meet the fashion east family

Fashion East: two words synonymous with London's world-leading, era-defining fashion scene. Get to know the small, elusive team behind the non-profit initiative, and its latest designers.

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Feb 27 2018, 3:40pm

When it comes to the perpetual cycle of Fashion Weeks -- each bleeding into the next by way of Resort, Cruise, Couture and international Vetements limited edition collection drops -- it’s hard not to grow weary and unengaged with the “fashion industry” as a whole. But every season, without fail, London Fashion Week manages to offer us something unique and special. It offers something to talk about. Something to laugh with. Something to aspire to. London always feels like right here, right now. Fresh blood with big ideas. In-tune and off-kilter. Uncompromising and unconventional. London’s best young designers imaginatively toe the line between commerce and creativity.

The reason for this -- you may have guessed by now -- is because of Fashion East. The non-profit initiative was started by Lulu Kennedy, MBE and The Old Truman Brewery in 2000, as a way to support and showcase the young womenswear design graduates who couldn’t afford to stage their own on-schedule shows at LFW. Those selected by Lulu receive business advice and financial support, and the opportunity to have their clothes presented at a Paris showroom. In 2005, MAN was launched -- a menswear equivalent in partnership with Topman -- followed by Fashion East Men’s Presentations in February 2009. Both initiatives are considered instrumental in launching London Fashion Week Men’s (FKA LC:M), and have helped carve London’s position as a world-leading menswear authority. From heavyweights like the Fashion Awards’ British Designer of the Year Jonathan Anderson, to LFW stalwarts like Craig Green, Marques’Almeida and Simone Rocha, Fashion East has incubated the work of our most beloved designers.

As we present our new film -- Fashion’s First Family: Inside Fashion East -- get to know the three-strong team behind the initiative, and a few of the the young designers they’re supporting.

Lulu Kennedy, MBE, founder

Can you tell us a little bit about why and how Fashion East started?
Friendship was the spark that started it. I wanted to help my friends who were struggling young designers. The Old Truman Brewery got behind my idea and turned it into a project. 18 years later they are still the patron and unsung hero.

What changes have you seen in London’s fashion scene since it began?
Digital madness. Luckily for me Tash is a total boss at all things digital. I’m that old school person that still picks up the phone and likes meetings to take place at the pub.

What excites you about this year’s designers?
They are the most gorgeous, genuine, talented bunch of people in real life and it shines through in their work. There is zero disconnect.

Natasha Booth

How and why did you get involved in Fashion East?
I started out at Fashion East as an intern around seven years ago (!) after admiring Fashion East and Lulu's work from afar for a few years. Then I was lucky enough that Lulu offered me a job straight out of university.

What changes have you seen in London’s fashion scene since it began?
I can only comment on my time in the industry but I'm proud that Fashion East gives 'underdogs' a chance, young aspiring designers who perhaps would not have been able to afford to start their own business, make their own collection, or put on a show. I think that's been impactful on London's scene since Fashion East started in 2000.

What excites you about this year’s designers?
We're always excited about the designers we're working with, we believe so strongly in them! Our current roster each have exceptional talent, unique perspectives and something important to say. And they're all a pleasure to work with!

Raphaelle Moore

How and why did you get involved in Fashion East?
I wanted to work for Fashion East because, to put it simply, I love helping people. It's a support system nurturing and mentoring the most talented designers in London and I'm very lucky to be a part of the team and to be surrounded by some of the best people I'll ever meet.

What changes have you seen in London’s fashion scene since it began?
Most of the major British designers have come from Fashion East over the 18 years the initiative's been around, it’s completely changed fashion with crazy creative fun shows to making it possible to start a business.

What excites you about this year’s designers?
Every season I'm excited, whether we are working with the same designers as the season before or totally new ones, they are so incredibly talented, hard working and fun.

ASAI, current womenswear

When did you get involved in Fashion East?
I showed in February 2017 with my first collection since graduating from CSM.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
As corny as it sounds, it gave me a purpose and reason to be optimistic about my place in this world. It gave me an opportunity to develop my language, my understanding and a platform to express myself. I feel really fortunate to be working with Lulu Kennedy and the Team (Tash and Raph). It really has held me up, they have my back. It’s really a gruelling process to create a collection, a visual dichotomy of mind and matter.

