London Fashion Week lived up to its reputation for the offbeat Monday with contrasting autumn/winter 2004/05 collections by Arkadius and Jessica Ogden that shared a distinctive sense of fun.
Inspired by an elegant old woman strolling in Warsaw, Polish-born Arkadius sent his models out in seductive black and copper-colored tunics with mini skirts and high-heeled boots wrapped in stockings.
He brought a military motif to sharply cut black and gray bolero-style jackets, dressed his models in pale green and red skirts and added oversize heart-shaped earrings and towering hats to emphasize the playful side of sexy.
"I was interested in juxtaposing the elegant and the freaky. The collection is about the unexpected," Arkadius -- full name Arkadius Weremczuk -- said after the show, the words "Le Freak C'est Chic" pencilled above his lip.
"It's for someone who wears trainers and jeans but wants to be more elegant," he said.
"I was inspired by an old lady I saw wandering in Warsaw who was dressed very elegantly. Old ladies tend to dress elegantly even if they're only going to buy a croissant in the morning."
Arkadius, who counts singers Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys as fans, closed his show with a model in the centre of a huge, tent-like hoop dress.
British designer Ogden kept up the fun -- while toning down the sex, presenting her collection through the eyes of a 7-year-old yearning for the clothes of adulthood.
To the dreamy melody of a Beethoven piano sonata, a child-like model rummaged through a trunk overflowing with clothes on a set designed as a girl's bedroom.
Models strutted the catwalk wearing patched trousers and men's shirts, turquoise headbands and striped jumpers, which combined to illustrate the girl's tomboy side.
"It was based on the idea that you're as much a boy as a girl when you're that age and you swing both ways," Ogden said.
But the playful look gave way to long patchwork dresses, vests with frilly collars and cashmere cardigans which the designer said a girl might wear to impress her mother.
The vintage look was a nod to Ogden's work at the British Third World charity Oxfam, where she customized donated clothes before setting up her own label in 1993.
The show ended with the ideal fairy tale outfit -- a high-waisted, deep red silk dress with a plunging neckline.
British designers Antoni and Alison brought a touch of horror to the fashion week at Tuesday's show.
Models stomped down the catwalk in Frankenstein monster masks and headless-horse skirts.
The London-based pair, known for their eccentric sense of humor and whimsical designs, sent unsmiling models out with upswept hair styled like the Bride of Frankenstein.
They mixed acid greens and shocking pinks with drab olives and grays in a collection reflecting their contrasting tastes.
"I'm the monster," said Antoni Burakowski, sipping from a miniature champagne bottle after the show. "Alison loves dull and drab things and I'm all gay and fancy."
Monster motifs clashed with playful frills, pom-poms, sewn-on hearts and scoop necks in their collection for autumn and winter 2004. One knee-length skirt was emblazoned with a picture of a headless horse.
They opened the show with a section called "Fat and Lazy," featuring Homer Simpson socks, crumpled grey linen dresses and chunky jumpers bearing the slogan "Go Faster."
The sound of someone noisily chomping potato crisps blasted out throughout the show. A packet of crisps was left on each seat in the auditorium.
"I'm fat and lazy -- I had a baby five months ago," said designer Alison Roberts. "It takes more effort to do nothing than anything else."
In another hotly-anticipated show earlier on Tuesday, the big black boot marched down the catwalk as veteran British designer Jasper Conran took inspiration from the countryside for a smart and sexy equestrian-themed collection.
Conran, a classicist and one of the week's biggest draws, dressed his models in knee-high boots, chalk leather breeches, black leather gloves and wool jackets for his collection.
Chocolate, plum and purple -- hailed as one of the "it" colors at New York Fashion Week -- added dashes of contrast to his trademark black and white.
"It's equestrian, girls and horses, you know the thing," said Conran. "It's riding britches and boots for the English heroine. I'm using chiffon, leather, suede and cashmere."
A London Fashion Week stalwart who has dabbled in jewellery, china and cutlery lines, Conran said he plans to open a shop in the city in September where he could "play with new ideas about how to do retailing."
Just don't ask him about the so-called demise of London Fashion Week -- a theme that has dogged the event in recent years because many of the world's biggest designers seem to prefer New York, Milan or Paris.
"I think newspapers just press a button about the demise of London Fashion Week and out goes the story they wrote last year," he said.
Designers Julien MacDonald, Jean Muir, Ghost and Pringle were among the highlights on Wednesday at the twice-yearly shop window.
(China Daily February 21, 2004)