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Winter is Coming: The Ominous Undertones at Craig Green

We examine the London designer's A/W16 defence against the accelerated pace of the fashion industry

The current climate of fashion is fairly frantic: as the industry crams more and more seasons into a year, the pace at which we expect designers to create is reaching a thoroughly unsustainable speed. This is hardly a quiet phenomenon; the departure of Raf Simons from Dior inspired more than a few op-eds reflecting on our patterns of consumption, and Alber Elbaz parted ways with Lanvin only weeks after his melancholic reflection on the state of contemporary fashion. But while comment pieces might abound, when somebody actually dares to present a collection with parity to their previous, everyone throws a strop. See: Craig Green last season, subjected to damning criticism for a show that reflected his past offerings – but the narrative of his A/W16 collection showed a resolute determination not to fold under pressure.

Armour Against Acceleration
Turning goatskin leather inspired by the texture of punching bags into silhouettes informed by institution uniforms, the undertones to Green's A/W16 collection seemed clear – and that’s before one even considers the straitjacket straps dangling from sleeves, or the half-unravelled sutures binding garments together, as if models had rushed onto the runway before they’d had time to finish their fastenings. Stop it, lest we lose our minds, he seemed to be saying, the subdued Saharan hues of his pyjama suiting offering an alternative to the frenzy of it all.

One-pieces were hazmat safety suits, and padded jackets paid tribute to “wrapped bedspreads and embroidered divan comforters… the things that you keep forever for protection." And the collection was precisely that: a beautiful armour swaddling Green against our seemingly insatiable demand for the new. Yes, his pieces had more tailoring to their forms (a little more structure was given to the one-pieces, belted at the waist with a nod to femininity, and to the jackets whose softness was carefully constructed), and his inclusions of new fabrics showed an evolution of his technical abilities, but his signature remained thoroughly – and delightfully – recognisable. 

An Enviable Surety
“They took ages to dry” Green said of the new additions to his arsenal, the leathers and silks that had been hand washed again and again to achieve their tarnished appeal – but it feels as if we all had our way, we’d have made him send the pieces out damp. It’s a blessing that Green has achieved an aesthetic confidence often unfamiliar in a new designer (and perhaps we all ought to remember just how new Green is; he only graduated in 2012), and an astute awareness of an industry where his success has found him plunged in at the deep end. The rest of us would do well to achieve the same surety; an understanding that if we all stick to our guns and slow down, nothing terrible will happen. “He finishes his performances dripping in sweat,” Green explained of frantic pianist Nils Frahm, whose melodies soundtracked the runway. And, positioning such tension against such delicate visual grace, it was clear whose creative process was the most appealing.

The Tricky Business of Success
Green has quickly established himself as one of London’s hottest tickets – an accolade which can simultaneously act as a blessing and a curse. As Susie Lau pointed out last season, “he shoulders the weight of responsibility to deliver earth shatteringly emotive and forward thinking collections every season, while simultaneously managing a growing business and a burgeoning network of stockists.” As Green’s business develops in a tumultuous market (he has an impressively high sell-through rate, and a legions of fans buying both his staples and more outré pieces alike), balancing the expectations of the fashion critics alongside the buyers looking to actually stock his clothes is a tricky affair – but one that, for A/W16, he managed with elegance.

"Winter is coming," he laughed backstage after the show – and, John Snow references aside, his words struck a startlingly self-aware chord. It feels inevitable that Green is going to be offered some sort of commercial partnership any day now, that he is going to be expected to produce womenswear, pre-collections, an accessories line; essentially, that his invitation into the relentless madness of an eight-plus collection year is in the post. An industry that thrives on making megastars of its heroes before watching them crumble under the weight of it all (Lee McQueen, John Galliano, Christophe Decarnin et al), it seems that we are truly reaching breaking point – and that, in spite of its troubling allusions, Green is offering respite from the madness.