Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Chloe Mac Donnell

Dramatic dresses: the Saltburn effect hits London fashion week

Models walk in front of the Parthenon marbles at the Erdem show at the British Museum, in dramatic, dark-lit room: two wear a white coat-like garment with huge collars, embroidered with red flowers; one a bright red taffeta evening dress with long, matching cloak and a huge bow at the waist; another a white and pink fluffy feathered coat with matching shoes; and others in red and turquoise silk cocktail pyjama outfits
Models and marbles: the Erdem show at the British Museum. Photograph: Giovanni Giannoni/WWD/Getty Images

It’s official: the Saltburn effect has hit London fashion week. Saturday’s catwalk shows by Erdem and Simone Rocha were peppered with dramatic tulle dresses and elbow-length leather gloves that looked as if they had been fetched straight out of the wardrobe of Elspeth Catton, the eccentric matriarch played by Rosamund Pike in Emerald Fennell’s perverse social satire film.

It is Pike and her fellow doyens of the film industry rather than Gen Z influencers who are dominating the front row this season.

At Erdem Moralıoğlu’s show, held at the British Museum, the actors Kristin Scott Thomas and Ruth Wilson were guests of honour. The catwalk was staged in front of the Parthenon marbles – the fifth-century BC masterpieces that sparked Rishi Sunak’s recent diplomatic “blunder”. Moralıoğlu, whose collection was inspired by the American-born Greek soprano Maria Callas, said he had chosen the location to reflect how Callas had been “uprooted”. A booklet of images and notes left on each guest’s seat highlighted how, for Callas, “the absence of home was poignant and profound”.

A floral taffeta outfit with cropped bodice and full skirt, daubed with lines of red paint over pattern of red flowers on white background
A red paint-daubed floral taffeta outfit was said to evoke Maria Callas’s costumes in Medea, 1953. Photograph: Adam Duke/WWD/Getty Images

Moralıoğlu homed in on Callas’s career-defining 1953 performance of Medea. Red paint was hand-daubed over a delicate floral-printed taffeta fit and flare floral bralette and matching skirt, echoing the painted costumes Callas wore to play the sorceress of Greek mythology. Marabou feather opera coats that almost bounced down the catwalk and “cocktail pyjama sets” embroidered with broken crystals were pieces Moralıoğlu imagined Callas would have worn post-performance – but one could also equally envisage them at a Saltburn-themed raucous party.

Meanwhile, after her hugely successful guest spot on Jean Paul Gaultier’s haute couture Paris catwalk last month, Simone Rocha’s evening London slot drew an even larger crowd than usual, including the actors Andrew Scott and Douglas Booth and the TV star Alexa Chung.

Model wearing see-through embroidered long white dress over white waist corset with brown fur collars and cuffs
Simone Rocha’s collection, inspired by the underpinnings of Queen Victoria’s mourning dress and undergarments, included fragile fabrics such as tulle and organza. Photograph: Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

Models wove their way around the pews of the city’s oldest surviving church, St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, as a lingering smell of incense from its thurible filled the air.

Rocha called the collection, entitled The Wake, “the final piece of a triptych”. The Irish-born designer continued her exploration of corsetry using her learnings from her stint with the corset maestro Gaultier (the mastermind behind Madonna’s 1990 pink conical bra). “I loved what we did in Paris, so it was nice to almost contaminate it and explore what that proposition would look like in ready-to-wear,” Rocha said backstage.

Her starting point was an exploration of the underpinnings of Queen Victoria’s mourning dress, worn by the monarch after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861 until her own death in 1901. It was the bodice’s gentle boning and accompanying undergarments that captured Rocha’s attention.

Bodices and corsetry featured in Simone Rocha’s show at the St Bartholomew the Great church in Smithfield – and bejewelled platform Crocs.
Bodices and corsetry featured in Simone Rocha’s show at the St Bartholomew the Great church in Smithfield – and bejewelled platform Crocs. Photograph: Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD/Getty Images

There was a deliberate crossover between Rocha and Gaultier’s shared “love of the breast and the hip and the female form”. However, this time instead of corsets cupping the body, Rocha wanted them to appear as if “floating”. Some were placed into fragile fabrics including tulle and organza, others added a soft rather than defined shape to oversized silhouettes. “It made them sensual in a way that wasn’t so overtly provocative,” Rocha said.

Earrings made from human hair gave a nod to traditional Victorian mementoes, while some models carried fuzzy lamb-shaped bags “to balance the slightly more grownup elements”. Bedazzled platform Crocs also added a playful and practical touch.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.