As is widely acknowledged, the London fashion industry is second to none when it comes to supporting and developing new talent. Fashion East, among all the local programs for emerging designers, remains the keenest talent spotter; director Lulu Kennedy has excellent, eclectic taste. The trio of designers on the Fashion East runway this evening certainly represented a motley crew: First up was Maarten van der Horst, an accomplished tailor and a bit of a ham; next down the runway was Marques'Almeida, a brand almost dirgelike in its grunginess; the final act was Fashion East veteran James Long, a menswear designer and knitwear specialist who has definitely earned a solo spot on the London fashion week calendar next season.
Van der Horst brings a lot of wit to his clothes, and a great deal of technical know-how. For this collection, his second, he put a sexy spin on menswear shirting, turning crisp poplins and striped cottons into tailored bodysuits, and setting them off with cheesy satin florals. The bodysuits weren't altogether convincing, but the satin stuff worked, in particular the collection's quilted blazer-style jackets in white-on-white and red printed florals. Van der Horst definitely has a strong point of view, but he's still in the process of fleshing it out.
Marques'Almeida doesn't lack for point of view, either: Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida distress denim with a single-minded gloominess. The look is striking; this season's skate-inspired black and yellow clothes, all oversized and ripped to hell, had a kind of desolate grandeur. The collection was a little one-dimensional, but these pieces will be pulled a lot by fashion editors, and some of the more circumspect looks, like the frayed skate shorts and decayed knits and leathers, will attract shoppers. (Pieces from the debut Marques'Almeida collection for Spring 2012 were picked up by Opening Ceremony—a store that's no slouch at seeing a niche market.)
James Long was taking his third, and final, turn on the Fashion East runway this evening, and the collection he showed was proof that he's used his tenancy to hone his womenswear to a fine point. This was a strong, well-made, distinctive collection, commencing with a series of hugely appealing intarsia knit dresses limbed with gold. Long showed that he can do more than just knits: His printed velvet pieces were knockouts, and the quilted leather jackets with hand-knit sleeves were both beautifully executed and a lot of fun. Onward and upward.