From digital zoetropes and folk dancers to towering purple sand dunes, this season’s presentations have embraced increasingly fantastical staging – a perfect introducion to the London College of Fashion’s latest exhibition. Running from now until 13th December 2014, Simon Costin’s Impossible Catwalk Shows presents ‘a three dimensional moodboard’ by the renowned art director and set designer. Drawing on the conceptually ambitious runway and editorial designs Costin has created for Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen and Tim Walker, the exhibition is an ‘invitation to dream and speculate’ on the fashion shows which could be staged if unconstrained by time, money or geography.
Housed in the one-room Fashion Space Gallery, Costin’s imaginary sets are realised as miniature model sets, which add a dolls’ house appeal and a dizzying Alice in Wonderland layer to concepts that already play with proportion. ‘Street’ envisages larger-than-life looks that have been spray-painted onto the walls of a public space, while ‘Dome’ brings viewers almost uncomfortably close to the action by displaying deconstructed garments behind enormous lenticular lenses, blowing up intricate embroidery and detailing to abstract proportions.
At other times, Costin’s sets feel exclusive or remote, keeping viewers at a prescribed distance. In ‘Forest’, the models are perched high up like exotic birds, hidden within the foliage of trees and only visible through binoculars, which are supplied as essential viewing tools. Meanwhile, a thick glass layer separates the audience from the contaminated power station setting of ‘Nuclear Plant’, leaving you to imagine, rather than observe, the slowly decaying collection trapped inside its glittering black-crystal carapace.
Abandoned buildings are a favourite setting for Costin’s ideas. The stand-out piece – both conceptually and in execution – is the disused hospital of ‘Sanitorium’, where the final part of the design process of a collection plays out. Suspended on wire coathangers, 24 white dresses are mechanically lowered into tiny steel baths of dye, each emerging stained in a different watercolour hue.
Interspersed with the maquettes are a couple of token exhibits from Costin’s ‘real’ oeuvre, including video footage from Alexander McQueen’s controversial spring/summer 1998 show, ‘Golden Shower’, of stylist Katy England stalking up and down a rain-soaked catwalk. Also included is a moodboard from Costin’s longterm collaborator Gareth Pugh, whose tech, dance and folklore-fused SS15 presentation – heavily inspired by Costin’s side project, the Museum of Folklore – was the talk of New York this season.
The final installation, ‘Eclect Dissect’, is tucked away down the hallway. Created for Alexander McQueen’s second couture collection for Givenchy, the series of collages interleaves 16th-century anatomical diagrams with Victorian corsets, bustles and collars for a macabre yet compelling effect.
Simon Costin’s Impossible Catwalk Shows will run from 12th September to 13th December 2014 at LCF’s Fashion Space Gallery.
Written by Selena Schleh. Images © Katy Davies.