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London Fashion Week Spring 2014: Julien Macdonald and Tom Ford share an accent of excess

Alex Fury
jmd ss14 15 199x300 London Fashion Week Spring 2014: Julien Macdonald and Tom Ford share an accent of excess

A look from Julien Macdonald's spring 2014 collection

You’re inclined to compare and contrast in London. And not just because a rammed schedule means your day ends up chock-a-block with shows – 45 minute slots look good on paper, but add a 20 minute wait to a 15 minute show, alongside then ten minutes of faffing around telling the designers how fabulous it is and actually escaping the venue, and you realise how woefully inadequate it really is. It also means the shows can compress into one cassata-coloured cavalcade.

But even besides that, there was some unexpected shared points across the past fours days. There was an odd trend of unwearable wearability, garments like chopped up, knotted sweaters sliced open at the back (seen at Preen, JW Anderson and Burberry Prorsum) and transparent trousers (at Berardi, Erdem, Marios Schwab). There were pastels, most notably at Christopher Kane and Burberry Prorsum, the two biggest shows. And there were lettered sweaters, at Sister by Sibling and Kane, again.

There were also slightly more unusual connections to be made. Who, for instance, could have imagined Julien Macdonald and Tom Ford to be bedfellows? Banish the mental picture, first of all (sorry for that) and then look at their respective more-is-more, blingtastic take on spring/summer dressing. Glitterball all-in-ones, semi-sheer evening dresses, crystal-crusted lace micro-dresses. They were all in place in both shows. Witnessing Ford’s show tonight, having seen Macdonald’s on Saturday, there was a distinct sense of déjà vu.

Granted, Ford’s take felt more expensive. It will be. Those cartoony, buffoony kapow-embroidered dresses from last season are retailing for about £3,500 (despite the fact that, in all honesty, they’re not terribly well-made – the beading is too heavy for a design that is, in effect, an elongated crepe t-shirt. It tugs, the garment sitting oddly against the body).

Tom Ford also has something money can’t buy: coolness. There was something about Ford that gave these clothes an added cachet, a cachet that, perhaps, they didn’t really deserve. Just because Ford crams his front row with the likes of Livia and Colin Firth and Cate Blanchett rather than the entire cast of BBC variety show Strictly Come Dancing (in which Julien Macdonald is a current participant), doesn’t mean his clothes are more worthy of our attention or praise. They spoke the same visual language – a language of crassness, of extravagance, of wanton excess. If anything, at least Macdonald’s was more honest. He didn’t pretend to be cool, he just indulged his urge to decorate to the hilt.

Decorative clothes are fine. But in both Macdonald and Ford’s case, the glitter and gilt hid a guilty secret: there was nothing new, at all. In Ford’s case, it felt like the Gucci swansong he pumped out a decade ago, from cinched waists and curvilinear shoulders down to the plush banquette seating and mirrored catwalk. More déjà vu, right there. Macdonald’s customer base is well established – it’s been Strictly Shirley Bassey since about 2007. But you hoped Tom Ford, the man who once set the pace in contemporary fashion, could move with the times.

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