Keren Craig and Georgina Chapman met when they were both students at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Yet, when it came time for them to launch the brand that has become known globally for its impeccable one-of-a-kind gowns, they moved to New York and it is there they have always shown their collections. Until now.

The designers saw it as something of a homecoming. British fans saw it as something of a coup. Either way one looked at it, Marchesa’s premier show at London Fashion Week was a big deal and no one of any fashion importance, including practically every major editor of a Vogue brand, was in attendance.   Paparazzi were everywhere as both legitimate stars and pop wanna-be’s made their entrance. The atmosphere both inside and outside the venue was likely something of a carnival.

So, what did the girls from Chelsea bring for their triumphant return home? A collection of clothes inspired largely by the decade of their birth, the 1980s, complete with chandelier silhouettes, layers of ruffles, expansive layers of lace, and enough tulle to turn all of Piccadilly Circus into a bridal extravaganza.

Unlike Hank Holland’s raucous return to the 70s just a couple of hours’ previous, Keren and Georgina took a much softer approach to their floral theme. Granted, there were still flowers on just about every garment that came down the runway. These, however, were softer, muted either through the use of pastels, or covered in lace and trimmed with multiple tiers of ruffles. The looks were very much a throwback to that period when Michael Jackson was just coming into his own voice and Prince was threatening Purple Rain.

For much of the presentation, I almost felt as though we were re-experiencing a 1983 copy of the September Vogue. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many chandelier tiers, mermaid gowns, cropped tuxedo jackets, puffy sleeves, and gaudy lace accents. What kept the looks just slightly current was the introduction of sheer elements, especially through the lace. Without those touches, and the inclusion of some lighter, updated fabrics, this could have genuinely been the Back to the Future trip Marty was afraid to take.

All the looks were beautiful and quite popular with the crowd on hand. What elicited the most response, however, was the final gown in which a mound of baby blue tulle was wrapped in flowers and topped with a floral crown. I would imagine that a hundred thousand romantic dreams were launched as that gown made its way up and down the runway.

Marchesa is one of those brands whose inaccessibility is a part of their popularity. The fact that one doesn’t just go out and buy one of these gowns at the local mall makes it all the more desirable. I dare say the depth of desire deepens significantly with what has to be seen as the designers’ triumphant return to London. With a great response like they’ve gotten this evening, one has to wonder if they’ll ever go back to New York.

Photo credit: Gio Staiano

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