The auspicious runways of Fashion East have seen veterans like Gareth Pugh and Jonathan Saunders, and the newly up-and-coming like Michael van der Ham and Nasir Mazhar. This season Lulu Kennedy's fashion-godmothering project moved to the Haunch of Venison gallery, where each of the three design houses—Marques'Almeida, James Long, and Maarten van der Horst—showed against the backdrop of Frank Stella's 1974 painting Lettre sur les Aveugles II (Letter on the Blind II).
First up, designers Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques'Almeida cited in their show notes a "desire to capture a youth code." Their take on that was gutted and frayed denim, much of it so bleached it was nearly white. With jeans having been worked every which way and at every level of the market, it's hard to give the fabric new energy, particularly when you're speaking the language of rebellion. But the almost violent rawness in pieces that were constructed to appear gouged away did the trick.
Next was menswear star James Long, taking his second crack at womenswear at Fashion East. His skinny pants and little belted biker jackets in python and filmy black chiffons with multicolored gum-ball beading were far slicker than his crafty, knitwear-heavy debut. Long is known for his knack with leather, and those biker jackets are a menswear signature that make sense to cross over. The beading was best when he piled it on.
Last, giving that Frank Stella a run for its money, was Maarten van der Horst, who recently graduated from the Central Saint Martins M.A. program. It's hard to make an impression on a print-weary fashion crowd, but van der Horst's matchy-matchy ensembles of Hawaiian shirts and shorts with printed pumps perked them up. What made his new was the way he outlined edges and seams with a bright little nylon ruffle, in some cases flocking tulle onto them to suggest a bikini or bustier. He ended on a relatively quieter note with a series of sherbet-hued tuxes with cropped pants. And then the last girl turned to reveal everything backed in tulle ruffles. According to his show notes, his pot of references ranged from Lilly Pulitzer to Kid Creole. In all, they melded together quite nicely.