Fashion East is unique, not only on the London Fashion Week schedule, but in the world. Where else are designers supported, nurtured, gently encouraged to take a first step into the wider world, and only pushed out of the nest when they seem ready to fly? It's one of the things that's truly great about London fashion, and the reason why the capital has gone from strength to strength in the past decade.
It also means that you get more than your fair share of collections that don't quite work. Maybe the designers aren't quite ready for that next step onto the catwalk. Maybe they're not ready, full stop - some people are better as a team rather than leading a label. Simple as that. This time, there were a few ups and downs. Marques'Almeida stuck with what they know, this time tattering wool and leather rather than denim, and cutting raw-edged felted mohair into skew-whiff ponchos. Their hack, slash and pull experiments from spring looked great on the toned bodies of young fashion editors in an an unseasonably sunny New York season earlier this month - but you couldn't help but think said eds pulled a five-fingered fashion discount. It's difficult to imagine people laying down cash for this look from a young London label. It just doesn't bring much new to the table.
Neither, frankly, does James Long - although this was undoubtedly his best collection. His fringed and sequin-embellished Fair Isle knits were the leap-out: heinously expensive, no doubt, but surely there's a collaborative collection in there somewhere? The rest of the offering was either pedestrian (print velvet trousers, a fuzzy, leather-bound coat and Rodarte-light mohair knits) or pretty ugly (hairy lame and mumsy chiffon dresses). Long has been three seasons at Fashion East, and it still doesn't feel like anything new. Maybe time to focus on the menswear as opposed to building a brand before your time, especially if you're already running out of ideas.
Ideas. That's what Maarten Van Der Horst has. A million of them. The boy could probably rattle off a collection a week, given the resources. After his first Fashion East outing refined his graduation collection of Hawaiian prints and nylon rufflette, Van Der Horst took a left-turn and offered billowing shirting and pyjama party pants in striped poplin, with overblown cerise tea-roses straight from early an nineties Linda Evangelista-starring Dolce e Gabbana show printed across glistening satins. His show-notes cited a 'suburban nymphomania', but it actually ended up looking clean, slick and eminently wearable. Wearable too for a broader audience than his tropicana prints, especially when that cretonne floral was tucked into silky trousers where the print 'bled' cleverly down the thigh. As the final seamed-up suited-and-booted onesie left the catwalk, you'd forgotten all about those spring hibiscus blooms and started to hanker after tea-roses. Van Der Horst is definitely going to be one of those got-to-have-it designers - and is undoubtedly the one going places.