It's very easy to fall into a writing rut when talking up Meadham Kirchhoff – whimsical, fantasy, extravagant, theatrical – these are the go-to words that have been hung around the duo's neck ever since they did a bit of a volte face for A/W 10, and grabbed the world's attention with their more-is-more investigations of womenswear. I've not yet talked about their S/S 13 A Cautionary Tale womenswear collection but it feels appropriate to preface that with their latest menswear A/W 13-4 collection, their second yet, shown as part of London Collections Men which is underway at the moment. This felt like a turning point, with both designers reaching out from within to produce something more tangible and yet it still soars above you like a lofty ideal. This was down to the personal introspection from Ben Kirchhoff. The invite slash inspiration image book was compiled from photographs of Kirchhoff's great grandfather who fought in WWI in the South of France, as well as postcards sent from him. Aspects of historical dress from the early 20th century – frock coats, tailored waistcoats, fisherman's Breton, and extreme paperbag-waisted slacks – punctuated the collection, but the real investigation here as portrayed by the casting and styling (Catherine Deneuve-inspired waved hair, velvet alice bands and pearl earrings) was why men like Kirchhoff's great-grandfather fought, their sense of patriarchal duty and husbandry and what are the repercussions for sending mere boys into the battlefield.
The boy of Meadham Kirchhoff's debut menswear S/S 13 collection expressed slacking off into a fine art but here, he is dealing with something darker and more sombre. The famous lyrics of "Ne me quitte pas" and the scent of longtime sponsor Penhaligon's filled the air with a sentimentality that underscored this collection. Here was an opportunity to be convinced of Meadham Kirchhoff's skills as both storyteller AND solid designer as you marvelled at pieces like the lavish metal-beaded mustard frock coat or the "burnt" effect of delicate broderie anglaise. I loved all the ambiguous suggestions of Regency dandies, men's 19th century underclothes as well as more sturdy workwear that when broken down is a more concrete offering of menswear proving that you don't need to be a tinsel-strewn, glitter-pumped heady fantasist to get down with these clothes.