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Jenny Packham: sensual intoxication

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Written by Daniel P Dykes

"Men cluster to me like moths around a flame, and if their wings burn I know I'm not to blame." -- Marlene Dietrich

You're promising a lot when your show's notes open with such a quote. And Jenny Packham delivered. The British designer, giving crystal clear insight into her global ambitions by showing away from the European fashion week circuit, kicked off her New York fashion week catwalk on a mild, Monday morning with a collection is anything but. An autumn / winter 2011 collection this might be but, designed for the girl who thrives on the social scene, it's devoid of typically wintery pieces and instead offers up a youthful, upper class take on party dress and statement leggings, one that pays no credence to the weather as each piece is crafted solely for wearing indoors, in rooms of note.

jenny packham autumn 2011

And craft is precisely the right word to use to describe this collection. From the seats the quality of each piece, from the fabrication to the embellishments, is obvious. The level of craft needed to create the most detailed of them, such as those where beading is layered over tulle in a pattern visually akin to a spider web, in the collection is overt. It's also broad, with embellishment lavishly applied to pieces ranging from floor length frocks to leggings. So intricate is the detail, in fact, that the pieces that don't offer it in the guise of French lace or antique beads, such as a floor length dress from the collection, seem oddly out of place. But though the cuts are meant to catch the eye they aren't all of the figure hugging variety that such a quality typically necessitates. Instead the mini dresses offer up a slim fit whose fabric is relaxed, giving each a movement on the catwalk that equals the slink the models who wear them have so perfected.

But this is a collection that better communicates precisely who it is intended for. Jenny Packham's craft is not, for a moment, intended for the average. Looking at each piece instead gives you a mental picture of a girl who is the life of the party, an extrovert with more friends and contacts then can reasonably be stored in her iPhone or Blackberry, the girl who works to keep her figure perfect, to whom appearance is close to Godliness. And she's young, at least at heart, for this is a collection that is for the girl who is comfortable showing off a little bit of skin - the collection's daring cuts demand it. But daring shouldn't be interpreted as meaning dangerously short or plunging. Such pieces are there to be sure, but for every short hemline there's a backless dress or thigh high split daring you to want to get to know the girl wearing it more or, if you're that way inclined, soliciting reactions of jealousy. That's how this Jenny Packham collections dares, but even then its real emotion strength is its ability to sensualise instead of sexualize. In person that's intoxicating

All our photos from Jenny Packham's autumn (fall) / winter 2011 / 2012 collection are now online, and can be seen by clicking on the thumbnails below and browsing through the gallery.

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