The Fashion East young designer showcase is a revolving door—three seasons, then you're out into the world—but for Spring, the lineup remained as it had for Fall, with collections by Ryan Lo, Claire Barrow, and Ashley Williams taking their respective turns on the catwalk. Each designer has continued experimentation in his or her own individual way, something the showcase is famed for, and each is quickly building a reputation for distinct individual aesthetics.
Lo showed his third collection for Fashion East, his strongest to date. There was still the characteristic cuteness; the designer cited Sylvanian Families toys as an inspiration for his women-as-woodland-animals, with their fluffy ears and tails. "Partly Sylvanian Families mixed with girls preparing to be homemakers," Lo clarified. "There is the witch in Hansel and Gretel transformed, picnics in the woods, The Sound of Music all rolled into one: happy, happy, and joyful." Lo's clothes are maniacally, unrelentingly optimistic, yet the fluffiness of previous seasons has been tempered somewhat by sharper, slicker, and more complete silhouettes. He has been working with the stylist Robbie Spencer and it shows: He seems to have contained the kawaii. Lo's layered lace confections in angel-cake colors looked nicely made and now ready for consumption.
Barrow is also on her third and final Fashion East outing. The designer is perhaps the most established of the trio, with her own design signature (her illustrated leathers) and successful capsule collections for the English retailer Matches. Despite that, she remains unburdened and undaunted by commercial restraint, and this season she presented a collection that was perhaps her most oblique and difficult, inspired by Kenneth Anger and voodoo. "It is about bringing together a new group of people, a new gang," Barrow said backstage. "It is more experimental, and they are into some dark shit—especially the boys." Her leathers were largely missing this time. Instead there were illustrated plastic pieces, which were the standouts of the collection.
The final designer, Williams, is only in her second season with the showcase, but despite being the baby of the group, she already has momentum and star power: Harry Styles sat in the audience wearing one of her T-shirts, and Eliza Cummings opened and closed her show. Williams is best known for her Happy Ashley prints, and this season, they were given a nautical slant, with speedboats and Gary the Snail from SpongeBob SquarePants. ("He's posh because he lives on snakeskin," Williams joked after the show.) The nautical theme pervaded throughout, but not as the usual, tired fashion standby. Here, plush toy sharks also doubled as handbags, "Dreamboat" was printed on leathers and swimsuits, and "SOS" emblazoned a royal-blue lace dress. "I wanted to break up the collection so it wasn't print-heavy, [and] mental," she explained. "I wanted the sense of something slick and the Miami of the eighties—but I also wanted people I know to be able to wear it. That's why it had to be clean and slick." And so despite Williams' reputation for prints, some of the finest looks on offer here weren't prints at all, like the blue denim apron dresses and shorts.