Saturday, 19 November 2011
Sun Nov 20th: Peter Jensen "Fashion In Motion" at The V&A Museum
"When there is always something there to remind me..........." Dusty's vocals were removed from Jerry Bouthier's soundtrack mix for the Peter Jensen - Fashion In Motion retrospective catwalk show at the V&A.......... but the Burt Bacharach instrumental immediately triggered the lyrics in my mind and put a smile on my face like all of Jensen's humorous underlying quirks. His signature subtle subversive detailing is always the strain that defines each collection and as the archive pieces swayed past, it was demonstrated that there IS always something there to remember indeed!
Lucy Ewing had strung the 10 year review together by a colour palette order that merged the entire history into one succint showcase. Sherbert pink, raspberry sorbet, canary yellow, royal blue, taupes and tans, white transparent sheers that showed shiny sequin scattered panties ...... which brings me to one of my favourite Jensen staples. From a Dolly Mixture style bead encrusted jacket and separate collar neckpiece to sparkling twin-sets and scoop neck sweaters all twinkling ontop of the candy colours. Stockings and socks had stripes of sequins sewn in random side panels as if a granny had taken a trip whilst darning - which is perhaps where Jensen's endearment lies.
Peter once told me that he had been trained in embroidery back in his Danish schooling days where techniques were taught with white thread onto white fabric. The process included regular hand washing intervals to keep the samples in snow white pristine condition. I can just picture Peter's fingers twitching in the direction of the nearest necklace for pearls to put into his herring bone stitch. His unabashed approach to having fun with jewells, gems, feathers and fringing is perfectly echoed in the milnery executed by Bernstock Spiers. The accessorized looks were a showcase of thier fantastic headgear collaborations, just as much as the complete combination of clothes. A riding hat encased in a shell of crystals, an Alice band covered in the contents of an antique jewellry box, a bobble hat balanced a giant tweakable pompom, a niave style fairytale paper crown and a gold lurex muskateer helmet; which was the winner for me! This seemed as if it had been pulled from the most exciting costume box a child could ever discover. Infact this was the predominant styling for the show with model's hair adorned with a wonky wig, seemingly slapped on in a state of excitable dress-up. The girls emboided an allusion of a 6 year old that had been let loose in a trunk of treats but then stepped out the other side of a magical wardrobe onto the runway of a Parisian couture presentation. It's the confidence in adopting lo-fi themes and turning them into neat wearble key components for a smart girl's closet, that I love about Jensen. What might look like a regular pair of black trousers from the rear, look like a furry pair of faun legs from the front. What might appear as a paisley print is infact hand painted fruit illustrations in repeat on closer inspection.
His most famous print of the interlocking bunnies monogram is now almost its own brand. Who doesn't want one of those ridiculously lush swimsuits with rabbit ears that make a halter-neck like a modern day Rudi Gernreich unitard?!!! I'm personally partial to the Tatty Devine perspex sunnies and Bernstock Spiers baseball cap. It was so nice to see an audience sporting varying bunny pieces - some having turned out with bunny totes in hand.
For the finale of a four part schedule of shows open to the public, the benches were full of the Peter Jensen family tree. Sitting front row in her new Brora sweater was Louise Gray, a former assistant to Jensen who recognised a heart warming amount of her own handiwork in many of the pieces. "I hope Peter realises how good that was" were her words after the show, with Natascha Stolle - another former apprentice at PJ HQ. I really hope so too, witnessing for myself over the years his work ethic of dedication, conviction and long days spent toiling and tailoring. I was embroidering his hand-sewn name labels a decade ago on the day the twin towers fell in New York. It is such a vivid memory from my first experience of work placements, watching the events unfold on a tiny television in his atelier..............
A great deal has changed since this beginning in 2001, and the 10 year anniversary of Peter's enterprise that the V&A were celebrating with this show, is credit to his consistency in the craft. The designer creates collections that are indiscriminately inclusive and accessible. All the while, each muse-inspired narrative has held a sneaky subverted twist for the discerning eye. This cunning treatment of coping with a fluctuating and fickle industry isn't necessarily a savvy conscious game-plan but just a natural process from this genuine talent. Peter is one of those rare and lovely characters who makes you comfortable with his unaffected calm presence and equally cracks you up with the unspoken wit in his work. Having always taken the brave step to show in unexpected venues (including an ice rink) it was brilliant to see a runway summary of all seasons past, under the magnificent roof of the main hall at the museum.
Many congratulations to Peter and Gerard for quietly creating classics that have amassed to be this timeless body of work ........... Im looking forward to the next chapter of muses, magic and hilarious accessories ..........
(Top to bottom: Backstage, The show, The set of Charlotte Mann wallpaper and Andy Hillman SISSY letters, Portrait of Paul Bernstock, Louise Gray, Peter Jensen and Thelma Speirs)