Apologies for the delay in getting the next episode of the podcast out, I have been running back and forth to hospital over the past few weeks getting adjusted to a new course of treatment and it has really been giving me a kicking. I am hopeful that things will smooth out soon however, so look out for the podcast - notes are done, I just need to sit down to record and edit!
Given that the men's collections are now over, I thought it might be interesting to look at some of my personal highlights starting with London. Regular readers will no doubt know of my ambivalence towards London Fashion Week, and as much as I think that the majority of the collections are a thorough waste of time, there are usually a few jewels that really are worth celebrating. Right off the bat I might as well say that I was not overly excited by Craig Green this season, it seemed almost lazy. As much as I enjoyed the colour work, I do not think that there was much else new going for the collection, and to be honest it felt almost like a pre-collection you would see in the showroom. That is actually close to how I felt about Aitor Throup's collection, were it not for the amazing theatricality of the show. The puppetry was absolutely spectacular, and I really am impressed by the work that went into getting them made and move so well - the puppeteers did an incredible job for the catwalk. I would highly recommend you watch a video of the show here on YouTube if you get the chance. However I must say that although the catwalk show was undeniably great, the clothes themselves were a little bit of a let down. I guess we might just have to wait for next season or the season after, but part of me was hoping for some newer ideas.
My personal highlight for London Fashion Week was most definitely Kiko Kostadinov's collection. It spoke elegantly to me of the London I know and grew up in. I have never felt quite comfortable with the sportswear aesthetic promoted by the likes of Nasir Mazhar or Cottweiler, because while it is very much based on the type of clothing I grew up surrounded by, that source material never really had a romantic dimension for us - it was our reality. I grew up surrounded by snapback caps, tracksuits and Air Max 95s. I grew up surrounded by colourful weaves, intricate fake nails and skyscraper heels. It is an aesthetic world I know intimately, it is one that I appreciate fully, and one that I understand better than most. But it is not one that I have ever felt the need to seek out as high fashion. If I want to wear it, I would rather go with the real thing. I can rock it with greater authenticity when using the original pieces and styling that I know, rather than some sanitised version made for the fashion audience.
But there is another style I remember. One that was far more functional and practical, but no less codified with individual quirks and personal styling choices. The uniforms of the adult world and the uniforms of the other kids' parents as they came to pick them up from school. I remember looking at the uniforms of bus drivers, builders, painters, even policemen, and being utterly fascinated. Work wear and uniforms have always held importance for me, because not only did I wear school uniform throughout my childhood, but I remember looking up to adults in uniform - there they were, working hard, taking pride in their work, neat and orderly. Those uniforms meant adulthood to me just as much as owning a car or having a wallet with credit cards in it. There was a secure sense of identity, that I think as a child is always attractive. So I suppose the collection evokes some sense of childhood nostalgia for me that is almost aspirational in quality, and for that reason I think I am drawn to it far more than I am to the London sportswear crowd of designers.
And given the political climate in the UK as it currently is, what with the anxiety and uncertainty of Brexit crushing down on us, I think that this collection takes on an even greater resonance. Kiko described his man as "in his mid or late 20s and working and has a Belgian or French sensibility. These clothes help him dress functionally for the city." With the status of Europeans working in London (and the UK in general) under scrutiny as Britain seeks to enjoy the fruits of the single market unashamedly without free movement, there is something celebratory to such a cosmopolitan inspiration that feels so thoroughly London. The city I know is multicultural and inviting to anyone and everyone, and seeing that engaged with alongside such clean workwear uniforms was a joy. I really am looking forward to trying out the Ventile suiting once it hits Dover Street Market. Considering this was Kiko's first collection after his MA show, I am excited to see what is to come - this collection was a home run as far as I am concerned.
