AHEAD of the shows in Paris next week, designer Nicholas Oakwell brought some of the culture of couture to London yesterday.
"We're flying the flag for British couture. It's all made in Britain and a lot of the models were British, too," explained Oakwell,42, backstage after the show in the Claridge's ballroom which introduced his spring/summer 2012 collection, named after the jewellery house Grima - and inspired by it accordingly with Sixties and Seventies silhouettes.But while name likes Dior, Chanel and Valentino might trip off the tongue when talking about some of the most expensive and extravagant dresses in the world, Oakwell's doesn't - perhaps because the label is only into its second season having launched last year and - as Oakwell acknowledged and wants to change - the couture industry in Britain isn't exactly flourishing.
"Why haven't we got one? There should be one, London is international," he said - noting the desire out there among graduating students who have a love for craft. "In creating my label, we've created a network. Students want to work in couture skills and they have the techniques. The craft is dying if we don't educate young generations."
For Oakwell, couture has been a burning passion - but something he only recently turned to, having had a successful millinery career previously that saw him work with the likes of Dior, Katharine Hamnett and Amanda Wakeley.
"I studied fashion design and technology at Epsom and Harvey Nichols bought 14 pieces from my graduate collection," remembered Oakwell of his hat beginnings, which were prompted by a desire to learn craftmanship. "It was always a dream to do couture" - and then, just like that, as he approached 40 he decided the time was right.
But, as the most decadent week of the fashion year approaches, the age-old question arises - is couture still relevant?
"Especially now. Everyone buys luxury. People want something special, one-off. I don't want to sound patronising but luxury brands have become like the high street," he said.