Lulu Kennedy’s 22-years-young incubator supreme, Fashion East, headed west a bit this edition to a sustainability innovation hub named Mills Fabrica. As per, there were three designers showing, one as a presentation and the others on a skylit runway. Two were making their debuts, while the last was sailing into the sunset at the climax of his three-season Fashion East tour. So here, in the order we got to see them, is the who, what, and why of this season’s almost entirely deadstock selection.

Designer Michael Stewart’s label Standing Ground delivered its first Fashion East installment in a static presentation (shown in looks 27 onward in the Vogue Runway gallery). The heroically bearded young Irishman, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, arranged his models in pairs, each standing on either side of one of the supporting pillars that ran the length of this roughly unfinished room. The stillness of the subjects and that rawness in the surroundings spoke quite nicely to Stewart’s central preoccupation. “It’s a modern iteration of eveningwear that is inspired by ancient culture, artifacts, and landscape,” he said. “And it’s twinned with notions of the futuristic and imagined… I love how something super ancient can also seem very futuristic.” Stewart’s initial inspiration came from the ancient standing stones that are mysteriously scattered around the landscape where he was raised.

The invited sightseers trooped through to observe Stewart’s newly evolved brand of fashion monumentalism. This saw his models in full-length swaths of variously colored cotton jerseys, over which were etched heavy-looking (but not) decorative runes. These included molded foam, figure-following jersey-clad bands that Stewart described as “gestural,” an inset-beaded panel in ridged concentric spirals inspired by Neolithic carvings, and metallic-finished fiberglass frame pieces. Tailoring-rooted canvassed insertions at one hip, adorned by one of those bands, created a sense of bias-enhanced motion, even in stillness.

This was a finely fashioned and deeply researched collection inspired by the ancient and immovable. Next season, said Stewart, he is hoping to show in runway format—and it will be interesting to see how human movement animates his pieces.

Movement was central to Brazilian-born Karoline Vitto’s collection (looks 1 to 12), through which she sought to place front and center elements of the female form that are often sidelined or marginalized by an exclusionary aesthetic hegemony. Or, as she put it, “Sometimes we feel conscious about, you know, the area under the arm, or the little bulge of flesh on the side of the breast—or under the breast. So for me, this collection is really about celebrating these areas that we might feel self-conscious about, that we might otherwise try to hide.”

Vitto currently works through preorder for clients that range from UK size 8 to 28, thus allowing her to evade the normalized imposition of sample size convention. She added: “I’m a size 14, 16, and when I did my fashion degree, we all started working on sizes 8 and 6. So I could never even try my work on.”

Without exception, Vitto’s looks were asymmetrical, reflecting the infinite variety of human form. “It’s really about making people feel like themselves—and not necessarily about confidence or power or empowerment,” she said. The mostly monochrome collection was crafted in viscose, while the cites she and her wearers wanted to celebrate were exposed by cutouts surrounded by metal frame pieces. Drawstrings added contour and folds to the fabric that complemented the contours of flesh. One striking scarlet look was, the notes said, this expat’s statement of solidarity with those who are hoping to unseat Brazil’s President Bolsonaro in next month’s critical election. So the movement here came in multiple forms—from sociopolitical to physical—just like the bodies whose visibility Vitto’s designs were framing.

Jawara Alleyne’s third and final collection under the Fashion East flag (looks 13 to 26) was swirling with layers and undercurrents of meaning to navigate for those who wished to get on board. Alleyne explained backstage that the concept was based on the imaginative mise-en-scène of a modern yacht crashing into a historical pirate ship, just off a beach in a dream-state nation that blended Jamaica (the designer’s birthplace) and the Cayman Islands (where he spent a decade): Each look illustrated a character within that pitch.

“Setting the collection on a beach let me do the lightness I’m always trying to get to,” he said. “This slashing and this drape work is really from looking at how sails are connected at points but otherwise free, and that freeness was there in the way we were dressing when I was growing up on the islands.” The dead-aired heatwave that London endured this summer, he added, gave him an extra blast of conviction while shaping this collection.

The connecting membrane linking Alleyne’s roughly cut patches of deadstock materials—satin in skirts, cotton in T-shirts, chiffon for tailoring—was often pins: Many pieces were also garlanded with a rigging of cord. A couple of abstract skull emblems pinned at the chest and back pointed to the old-school pirates, while refashioned tailoring and formal headwear, jauntily refitted, suggested a more contemporary type of financially driven raider.

Now Alleyne is ready to lift anchor and set sail for more distant—and sometimes choppier—waters in search of his own fortune. “This season will be the first that we do sales, in Paris. For me, Fashion East was a space of research and setting the foundation for what I want the brand to be in the storytelling, the mysticism, the reasons why I deconstruct and the culture that’s within the brand. For me, the next step is really just unraveling this—through sales, through brand communication, and creative exploration—in a way that meets the fashion industry where the fashion industry wants to be met.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here