Fashion East is another one of those shows that, were one to go looking for the label in stores, one would likely be quite disappointed. There is no Fashion East label. That would be because Fashion East is a non-profit cooperative founded by Lulu Kennedy in association with the Old Truman Brewery. Like other similar initiatives, the purpose is to highlight emerging designers who might otherwise have some difficulty getting their clothes to a London runway. This season the collective presents work by three designers: Ashley Williams, Claire Barrow, and Ryan Lo.
The challenge to such a program is finding a way to stand out, to make one’s collection so noticeable that everyone remembers your name once the show is over. Unfortunately, the gimmicks can easily overshadow the designs, which is what we really want to see.
Such is the case with Mr. Lo. His collection was an interpretation of Hansel and Gretel, a story which certainly lends itself to some interesting design choices. Unfortunately, I doubt you can find a half dozen people who actually remember what the models were wearing. What they remember are the fuzzy animal ears that adorned the models’ heads. The ears had absolutely no relationship to the clothing and as a result no one paid any attention to the clothing.
Ms. Barrow didn’t make quite the same mistake, but chose biker chic as her theme. Her silhouettes were full to the point of often being baggy. She was the only one to show both mens and womens selections, but the silhouette didn’t change any for gender. She has a thing for t-shirts, frayed edges, and sent her models down the runway in bare feet. Her best move was probably the hand painted plastic overcoats. Beyond that, however, the collection is likely to be forgotten.
Ms. Williams collection came last and was immediately the most commercially viable and likely to actually be worn. Her dresses actually made sense, and her beachwear, which came toward the end of the collection, was well conceived and ready for next season. Her silhouettes are feminine and tailored, but not to the degree that one doesn’t have room to move. The danger to being so commercially accessible, though, is that one might mistake her business prudence for a lack of creativity.
The program isn’t a contest. Each of the designers received very valuable exposure and now go on to Paris for meetings that could result in their clothes ending up in stores across Europe. We wish them each the best and look forward to seeing which of them bring collections to the London runways again.