There were very specific rules to be respected in order to access the Charles Jeffrey show. Six rules to be precise, which are worth reporting here:1. Abstain from sex for at least 12 hours. The portal demands self-control.2. Stay wakeful and refuse sleep during this time. The portal demands deprivation.3. Leave all emotional baggage at the door. The portal demands an offering.4. Speak to no one in the hour immediately preceding the rite.5. Bathe thoroughly and liberally before arrival. The portal demands good astral hygiene.6. Don the appropriate ritual gaudery. The portal demands an effort.
While waiting to enter the initiation ceremony, bizarre characters in druidic and anthropomorphic forms made sure, drinking sacred beers, that we had all followed the rules.
Once inside, the show took place in two parts, or rather, in two movements.
The first with clothes that looked like Belgian tailoring perversions from the 90s, homage to Ann Demeulemeester and Helmut Lang, indulging in extreme and sexy minimalism. And then the dark English extravaganza of the 2000s with hints of Gareth Pugh. A story of religion and cassocks, crinolines worn as cloaks, priestesses, waterproof cardinals, black brides and Quakers.
Unexpectedly, to take a bow at the end of the show is not Charles Jeffrey but Bradley Sharpe, the next big thing in London’s fashion whose last collection made of techno-Victorian clothes built with camping material is an absolute must-watch.
Was it therefore a baptism? An acceptance ceremony?
At the end of this movement, the portal that gives the collection its title opened and, guided by the same bizarre characters who had welcomed us, we passed into a second room, where the bold London syncretism that’s Jeffrey’s signature finally exploded.
There were the Horrors (in the sense of the band, but also as in horror movies) and there was tartan, there was the second summer of love and there were raves, there was punk (whatever that word means today after fashion has stripped it down to make it harmless), there were today’s club kidz and there were yesterday’s Blitz Kidz, there was Dalston and there were London’s beautiful scoundrels and misfits of 2021 in attendance. Many looks, perhaps too many to want to be meticulous, with some repeating themselves, but on the other hand in the Sabbath the way to enlightenment lies in excess, superabundance and repetition. The new wave of cool kids that were both in the cast and among the guests then let loose at the following party, which seemed only a continuation of the Sabbath, in a sensory continuum and an ecstatic, sweaty, erotic, alcoholic, lascivious rave. Today, Instagram informed me that Sadiq Khan was also at the aforementioned rave. To me, this experience, instead of a hangover, left a great desire to buy a tartan skirt and to start staying up very late at night again.
If Charles Jeffrey is both a laugh and a blaze, Richard Quinn is the aristocracy of extravaganza. It’s maybe because of his family name, which is very suitable for puns that include the word Queen, such as on the complimentary whiskey for the guests bearing the words ‘Salute the Quinn’.
I don’t know how aristocratic the delay is, but only a queen can start a show an hour later without fashion editors and photographers shouting like furious hooligans.
The front row was also aristocratic, with a holy family consisting of Boy George, Kate Moss and Jordan Barrett.
The show, which began on a soundtrack by the band Lebanon Hanover, is a succession of perfect and desperate princesses and scary and grotesque mannequins.
There are flowers and studs, unbridled luxury and the theatrical restlessness of deformity. There is no longer a distinction between high society ladies who wear couture dresses and toxic and nocturnal performers who investigate the limits of the body and the clothing. Perhaps the point is very simple and ordinary: there is no difference because they are all acting. Perhaps there is also a second layer, where the hypocritical acting is the fashion business itself. Then the homages (so to speak) paid to Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia for the grotesque part, and Valentino by Pierpaolo Piccioli for the couture part (which was indeed gorgeous) begins to make sense, in a Quinn sort of way.
It is never completely clear what the queen of London Fashion Week thinks and means, but in the end (who I believe they were), his parents were moved and Alexander McQueen was watching from above. I can’t tell with what expression on his face though.
When I found out I was supposed to watch the show from a movie theatre adjacent to the actual show, I was disappointed. I thought it was the place where they seat the losers. I was wrong. In the ICA cinema, there was, perhaps, the coolest fashion crowd I’ve ever seen at a show.
Students of art and fashion under the age of 25 dressed carefully and with the specific intent of joining up to come here. Between afternoon gin and tonic, and outrageous looks that lie in hyperspace with respect to the boring debate on gender roles that is popular on social media. Able to stand out in the crowd, also thanks to an inimitable experience, Princess Julia acting as godmother. Paradoxically, the front row part was made up of only white journalists and ladies who wanted to tell us how much they appreciate Phoebe Philo’s work. In the end, I felt like a kind of initiate welcomed into the world of the cool kids, at least for the duration of the show. So, thanks to Fashion East for the allocation. Two designers presented in the classic fashion show format. For Chet Lo, a bathing, seaside-y, and somewhat hallucinogenic collection, all puffy and spongy. A little Barbie girl and a riot of joie de vivre. A notable desire for the pool and flip flops to the rhythm of a bizarre techno-calypso sound. Fabrics that become three-dimensional and pointed, and accessories that are sometimes normal and sometimes huge, all things that you want to touch and caress as during certain trips under the influence. Maximilian instead tells a world of clothes cut (wonderfully) with a knife, for very determined and sexy and very vicious villains. Mistresses and dominatrix women. Beautiful girls that are able to kill. Men who are also beautiful and fatal, capable of putting you in awe. And a cyber-erotic ending with a gorgeous dark videogame demon. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe after the party the night before I had a somewhat emotional hangover, but hearing the kids sat next to me cheering on every look for their friends and comrades moved me a bit. Luckily it was dark in the cinema, and no one saw me.
Instead of ‘We should all be feminists’, Goddard says that we should all be (baby) girls. And I totally agree. These oversized baby dresses worn indiscriminately by men and women is obviously a political statement. Yet, light-years ahead from the preponderant tone of the US ‘woke’ militancy.
The effect is both alienating and adorable. It is not clear if the girls, and especially the boys, wear those dresses with a clear revolutionary intent or if they are characters who live in an ethereal world governed by social and aesthetic rules far different from ours. Maybe they live in a childish paradise free of gender(s) and age. But, basically, it doesn’t matter understanding why they do it, it is clear that in those clothes they feel good and comfortable. And beautiful. It is also clear that those clothes have been chosen by them. This collection is not about looking for the little girl that lies within us, but about doing a little more of what we like without caring too much about rules, acting exactly as little girls do.
‘How would Carrie Bradshaw dress if, instead of New York, she lived in the dystopian world of Mad Max?’. If there was an über-cool 2000s metaverse, my high school classmates would have dressed exactly like in this KNWLS show.
Unfortunately, technology has not yet reached the point of allowing us to review our memories of teenage outfits… But, if there is desirable revisionism, then it is that of Charlotte Knowles and Alexandre Arsenault.
A literal ‘underground’ fashion show, which took place on level -3 of a Mayfair car park. KNWLS responds with creativity, coherence and a fascinating contempt for danger to a question that is already a symptom of a remarkable and sincere desire to tear apart the things we know—applying alternative realities to our everyday life.
There are earthy colours, handbags that look like the Fendi Baguette but worn like fashion weapons, sexy lace closures and leather. The spirit is that of a final battle for the survival of the species.
Nothing sad though… On the contrary, an exciting battle, like a big party where you show up ready for anything, well-dressed to light the city on fire.
The 2000s are also found in the more cowboy looks that bring a post-apocalyptic version of Madonna from the ‘Music’ period. There is no nostalgia and there is no praise for the icons of those past years, indeed, there is the precise intention to tear them apart, and imagine new ones, mixing the aesthetics into new forms. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: les grands-mères ont toujours tort.
