Thursday, 17 January 2013

Knitwear Is Punk

Fashion shows are greeted with the same antipathy as the Turner Prize by the British tabloids. Culture in general is derided as is any supposed deviation from the norm. These newspapers sell sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia to the masses, with rehashed scare stories featuring immigrants, benefit scroungers and Muslims. I understand that a critique from these newspapers of the latest menswear collections is trivial, and is only a minor drop in their ocean of bile. However, it is still irritating to see an article published that exists merely to insult young British talent. In this Daily Mail article titled 'Is there a prize for the stupidest outfit at Men's Fashion Week in London...?', we are told of the supposed 'humiliation of the models' having to wear 'outrageous', 'outlandish' and 'bizarre' designs. One helpful caption tells us that we are viewing a model wearing 'huge knitted gloves several times the size of his actual hands'. It is good to know that the Daily Mail feels it is necessary to explain body proportions to it's readership. Mind you, given the spectacular amount of images contained within the article, one can only assume that they cater for the illiterate. The creators of the huge gloves in question are London knitters Sibling. Instead of taking the Daily Mail's insults to heart, they are wearing them as a badge of honour.  
We need only look back to a 1988 episode of Wogan to see the matriarch of British fashion Dame Vivienne Westwood being treated in a similar manner.

The jeering crowd now receive Vivienne Westwood gift sets for Christmas and lust after bags featuring her golden orb. Pieces from the Time Machine collection are sold in auction houses, regarded as seminal pieces of British fashion history. Westwood has been accepted into the fold. The unnerving truth about the majority of Daily Mail readers is that they do not question what they are told. Like this, hate that. Scan through the comments of any given Daily Mail article and you will be hard pressed to find an opinion differing to that of the journalists. These rags do not act as taste makers but as taste dictators. Working to suppress individuality they cajole their readers into fearing difference. Hence their inherent dislike of minorities and culture and their ardent nostalgia for a Britain that does not, and never did exist.

Serendipitously Sibling's collection has it's roots in punk, specifically the punk who challenged punk Jayne County. The models wore oversized knitted hats in homage to the singer and Jayne's music was the soundtrack to the startlingly quick show. Emblazoned on the backdrop of the runway in a funeral floral tribute were the words 'please kill me', a reference to another influential punk Richard Hell. Much like Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood before them, Sibling were inspired by New York punks. Straying far from the usual uniform of safety pins, studs and leather, the models looked soft and cuddly. They wore garments made of knitted yarn in pale pink and blue. Their hands were encased in oversized gloves and the opening jumper was embroidered with flowers. 'Flowers and pink are not punk!' I hear you say. Let me argue my case.

As fluffy fabrics in baby pink and blue were featured throughout the collection and Jayne County was an influence, it would appear Sibling were delving into the complex world of gender. Before transitioning Jayne County was Wayne County, finding success in the band Wayne County and The Electric Chairs. One of the bands most recognizable songs as well as the title of Jayne's autobiography is Man Enough To Be A Woman. Jayne laid down the gauntlet to punks by showing it was more punk to be a woman, and dress as a woman, than to assimilate by donning the typical hyper masculine punk uniform. In Sibling's show this idea is extended. We were treated to muscular teddy bears wearing the colours of the gender binary, their fists softened by woolen boxing gloves. The icing on the cake for this fantastic collection is the vitriol from the press. Punk aimed to ruffle feathers, to be subversive, to challenge authority and Middle England. Initially punk achieved this but quickly the music and style of dress were absorbed by mainstream culture. Walk down the street in a leather jacket adorned with band patches, a mohawk and tartan trousers and no one will bat an eyelid. Wear head to toe Sibling however and rile those Daily Mail readers for looking different. A member of staff for The Independent did just that and was called a "Queer!" by a 'white-van man' during his brief excursion wearing Sibling's latest collection. Ironically the title of the article in which this investigative journalism has been documented is 'Real men don’t wear spots... or do they?'. The article leaves me with many questions unanswered. What constitutes a real man and how can I spot a fake? Are their seams finished in a shoddy manner and their zip pulls not weighty enough?

Anyhow, back to the collection. The oversized theme continued with thick knit scarfs featuring pocket details the very sight of which warms my freezing hands. Sibling love a bit of leopard print and this seasons offerings come in red and pink. Leopard print also finds it's way into their signature collage style Fair Isle print along with zigzags, polka dots and acid coloured kaleidoscope prints. I love the complexity of these knitted collages and I hope it remains a staple in Sibling collections.

Of course there is humour in Sibling's clothing but there is also intellect and craftsmanship. In my opinion this is a hugely successful collection and I must again applaud Sibling for creating delicious pieces of knitwear and pissing off the media in the process. You've done Jayne County proud.


Jimi LaLumia said...

Jayne County deserves her own fashion line 'brand'!..how wild would THAT be?

Unknown said...

Jayne you are finally getting your due and I am so happy for you. I love you. Rock On !