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Alternative Fashion Week 2012

Alternative Fashion Week 2012

Beginning as a publically funded project to regenerate Spitalfields in 1993, Alternative Fashion Week now draws a heaving crowd to a vibrant marketplace. Over eighty designers showed their work with Fashion Shows daily at 1.15 running from Monday to Saturday. And although home grown talent featured heavily, designers came from as far afield as Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sri Lanka & Uruguay.

I think the thing which appeals to me most about it is the ethos behind it all. As Maggie Pinhorn, Director of Alternative Fashion Week explains, “we’re looking at fashion as an artform, as an expression of current culture, not as a highly expensive idea.” It’s providing a platform for designers from all walks of life to bring their creations to the catwalk. Giving us, the general public, access to this talent and artistry, providing us with an accessible means to express ourselves.

Another appealing trait of the show is the models used. A fantastic variety of shapes and sizes. While the mode did still tend to be tall and thin, many were ablaze with tattoos, piercings and hair of every hue from aquamarine to fiery red. Experience isn’t even a necessary requirement as they provide a six week training course prior to the event, once again investing in and nurturing budding talent. Although it was also nice to see Britain & Irelands Next Top Model contestant Jessica Abidde take to the runway among the girls.

Sadly I only made it down to the Saturday, and the designer that by far outshone the lot on that day was Geri Liivamagi with stunning druidic inspired flowing gowns which flittered effortlessly across the catwalk. Charlotte Haggerty and Brett Le Bratt’s collection was overshadowed by the masks and guns which I thought was in very poor taste considering the recent riots and gun crime which is rife in this city. Not sure if it was supposed to be some artistic message, but it left me cold. The remaining ten were showcasing the work of stall holders in the market. Angela Gbemisola’s collection entitled “When God was a woman” having a very tribal/mother earth feel to it with the models reflecting female beauty in all its forms. Nina Davies showed Women’s wear reconstructed from recycled menswear, which fitted nicely with this year’s theme of environmental awareness and ethical sourcing. The “wedding dress” particularly appealed with its mis-matched hewn together look giving it an almost post-apocalyptic feel where “mend and make do” may have come into force once again. Once the show was over, we had a spot of lunch to fuel us up for some shopping. Apart from some wonderful fresh garlic olives I also found a fantastic ribcage chain bodypiece. Certainly that market has treasures – you just need to be ready for the hunt!

Although I only made it out on Saturday, I did however keep an eye on proceedings throughout the week, and the following are designers which particularly piqued my interest and perhaps put a bit more of the “alternative” into Alternative Fashion Week. It was interesting to note the sheer amount of tan and brown used across collections. If Steampunk is the new Goth, it’s amusing to know the colour scheme is translating into other avenues of fashion too.


Faye de-Boorder: Immediately her choice of models with fantastic aquamarine hair sets her apart from the designers before her. Her collection consists of playful tartan pieces with a Lolita feel to them. My particular favourite is the chiffon babydoll dress.


Eve Anna Liszczyk: Had a range of latex in pastels, purporting that the designs were inspired by Mexican Sugar Skulls. I’m not sure I quite got that myself.


Victoria Geaney: With a beautifully entitled collection “Metamorphosis of Narcissus” I was hoping for something a little more ethereal, but instead we have a cybergoth-esque collection from plastic and recycled electrical objects.


Chantal Gibbs-Jones: This collection was perhaps verging on “haut-goth” although with browns, rather than blacks and items you may imagine as fantastical gothic work attire. Her feather and silk combination brought some stunningly luxurious pieces to the fore especially the wedding dress finale.


Babs Behan: Her collection of Ethical frolicsome garments for ridiculous events immediately got me interested. What arrived on the catwalk did not disappoint. From a rococo playsuit, to a Japanese kimono and wonderfully cheeky clowns, this was a delightful little assemblage.


Gorgia Nash: Brought us wonderful 20’s inspired outfits that you could quite imagine gracing the likes of Theda Bara. Indeed these outfits were inspired by the designer’s grandmother’s jewellery box.


Victoria Bramwell: Wonderfully curious garments inspired by Alice in Wonderland with a bright playful attitude, look like they could have stepped straight out of a Gay Pride Carnival float.


Jylle Navarro: Describes his collection as “Luminous, over the top, cyber punk” although I think they would work better on set with Noel Fielding. Certainly something different, but I can’t see this as fashion at all. Perhaps that was the point.


Gemma McDonald: Gave us another beautifully entitled “Beauty in Decay”. In a similar vein to Nina Davies, Gemm’s collection had more finesse and detail to it. The fabrics of lace, tulle, chiffon and ragged cottons worked wonderfully together. While the bodices and ballerina skirts gave the feeling of broken dolls. Certainly a collection that wouldn’t go amiss on stage with Emily Autumn.


UCreative Rochester: Although most of the collection passed by, a couple of outfits in particular left me drooling. A beautiful skirt made from what I can only describe as straw or twigs cascading down the catwalk made it seem like the model had indeed been grown from the ground itself.


Brett Mettler of One Eyed Designs brought out his Dysmorphic Debutants. This latex collection brought out the adage of it being a second skin with the fabric assembled to resemble a disease or deformity.


Chrissie Nicholson-Wild from Curve Couture finally gave us some proper corsets! Lovely pastel, burgundy and green coloured boudoir styled pieces with floral detailing.


Kat Simpson from Twilight Sirew described her collection as “exploring trauma through restriction” and so was expecting something a lot more severe. Perhaps for the mass audience it may have been, but what I saw was a lovely collection fashion corsetry teamed up with Victorian elements in earth tones. Certainly a boudoir steampunk vibe going on there. I was reminded of alternative designers such as Mother of London and Blackmirror Design who perhaps take that step further away from convention.


CoolTan Arts: Gave us a lovely ragged wedding dress consisting of layers of dyed and distressed chiffon over a large crinoline. Beautiful dress, just a shame the model didn’t quite embody the outfit, with a shy beaming smile coming from beneath the veil.


Tonje Arnesen: Made in Wonderland Hailing from Norway gave us a menagerie of Animalistic Worriers. With tones in tan and brown, leather and ruffled fabric, topped off with horned skullcaps.


Barbara D’Altoe: from Italy calls her collection “The wild beauty of soul” and uses rubber inner tubing and tyres to form part of her garments. Some of her outfits are reminiscent of Giger’s fantastical creatures. Again browns and earth tones being predominant.


Newham College was the only educational establishment that I felt provided anything that could really be termed as alternative. From a version of a male’s Sherwani, to a top hatted ring mistress, and some fantastic leatherette Edwardian fetish gowns. With Olympic inspired touches, I think it’s their games I want to go to!

If you didn’t manage to catch any of this new emerging talent first hand, you can have a look at the video highlights on I’ll be updating the site with designer profiles and photo collections in the coming weeks.