What women want: A unique approach to women's fashion

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Whether they're inspired by skyscrapers, schoolgirls or Joan Collins, London Fashion Week's female designers have a unique approach to women's wardrobes. Harriet Walker finds out why

Holly Fulton

Last month Holly Fulton was named Young Designer of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards, soon afterwards she was given a slot on the crammed Fashion Week schedule – and it's only her third season of showing in London.

The 32-year-old has been an antiques dealer and bank clerk in her time, taking five years out after finishing her MA at the Royal College of Art. But since her first collection at Fashion East for autumn/winter 2009 (where she showed alongside Natascha Stolle), her trajectory has been impressive. This season sees the launch of a beautifully decorative and detailed own-label collection, with a focus on Art Deco motifs and Chrysler Building-esque skyline graphics.

It also includes a selection of chunky enamel jewellery pieces and clutch bags – all of which are designed and made by Fulton herself. "It's so good to find out how to make something new," she says. "I've really picked up a lot of techniques to further my ideas for next season; it'll be the strongest thing I've ever done."

Strength is key to Fulton's angular pieces. Her style icon is none other than Joan Collins, a "grande dame" who inspires much of Fulton's work. "I wanted to create an all-encompassing wardrobe – from swimwear to eveningwear and everything in between. With my pieces, you get a complete look that works across the board; something quite individual. Also, it's basically what I want to wear. Is that selfish?"

Fulton has also worked with the stationers Smythson to produce a capsule range of leather goods and jewellery, based on a similar aesthetic to her latest collection. "It's not what I usually do though. It's definitely not as graphic," she explains. "It has such a refined, finished look, and of course it's very high-end. I've come at everything from a different angle."

Where Fulton's image of femininity is certainly chic, it isn't necessarily classic, with heavy embellishment atop bright but simply cut dresses made from unusual and iridescent fabrics, and monochrome Metropolis prints sprawling across leggings, harem pants and even jumpsuits. "I think the sheer amount of work and processes involved in producing my work makes it slightly unique," she says. "The scope for future exploration of materials pushes me forward."

Despite her inclination towards Art Deco, Pop Art and Bauhaus, Fulton is an essentially modern designer, taking the shapes of the past and fusing them into something that looks to the future.

Natascha Stolle

Natascha Stolle's debut collection at London Fashion Week for spring/summer 2009 was for "women who wished they had been sluts in high school". Her show as part of the support scheme Fashion East featured pin-tucked grey marl jersey separates teamed with pencil skirts that were embellished with pairs of googly eyes.

Stolle's aesthetic speaks to the vagaries of modern femininity, whether you had a rough adolescence or not. "My customer is dorky and a bit naïve, but vulnerable," she adds. "School is an important theme for me – it's where I really developed my identity."

The autumn offerings from the 32-year-old Saint Martins graduate this season lacked none of the verve and wittiness that have characterised her collections so far, further developing her chosen theme of ladylike-with-a-twist. "She might not work in an office," she says of her imagined customer, "she's more likely to be in a creative role."

Stolle's eclecticism no doubts springs from her heritage: she's half German, a quarter Italian and a quarter Japanese. She's also of American birth, but now lives in London. Such cultural references come into play constantly in her clothes. She grew up in Honolulu, and her winter clothes exude a vibrancy usually associated with summer collections, though graphic splodge prints sit atop warm woollen-knit skirts, ensuring practicality and ease.

Stolle is working this season on a capsule range for the boutique B-Store, describing it as "more urban" than her usual look; it will be shown as a presentation at London Fashion Week in September. Having remained with Fashion East for a second season and received much sought after NEWGEN backing from Topshop, she is no stranger to the city's fashion scene.

She says, "I came to London with the intention of not staying very long, but there are no rules and it's so much freer."

"It's reassuring to see so many women in the fashion industry now," she says on the subject of autumn's crop of female designers (fellow Brits Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo and Hannah MacGibbon are scaling the heights in Paris). "Although it's traditionally been geared towards gay male designers – I'm complaining about it to them! – the focus is changing. It's OK to want a family and to have that double life." This duality is something Stolle succeeds in weaving into her garments: practical modern updates on timelessly elegant pieces.

Louise Gray

From circuit boards and crocodile clips to springs and wiring – you name it, Louise Gray has stuck it to a T-shirt. The Glaswegian former textiles student is yet another alumna of the Fashion MA course at Central Saint Martins College, and has also been promoted by the Fashion East scheme, which has been so instrumental in the rise of London's leading ladies.

Gray's autumn collection was inspired by Eighties London, and was rendered in vivid Technicolor in a variety of unusual and textures and fabrics. "There's a lot of patchwork, some layering of textiles and collaging," Gray, 28, explains. "It's a fusion of London street style from the Eighties and a more traditional mini winter wardrobe of key pieces."

Key pieces they may be – there's a winter coat, a range of knits and jumper dresses – but they're far from traditional, in fuchsia fun fur, watered silk and geometric print drapery. "My customers range from 13 to 50," Gray laughs. "Some people wear colour, some people want a winter coat. My aim is to make everything wearable. Older buyers might go for the trousers, younger ones maybe the cut-out T-shirts."

Gray once believed that her time in London would be temporary, but she has now lived in the city for seven years, and feeds off its vibrancy, its club scene, and its exotic and eccentric streetwear. Having shown with Fashion East and held three presentations so far at London Fashion Week, as well as launching a capsule collaboration range with ASOS, Gray will stage a fully fledged catwalk show with support from the NEWGEN scheme at Fashion Week in September.

"My plan is to carry on being me and working by myself, always adding more and more," she says passionately, before declaring that her spring/summer 2011 collection will be something "completely different".

Gray has always been different – her colour choices and sense for adornment have consistently marked her out as an innovative and imaginative young force on the London schedule. Delicate but simple shift dresses in citrus-hued silk, satin and tulle, toughened up with whirled zips and additions such as curled telephone wire, became her trademark after her debut in spring/summer 2008.

"It isn't really about statement clothes any more," she admits, having softened her aesthetic somewhat for autumn. "We need things that are wearable now; women make designs work for them, and you know what works for you."

people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
Ricky Gervais performs stand-up
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £50 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a Teaching Assistant...

    Year 5 Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

    Year 6 Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

    Automation Test Lead (C#, Selenium, SQL, XML, Web-Services)

    £50000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Automation Tes...

    Day In a Page

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering