Antoni Burakowski and Alison Roberts heralded the opening of London Fashion Week with a clash of cymbals.
The designers hired a 10-piece brass band for their spring summer 2013 show, a flourish to mark their 25th anniversary working together as Antoni & Alison.
But before the band played, the duo reflected on their milestone in an artists’ statement of a voiceover. They talked origins (‘it was the winter of 1987. It was a recession.’), collections (‘some good, some stupid’) and overarching messages (‘We are chic and beautiful and arty, and not at all kitsch or quirky.’)
It was a tad didactic—seriously, it had the photographers groaning in the stands—but after a quarter-century of earnest, art-driven work, A&A have earned the right to say what they like.
Then the designers let the clothes do the talking. This collection continued in last season’s vein, featuring silk dresses—some short, shift shapes; some columns—printed with photographs of the designers’ hand-painting and collaging. There were fuzzy spray-can blobs, gestural brush strokes, charcoal smudges, layered laces, tartans, wallpaper florals and gold-leaf embellishment. Except there weren’t, because although the twisted dish-cloth bow registers as a piece of embellishment with touchable-looking texture, it’s printed flat onto the garment.
The specialists in trompe l’oeil had plenty of delightful tricks in the line-up, from photographed piles of glitter that stood in for sparkly buttons on one bodice, to a long dress with two thigh slits—one real, one illusion.
Antoni & Alison’s shows tend to have the feel of a polished experiment. At the beginning of the show, Antoni (in voiceover) suggested he and his partner are ‘old-fashioned futurists, looking for the new.’ They have the essential ‘it’: an idea, and the conviction to carry it across the decades. And that deserves all the fanfare The Band of the 24th Invicta Rifles can muster, doesn’t it?