Holly Fulton’s spring 2013 show over the weekend began kind of backwards. As the wall of disco lights went up at the end of the runway, models walked out in groups of four and posed in a grid formation more often seen during show finales … or ice-hockey matches. And there was always one model slightly off-pace with the rest of her group. They stood for a minute or so, then retreated. The audience waited — not quite sure whether to applaud or not — and waited just long enough to start wondering (at least I did) whether Fulton had made a ballsy move, simply deciding to showcase her collection like that. (I wouldn’t have minded, since the trek to the Mercer Street Studios was worthwhile for the palette-perplexing free drinks alone. They tasted like a fusion of sushi and sparkling water. There was also free popcorn.)
But worry not, because then the runway started up as normal, churning out re-dressed models one at a time. Almost every look featured bold florals — roses (and the occasional batch of rosettes) printed, appliqued, and planted haphazardly across the collection. Other print stories included more of Fulton’s signature Mayan-meets-modernist cityscapes, monochromatic bull’s-eye targets, and some snakeskin (which seemed a bit out of place). The crisp sophistication of these printed images played nicely against homespun Hessian-esque panels and the occasional folksy, checkered pattern you’d imagine Mama Wilder pulling out of her scrap box in Little House on the Prairie. As for the palette, it proved to be strictly coastal — West Coastal, to be more specific — an array of blues, teals, and yellows alongside brighter orange and black accents.
This kooky mix of colors and iconography didn’t always mesh with the sharper tailored separates; some of the pieces made in clear plastics also fell on the wrong side of costume-y. But in the selection of casuals and active/swimwear, Fulton excelled — best illustrated by look no. 19, a chic gray sweater paired with bold, printed shorts. Even amid London’s crop of rising print-centric designers, Fulton has found her own niche, one she’s continuing to mine while expanding her overall repertoire — and taking the right kind of fashion risks. Her clothes feel like she’s having fun designing them; perhaps as much fun wearing them, too. When she stepped out from backstage for her end-of-show bow, her T-shirt dress had the word “BYE!” in a cartoon-y speech bubble on the back.