I often marvel at how multi-talented emerging designers have to be to break through and make it. It’s not enough to make beautiful, interesting clothes – financial and commercial concerns lie in a delicate balance with creativity. In the last 10 years, two great British brands bit the dust, Luella and Meadham Kirchhoff. Luella, which shut up shop in 2009, was a label I loved and tried to replicate with vintage and high street finds. One of my favourite collections was AW08; a rather literal take on a witches coven, complete with pumpkin coloured tights and pointy hats.
Luella Bartley has made welcome return to fashion, designing for Marc for Marc Jacobs with Katie Hillier. In March this year the pair launched their own label, Hillier Bartley, which is more sophisticated and restrained than Luella; no bad thing in my book. The pink bell sleeved gown and velvet culottes are high on my fantasy wish-list.
There were rumours that Meadham Kirchhoff was in trouble months before Edward Meadham confirmed the label was ‘dead’: ‘Meadham Kirchhoff wasn’t killed by the fashion industry, it was killed largely by itself. We were in a quagmire of debt and it was impossible to keep up with anything’ he told i-D magazine. One of London’s most celebrated, creative and rebellious labels met an untimely demise.
Their tour de force moment was the SS12 collection, A wolf in lamb’s clothing, which blended Courtney Love, pantomime camp with fluffy, cartoonish innocence and exquisitely made clothes.
You might look at MK collections and speculate that a brand so anti-commercial was never going to last. This isn’t necessarily the case; designers can push the envelope and still be financially viable. However, it’s a massive and complicated undertaking. Fashion is becoming more generic and the loss of Meadham Kirchhoff is a hit against the ingenuity which the industry is supposed to thrive on.
Meadham Kirchhoff collaborated with Topshop a couple of years back, and I found this dress lurking in the back of my wardrobe. Layered over this pumpkin turtle-neck from The Reformation, it reminds me of Luella’s witches collection.
I hope Benjamin Kirchhoff and Edward Meadham will find a new place in the buisness. We need mavericks with an uncompromising approach creativity to push an increasingly bland industry into more interesting, experimental territory.