Silence In Court
Picture it - a French royal court, full of powdered wigs, wide pastel coloured gowns - Marie Antoinette eat your heart out.
If you couldn't tell our most recent collection 'Give Me My Sin' was heavily influenced by 18th century court fashions - and the whole fashion system of the moment.
In general this collection was born out of the series of shitty events that made up 2020/2021. The conflicts between public and government, between the individual and the system of control they were operating under, were more evident than ever. And we all began to question the agency we had over our lives.
Certain characters were revealed to us; greedy politicians, angry activists and the shallow performers who preached and performed online behind a cloak of anonymity and a screen. We fall into the angry protestors category as individuals, but how could we make a difference as a brand?
At the moment London seems to be a bland totalitarian domain, trying to kill every small non-commercialised part of us. People seem to latch on to fake outrage like it is a trend, something to rant about for street cred, to gain followers, then drop when the next thing comes along.
That, or maybe they are defeated by authority and just give up. It’s a daily battle between light and dark, chores and desires, individual and society. But like in the Shakespearean classic, Romeo and Juliet, society tends to kill us in the end.
So, first we researched successful ways to make change. Peaceful protest seems to not be enough, it needs to disrupt. But it can’t disrupt too much or people will turn against the cause (see extinction Rebellion as an example, their important work has been too annoying and they get dismissed and ignored - their disruption making more headlines than their cause!). It needs to be a regular, relentless, specifically chosen act – relevant to the issue. Civil disobedience and direct action to kill the things that control and exploit us. As designers and consumers we can do this together. All humans use clothes to achieve their wants: be that a personal agenda, to fit in or to stand out, for political battles, to show identity and alliances etc. small customisations can make the garment personal and can speak volumes so we decided to make sure our clothing spoke for itself.
There is a fine line, we have to fight the power but stay within its rules. There has to be a strange kind of union between the rebels and the authority. So we decided to research and merge these two areas for a collection dripping with the exclusivity and power of a court royal - whilst also tearing apart with the rebellious, DIY activism of the Punk movement.
Fashion changes when the world changes. So of course we chose punks as our rebel inspiration. They are anti-establishment and anti-monarchy, respect tradition but support the deviant, and provoke society through every choice they make.
Even punk became commercialised. (We wrote a blog about the meaning of punk as a subculture not as a 'style' if you want to fill in your knowledge!) That’s what the world does. Even the most successful protests such as the Suffrage movement eventually become commercialised - and consequently sold in Libertys and Selfridges. Punk itself wasn’t even started by punks. It was started by bourjouse art students. And reactive, real, protest movements that came from this such as skinheads, brought new evils with their rebellion. It seems nothing can ever be purely good or bad these days. Anyway, we looked through the history, the messages, the functionality, of the clothing worn by these groups and tried to rethink how current day punks would interpret this.
As inspiration for the authoritative side, we settled on 18th century fashion. A time when the courts ruled, and used fashion to display their power and wealth. It was a time of enlightenment, unnaturalness, colonialism, and exoticism. You instantly imagine a woman in a huge wide skirt acting as a blank canvas for her wealth, that she has to be taught how to move in, with lead whitened skin as if she never goes outside, a non-functional powdered wig, a star shaped velvet beauty mark to cover the damage her poisonous makeup has done to her face. Dazzling and ostentatious, seemingly ignoring anatomical facts – dissatisfied with what nature has given, this was a time where fashion was used as a weapon. Again we studied the history, the constructions, and the people.
It was a time where there were literal laws about who could wear what, to make sure class boundaries were strictly enforced by dress.
So we had these two warring sides that we needed to bring together. With inspirations like Romeo and Juliet (Baz Lurhmans interpretation, of course) Biblical and mythical references (talking about systems of belief as systems of control, and don't get us started the *lack* of separation between church and state..) and patriotic colour schemes thrown into the mix.
What better way to merge our two families than a wedding?
So we created characters, a narrative, a story focusing on the union of an upper class, powerful groom, and a punky, rebellious bride. The religious aspect of the wedding fitted in perfectly as, after all, fashion is mans most faithful addiction. We are devoted to trends, the ritual of shopping, and the garments seemingly chosen for us by a higher power. There are also many details focused around traditions of weddings – the vena amoris print linking to the finger that wears the wedding ring, the unlucky Wednesday ceremony, the grooms free right hand side to hold his bride... We named our characters after biblical ones, and gave each member of the wedding party one of the seven deadly sins – which they became the embodiment of, then finally created the 12 disciples as guests.
The collection is something like the physical tale of our two star crossed lovers. Two people from different words, struggling against what institutions expect of them compared to their desires. Chaotically, violently, passionately fighting for love and beliefs, but treading a fine like where that passion can become hate and overwhelm us just as much.
We crafted clothing where every detail had a meaning - whether it represented the biblical punishment for their particular deadly sin, an 18th century fashion trend or a punk icon. It was so fun to do.
So now our clothes are out there, being ethically made and sold and spreading our feelings of discomfort and unsteadiness in this tough, unjust place. We speak up, we protest, we disrupt and we re-design, but we can't help but feel like it won't be enough. Will the individual ever really win?