Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier’s youth brigade marched on in this MBMJ show that brought home their point about “aesthete activism.” With their comrade neckerchiefs and badged-up berets inspired by the New York Guardian Angels, these “charming vigilantes” – as Bartley and Hillier referred to them – stomped out on to a fresh green pasture, ready to take on the world and perhaps incite change in the process.
The power of youth:
The designers were both adamant that there was nothing political about their slogans, that were once again designed by Fergus “Fergadelic” Purcell. The words “Solidarity”, “Suffragette”, “Future” and “Choice” were peppered throughout the military-tinged collection – employed as though they were graphics rather than words. “It’s more about youth culture than it is about politics,” said Luella Bartley backstage after the show. “It’s about harnessing the energy and the positivity of youth and that feeling that when you’re young, you can change the world.” Despite their protestations (no pun intended), it’s hard not to read into the way that Bartley and Hillier are using fashion to inadvertently say something meaningful. Words like “choice” and “solidarity” are pertinent to a generation of young feminists, who actively fight battles that have still not yet been won regarding gender equality.
“We used the William Morris prints because he broke new ground and he was very politically active,” said Bartley. “You can do both. Just because you’re in fashion, doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion about everything else.” Morris may be more well known for his textile designs but was also a committed social activist. Hillier and Bartley used the artist’s famous Strawberry Thief and Acanthus prints throughout the collection – clashing and contrasting them with the skater-inspired typography to celebrate Morris as a revolutionary of his time. From a distance, the prints almost looked like a distorted take on camouflage. Another MBMJ youth army has arisen.