New design: Helen Lawrence
Fashion East, the non-profit initiative championing three new designers each season, is such a key entity in the Fashion Week schedule that we sometimes forget: what happens when a label finally emerges from founder Lulu Kennedy's nurturing wing?
Testing those waters this season was Helen Lawrence, with her first stand-alone presentation after launching with Fashion East in SS14.
Lawrence graduated from MA Fashion at Central Saint Martins in 2012 after a first degree in textiles at Chelsea College of Art & Design. Almost immediately, Style.com billed her as ‘the next big thing’, always a pretty heavy professional cross to bear.
But Lawrence has consistently shown chutzpah. Fabrics and their artful unravelling have always been the starting points of her collections, accentuated by their placement, often, against unexpected materials such as PVC and other shiny stuff.
Lawrence's work is a kaleidoscope of contrasts: sculpted silhouettes against flowing form, shiny against matt, sugary shades against neutrals, sexiness (like SS14's pink denim shorts with thigh high splits) with softness (the mismatched sweaters from the same collection). SS15 showed latex cutouts in nude colours against homespun knits and unfinished hems - with hand-stitched x's placed over nipples - with the looks given edge by tribal-like body jewellery made from marrowbone by jeweller Slim Barrett.
And once again, this Fashion Week (AW15, for those who still get confused), in a collection styled by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen on both boys and girls, Lawrence played with combinations of hard and soft.
Inspired by the dramatic tape-wrapped sculptures of British sculptor Phyllida Barlow, dense homespun lambswool were punctuated by areas of flatter, tougher intervals of yarn to create oversized silhouettes, artfully cinched in at waists by 'holsters' in English ribbed knit and sheepskin. Sturdy leather Kult Domini X Helen Lawrence boots underpinned each outfit.
Gaps and pauses in the pieces leant a deconstructed, post-apocalpytic aspect to the garments - enhanced by the meteor-like rocks scattered around the space at the Chelsea College of Art.
I hate predicting whether I think someone is going to be a success or not. It depends on so many things - and, sadly, not just raw talent. Lawrence's work is bold, intriguing, passionate and skilfully executed. It makes for a enormously promising start.