LONDON - So many beautiful clothes, so little time: London Fashion Week produced its busiest day Monday, with blockbuster shows including Burberry Prorsum, Christopher Kane and McQ by Alexander McQueen all jostling for editors' attention.
Day 4 of the weeklong fashion extravaganza saw a futuristic punk esthetic marry beaded florals at Kane, the hottest young designer showing in the British capital, while Burberry's design chief Christopher Bailey dished up a luxurious collection of English tweed, herringbone and corduroys.
Observers said Kane's autumn and winter show, one of the most eagerly anticipated of the week, highlighted the unorthodox creativity and emphasis on craft that set London's young designers apart from those in other fashion capitals.
"Young British designers these days are reaching ever stronger heights with digital printing," said Hilary Alexander, a veteran British fashion writer. "The emphasis on arts and crafts, the embellishment of fabric — they're not afraid to experiment."
Kane, who is known to pair traditionally feminine details with tough futuristic touches, delivered a memorable collection that featured purple leopard prints, intricately beaded floral separates and sheer purple and red dresses embroidered with oversized velvet flowers. Black leather detailing kept the look modern and edgy: Thick leather piping adorned most garments, and some of the dresses also had black leather shirt collars and sleeves.
One of the standout outfits was fire-engine red from head to toe: A long red fluffy turtleneck, paired with red wide-leg trousers with a black leather trim down the side.
"I liked the colours, the beading — it was so lovely," said television presenter Alexa Chung, who sat in the front row along with model Yasmin Le Bon, American Vogue's Anna Wintour and Samantha Cameron, the wife of British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Over at Burberry, the emphasis was on classic Englishness. There were riding jackets galore, as well as velvet quilting, herringbone wool and tweed caps — and of course incarnations of the brand's most famous garment, the trench coat.
Bailey, who has been at the helm of Burberry for more than a decade and is credited with revitalizing the once-fusty brand, said he wanted to merge city style and country living.
"I like the idea of celebrating the country, celebrating the town," he said.
Bridle leather straps, shearling parkas and quilting were evocative of the horse-riding country lifestyle of the English upper class, while cute owl drawings and appliques on some of the collection's T-shirts and sweaters, as well as gold metal fox belt buckles, were a fun and quirky take on the "country" theme.
A huge range of coats and jackets made up much of the collection. Some were cinched in with candy-colored belts with bows, while others had masculine tailored shoulders and large pouches. Cropped, down-filled puffer jackets were paired with tweed ruffled pencil skirts, giving the ladylike look a sporty twist.
Colours were rich and autumnal, with mustard, burgundy, blackcurrant and forest green, while wide horizontal stripes in grey, navy and honey kept the look young and vibrant.
Bailey likes to put on an entertaining show. This season he closed his display with a clap of thunder, a realistic torrent of rain falling on the show tent's glass windows and a finale of umbrella-toting models walking down the catwalk to clear confetti.
What could be more British?
"I quite like celebrating rain," said Bailey. "I like the romance. I quite like the melancholy."
Burberry's show, housed in its own temporary Hyde Park tent, is the biggest and glitziest production during London Fashion Week. Monday's event drew stars such as Hollywood actress Kate Bosworth, celebrity photographer Mario Testino and Korean pop group Girls' Generation.
Also showing Monday were Erdem, Pringle of Scotland, Osman and Peter Pilotto.
London Fashion Week: http://www.londonfashionweek.co.uk
Sylvia Hui can be reached at: http://twitter.com/sylviahui