The super-stellar British talent that has emerged from Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East stable in previous seasons has been remarkable, so much so that a roll call of surnames will suffice; Nicolls, Pugh, Schwab, Ilincic, Gray, and Saunders. Unusual then, for an initiative that focuses on serving up raw talent to an audience greedy for something fresh, to simply repeat the previous season’s roster of names. Fashion East in Olympic year – as panellist Sarah Mower pointed out – couldn’t resist showing off once more the muscles of these fashion athletes and how they’ve filled out and progressed.
Dutch maestro Maarten Van Der Horst kicked off proceedings, rocking a distinct sleepover vibe with satin rose-print pyjama pants, blue striped linen, boyfriend shirts and models with raffish pigtails casually knotted behind. He managed to undercut this fable of innocence with bodices cut eye-wateringly high at the crotch, and revealing legs, and lots of them. Combined with the occasional exposed midriff, one would infer that the collection rather stands on a prayer for a very mild winter. Structure was found in the starched precision of collars and pleats, and the bizarre cross-pollination of tuxedo with bodice supplied a dash of wit. The entire essence may not have been quite as euphoric as the finale music, The Darkness’s ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ would have us suppose, but it was fluid and translated as all fairly wearable. Just not, perhaps, in a chilly British mid-winter….
It then fell to Marques Almeida to prove that grunge rules, and the design duo’s methods of persuasion were decisive and bold. Models stomped the catwalk, urchin-like in clunky boots and ankle socks teamed with frayed and tattered dresses, evoking mobile scarecrows or a scowling, battle-scarred Lisbeth Salander. A sense of quiet violence permeated it all; backs were slashed open in uncompromising triangles, and jeans were so thoroughly distressed that the laddered, looping fabric was barely there. Hoods and backpacks posed a feeling of rebellion, as did Almeida’s moody palette of black spikily undershot with neon yellow, and the unkempt tresses of shoved-back hair. The clothes hung cleverly and casually, with tears, rents and vents scored throughout, great swathes of extra fabric sometimes spilling down, helix-like, to sashay at a model’s side. Billowing cloaks completed the near-dystopic vision of a grim, marching aimlessness, in an aesthetic that stayed true to the designers’ previous manifesto of disorder.
The triumvirate was completed by James Long, who stirred up the cauldron with a riot of zigzags and fringing, lamé gilt shredded stripes, diamond shapes and endless patterns to dizzy the eye. Like Almeida it was disheveled but more glamorously so, the models’ backcombed beehives lending an air of willful dishabille. Long proved his credentials as a master of textured knitwear; jumpers were an explosion of chaotic threads. Texture interplayed with shape throughout, from the pointy stuffed manikin-doll-like sleeves to velvet and leather, from bolshy biker gilets to edgy pencil skirts and raspberry- crackled skinny trousers. There was an astonishingly constant ripple and play of movement in the textural fronds and frills – with even the bounce of the models’ hair adding to the kinetic friction. Of the three presentations, Long’s was the most cheerfully alive, thrilling to its own pneumatic buoyancy.
Fashion East proved that heads may still be turned by last season’s old hands and continuity itself can be both solid and exciting.
Words by Jessica Clifton