As fashion marriages go, Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts’ 25-year partnership has been a fruitful one, spawning countless collections under their own name since graduating from Central Saint Martin’s in 1987, as well as collaborations with Debenhams, G-Shock, and Japanese retail chain Uniqlo.
It’s easy to write Antoni & Alison off as a “quirky” T-shirt brand (a label Roberts refutes in a spoken introduction to this collection), in fact I spent a good few months back in the mid-Nineties dancing in my local sweatbox every Friday night wearing an A&A “Sex Target” T-shirt, and the youthful, witty slant to their work disguises its conceptual foundation, but Antoni & Alison produce wearable art. Simple as that.
Most designers would use an anniversary as an excuse for a retrospective of their greatest hits, but in a typically obtuse move Burakowski and Roberts have created a new collection, titled ‘New Work’.
The primary focus of this collection is on the creative process itself, which shines further light on their working relationship, and seemingly contradictory personalities. The abstract prints were designed separately and then spliced together, so scribbles, spots, and streaks rub up against Technicolor splashes, black and white gingham, and graphic belts and bows.
The last few seasons have seen designers engineer their prints around the finished piece, but here the designers cut the clothes to suit their cloth, meaning that the loose, ladylike shapes have been tweaked to create precise half Antoni/half Alison dresses. Black panels “where colour was not required” emphasise certain areas, such as the shoulders or the waist.
The end result is a collection that is greater than the sum of its parts, which also serves as a metaphor for the Antoni & Alison brand itself. Fiercely Futurist, and ripping up the rulebook as they go, (Who else would open a “Ye Olde Worlde Super Modern” tearoom in their store, or have a brass band playing over bass-heavy Techno during their catwalk show?), Burakowski and Roberts’ label continues to be an eccentric London institution. Some things just get better with age.
Review by Lee Clatworthy (@TeamChutzpah) for Katie Chutzpah blog.