London-based, Irish-born designer and multi-disciplinary artist Richard Malone presented his London Fashion Week offering at the V&A last night. Another partaker in the CSM – Fashion East – LVMH shortlist pipeline, Malone has become the fashion industry go-to for authenticity, resourcefulness and rebellion. In February 2020, rounding off the meteoric first chapter of his career, Malone was named the winner of the International Woolmark Prize – praised by the panel of judges for his ‘radically transparent’ working practise, revolutionary approach to research and a redefined notion of luxury.
Malone presented a deeply personal collection, preoccupied and born from dialogues surrounding identity, authenticity and exclusivity within the fashion industry. Speaking before the show, he commented that “I’ve really been thinking about being an immigrant in this country, coming here on my own and building this business, and then what gets to be celebrated and what we get to talk about”. Thus representing his Irish heritage in the collection was paramount: the circular forms running through the collection were directly inspired by his grandmother’s handmade armbands, made to commemorate horse meets and wins by the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Perhaps most significantly though, staging this personal, heritage-imbued collection within the V&A forced a conversation about hierarchies and what is celebrated in art culture more generally: with his designs being presented among some of the most famous Renaissance art pieces in the world, Malone prompted wider questions were raised about why art and fashion are not studied on a level playing field. Speaking about this dichotomy, Malone expressed that “sometimes when you go to museums or you go to fashion stores, you can feel quite ashamed of your upbringing not being very conversationally valuable. Now I’m like, ‘Oh no, that’s the most valuable thing that I have.’” The setting of his show, the designer noted, “really heightened the fact that a lot of fashion is imitation, or it isn’t real life.”
A standout look from the collection was a dress made up of seemingly contradicting parts: a navy and khaki drape navigated itself across the rigid, linear structure of a corset before giving way to a ruched, drape skirt. Here Malone’s dichotomies were evident: dark and light, old and new, control and release.
If the star-studded attendees weren’t enough to convince you of Richard Malone’s authority within the fashion industry, the collection, a deeply personal yet principal-provoking offering, should do.