Fashion East is now as much of a showcase for London’s coolest young It kids as it is London’s best up-and-coming designers. They run club nights, they make zines, they host parties, they model for magazines. This week, the Business of Fashion called them 'London’s New Generation of Polymath Creatives.' Optimists will compare to the days of Leigh Bowery and co, where making clothes for a club night and creating a persona were ways of, intentionally or not, pushing fashion forward. Cynics will wonder where they will go when the party stops, or who they’re really inspiring and challenging beyond the closed fashion world.
It’s Matty Bovan, who closed the show, who’s experiencing the most hype, thanks to his associations with super stylist and LOVE founder Katie Grand and designer Marc Jacobs. The former was credited as a creative consultant on his show notes, the latter was given a special thanks. Bovan is the latest London designer to stake a claim for fashion theatre, maximalism and typical club kid nostalgia. He’d turned his attention to knits this season and in the process has crafted some impressively odd pieces. He spoke in his show notes of one of the benefits to being a young designer being that one can focus on hand-crafted garments. That cheered my spirits. Bovan’s work will rely not on kudos within the style bibles or attention at parties, but a close knit - to use an awkward pun - community of people who want to buy one of his eccentric, crafty pieces. People who want to invest. Here’s hoping he finds and cherishes them.
Mimi Wade, who showed first, has long been obsessed with Americana so it must be tough for her to see her glamorous fifties icons and Hollywood movie stars overshadowed by an arguably psychotic dictator in public conceptions of the USA. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that she’s looked slightly closer to home for inspiration compared to last season by riffing on her school uniform. Wade is unashamedly about surface rather than depth, so when faced with these troublesome times, she’s struck back with an ode to the good things in life - the parties, the cocktails, the slip dresses, the dances, the sexual frisson. You could almost call it oppressive femininity, such is the saccharine sweetness, but it appeals to a younger band of woman who enjoy the irony and punch of reclaiming certain aspects of girlishness. It’s a take on feminism that refuses to accept that women have to be civilised, serious, refined, calm or Gentlewoman-esque to have a point of view. A few pieces came decorated with the Pink Panther inspired phrase. 'Dial M for Mimi.' I’m sure plenty of stylists and press will.
Also on show were ASAI and Supriya Lele. The former is the work of Central Saint Martins graduate A Sai Ta who amusingly choose a take-away format for his show notes in order to enforce the mix-and-match, choose-your-own options nature of his clothing. It was shown as the second runway collection and if it hadn’t been for the punchy red hairpieces this collection could have run straight into Bovan’s without being distinguishable. That said, I was impressed by both the colours and the techniques - the odd fading, the rich inky hues, the crocheting, the distressing. There was lots to see and I’m excited to see more next season. Royal College of Art graduate Supriya Lele made her debut as a static presentation and talked of musing on her Indian and British cultural identity. Her pieces had a quiet elegance and poise that felt charming and refreshing in the face of all the riotous fun on the runway. That said, designers (and perhaps especially editors) should stop using the phrase 'subverting established notions of femininity' so lightly unless they’re doing something really radical.