Amidst the new femininity and pretty sportswear on the catwalks at last week’s London Fashion Week, James Kelly’s dramatic anthology of lush, Gothic pieces is offering another vision of womanhood.
Kelly’s final collection at the Royal College of Art MA course was based on memory and loss, in the form of an old relationship, a photograph from the past. Enormous capes and cloaks were cut and draped to create the idea of a woman caught in an emotional storm.
Moss greens, storm greys and midnight blues imbued the collection with a tender melancholy; bursts of alpaca and ostrich feathers lent an organic aspect to pieces, as if the characters were either retreating into or emerging from the earth.
It was this collection that won Kelly’s 2015 Merit Award. ‘I was blown away,’ admits Hilary Alexander, one of the judges. ‘Marvellous marriage of function, fashion and form. The models looked like birds of paradise flying through a storm.”
Repeated motifs – earthy colours, voluminous silhouettes, texture – demonstrate a defined aesthetic: AW15 was just as glorious, with sports jackets and trench coats rendered voluminous and draped apparently haphazardly around the models’ bodies.
And last week’s presentation demonstrated this designer’s potential. Inspired by the character of Laura Palmer from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, this collection was more sombre; a response to ideas of death and decay.
Redefined military staples were dramatic and full of feeling but, this time, the tufts of green fabric on dresses and boots were the detritus of a river bed, caught on Palmer’s body. And when some models emerged, torsos and arms wrapped in sheer fabric, the nod to Palmer’s body, wrapped in plastic, was clear. The impression of the drowned girl was reinforced by the make-up: red-rimmed eyes, wet look hair, cold pale lips.
Young designers don’t always leave you wanting more; James Kelly does. I look forward to next season. (read the designer’s interview with 1 Granary here)