Meadham Kirchhoff designers Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff didn't need to start their show today with tape of an old interview with Courtney Love, but it was fine that they did. It was a good clue that this forceful show was remapping the psychosexual territory staked out by Love and artists like her, such as PJ Harvey, back in the early nineties. Meadham and Kirchhoff were thorough: Guests arrived at the Topshop venue to find the stage set with a gothic installation of flowers, dyed eerily pink, and their seats laid with 'zine-style credit sheets, which the designers had stickered by hand with hearts and flowers. The Manic Panic colors in the models' hair reinforced the grunge-era vibe, as did the makeup, which conjured the Riot Grrrls' messed-up kewpie doll look. All this might have felt heavy-handed, if the clothes on the runway hadn't been so unexpected and so hauntingly weird.

The designers attacked femininity with femininity, perhaps taking their cue from Love's album Live Through This, in which the singer raged against her own desire to live up to an internalized sugar-'n'-spice-and-everything-nice idea. Working in candy colors of lavender, yellow, and pink, then veering into carnal reds and blacks, Meadham and Kirchhoff festooned their clothes with girlish gimmicks. Ruffles, poufs, bows, glitter, you name it. The look was sickly sweet, emphasis on sickly: The fit on the garments was cannily off, sleeves and collars parodically oversize, the fabrics burnt off and cut away, hems variously disarrayed. The designers appear to have been enjoying themselves. And not at their customers' expense: The clothes were, almost despite themselves, luxuriously desirable. You could extract a wearable item from every exit—one of the hand-screened jackets, say, or a micro-pleated, burn-out silk slip skirt with hand-embroidered lace, or a drop-waist bias-cut dress with bell sleeves and a frothy long skirt. A lot of work went into these pieces, to wit, the winning group of yellow Belle Époque dresses with graphic cutouts. From afar, the cutouts looked as though they'd been done by laser; upon inspection, they were hand-cut, with hand-embroidered black edging.

Though it demonstrated a development of ideas that Meadham Kirchhoff has been pursuing for a while, such as sheerness and palimpsest layering, this outing also represented a call to arms. It was a seething riposte to the retrograde "ladylike" look seen on other runways, and it reasserted the value of anger in fashion, at a time when most designers are consumed with making clothes that are mutely pretty or politely formal. That Meadham and Kirchhoff engaged this fight from the strangest angle possible, by coming straight through beauty, is a genuine feat.