When I was featured in the i-D x Business of Fashion #BOF500 film, I said something on camera that was singled out and duly lambasted on i-D’s Instagram.  “The fashion industry is about creativity first and foremost and hopefully commerce second.”  Commenters flagged up my naivety and deemed I was living in a la-la land.  Maybe I am but when faced with a fashion industry that crushes creativity, I’d rather keep my rose-tinted specs on.  Crushed is exactly how I felt when it was revealed last Friday on Style.com in an interview with Maya Singer that Meadham Kirchhoff won’t be staging a show as part of London Fashion Week next season, with the reason being that they don’t have the funds to do so.  Since then, Vogue.co.uk has reported that Meadham Kirchhoff remain on the schedule whilst they are “figuring the right way forward.”  Is it the end?  Nobody knows but the Style.com piece and their last S/S 15 collection clue you into the harsh reality of the industry today.  Suffice to say, should Meadham Kirchhoff find themselves unable to carry on, I’d question whether this is an industry that I personally want to be a part of and work in.

Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff need no introduction, especially on this blog – I’ve extolled and raved about them numerous times.  Why they matter goes beyond mere product or the niceties of a solid collection.  Ever since they began on their quest on discovering the Cosmology of Women, the industry has been in their thrall and eager to be swept under their spell of fantastical and emotive dreamer fashion.  They reached a pinnacle when they presented raging Courtney Love’s in satin dresses and ballerinas in fanciful fluff and frou-frou in their spring/summer 12 collection named “A Wolf in Sheep’s/Lamb’s Clothing”.  Above any surface-driven aesthetic, it’s the don’t-give-a-fuck spirit inherited from London’s premier fashion provocateurs (Westwood, Bodymap, Galliano – all bearers of the essence of what makes British fashion so great) that garnered Meadham Kirchhoff a diehard fanbase .  It’s a fanbase that turns up in their hundreds outside their Hackney studio for a chance to be street-cast in their fashion shows or grab a piece of discounted MK.  They are girls and boys around the world Tumblr-ing their love for Meadham Kirchhoff through moodboards, collages and emojis.  I’ve literally seen people go misty-eyed and enter trance-like states when the subject of Meadham Kirchhoff comes up.  For those that get it, the love runs deep.

At Meadham Kirchhoff’s recent sample sale, rails were stuffed with archive pieces.  It was a clear out of epic proportions and it felt like precious pieces of Meadham and Kirchhoff were going for a song.  You can immediately debunk the myth that the duo are maverick conceptualists who make unwearable clothes once you’ve copped a feel of their pin-tucked chiffon dresses with intricate cutwork or embroidered peasant blouses that are finished by hand.  Every time I’ve worn something by Meadham Kirchhoff, people will invariably comment on how beautiful and lovely it is and then look slightly perplexed when I tell them who it’s by.  Selling has never been a problem either as they told Style.com openly that they sold everything they made and tellingly, their collaboration with Topshop last year also sold out in minutes.

So how does a label that has feverish fandom and beautiful and desirable product, find itself unable to carry on?  Louise Gray, a former kindred spirit on the London fashion scene also succumbed to the pressures of being out alone on the island of idiosyncratic creatives.  On one hand you could say that perhaps the audience of these designers are niche and small.  And if they have enjoyed longstanding support sponsorship from schemes like New Gen and still can’t make it work, then the problem lies with their collections.

On the other hand, maybe we should think about whether a one size fits all fashion system works for every single designer out there.   Are the pressures of bottom lines in department stores and boutiques restricting the breadth of their buys?  Are the number of collections required of designers fatigueing an industry – where the truly sublime can pass people by in a flash because our attentions are so diverted and divided?  For all the strides that London Fashion Week has made in recent seasons, are we still succumbing to the same pitfalls of the 80s and 90s where support out there for designers who aren’t necessarily business minded is lacking?  Hungry press and retailers demand shows to drum up hype and hub-hub, but when they are so costly and take out so much resources from young designers and start-ups, why not use alternative modes of presentation and communication?  And in an age where boundaries are removed through the internet, can a brand like Meadham Kirchhoff with such a fervent following reach out to their customers directly, cutting out the middlemen?

