We are living in an era when we are on the precipice of great change and we’re yet to discover where the chips may fall. It seems the triggering of Article 50 is imminent, the long term consequences of which are difficult to predict. We devour the news with compulsive veracity, in anticipation of some new calamity committed by the Trump administration. The leaders of the current wave of right-wing populism may shout about the dawn of a brave new world, but much of their poisonous rhetoric belongs in the dark ages.
With increasing international uncertainty, it is comforting to know that some things remain constant. Fashion continues to strive forward, creating and innovating, despite our politicians trying to drag us backwards. However, in these turbulent times, it’s not enough just to make pretty clothes. Art should contribute to social and political discourse and Teatum Jones’ latest collection, entitled ‘The Body’, did not disappoint. Inspired by the work of German artist Hans Bellmer, they examined his ‘Doll Project’, created in opposition to Nazi fascism. AW17 challenged the divide between ‘Us and Them’ and celebrated the diversity of the human body, regardless of whether it fits with today’s oppressive standard of beauty. It was appropriate that model Iskra Lawrence, a prominent champion of body positivity, sat in the front row.
But what of the clothes? As expected, they were beautiful, feminine and bold, but this time imbued with an off-kilter elegance, exalting the charm of imperfection. Tailoring was manipulated with oversized straps of grosgrain and industrial eyelets. There were glorious pencil skirts in velvet and PVC, which called out for a red carpet appearance, possibly draped on the curves of Iskra Lawrence. My favourites were the flowing dresses with lavish, oversized bell sleeves, which would make an elegant alternative to a cocktail dress. Teatum Jones signature use of of luxuriant textiles also made an appearance in the form of statement coats, skirts and dresses. Amongst the daring, fashion forward pieces were more commercial fare, in the shape of classic suits and knitwear. Although much of their work is very feminine, the Teatum Jones signature look translates well into menswear, with the jackets and coats being particularly successful.
Perhaps the most striking statement was the inclusion of disabled models, Jack Eyers and Kelly Knox. The original soundtrack included an extract of Meryl Streep’s Golden Globe’s speech when she condemned Donald Trump for mocking a disabled reporter. The show’s message of inclusion and tolerance was clear; we are all the same. In the current political climate, this message has never been more pertinent. Earlier this week, Amnesty International released a report detailing that leaders like Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte have made the world a more dangerous place:
“Politicians are shamelessly and actively legitimising all sorts of hateful rhetoric and policies based on people’s identity: misogyny, racism and homophobia. The first target has been refugees and, if this continues in 2017, others will be in the crosshairs.” Amnesty described 2016 as “the year when the cynical use of ‘us vs. them’ narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s.”
Teatum Jones’ social conscience separates them from the horde, their show opened London Fashion week and was heavily featured in much of the press coverage. Their AW17 collection was weighty with desirable clothes that straddle the line between commercial appeal and sartorial interest.However, more should be done to promote diversity on the runway. It would be helpful to see more a broader cross-section of the society represented in fashion, but this is very much a step in the right direction.