One should never underestimate the importance of fashion's favourite fairy godmother Lulu Kennedy and her talent showcase Fashion East. It seems Kennedy's helping hand should be of especial significance now, when woeful economics and a packed London schedule mean a lone young voice is not only hard for the fash pack to hear, but increasingly difficult for the designers themselves to raise above the braying pack. On another level, Kennedy's scheme is an important stepping-stone, permitting young designers to test the waters and refine their style before flying solo. Case in point was Holly Fulton's sophomore offering, where last season's strident deco had matured into something wearable and even saleable. Fluid silk-crepe tunics and intensely graphic shirts and robo-print leggings in fiery tangerine and black were undoubtedly destined for a life beyond the catwalk. The same could not be said of hardware-heavy jackets and shifts that seemed crafted from a wayward Meccano set - but the same chunky plastic on envelope clutches is a novel notion winging its way to a Topshop shelf near you, hopefully with kudos and cash for young Fulton to boot. Heikki Salonen's collection could not have contrasted more - aesthetically that is, as for a first show this too was accomplished. Tomboy suiting and distressed layers in a subtle, sophisticated palette of sand, black and peat brown had an easy wearability, cottoning on to ideas of layering, deconstruction and dissection. Dissection, again, was evident in Michael van der Ham's offerings, which seemed an expansion of his acclaimed Central Saint Martin's MA show. Every type of fabric, from brocade to lurex, tulle to tufted satin, was slashed to organic pieces and jigsawed together in seemingly random juxtapositions. It requires a sure hand to juggle this type of textural play without overwhelming - Nicholas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga has played these games with consummate success, and van der Ham is similarly sure of his talents. High praise indeed for one so young in both years and experience. Then again, Fashion East is all about staking your claim early - like backing a Grand National racehorse, the true thrill is seeing how these fledgling colts adapt to the ever-changing course of fashion, and who will make it to the finish line first.
Kennedy's helping hand should be of especial significance now, when woeful economics and a packed London schedule mean it is increasingly difficult for young designers to raise above the braying pack.