Meadham Kirchoff; What’s Going On?

The models who walked in Meadham Kirchoff’s latest show had, quite literally, wandered in off the street; they’d all answered the call to an open casting at Meadham Kirchoff’s studio last weekend, a call which specified “typical model looks not required.” Meadham Kirchoff are known for their pro-outsider principles; things like gender definitions and size do not matter to them, and the street army they sent down the runway not only demonstrated these principles, but also suggested that these designs, as outlandish as they might seem, have a sartorial place beyond the catwalks.

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Edward Meadham, one half of the design duo, put a great deal of time and energy reading about the punk era, and watching snippets of footage from those years on YouTube. “Weirdly, nowadays you can see so much more of those days than ever before,” he pointed out. “The ideas you have from images you’ve always seen—now you can find loads of other angles.”

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He was particularly struck by punk musician Viv Albertine, and her memoirs on being a part of punk girl-band, The Slits. “I want the show to look like the Slits sound,” Meadham said, and indeed the show notes listed Viv Albertine under the “love” banner, along with Maya Angelou, mothers, fags, dykes, femmes, queens and The Queen. By contrast, the “hate” list included men who drive white vans, construction workers, fathers, pro-lifers, Putin, UKIP, celebrity culture and Women Against Feminism.

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Along with the help of partner Benjamin Kirchoff, Meadham’s ideas were transformed into creations made from cheap fabrics, so that young people could afford them. Everything about the show and the designs was energetic, rebellious and youthful; the duo declared their  indebtedness to the “genius” of Vivienne Westwood in the show notes, acknowledging “the obvious and undeniable influence that Dame Westwood has had on this collection.”

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This wasn’t simply ripped up t-shirts and jackets held together with safety pins; this was the true spirit of punk, something which went beyond those tropes with which we are  familiar. This was rage against the machine, no holding back punk for the social media age; sliced up latex, oversized jackets, tampons hanging around the catwalk as a form of decor – it was all so anti-establishment.

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But beautiful, in that Meadham Kirchoff way. Those jackets shimmered, chiffon dresses floated around the legs of the make-shift models. Short shirtdresses and asymmetrically-pleated skirts are wearable, but the overall collection is something of a rejection of commodification. The jackets and sweaters do seem as though they could be distilled into extremely commercial pieces, but this show was largely about the message behind the designs.

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“Freedom is not true,” Edward Meadham said after the show. “There’s no such thing as freedom. We live in this disgusting culture where freedom is this myth that everybody sort of believes in. There’s no equality. Women still don’t have full equal rights. Homosexuals still don’t have full equal rights. I have people shout at me every single place I go. It’s apparently fine for people to bother women, to rape women, to bother homosexuals and I’m sick of it really.”

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So, to anyone who thinks fashion isn’t an art form, or believes that clothes are frivolous things that don’t have a socially and culturally relevant point to make, I say to you; Meadham Kirchoff.

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