Lou Dalton’s collection has been the highlight of this weekend. With all the elegance and ease of a hugely competent designer, she struck the delicate balance between a sense of fun, vibrancy, and youth, mixed with a high-powered understanding of fabric, form and texture. The defining motif of the collection was the abstraction of the Shropshire landscape, captured by John Booth in startling clarity. Set off against crisp white and indigo denim, the landscapes sing out with organic vitality. Use of heavily textured knitwear in shades of rust, mustard, navy and slate grey conveyed the true colours of Booth’s topographic inspiration. The progression from one end of the row of models, where the ensemble was mostly white, to the final outfits, comprised entirely on the Booth print created the image of an artist’s journey, reaching the point of being indistinguishable from his creation.
Making my way across London’s most concentrated shopping district, towards Covent Garden for the YMC presentation felt like a pilgrimage. Several streets away from the site itself, one could hear the pulsating throb of the music and see the flow of people heading towards its source. The collection itself is described in the press release as having its roots in Bauhaus architecture and Dadaism, which is apparent in the utilitarianism of the clothing, with structural pinafores, woollen factory coats, box pleats, and a palette of muted colours: black, grey, olive, and camel. The collection was markedly unsexed and socially ambiguous. My first impression, prior to reading the press release, was a scene of an alternative European history, where communism had spread to Paris (due to the use of Breton tops and berets). The inter-sex homogeneity of the garments gave the wearers an air of anonymity and equality. The models formed a unit, rather than an individual expression, which permeated the Lou Dalton show.
It was by a sheer stroke of luck that I attended the YMC and Tourne de Transmission presentations consecutively, but the progression from one to the other followed a symbolic trajectory of social decay. From the ultimate collapse of society, visually established by YMC, emerged the post-apocalyptic scene I was now confronted with. Individuality had returned in each look, but with an undeniable sense of deterioration, loss, and destruction, especially in the use of dust-scattered coats and scarves wrapped over the mouth, raw edged, drop crotch, sexless trousers, and white, pathologist-influenced over-clothes. Appropriately, therefore, Creative Director Graeme Gaughan identified the “isolation of youth” current, the division of ideals and the loss of cultural icons as the stimulus for this aesthetic; the sense of loss and frustration was painfully palpable.
Edward Crutchley could not have been more different from the path taken by YMC and Tourne de Transmission. Inspired by late Renaissance portraiture, the collection was unapologetically opulent, with many menswear shows kept under a banner of constrained minimalism. The palette was plush, warm, and earthy, which added to the sense of luxury. While items such as the kicked briefs, thigh-high stockings and velvet skater skirts are unlikely to be a commercial success, they were completely coherent in the context of the collection. Considering the portrayal of young men and boys in Renaissance art – highly feminine, delicate, and refined – the blurring of sartorial gender boundaries served to strengthen the aesthetic provenance of the collection.
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Words: Flora Walsh
Copy edited by Elena Stanciu