Keep dancing till the world ends was Andreas Kronthaler's message to the kids at Vivienne Westwood on Monday--a sentiment echoed at Craig Green and Theo Adams' Choreomania.
On a quiet Monday night in east London, the city's emerging fashion scene came together in a celebration of the spring/summer 18 men's shows they'd just completed. David Waddington and Pablo Flack served grilled cheese sandwiches at Hoi Polloi, Mandi Lennard played sprechteilmeister, and Theo Adams directed his troupe of flamboyant performers in a magnificent stage show with fabulous costumes by Ed Marler. Around the tables, you could see London's famous fashion faces lighting up: Charles Jeffrey, Craig Green, Edie Campbell, Stephen Jones, Edward Meadham, Molly Goddard, Tim Walker, Sarah Mower. Everyone was there, not for the air-kissing and networking but for London's unparalleled fashion community. To the outside industry, it could seem like a circus, but in this city there's no such thing as mindless fun. Choreomania, as the evening was called, was a manifesto to fashion, to London and to its outside world. A familiar one, perhaps, but as important as ever: in this city, in this pocket of the industry, great fashion happens because creatives stand together, support each other, and retain an undying sense of optimism--even if they embrace the gloom, too.
Earlier on the last day of London men's shows, a svelte Craig Green showed one of his best collections to date. Using a technique he described as "feeding strings through tunnels" of fabric, he made garments resemble cardboard painted in tribal patterns. You couldn't place what country or culture the motifs belonged to, and that was the point. The show notes spoke of nomads and any Londoner could relate. We all come to this city looking for some sort of personal paradise, and once we settle here we never stop moving around town in search for the same. "I was talking to someone about paradise and they said, 'I think paradise is just an aesthetic.' But we don't all have the same idea of paradise," Green said backstage. "We don't all think of a palm tree and a beach. I never thought of it like that, so that's when the darkness came." He was referring to the blacked out warehouse venue, the hooded cloaks covering models' eyes, and the Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack. "The more we looked into it, the darker it got. Because there's too much paradise," he said (and laughed). You could easily find a Brexit or election angle in Green's sombre nomads, but it would be a shame to spoil the collection with associations that tedious.
He debuted a new silhouette: stringy, flouncy tops confined to skinny proportions as if by harnesses. Green called them 'skater tops'. "They're embroidered corsets. They were made big for a larger person and then cinched in. That's why they have all the excess fabric. It was the idea of wrapping and restricting the body," he explained with typical ironical distance: "Before you go on holiday you're trying to make your body better. It's so torturous, and then you've got a corset on." That's the London spirit for you. "Dance on the fire, dance to the end of the world!" Andreas Kronthaler said after the Vivienne Westwood show where performance artists mingled with models on the runway, and Dame Vivienne herself took her bow from atop a man's shoulders. Westwood had met the artists on a recent photo shoot and decided to cast them in the show, amping up the sense of tragicomedy we're seeing all around the London fashion landscape at the moment. Emerging designers like Charles Jeffrey and Matty Bovan are communicating Westwood's design philosophies to a young audience, staging a new era of fabulous, fun fashion, which has a lot more to say than just that. Dame Vivienne, of course, still holds the throne and she didn't miss her chance to add an extra layer of activism to the already politically loaded collection where apocalyptic Bruegel paintings featured as prints and squashed soda cans were suspended under fishnet tights.'
"Vivienne put all her philosophy into this pack of playing cards," Kronthaler explained, referring to the manipulated card deck motifs that appeared on garments and in the make-up. "She was working on it for three or four months on end and she's finished it now. She's going to release them every now and again depending on the political situation--whatever card fits into what happens out there in the world." A house of cards? "Well, it's all coming down, isn't it?" Kronthaler quipped, effectively summing up the disastrous political situation in Britain and abroad. At Hoi Polloi that evening, nobody talked politics or looming apocalypses--they didn't need to. The brilliant cabaret staged by Theo Adams beautifully reflected the devil-may-care attitude Kronthaler portrayed at Vivienne Westwood, and the fighting spirit she's taught all the generations of young designers, who want to follow in her footsteps. Creativity will save us all.
Text Anders Christian Madsen
Photography Mitchell Sams