Richard Quinn had laid out enough romantic elements at his fall show to make even the sternest heart swoon.
Pink curtains encircled the room to match the vast pink carpet, at the center of which, ringed with floral bouquets, a live chamber orchestra in formal dress performed under a giant crystal chandelier.
And then, two gilded metal doors swung silently open, unleashing a parade of clothes reminiscent of mid-century couture, done up in ravishing florals, some edged in pie-crust ruffles, with many models toting hat boxes far too small for their dramatic, face-obscuring toppers.
Yet an undercurrent of unease permeated this lavish fashion display: Limbs were often encased in black latex, and shoulders obscured by constructions on coats, dresses, and jersey tops that engulfed the head, leaving only small, blinking faces exposed. The disquiet reached a few crescendos: when a dominatrix strolled out with her leashed, latex companion; and when the curtains parted, revealing a choir and a female soloist belting out Olivia Ridrigo’s hit about betrayal.
“It’s all protection,” Quinn mused backstage when asked about those offbeat shoulder constructions, and the latex-encased bodies. “Obviously we had the COVID pandemic, but I think it’s more about fashion as an armor… a balance between the dark and the beautiful.”
There’s no denying the beauty of Quinn’s particular brand of feminine armor, and the retro appeal of the floral swing coats that opened the display – some stiffened by delicate quilting; others glinting with intricate embroideries. Demonstrative peplums swished from jersey tops, or bulged stiffly on tailored jackets reminiscent of Christian Dior’s famous Bar style.
The models looked uncomfortable and somehow infantilized, by the shrouded styles, especially when heads were smothered by tightly wound taffeta. Thankfully, there was a breadth of alternative silhouettes, including pert minidresses with puffball shoulders and long, flowing maxi styles in pleated floral fabrics.
Here was a London fashion spectacle to please the eyes, quicken the pulse – and get under your skin.
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