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Fashion East, Lulu Kennedy’s non-profit umbrella for young designers, has a reputation for giving the world blasts of raw talent. Well this season, the sit-up-and-take-notice factor was that the trio of designers were shockingly… sophisticated.

Watching the very distinct, very different clothes presented by Michael Stewart for his Standing Ground label, by Johanna Parv, and by Karoline Vitto, there was a rising sensation that here were three skilled people applying their intelligence to carving out new perspectives on women’s lives in the modern world. That their individualistically complete wardrobe systems might’ve struck the audience as avant-garde is surely a reflection of how much womenswear design has stagnated—or at least coasted same-ily along—in the last few years, overshadowed by far more progressive thinking in the menswear field.

But not now! The resurgence of designers who are addressing female bodies, psyches, and lifestyles suddenly seemed real in the space of one London morning, with this trio, added to strongly feminist collections from Sinead O’ Dwyer and Di Petsa.

Michael Stewart (the sole male amongst this cohort) led the Fashion East show with a couture-like obsession with bringing modernity to the concept of the spare, long, slim evening dress. “I wanted a soft smooth roundedness,” he said. “Everything is molded by hand by me.” The near-flawless monoliths of his single-color structures—such as the sensationally simple-seeming pink strapless jersey dress which opened his sequence—made an impressive impact in a time when busy, giant volumes have swallowed up so much of the attention in red carpet dressing.

It takes a perfectionist to dare show this kind of apparent simplicity, which involves a whole lot more than cutting out a front and back and sewing up the side seams. Stewart’s engineering involves invisible corsetry, and subtle hip-pads—even under his strictly tailored donegal tweed coats. Meanwhile, the sculptural nature of his work means that it flows around the body, creating interesting side views and back drapes (the one in pink devoré velvet was particularly good). In other words, a smartly studied alternative answer for women who want to stand out on a red carpet.

Johanna Parv has researched another neglected subject in modern women’s lives: design solutions for getting from A to B as an urban commuter. Her collection, at the cross-roads of athletic wear and powerful elegance, comes from her personal knowledge as a cyclist and runner. “It’s really important to have the opportunity to talk about functional or technical outdoor-wear from a woman’s point of view,” she said.

While studying on Central Saint Martins MA, she staked out the busy street outside King’s Cross station and photographed women commuters whizzing past on bikes, and generally struggling to-and-fro lugging their bags and equipment in all weathers. “You know, what do we do to protect your nice expensive handbag, and your work clothes or evening dress while moving through the city?” There needs to be a better way than having to don generic sportswear—which in the cycling category is largely designed for and by men—she reckoned.

The fast-paced energy of her models passing by in layered hybrids of stirrup leggings, cycle shorts, slit skirts, and asymmetrically-sliced tunic dresses demonstrated her system. Central to her method of adaptable chic are rainproof ‘covers.’ She’s developed harnesses into which top-handled handbags can be safely slotted while cycling. There are also ‘cover shirts’ and ‘cover coats’—functional pieces that she envisages being slipped on over regular day-wear. As they darted through the space, Parv’s women-in-a-hurry demonstrated how pieces could be unzipped, rolled up, and secured for making quick getaways and speedy transitions. Elegantly-honed fashion for winning the everyday pentathlon that’s the reality of so many women’s lives today, really.

Enhancing, enabling, and glorifying the physicality and strength of women through chic, sophisticated design is Karoline Vitto’s subject too. “It’s all about showing the curves and folds of the body, which I find beautiful.” The dispelling of societal taboos around female bodies is the collective, joy-driven intention that connects many rising young women designers today. What Vitto’s work amplifies is that each person brings her own aesthetic and skills to it.

The use of silver metal-work in her clothes for fall literally shone, in looped links stretching between cut-outs on a long-sleeved black tube dress and a black jumpsuit, and as straps used to suspend necklines. It’s an adjustable system she first experimented with at the Royal College of Art, she said—time and R&D are required if you’re serious about evolving a technique that prioritizes both quality and functionality like this.

You could feel how much Vitto’s haughty women adored inhabiting her classy, sexy collection. “Usually casting directors and show producers will tell models to walk with no hip-wing,” Vitto said. “But we wanted a strong walk. Bouncy! For me,” she smiled, “I imagine this woman as fascinating and mysterious. She’s my alter-ego. How I would like to be on a daily basis!”