Friday, June 8, 2007

Young British...Designers?

YBA has long stood for Young British Artist, a term art historians have used to categorize all the avant-garde and post-modernist London "youngsters" blowing up in the art world for the past couple of decades. This has included everybody from Damien Hirst to Marcus Harvey. However, the past couple of years in the fashion world has given rise to a new breed of creative Londoner: the Young British Designer. Long regarded as an experimental, if not always spectacular, breeding ground for new talent, London Fashion Week has recently become a much more exciting place to be. Even those YBDs who aren't exactly in their 20s are still worth watching, if only because they're injecting something so much more exhilarating into fashion than the usual art school fashion major. Here are some names to watch:

Christopher Kane - Currently the most promising of the crowd, Kane's body-hugging elastic band construction has garnered comparisons to Hervé Léger (whose own vintage creations are popping up on starlets all over Hollywood). For Spring 2007, his look was loud, brash, and party-ready. Think hyperneon pinks and oranges with day-glo yellows and greens, topped off with gigantic Swarovski zipper pulls. His Fall 2007 collection brought about a sense of maturity, evident in the more muted color palette - mostly black, with shots of deep scarlet, amber, and emerald - and mid-thigh hem lengths instead of last season's hyper-micro-mini. Kane's sense of color and detailing has set him apart from the other Gianni Versace-revivalists, so much so that Donatella herself has hired Kane as a part-time consultant. Ikram in Chicago, which bought his entire first collection on exclusive for America, promptly sold out in just a few days. When wider distribution comes about, expect the same massive hysteria from coast to coast.

Marios Schwab - For this 28 year-old designer, flashbacks to the late 1980s and early 1990s aren't about crazy coke-fueled partying - he was still just a young chap back then. Fair enough, but can someone so young bring back an era that many are desperate to forget? Well, Schwab is trying, with mostly promising results. His Fall 2007 collection wasn't his strongest, with Schwab evidently trying to capture the 1980s by mixing Azzedine Alaïa body-hugging silhouettes with an unfortunate Laura Ashley-esque floral print. What worked best were his breezy frocks in a black paisley scarf-print silk chiffon, as well as his wide selection of very sellable sportswear and cocktail dresses in solid black and ecru. While his identity may be based on an Alaïa-revival philosophy, he certainly needs to develop this more commercial range before he can make it in the big leagues of Paris.

Giles Deacon - The oldest of the crowd, Deacon has garnered a lot of attention for his recent S&M/punk-inspired collaboration with Mulberry, purveyor of fine, conservative leather goods. Often featured in Harper's Bazaar, his work takes on exotic, directional visions of something very beautiful in nature. Within every collection, he falls somewhere between timelessly elegant and youthfully irreverent. For Fall 2007, he focused on the most dramatic aspects of creatures that humans tend to overlook. He incorporated the textures and patterns of both bird plumage and sea-creature skins, bold and rich and oh-so-beautiful. With his recent collaboration with British chain New Look and his new position as head designer for the more-upscale British company Daks, Deacon has secured quite a bit of financial success for his future.

Gareth Pugh - Initially criticized for making clothing that was more about theatrics than, well, clothing, Gareth Pugh is still fairly resistant to producing a runway show filled with anything that will hit the sales floor. While his theatrics have earned him comparisons to last decade's big YBD, Alexander McQueen, it still remains to be seen whether Pugh follow in McQueen's footsteps and tone things down to a wearable dimension. There's no doubt that he can make a killer coat - see here - but more often than not his work is drowned in a sea of almost Surrealist insanity. With his various editorial features in W over the past several months, it's hard to deny that he must be doing something right.

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