Fashion East goes west


East End designers and fashion devotees sauntered west on the Sunday of London Fashion Week for the Fashion East showcase, supported by Topshop. The event, held in Mayfair’s Haunch of Venison gallery, presented some of London’s best emerging designers, who in turn brought with them a young, bold and urban aesthetic.

Fashion East, a not-for-profit initiative based at the Old Truman Brewery and set up in 2000 by Lulu Kennedy, offers a spotlight for new talent from across the city and is used as a platform to showcase designers who are not based in the conventional west end, high-end marketplace. Many of today’s biggest British names – from Gareth Pugh to Holly Fulton – had their careers ignited by Fashion East.

East London’s burgeoning art and music scenes, together with its heavy dose of cultural diversity and a sizeable student population, have brought the area to the forefront of trend setting. And it is not by coincidence that Lulu Kennedy and her team have positioned themselves at the heart of it.

Not only was the event a coming-together of east and west, but of art and fashion, situated in this splendid gallery (formerly the Museum of Mankind). The highly anticipated Frank Stella exhibition created an effective backdrop with its bold colors and geometric structures.

Four designers, most of whom are based in east London, showcased their Spring/Summer ‘12 womenswear collections. The event got underway with a presentation of work by Cypriot-born designer Elliot Atkinson who began making clothes from his bedroom in Homerton. Atkinson studied Womenswear at Edinburgh College of Art and was picked up by Fashion East last year.

“I moved to London in 2005 from Scotland. I was living in Homerton. It was a difficult time and the streets and nightlife helped shape my vacant, lonely and dark approach to art and design.”

This season’s collection is a juxtaposition of leather lace-up trousers and soft floral print. Atkinson describes his signature look as “romantic, feminine, dark and hedonistic with this juxtaposing tough quality”.

The three runway shows that followed shared this perspective.  Portuguese duo Marques’ Almeida, James Long and Maarten van der Horst had varying sources of inspiration but each collection made strong references to the urban landscape and youth culture.

Marques’ Almeida, whose studio is situated on Kingsland Road in Dalston, devoted the collection to their fascination with youth culture and the mid-nineties by creating a range of oversized frayed denim tunics and matching torn leg warmers. The baggy double denim – harking back to both nineties hip-hop culture and grunge – alongside a soundtrack by Dalston frequenter DJ Jonjo Jury, reminded the A-List audience that London fashion has edge.

Maarten van der Horst drew from a host of cultural references to create his collection of re-imagined holiday staples such as Hawaiian print two-piece suits and glittery camouflage. James Long, based on Redchurch Street, showed a jewel-encrusted collection of mesh dresses and slinky snakeskin, bringing an element of bling to the proceedings.

Fashion East shone the spotlight on next season’s new names with the same playfulness and professionalism that has earned them and their young designers a significant place within the fashion world.

Related: Dalston boutique East of Eden bucks trends