"The hardest collection I've ever done," Jonathan Saunders declared after a show that continually tricked the eye but ultimately seduced the mind. As one of London's original masters of the print renaissance, he feels he has to force himself into strange new places each season. Here, for instance, there were laser-precise stripes that defied comprehension. The silver and green combo, for instance—was it color printed on leather? Or laminate printed on fabric? Or both?
That ambiguous duality seemed like the essence of the collection, which also revolved around outfits that totally transformed front to back. The first look featured a nude second-skin top and a sci-fi metallic skirt. Both turned to reveal a matte black back. Later, there were a sensational red sequin cardigan and skirt that, viewed from behind, were all gray jersey. Or an almost-corsetlike top and skirt embossed with shiny green dots that died away to a lime-y matte in back. What was Saunders implying with such split-personality clothes? You could probably extract some interesting philosophical point about lubricious comings and decorous goings, and the fairy tales of first impressions. That line of reasoning might yield an appropriately sexual subtext. Saunders himself was, after all, keen to emphasize the up-for-it-ness of his new collection. The sneery, erotic grind of "Strange" by seventies art-punk icons Wire set the mood. Saunders said he was thinking about "a Michael Clark disco girl"—glossy lips; tousled hair; sequined, bias-cut slipdress; a wild child, but with a bit of art in her. He agreed she'd probably be someone like the girls in Antonio Lopez's Instamatics, and God knows they are the fierce ruling divas of pop culture at the moment with the Lopez book, the New York exhibition, and the MAC collection.
Which proves that Saunders has an instinct for the moment. The graphic boldness and hard confidence of this collection had take-charge guts. There will always be something about a blouson over a bandeau that says bad girl, but recent political events in the U.S. have conspired to make it a practical necessity for girls to be "bad" in the face of male idiocy. Saunders has generously given them a uniform to triumphantly fight the good/bad fight.