A Matty Bovan show always feels like a real moment: a moment which celebrates craft and detail and ritual, as well as that much overused word, 'punk'. You might recognise the designer from last season’s giant balloon headdresses (designed by Stephen Jones, of course; only the best) or because he’s adored by most: from the last living punk Dame Vivienne Westwood to Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, from fashion’s dreamboat Adwoa Aboah to Drag Race winner Aquaria — everyone’s talking about Matty.
But really, you should know him for his clothes. Starting out life as a knitwear-focussed brand, Bovan — who trained at Central Saint Martins — has blurred the edges of what knitwear can mean. How? With giant crinolined ballgowns with juts at the hip and floral panniers at the bum, and sparkly Christmassy jumpers knitted into giant proportions and worn over one shoulder, puckered at one side and piled in rolls at the other. A dress that was never meant to be a dress, a suit made out of suit bag – Bovan makes knitwear, and other fabrics, both desirable and diverse in their uses.
For AW19, he explored the idea of modern magic. Pulling, as usual, from his Yorkshire roots — Northerners represent! — Bovan started this season by delving deep into the history of folk traditions, and into the harrowing accounts of the 1612 Pendle witch trials, which happened one county over in Lancashire. Healing and myth were two of the ideas behind it all: trying to unpick the ways that folklore was used both to control and to punish. Colours were earthen, with flashes of red and spots of yellow. Floral prints spoke of nature and black-heavy looks — especially the Edwardian mourning dress — invoked mythicised images of witches.
What proffered was a collection full of clashing patterns and prints. A collaboration with Coach saw their signature CC print find its way onto knee-high boots, steampunky top hats and a giant bow atop the head (hats off to Stephen Jones, once again). Archive Liberty print featured on pussy-bow blouses, dresses and coats. The style takeaways were bold, clashing prints — try florals with picnic blanket tartan — and unusual silhouettes: out at the shoulder, in at the waist, out at the hip, and further out at the knee. Essentially Bovan’s proposition was about following your own instincts, your own folklore, building looks crammed full of patterns, textures, feelings, accessories. There were even bells layered on some of the pieces: a warning that something wicked this way comes? Or simply there with bells on?
But as with any culturally awake designer, the meanings behind the designs reflect what’s occurring today: how difference is feared and so often punished. Thankfully, where there’s youth there’s protest — as we saw yesterday with the climate change demonstration; with Transmissions, who protested fashion week demanding trans inclusivity; with the Grenfell activists taking over the LFW runway, asking "72 deaths and still no arrests? How come?" Matty Bovan’s show was titled "In Uncertain Times, This Is A Sure Thing!" — it’s unclear what that Thing exactly is, but perhaps it’s him, perhaps it’s asking more questions, or perhaps — fingers crossed — it’s witchcraft.