Quite often, fashion designers seek inspiration in times past, and rework ideas, patterns and cuts from collections that made an impact in olden eras. In most cases, the inspiration derived from the past is interpreted literally with a sense of nostalgia. However, it is when the past becomes a canvas that allows reinterpretation of social images through clothes that fashion reveals its creative and regenerative potential at its best. And this is what the young label Teatum Jones proved to the world with their outstanding spring/summer 2012 collection.
Despite having produced collections for a couple of years, Teatum Jones showed as part of London Fashion Week's official schedule for the first time on 16 September 2012. However, instead of showing in the main space where throngs of bloggers, press and buyers gather, Teatum Jones chose to unveil their sophisticated collection in the Royal Society of Arts, a Georgian building designed by Robert Adams in the early 1770s in central London. Amidst the dainty and traditional design of the room, with its plush peach-coloured carpet and ornate chandeliers, Teatum Jones unravelled an intelligent and deconstructive critique of the feminine mystique as portrayed in the 1950s.
Titled after the Prince song 'Sometimes it Snows in April', the collection examines the seemingly sentimental perfection of 1950s American suburbia and explores the darker side of life behind the sugary pastel coloured walls of homes with perfect gardens delineated by white picket fences. In this sense, Teatum Jones create a narrative highly derived from literary and cinematic traditions and histories, owing inspiration to novels by John Cheever, Richard Yates, Joseph Heller, and Jeffrey Eugenides, or films by directors such as Alfred Hitchock, Todd Haynes, Sam Mendes, and Todd Solondz. What on the surface seems like a collection of pink, anodyne designs intent on reflecting a superficially perfect human existence ultimately becomes a manifestation of an inquisitive and intelligent approach to fashion.
Teatum Jones used Braille-like fabrics in flesh tones of blush pink and lilac taupe to offer a luxurious and textured depth to the collection. Suburban morning sunshine inspired the chalky pastel pinks, hazy lemon yellows and the powdery sky blues in a wash of elegant fluid silks in crepe de chine and sheer brocade organza. The introduction of buttery soft leather sees tailored pieces in cloudy lilac taupe and embossed snake skins in deep blues and morning sky tones. The portrayal of the female's desire to escape through a series of surreal collages is perhaps best embodied in The April Polkadot, which is not quite what it seems: the dots are actually tiny fists almost pushing through the fabric as an illustration of an urgent need to escape the oppressive limits of physical reality. This feeling is matched by fabrics printed with collaged bridges strewn across landscapes that deceptively lead to nowhere, as well as shimmering watery reflections of objects that are not really there.
Embracing the tensions between the masculine and feminine, Teatum and Jones create a series of hybrid tailored dresses and skirts exploiting the symbolism of the patriarchal suit jacket and the femininity of fluid silk dresses. Capped shoulder dresses engineered to fill with air illustrate the vast expanse of a surreal and escapist landscape. The brand's tailoring manipulates traditional menswear details throwing lapels, pockets and vents into surreal proportions of playful lengths and placement. Seemingly relaxed draped dresses mounted on simple t-shirt necklines deceptively reveal elegant and fitted backs with belted waistlines that disappear into the safety of the side seams, further defining the label's designers' skill at cutting a balance between structure and fluidity.
Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones are the designers behind the label. Having trained in womenswear at Ravensbourne College of Design and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design respectively, they previously worked for Luella Bartley, Warren Noronha and John Richmond, and met whilst working together on menswear. Their joint work made them realise how enamoured they actually were of one another's sense of escapism. Besotted with the power of a story, and drawn to both romance and tragedy, the duo's collections reveal how they are compelled to seek out beauty and refinement in what is ordinarily considered sinister or dark.
Having made the decision to launch their own label, Teatum and Jones spent several years researching and developing their ideas for what they envisioned as a contemporarily relevant womenswear brand. After being chosen as one of the ten finalists for the Fashion Fringe competition in 2009, they launched their debut womenswear collection for spring/summer 2011 in London. Despite being only their third collection, 'Sometimes it Snows in April' confirms that Teatum Jones is a label with tremendous intellectual and creative potential that makes them worth keeping an eye out for in the future.