You could consider Fashion East to be the Harvard for London's aspiring designers. That is to say, it's a peak that's not easy to reach, but once a young gun gets there it puts them in ambitious, talented, and successful company. If we follow the Ivy League metaphor, Fashion East's celebrated alums include Gareth Pugh, Richard Nicoll, Jonathan Saunders, Louise Goldin, Emma Cook, and Michael van der Ham. And that would make initiative founder Lulu Kennedy the dean, since she, along with an industry panel, selects three designers each season to show on the calendar. For Spring, the lineup was Heikki Salonen, who also participated last season; Felicity Brown; and Simone Rocha, daughter of designer John Rocha.
Salonen showed first, building on the grungy story he started to tell last season, although this time around Birkenstocks and purposefully holey socks replaced Dr. Martens. There's a haphazardly elegant and masculine energy to Salonen's tailored looks in crinkled gauze and linen that all come with destroyed and fraying edges. But the designer, who is also a creative consultant at Diesel, added his own spin to that idea with an intricate tribal print on shirts, pants, and even that nineties accessories mainstay: the backpack.
Next was Brown, whose work has just hit the shelves at Barneys New York, Liberty, and 10 Corso Como. It's easy to see why. Her cocktail-hour wares have both a sharp focus and immediate appeal, whether you're looking at an elaborate mille-feuille ruffled dress or ultrasimple, layered silk T-shirts and skirts. Both are left with raw edges to cut their preciousness, and both display evidence of a well-honed sense of color.
The last up was Rocha, who showed she's not coasting on any kind of fashion legacy. Her deconstructed and witty work is pretty ambitious stuff, but this collection proves the designer is up to the task she's set herself. Rocha cleverly chose an all-white palette, which focused attention on her eye-tricking play between gauzy tulle and feminine ruffles and menswear tailoring. It also highlighted the sculpted rose headpiece that sat like a miner's headlamp. Her pieces are on sale at her father's shop on Dover Street.
This season, Fashion East moved from Somerset House to Topshop's venue at the old Waterloo Terminal. The soaring space is filled with light—an apt location for bright futures.