A standard review would not do justice to Ed Meadham’s and Ben Kirchhoff’s latest collection. They are a different kind of storytellers – the kind that could only ever be understood if ‘read’ between the lines– and their “Cautionary Tale” was a perfect illustration of that.
The catwalk, transformed into a beautiful 18th century rustic themed set with 3 Chinoiserie floor screens adorned with roses, tiered cakes, flowers, candelabras, fruit, and a myriad of small trinkets and ornaments- perfectly capturing the collection’s mood. This unabashed excess of all things girly and pretty was replicated in the designs, with all skirts, dresses, and trousers densely covered with bows, ruffles, brocades, rhinestones, feathers, and lace to an uncanny, almost sickeningly sweet effect.
However, being masters of the unsettling Meadham and Kirchhoff also channeled their obsession with detail into making their clothes breathtakingly beautiful; something that has not always been their first priority. Weaving baroque patterns that at first seem like digital prints of porcelain cups or ornate tapestry onto skirts and trousers and combining them with instantly wearable sculpted denim white jackets. The design duo showed clothes that are guaranteed to make the rounds in upcoming editorials.
The collection was also unusually referential for them; from the dirndl dresses, bows, and skirts complete with romantically disheveled curls and blushed cheeks, evoking Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette, to the beaded shoes- most of which were made by Meadham’s sister and by channeling Roger Vivier’s designs for Dior in the 50’s.
A strong fairtytale-gone-wrong undercurrent also seemed to creep up, as the models swanned the set, giving us a subtle performance by nonchalantly picking up long-stemmed roses or decadently tasting the lavish cake frosting with a finger, on the backdrop of an chilling, music-box soundtrack. There was an impending sense of disaster, one that was suggested even by the invite, whose ‘pull me’ tag revealed an illustration of a girl on fire from a 19th century famous cautionary tale, but such a thing never happened.
“It was about excess, about having too much and never being happy with it,” Kirchhoff said backstage. “The shows, they are literally stories of our lives” added Meadham, both cornered by a crown of admirers and well wishers. “It’s a cautionary tale against everything we’ve ever done, including what you just saw.”
“I have been praying every single five minutes throughout the process of the last six months that this was going to be the last collection anyway,” Meadham finally added, with no hint of a joke.
I can only hope this cautionary tale, just like their designs, will not conform to the rules and bring us a different ending than this. Because the Meadham Kirchhoff duo are just too good to quit.
- Maria Dimitrova