FASHION EAST AW15’16 LONDON FASHION WEEK
It would be hard to find two more different emerging designers than Ed Marler and Caitlin Price. Marler, showing tonight in his second outing at Fashion East, is a carnival barker in the mold of a young Galliano, one who spills a lot of ideas into his ribald clothes and favors an aesthetic of (considered) disarray. Price, on the other hand, made her debut at Lulu Kennedy’s talent showcase with a collection that was narrowly focused and formally precise. There was a through-line, though: You could argue that Marler’s campy hodgepodge looks and Price’s embellished tracksuits and skin-baring dresses and skirts shared a fascination with class. The working class, to be exact. Both designers elaborated on the tracksuit—that most beloved ensemble of the English council estate—with Price’s satin versions featuring pretty spirals of three-dimensional pleats, and Marler’s coming patchworked with dotted pajama silk and gaudy tiger stripe.
Sex, too, was a theme of these collections. There was no gainsaying the come-hither-ness of Price’s maxi skirts, slung below the hip bones. Marler’s effort was bawdy and boudoir-ish in the extreme, what with his sculptured takes on smoking robes, laced-up skintight pants, and velvet bustiers bursting with both cleavage and dotted tulle. To the degree that these collections conflated sex and working-class aesthetics, they read as a touch problematic. Marler pushed that button much harder, as was undoubtedly his intent. This one’s a troublemaker—not an unwelcome thing in London these days.
Mary Benson, the third designer featured tonight, was the outlier. Like Marler’s, her printed-on looks traded in disarray, but to ends that were punkishly glam. Benson’s signature is her stained glass-style print technique, which she deployed in intriguing graphic and figurative ways. Her collection was less immediately distinctive than that of the other two designers with whom she shared this season’s Fashion East stage, but it showed a lot of promise, especially from a commercial point of view. Lulu Kennedy knows what she’s doing: These are all talents to watch.