A fun show with very precise and legible aesthetic references. This can be considered a very good overall result. However, there is a serious story behind it all: the femicide of Sarah Everard, and the consequent words of the Labour MP Jess Phillips, who declared: “Killed women are not vanishingly rare, killed women are common”.
The result is women who—in a kind of surreal drift—decide to react by arming themselves, as the title of the collection ‘Juliette has a gun’ points at.
Dresses that come from the most stereotypical cinematic representations of the Old West, with saloon girls, prostitutes who know how to take care of themselves and hints of grandiloquent Victorian rigour. Lace and long skirts, bare shoulders, garters, stockings, romantic prints and gloves made of transparent rouches tulle—which have been seen around a little too often this year, and cause a certain restlessness.
And then the accessories in the shape of a pistol or rifle case. And here perhaps is where the problem lies: what symbolic language are we trying to express? That of escapism? The surreal? The oneiric, or, are we dealing with a real problem here—given the clear references to tragic news events in the press kit, that includes the names and surnames of the victims… Are we giving a surreal answer to a problem that is completely real? Is she really proposing that women should use guns to defend themselves? Shouldn’t men be the ones to stop using violence and should start taking responsibility? Mixing news and abstraction is a difficult and risky exercise—an explosive mix to handle. Despite good intentions, sometimes it is wiser to take a step back; we would have had a fun show with beautiful references—without the shadows and screeches that gave a rougher touch to the story.
There is an unwritten rule amongst those who take part in fashion shows: when you see performers walk down the catwalk in a suit barefoot, the best thing to do is to get up (without drawing too much attention to yourself) and run away as quickly as possible.
Contemporary dance is obviously a more-than-respectable art, the problem is us. And myself in particular, who understands absolutely nothing about it.
For all I know, I can say that adding contemporary dancers to a fashion show should be made illegal. Period.
Designers should consider what they communicate with the choices they make when putting together their shows. Do they want to distract us? Do they believe that fashion does not have enough dignity to be considered cultured without invoking the goddess Terpsichore? Do they see contemporary dancing as simply a mere decorative element? These are all questions a designer should avoid being asked.
Saying that I have to admit some rational and neatly cut outfits did look very impressive…
Vivienne Westwood has a thing for pirates since basically forever. The first collection presented on a catwalk in 1981 was titled Pirates and since then became a fundamental example of postmodernism. It was also the show that created the look of Adam Ant and of a whole London club scene of the period (but that’s another story). The fashion show for spring summer ‘98 entitled, Tied to the mast was also inspired by pirates’ aesthetics and mythology. And it is precisely from there that this new collection takes its cues.
The decades change but the pirates remain, and if in the 80s they were rebels far from morality and the order of things, and in the 90s lustful and joyful decadent spirits, in the 2020s they become the ultimate bulwark against the collapse of the sheer overproduction of goods.
In their anarchic and autonomous micro-communities, world-aware and anti-capitalist, lucid and angry because in love with the only world we have, pirates respect the rule that Westwood has long decided to embrace ‘Buy less, choose well, make it last’.
And therefore between regenerated wool, re-use and upcycling, here, the point is producing fashion with what you have, and Westwood is now a master of this.
The inspirations come from her story and from the clothes of John Redfern, an English couturier of the 1800s, in a mix of unbridled, almost archaeological luxury and contemporary awareness.
Today, Westwood has a mission that more than with clothes, it has to do with a creative campaign on what the fashion system should be (in order not to collapse one day under its own weight). And anyone who intends to live in the present can only find themselves thinking about the same issues. That the grand old lady of English fashion does it with such enthusiasm, can only reconfirm her as a guiding light for those interested in understanding that fashion is about clothes only up to a certain point… But to truly understand it, you need to approach it in its three-dimensionality and in its being an economic, industrial and, thank God, human system.
