Bright Young Things
After the glut of Christmassy tradition and nostalgia, Selfridges has dedicated the first two months of 2011 to a palate-cleansing celebration of the decade’s sparkiest, freshest young design talents. As a mark of their continuing commitment to nurturing creatives from the beginning of their careers, the store’s buyers have invited their twenty hottest tips to moonlight as window-dressers and impose their artistic vision on the shoppers of Oxford Street. The only brief is this: their display must convey the essence of their brand. No small task considering some of these designers graduated less than a year ago. It’s notable that, as well as fashion designers, Selfridges has chosen to recognise prop stylists, footwear designers and illustrators, doubtless in recognition of their increasing profile within the industry.
Simone Rocha, whose assured Fashion East debut last season has silenced accusations of nepotism, based her window upon images of Francis Bacon’s studio. Her own pieces – masterly confections of tulle and tailoring – are suspended amid mounds of Polaroid exposures which somehow convey oozing paint perfectly. It’s a pared-down, mature window that doesn’t scream attention to itself, yet proves simplicity doesn’t have to be austere.
Less subtle, but equally brilliant, is Charlie Le Mindu’s window. The hairdresser provocateur’s virtuosic tastelessness scales new heights in a display which features two pink-wigged models reclining on a pink chaise longue, dressed only in pink fishnets and bondage boots, surrounded by pink props including a typewriter, curlers, a disproportionately large tube of lipstick and barbed wire.
Craig Lawrence, meanwhile, has created a black and silver hall of mirrors which reflect the Oxford Street hoards as much as his mannequin, which, dressed in a tinselly gown, is suspended from a swing like a Fragonard model at a disco. The effect Lawrence manages to create is sinister as well as glamorous and betrays the influence of his former employer, Gareth Pugh.
Bright Young Things proves two things – that the current crop of London-based fashion creatives is as vibrant as its forbears, and that there is extraordinary diversity in their work. If there’s any common theme to these windows, it’s very well hidden, although it is possible to discern links between some displays. A resurgent interest in minimalism is one – for Rocha and also for Lilee, a recent LCF grad, whose subtle all-white trapeze-based display shows admirable restraint and lightness of touch. An interest in the trappings of the fine art world is another – footwear designer Kei Kagami and fashion designer Alex Noble have both created windows that involve installation and sculpture, while jeweller Reid Peppard has created a piece involving video and halogen lights.
For the duration of the project, Selfridges is running a pop-up shop in-store and online where one can purchase a pair of Patternity tights or a Craig Lawrence scarf, thus even further narrowing the gap between the avant-garde and those for whom the darker recesses of Machine-A are as distant as Mars. Pleasingly, a central window is devoted to the designers themselves, who, large as life in cardboard cut-outs, smirk, grin and sneer out at the sales shoppers and office drones shuffling past. This entails an amusing game of match-the-designer-to-the-window – here’s a clue: Le Mindu’s the one in the middle with the moustache.
Words: Alexa Hall