London is Changing. So says the user-generated art project overseen by Rebecca Ross from Central Saint Martins, who is using billboards in Holborn and Aldwych to communicate the impact that economic and political changes are having on this city. People have been sending in comments about the unaffordability aspect, the processes of gentrification and the stifling of creativity in a city that has nurtured a reputation for being the source of it. Those thoughts have been weighing heavy on young designers like Claire Barrow. Her collection “High Flyers” reflects on her own conflicting relationship with London – she describes the city as a “mousetrap” for young and inspired people where creativity is now under thread and comrpomised. In an accompanying zine created by Ditto Press, Barrow draws out figures of depressing day-to-day corporate scenes in a rain-drizzled, glass-ridden metropolis – “All this welth, who gains?” she asks. Her own set of high flyers are given freedom though, as gusts of wind sweep through ochre and deep magenta dresses and painted leather and sheepskin jackets nod to aviators of the past – the female high flyers of their day. Bessie Coleman, Amy Johnson and of course Amelia Earhart. Through an emotional upward flight, one can find hope, despite all this despondency. “For the moment, nobody can stop me from flying so high,” scribbles Barrow as an end note to the zine. That’s the thing about fashion’s engagement with socio-economic climate. More often than not, a silver lining emerges. And when our surroundings are ridden with tension – that’s when creativity is at its most fervent. It’s important to feel that fashion doesn’t exist within its own inward-looking microcosm.
Danielle Romeril was perhaps also rebuking against mass consumerism as seen by the super wealthy of this city. Her collection was simply called “Survive” as she imagined a dystopian future where you can’t buy anything anymore and instead you scavenge and salvage to create new things. This sort of bricolage owes its debt to the likes of Margiela and Comme des Garcons but Romeril’s warrior wardrobe is more attuned to the female form. A bric-a-brac blanket collage of flocked lace, corded velvet, nylon quilting and tartan, stitched together with leather scales (made with the Japanese Samurai armour technique odoshi) doesn’t exactly appear to be a hardship to wear. Romeril’s inspiration point may have come from a dark place but the results are romantic with a toughness that has thus far defined this one-to-watch NewGen newbie.
Yasuko Furuta of Toga prefers to get away from this sprawling corporate mess altogether. In a crowded London Fashion Week schedule, Furuta is making herself known with forward-thinking layerings that are more than just surface. This season, the Toga girl might tie up her coat and her rucksack and fling everything on her back and go on a spiritual journey out East somewhere. Banish any thought of gap-yah-year costumes ridden with world-travelling cliches. Furuta’s nomadic spirits collage trailing Victoriana-tinged capes and delicate shirts in netting and lace, with oversized coats and taffeta flared trousers. Sure it’s mostly down to styling that these ensembles hold such potency but the proposition at the very least feels fresh as Furuta continues to contrast styles in a way that piques your interest. You want to be that girl who gets away from it all with just the coat on her back and a pair of flat satin slippers to make her way through the world. What’s prompting all these flighty thoughts? Those statements on those aforementioned billboards could apply to any growing meglomaniac-filled city in the world.
‘I’m worried I’m signing up to a life of poverty, despite being highly qualified,’ says a student relocating from Australia to Hackney.
There’s a siren call from ALL designers out there.
With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for providing transportation