R.I.P. 2016: 2016-2016
On the first day of fall/winter 17 men’s shows, London’s young designers from Charles Jeffrey to Craig Green lamented a year that shook the world.
craig green fall/winter 17
There were tales of college students requiring play-dough therapy, whatever that is, following the shock presidential victory of Donald Trump on November 8. The youth, with their dreams and optimism still intact, have been hit the hardest by the reality of the people's choice - Brexit included - and on the first day of men's shows in London where young designers rule, the wake of Quake Donald was palpable. From Topman's rave reaction to Charles Jeffrey's wartime monsters and Craig Green's pacifist monks, every collection was an answer to a 2016 that shook the dreamers of the world - Jeffrey's George Michael-scored finale in tow. For the Instagram generation born in the early 90s, the club kid designer is the first in his age bracket to stage the kind of theatrical shows he did as part of MAN on Friday afternoon, where half-naked performance artists tromped and grinded while massive papier maché monsters walked amongst his army of historical war references, eventually chasing everyone off stage screaming. You didn't have to be a fashion psychologist to get the drift - the establishment bogeyman - but for a new movement of fashion fans, who are learning about Martin Margiela through Vetements and Off-White, Jeffrey represents a revitalized dawn of another kind of industry revolutionaries: the Jean Paul Gaultiers, Vivienne Westwoods, and Rei Kawakubos of the world. What seems familiar to an older generation is no doubt a light-bulb moment to a younger one.
Jeffrey was too young to go to Boombox - London's legendary Nu Rave club - during its heyday of the club-kidding revival of the mid-late-2000s. On Sunday, Boombox celebrates its reunion, and with that nostalgia in the air it was hard not to think back to that era of London fashion, watching the shows on Friday. In many ways, it felt like a déjà vu: London on a loop. Jeffrey's runway antics weren't dissimilar to what Gareth Pugh did back then, Liam Hodges' political streetsmarts reminded you of a young Christopher Shannon, and Bobby Abley's Power Ranger parade had all the bubblegum madness of Sibling or Charlie Le Mindu circa early beginnings. Back then, George W. Bush was the personification of everything young people thought was wrong in the world. Surely it couldn't get any worse than him? Fast-forward eight years of Obama and we now have a Republican in power so rightwing Bush wouldn't even vote for him. Desperate times call for desperate measures. That's why Hodges' collection came with political scribbles about dystopia, and a dissertation-like press release that quoted poet Hector Aponysus to "sum up the state we find ourselves in": "Looking for a vocation in the decline of civilization." Goodbye, cruel world, (with love from London).
Craig Green represents something that didn't exist on the London fashion scene in the age of Boombox. The prim and polished professionalism with which he produces and presents his collections came later as a result of the attention London was garnering for all its pure creation, with burgeoning businessmen like Erdem and Christopher Kane. On Friday evening, Green continued his slow voyage through the aesthetic he's created, focusing on his trademark clergy-like uniforms, which have often been compared to the sumo and samurai dress of Japan, or in more hilarious cases, cricket gear. You can't put a finger on Green's meticulous varnish, but with slow evolution from season to season - much in the vein of what Ann Demeulemeester or Rick Owens always did, only within their own distinct aesthetics - comes a need to tie a poignant sentiment to each collection, which can only be explained verbally - or in writing. "Symbols of belonging meet," Green wrote in his show notes, echoing his brand's ethos, "creating buoyancy aids that lead them forward, further along their uncharted course." He wasn't as literal in his reflections on 2016 as his young London menswear peers on Friday, but there was no escaping it: the future might be looking bleak but fashion's youth is facing this unchartered course head-on.
Text Anders Christian Madsen