One look at the invitation (no stickers, no cutesy animals, no Lisa Frank vibes) and its C-U-Next-Tuesday depiction as well as the title of the collection “Reject Everything” and you knew you were in for a rough ride at Meadham Kirchhoff. Rough, as in it would shake up the system (or at the very least the MK system), get very angry and annihilate any thought that Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff were just about fluff, glitter and pretty pretty things.
Then there was the venue – the back of Phonica Records, which I didn’t dare to enter when I was a teen (only amateur DJ boys went in there…) – a much more intimate space than where the duo normally shows. They had festooned it with trees, ribbons and… paint dipped tampons. The focal point of the set was a piece of trash art with bicycle spokes colliding with car doors and radiators.
On our insulation foam seats was a zine first confronting you with all the slurs that both women and men might encounter (slag, slut, fag, batty boy etc) based on what you look like or how you dress – i.e. the way Meadham Kirchhoff have been dressing their women (and men for a while) and themselves for the duration of their careers. It then opened up to a list of MK Like and Hates…
Likes: Viv Albertine, Quentin Crisp, RuPaul, Girly Clothes, Arvida Bystrom (who incidentally closed the show)
Hate: Conformity, Putin, Paul Hollywood, High Street Shit, Tony Abbott
Even more telling was the thanks/shout-out notes page. “This is dedicated (if it works), to two women who have revolutionised my pitiful existence – Ms Viv Albertine – I am in LOVE – and Little Ms Trojan. (E’s pet dog) I am revived.”
“It would be retarded of me to not acknowledge the obvious and undeniable influence that Dame Westwood has had on this collection. Forever indebted to your genius.”
“Fuk LVMH corporate fashion.”
These are just some of the choice lines that tell you of the inspiration roots of this joyfully disruptive collection and the subject of anger that both Ben and Ed are channelling their hate towards. Maybe they are biting the hand that feeds them but the hand that fed them hasn’t treated them with the just respect they deserve either. Their work is merely a commodity or a novelty for the fashion industry to mine, take and exploit as “product” when they’re not necessarily product-focused designers (they create beautiful things that anybody with a sense of aesthetic appreciation would want to wear – that’s different from “product” for the sheeple). It’s like jamming a square peg into a round hole. They have every right to be angry.
It’s hard not to think about what in my opinion was a gross injustice, that they did not progress into the finalists stage of the inaugural LVMH prize, when they reference the conglomerate in their zine. They’re probably not angry about the fact that they didn’t progress but that they were entered into that competitive environment in the first place. Fighting the system is a naive mission in fashion. It usually just elicits sneers of “Well, if you don’t play the game, you’re never going to be a game-changer.” Ben and Ed have on their part played the game. They’ve been propelled to great heights. And now they want to tear all of that asunder and write their own system.
They’ve got nothing to prove by pandering to conventional notions of beauty. They’ve done all of that before. So now they can venture forth and wade into new territory for them, paying homage to the Westwoods, the Bodymaps, the Leigh Bowerys of the past but also carving out a statement for the future in amidst fashion’s current state of middling mediocrity and “We must sell things!” remit. The results? Panelled knitwear – deliberately lumpy and bumpy. Smocked white dresses with red toggles resembling bloody tampon strings. Cut-up pink latex as if it were cut chiffon. Swiss dot lace dresses, ripped and worn over “man-repelling” yellow wooly long johns and slogan knickers. Blue asymmetric shirting, cut-up, voluminous, an echo of Westwood’s pirate shirts. Jackets frayed at the edges made out of laundry bag material. Bulky bomber jackets made out of automotive foam. The MK-isms were still there in the shirred chiffon dresses, stitched with extra TLC, in the flutters of black feathers hanging off of gowns and just in the general method of “Don’t-give-a-fuck” layering that has always captured this layerist’s heart.
In a week of politeness, niceties and all things Net-a-Porter ready, Meadham Kirchhoff unofficially closed LFW by reminding us all what British fashion has been in the past and should always try to be in the future – disruptive, probing and uncompromising. Lose those qualities and you’re just like everyone else.
Scans from Meadham Kirchhoff fanzine SS15 from Dazed Digital