Front Row at Issa...

Issa's Trans-Siberian Journey

By Finola Austin

London Fashion Weekend is the designer shopping event at the end of London Fashion Week and here I have my first experience of watching a catwalk show live. My sister and I have been moved into the front row (!) by staff who clearly haven’t heard her hissing about finding similar clothes in Primark, and sitting down provides a welcome break from contemplating purchasing soft leather jackets from Muubaa or wondering if I’ll ever really have the occasion to wear a floor length sequined gown from Project D.

It doesn’t start well. Presenter Zoe Hardman, recognisable from such classic shows as Take Me Out: The Gossip on ITV2, teeters on – hot pants, neon stiletto boots and bad fake tan – and tries to encourage some audience anticipation. Thankfully she’s soon gone and we’re down to business – the ready-to-wear Autumn/Winter 2012 collection from Issa London, a designer brand favoured by customers such as the Middleton sisters and Bond girl Gemma Arterton.

Although originally from Brazil, designer Daniella Helayel calls the collection a ‘Trans-Siberian Journey’, citing Muscovite and Chinese style as particular influences. There are fur-trimmings on sleeves, delicate oriental prints for metallic cocktail dresses and a rich palette of colours – paisley prints in red and blue, as well as block coloured dresses in jade, navy and gold.

The most wearable pieces are the brand’s signature wrap dresses, worn over leggings in a nod to the season. Dresses are also teamed with jackets in matching prints – showing how high end wearing the same print all over can look (an idea easily replicable this season on the High Street). The cocktail dresses in jersey material are my particular favourite, designed to take you from the office to the bar and eminently more practical than backless floor-length evening dresses or entirely transparent knee-length dress, which my sister loudly advises me to wear to formal hall.

The models were styled with ‘60s beehives or bouffants, all dark smoky eyes and towering heels giving lady-like glamour an edgier side. Other key ideas included embellishment on cuffs and necklines – easily achievable with some designing DIY even if you’re not as handy as Gok Wan.

I might not have been able to take a piece of Issa home with me but the brand’s emphasis on cut, shape and print and twists on classic Winter season pieces certainly inspired me with innovative ways to take on this season in style. 

Follow Finola on twitter @alonif01

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