Light organ music was playing upon entrance to the Swiss Church London, a strangely serene sound to be heard at a show that from the notes promised a vibrancy Ashley Williams has trained her audience to expect. Once the organ dimmed, a lone model stalked onto centre stage in front of Tony Hornecker’s set - a shrine complete with Bart Simpson, sand and shells - to play a short violin solo. The rows of onlookers looked curious, questioning, uncertain of what to expect.
The audience’s brows glistened with sweat, a result of rain and a severe temperature change from the cold, blustery September weather into a bright, hot space. Piercing light overhead added to the disjointed air that brought in Williams’s S/S 18 catwalk show.
The irony of the weather outside was unavoidable as Williams’s beach-ready collection emerged. Teva sandals adorned with bejewelled brooches were paired with dresses and bathing suits in clashing zebra and floral prints. Models wore straw sunhats and frowns. I couldn’t help but create the narrative of a teenage girl forced to vacation with her parents as garments emerged with slogans such as, 'My universe is infinitely friendly' and buzzwords including 'Misery', 'Anxiety' and 'Ugly' appeared on jewellery and hair-clips.
Williams’s show notes came armed with quotes from the likes of Miley Cyrus and Wendy O. Williams. They spoke of the Ashley Williams girl and her evolution: A line from Cyrus's 2017 single Younger Now read, 'Even though it's not who I am, I'm not afraid of who I used to be / No one stays the same, what goes up must come down.'
The strongest pieces in the collection acknowledged this evolution; the two-piece skirt suits (particularly in the black mock-croc) were completely desirable and details such as the marabou feathering, haphazardly lain on the chest of a floral dress, created a considered yet cockily cool effect. In a collection that mixed a bastardised version of beach wear with angry, edgy workwear, Williams showed that she is, like her girl, still evolving.