First, some context: This was the fashion-led segment of a three-part traveling “design/art/sound” project. In the background, shafts of light cast by Perspex sliced starkly across the runway. That was the art bit, by The Butchers, a collective founded by Filippo Maria Bianchi and Giorgio Gremigni. And all around us jarred the guitars on Alexi Delano’s creepily somber musical composition.
That explainer is necessary because Lee Roach saw this collection as an equal collaboration. He said that the artists, the composer, and the fashion designer put their heads together and elected to explore “ideas of the inverse and everything related to that.”
Which is why with the exception of the schoolgirl shoes and the dainty polygon pouches that hung from some belt straps, pretty much everything else in this collection was reversible. So the strap that encircled a yellow Alcantara jacket at base-ribcage height worked either as an exposed belt or an invisible cincher. A snakeskin-inspired pattern of perforations in more Alcantara trousers and jackets had the symmetry to leave the same tan lines whether worn inside or out. Lines of metal links connected by nylon ligaments were an interesting decorative insert whichever way you looked at them. And the shiny texture of a Roach-developed knit fabric was faced with light-swallowing crepe—giving you two shades of black in one garment. Added Roach: “The idea is that when each person puts [a garment] on, it becomes a completely different thing—they wear the collection, it is not the other way.”
That’s not to say that these clothes are in any way anonymous. It was perhaps because Roach seemed so intent on distilling his practice down to such fundamental notions as inside vs. out that many of these items had the archetype simplicity of pre-industrial garments, whether tunic, doublet, or gown. All too often the problem with concept-driven creativity—art, cuisine, dance, whatever—is that while it makes total sense to its authors, the poor audience is left in the dark, casting around for context. Roach’s designs, though, proved articulate enough to transmit the thrust of his thesis on the inverse. And even if you aren’t particularly interested in it, the notion of two pieces for the price of one is arresting.