Team Chutzpah Rides Out – Fashion Takes A Dark Turn

by Katie on March 9, 2011

London Fashion Week is a journey. Not in the nauseating televised talent contest sense, but one that can take you from the pumping, full-beam glamour of the catwalk experience to quieter, contemplative presentations in a heartbeat. And so, it came to pass, that I was ushered from one-such show to one of the more murky corners of the Freemasons Hall to encounter the oeuvre of Maria Francesca Pepe (pictured below).

The staging was pure Dennis Wheatley textbook occult fetishism, replete with chalk pentagrams, horned beasts, and sacrificial virgins. Good fun, certainly, but what about the product? Pepe’s self-titled “jewellery-wear” are statement pieces and accessories that become the focus of the outfit – which is a contradiction too far for me but must surely find an audience amongst my self-consciously “quirky” peers. Those in the queue who should’ve looked in the mirror before leaving the house and removed at least one item.
Horned leather gimp masks, studded Medieval helmets, and trinkets influenced by esoteric religions. Some Health and Safety-baiting spiked heels. Embroidered organza bondage masks. Jewellery with a vintage, punky flavour. Skin Two would probably love the entire collection. At this point, however, hunger had set in and the subtleties of this showcase, or lack of them, were flying right over my head.

On to the crypt of St. Martin-In-The-Fields, and another grim one.

Up-and-coming costumier and designer Alex Noble’s creations have graced Lady Gaga, so I should’ve known what I had let myself in for, but this ghoulishly disturbing presentation, entitled ‘Soft Death’, will probably stay with me for some time.

Whilst Gaga and her cohort Nicola Formichetti are concerned with rebirth (namely the second Lady Gaga album and the Mugler label respectively), Noble is more concerned with what happens when we shuffle off this mortal coil. His designs feel stripped back to the carcass, strips of lace, silk, and chiffon emphasising the human anatomy. Edges are kept raw, as if to hint at the gradual decomposition of the body, whilst closer inspection reveals a highly-skilled, couture-like attention to detail.

However, it was the strips of rubber which covered the floor and the piped recording of a thudding heartbeat which tipped this offering over from merely troubling to downright sinister. Charlie Le Mindu would literally kill for this kind of ambience at his controversy-by-numbers catwalk shows.

My appetite had left the building a good ten minutes before I did.

I was now late meeting La Chutzpah and, with no time to even dine on the hoof, I set off to meet her and catch the press bus to the Meadham Kirchoff presentation at the Topshop show space.

Maybe it was the starvation, or the sensory overload of the previous presentation, but I’ve had trouble processing what I saw next and, even a fortnight later, I’m struggling. Central St Martin’s graduates Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchoff never make it easy for us, although the fact that I’ve left my notes on Katie’s coffee table hasn’t helped.

Following a quote from ‘The Cement Garden’ (yes, THAT quote from the start of Madonna’s ‘What It Feels Like For A Girl’) the models marched out in formation and stood stock-still, staring into the distance. This was the first of two brief parades. The overwrought strings of Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ soundtrack filled the air.

Now, from memory, what I wrote down was an incomprehensible mess but this is in no way indicative of the clothing, which is a triumph of imagination and execution. Each piece is stunningly realised, telling its own individual story whilst retaining the underlying handwriting which links every Meadham Kirchoff collection.

Influences range from New England Quakers circa the Salem witch trials, Mexico’s Day of the Dead, and even Christian Dior’s New Look – most notably in the shapes used. The collection is heavy on textures, such as boucle, knits, leather and lace, and uses a restricted palette of black, white, and red. A smattering of male models revealed one of the many perfect biker jackets which dotted that week’s menswear offerings, underlining its must-have status for next season.

Despite the cryptic auspices, these clothes remain resolutely modern and wearable, mostly through some punky, almost Riot Grrrl, styling and gothic details. Meadham Kirchoff’s “uncompromising, aware, and individual” fans will lap up this considered and eclectic collection.

As for me, I was still starving, but there was half the day left. Another bus, then another show.

I could always eat later.

Review written by Lee Clatworthy for

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ondo Lady March 9, 2011 at 3:33 pm

This is probably one of the most honest if brutal reviews of a fashion show that I have read. I love it! Please keep it up. I have read loads of reviews of fashion shows from LFF and after three posts they all start to sound the same so it is so refreshing to read someone who has an actual point of view.


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