Julien Macdonald had it all in hand – suspense, drama, and the high glamour you would have come to expect from a designer with an illustrious CV such as his. Macdonald’s legacy at Givenchy when he succeeded Alexander McQueen in 2001 as the house’s chief designer really came through in today’s collection. It featured a more hard-edged femme fatale facet of the typical Julien Macdonald woman. His muse, by default, is no docile creature for sure, but Macdonald really pushed it up a notch this time with towering models charging through the rows of glitterati in soaked hair, glistening skin, and smudged eyeshadow, as though proudly doing the walk of shame from a deliciously scandalous party in St. Tropez. Yet, she was immaculately held together by her luxurious threads.
Nestled under the Victorian arches of Smithfield Market in Clerkenwell, the show opened with a body con tank top number treated with Macdonald’s signature sculptural beadwork. The fringe finishing and the shorter hemlines of the party pieces – a recurrent motif in the collection – gave a tropical ease that contrasted the more formal red carpet looks. Even in the safest of evening wear options, Macdonald laid the beadwork on nude lining for much needed relief. Where the tribal prints or ornate craft were employed, the seams were kept very close to the form lending the collection a couture-like fit. Perhaps the resemblance to couture was what distinguished Macdonald’s offering today. It was by no coincidence that he closed the show with a breath-taking bridal gown, a long-lived couture convention.
Despite the reverence for tradition and focus on what truly counts (i.e. the craftsmanship), Macdonald threw a few surprises. He flirted with the audience’s gaze by dotting the collection with menswear looks and a bare torso or two. The call served him very well indeed, especially when one female model teetered on the edge of her heels in a full-length sheath and had the audience convinced she was never going make it to the end of the runway. But kudos to the model – she quick-wittedly trotted to the edge of the catwalk for her obligatory shot, swiveled back a few steps until she realized she was never making it backstage unscathed. She turned to the model behind her and slung his chiseled arm around her neck as though it was all part of the plan. The swift rescue compelled the audience to break into an applause. It was fashion magic and, for that, someone should give that model a well-deserved campaign. A balance of substance and spectacle, the Julien Macdonald show reminded us why he is the true talent at a London Fashion Week.