james long spring/summer 16
The individual style of Brighton locals, the Royal Pavilion and clubbers spilling out onto the beach inspired a patchwork collection of colourful denim, frilly shirts and paisley jackets.
Beautiful and bit wonky. It's a description that applies to James Long's various spring/summer 16 references: Brighton Pavilion and it's not-quite-right exotica, the unwittingly stylish locals who scatter across the Pavilion grounds on a sunny day and the train-loads from London who spill out of the clubs and onto the beach as the sun is rising.
Rejecting the over-styled and self-conscious fashion tribes of the international fashion capitals, Long says he was struck by the style of people in Brighton who aren't "doing a look" and have that mercurial thrown-togetherness that it is impossible to derive style 'rules' from. "Those are the people who really inspire me, who I think have real true style," Long says, explaining that, "The capitals are so saturated, there's so much photography on style; to go to somewhere like Brighton, it was just completely free and I got excited again by how people were putting clothes together. So I wanted to hopefully relay that in my collection."
And he has. There are so many ideas leaping between the printed jersey and painted denim, the undone frilly dress shirts (a nod to moodboard muse Brett Anderson from Suede) and the paisley bomber and puffa jackets. Raw hem denim running shorts are bleached in a chopped-up check pattern and their drawstring waist is tied with a wide black ribbon; they're paired with a purple tie-dyed denim shirt and paisley dinner jacket, or a ruffle-front shirt and striped knit robe. Jeans are cut high on the ankle and are tie-dyed, patchworked in different washes or bleached and beautifully watercolour-painted by hand. Mirroring previous seasons, oversized sweatshirts are unzipped from the neck, over the shoulder and down the arm, folding open at the front. Colourful striped and patterned skinny knits are reminiscent of Kansai Yamamoto's bodysuits for David Bowie and knitwear with loose, trailing threads was woven with colours from drawings of the Brighton Pavilion by James Davidson, a serial James Long collaborator.
If the prints look a little hard to place, then Long has succeeded in his puckish desire to bemuse: "the paisley and the Chinese baroque - I wanted you to not know what that was really. Not to patronise, but I didn't want it to be like 'oh, that's a Chinese… whatever', because it's just an imagination of how China was, or how India was, so it was kind of just me imagining how things were." Long is taking his lead from the architect and interior designers of the Brighton Pavilion, who - under commission by the decadent, delinquent Prince Regent - designed the outside like a Mughal palace and the interior like a Chinese one. "They hadn't been to these places," Long explains, "so it was an imagination of what those places were like; all of the references were chopped up, confused, they weren't actually correct."
The mixed decadence of the Palace became even more beautiful and twisted when it was squatted for 10 years during the 80s and 90s, but Long tells me it wasn't the squatters so much as, "the idea of all the craziness and the ruins" and the amusing fact that even in the Prince Regent's day, the building was looked at with disdain by the authorities (Queen Victoria, that is). Also, James tells me backstage, "that was the era that I was going out, going to the beach after going to a club; I remember putting on a robe on top of my clubbing outfit, you know, that feeling of thinking you're blending in, and you're not at all." The collection certainly has that blissed-out vibe, of sitting outside in the early morning with your mates, feeling and looking slightly sideways, in a mash-up of clothes from lovers and friends. It's a happy collection I suggest and James agrees, "Yeah, I guess it is," he says beaming, "summer's a fun time!".
Text Charlotte Gush