There is a duality and a forced politeness to this collection, wherein Malone takes on the role of both child and parent, each in turn quizzically considering the other. Central to the designer’s practise is the creation of a set within which to stage his cast. This morning’s show takes us to an almost-uncomfortable, nearly-bleak living room in which a family birthday party sees ‘dressing up’ interpreted across generations.
What is suitable for adults is considered. Malone speaks the language of bad taste, where words which would typically make the fashion-literate wince – ‘fuzzy’, ‘cuddly’ – are warmly embraced. Striped stoles rendered in ‘fun fur’ are made from repurposed dog beds, frock coats are fashioned from workwear twills typically found in school uniforms. Retro party plates inspired the prints seen across recycled, organic cotton jersey. Waste is limited – dresses are cut from precisely one metre of woven fabric and shaped through contouring by hand. Much of the colour palette takes cues from the tonal browns of ‘bad, mum lipstick’ and the optimistic brights of street party flags. Bra cups deliberately sit away from the body, artfully awkward.
Despite the omnipresence of a sense of humour, naivety is not a part of Malone’s lexicon. These hand-woven fringed silks and brushed Scottish wools are for grown-ups – though, to quote the designer, perhaps those who “might have to take their kids to school with a raging hangover.” Within many of his fabrics Malone explores techniques he feels speak to un-self-conscious childhood – “kind of the real meaning of punk, that sense of not giving a shit who’s looking at you.” Knits are laddered, silks frayed, mohair spontaneously hand-painted before being woven. Incredibly labour-intensive design and craft lies behind these clothes; each piece taking days at a time to be made by hand.
The ideas of tactility and texture demonstrate the affection with which Malone wishes to treat his subject matter. A copy of a novel by the Parisian feminist writer Violette Leduc has accompanied him daily over the past six months – The Lady and the Little Fox Fur, compelling in its peculiarity. In it the protagonist views all events from a position of sentimentality – a standpoint Malone, with his tender exploration of memory, has made a signature. A particular passage has affixed itself to his imagination: “There is no such thing as eccentricity. There is what is.”
As an Irish immigrant, as Brexit looms large Malone has been forced to consider next steps he may need to take as a UK resident – seeking Settlement Status. Arduous form-filling, unnecessary scrutiny are upon him and countless more. One thinks back to the idea of badly-lit, uniquely charming community-centre gatherings, mums’ doors flung open for street parties… simpler times.