This season, the Ones To Watch platform has named Helen Lawrence, Hannah Williams and Renli Su as the brightest emerging designers and it’s easy to see why. Initially so very far apart in their approach, they all demonstrate a clear and unmistakeable talent and, for an opening SS14 show, it’s always such an incredible way to begin by pitting the young blood against the old timers.
Sleek vinyl, spherical embossment and instricate detailing lead the way with Helen Lawrence’s simple and feminine collection. Having received her design training under the influential hands of both Mark Fast and Alexander McQueen no less, her skill is undeniable. Lawrence’s lavender, powder blue and neutral tones were beautifully displayed across boxy separated and cocoon silhouettes, juxtaposed with boxy sleeves and illustrative lines. An undeniably understated feel swept over the designs, occasionally gaining momentum with curious embossed lines and a deconstruction of classic tailoring, depicting classic shapes that weren’t really there; a collar, button or pearl necklace a mere illusion. Accents of lime and a provocative full body zip on a conversative short sleeve dress provided a juxtopositon against the tranquillity of her design that kept the audience on their toes and providing a thoroughly contemporary vibe. We dig.
As lenses fluttered and rushed writers scribbled their bright ideas on notepads, the flustered nature of the room was finally realized as Hannah Williams’ designs took centre stage. Already capturing international media attention as winner of the Graduate Fashion Week Innovation, this was one bolshy display that seemed a million miles away from what we had previously seen. Mottled, almost painted layers of grey sat unsteady with acid yellow and sky blue sweater, imprinted with ornamental linear detail. Patchwork deconstruction again reared its head, merging pale wash fabrics against busy illustrated lines – although worlds apart, already there are similarities forming between these bright young things. A personal highlight for me? Transluent PVC skirts that demand a pert behind to even contemplate taking this to the streets.
Closing the showcase saw Renli Su’s collection, ‘The Tranquility of the Working Class’. Reverting back to the neutral palette with shades of tan and grey. Inspired by the lifestyles of nomadic people, particularly those in Central Asia, it gives a touch more explanation to initial thoughts of Amish bonnets – sort of similar, right? My own ignorance aside, Renli’s hand stitched collection demonstrated woven detailing, frayed textures and prairie style crochet head pieces with heavy fabrics and undercurrent of peasant culture. Simple layering was key the success of the collection with a frilled cuff short and purse inspired necklace adding a new dimension.
All in all, there wasn’t any feeling in the room of simply killing time until the larger shows kicked in. There was a genuine realization that something big could be ahead for this trio, and, regardless of whether you’ve ever even heard of them, that’s bloody exciting.