I often think of fashion as a curious embodiment of mindfulness, in that it is a purely present-focused discipline. It is by definition creating something of the moment by building upon what went before (from the beginning of time until what came just before the immediate past, which is by now passé). The past is a repository for inspiration, with the designer often picking references from a diverse array of periods and locations to form a historical and cultural pastiche framed and presented for the current moment. Everything that came before is fair game to be inspired by, because all that matters is the here and now. The present moment is everything. The past is used as a vehicle to inspire the present, and by extension, the designer hopes to inspire the future as well. As such fashion has always had an odd relationship with time, seeking to exist in the moment, whilst framing itself against a past that exists purely as a memory to be reinterpreted for the present.
I find it interesting to see so many young designers now, who grew up in the '90s, now referencing that decade for their collections. Such is the flow of fashion, that as each generation comes of age, there is an inevitable revival of the decade of their formative years, albeit one thoroughly coloured by the tint of nostalgia and memory. History in general is thought of and written about in defined periods, with icons and iconography of design, or music, or literature, becoming shorthand for each period, whether or not they were actually all that widespread or not. Whether it be miniskirts, mods, flairs, flappers, Cubism or Constructivism, the words and images can conjure up ideas that have come to represent quite a specific time period in our collective memory. Think of any film you have seen set in the past, and they only really need a few select pieces to situate the audience. Fashion is obviously a great visual shorthand for this periodisation in film, because by now audiences have become accustomed to thinking about periods of the past as having been dressed in quite a recognisable, and usually very specific, manner.
And yet for the most parts, we usually get the period rather wrong, or inflate the influence of something we now think of as iconic far beyond anything that existed at the time. That is simply the way our memory works, both on an individual basis and a collective basis - we build icons and stereotypes and use them to convey the entirety of what was obviously a period just as complex as our own. Think back to our childhoods and we are met with a collection of memories that for the most parts ignore the mundane everyday activities that made up the most of that time. Not to mention the continual flux of minor trends in fashion or music or film. But we remember icons, we remember that favourite television show, we remember that favourite candy, we remember that holiday, we remember the smell of that perfume. There is a bricolage of sensory information that we can think back to in order to inspire us. The past existed, but we all experienced it in our own ways, and we all have different memories of it. They are all as true as each other, but there are usually connective threads where we are able to see trends and discern what was popular at the time. As such I always find it interesting to see how fashion treats the past, because it can often look towards a far more recent past than other art forms, and thus is able to find those icons and iconography that so strongly reference our nostalgia and memory.
I grew up in the '90s, but had no understanding of the fashion at that time (I knew Naomi Campbell was from around the corner, and remember her coming to my school once, but did not really know what a supermodel was then, so thought nothing of it). So I am always interested in looking back at '90s collections and comparing them to my memories of the decade. In much the same way I find it interesting to look at current collections that are labelled as '90s inspired, and then look at actual fashion shows from the period. Of course the two rarely align all that much, because current collections inspired by the '90s will be done so from the vantage point of nostalgia and memory, referencing the period at large rather than fashion shows at the time. Even so, I often find myself looking back at old collections and finding myself taken by just how relevant and present they still seem. Take for example the Helmut Lang collection above from Spring/Summer 1998. I have actually been on the hunt for one of the padded "bulletproof" vests from this collection for some time now, and could easily see myself wearing most of this collection right here and now for Spring/Summer 2016. I sometimes find myself wondering what collections from right now I will find myself looking back to in the years to come and feel the same way about. I guess time will tell.
As the blog enters its eighth year I thought it would be nice to have a slightly more relaxed space in which to talk about fashion and cover a range of topics that I might not otherwise get to cover in writing on the blog. So please allow me to introduce the first episode of a podcast project I have decided to call Talking To Myself. I thought a podcast would be a fun way of expanding the blog, and the format is such that you can listen in any place and at any time. I think that I would like to keep these episodes to under half an hour, just so that it remains focused and you can pick up and play when you have the time. While the first few episodes will be a solo affair, hence the name, I would love to be able to invite guests to collaborate in the future, so if any of you want to get involved and have a fun chat, please do let me know.
I hope you enjoy the first episode, and please do share it if you do!