Edward Meadham is a true London eccentric. He is part of a long lineage of brilliant characters whose combination of talent, truth, vision and style make the capital city a more interesting place. He can appear sardonic and spilling with vitriol, but in truth, to speak with Edward is to be guaranteed an intelligent and provocative conversation -- in another lifetime you can imagine him holding court and sipping tea with Quentin Crisp while debating the pros and cons of henna hair dye, or contemplating costumes with Derek Jarman, dancing with Michael Clark, drinking gin in the Colony Rooms with Francis Bacon or whispering in the ear of Trojan whilst dancing in Taboo; he is quite the living work of art.
As part of Meadham Kirchhoff, Edward designed the most sensational shows that London had seen since the heady days of early McQueen or John Galliano. They championed glamour and squalor, diamonds and dirt, Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Manson, the noble and ignoble, royalty and riot grrrls and put these seemingly disparate reference points through an exacting and warped lense that made for truly spellbinding fashions. Against all odds it brought back the immersive catwalk presentation to London, where a show would last for 2 minutes one season in a haze of balloons and dancing girls, then next season you would be part of the presentation, doused in heady Penhaligons perfume and spitting glitter. Theirs was a place where dreams came true.
Then sadly they split up. The final collection REJECT EVERYTHING hit the runway in October 2015 and featured a casting call for the wonderful and warped to stand centerstage in a celebration of originality, authenticity and defiance. The day after the show, Edward heard for the very first time the company was being forced into insolvency. This was fashion as pure, uncompromised fantasy and their much lamented impact can still be felt rippling through every major fashion city today. Then Ed became ill. Now, thankfully, Ed is better. He is happy, in love and making exciting clothes again. Hurrah for that!
We meet outside a backstreet coffee bar in Dalston to discuss his new design venture Blue Roses. As I sit outside, Edward catwalks into view. A vision before me, he turns heads with his brilliantly put together outfit. Wearing new season Blue Roses black and yellow bumblebee stiletto boots, lurex knee high socks, Meadham Kirchhoff short shorts and a gingham shirt buttoned tight to the neck, up top he looks like a naughty school-boy and from the waist down like a slutty 6th form school girl. Pearl necklaces and pendants are strung about his neck whilst pearl droppers and glittery orbs dangle from his lobes, he clutches a furry Prada clutch in the shape of a cat's face complete with whiskers and diamond eyes and a vintage Chanel boucle jacket keeps everything immaculate and superbly stately. He sits down and manages to scowl at a gaggle of passing school children, "I fluctuate between loving and hating kids, that was a hate."
Blue Roses is a reference to Tennessee Williams iconic play The Glass Menagerie, (where a mispronunciation of pleurosis to blue roses turns a defect into an asset, something special rather than debilitating), his first solo collection, Blue Roses, consisted of hoodies, tees, socks, cuffs and collars, embellished with his idiosyncratic visual blend of granny and grunge and sold out in an instant. The second drop sees him pushing things further, edging closer towards his eventual goal. "People called the last one a collection", he states. "It's not. It's T-shirts, you can't call T-shirts a collection, especially after how I used to make collections."
A design genius, Ed is renowned for his impressive precision with a pattern, where he can take a piece of paper and a table and whip up the most mind blowingly beautiful dress you have ever seen, from scratch, with no template. Self taught through necessity during his early days as a designer, he remembers learning the skill set. "I don't use a standard block, but I put it down on the paper so I have an indication for my brain as to where the shoulder or the hip should fall. Some of the patterns I created in the past were insane, most people would see them as a slightly vintage looking dress, but half the time they are made out of four rectangles or seven circles, with holes cut out, stitching one to the other in a certain way so it became this incredible dress." The first item he made for the new drop, is Blue Roses' first ever dress, named Falabella, and comes emblazoned with a proud heart upon the chest plate and stands rather regally, like Joan of Arc on a night on the tiles, or a corseted and curious Care Bear.
With the introduction of shoes, bags, corsetry, shirting, dresses and skirts, there is now a broader selection to cater for the Meadham Kirchhoff fanbase, who often admired the clothes but could never afford such undeniable expense. A self confessed shopaholic with an extravagant penchant for shoes, Edward confesses this brought forth his need to create again. "If I had money, I would always want to buy Miu Miu." He stares, misty eyed. "I sit and fantasise about shopping, but there's nothing in the world to buy, even if I could." Looking to historical paintings from the 17th and 18th century alongside subversive designers including Vivienne Westwood, Blue Roses is a peer into Edward's brilliantly perverse world, where Blanche Dubois and Siouxsie Sioux dine out for lunch with Lydia and where gender binaries don't exist. "I have never seen clothes as gendered", says Ed. "Having said that, I don't like boys, but I am happy if they want to wear my clothes."
In 2017, where do you find truth and sincerity?
In my boyfriend, Ian.
Did you ever want to pursue an alternative career? If so, what?
