When you've been inspired by women that traverse between the likes of Gertrude Stein, Cindy Sherman, Mink Stole, Sissy Spacek, Jodie Foster, Shelley Duval and characters such as Fanny (from Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander) and Candice-Marie (from Mike Leigh's Nuts in May), it's be difficult to sum up a body of work into a neat nutshell. Peter Jensen has clocked in ten years in his own quirky route of unassuming and assuming ways and despite the fact that his clothes have never been about overwrought and pompous fanfare, he's pat himself on the back with a celebratory book as well as a brilliant Fashion in Motion show at the V&A, which took place yesterday.
Deservedly so, I say. Maintaining a London-based label for a decade with ultimate independence and building it up so that it has a good list of stockists and collaborations, is no mean feat. Along the way, many of Jensen's contemporaries in London have fallen by the cruel wayside and yet his neon whiskered bunny logo is still very much lit up.
I can't emphasise how fantastic I think V&A's Fashion in Motion programme is. I don't really know any other country that has something similar but to be able to offer the public the opportunity to experience a sizeable body of work by a host of legendary designers (to date, Yohji Yamamoto, Kenzo, Gareth Pugh, Erdem and Alexander McQueen have taken part) alongside the magnitude of Raphael's Cartoons FOR FREE, seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.
Jensen transported his Charlotte Mann-illustrated set from his S/S 07 'Tina' collection to the Raphael Hall alongside a few other memorable props from past shows and put on a show of his 'greatest hits' that was styled with wit and verve by Sunday Times' Lucy Ewing. Tim Blanks sitting next to me remarked "I didn't realise how 'booby' his clothes were." There were tits ahoy, but they never took a turn for the tawdry especially when glitter pasties and big knickers under sheer layers are involved. If anything, there was a pervy Carry On vibe in Jensen's ten year remix that gave this show its own distinct identity, different from how the pieces were presented originally. You could also see a continuity that arched its way over the clothes, accessories and shoes, despite the fact that to my memory, every Jensen collection has felt like it lived in its own unique narrative. Coquetry, kink, whimsy, passive aggressive feminine ways, modesty and awkwardness are just a handful of traits that are embedded in these clothes. They're also nuances of those muses that merge into one helluva of complex woman, exactly the sort that I'd wish to befriend, which is probably why I find his clothes so endearing. If you don't want to delve too deep and just take it all on surface value, then you'll find yourself with a ton of cute clothes. I loved sitting next to elderly ladies who every so often piped up with "Oooh, that's a pretty dress!". We can leave it at cute and pretty if you wish but if you fo manage to pick up the book and have a flick, I guarantee that you'll enjoy that Jensen printed shirt or bunny knit jumper a whole lot more.