J.W. Anderson and Versus were just two of the labels showing their spring/summer 2017 collections at fashion week in London.

The idea of gender and clothes, specifically the norms of how a woman or man should dress, is central to designer Jonathan Anderson’s work. In both his womenswear and menswear he undercuts societal conventions by suggesting an alternate dress code.

His autumn/winter 2013 menswear collection famously put dresses firmly back into focus, while last season’s womenswear show took apart the staid and formal idea of the 1960s cocktail dress, adding sportswear silk zip-up tops and superhero capes.

For spring/summer 2017, Anderson continued the theme, citing Henry VIII, that symbol of brattish masculinity as an inspiration for his womenswear collection. One top, which was divided into four sections with slashed ribboned arms and unfastened belt detail, recalled the classic brocaded Tudor waistcoat in the king’s most famous portrait. Another, in grey, with a more robust ribbon detailing on the sleeves and a stiffness in the chest, suggested the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.

“I like the idea of a woman wearing something that is so masculine. The shape is very empowering,” Anderson said backstage, thinking about the word “armour” before backtracking.

If those pieces boldly questioned gendered silhouettes, there were also pieces in the collection that wrestled with the idea of femininity in a more subtle way. There were the androgynous conical-shaped tops with exaggerated donut sleeves and necklines, and the Christmas tree-like tops and dresses made from a bounty of floating Irish linen. They were bunched together in pastel shades of sea blue, pale canary yellow and pale pink, which floated like waves when the models walked in them and the effect was akin to watching an ice-cream slowly melting in the midday sun.

Later in the day Donatella Versace, a fashion icon who represents a ultra-feminine European fabulousness, debuted her latest collection from Versus, the Versace spin-off label that is 20-years-old this year.

Like Anderson, Versace was interested in giving a persona to her collection. This was for the “bad girl who breaks the rules,” she said earlier in the day; the Versus girl eschews conventional beauty and shares a wardrobe with her boyfriend.

Taking her cue from the street style trends which have dictated the fashion conversation for the last few seasons, the designer created a full-throttle take on the military, utility and athleisure trends.

There was a mango-coloured belt bra, lots of slashed materials and a metal mesh dress that was constructed with no stitching, like a sneaker. While the materials used – neoprene and parachute fabric – suggested a futuristic, bionic woman who not only knew her own mind but knew how to protect herself. Like Anderson, Versace’s collection was about re-imagining the modern woman as autonomous and powerful.