edward meadham on the politics of london fashion

When Meadham Kirchoff suffered insolvency in 2015, Edward Meadham hit one of the roughest periods of his life. But with Blue Roses, his new label, life is looking rosier for the designer. Here, he reflects on the London fashion scene that hailed and...

by Edward Meadham
|
03 May 2017, 2:06pm

"I was nervous to begin Blue Roses last year. I wondered if I still had anything to say in the time that passed since Meadham Kirchhoff ended in 2015. So much of my language had been borrowed and filtered through the echelons of the fashion weeks, it seemed not to belong to me anymore. I was scared to appear derivative of something, which to me feels derivative of me, but I had to get over the fear. Whatever makes me me cannot be taken away by anyone else. Nothing new has ever been done before and nothing new will ever be done again. I have always felt unconnected to the fashion industry. I liked to feel like I existed aside from that meat grinder. The last Meadham Kirchhoff collection, Reject Everything from spring/summer 15, was an overtly angry political statement on society and its lack of gender equality. Like so many of my collections, it left the audience brittle and bemused. Now that sort of thing is quite ordinary. I was really angry then — an exhausted, miserable nervous wreck. Internally and externally, the label was fraught on many unsettling personal levels. I hid from the truth, but physically and emotionally I was in tatters. The day after Reject Everything, I learned Meadham Kirchhoff was being forced into insolvency by a third party. A downward spiral of confusion and uncertainty followed.

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Through April 2015, I was hospitalized with pneumonia that turned into sepsis and put in an induced coma. When I came to, I couldn't walk or talk properly. I hallucinated. When I regained full cognitive consciousness, I discovered my archive and entire studio had been seized and sold by our walking skid mark of a landlord, who was, I think, literally the only person who wasn't owed any money by the label. I found myself in a weird void where everything I had ever done and knew was gone. I lost, along with my confidence, whatever talent I had had and became an odd-job person. Having been so used to total dictatorship of my all-encompassing vision, dealing with someone else's ideas and taste-levels was a rather frustrating lesson in humility. I tried to entice London houses I admired and felt I could bring something to until they ignored me. It felt clear there was no place for me in fashion. Instead, I began to take photographs. Now, working on the second season of Blue Roses, I am in a rare and privileged position where I work with one store — Dover Street Market — which finances production to fulfil its orders. I'm making four tiny collections this year. I don't have to deal with the cycles of fashion weeks and seasons, with dozens of demanding retail buyers and their impossible delivery schedules. I am not affected by any of the rules of the fashion world. I am free from all of that. I am extremely lucky.

At Meadham Kirchhoff, a lot of my work was politicized and confrontational. As an aggressively opinionated person, I wanted to convey my messages in a time when fashion and feminism were supposed to be averse — when fashion and politics had not been friends since the 80s. Now, we live in an increasingly conservative political climate, but I feel it's important to remember that equality has never existed. Marginalized people have always lived this struggle to survive and have voices in societies that hate them. This middle-class mass hysteria that has become temporarily trendy is not helpful. The best way to be political is to continue to exist on one's own terms and values, in spite of the culture that may oppose them. Refusing to assimilate will gradually educate the culture that says you can't. 

Read: Edward Meadham launches Blue Roses at Dover Street Market.

My approach to Blue Roses is entirely different than Meadham Kirchhoff. In an indulgence of my own creative capabilities, I wanted to make something that was important not to only to me, but pompously, to the advancement of fashion history. Those shows were overblown, comprised of hundreds of pieces and orchestrated to fill the audience with emotion. Blue Roses is a retail situation, its collections tiny fractions of what I used to make, without show environments in which to cast their spells. Despite perception, I always concentrated on making good product, but I can't pretend that the show didn't come first.

At Meadham Kirchhoff, I tried to attain a 30s haute couture craftsmanship, which made it unattainably expensive. With Blue Roses, I am working hard to make beautiful and affordable pieces that have some grounding in the practicality of modern existence. I firmly believe that commerciality is a matter of affordability, not boredom. Blue Roses has resuscitated me. It has taught me everything and it has been a steep learning curve. I did Meadham Kirchhoff for thirteen years with no clue about what went on from a business or sales point of view. I am learning now how to source fabrics and factories, deal with numbers, and organize deliveries. Adrian Joffe, the President of Dover Street Market, is gentle and respectful. I am reassured and humbled to feel his belief in me. When I started designing all those years ago, there were less "young" designers in fashion. So many generations of designers have emerged since 2003, but none of my contemporaries from that time still show their collections. There will always be another generation of voices, who need to be seen and heard, but I worry about the false promise of the fleeting attention some of these kids get. London: I love it and hate it. I couldn't live anywhere else. There is a freedom here that doesn't exist anywhere else, intrinsic subcultures, and Central Saint Martins — all of which still make London the center for emerging fashion.

If there has been creative decline since I started out over a decade ago, I don't think it's specific to London or the gentrification of this city. Now there is probably going to be more going on than there was ten years ago. Perhaps just more underground and less on our runways. I fucking hated Boombox and Nag Nag Nag, anyway. Radio Egypt and The Cock were fun, but Boombox was never what I read about it. Nobody looked good. Obviously I'm an old hermit — I went to Vogue Fabrics once and stayed ten minutes — but I do think there are way cooler kids and freaks now than there were back then. I think they all hate me, though. I'm into what's happening, but I don't need to be around it. I think Rottingdean Bazaar has a real charming wit and Dilara Findikoglu has something really great. And LOVERBOY — what those boys do is probably the only thing worth looking at now in London. I like how Charles Jeffrey gathers his band of freaks, and that it's about a physical event as well as clothes and shows. His demeanour is rather enviable and will ensure he's around and fine long after LOVERBOY. I hope my messy, painful experiences will not be the same as theirs."

Read: Take a look inside The Creativity Issue for more fun, youthful, iconoclastic and crazy designers, fashions, musicians, artists and muses.

Credits


Text Edward Meadham
Photography Tim Walker
Grooming Tara Hickman using M.A.C Pro. Edward wears jumper, collar and cuff Blue Roses by Edward Meadham. Pant Expectations Soho. Bag model's own. Shoes archive Meadham Kirchoff. 

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