“Go unto the garden, go under the ivy, under the leaves, away from the party,” is the Kate Bush quote designer Ashley Williams chose to open her fall 2017 show notes. The collection that followed certainly offered a variety of outfits for those looking to make a stealthy exit from a night out, because on the surface, the offering was made with the quintessential Ashley Williams customer in-mind: The party girl. But beneath that, the budding question that surrounded the presentation may have been looking beyond one's feelings at five in the morning. In a world where Brexit and President Donald J. Trump are not "alternate facts" but are actual realities, Williams' message — paradise or paranoia? — may have been a subtle reflection of the current state of the world: Do we attempt to distract ourselves from the situation, or do we live in a constant state of fear?
Since Williams is never one to stray away from making a statement, we've come to expect this type of moves (last season emphasized "girl power") though it tends to be much less metaphoric and more so a bit cheeky. The clothes called things out at face value: There was a full tracksuit, aptly emblazoned with the word ‘MISERY,' dresses with the phrase ‘Save The Planet’ stamped across the front, and Swarovski-studded hair slides and earrings reading ‘Paranoia.’ Ashley’s fierce female army. The execution was slightly austere, but it was articulated in a playful, tongue-in-cheek way nonetheless.
As for the rest of the selection, there was slick streetwear, heavily-inspired by the Paninaro — an '80s youth scene that took its name from a group of youngsters who would meet at the Panino Cafè in Milan, sporting vibrant puffer jackets and shearling coats. There were also more feminine flourishes via floral print dresses and puff-sleeve blouses; touches of Americana came in the form of Clueless-esque yellow plaid, Stetson hats, classic denim, cow-print crop tops, and cowgirl fringing. Chunky knits and bomber jackets, staples of Williams' aesthetic, were present as well. Still, with a fierce female army of models that embody the dynamism and individualism pumping through not just her designs but London itself, it was hard to not feel a pulse of excitement as the clothes jetted by. It was a confusing juxtaposition, sure, but it also put into perspective the type of expectations we have of designers and how they choose (or choose not) to confront politics. Is it better to have a graphic hoodie that screams "MISERY" than nothing at all?