Opening with a monologue by each of the designers, the Antoni & Alison show was a celebration of their 25 year design partnership, which began when they met at Central Saint Martins in 1987. Alison was frank about the difficultly of reconciling their personal and creative differences over the years, and admitted that at times they had felt despondent and ready to give up, though she went onto explain that “something always happens” to pull them through. Antoni was more jovial and sarcastic, proclaiming their team-of-two as ‘geniuses’ who may only be recognised as such in 100 years time. He described himself and Alison as old fashioned futurists, who’d dressed up as goths and pansies, who’d made nothing, who’d made a house; who’d known they’d done the right thing, just not why they’d done it.
Despite their nostalgic tone, the duo were adamant that this anniversary collection looked forward, not back. They did not study their archive, but surrounded themselves with the new; listening to music they hadn’t heard before and working separately for four days painting and drawing, before coming together at the end and splicing their work in two – half Antoni, half Alison. To the sound of a live marching band with drum and bass accompaniment, models walked in simple silk shift dresses printed with abstract drawings; some Picasso-esque brawny brush strokes in primary colours, some black eyeliner squiggles, some ornately detailed, hand-drawn patterns.
Antoni’s voiceover explained “We made dresses because it was the right thing to do”, and of the mono-garment collection the pieces which made the most sense were those reminiscent of recent Dries Van Noten and Michael van der Ham styles, where sections of fabric were brought together in a collage of miss-matched prints, colours, textures and fabrics; though this motif was printed flat onto a single surface of silk.
There was an element of fun in billowing styles, with crayon-drawn polka dots and monotone gingham bows across the chest. Elsewhere, beautiful botanical illustrations topped dresses and finished below in green graffiti-sprayed lattice stencils. Many had artistic clown buttons running down the front, and there was an abundance of prints you might otherwise find on 70’s plasticized table cloths. A recurring metallic gold print made you wonder how Antoni and Alison had created it without digital aid, yet the show notes assured you that they had. It was a lovely collection of breezy, playful summer dresses, mostly featuring T-shirt sleeves and the occasional, slightly odd built-in black bolero.
If you were looking for a summary of their illustrious quarter-century together then you may be disappointed – the design duo were clear that their latest collection lives very much in the present, in the new; and it does.
Words and images by Charlotte Gush