"Did you like the show?" Jonathan Saunders asked Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood when he came backstage after Saunders' show tonight. "A lot of tits," Wood replied roguishly. He wasn't wrong. The designer's latest collection celebrated the pneumatic uplift of British pinups of the fifties, with bosoms cupped in bustiers, pushed skyward by corsetry or hinted at in the kind of oversize knitwear that once would have left no illusions as to why well-endowed starlets were called sweater girls. But if, in hindsight, there was something almost wholesome about the brassy sass of a blond bombshell like Diana Dors, Saunders injected enough kink to make you think of David Lynch. The director was a reference point he was quite partial to.
After last season's stripey metallic chill, Saunders had found himself drawn to warm and woolly for winter. But that was just too literal for him, so in came the vinyl and the rubber, to add edge to the mohair fuzzies. And that contradictory combination of elements was at the heart of his collection. Still, for all the implied raciness of the inspiration, there was something curiously old-fashioned about it. You could imagine rock 'n' rollin' suburbanites in the fifties pairing a mohair sweater and a vinyl circle skirt for a swingers' night out. Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood tapped into that fetish underground for their legendary King's Road stores, though that was nearly 40 years ago, and the frisson is long faded. But the necklines, the silhouettes, and the color palette (mustard, rust, baby pink, sky blue) in today's show had a late-fifties/early-sixties flavor. So did the hairdos. Saunders had even lifted the key visual motif—a scrolly, leafy thing—from an old bra. It was laser-cut and hand-embroidered onto anything from a strappy wool dress to a sheer black slip.
Though Saunders is a past master of the outré, he has never been someone you would consider a retroactive designer. Maybe he was aiming for the same essence of off-kilter that Lynch strikes with his disturbing balance of proper and perverse. It's unfortunate that what we saw today was merely off.