Sunday, 16 February 2014

LFW A/W14: House of Holland and Paul Smith Dressing Women for Women

Some people say you should dress for yourself; others say you should dress for the job you want, or for a man. However, the option of dressing for other women is also a potent one, and it's been taken to heart by two polar opposite designers at London Fashion Week - Henry Holland, the man behind House of Holland, and Paul Smith

HOH iridescent AW14 lime trousers
 [Images via]. HOH brings the iridescence to the yard.

Paul Smith AW14 pyjamas
Paul Smith's laid-back eveningwear as daywear: the student's dream. Note the damask trousers, too.

Whilst the collections are hardly identical, with HOH offering a heady mix of slogans, sequins and fur whilst Paul Smith showed off dark prints and upper-class pyjama party chic, I did find some similar takeaways from them. Both took advantage of damask prints to great effect and both used shiny finishes to give their catwalk looks that extra bit of polish, but ultimately it felt that both were dressing women without the need to gain a man's seal of approval. 

House of Holland aw14 damask
 Henry Holland can do cocktail hour, and even an LBD. 

Floral and paisley prints clashing with stripes
You can never have too many prints, Mr. Smith.

These were not great looks for first dates with a man, meeting his parents or going to a job interview (even Smith's brilliantly louche suits wouldn't have gone down well with a male-led HR department) and they weren't aimed at catching a man's eye across the bar. These were pure fashion looks, aimed at the sisterhood and, in the case of Smith, borrowing from the boys in order to subvert masculinity. 

Sequinned lipstick motif and orange tutu HOH
 Layer it up as you like over at HOH.

Suits for women by Paul Smith
The boys would never look this good in masculine tailoring.

Meanwhile, HOH's lipstick and cocktail decor, set beside gauzy layers over ripped jeans, was certainly bold and brassy, but probably not likely to get many seals of approval were it donned by the ladies of Take Me Out. Instead, I felt it was about celebrating girliness and not giving a toss about what men want to see you in.

It's really liberating to see British designers bringing such a carefree attitude to dressing and not to prescribe women yet more body-con dresses or man-pleasing basics. We love clashing patterns, playing with textures and wearing something daring, so keep up the good work. Not all of us are dressing to please the men in our lives, and we don't intend to start any time soon.

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