fashion east: mythical club creatures, a toxic paradise and sculptural workwear corsetry
Lulu Kennedy’s Fashion East incubator presents the debut of Matty Bovan, the catwalk return of A.V. Robertson and Richard Malone, and Mimi Wade’s latest B Movie blockbuster.
All eyes were on Matty Bovan at this season's Fashion East. The CSM trained designer, who works out of a shed in the garden at his parents house in York, has never presented a full collection at London Fashion Week before, but you will have seen him around: making metal and clay charms for Charles Jeffrey's latest MAN show, and creating alternative beauty looks for i-D.
For his runway debut, he elevated his fantastical everyday style into a 'wardrobe' collection of full looks. Inspired by "British folklore and mythology: goblins, gargoyles and mythical creatures," as well as "downtown New York: Maripol, Nina Hagen," the collection is a riot of colour, texture and embellishment. Diamanté mesh bandeau tops in stripes of pink, blue silver and gold are worn with matching armlets or over leg of mutton sleeved, screen printed mini dresses, often layered again over matching skinny trousers. A long pink sports mesh gown is overlaid with a net of knotted diamanté mesh strips, and almost all looks are worn over neon fishnets and with trinket laden, hand painted Coach bags, Tatty Devine jewellery and colourful clay swirl broaches by Matty's mum Plum.
A.V. Robertson proved that you don't need Marc Jacobs sitting front row and a line up of new supers (as she had last season) to make catwalk impact. With the focus fully on the clothes, this season she took a turn for the toxic. Inspired as ever by her vivid dreams, Amie welcomes us in to "a contaminated paradise - a place that was toxic and all the plants started growing neon and hazardous," mixed with references from 50s horror films like Day of the Triffids and Forbidden Planet.
The optimistic botanical embellishments of her earlier collections have transformed to a radioactive green, toxic purple and alarming orange; glittering with Swarovski crystals, they are embroidered on draped silk blouses and mesh tops, and stand out against dark elegant jackets in a slightly stiff linen, worn with matching trousers or a skirt with double zip detail to the front and low slung belts around the hips.
Richard Malone returned again to a consideration of blue collar workwear. "I don't ever stray too far away where I'm from, because I think it's always updating - that way of dress," the Irish designer told i-D backstage. "With Brexit and tuition fee going up," he continues, "Those uniforms are becoming marginalised more in London, or they're being integrated into wardrobes in more of an appropriative kind of way, as opposed to paying respects". Unlike hipsters pinching a worker's jacket pattern, Malone traces the history of fabrics used in uniforms - like those worn by hospital cleaners - and mixes them with 18th century corsetry or stay-making to "really pay them a kind of homage and respect as [things of] equal value in our histories". "We always think of corsets and huge bustles, but also things like smocks are just as important, and they're totally overlooked," he explains, adding "So I think it's important to actually look at them".
On the catwalk, recycled acrylic in blue and yellow stripe is fashioned into sporty cut-away tops, mini dresses, cycling shorts and flared trousers. A white-accented, bright orange tab-strapped racer top with soft corsetry details worn with matching high-waisted trousers is a highlight, but the standout pieces are the swirling creations of fabric art which cling the torsos with no fixtures at all. "They're like little sculptures that form around the body," Malone comments. "I start with a huge swirly drawing - I sketch quite large, probably like 15 ft squared. Sometimes I paint them, sometimes I cut into them. I always build it around a form, I don't ever design flat or illustrate and then make from that. I always design on a real body, and that's how I make them work - keep trying them on and making sure they're functional. They clip onto the body, there's no closing, and they are backless."
For a second season, ahead of the catwalk show, Fashion East hosted a static presentation by the British American designer Mimi Wade. Inspired again by her B Movie star grandmother, this time it was the interior of her Fountain Avenue, Hollywood home in the spotlight: it's walls covered top to bottom with movie posters, upholstery in pale pick satin and dusty dog figures covering every surface. There's leopard print, cow print, cartoon printed denim and an underwater monster battle scene on an orange lace accented shift. The B Movie style slogan 'Infernal Beauté' is printed in ombre red to yellow on a pink strappy dress with black lace, and a warning 'Suggested for mature audiences' from a Barbarella film poster is emblazoned across the chest of a cherry print pink organza dress with a raw hem, square frilly neckline and puffy shoulders.
"Granny's fridge is covered in pictures of all the animals that she's ever had that died so we immortalised them behind crystals [in the jewellery]," Mimi tells i-D backstage. Aside from the kitch, Mimi also took inspiration from her grandmother's antics. "Basically, my granny puts aggressive notes up around her house to this woman who she thinks is taking her things, she explains. "They say things like 'Get a life', but she puts them up with like bunny rabbit stickers and floral stickers. It's a really aggressive message but surrounded by cuteness. Even though it's quite sad, I see the humour in it" — in an homage, on a floral bustier, there's a printed postcard that reads 'Glad you're not here!'.
Text Charlotte Gush
Catwalk Photography Mitchell Sams
Presentation photography Chris Yates