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Symonds Pearmain's Matchy Unmatchy

In their debut runway outing, the designer duo bridged fashion and art, playing with the super-banal, but it is their scarcity-driven sales strategy that could be the label's real wildcard.
Symonds Pearmain Autumn/ Winter 2018 | Source: InDigital
By
  • Dan Thawley

LONDON, United Kingdom — You can safely say that there is no other duo approaching the fashion system in the same way that Anthony Symonds and Max Pearmain are with their new label Symonds Pearmain. After a buzzy first look book featuring Lily McMenamy last February and a rogue fashion show during Berlin Gallery Weekend (models stomped through Isabella Bortolozzi's gallery perforating cardboard with their Louboutins), the designer-stylist pair were a ring-in addition to Fashion East's usual threesome — invited by their friend Lulu Kennedy to shake up the program for Autumn/Winter 2018.

Theatrics aside, it's their sales strategy that is the real wildcard here: Symonds Pearmain are not pining to hang in Dover Street Market and Barney's, instead their clothes are purposefully rare, available not in fashion boutiques but upon enquiry to Bortolozzi in Berlin and Cabinet Gallery in London's Vauxhall. "There is a conceptual thread, which is about trying to examine how value is attached to fashion and art," said Symonds. "The only point it becomes interesting is the economic correlation of those two forms."

Sold in tiny editions, designs from their first collection were displayed at Art Basel Hong Kong last year. In Berlin, leather outfits from their second show formed part of an outré exhibition: a fake campaign for their perfume 'Iron Lady' — equal parts Chanel N°5 and Yves Saint Laurent's Rive Gauche — which the pair created with photographer Tyrone Lebon (starring porn star Stoya.)

Entitled "Matchy Unmatchy," their third offering was prefaced by a provocative work of fiction à la Clockwork Orange written by the artist Ed Atkins, alongside the sole tagline of "Elitist Propaganda, Draggy Gestures, and Tribal Simulacra."

As for the clothes themselves, they played with “a hinterland of clichés and the idea of things matching your expectations. I’m interested in the super-banal,” said Symonds. And match they did, in the sense of corduroy twin-sets, spliced rugby jerseys worn with capri track pants, thick striped snap stud denim, and baroque curls of patent leather or needlepoint roses that upped the bourgeois quotient.

Countering that, tour t-shirt turban styling and hip-hop screen prints ("Worlds Famous Supreme Team" on the bum) conjured a polished Buffalo attitude. These clothes will also be available upon enquiry, however the designers will only produce a handful of styles though in wider editions of 10, 50 or 100 pieces. “I don’t want to make masses of clothing,” said Symonds. “And it’s not about the clothes being inaccessible or unwearable. This is about elevating the practice of fashion and changing the economic context of the activity.” All power to them — as far as the fashion and art worlds’ torrid love affair goes, this is as cult as it gets.

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