The story begins as dusk falls on a cool winter night. As the grey sky hangs heavy with the threat of rain, a solitary couple are trudging across wet, sandy plains; two nomads sharing company and clothes. These are the ‘Cave Dwellers’ behind Kirrily Johnstone’s autumn/winter collection for 2010.
The collection has a natural feel to it. The colour story is earthy with a base palette of khaki, camel and burnt chocolate freshened with dove grey. That most garments come in an alternative black colourway may indulge the monochrome-loving urbanite but it serves also to keep it current and ultimately, saleable.
The look too, is quite organic. Free- falling jersey tops, dresses and maxi skirts are gathered with drawstring detailing, adding ruching and drape to otherwise simple shapes. Long, knitted scarves with plaits and tassels swathe necks and trail from coats, skimming the floor; and circles of leather are wrapped around waists to make dirndl skirts.
There is something fundamental about the collection. The image of the Cave Dweller relying on the land for her cloth, hunting her own animal skins and spinning her own yarns harks back to a bygone era, a simpler time when clothing was for warmth and modesty. Yet the idea of her customising garments with drawstring ties for example adds a modern notion of styling to the picture. It proves that sometimes it’s not who you are or what you are wearing but how you are wearing it that creates the statement.
For the Cave Dweller, braving the elements can be a challenge and this is reflected in the dominance of outerwear throughout the collection. There are ankle length coats, capes, knitted blazers and something delightfully named a ‘wanderer’, which is a sort of cross between a cape, a jacket and a long cardigan with lusciously draping volume. The Cave Dweller might pull it on for a brief trip out foraging or, in reality it would be great to pull on to pop out for a coffee on an autumn afternoon.
Warmth and comfort were clearly key factors in determining many of the styles. There is a strong emphasis on knitwear, which is a big trend for autumn/winter, with jumper-dresses, long scarves and oversized cardigans creating pieces to wrap up and get cosy in. Long-johns are present too, suggestive of that basic practicality again, and with their stretch fabric and harem-like drop-crotch, they look supremely comfortable.
There is more to this collection however, than simple going back to nature, this is Mother Earth does luxury. Knitwear is angora, boots and bags are pony skin, and the more tailored pieces are cashmere: the stunning ankle-length coat and the formal, long john-style pants. And let’s not forget, leather may be an animal resource but purchasing it in a shop is not as cheap as hunting the beast yourself.
Perhaps this is another insight into the fundamentals of fashion, that fabrication is the key to success. Simple styles in quality materials can look more effective than over-designed pieces created for fashions sake.
That said however, there is still something of the trend-led on offer. Loose jersey silhouettes are defined at the shoulder with asymmetric sequined patches, and sequined stripes add a touch of glamour for those disco-going Dwellers.