Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff titled their latest collection 'A Rebours', after the Joris-Karl Huysmans novel that chronicles the decadence and degeneration of a French aristocrat, who denounces nature to indulge a perverse aesthetic lust. Okay, that's the pontificating explanation out of the way. It goes by the wayside that this is a book much-beloved by dark and brooding aesthetes (of which the Meadham Kirchhoff boys are undoubtedly numbered) and befuddled, oddly introspective adolescents (draw your own conclusions on that one).
The Autumn/Winter collection the designers showed under that name was paraded on distinctly Des Esseintes Persian carpets, under streamers of tinsel and unrolling swathes of patterned paper - the remains, it seems, of a children's party, an interpretation underscored by the clothes themselves. Willfully confused, with garment piled on top of garment, models emerged like children from the dressing-up box adorned from head (under trailing veils and plastic tiaras) to toe (clumpy Birkenstock sandal and pastel sock) in a mishmash muddle of anything and everything. The garments that made that muddle, nevertheless, were distinctly Meadham Kirchhoff, and it says something about their standing in London that when the lace-trimmed, delicately distressed chiffon gowns were abstracted from the mix, they could have come from no other label. These gowns were the backbone of the show - albeit thrown over or crushed under anything from sequin-encrusted angora cardigans to biker-jackets in brocade and hand-painted leather. There were shades of Courtney Love in the grungy, tatterdemalion layering and mix of kitschy trash with precious treasure. Those fragile tea-gowns were occasionally patched with random leopard-fur to match a motheaten vintage coat, and plastic jewellery glinting with imitation gems glistened along arms, around necks and in the hair. The mix of colours also spoke of bad taste, fuchsia and red clashed in lacy negligees, and sickening-sweet pastels crafted into those fluffy knits strewn with sequin applique.
Of course, it was inevitable that there was far more going on beneath the surface. Undeniably, in the randomness, insanity even, of the Meadham Kirchhoff mix there was a certain sinister fascination - an unsettling Kinderwhore fantasy of adult models attired in the fancy-dress of children, with justifications oscillating between undertones of perverse sexual shenanigans or simple return to the innocence of childhood. Both of these explanations find basis in Huysmans' novel - but at the same time, however decadent and poetic the vision of trailing lace veils and shredded chiffon garments may have been, the show as a whole failed to synthesise these disparate elements into a convincing collection. Exquisite as indivual pieces were, it was difficult even in theory to remove them from the narrative of the show, and the ephemeral environment Meadham Kirchhoff so painstakingly conjured up, and into the real world.