Meadham Kirchhoff and Gray’s demise is further evidence of a fashion industry where taste has been quashed through a conventional and ultra polite filter.  Everything needs to be instantly sellable, commercial and anything remotely madcap won’t go the distance or even make it to the rails.  And yet we still dance under the masquerade of an industry that promotes the new, the exciting and the innovative.  Their disquiet of this ruthless industry was expressed in their  bolshy and anger-driven spring/summer 2015 collection.  It was two fingers up at the establishment.  In an interview with i-D, Kirchhoff was lucid about designers today that have to bend over backwards to meet the needs of the industry.  “I think you have a culture of designers at the moment that is about pleasing the journalists and the buyers and saying yes to everything.”

Still, perhaps there’s a different outlet or route for these nonconformist creatives out there.  Gray is currently teaching and has also been working with Lulu Kennedy on Lulu & Co.   Could there be a house out there for Meadham and Kirchhoff where the financials are in place to put their talent and skills to good use?

Until solution are found, I will continue to lament the dearth of “difficult” designers – as in their clothes might be tricksy or their characters tempestuous.  Everything comes too easy today with Instagram-able personas and rack-ready product.  This isn’t the industry that I fell in love with.  I’d rather be in la-la land than a no-man’s land of drone-like fashion and conveyor belt creativity.  We need to be careful that we don’t eradicate the very reason that make us do what we do.

Published originally on i-D 

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0E5A1115Old MK, New MK, All Good MK – these are clothes that I won’t part with for love or money…

Comments (33)

  1. […] Why Meadham Kirchhoff Matters […]

  2. Liz says:

    love it

    Giveaway on my blog!

    http://hashtagliz.com

  3. Chantel says:

    Great article and photos.

  4. Ana says:

    They were by no means my cuppa, but I’ll be so sad if they go away – their shows always offered… inspiration.

  5. I’m one of your reader who absolutely love what they do, please tell them. I can’t afford any of their work so I can’t keep them afloat, but I get it, understand and love… And copy. For my own home sewer enjoyment. They are important.

  6. Another thoughtful and well-written piece that always causes me to think in different ways about the business of fashion. For women like myself designers who are “fantastical and emotive dreamers” are a rare breed but that rarity is what is so important. Your outfit reflects exactly why folks like Meadham Kirchhoff really, really matter.

    Accidental Icon
    http://www.accidentalicon.com

  7. Emma T says:

    Meadham Kirchoff is one of the only designers I’ve properly fallen head over heels, ebay scrawling in love with in the past few years. I even did my whole 1st year uni assessment on them. Hearing the news that they are struggling made my stomach drop. I agree, la-la-land fashion is what I fell in love with. The somewhat “arty” concept driven collections that make me look wide eyed at my laptop screen, is the whole reason I keep coming back to and am now studying fashion. Going to go cry into my amazon Meadham jumper now.

  8. Jeannie says:

    As much as anyone loves to claim otherwise, the motivation is always the same – money

    http://Www.whimsicalzoo.blogspot.com

  9. ALEXSYU says:

    The truth is, this is how this business has become. It’s sad, but true. The best way for any designers to get any “traditional” form of press or attention is inevitably, doing a fashion show. But they cost so much to just put on, and sales probably won’t even make up for half of the fee just to put on a show. Money has to be spent to book models, hire press agency, hire helpers, make up artists, hair stylists, and the list never ends. Without sponsors or a rich family, it’s simply VERY very difficult for any starting designers to make it. But without the show, it’s hard to gain any recognition.
    Yes, there’s the internet, but do internet attention translate into sales? Maybe some, but it sadly would not be the same as doing a show, getting the show stills on website and people noticing you from the sales.

    As far as the sales go, making “ready-to-sell” items are really what makes the business right now. Most new designers straight out of uni owe a lot of money from paying tuition, and are eager to make money just to live. Thus, creativity is often compromised in order to gain more orders. From my graduating class at LCF, we were told to make the garments more wearable, and sellable to appeal to the current market. It just how it is. If you want to make money, you have to compromise out of this world “creativity and design,” we don’t have enough Susie in this world that appreciate design and creativity and will actually spend money on these garments.

    Being a start up designer, the more I dwell in this business, the more I realize, you need to spend a lot of money first in order to make any money. It’s a sad oxymoron.

  10. Paco says:

    “It does seem like there ought to be some other way of doing things,” Kirchhoff told me, when I asked him whether he felt like a one-size-fits-all business model had been imposed on him and Meadham. “Is there a way of selling directly to your customers? Can you avoid doing a big catwalk show? Maybe it’s better to just quietly have a store. Or do private orders. I don’t know,” he went on. “At the moment, even thinking about the alternatives seems too exhausting.”

