LONDON – In a very elegant hotel, in a make believe forest, English luxury brand Mulberry got the fourth day of London's Fashion Week off to storybook start with a show that was made from a dream.
The company's creative director, Emma Hill, echoed the fairy-tale setting of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" at London's Claridges Hotel Sunday, setting the scene for her Autumn Winter 2011 collection by making her fantasy come to life.
"I was obsessed by the story as a child," Hill told The Associated Press. "I was so impressed by the Englishness of it all."
Featuring duffel jackets thrown over long skirts, Hill married an image of carefree but elegant — the moment where a woman tosses her coat over a maxi dress and slips off into the night.
The fantasy forest mood was carried over with impressive detail for those attending, from cupcakes decorated to look like toadstools to the benches that seemed hewn from deep brown logs.
And what's a forest without a few animals? Dogs with little Mulberry jackets dotted the benches. Sitting in the front row was Guinness, a 3-year-old Burnese mountain dog, who had his own Mulberry bag hanging around his neck. (Mulberry doesn't yet make a jacket in his size, but at least his bag was full of doggie biscuits.)
"I think he got distracted by the Terrier," said his owner, lawyer Fiona McNulty, who added that the maxi dresses also kept blowing into his nose.
But as might be expected for a company whose heritage is the handbag, the show focused heavily on arm candy — the carefully crafted bags found dangling from the arms of celebrities such as Alexa Chung, who even has one named after her.
Some of the classic designs, such as spring's best-selling "Tillie" was shown in deeper autumn hues, with its classic toggles echoed in the coat that made its way down the runway.
The show featured deep blues and violets, combined with classic camels and browns. An electric green was also tossed in now and again. With much of the world soon to focus on Britain because of the upcoming royal wedding, Hill said it was a good time to focus on roots. "We're having a bit of an English fest."
Unique by Topshop, the designer line of the popular high street retailer, also featured animals — with a whimsical collection of cartoonish, canine-themed clothes.
The theme was 1930s high society glamor mixed with "101 Dalmatians" as models sported high poodle buns, tinsel minidresses, and lashings of fur — both faux, and in brushed mohair and sheepskin.
A bulky, furry white coat with black Dalmatian spots opened the show to a soundtrack of barks, and thereafter the same print was everywhere — on platform ankle boots, bomber jackets, collar trims and clutchbags. Greyhounds and whippets made an appearance too as miniature prints on blouses and shoes.
Oversized marabou arms in camel or black added fun to all-in-one jumpsuits and a crushed velvet dress, and the look was finished with bold art deco style jewelry.
Fashion's best-known editor, Vogue's Anna Wintour attended the show, though it's a mystery what she thought of it — she dashed to the exit through a back door before journalists could reach her.
Big, fluffy fur coats appeared again as the star of the show at Matthew Williamson, though here they came embellished with rows of metallic trims and came in more subdued tones of greys and browns.
Sequins, buttery quilted leather and feather hems add glamor and glitz. One particularly eye-catching hooded coat was covered entirely in sequins of gradated blue tones, set off by a dark fur lining.
Tropical colors of coral and lime — a continuation from Williamson's spring collection — were used in satiny cigarette pants and blouses, adding delicious pops of color to an palette of black, greys and lipstick red.
Bitish-Afghan designer Osman Yousefzada offered bold colors and loose-fitting designs at his show at London's Somerset House. In contrast to his collection of muted gray and black designs last year, Yousefzada experimented with sharp, solid colors and playful stripes.
One standout shawl showed hints of a bright orange on the inside of the garment, while other designs could be unzipped and adjusted for length — like his many cream-colored dresses and bell skirts.
Aaron Edwards contributed to this report.