Lambeth High Street, London UK. 17th February 2019. Fashion East show their Autumn Winter 2019 designs at his catwalk show. © Chris Yates

In the Pines: The Ballad of Meredith Hunter

Toying with the concepts of dystopia and the ruinous impacts of the modern world, Gareth Wrighton’s début collection with Fashion East uses detailed graphic knitwear to present how Mother nature is fighting back. He observed the “biblical scale of the American landscape” and how it is “undermined by the human mind” –– the consequences of our destruction emblazoned on crew-neck jumpers, the burnt orange hues of wildfires dancing on the chest of the wearer. Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in Fashion Communication and Promotion in 2016, his work

has consistently explored social and environmental issues, most recently in collaboration with fellow alum Ib Kamara and South African photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman for Soft Criminal. After working with a local tailor, models, dancers and craftspeople in Johannesburg, they showcased a presentation and photographic installation at the Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn off-schedule for NYFW.

Wrighton dubs his work “a touch of hand in the digital age” confronting how man exists both in the tangible world and on-line. Through this approach, he has questioned the presence of authorship in both internet culture and American folk objects, imagining what would be in museums to represent our current time. With 2019 being the 50th anniversary of the killing of Meredith Hunter at the Altamont Speedway Free concert, in California the day the summer of love ended free love, the counter-culture and rock ’n’ roll are interpreted by Wrighton for AW19 as Americana in a blighted America, weary from the fire and fuel of man. He also looked at the way music can retain meanings across time, most notably the Leadbelly folk song In The Pines, popularised as Where Did You Sleep Last Night? by Mark Lanegan and Kurt Cobain in the 90s. Its telling of human deceit relatable in any decade provided a haunting stimulus for his designs: ‘My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me / Tell me where did you sleep last night.’

His AW19 collection marries traditional techniques including: latch hook rug making and hand sewn embellishments (a stand-out piece being a guitar plectrum covered cardigan) with printon- demand pieces, further exploring today’s meaning of ‘craft’ and ‘handmade.’ Silhouettes are reminiscent of the humble clothing of the 30s dust bowl––a plague-like series of dust storms that swept across America and Canada––but are modernised through the bulletproof Kevlar fabric lining, re-appropriated dog leashes and karate belt-come-police-tape details. Whether it be a knitted realisation of Chelsea Manning’s Wiki-leaked footage or a mohair cardigan featuring the haunting neon strips of the Century 16 cinema in Aurora, Colorado where twelve were shot in 2012, Wrighton’s pieces become artefacts of the unstable world that we live in. Each have a troubled past that confirm our troubled future.