Our Future. Solidarity. Unity. Suffragette. Choice. These words punctuated Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley’s latest collection for and despite the fact that they were tapping into the youthful energy of protest rather than any specific political oeuvre, it was hard not to think about the way this dynamic duo has set about clothing a new generation of MBMJ customers and imbuing them with the idea that it’s ok to be into fashion and to think of other things. You can’t help but think back to Chanel’s faux protest last season where feminism felt like it was being mocked rather than amplified . Difference being that Hillier and Bartley’s slogans (once again designed by Fergus “Fergadelic” Purcell) feel heartfelt. Perhaps it’s also down to Hillier and Bartley being women, who have more than had their say about the subject of girl power through their collective output. And in the context of Marc by Marc Jacobs’ youth-centric vibe, those aforementioned words rendered over the military-infused 1960s youthquake slash 1980s new wave silhouettes are more than likely to positively engage with a generation of girls (and young-at-heart women) who are thinking about feminism, our shaky political and economical climate and a future plagued by rising student debts, unaffordable rent and inequality between the rich and poor.
Bartley and Hillier insisted that they were thinking about an upbeat optimism amongst the youth they know; that they can incite change if they want to. They called their girls “charming vigilantes” as New York Guardian Angels’ citizen patroller berets and studded stomping shoes were contrasted with a swirl of William Morris prints. Namely his famous Strawberry Fields and Acanthus prints in army-derived shades of green and blue and comrade red – from a distance, they almost looked like camouflage. Bartley and Hillier chose to use the prints, not just as a traditional contrasting foil, but because Morris himself was a social activist. The duo were making a fervent point that you can be interested in all things related to aesthetics and be engaged with what’s going on in the world around us. Politicising fashion has never been an easy ride but in this instance, Hillier and Bartley’s intentions come off as genuine and better yet, positive. Those words that ring around the collection aren’t pithily employed. For the lucky ones that can afford it (although I’m pleased to say that despite MBMJ’s renewed and revived status, the prices haven’t rocketed since Hillier and Bartley’s arrival) they can wear these clothes and be children of their own revolution in the making – whatever that may be.