From childhood to age 23 all I ever wanted was to make dresses and to be a designer. Then I became one and all I wanted to do was anything but (I'm half joking). There have been times when I desperately wanted to find a different career but making clothes and imagery is all I know. I do lots of things, but nothing very well -- nowadays I am very interested in making pictures. I'm not by any stretch of the imagination good at it (yet). But it is something I'm really interested in/enjoy. It is more immediately gratifying than making clothes, which is a slow and often boring process. I like to be able to make and see what is in my head become real and to have control over a frame.
Do you believe in God?
I hate god. I hate religion. I hate religious people. The only thing my father ever said to me that ever made any sense at all was 'religion is based on fear and ignorance'.
If I was coming for dinner, what would you cook?
Oh god I love cooking but it depends on the day. Cooking is instinctive; I don't plan it.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Courtney [Love] told me when I first met her 'You've got to have tenacity son'. Most of the advice I have been given has been totally useless.
What is your favourite item of clothing you have ever made?
My favourite item was the final dress in the collection Suddenly Last Summer, from spring/summer 10. A pleated yellow chiffon dress with black stitched pin tucks and cutwork. She was called Laytana. I miss that dress
If you could make your ultimate pop star from top to toe, how would they look/dress/sing/dance?
The size of Kylie. The determination of Madonna. Cher's eyelids. Bowies talent. Courtney's voice/clothes (1990-1994).
Do you think we will ever return to fashion as pure escapism?
I feel like we are in an age where banal mediocrity is prized above all else. That which seems the most adored and hyped things in fashion are just boring mirror images of what you can see or find on any street anywhere. I believe that there is a place for that and everything else on every level. It just feels like a homogenisation. So. Yes. I would absolutely love to see some beauty again. No. More. Fucking. Hoodies. (And yes I was asked to make some hoodies and no I don't intend to keep doing them).
Who are your favourite contemporary fashion photographers?
Urm. I always loved David Sims, especially in the 90s. My favourite photographers aren't so much fashion photographers or contemporary. I love Cindy Sherman, Serge Lutens, Erwin Blumenfeld, Pierre et Gilles, Guy Bourdin. But now I don't know. I don't look at magazines, everything I see looks like nothing. I guess fashion now to me looks literally like nothing. I have no interest in realism.
Who are your favourite contemporary fashion designers?
I've always loved Chanel but probably more the Chanel in my mind, which is how I want to see it more than the actual reality. Dilara Findikoglu is really good. I have a kind of crush on her at the moment. I wish I was that hot girl with those perfect snow white tits and I think she is really talented. I see a lot of passion and dedication in what she does, which I don't recognise much elsewhere at present. Fashion depresses me a lot nowadays, so I don't really look at it. I get the highlights on instagram and if anything intrigues me I'll have a proper look, but that is veeerrrryyyyy rare.
Can fashion be a vehicle for change?
Yes of course. Fashion is a part of our culture and a reflection of it, probably though the change is more effective in the hands (or on the bodies) of the individual, rather than the brands.
Do you see yourself bringing politics into your current work?
I have been political. Now I'm so sick of politics I feel there is so much empty conversation and ink wasted on literally pointless politics. I mean, obviously just existing in this day and age is political. But I grew up just post riot grrrl and learned my politics from/through that but the generations of girls that came after have become so over politicised that it is like the human centipede of politics. All this fighting over who is more righteous ever endlessly re-categorising and fighting against anyone who fits outside of these ever shrinking elitist categories. The ever changing pronouns, little (ostensibly) straight kids who insist that they are queer. I like the word queer and I feel like I just want no part of it at the moment, I feel like the world should hold its tongue and actually get on, represent themselves individually to their highest integrity. That for me is where my interest in politics is now.
Which is more important, the art or the commerce?
I don't see why they have to always be so separate. Art costs money. So, I dunno. There's a certain breed of wanker who believe that true art only exists if it is insanely unpopular and unprofitable. Money shouldn't be something to shun or be ashamed of. I wish I had some. I would love to be rich, yet so far that alludes me. I don't know how to answer that question.
What record do you most listen to?
Live Through This by Hole is my perennial favourite. Everything for me - my whole life/aesthetic would have been nothing without it. Back To Black by Amy Winehouse, the only record made post 1995 that I really loved. Spanking Machine by Babes in Toyland, when I was (supposed to be) doing my GCSE exams. The exam papers we left empty but my desk was covered in Spanking Machine lyrics. Honeymoon in Red by Lydia Lunch.
What was the last book you read and your favourite book of all time?
The last book(s) I read were all of the JT Leroy books in succession. They became a consumptive obsession JT/Laura's words were so beautiful and I found myself relating so intensely to this character with whom I share absolutely no common experience, but which felt so true. An unlived truth. My favourite book, well there are two and technically they are plays, The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire have had huge effects on me since I was 15.
Finally. When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I am at home with Ian, Trojan and the kitties. Baking, and well, shopping made me pretty happy but it's so many years since I have done that it seems a distant memory.
Text Ben Reardon