The dominant colors of this season’s Fashion East were primary ones, and in spite of fashion’s current love of neon, the change felt welcome and very fresh. There was Robin Lynch’s collection inspired by both her dad and The Dublin GAA, Mowalola’s low-riding pants and miniskirts, and Stefan Cooke’s trompe l’oeil knits.
The common thread among the three collections? They’re clothes that make you think, but they’re also not taking themselves too seriously. From the strategic cutouts of Mowalola’s visible thong straps to Stefan Cooke’s strategic sweater cutouts, the designers, each in their own way, subverted Instagram minimalism.
In an interview with Vogue, Fashion East founder Lulu Kennedy talks about the appeal of the showcase’s two newest additions. “The power and simplicity of both Mowalola’s and Robyn’s singular visions hit me right away at their graduate shows,” she said. “Theirs is a fabulously concise exercise in storytelling and editing—untroubled by the usual rules and regs—which doesn’t mean their lines don’t have commercial appeal; they’re already being worn.”
Below, get to know the three designers that took this year’s Fashion East show by storm.
Robin Lynch—Dublin-born Lynch designed a collection steeped in the tradition of Irish menswear. Archive footage of players and fans at the Dublin Games also inspired the collection of clothing that’s efficient in every sense, from lots of color-blocking to fleece-lined shorts and waterproof Ventile cotton.
“My heritage has been the starting point for almost all of my projects and is something I’m always interested in,” she said in an interview with Dazed. “From early on as a designer, I’ve used the RTE archives and I also look back at family photographs and study Irish photographers. All my research comes from the Irish people.”
Mowalola—When asked about her next collection for the winter issue of i-D, British-Nigerian designer Mowalola Ogunlesi said it would be, “Sex. More Sex. More Sexy.” Because I firmly believe 2019 should be the year we bring sex back (again), Mowalola’s collection strongly speaks to me.
There were thigh-high boots, electric-yellow miniskirts with thong straps rising above the hips, red trench coats with a latex sheen, and the erotic nudes of photographer Lea Colombo featured on some of the coats. In the show notes, the designer explained the collection’s theme. “I’m interested in exposure—whether that’s emotional exposure, showing your skin, or becoming fully vulnerable—and the idea of expressing that through the way that you dress,” she said.
Mowalola’s Fashion East collection felt like a revelation with the sort of designs that make gender seem completely irrelevant. Desire—sexual and emotional and everything in between—was felt strongly and executed perfectly.
Stefan Cooke—For their third and last Fashion East rodeo, Stefan Cooke and his partner Jake Burt threw a bit of a party. Describing the impetus behind the colored wires thrown haphazardly over their models, they told Vogue, “We thought they looked like party streamers!” Bodycon trompe l’oeil is a signature of Stefan Cooke, and it was seen in fine form in this collection.
It was, in a sense, a refined round-up of the subversive pattern-cutting paired with classic tailoring that’s made Stefan Cooke a standout and garnered them stockists like Dover Street Market and Opening Ceremony. The chainmail stoles added just the right amount of toughness.