With the privilege of opening London Fashion Week comes the overwhelming task of getting the ball rolling. That task has fallen on Jackie Lee for years. The J JS Lee designer has opened fashion week in Somerset House and in Brewer Street Car Park. Her Spring 2016 collection was looser than normal, she introduced a wider colour palette and new silhouettes; her Fall 2016 was back to what she knows best: the clean cut line, masculine tailoring. It is nice for a designer like Lee, who is pigeonholed as a minimalist designer, to take an excursion. But is the excursion just an optical illusion?
If Chanel was to show a tweed bikini, for example, the fashion world would do a number of things. 1) People would lose their minds. 2) People would laugh. The next season, if Karl Lagerfeld was to return to showing ninety bouclé suits with the slightest injection of inspiration, the critics would wax rhapsodical. Jackie Lee’s past two collections could be applied to this formula to attain laudatory reviews. This probably wasn’t the case, but it is a completely plausible theory.
The effect of the above theory was had on this critic. Presented after fall 2015, this would be just another J JS Lee collection. But it wasn’t; this was beautiful. Opening the show was a livid red coat with black, fringed lapels and red trousers. Another curveball to open a J JS Lee collection: fascinating. It continued with a punchy yellow and then exploded into multicoloured knits. The suiting was impeccable; it was enriched with frayed, “raw” edges—something I find particularly interesting: the roughening of sharp tailoring.
Presenting in the nondescript location of Brewer Street Car Park means that the clothes have to speak volumes. A few grey outfits were at risk of disadvantaging this collection, but Lee conveniently reintroduced red silk and then multicolour. Inspired by Victorian architecture, the tailoring in this collection, strangely, was enough to capture my attention for ten minutes. Only talented designers have the ability to hold you with just tailoring—factoring in colour as Jackie did just enhanced it further.
In this transitional period fashion designers are deciding which business models work best for them, which presentation methods work for them. Do runway shows trump presentations? Models or mannequins? Models or non-models? There are so many questions surrounding the show system, and as Sarah Mower questioned, is a runway show relevant to the J JS Lee brand? According to next season’s provisional schedule for LFW, J JS Lee will be hosting a presentation on Sunday afternoon. Six years after he graduation collection, this will be Lee’s first collection in presentation format. I’m excited to see how it works—I hope she gets more press for showing on a Sunday, and is given the space to steadily rise.
Photo Credit: voguerunway.com