The point of starting a post about Meadham Kirchhoff S/S 12 off with a set of street style pics taken outside the their show in September, is one that I desperately want to highlight repeatedly whenever London Fashion Week comes off as the kooky or the crazy one. Those descriptions are fine when used to compare the different fashion weeks, but when they begin to tarnish the designers' wares and impose a 'Look, but don't wear!' mentality, then there's a great disservice being done to those designers. Therefore, whilst I'll be adding to the chorus of exaltation (Rookie started it all me thinks...) for what was one of the most magical shows that I've personally ever attended, the girl that I snapped here perhaps best illustrates why designers like Edward Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff have inspired a freeing mentality of dressing and why these clothes really need to live in a world beyond pretty backstage images, video and editorial.
It is of course completely understandable that so many have been slayed by the show. From their A/W11-2 speedy trooper of a show where the girls stormed past us in a dramatic flurry, S/S 12 was choreographed to tap into our inner child, that point where we discover what is beautiful and pretty. That's probably why I physically responded to the Danny Elfman score for Edward Scissorhands used towards the end of the show. My mouth made little "O" shapes and gaped open with a "W-O-W", like those cheesy kids in the Disneyland adverts.
I'm not trying to take away the theatre of the show or put a dampener on the feelings the show inspired in people and judging by the number of Tumblr mentions and blog posts of adulation for the show, Ed and Ben done a magnificent job of making a bazillion of girls dream in their bedrooms, without them even knowing what London Fashion Week is or the full context of their clothes. They don't need to really.
It's just all too easy to get lost in the merriment of the show - the parade of Courtney Loves powdering their faces, the collective "Awwwwww" at the ickle ballet dancers, the balloons, the smell of Penhaligon's in the air, the three tiered cake, the curtains and yes, that Elfman soundtrack magic - and then in some cases, dismiss the clothes as mere costumes for this bit of coup de théâtre. Get lost by all means but don't lose the point which is that Ed and Ben have challenged the notion that ultrafemininity and silliness should be taken at surface value. Those heightened venerations of beauty are given weight and fortified with this collection. There's a thread in The Fashion Spot that asks "Hyperfemininity - do women want to look like that again?" which implies that likes of Meadham Kirchhoff's overt girliness should be rejected as old hat, as an impediment to the progress of feminism. I might feel that way about certain retrogading collections that merely skim the surface of feminine attire but Meadham Kirchhoff, in fact assert a woman's independence of self with a collection like this. To be able to flit and flirt about in a frou frou marabou jacket and lace-trimmed neon orange shorts without fear of male titilation or judgement from other women is actually quite a powerful thing.
They have proved their chops in beautiful craftsmanship but they don't feel the need to wrap that up in an easily digestable formula - or in other words, the "prescribed good taste" that I spoke about yesterday. Instead they apply their skills and prowess to what can be perceived as the ridiculous. Fluffy furs, cardigans with anime eyes, rompers with heart-shaped pockets, frilly takes on the pinafores, shift dresses with paper doily motifs. For some, these clothes were laced with Japanese dolly-kei or cliches of "Harajuku" fashion. In fact, Ed and Ben didn't have that imagery in mind and instead looked to motifs from childhood dressing that were then combined with their modes of layering that they've employed in previous shows. I was mentally taking notes of the double layered bloomers under short shorts and with the shirt tails peeking out. Or the contrast of a neon orange bra against a sweet white halterneck dress. I'm not into bra revealing in general but suddenly when it's neon orange and comes up against a powder blue waist sash and broderie anglaise trim, I'm all for it.
I, along with the girl I in the picture above, won't be the only ones who were dissecting the show not as critics, or even people who like to exonerate fashion as "art", but as women, who were dreamlisting things they'd like to wear. The embroidered knitwear, the cropped wool jackets, the little short shorts, the heart pocketed skirts, the broderie anglaise dresses, the socks and yes, the shoes (a collaboration with Nicholas Kirkwood) - they're all far more easily digestable than one might think if judged solely on a hazy show video.
Even with the cake of "Madonnas" (referring not just to the celebrity or the religious icon but also all icons of beauty), I suddenly wondered why I didn't have more rococo swirls on brocade jackets in my life. Or a knitted off-shoulder onesie that extended out to a cape. These were the showpieces, the things that won't make it to the shops but I was still imagining them paired up in some way or another...
Long may the Nicholas Kirkwood and Meadham Kirchhoff collaboration go on and on and on if designs like these come to the forefront.
It's going into the showroom where I can really start to envision a reality where Meadham Kirchhoff's clothes can inhabit. Expanded lines of t-shirts, knitwear, shirts and hoisery extend the show looks of the collection so that you can grasp the idea of those hearts, teddy bears and little ballerinas on clothing. They're not there to be ridiculed namely because Ed and Ben have also finished their clothes with the subtlest of details. I think finishing the tutus of a skirt on the broderie anglaise bands of ballerinas and moire ribbons so that they lift up the reveal the legs is the most extreme of examples when illustrating Ed and Ben's dedication to the whole nine yards.
Back to the girl in the picture at the beginning though. Not every Meadham Kirchhoff wearer or fan will look like her or take original spirited dressing to such extremes. What about all the girls in London that have been dip dying their hair at places at Bleach? The droves that Tumblr Lina Scheynius of girls in isolation? They're not a teensy tiny niche but a tangible fanbase that would love a bit of Meadham Kirchhoff magic in their lives. I can only hope that these clothes will trickle down to us dreamers at a rate that equals that of say a label like Alexander Wang. Even a half or quarter of that pace would be an exciting visual prospect.