Whilst Paris and Milan are famed for their blockbuster lineup of luxury fashion brands, London Fashion Week has a different kind of magic – those of dynamic and emerging talent. There’s an unmatched rawness, originality and excitement to the presentations held in London, and Reuben Selby AW22 was no exception.
Showing up and out for a hugely-anticipated and unconventional runway titled ‘THE WILL TO FORM’, the British designer and his creative unit showcased an immersive experience, which highlighted art and expressionism in all its forms. Forgoing the norms of a traditional fashion week presentation, the brand (literally) sculpted an intensely collaborative, and creative space which drew on multiple senses and realms to debut its AW22 collection and concept.
Speaking to Reuben himself, the designer explained that the show’s title and concept boiled down to “having the desire to want to create something…you have to start with the will to create form. Without that then there’s no direction. It’s about having the desire to express something, and that’s why the show was centred around expressionism too, which is about exploring your internal world and letting it take any format in the actual material.”
It was clear that the creative had harnessed an intense desire to express his inner world visually, sonically and figuratively – “it gets to the point where you feel like you have to (express that), it’s like an outlet”. TJ Sawyer, the show’s creative director and longtime collaborator and friend of Reuben agreed, noting that the show was almost a “cathartic experience” for him – visually and physically playing out the stages of reflection, introspection and enlightenment he went through in the various lockdowns.
Staging a unique presentation which used many elements, individuals and art forms was of paramount importance to both TJ and Reuben. “All of my shows are meant to be immersive I think. It’s very rare that you get so many things coming together within one moment – that experience is so fleeting yet so intense and deeply connecting to those who experience it” the designer noted. TJ concurred – expressing that his goal was to “leave a lasting impression on any given viewer; whether that was someone who was fortunate enough to see it in person and physically experience it, or equally someone who will watch the show video and deeply understand what it was I was going for”.
Both creatives’ desire to do something different shone through in both the rationale for the show and the presentation itself – TJ described feeling disenfranchised with the current London Fashion Week scene, (save for “the Ahluwalia’s, Labrum’s and Nicholas Daley’s” of the week’s proceedings) and thus having a strong desire to forge a different path with Reuben Selby the brand.
As a result, culture, collaboration and community was the foundation on which the collection and concept hinged. Bringing in a considered and impressive cluster of ‘friends, characters and artistic collaborators of the mind and soul’, the presentation felt more like an exploration into creativity, rather than a momentary and commercially-minded event.
With many of these collaborators performing live (either sonically, visually or both), Reuben Selby drew inspiration both from the artworks which they created as well as from the essence of who these artists actually were – encompassing their circumstances, ambitions, methods of expressionism and even what they were wearing. Existing at the intersection of fashion, music and art, TJ personified the event as “the idea of having a fashion show which exists within an immersive exhibition, showcasing a group of fundamentally diverse and talented multidisciplinary artists”.
As well as the conceptual universe which the show was part of, the collection itself also drew on the themes of art and expressionism. Consisting of 17 looks of mens and womenswear, the brand showcased ecru, beige and off-white iterations of cotton and linen-based garments, as a nod towards the materials that the original expressionist artists would have been wearing and creating on. Elsewhere, this was offset with elements of darker, textured materials which represented the gritty, industrial environment in which they worked, and of which many were creating art as a reaction against. It was a departure from the pristine impression of fashion that shows often perpetuate, instead highlighting the beauty in use with over 30 hours of frayed edges, distressed seams and jagged contours giving the collection an over-worn and utilitarian aesthetic
The show and collection was a confident, well-considered and cohesive offering from one of London’s most exciting brands. In our conversation, Reuben recalled a comment from his old art teacher – “you can’t do everything” – as being the catalyst upon which all his creative endeavours now look to react against. “It really grinded on me. If I was to curate an exhibition, it would be called ‘What do you mean I can’t do everything?’ Like yeah, maybe you can’t do everything. But I think creativity can translate into anything”. From this presentation, we couldn’t agree more.
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