Is it a bird? Is it a wig? Is it a fancy-dress costume? Those are the kind of questions that proliferate at a Charlie Le Mindu show. The answer often ticks all three boxes - Le Mindu holds no truck with categorising himself as one or another, prefering instead to experiment with fusions of fashion, art and follicle-teasing. The trouble with that, of course, is that sometimes you can seem like a jack of all trades and master of none - it’s difficult to see what Le Mindu gains from creating collections that focus so thoroughly on fashion, when his training and speciality has always been in haute coiffure rather than haute couture.
And so to his latest offering, inspired by the decadence of wartime Berlin. If that sounds like a schlocky excuse for a few shock-tactics revolving around Third Reich insignia, it often was. At moments it touched the lowest echelons - I’m thinking here of a Reichstag eagle topping a bride’s outfit, and a few lingerie-lace SS caps, one of the few remaining taboos fashion simply shouldn’t attempt to grapple with. The less said about the nauseating, blood-drenched opening number with the word ‘VIOLENCE’ writ large above her head, the better. Anyway, you’ll be seeing it gracing the ‘fashion’ pages of a few choice tabloids tomorrow, so there’s no need for me to waste my words on it.
There were some quieter moments, where Le Mindu’s fusion of fetish and fashion actually garnered some interesting results. A chantilly lace gas-mask that appeared to vomit a stream of hair had a visual tether to the unsettling work of Joel-Peter Witkin, while more lace was overlaid with transparent PVC and crafted into neat trench-coats that managed to tread a fine line between sickly and sweet. The amount of design involved in their creation, however, was negligible - as was the involvement of Le Mindu’s signature, hair. That has often given his work a fresh originality and newsworthiness beyond B-Movie horror effects. When you take that away, what exactly are you left with?