If London is a hotbed of fresh fashion talent, who are the new names to look out for?
With London Fashion Week (LFW) just around the corner, industry antennae are already on alert for new talent. Fashion soothsayers were given a helping hand yesterday when Fashion East announced their latest line-up of young names: Simone Rocha, daughter of the legendary John Rocha; Felicity Brown of the Royal College of Art, whose spring/summer 2011 collection will be her debut show, and Finnish designer Heikki Salonen, who will be returning to London for his third season.
Since its foundation in 2000 by the inimitable Lulu Kennedy- dubbed the ‘fashion’s fairy godmother’, the non-profit making project, Fashion East has established itself as a highlight of LFW, helping to launch the careers of some of London’s most exciting names including Gareth Pugh, Richard Nicoll, Jonathan Saunders and Marios Schwab, who is now the creative director of Halston.
Indeed, rather than being just a fringe event, come fashion week Fashion East is one of the hottest tickets in town, with knock-out shows including Gareth Pugh’s fetishistic, sci-fi inspired show, held in Camden’s Electric Ballroom nightclub. Nor is it just an event for die-hard ‘fashion anoraks’ with stars like Victoria Beckham even turning up. Indeed as Professor Wendy Dagworthy, head of the Royal College of Art’s School of Fashion points out “New talent is very important to London; lots of people come here specifically for it, and it’s what keeps London moving and alive.” And in that sense it’s hardly surprising that an event based around fresh talent resonates so strongly in London.
Mary Homer, managing director of Topshop who will be sponsoring the project for the 15th year running, believes that it is of invaluable benefit to emerging designers: “Lulu Kennedy and her panel of insiders have consistently shown a talent for identifying the best of British-based designers, giving them a credible platform to show their collections.”
Despite not having any formal fashion background, Kennedy has a sharp eye for creativity and moved to London’s Brick Lane in 2000 brimming with anticipation and an energy which hasn’t abated since. Professor Dagworthy believes that part of Kennedy’s knack lies in getting the timing right: “"Kennedy chooses the designers really well, and when they are ready for the opportunity. Without initiatives like this many designers wouldn’t be able to afford to have a show, and it could be a waste of their money."
So, Simone Rocha, Heikki Salonen and Felicity Brown have earned a very exciting opportunity indeed. Never heard of them? Here’s what you need to know:
Simone Rocha, daughter of John Rocha (she won’t be able to avoid the blessing/curse of being constantly identified via her father for a long time yet) studied for four years at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin and finished her MA at talent hot-house Central Saint Martins in February. Her famous father who originally moved to the UK from Hong Kong to work as a psychiatric nurse, says Simone is more ‘edgy’ than him, but shares his “understanding of fabric". The course director at CSM Louise Wilson is also a fan of her “strong, modern, sympathetic approach to womenswear and eclectic eye for accessories. While undoubtedly a talent in her own right she does have the bonus of being able to produce her collection in her father’s studio in Ireland and have her pieces sold in his shop on London’s Dover Street.
Heikki Salonen studied at the Royal College of Art and worked with current darling of the London fashion scene, Erdem before setting up his own eponymous label. He summarises his design signature as being “Sophistication with a dirty, rugged edge”. His autumn/winter collection had a glamorous grunge, or “glunge”, aesthetic with aviator jackets, DM boots and sloppy knits. Next season will see Native American and skater influences added to the mix of his quintessentially Scandinavian-cool aesthetic.
London-born newcomer Felicity Brown is also one of the RCA alumni and designed for Lanvin, Loewe, Mulberry and Alberta Ferreti before branching out on her own. Her dresses have caught many an industry eye, made up in precious silks hand dyed with dipped blue, orange and electric yellow over a cream coloured base. The finish is romantically old-fashioned with tiny hooks and fastenings evoking the practice of ancient couturiers. It is her ability to alter the mood of the wearer, while also making them look fabulous, which sets this young designer apart.
Watch this space…