Hawaiian shirts sprouting ruffles like fungus. The bleached-out remains of denim overalls hacked into fraying leg-warmers and tunics. Gem-encrusted biker jackets over skin-tight python hot-pants. This could only be Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy's madcap triptych of what's about-to-be-hot in fashion right now. It's the first small , gut-wrenching step for a designer towards showing their first catwalk collection on the London fashion week schedule. But it's often a giant leap forward for fashion kind, spinning off much of the talent that has kept London kicking for the past decade (coincidentally, Fashion East has been going for about the same amount of time.
For spring/summer 2012, Kennedy's three-to-see contained one old favourite, and two new guns. So, let's put age before beauty - James Long's collection contained that biker jacket studded with a million gems like a Bedazzler gone haywire. They also punched their way through the collars and waistbands of floppy chiffon dresses, while the glossy python came as slender trousers or rendered in silver sequins across the front of cardigans. All well and good for the right market, but it didn't feel like it moved anything forward. That's the problem with Long's work in general - which, as his name suggests, has been bobbing around London Fashion Week for a long Long time. His press notes touted him as 'the next It-Boy designer'. But do we really need another one? I'd much prefer a designer - boy or girl - with enough talent to punch themselves a niche in the packed London Fashion Week schedule.
Of the other talents showing, one may have the staying power. For all their seeming avant-garde-ery, Marques' Almeida's desaturated denim ensembles - a literal rehash of their Central Saint Martins MA show - weren't convincingly new enough as wardrobe proposals. It looked a bit like the models threw on the first conceptual art experiment that fell out of their wardrobe. When they sent out an oversized denim jacket blown up so it resembled a trench-coat, I almost saw an end in sight for Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida's collection: a viable, sellable piece. Then it turned, and the flank was chopped away brutally. More's the pity.
I was totally on board for what Maarten Van Der Horst had to say. Admittedly, this collection again didn't stray far from his MA show, but it was just different enough to keep your attention rapt throughout. Van Der Horst's schtick is Hawaii: he sent out a few reworkings of pieces that have already become editorial hits, oversized shirts splashed with Vegas-ready hibiscus prints in vibrant hues, seams nibbled with nylon ruffles. The expansive shirts this time were pulled against the body with strapless corsets, sleeves jutting wide and proud above to exaggerate the silhouette. In monochrome, the patterns suddenly looked like late fifties Balenciaga florals, only enhanced by the barrel-back cut of Van Der Horst's coats. A trio of shorts-suits with tacky ruffled prom-shirts closed, in macaroon pastels of orange sherbet, lilac and mint. Imagine a louche seventies lothario in a Honolulu shotgun wedding - and then ask yourself why that feels so utterly perfect for now. The ideas, technique and execution were astounding for one so fresh-faced. If Fashion East is about highlighting ones to watch, I know exactly which one I'll be keeping my eye on for the next six months.