Fashion East—the group show with the very deep-pocketed support of Topshop (check out that generous spread of free food and drinks!) and the influential pull of its founding force, Lulu Kennedy—celebrated its tenth anniversary last September and continues to barrel powerfully forward. A massive wave of a fashion crowd packed into Old Billingsgate station to see the three lucky young talents anointed this season: menswear designer James Long, now trying his hand at women's; Elliot Atkinson; and Simone Rocha, showing under the Fashion East mantle for a second season.
First up was Long, whose show notes described his collection as "punk mountain style look." Primarily, he tapped into his facility with knitwear. Dresses had heavy knit tops and shredded-looking fringe skirts, with bright Peruvian-esque embroidery about the neck and waist. The best one was bright red, a sharp dose of color in his mostly ivory and black palette. But between the vaguely glamorous chiffon robes with knotted macramé trim and tough-girl fare like a bulky, fringed Aran sweater and black leather motorcycle pants, it was difficult to put your finger on Long's intention.
Next was 26-year-old Atkinson, a Brit with Cypriot roots who went to school in Scotland. His ultra-skinny and ultra-mini silhouettes were meant to reference a history of American culture, from Native American embellishment to post-Depression-era tailoring. It sounds like overload, but Atkinson has a light hand, and his emphasis on an almost inhumanly attenuated (see the high-necked shirts) and tailored silhouette brought it all together. In that framework, a Western shirt with metal collar tips and bolo tie somehow worked coherently alongside an Aran knit and silk tartan mini.
Lastly, Rocha gave her deconstruction a seasonally appropriate layer of depth and texture by adding shearling, fake fur, ponyskin, and thickly cabled knitwear into the spliced-up mix. In this designer's surreal work, the back of a jacket is cut away to reveal a furry panel. In fact, you had to make sure you caught a model coming and going, because backs rarely matched fronts. Rocha continued to work liberally with nude tulle, setting it into jackets for a window into what's within and wrapping it around classic pieces to suggest that, though the shapes are familiar, all is not as it seems. Perhaps it's the unavoidable consequence of working with heavier materials, but this collection lacked some of the crisp wit of her debut.