We don't generally cover each and every graduate presentation, but I think it's worth blogging last night's St. Martins show as its themes were quite marked. We've been focusing on fashion performance for some time at SHOWstudio (think: Transformer, fashion films, the live shoots and picture message projects), but rarely do you see performance translated onto the catwalk at student level.
Spectacle and narrative are treasured aspects of some of the more established fashion houses' presentations (John Galliano's famous steam train in his Pocahontas S/S '99 couture show, Viktor & Rolf's ribbon-strewn S/S '05 tableau, Alexander McQueen's S/S '04 marathon danceathon and Jessica Ogden's boudoir sequence starring our very own Liberty Ross for A/W '04 are obvious examples). Without the production budgets and choreographers at those designers' disposal, however, the potential for performance to tip over into am-dram is perhaps too great.
Credit is due, then, to graduates Josephine Sundt (who pulled off a Viktor & Rolf-alike tableau, complete with rite-of-spring maypole, without a titter) and Yuya Abe, whose installation with placards and plinths was very effective while people took forever to be seated. Yoshikazu Yamagata's Hans Christian Andersen-inspired fashion freak show finale gave me The Embarrassing Feeling, however. I guess that was its point. A fashion show within a fashion show, his giant knitted characters hi-jacked the catwalk to parody the occasion and the industry itself. All the staple characters were there: a corpulent, knitted catwalk photographer took his place in front of the photographers pit as some downright mean, woolly caricatures of fashion editors Hilary Alexander (Telegraph) and Diane Pernet (Disciple Films) plonked themselves down on the front row. Next, a series of stereotypical 'freaks' (the cripple, the hairy 'thing', the fat woman) paraded down the runway. Ah, well. The crowd seemed to love it.
The other big trend suggested by the show was an alarming shift towards infantilism: lots of big baby-doll dresses on grown up women. Never a good look, not even on the Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry who was there to hand over the Menswear prize (a shrewd press fudge, making all those sugar-sweet frills in the collections seem knowing...) The star, though, was Gemma Ainsworth's hard-faced prom bitches in peach (pictured - a big thanks to Chris Moore at catwalking.com for lending his splendid image). As Ainsworth's models formed a frieze at the back of the runway to Tina Turner's 'Simply The Best' a bit of cheeky elegance rescued the night from panto excess.