The sound and vision of Jonathan Saunders' show had a grim, dystopian flavor: towers of old TV sets tuned to static, stacks of grimy speakers pumping the same staticky sound. "Everything is made of something found and disposable," Saunders explained. "It's a bit like the collection." He meant that an initial inspiration had been offcuts of textiles left over from his menswear, which he bonded together with glitter to create something else altogether. "It's almost like lace," he said, his enthusiasm so palpable through the pre-show exhaustion that it was obvious he felt this was the most creative he'd been in a long time.
The same bonded patchwork effect was a recurring motif throughout the show. It suited the random feel of a collection where the designer talked about "the application of the unexpected thing": a strip of glitter, say, around the asymmetric hem of a smock, or the silk satin seams on the outside of a boiled felt coat, or the fuzzy shag of an MA-1 jacket's shearling collar wrapping the neck of a gray flannel coat. About that coat…and all the other outerwear in the show: Saunders was having it large, long, and leg-of-mutton-sleeved. His fanboy feeling for the fierceness of Leigh Bowery and his coterie of cash-strapped creators is more evident by the season. The exaggerated silhouettes here echoed Bowery a bit. So did the checkerboard patterning. Maybe there was a flash of Leigh's Body Map buddies in the tops elongated over long flaring skirts.
But, more than anything, it was the notion of provocative incongruity that most linked Saunders with those who came before. He matches the unmatchable. In an ongoing parade of clashing patterns, colors, and textures, the most persuasive outfit was the last: a solid sweater and muffler in what looked like industrial carpeting (actually the finest cashmere) paired with a skirt in glamorously liquid silver. There's a fearlessness in such an approach. Saunders is certainly not afraid to court ugliness. Even if there was some very pretty, fluttery slipdresses in his show today, it was the bright yellow "smiley-face" heeled booties that truly jived his buns. And that enthusiasm for the outré and the marginal is what will continue to make his collections so fascinating.