Jonathan Saunders S/S 2016
Jonathan Saunders S/S 2016

Conventional wisdom says that planning a major fashion week event outdoors is probably not the best idea, especially when London is the city in which said event is to be held. If it’s not raining, then the air quality is an issue. Yet, there’s something about the lure of blue skies and bright sunshine that is tempting to the point of inspiring creativity. So, Jonathan Saunders decided that, if he couldn’t have his show outdoors, he would come as close as possible by choosing a construction area in Kings Cross that had nothing more than a clear plastic roof over the top and a chevron-pattern brick floor. Construction plastic was strung between metal girders and in front of those were placed twelve-foot mirrors. As a result, there was light coming from everywhere, except where the photographers wanted it.

Okay, so we get pictures that are a bit washed out. And it was noon, so the angle of the light was garish. And in all that glass and steel it was a bit warm. While the external temperatures in London were fairly comfortable, by the time everyone was seated (which took longer than organizers wanted) the internal air had grown quite warm and stuffy and uncomfortable. Not exactly the optimum conditions a designer would want.

None of those things kept the clothes from looking wonderful, of course. The Scottish designer has a wonderful way with prints and shows off just a little bit in this collection, proving that he knows just how to layer contrasting and not necessarily complementary colors so that they work well. He starts the presentation with a very bold orange/red along asymmetrical diagonals layered in simple but creative patterns. He plays that orange off a number of contrasting fabrics and colors, his silhouettes working back and forth between formal and casual. As the concepts develop, the prints and layer and colors become more complex and interesting. Dark and light, heavy and soft, all come together quite nicely for Saunders in ways that are subtle but unique.

What you won’t’ see here is a lot of trend allegiance. Instead of sleeveless designs, Saunders goes exactly the opposite direction with oversized sleeves on several looks. There are very few bare shoulders in the collection and nary a racer back in the whole set. His silhouettes are loose, full, flowing, and he manages to work in long ribbons of fabric everywhere he possibly can so that there’s that much more to catch a breeze.

Saunder’s runway was also the most diverse of what we’ve seen so far. Still low, at about 20% of the looks, so there’s room for improvement, but I’m going to give him a six on our scale of ten simply because, by comparison, he’s so much ahead of others we’ve seen in London. Diversity really is a significant problem here.

And yes, depending on whose pictures you review, you’ll see models doing a lot of squinting. Those mirrors? Reflected the sun right back into models’ eyes at specific points on the runway. Fortunately, the brick pavement was smooth enough that none of those wearing stilettos, which was about a third of the looks, had any trouble walking. Saunders flexed some designer muscle this season. We’ll see how well that works for him.

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