a life affirming and heartbreaking display of emotion at meadham kirchhoff
After an open casting to choose the models, Meadham Kirchhoff's spring/summer 15 was a celebration of diversity and the vibrant attitude of the marginalised, in an incredibly personal collection.
A soundtrack of clips of various bigots spreading their conformist propaganda on tawdry news channels played as people were shown to their seats at Wednesday's Meadham Kirchhoff show. Towering over the rows of chairs were trees decorated with pretty bows and bloody tampons, while the duo's candy shop fragrance, Tra La La, hung thick in the air leaving you with an equal sense of pleasure and discomfort. "The collection initially came from a place of discovery but a certain place of anger as well. It was about letting out an angry message in a very joyful way," Benjamin Kirchhoff told i-D after the show. He and Edward Meadham had spent time apart over the past couple of months working on solo projects, meaning that this, Ben explained, had become one of Ed's most personal collections ever. "I love the stand, I love the whole message of it," Ben said, but "I think it's one of those collections where I may not always understand the subject matter from the start".
Ben's reflections on the collection described its significance better than anything, because in order to create what Ed sent down that runway, you have to have felt it repeatedly on your own skin. For Meadham, who dresses like a sugar-coated version of Coco Chanel, walking down the street between his flat and the designers' studio in Haggerston can be something of a public stoning. The Hate list placed on everyone's seat at the show, next to a Love list, included "men in white vans", "straight men", "fathers", "brothers", and "teachers". They're all the elements that have contributed to a society where men like Ed are accosted on the street on a daily basis. Guns have been put to his head, literally. "We're really affirming how there's no such thing as equality, there's no such thing as actual freedom," Ed told i-D after the show. "It's a complete lie, and everybody sort of exists in this fucking sick way and culture where it's still okay to harass people like me constantly — and women — and there's no actual equality. It's all a pile of shit."
While Meadham seemed far from depressed at the show - mainly, he said, thanks to his 4-month-old Chihuahua, Trojan, who was resting on his arm in a pearl collar identical to the necklace Meadham was wearing himself - the collection was riddled with the kind of anguish and anxiety that can only come from living, essentially, in fear. It was an overwhelming display of emotions, life affirming and heartbreaking all at once. A comment on the myth that Meadham Kirchhoff believe is freedom of choice, the collection felt like punk redefined for present-day society. The show notes included a shout-out to Dame Vivienne Westwood - one of the duo's great icons - whose original punk was anti-establishment, while Meadham Kirchhoff's idea of punk's value today has more to do with breaking down the gender conventions, which still haunt men like Ed Meadham on a daily basis.
"It's the idea of exposing areas of people's bodies but in a really aggressive way," Ed explained. "And boy's bodies as well. Our culture sexualises girls so freely and always has done, but the sexualisation of boys is a very different thing. I really wanted to partly pass a statement but also as a point to sort of exploit them a little bit." In that process, he created a collection that was largely unisex (one of Meadham Kirchhoff's key philosophies is that all garments are) but whose womenswear was focused particularly on celebrating the bodies of all types of women, while the menswear was entirely over-sexualised, and in an amazing way. The designers had hosted an open casting call for the show attended by more than four-hundred people. "Every single one of them walked for us," Ben said. "It was very important to make sure that we had an integral casting and just give it a sense of reality and a sense of absolute fuck-off-ness."
As far as the models' attitude went, it was more than accomplished. But more than anything, the show challenged its audience on our own reactions. In theory, you wouldn't think a naked penis in a sheer trouser making its way down a runway would shock you, but it actually kind of did, no doubt living up to Meadham's intentions. "The collection is called Reject Everything," he said. "I was so bored and so depressed this year, and I was so sick of my whole life and doing it and thinking of things. I was sick of lace, I was sick of embroidery, because it became really formulaic for me. It wasn't really challenging anymore. It was just a repetition of everything. And I was just bored of everything. Really everything; sick of the culture we live in, as ever, but even more so. We watched endless amounts of the Drag Race," Ed explained, referring to the RuPaul TV show, "which really re-politisised us, actually." (A RuPaul song played during the finale, while the show notes repeatedly referenced lingo from the show.)
When you attend about eight shows a day for four weeks, nothing is more invigorating than seeing something that enlightens and challenges you beyond the realm of the runway. And while the small venue was packed to the brim, you couldn't help but feel like you wanted more people to witness this incredible spectacle, take in the message, and realise how powerful clothes and performance art - which is what a show like this one essentially is - can be when it's executed by people, who genuinely want to make a difference. It was a compelling fifteen minutes, not only because the basis of the collection was so personal to Meadham, but because it proved that fashion truly can be extremely covetable and aesthetically desirable and make a real difference in the world at the same time, at least to a lot of people around that runway. In a word, epic.
Text Anders Christian Madsen