    From style.com.
    I think Kirchhoff has a realistic idea of his brand. You can see this in the art world. Everything becomes about money, scale and the next fair in 4 months. It’s a terrible environment for the creative process. I like the idea of the future being more small creative houses world wide and less big houses/media running everything. Setting the pace and goals.

  11. Paco says:

    http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Year-of-record-sales-but-at-what-cost-to-the-art/36684

    This article makes my point. It’s happening in the fashion world too.
    Smaller is better.

  12. Crystal Lattice says:

    Good piece.
    Creativity suffers as the tail wags the dog.

    Xtal
    http://vapourphase.blogspot.co.uk/

  13. sgh says:

    I think finding alternative ways is the solution. And also you writing about the whole deal helps the situation Susie. If enough talented people found an alternative way to showcase and unite in it things would have to change.

  14. Aylin says:

    Wauw, love it!!

    Give away at: http://www.style-ethics.com

  15. Lola says:

    .Beautiful xx.

  16. Nora Gouma says:

    Love to visit this interesting blog. Amazing!!!

    xxx

    http://www.noragouma.com

  17. This is something that I obviously think about a lot, being a designer myself. Maybe things are changing, and maybe different systems will grow, but I don’t think anyone will change the system FOR us. Which is what makes it so hard, because the work of being an independent brand is already so taxing…who has the energy to build a whole new system to function within? Certainly not me. For now I think the path for smaller scale designers is in fact via a mix of wholesale AND direct sales…plus presentations (perhaps someday even virtual via Oculus Rift etc?) vs. runway. The improved margins on direct sales help the bottom line a lot…plus interacting directly with customers can be enlightening a lot of the time. I’m sad to hear they’re struggling right now, as are so many designers I know. In the mid 2000s I really thought the growth of the internet culture would result in more diverse dressing in the general public. But the larger brands have so much advertising/marketing power that it actually seems to be resulting in MORE sameness globally. I guess we’re all destined to be wearing neutral head to toe jumpsuits in the future…sci-fi style.

  18. STERLING CAPRICIO says:

    SAD BUT TRUE, MANY DESIGNERS HAVE JUST BITTEN THE DUST,JUST TOTALLY OVERWHELMED WITH THE ADVERTISING AND PROMOTIONAL POWER OF FAST FASHION ENTITIES. HOPEFULLY THE MIND CONTROL WILL END TO A CERTAIN EXTINCT AND CONSUMERS APPLAUD AND PURCHASE DESIGNS THAT AREN’T TRENDING ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORK. IN LA
    ESPECIALLY THE CREATIVE DESIGNERS ARE FADING FAST, JUST UNABLE TO COMPETE. THANKS SUSIE !!

  19. Aleks says:

    Wow, good photos and article!
    cocktaildressnews.blogspot.com

  20. Hakan says:

    That’s just a great dress!

    Love this blog. Keep up the good work.

  21. No Debutante says:

    Brilliant post Miss Bubble! I couldnt agree more about this whole issue. I am a massive Louise Gray fan and absolutely love Meadham Kirchhoff. I mostly follow anti-fashion/ streetstyle designers and I am an older fashion blogger and I write my blog as a non conformist fashion lover. Dont get me wrong, I dont dress outrageously everyday and I do buy from the high street but my love for ( the want of a better word) OTT creative fashion out does the more conformist fashion by miles. I really love your style, your blog and your opinion and it is such a shame that the non conformists amoungst us feel its a losing cause to promote it. Especially when social media is full of people claiming to be creative and individual but seem to have it all wrong. I get endless requests on instagram for likes for likes and I explain to them that I am not on social media to collect followers for the sake of it. I want to be followed and have others follow me on my own merit. This sadly seems to be the way everything works these days and it is the demise of the anti conformist and street style devotee. Although I do find many inspiring people and blogs to follow it seems most people just follow for followers and seem to be missing the content and the point! Enough said from me, except to say I hope Meadham Kirchhoff can continue as we need them to keep the creativity alive in la la land xx

  22. BANANA says:

    did you pay for any of these ?

  23. […] a tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion […]

  24. […] tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion […]

  25. […] a tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion […]

  26. […] a tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion […]

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