The collection is ‘The Rise of the Phoenix’, inspired by Stravinsky’s Firebird Ballet, the location a darkened church and we are sat in pews. Front row Breton worshippers are photographed, sometimes even by other people, the notes explain the fur is fake, the fabric up-cycled and the paillettes of recycled plastic, then there’s a hushed, respectful silence as the ballet begins.
It’s a Tim Burton fairytale, a space age dream, a reworking of pantomime classics, it’s menswear that would impress Elvis, ballgowns that would entrance Grace Kelly, 1920s flapper inspired dresses worn over trousers and high, severe collars in both men’s and women’s that would delight Duckie from ‘Pretty in Pink’. Breton explores couture techniques, but not just contemporary couture. With the inclusion of hoop skirts, trains, bustles, cloaks and geometric shapes, techniques from more than a hundred years of fashion collide here.
But it’s a slow burn. With the title you might imagine a riot of colour, but no, each over-the-top, attention-grabbing piece is sensational in its own way. Even seated in the second row the detail is hard to catch. Red forms the heart of the show, between the pinks and silvers Breton plays with in the opening and the powerful blacks and deep blues of the closing (still with a touch of silver, Swarovski sparkle and a gold suit). Most indicative of this was his black hooped ballgown with only the bottom of the skirt in red, hinting at embers and that phoenix rising from the ashes.
Hard to catch was the soft neutral slim fitting evening dress, which had all the imagery of that phoenix within the detail.
The piece that stole my heart I instantly nicknamed ‘the Prince Charming coat for Cinderella’ with high collar and tails and heavy jeweling worn over a slim fitting dress with a high split. The outfit played with modesty, the coat I could instantly see in a dozen colours (and in my wardrobe).
For generations, the principal boy in pantomime has been played by a girl, so there was no drama in Breton’s mixing of gender garb, the drama was left to a delicate hood on a full length coat, the thigh high silver boots worn with another reworking of the principal boy look, spider’s web detail, the feather-like coats, a man’s suit with subtly deconstructed shoulders that would have suited ‘Batman’ and pink shoulder detailing that looked a lot like wings.
It was a little girl’s dream without ever feeling infantile. And, by creating a host of full length coats and cloaks, Breton shows he understands that sometimes a woman likes to cover up (or gets cold).
As Breton took his bow to a dark rendition of ‘Something Stupid’, we were still taking in the show. Like the Oscars’ red carpet, where Breton’s work so often features, you can’t steal the headlines without taking a risk that you may be perceived as stupid or crazy, but by being brave enough to explore history, fantasy and modern materials, for me, Breton created the most wearable, and desirable piece of London Fashion Week.