Millionairess by way of Margate: that, in a nutshell was the inspiration behind Holly Fulton's latest collection of poppy, peppy prints. For spring 2012, Fulton staged her first fully-fledged, stand-alone catwalk show, but that leap in prominence on the London didn't necessitate a leap in Fulton's aesthetic development. It was business as usual, with Fulton's graphic prints thrown over simple - even simplistic - tunic shapes, wide palazzo trousers and halter dresses.
This time, Fulton's ritzy, glitzy designs recalled both Hermes scarves and the flora and fauna prints of Gianni Versace. Shells were her big motif, undersea coral reefs worked in searing red across Agean blue expanses of silk satin. There was a bit of nonsensical zebra-print and a few chequerboards in there too, alongside the Deco-decadent swirls and geometricities that first marked her work out as someone to watch. Those also have a root in Gianni's finest, and in the decade-crushing, ethnicity-meshing architecture of Las Vegas, an obvious lynchpin for Fulton's aesthetic excess.
The problems that underly Fulton's aesthetic are this: it takes a lot of money to look this cheap. Her dresses retail in the upper three figures, minimum. Today she unveiled bejewelled knitwear - checkerboard cardigans and grid-patterned skirts pimpled with diamante studs the size of golf-balls - which will no doubt also end up with a hefty price-tag. You get a lot of visual bang for your buck there - at least at first glance. However, after a few seasons of these shenanigans, something about Fulton's work is beginning to ring hollow. The underdeveloped shapes are unsatisfying, the feel for fabrics is somewhat lacking. Those satins take the print well, for sure: her colours are pushed to saturation point and the graphics pop. But the clothes don't look designed, strapless boob-tube dresses and boxy tunics screaming high-street rather than high-fashion. That's a key issue for a young designer, especially one who suddenly seems to be struggling to make her mark in a fashion world filled with eye-catching print, and a city that has produced some of the finest in recent memory. It's also one Fulton will need to address quick-smart to keep herself in London's premier league.