June 15, 2012 London
And in a way, that's what it was, though the inspiration was the century-spanning explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, who spent much of his life traveling through Africa and the Middle East. But even abroad, Thesiger maintained a more-English-than-the-English attitude: Confronted with an Afar warrior, his belt hung with the dried testicles of his victims, Thesiger exclaimed that the man reminded him of a "self-conscious Etonian who had just won his school colors for cricket." Grant both printed this anecdote as his program's notes and announced it to the crowd before the first model walked. "School Colors for Cricket" was the title of his show.
With that, no surprise to find that many of the pieces wouldn't have been out of place at an English boarding school. It's the usual Tautzian finery, and it remains very fine. Grant did toy with the foreign as well as the near and dear, borrowing references from Moroccan, Abyssinian, and Sudanese clothes. You saw them flash by, for example, in the oversized shirting, which looked a bit like djellaba robes, but those flashes were brief. "We tried to tone down the ethnicity by keeping them very simple, making the colors very strong," Grant explained backstage after the show. More ethnicity might've given the collection a stronger message. The vivid colors, hot pink and saffron yellow borrowed from the colors of African priests' robes, ended up doing much of the heavy lifting here. Which is to say, they trooped.