‘Meadham Kirchhoff, A Cautionary Tale,’” said Meadham backstage in his signature indifferent tone. “It started with this concept of boredom and loneliness, actually. All that lace and all them jewels and all that fucking couture, did [the models] seem happy to you?” he asked.

Whether Meadham’s backstage etiquette is an act or genuine artistic frustration is yet to be determined. But the clothes themselves, like a gold embroidered hat, a voluminous French-inspired white overcoat, or a red lace jumpsuit, were exceptional. There were notes of Marie Antoinette in the lavish looks, and the stage had a certain Sun King era Versailles quality. Some models, layered in silk and glamour, would pick up cupcakes and hold them to their lips as they sauntered about the catwalk. Others would snatch up a flower and scatter its petals on the ground, perhaps out of ennui. The girls were acting, of course, so it’s hard to say if the exquisite clothes made them happy. But the audience, in particular one little girl who was sat on Vogue editor Hamish Bowles’s knee, seemed thrilled to bits. When asked about their impeccable, albeit cautionary collection, Meadham said, “It’s part selfishness that we want to make something like that. But partly, we do it for you guys.” Us guys appreciate it. 

Click on the slide show to see spring/summer 2013 looks from London Fashion Week.  

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