East London is stitched into the very lining of London Fashion Week. This weekend, the concrete visions of emerging designers and established fashion houses from east London will saunter down the catwalks of Somerset House, hanging off the broad shoulders of six-foot twenty-somethings.
Clothes and fashion are intrinsically linked to east London. East End’s threads run back to the rag trade, which emerged in the 17th century. Since then, the area has seen generations of clothiers and couturiers set up shop, with the some of the recent graduates going on to London Fashion Week.
EastLondonLines asks three designers about their upcoming Autumn Winter 14 collections.
Electronic Sheep, luxury and memories
Electronic Sheep, based in The Rose Lipman Building on De Beauvoir Road in Shoreditch, is fast becoming a seasoned presence at London Fashion Week and is about to unveil its fifth collection. Helen Delany and Brenda Aherne are the duo behind the brand of knitwear and accessories.
Last season the girls, both originally from Dublin, designed a collection, ‘Thyphoon Puppets’, where models wore contemporary versions of national costumes, all thrown together with aplomb. Finnish bobble hats and angular woolen turbans sat above finely knitted, oversized, Mexican poncho jumpers – frayed trim included – in punchy reds and powder blues.
The knitwear was unapologetically crowded by prints: only the brave could wear pointy Rorschach patterns and Pop Art illustrations of buildings. Continuing the feast of print, vast 2D scarfs were awkwardly draped around the models’ necks. One scarf depicted the bottom half of a man, possibly a Dalston hipster in cuffed jeans and high-tops – Delany and Aherne often have an “east London aesthetic in mind” when designing their goods.
This season, Delany and Aherne’s ensembles will show a shift in direction. Incorporating appliqué leather detailing and producing relaxed items such as knitted kaftans, the clothes will be more luxurious than previously seen. Inspired by past memories and ephemera for this collection, the duo worked with 20 years worth of bus tickets, polaroids, torn wallpaper and drinks labels. All had been aging in scrapbooks, sat idly as keepsakes, “until now…”
“We took from our surroundings what we needed, past and present, and made of it something more,” said Delany and Aherne.
But Electronic Sheep won’t stray far from its zany roots: “This is probably our most graphic and pictorial collection and though very colourful, the shades are quite muted and gentle.”
Hemsley London, bags of frustration
Hemsley London is the brainchild of Jayne Hemsley. Originally from Warwickshire, the London College of Fashion graduate migrated down south to start her eponymous brand in Clapton, after having worked for Roland Mouret and Sophie Hulme.
Still a rookie compared to the many established designers that will show this season, February will be Hemsley’s second season at London Fashion Week. The bags and accessories designer said that “frustration” inspired her new collection. “I was fed up of having beautiful bags that I never used because they weren’t practical in some way. I wanted to design something that answered all my needs.”
Hemsley London bags and backpacks are a fusion of practicality with French chic, their structure loosely reminiscent of the iconic Lady Dior bags from French fashion house Christian Dior. But unlike those quilted totes, Hemsley’s bags, Warrick, Derby, Mayfair, Hampshire and Buckingham, are fitted with exterior iPad sleeves, card compartments, and detachable straps. The sturdy pieces meet the needs of a modern woman without making them look like a bag-lady.
Living in east London’s fast lane has been the inspiration behind Hemsley’s bags. “The designs need to be adaptable, combing work and a fast-paced social life led me to designs that helped me to function efficiently. You carry your life around in your bag, the design features of the bag help you to live it more easily.”
Larissa Hadjio, Chihuahuas and irony
Larissa Hadjio, originally from Germany now based in Dalston, will also be presenting her second collection this month. The designer’s ‘CHIC WAWA’ collection is based on the iconic – and ironic – role of the Chihuahua as an accessory in popular culture. Think Paris Hilton circa 2008.
Hadjio’s previous collections have always strongly reflected her inspiration. The ‘Deep Sea’ collection featured cleverly crafted, leather incarnations of fish and mollusks in murky colours and the ‘Diamond Vision’ season, 3D ‘bling rocks’ crafted out of soft lamb Nappa. The odds are short on Hadjio’s new collection incorporating more than a few canine characteristics.
Apart from dogs, Hadjio’s new collection promises to be a little tongue-in-cheek: “The collection brings to life a playful spin on the symbolism of luxury goods with each accessory being based on an object we are trained to desire.”
Hadjio confessed that the City is not an easy place to establish yourself as a designer, but after graduating from Central Saint Martins, she has become fond of working in the east. “It’s a place of constant change and inspiration and has become home to so many creative people from around the world. I think the creative output of any individual is a reflection of their state of mind. Spending time in a place that never gets boring has to be a good thing.”
For Hadjio, the creative achievements of many east Londoners have pushed her to up her game: “People gravitate towards this area from around the world to be closer to the heartbeat of modern urban culture. This creates a high benchmark for people to compete against, which in turn leads to a desire to push harder to stand out from the noise.”