London Fashion Week Kicks Off With a Flourish

Across the Atlantic, the floodgates of London Fashion Week’s vibrant schedule slowly drew open this weekend, as buyers and editors filed into town for Fashion Month’s showcase of Britain’s new (and blue) blood. With top names and established houses firmly placed in the latter half of the schedule, the early days are a chance to explore the city’s more whimsical creations—installed within the portico rooms and exhibition halls of the neoclassical, Thames-side Somerset House.

On Thursday night, early birds caught the opening of Rick Owens’ latest furniture exhibition at The Carpenter’s Workshop Gallery in Mayfair, where the American fashion-turned-furniture designer unveiled Prehistoric,” a collection of bespoke, monolithic pieces sculpted in handcrafted parquets of oxbone and half-million-year-old fossilized wood. Although an incongruous precursor to a Fashion Week forecast of summer dresses, there was a certain something in the precious structure of Owens’ brutal opulence that may just click with London’s current obsession—that high/low conceit of the beautiful banal, and a crusade to render the commonplace precious.

Known for re-working military fabrics into innovative outerwear, designer Christopher Raeburn made his women’s runway debut on Friday, one that translated his utilitarian tendencies into luxe, sportif workwear with a futurist-safari feel. Diaphanous, rocky prints elevated zipped and snap-studded shirtdresses in midnight blue and sandy desert tones, while a honeycombed mesh gave bounce to spliced sweatshirts. In the first round of innumerable incarnations of the white dress shirt across the board for Spring ’14, Raeburn’s came with a squared-off sleeve, color-blocked in a rosy cloud motif. Later, Korean designer Eudon Choi zig-zagged his version into poplin slipdresses or bound it in jacquard corsets, with one floral calling to mind Nick Knight’s iconic series of melting blooms. Choi had a few words to say for pajama-dressing too—in both literal satin ensembles and the loose drape of silk knitwear softening other forays into boxy tailoring.

In the evening, celebrated society illustrator David Downton hosted an elegant reception at Claridge’s Hotel to fête his latest watercolor portrait series, “Midnight at Noon,” of famous and fabulous friends. In attendance were milliner extraordinaire Stephen Jones and statuesque beauty Erin O’Connor (both subjects), captured in studied flourishes alongside the likes of Christian Louboutin, Dita Von Teese, and Daphne Guinness. Sir Paul Smith was also amongst the framed and immortalized, however bailed the party on account of his own soirée across Mayfair in his recently extended boutique at No. 9 Albemarle Street.

At Smith’s new digs, an exquisite spirograph metalwork façade affords demanding street presence, belying the cozy atmosphere within—chock-full of warm, ethnic interiors and modern art from the likes of Jim Dine and Ben Nicholson. A showcase of ’60s Braun industrial design by Dieter Rams runs through October 7.