Currently airing on Meadham Kirchhoff’s website is a short film titled “A Cautionary Tale,” featuring the house’s Spring/Summer 2013 womenswear collection. It’s engrossing — emphasis on gross — a spectacular, orchestrated mess of baroque confectionery with gilded sugar flourishes and bowed garters and go-lightly chiffon wisps that suggest, in a way, the consequence of certain ravenous pleasures from the night before. The collection reads like an even-more-unhinged Sofia Coppola-Marie Antoinette, replete with dying roses and girls stumbling about upholstered settees, coated in jewelry and feathery bits and bobs. Thus, the Meadham Kirchhoff formula herein congeals almost as a pseudo-pornographic equation for fashion die-hards. Functioning ostensibly as an NC-17 rated sartorial Disneyland, it’s campy and sexy and ostentatious — but there’s an intellect beneath the pomp, a sharp and modern wit that supersedes the two-dimensionality of the frivolous.
Officially founded in 2006 by Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff, the London-based label has slowly gained traction in both the public eye and in bottom-line sales — their wares are now sold worldwide, with lucrative retail deals from highbrow Net-A-Porter to trust-funded hipster haunt Opening Ceremony. While they’ve grown physically, their aesthetic DNA (it can only be described as a garnished, cartoon-vomit-hued double helix bonded by glitter and frills) has remained unbroken.
Take for example their first catwalk sponsorship for Fall/Winter 2010 in which crowns and veils, cut in swooping shear and trimmed in dust-ruffles (and bows – even back then Meadham and Kirchhoff were using them as decorative touches) highlighted the show. The iconoclasm proved marvelously insane, for it basically swung a wrecking ball through the proverbial boudoir and sent its revelers scurrying out into the daylight. The duo progressed to Spring/Summer 2012’s lighter-hearted and much hyped heart-emoji/eyeball motifs, vaguely reminiscent of Takashi Murakami’s ocular jellyfish bloodline, to Fall/Winter 2012’s faux-fur monsters in fuchsia and ochre, to Spring/Summer 2013’s garish and off-the-deep-end princesses. Starting to get the picture?
Until six months ago, though, a spoke was missing from Meadham Kirchhoff’s spinning rims – menswear. It’s a little perplexing to consider, for while their designs are sexy at least in color and pin-up-ishness, they undercut gender associations – rendered, actually, sexless in the carefully choreographed milieu and subsequent settling of the dust. Everything up until this point looked like something the glittering asexual rat-packs of Stoke Newington or Dalston would wear (and in fact, did).
Thus, assumedly thanks to the success and stability of their women’s line, the duo decided to introduce a capsule pour les hommes at London’s inaugural men’s weekend (preceding Milan and Paris’ respective men’s fashion weeks) this past June. The static display garnered critical acclaim, if not a bit of an audience recoil; here was a mashed up, any-20-something’s apartment, like some kind of Dan Colen and Dash Snow shredded-phonebook drug den laced with flowers and potpourri, empty pizza boxes, and Disney character bedsheets (literally — Jasmine was on the linens). Moreover, the boys themselves were no less, or no more, fitting — they appeared in various states of undress, in boxer shorts, fluorescent high-tops, skullcaps, and gold ankle-bangles. One model even had Sharpie ink (everyone’s favorite party prank instrument) blocked out across his forehead to form the word “WALLFLOWER.” Again, the interplay between the translucent and the bejeweled, between hard street and pop-religion, came across not as Male with a capital M, but something without assignation — the realization of a regular club kid Joe waking up in an incredible outfit from an incredible night, ready to relive it all again come sundown. Meadham and Kirchhoff do not simply design clothes — they design aspirational or fantastic dreams of entire lifestyles, all the more exacerbated by their hyperactivity.
So, can the over-the-top last for Meadham Kirchhoff? Will they eventually tone down their output to fit a more public standard? Is “A Cautionary Tale” actually a subconscious recognition of the sparkling razor-blade upon which they dance and the formidable parapet of convention to which they regularly give the finger?
It is this writer’s opinion that we won’t see Meadham Kirchhoff pumping the breaks anytime soon, for this house caters in near perfect symmetric harmony to both an increasingly educated fashion fan-base and the eye-candy starved digital generation. Fashion, and fashion consumption whether it be purchasing power or perusing LiveJournals, has moved well past the days of the big box brands — much to the credit of places like the aforementioned Opening Ceremony. There has been a push towards individuality and quality, or, at least, the quality of the ideas behind the manifests. Meadham Kirchhoff is among the current forerunners of this proverbial enlightenment, a gateway label showcasing that a brave new territory exists beyond the Pradas and the Proenzas of the world. Moreover, the Internet has helped tremendously with smaller or outré brands attracting bigger numbers, what with its endless comment sections and G-chats and embeddings. But Meadham Kirchhoff is by nature more pixel-friendly than most, and was therefore always destined for the blog-o-sphere out of mere aesthetic principle alone, regardless of whether or not one likes fashion or design. People want pretty pictures, and MK delivers them — without micro-nicheing itself.
Labeling this brand “irreverent” would be incorrect; they are not disrespecting the craft, they aren’t cushioned by anything anarchic. Rather, Meadham Kirchhoff is celebratory at its core, milkshake-blending-in-an-
Meadham Kirchoff will show their second men’s collection at London’s upcoming Collections: Men weekend on January 7.