So much of what S/S 14 offered was about surface. Nothing wrong with that of course. There were some GREAT surfaces – printed, sequinned, feathered, texturised – a fetishisation of decoration almost. Towards the end of Paris Fashion Week, when our heads were filled with showgirls, tribal ferociousness and paintbrush strokes of art colliding with clothes, it felt quite cathartic to step into the showroom of Toogood, a new clothing concept, created by furniture and installation designer Faye Toogood and her sister Erica. If you don't know Toogood's name, you might have seen her work in the store designs of the new Browns Focus store, Phllip Lim's pop-up in Selfridges or the set creation of Humberto Leon and Carol Lim's first show for Kenzo at Rue Vivienne. Faye has a distinctively singular and sculptural approach towards design and objects that she has applied to Toogood, the clothing label. Faye also has a preoccupation with from start-to-finish process in fabricaitons that means she and her sister were able to start Toogood with a rousing manifesto. Read on and raise your fist with a proletariat cheer.
LIBERATION FASHIONED BY INDUSTRY NOT THE FASHION INDUSTRY WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE ROADSWEEPER BEEKEPER OILRIGGER MILKMAN RICH MAN POOR MAN BEGGAR MAN THIEF A R TISANS CONTROL THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION PREDICTION PREDILECTION YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINSTORES
Alright, some people might chortle at Toogood's rebel-rebel idealism but the sisters have a point when it comes to a few home truths about the industry… again, read on.
WHEREAS for too long we have witnessed the honest clothing of working people being stolen and arrogated in the name of so-called utility wear and industrial chic;
WHEREAS in an age of digital reproduction the individual is beset on all sides by the bastions of mercantilism and commerce, those false profiteers who prescribe with one hand and proscribe with the other, while forcing allcomers into constrictive sartorial templates;
WE HEREBY reject and reprehend the cruel diktats of the discredited fashionista treadmill: the voracious cycle in which spring/summer is devoured by autumn/winter, and autumn/winter is in turn devoured by spring/summer.
Toogood is thus rooted in a desire to overcome these industry evils. They begin with a collection of eight coats – each inspired by workers, not as decorated and disingenous "workwear" as you might have known it (a vicious trend cycle in menswear). Instead, Faye and Erica attempt to honestly inhabit the roles of Beekeeper, Oilrigger, Milkman, Machinst, Chemist, Courier and Roadsweeper. Erica is a skilled patterncutter who has specialised in creating bespoke pieces was challenged to take entirely different approaches towards the tailoring of these coats. The patterncutting norms of a coat are twisted, tweaked and sometimes dismissed altogether. The end result is that every coat feels entirely different to a normal coat and yet, you would want to live out your daily routine in them (both Steve and I can attest to the coats' special transformative and intelligent design qualities as we tried a few of the styles on – love that Faye and Erica encouraged the trying on process). They protect. They feel lived in. And yet there's a ceremony to putting them on.
They feel extra ennobled because Faye and Erica have constructed them out of hardy and sometimes humble materials such as canvas, vulcanised rubber and waxed cotton. They might over labour the point a little when talking up the provenance and craftsmanship of the coats but in their case, the talk rings true. At the end of their lookbook, Faye and Erica give thanks to not just the usual crew of models and photographers but also to the cutters, the seamstresses, the painters, the screen painters (well done Insley & Nash!), the rubber sprayer and waxers, the leather merchant and worker. No role is too small to thank.
Likewise, when dealing with each "worker", Faye and Erica assume a very serious and respectful approach towards these professions. They're not turning to lazy stereotypes of the uniforms of a beekeeper or an oilrigger but instead, they take genuinely rooted qualities about their work and apply them cleverly to coats that men or women at any age can wear. A beekeeper's hood is adapted to our desire for coats as cocoons, especially in primed white canvas. A roadsweeper's need for hardy coats that withstand grime and wear is transformed into an operatic coat with cut sleeves that look great when your hands are in the pockets. The oil splashes of a North Sea oilrigger are elevated with innovative screenprinting with black foil and baked latex. A chemist's coat's requirement to is also coated with baked latex as a protective layer to the outside elements (as well as poisonous acids). A milkman or a courier's jackets are short and either rubberised, primed or again screen-printed with black foil. They deliver as do their prescribed roles.
Suffice to say, vive la Toogood revolution!