March 4, 2011
The Oxford Fashion Week Lingerie Show was, this year, held (as usual, I believe) in the Oxford Castle's converted-prison concept hotel, Malmaison. The evening was designed, you could tell, around fun, frivolity, and not an insignificant amount of decadence - which is what pretty underwear is all about, after all. Even after the hour-long champagne and canapé reception in one of Hotel Malmaison's wide corridors, with staircases rising from our floor at intervals to the floor above made out of what looked like it could have been, had it been a lot smaller, some kind of precious filigree. Instead, it was probably iron, painted white. It was very pretty nonetheless! There was artwork on the walls and comfortable leather sofas to perch on - and seemingly no end to the circulating canapés and photographers' flashing cameras.
The Lingerie Show @ Malmaison Hotel, Wed 2nd March 2011
The transmission through to the runway show, which was held in a packed, high-ceilinged hall with dark walls and bright lights, went smoothly, with the Fashion Week team meeting guests at the doors and directing them to their seats.The show began with a start: Emma Appleton, the first model on the runway and the face of Oxford Fashion Week 2011, strode down the runway in silence, wearing one of Sonata's lace bodysuits and loud (in the aural sense) heels. When the runway was clear and the room quiet, the music started: an unlikely combination of tinkling melody and insistent baseline - chosen well, as the first few pieces were lacy and frilly, over some of ther later pieces' definite harder, edgier (strappier) take on lingerie.
The models' make up was girlish, with dark eyes and candy-pink lips, but their poses weren't overly soft: there was a steely sort of attitude in most of the girls' walks and the choreography was seamless, if very occasionally a little stilted, and left room for models to implement their own takes on a basic structure. The timing was clearly very tight, and some of these girls may have been on a catwalk in front of so many people (in such little clothing) for only the first or second time. Nerves would be understandable, and that the show ran so smoothly and looked so professional (I noticed no major slip-ups at all) is very impressive, and the kind of high standard that Fashion Week audiences have come to expect over the Lingerie Shows' three-year evolution.
The show was varied in many ways: from the collections featured (corsets by Velda Lauder, killer bras by Bravissimo, and frilly bra-tops and skirts (!) from local Oxfordshire designer Emilia Penny's range, La La LouLa) to the models themselves. All were beautiful, and all clearly chosen because they looked good in underwear, but beyond that the range of body shapes and sizes was probably larger than in most runway shows. One of the show's producers, Rosa Schiller Crawhurst, says in the show program that the producers' aim was to create a show "where every woman who watches it feels that she could look and feel amazing in any of the clothes displayed." I can't speak for every woman, but the range of underwear, body shapes, and all-pervading sense that these models were confident that they looked as great as they did, all contributed to making the show accessible to many more people.
Except, that is, the men; last year, the Lingerie show featured a couple of male models, as well. Now, given that my (male) companion to the show, whilst appreciative and so forth, came out of it and asked "Do people ... really bother with underwear that fancy? I mean, what's the point of it?" perhaps this was a wise move. Perhaps men's underwear hasn't yet undergone the kinds of innovations that women's has (perhaps it shouldn't). On the other hand, one such comment is probably not a large enough sample to make any sweeping conclusions on behalf of mankind. I still ask, therefore, where were the men?
After the show there were yet more canapés ('dessert' canapés this time); unfortunately I didn't try one, but they were very attractive, and more champagne was circulated back in the 'reception corridor'. For £25, which is how much a ticket costs, the Malmaison Lingerie Show delivered a lovely evening. If you like fashion, or just pretty underwear, then I would reccommend putting this event on your calendar for next year.