Two things Julien Macdonald does very well: incredible hand-sewn detailing and styles that cannot help but get your attention. His spring/summer 2015 collection shown at  the Royal Opera House demonstrated both those strengths. When this collection was good, and for the majority of looks it was, it was extremely good, as in the kind of good one puts in textbooks for future generations of designers. When this collection was bad, however, it really failed in some of the strongest ways possible. Let’s start with the good, though, shall we?

What passes as day wear in a Julien Macdonald collection would likely be considered formal wear most everywhere else. Sure, these are knit dresses coming down the runway, but each one is embellished with hand-sewn detailing. Embroidered designs dominate the best from this very large collection of dresses. Often starting on sheer white panels at the neck line or shoulders, the intricate thread work is so very detailed, and so very precise, that from any distance on might mistake it for a very well done print. Then, because simply being incredible isn’t good enough, it’s not long before Julien adds bead work to the embroidery.

These are astonishingly beautiful, dramatically feminine dresses, which appeals to Macdonald’s long list of celebrity clients. Silhouettes are very fitted, so carefully tailored to the body that assistants were still sewing backstage mere minutes before the show began. These are not dresses one just wanders in and wears off the rack. Each one is a legitimate work of art and needs to be treated with an extreme level of care.  Day wear silhouettes typically run on the long side, just below the knees for the majority. There are a couple of skater dresses in the mix just to keep things varied, though.

Where this collection fails, and fails big, is when Macdonald steps away from the embroidery in favor of strings of very short ruffles crisscrossing the body in both diagonal and horizontal lines. Ruffles at and below the waist are actually not too bad. The cross-your-heart design on the bodices, though, was absolutely deplorable. The looks were bad enough on dresses, but then Julien puts them on one piece swimsuits and at that point the look just becomes incredibly distasteful.

Oh, but wait. It gets worse. A little over half-way through the collection is a little off-white wedding dress with horizontal ruffles that at first glance resemble a flapper dress from the 1920s. Macdonald tops this with a single piece veil/train that, while quite lovely on its own, is a much too elegant contrast to a much too pedestrian dress. The combination is nothing short of unsightly.

Fortunately, Macdonald makes up for this error with a finale wedding gown done with embroidery and beads that is a wonderful spectacular to behold. The fitted silhouette means any bride wanting to wear this gem is going to have to exercise and watch her diet for quite some time leading up to the wedding, but the look is so very much worth a few less tacos and a few more crunches.

Julien Macdonald plays to his strengths for the majority of this collection and gives us a set of dresses which most women can only dream of wearing. Let’s just hope those ruffles never actually make it into production.

Photo credit: Gio Staiano

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