Edward Meadham & Benjamin Kirchhoff live, breath, and die by their collections – yes, they literally staged their own runway-side epitaph at their A/W ’11 show, (apparently it was a difficult season). Choosing to create an all encompassing mise en scene for their S/S 2013 menswear collection, the catwalk was replaced by a room full of boys, roses and blankets. Inoculated by the designers’ shared love for florid floristry and imaginative staging, it was hard to keep a focus on the clothes. But as with all of their collections, their incredible pieces aren’t merely clothes, but one component of a deliberately layered creative mille feuille – one that, judging by their glances at the press, they’d quite happily have us all choke on.
Their A/W ’10 Womenswear collection felt like a lifetime ago. But, as one walked between the two rooms, of a St James’s apartment, it felt like only yesterday. The same documentary on Romany culture, and its links with India, which had inspired the cochineal pink veils for A/W’10 had its presence felt here, via chiffon masks and sequin clicked skirts. Likewise, the Corinne Day photography, which had inspired the same former collection – ditto.
Rossetti’s mistress Fanny Comforth would have relished in the delicious squalor of it all. A tin bath filled with water and floating flowers called to mind a freezing Lizzy Siddell, posing for Millais’ Ophelia. Whilst a Danny Boyle Trainspotter vibe saw the male models take the baton from Hogarth and Hockney – to stage a Nineties take on A Rake’s Progress. All those do-gooders, that were once raising media controversy around Corrine Day’s 1993 shoot, Kate’s Flat, would have had a field day here…
A toilet was stuffed with porn mags, whilst bottles of vodka and pink Pepto Bismol were lined up on a shelf: the atmosphere was one of a decadent Dadaist hangover. The anarchists of the art establishment, Duchamp and Rossetti, were joined by Tracy Emin, as a makeshift bed tent called to mind “All the People I have Slept with”. Discarded cigarette packets also reminded one of how Emin used the same motif, within her own work, to recount the painful discovery of having found a packet of her father’s cigarettes – lying on the ground – at the scene of his tragic roadside accident.
Models’ hands were painted in Laplis azuli emulsion – the powder paint kind you had at playschool. Some were shackled in gold chains – rent boys trapped within a tableu vivante. Infantile Disney Aladdin duvets were draped over models’ shoulders, as they stood on beds, and reclined on pillows. One couldn’t help feel like one had gatecrashed a chaotic delinquent sleepover. Or, an imagined end of an episode of Room Raiders, where all the contestants kick back and smoke some heroine.
Clothes wise, the main staples were floral culottes and shirts, which were smothered in red rose prints, and Aran jumpers and knitted beanie, which reminded one very much of Ben Kirchhoff’s own wardrobe. Indian embroidered bags, striped tees, and rolled up pyjamas were teamed with Lego blue trainers, and pink flouro socks. Quilted jackets in teal, secured with a single peg, were a kind of Eastern motocross hybrid. Meanwhile, crochet blankets strewn over rocking horses were as fit for the streets of East London as they were for this laudanum filled room of mystery, intrigue and play.
Main image: Pret-A-Rever