That’s where sex had ended up! Well, actually, this is not sex because there is no attempt to seduce or anything really sexy in Nensi Dojaka first show. However, the 2021 winner of the LVMH Prize presented a collection in which the total awareness of the body and the declaration that this body is not afraid to be deployed, is a crucial factor. In the 90s, (from which a lot of Dojaka’s aesthetic inspiration derives: Belgians and Helmut Lang, Japanese geometric patterns, pyrotechnic corsetry), it was said that ‘strong women should scare men’.
But Dojaka’s women don’t give a damn about men or whoever glances towards them. It is not a position against, but one that goes far beyond it. And, in fact, they are intimidating; it is difficult to imagine speaking to them without shaking or without your armpits dripping with sweat. The more unreachable socio-cultural backgrounds are imagined, the more transparent or non-existent the garments are. Who are these women? Nuclear engineers, at the least. Hedge fund managers. Nanotechnology experts. Silicon unicorns. They exude a phenomenal and merciless evil and, therefore, naturally fascinate. Whoever is so sure of themselves must be magnetic. And it really has nothing to do with sex, if even myself, a thirty-year-old gay who has never doubted for even a second his homosexuality, came out of the show slightly aroused, dreaming of straight submissions and with the desire to get a little trampled. With the knowledge that, in any case, the only one who would enjoy it would be me.
I don’t think it was intended… It must have been the gorgeous garden just off Pall Mall where Bora Aksu’s SS22 show took place. Full of lush flowers and attended by your typical London fashion crowd; the type that never shy away from excess, and always welcome a bit of punk… But, the first thing that came to my mind when Aksu’s show started was the masterpiece that is the film St. Trinian’s.
An underrated gem from the now-so-distant-yet-so-beautiful year 2007—a year that captured so much of the spirit of the late noughties. Inspired by Ronald Searle’s graphic novels, St. Trinian’s tells a tale of an only girls high school where a bizarre mix of hippies and anarchists seemed to coexist. All with the help of a conniving and marijuana-lover headmaster, performed by an amazing Rupert Everett in drag. The cast also featured the best of a generation of British actresses and models: Talulah Riley, Tamsin Egerton, Paloma Faith, Lily Cole and Juno Temple, among others. Each look represented a character and those were all pervaded by a gothic but rebellious sense, in a balance between tradition, a certain Victorian gloom, the disfigurement of rules, rebel grimaces and an unbridled desire to have fun.
Elements that are also found in Aksus SS22, with clothes that seem to be made by rebellious teenagers who have been locked up in the house as a punishment, and have begun to play, making clothes with what they found scattered around. The flowers from the garden, the grandmother’s doilies, trimmings, old clothes found in wardrobes, rouches, pins, ribbons, scarves and old-fashioned preceptor-like shoes; halfway between the princess disguise and the scarring of tradition. After all, we have all been ‘grounded’ and locked up in the house for the past year and a half. There are those who have been lazing around and those who, like Aksu, have set to produce new versions of themselves, with a know-how that elevates adolescent vitalism towards a tailored quality.
If I had to choose a piece of clothing that perfectly represents middle school for those of my generation, I would have no doubts: the Champion nylon trousers with press buttons along the sides. We all had them and wore them practically every day, along with Nike sneakers and any old t-shirt.
One of the most frequent acts of oppression between males was carried out precisely in being able to open all the buttons together, leaving the victim in his underwear. In this Saul Nash show, there are no trousers with press buttons along the leg, but the mental and nostalgic space to which it refers is the same.Football uniforms, t-shirts, polo shirts, nylon tracksuits, everything recalls that period of early adolescence made of knowledge of oneself and of one’s body, in both competitive and sexual form, embarrassments, falling in love, hormones and sweat.Friendships cemented in the locker rooms of the gym or the parish after exhausting football matches between incomprehensible and uncontrollable excitements. After all, that is the age in which you discover what you want, and if you are still shy about achieving it in its entirety, then you focus on aspects of that desire. There is a level of nostalgia and romantic kink in this show, for the friends we loved without knowing it, for our innocence, for those sweaty t-shirts in which we spent more time than we should.