Saturday, 29 April 2017

Heathcliff as a band and Cathy as a fan: Alistair James AW17

Funnily enough, in spite of my fondness for Austen and period dramas, it was only in recent years that I finally interacted with any of the Bronte clan. Considering their moody and dark romance, it really is a wonder but I guess the taste was a little more Austen during my childhood and both have a tendency to be given rather dusty press that can put off younger readers.

Nevertheless, my introduction came with the release of Fukuraga's 2011 "Jane Eyre", starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. I remember insisting that my then boyfriend and his parents chose it among our options for something to watch one lazy evening and quickly became utterly absorbed and very bad company. However, it was "Wuthering Heights" that made me really fall in at the deep end.

I don't know why, really. Heathcliff is kind of everything I despise in a man and, yet... And, yet, in every adaptation and the original text he is utterly charismatic and I cannot help but be drawn to him and the gothic tale of passion, hatred, disaster, grief and pain that centres around his and Cathy's cursed love story.

So, during the brief moment I had to dash around the Designer Showrooms at LFW this season (only an hour), in my chaotic haze, my attention was immediately captured by a collection described as "'Wuthering Heights; if Heathcliff was a band and Cathy were an obsessive fan". I was sold immediately and the garments I was able to peruse there and then were right up my alley; gothy babydoll dresses, lots of black lace, elevated band tees. Upon nerding with one of the designers over the concept, I took a business card and some photographs as a reminder and went on my merry way.

I was feeling a lot of designers in the moment that day but that Bronte collection stuck in my head. So, I trawled through the photos and business cards and managed to find the name, weeks later, when the whirling around my brain refused to stop; Alistair James.

Alistair James is a two-man show; eponymously named after, and the brainchild of, Nicholas Alistair Walsh and David James Wise. The pair are a bit of dream team with Walsh being a womenswear designer who was worked with Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen and Wise a textiles designer who has worked at many labels, including Alexander McQueen.

Their AW17 collection takes inspiration from the Brontes, who lived a short distance from Walsh's home by the moors and was designed while staying there. Alistair James' girl this season is a "playful dreamer" and "lovesick consumed by her infatuation [sic]". With customised prints of abstract ladies frolicking in a winter garden and "Heathcliff" print, featuring lustful figures and lingering eyes, the collection is presented in tones of black, white, dusty blue and vibrant reds and pinks and includes a recurring silhouette inspired by Charlotte's "Thackerey" dress. Perhaps the most iconic element, however, are the Heathcliff slogan sweaters that are embroidered with phrases from the novel and give a nod to Heathcliff as a band.

Moody, sensual and cool, the collection is wearable and pretty with just enough theatricality and nods to the writers to keep fans of the works and fans of the aesthetic alike rather happy, indeed.

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(Images courtesy of Alistair James)

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