During the London Fashion Week the British designers seemed desperate to please. Everywhere at the London shows people looked pleased, drinking the free drinks from the liquor sponsors, loading up on the goodie bags.
In the last six or seven years, since McQueen and Hussein Chalayan moved their shows abroad, London fashion has lost ground to New York and Paris. Meanwhile, British institutions like Burberry and the trendy Topshop have prospered. Design schools like Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art attract students from around the world, as well as supplying talent to the major fashion houses. British art directors and photographers produce some of the most up-to-date magazines, which meticulously document the latest band and microniche club look.
Yet despite the media thunder around British Fashion Week, which ended on Friday evening with a show by Marc Jacobs, no single first-rate talent has emerged. Perhaps perversely, one of the best shows of the week was by Topman, which included great knits and coats by Topshop’s men’s division as well as fresh-looking ponchos and thick cabled sweaters by Siv Stoldal. Many of the looks in the Topman show won’t cost much more than $150.
Too often, though, the runways seemed less about a new point of view than a sequel. Plenty of designers have shown that you don’t need the crutch of a club or a book to design original clothes, among them Mr. Alaïa, Karl Lagerfeld and Raf Simons.
British fashion has insufficiently acknowledged that London is awash in cash, from the equity markets as well as from wealthy foreigners. At the same time designers are not as unrestrained in their imagination as they once were. The upshot is that their endeavors seem small.