If Meadham Kirchhoff never fail to please the audiences who turn up for their runway shows in a faithful and almost religious manner and always leave with the certainty that the duo command one of the most creative labels currently producing fashion in London, there was little doubt that their Autumn/Winter 2013 womenswear collection took them to a new and higher conceptual echelon.
Shown in the industrial setting of Tate Modern’s Tanks, the ‘Helter Skelter’ collection brought to life themes previously explored by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, namely the severe contrasts between black and white, the layers of lace against black velvet, or the fantastical imagery that evoked the dark undertones of literary narratives where young females undergo a process of personal development, from Enid Blyton to Daphne du Maurier to Colette. However, with their latest collection, the designers took these themes one step forward in a celebration of femininity in all its dimensions.
A veritable parade of breathtaking garments embodied Meadham Kirchhoff’s reinterpretations of traditional shapes of womenswear, such as luxurious white wool overcoats, knitted cardigans, skirts and jackets in gold and black jacquard, Elizabethan shirt collars, Edwardian lace prints and flowing 1950s dresses. This suggestion of sartorial normality was enriched by plastic materials and vinyl ruffled pieces in a contrasting process that questioned not only the conventional role of fashion as a way to clad the body, but also represented the social veneers of respectability with which a woman’s behaviour is imbued and constrained throughout her life. In this sense, the ‘helter skelter’ becomes a metaphor for personal growth, and Meadham Kirchhoff’s collection a subversive and clever representation of the different roles that women assume throughout their lives, with images of the child, the ballerina, the kitchen maid, the housewife, the Vamp and the ingénue colliding in an enthralling spiral of rich representations and meanings as they circled the audience.
Photographs courtesy of Meadham Kirchhoff