Fashion Fringe 2012 is the brainchild of fashion writer, Colin McDowell. Since 2003, the fringe has been offering a foot in the door for emergent designers. The winning three – which will be announced tomorrow, whittled from ten – will have their collections showcased at London Fashion Week, as well as being offered financial and technical support. With a panel made up from the likes of Anna Wintour and Donatella Versace, the cutting edge candidates of the prestigious award have everything to play for. We caught up with five of the designers in the midst of their final preparations.

Haizhen Wang moved to the UK from China, and his designs are inspired by authentic Chinese culture and dramatic contrasts in architecture. A master of structure, his dramatic tailoring is striking, yet thoroughly wearable. Does he stand a good chance? “I don’t know!” He told Wonderland. My advantage is that I’ve been in the industry a couple of years: I have experience, I’ve got strong skills and I’ve had my label for the past two years, it all gives me more confidence. I feel ready for the day that I have the opportunity to have a catwalk.”

Shuting Wang also started her career in China. “I think the Chinese mind and the English minds are like strands of DNA. Sometimes they think together, but most times they are poles apart. It is this juxtaposition which provides 180 degrees of space to challenge, question, and think in ways which help to create new ways to interpret the world around you.” Wise beyond her years, she tells us, “the most beautiful woman is like water, who seems soft and gentle, but cannot be broken.” Her line echo this idea; the designs are beautifully delicate, yet have a sense of timeless wearability.

Across the board, the label concepts are striking. For Cornel Bolt, inspiration comes in the dynamic of love vs power. “It’s a philosophical concept. That idea of having multiple personas within the self. The rivalry for superiority, it came from the “Ring Cycles” by Wagner. Individual conflict, I felt it was a beautiful concept.” He describes his label as forward thinking. Avant garde yet accessible, conceptual yet wearable, sophisticated yet young and fresh.

Raffaele Ascione’s designs have already been worn by Lady Gaga. “It was amazing, I never even had her in mind but it was so great.” Who did he have in mind? “Celeb wise I absolutely love Clare Danes, she has a graceful beauty that’s not typical. And I’d love to see Rihanna in more sportswear stuff.” Ascione has always harboured a passion for hip hop culture, and his dramatic silhouettes harmoniously fuse this urban edge with a sophisticated femininity.

Last but not least, we spoke to Vita Gottlieb. The only candidate without formal fashion training, her aesthetic is rooted in a multi-disciplinary approach to art. With a background in fine art and film, Gottlieb takes experiences of storytelling and human character and translates it into her designs, “I have a vivid imagination, I create stories and that’s the way I see the label developing, there’s endless inspiration within people”. In her dramatic attention to detail, her intricate garments feature secret pockets and hidden elements, each piece become unique to its owner and their own stories.

This year’s shortlist are extremely diverse in all aspects, from their experience to choice of materials. Yet, each candidate showcases a forward thinking attitude to fashion, and a pioneering collection. So who’s going to win? Not even a clue.

Words: Shannon Mahanty