London, as the smallest of the four fashion capitals, is a well-established and much-beloved breeding-ground for fledgling talent, welcoming new design with open arms and showcasing it to a worldwide stage. Could the confrontational, iconoclastic likes of Westwood, McQueen and most recently Pugh really have made their early presence felt in the harsh clime of any other fashion capital? Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East is a case in point, picking up on M.A. shows, static exhibitions, off-schedule and off-kilter design talents and offering them a stage for their creations. The roster of Kennedy's protégés reads like a who's who of the last decade of Britpack invention: Marios Schwab, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll, Roksanda Ilincic, Henry Holland, Danielle Scutt, Gareth Pugh etcetera etcetera. Essentially, when Kennedy pipes up about a designer, the fashion world shuts up and listens. This season was the turn of three female talents: one a veteran of last season, but the other two untested. First up was said second-timer Natascha Stolle, whose leitmotif is a nostalgic, subdued take on tailoring and sexy-secretarial seduction. The collection this season was predominantly grey - every shade from charcoal through anthracite to dove - in hard-wearing sweatshirting, mohair and soft wool mélange. Twisted chiffon stockings emerged under every look, but this was the only styling quirk in an otherwise simple, wearable and saleable collection: the outsized tailoring and sharp, graphic, colourful print on black even had touches of early eighties Betty Jackson. Meant in the best possible fashion, of course.
Maria Francesca Pepe is predominantly known as a jewellery designer - her serpentine cylindrical metal plate necklaces have already adorned many a magazine shoot. This collection fused her fashion and jewellery, offering simple, strict shapes in basic black adorned with dramatic metal plate forms. Twisted into curved cuffs emerging from shoulders, wrists and hems, the tussled and artfully treated metalwork was the big story, and unfortunately it seemed Pepe's skills with needle and thread come a distinct and distant second.
After two collections - and in fact an entire season - dominated by dark and sombre shades, the poster-paint brights of Holly Fulton were a jolt to the senses. Using peacock hues of jade and navy alongside searing traffic-cone orange, Fulton crafted drop-waist shift dresses hung twith all enamel matter of geometric shapes. Her inspiration was Art Deco gone Pop - or possibly the House of Elliot in outer-space, given the arched PVC eyebrows and heavily worked dresses like malleable walls of Savoy floor-tiles crafted into dresses. Heavily crystal-encrusted satin Deco-isms, sliced at thigh and wide at shoulder, veered from the Jazz age to jazzy OAPs playing the Vegas slots. But, amidst a touch too much glitz one outfit popped: a black polo neck twinned with Swarovski hewn skirt in muted cyan, cobalt and emerald.