Ah, morning in London brings sunshine, finally. Clear skies and strong coffee fuel the still-brisk trip to Somerset House where Emilio de la Morena has set up an interesting sculpture display at the entrance to his runway. Small red spheres on thin black poles lined symmetrically make for a nice visual, but I’ve not been able to find anyone yet who can tell me the significance. I do know that this fall/winter collection is largely inspired by the goyesca culture of de la Morena’s native Spain, and that influence is reflected in many of the cuts of his dresses. No one knows anything about the installation, however.

De la Morena has a thing for contrast. One sees it in the hair styles where the front is slick and well plastered to the head while textured in the back. One sees it in the make-up, where eyes are barely smokey, lips have a light dash of color, and the rest of the face gets nothing, a look that didn’t work well for all the models. Then, there are the dresses; contrast everywhere one looked.

Velvet is the fabric of the season for de la Morena. I was beginning to think that he was going to use the fabric on every look in the show. There are a handful of pieces toward the end that are knits, but the velvet worked well for him. His palette of deep jewel tones responds well to velvet and gives the dresses especially a glamorous luxe feel.

Contrasting the textured velvet, de la Morena switched back and forth between silk and leather/PVC. Just like the hair, it’s a textured versus slick look that, when it works well, is delightfully pretty and feminine. When the combination fails, though, the disappointment is significant. More often than not, it was the silk pairing that worked best. The PVC came off as too stiff, especially when used in skirts. Juxtaposed against the free-moving velvet, suddenly hitting the PVC was the visual equivalent of running into a brick wall. Painful.

Silhouettes are extremely feminine and contoured to the body. Using nothing more than different colours of velvet, de la Morena gives several of the dresses faux corset looks that enhance the appearance of the hour-glass shape. These dresses and separates work very well, are for the most part very wearable, and carry the added advantage of being warm.

Where some of the dresses fail is when de la Morena decides to use over-sized ruffles around the shoulders and neck. Yes, again, it is a dramatic visual contrast, but the first time he used the technique it looked very much like misplaced peplum. The only time it almost sort-of worked was when it was just on the edge of the shoulders and created a bolero jacket-styled look.

There is plenty in this collection to like. Toward the end, a crocheted skirt with silk lining was especially nice. A large sheepskin coat, one of the few pieces of outerwear in the collection, was  extremely well received by this largely female audience who enjoyed that the coat was dyed bright pink. A two-toned velvet purse in the shape of a ball was an immediate hit and is sure to sell quite well.

Not a bad way to start a Saturday, all in all. While de la Morena’s exposure in the US is limited, the fashion is definitely available and one is likely to be surprised at the affordability. Again, another nice contrast.

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