Maybe it’s the hangover from the economic crisis or maybe it’s a general shift in mood, but one of the notable features of this fashion week has been a sense of DIY. There have been numerous small scale autonomous presentations that remind one of London in the heady days of the 1980’s when the city was trying for the first time in decades to envisage itself as a place that could have an international influence in fashion, particularly fashion that had vehemently different agendas from the mainstream.
It wasn’t even that one had to think back to the legendary days of Blitz or Taboo when ‘alternative’ fashion shows cropped up like a rash to remember the personalities who had been involved: some of them were even part of this season’s offerings, bigger than life, as ever.
For example, contemporary art gallery Fred Ltd declared that Fred Loves Fashion and gave over the gallery space to installations by designers and salon style catwalk presentations. Those on show included A Child of the Jago, Bernstock Speirs, Boudicca, Andrea Cammarosano and Sian Hoffma, amongst others. Compered by Princess Julia with live turns by Feral and the Fabulous Russella, it was entirely reminiscent of the energetic make-your-own-scene spirit of London in its eighties heyday. Installation, character models and a laid back party all fused into one. The newest generation of fashion kids eagerly consumed it all while the old timers got misty eyed with nostalgia.
With a similar camaraderie and emphasis on the social occasion, an enclave of designers and creatives from different disciplines have revived the tradition of the cooperative and used the Russian Club in Hackney as a venue for showcasing both their individual works and their more collaborative ventures. Menswear designer Rui Leonardes, womenswear designer Rachael Freire, knitwear designer Derek Lawlor, milliner Hannah Kates-Morgan or even jewellery designer Simone Brewster might give the impression that this is a cooperative that is only about fashion. But with the inclusion of filmmaker Catherine Anyango and product designer Eelko Moorer as core members of the group called Circuit, it’s plain to see that its agendas go beyond the boundaries of a single discipline. Granted both Anyango and Moorer were showing their most fashion-orientated work, the former fashion film, the latter a new range of experimental womens’ footwear. Indeed, the quality of the presentation was unquestionably better than many of those taking place in some of the established presentation spaces during London Fashion Week. But, built into its whole process of working collaboratively, Circuit seems to promise a bit of the optimism in working together rather than competing according to the rules of the fat cat players that hasn’t been seen for a long time.
And, once again, just as during the mythologised 1980’s, the whole thing was rounded off with a party that featured an appearance by the smoky-voiced diva Bille Ray Martin.