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
I have achieved so much in such a short time with their support and I have more targets and dreams to fulfill. I have learnt to keep the ball rolling, alway maintain motion and never stand still. You have to create what you want and what you feel you are missing. It’s hard because once you reach a goal, it’s not what you thought it would be, so the ability to always be aware of where I stand and where I wanna direct myself -- on so many levels -- is key.

What makes London fashion so special?
There’s been so many great creators who’ve come out of London’s fashion scene, who act as a constant reminder and inspiration that the London can do attitude is alive and on fire! It’s about creating a new visual landscape for people, and encapsulating the ever-shifting city. We are a city of believers with a drive to keep the city shining.

Rottingdean Bazaar, current menswear

When did you get involved with Fashion East?
In 2016, Fashion East asked if we would like to show some of the badges we had been making at their MAN presentation and we mentioned that we had made some garments too, which were different objects -- like dried flowers and socks, sealed onto sweatshirts.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
Fashion East are as emotionally engaged in what they are doing as any creative individual, and that makes them really sensitive and motivating to work with.

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
We can both be quite hermit-like and working with Fashion East has opened our eyes to all the possibilities that are out there and helped us become more responsive to them.

What makes London fashion so special?
Open-mindedness.

Stefan Cooke (and Jake Burt), current menswear

When did you get involved with Fashion East?
We first got involved with Fashion East this season, our debut show was on 7 January.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
Opportunity. It really feels like you are brought into a family who want to help and see you succeed and who will support you with incredible expertise. It’s an incubator for growth and freedom, both as designers and as a business.

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
It’s helped target our audience. To give us this platform that reaches people makes the unobtainable suddenly seem obtainable. It gives you the confidence to stay true to your vision, while shifting your perspective on being a self-sustaining business. It’s amazing how much you learn in such a short amount of time. You’re pushed in at the deep end but they are right next to you the whole way.

What makes London fashion so special?
It's attitude. It's ideas. We think London fashion is the centre point for creativity. It’s support, especially for young designers, is incredible. Like New York, London is a melting pot of people with such individual backgrounds. It’s so culturally diverse that a new culture is being formed and its language is music and fashion.

Art School, current menswear

When did you get involved in Fashion East?
We presented our first collection after graduating uni with Fashion East for autumn/winter 17. It was an unforgettable turning point in our lives that gave us the confidence to make our voices heard.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
Fashion East was vital to our love of fashion growing up. Designers such as Louise Gray, Meadham Kirchhoff and Michael van der Ham. That era of London fashion was defined by Fashion East and still to this day the creative energy that London is so acclaimed for has Fashion East to thank for that.

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
Fashion East has helped us build out a name for ourselves and lay down the foundations of our brand. From Lulu trusting us to put on a presentation for autumn/winter 17, to then letting us move on to the MAN catwalk show -- we have grown so much with their support and guidance. Thank you Fashion East!

What makes London fashion so special?
It’s raw, powerful, hungry creative force that drives all of us in this incredible community of people that we’re so lucky to have around us. <3

Supriya Lele, current womenswear

When did you get involved?
I joined Fashion East after I graduated from my MA in 2017 -- my first presentation was September 2017.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
Fashion East has not only provided invaluable support through the process of starting up my brand, but they have also been there along every step of the way -- like a fashion family!

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
I would have found it difficult to get my brand up and running without them and the platform that Fashion East provide. They have helped me get to where I am today!

What makes London fashion so special?
How diverse and creative it is -- there is room for everyone!

Charlotte Knowles, current womenswear

When did you get involved?
After I graduated from the MA Fashion course at CSM I made a collection with my boyfriend and design partner Alexandre Arsenault. Fashion East supported us with a static presentation showcasing the spring/summer 18 collection in September 2017.

What does Fashion East mean to you?
Launching a fashion brand is a huge, complicated process which you aren’t really properly prepared for after university. Fashion East facilitate and mentor you about every aspect of this. Fashion East are such a great support and reassurance; like a family within the industry rooting for you!

What specifically do you think it’s helped you achieve?
The exposure has been really amazing for us as Fashion East is such a respected and exciting scheme to be affiliated with. Their mentoring in general has been really helpful for us in terms of planning ahead and growing our brand.

What makes London fashion so special?
London is such an exciting place for a young designer to show as there is already such a buzz here; so many creative people with something important or outlandish to say. People really do look to London for the next exciting, innovative designer.

Credits


Collage by Kristina Britton