Surely Halloween is the greatest holiday in the fashion calendar: an opportunity for fancy dress to become a competitive testimony to one’s styling prowess, and to showcase the showpieces that just seem far too extravagant for the office. This season, Nick Knight and SHOWstudio have gone all out and collaborated with Veuve Clicquot to bring us a spectacle of the macabre entitled A Beautiful Darkness, enlisting fashion icons like Amanda Harlech and Gareth Pugh to present their own interactive interpretation of horror at Central Saint Martins’ old, gothic campus.
Uniting fashion films, sculpture and dance (with plenty of champagne), one of the five rooms – curated by Another Man fashion director Ellie Grace Cumming – shows a series of specially-created fashion illustrations inspired by the theme in a darkened room, each requiring you to approach closely by candlelight to render them fully visible. Here, we premiere a selection of the ten most haunting, alongside the favourite ghost stories of some of the collaborators involved and an exclusive clip from Ruth Hogben and Gareth Pugh’s fantastically creepy video specially created for the occasion...
(Above illustration: Marques’Almeida S/S16 by Catherine Raben Davidsen)
“Once, when there was a storm outside and the sky was thundering and lightning, I did a ouija board with my friend Heidi Dennis. We asked the board a question... and suddenly her musical teddy – which had just been sitting quietly in the corner – started singing on its own! We ran downstairs in terror and I’ve never done another one since...”
Ellie Grace Cumming
“I had to speak with my dad, as his mum used to tell us stories when we’d go up and stay with her in St. Andrews but I had blocked them out (through fear!)” explained Another Man Fashion Director and exhibition co-curator Ellie Grace Cumming. “Then I looked it up online, where it explains the one she used to tell...”
“One of the most famous ghosts of St. Andrews is The Veiled Nun of St. Leonards. She was a beautiful young girl who became a nun to avoid marrying a young man who had fallen in love with her. When he went to find her he found that she had disfigured her beauty by slitting her nostrils, cutting off her top and bottom lips and branding her cheeks. The young man committed suicide and the girl died from grief and remorse.”
“I have been going to stay in the Glens of County Antrim in Northern Ireland on holidays for my entire life,” said fashion designer Phoebe English. “It is an intensely special place completely steeped in folklore, legends, magic and Irish mysticism in every dry stone wall, ancient tree and lump of moss which encrust the rolling morrain valleys. There are plenty of ghosts there, but this one always breaks my heart.”
“Each time I visit, I take a walk through the church yard of the village I stay in with my local friend Molly, and she explains to me the stories behind the gravestones. There’s one, flat gravestone with no legible markings anymore that belongs to a local man who died long, long ago. He was engaged to be married to his childhood sweetheart but, when the wedding neared, he had to travel by foot far across the glens to another town. A terrible snowstorm hit when he was on his way home to her on their wedding day, and she was left waiting and waiting for him at the altar... but he never arrived. Distraught and brokenhearted, she never took her wedding dress off, determined that he would return to her. But he never came. Eventually he was found dead, but by then she had become completely deranged with anxiety. He was brought back and buried in the church they were to be married in. Still in her wedding dress and in desperation, she threw herself onto his gravestone where she stayed all night. She never woke up and froze to death there, lying right next to him. She has been seen several times by locals across the years lying across his gravestone, still dressed in white and still waiting.”
“I was driving back from Manchester to see my family in Shropshire,” recalls illustrator Helen Bullock. “It was very late... dark, and raining. I was only ten minutes from home and the road was completely empty when I suddenly had to slam on my breaks – a man had literally appeared from nowhere. He was standing directly in front of the car, wearing a flat cap, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves and a waistcoat; he looked like Victorian workman. Then, before I knew it, he just disappeared. To this day, I’m convinced he was a ghost.”
“Then, another time in Manchester, I was living with a group of friends and odd things started to happen. First, someone came home and found this brown liquid that looked a bit like tea on the table – and it was still warm, which was impossible as nobody had been in the house all day. I hear that brown liquid is meant to signify ghosts. The curtains had also been pulled down, and the clock had stopped. Over the next few days, similar things kept happening... I went into our tiny bathroom and the taps were turned on to full power, as was the shower. The walls were completely soaked – and when we went back moments later to check on it, they had turned to bone dry. We realised that, a few weeks previous, our garden had been dug up – we figured that whoever had lived (or died!) in that house was a little upset with the changes...”
“I don’t usually believe in ghosts,” says designer Molly Goddard. “But when I was about 12, we had a family photo taken by one of our neighbours, just outside my granny’s house in Buckinghamshire. When the film was finally developed, a woman in an Edwardian night gown was standing right behind us who definitely wasn’t there when the photo was taken. She looked as much like a ghost as you could ever imagine and very friendly – but it is a seriously haunting image...”
The Veuve Clicquot Widow Series “A Beautiful Darkness” by Nick Knight will run from 5-10pm on the 29th October. You can book tickets at www.veuveclicquotwidowseries.co.uk