Craig Green's SS21 collection is the ultimate mirror to our times
The London-based menswear designer's SS21 vision of protective clothes has never been more prescient.
If you were wondering why there have been so few face masks on the catwalks this season, you’re not alone. Fashion designers across the world have ostensibly chosen one of two survival modes: flighty fantasies to distract us from a worsening global crisis, or familiar archetypal clothes to ease us into domesticated living, working and socialising. Few designers have managed to articulate the madness of the moment, and even fewer have riffed on the fact that protective clothes have become essential to our everyday lives. A year ago, it would have seemed absurd to imagine the world masked and gloved up. So much has changed, even if fashion is still singing the same old tune.
At least Craig Green got the memo. In fact, you can always rely on the London-based designer to articulate our dystopian world with a poetic outlook. His work has long explored themes of protection, armour and utility long before ‘Covid-19’ entered our vernacular, and right now, his SS21 collection couldn’t be more prescient.
“There’s always an element of fantasy in the collections that we make, but the only thing I could think about was that right now, fantasy is the thing that used to feel real,” Craig explained over the phone. “Real life started to feel like a fantasy.” So, the new normal of masks, face shields and stay-away dimensions have given his clothes a new context. This season, there are metal structures built around the torso, geometrically interwoven with deconstructed shirts and jackets resembling cubist ironing boards, or maybe shields of armour made from the detritus of our dressing room floors. Viewed from the front, they almost look like two people embracing each other, an antidote to isolation. “They could be lovers or fighters,” Craig says. There are also bucket hats so large and enveloping that they obscure the wearer’s face, and smaller ones with thin metal mobiles with suspended pochettes that do so, too, while resembling smiley faces. “I guess we always do face coverings and have a more anonymous feeling within the collections, but life has become so anonymous now that it felt more interesting to show the face in a different way, to use human emotion in a different way.”
Fisherman-style uniforms with in-built two-metre bustles speak for themselves; they say “stay back, don’t touch” — and yet when stood together, they form a beautiful tableau. “When they’re together it’s like a broken rainbow,” Craig added. “As a group you could create something, even by chance. It’s a bit cheesy, a group of people creating a rainbow, but that cheesiness feels good at the moment, it feels true and pure.” The grounded spirituality of barefoot shoes (a collab with Adidas) hammered the message home. “I know it’s cheesy, but it’s like how certain pop songs from the past that still make you cry. There’s something about that directness and innocence that feels right.”
‘Uniform’ have been the buzzword of the SS21 season — Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada spoke at length about them in their post-show Q&A — but Craig’s vision of a lo-fi, adjustable-drawstring-tied workwear has tapped into the romanticisation of industrial, functional, and protective clothes — whether it’s fisherman smocks or military cargos. Now, more than ever, uniforms are poignant, not just because we’re all wearing masks, but also because the stars of 2020 have been key workers, their uniforms as essential as the services they’ve offered. Seeing his quilted chore jackets and body-strapping bags paired with buttoned-up shirts and ties (a first for Craig) also bring to mind another ostensibly bygone uniform: the corporate, 9-to-5 office suit. If the former romanticised industrial jobs that are becoming increasingly mechanised (think of the decline of Rust Belt America and the rise of Amazon pick’n’pack warehouses) then the latter romanticises the corporate dress codes that have been rendered obsolete this year. “The shirt and tie — it’s almost like it’s clamping you into your shirt because with one on, you can’t take off your shirt,” he said.
Craig’s shows are the stuff of fashion legends; atmospheres heightened by his collaborations on music with Frédéric Sanchez, and casting with Samuel Ellis Scheinman. Grown men and women have been known to break down in tears, so beautiful and poetic is their impact. This season, that wasn’t an option — but the clothes, sculptures and romantic gestures shown here speak volumes (quite literally) for themselves.
All images courtesy Craig Green