Sunday 20th September

| BY Paul Toner

Art School: Ready-to-Wear SS21

Art School began as a riotous celebration of queer visibility. Graduating from Ravensbourne University in 2016, before joining Fashion East’s MAN initiative for three seasons, designers Eden Loweth and Tom Barratt burst onto the scene with gender-bending, club kid fashions showered in sequins, doused in hot pinks and plastered with Swarovski crystal penises.

Yet like many of its London-based contemporaries, as seasons passed by, the brand/LGBTQIA+ safe space began reacting to the turbulent times that suffocate our world. Art School’s spring/summer 2021 show took place in the final week of August, at London’s Lauderdale House, where only a handful of the city’s press dotted the grounds. This was the brand’s biggest collection to date – 54 looks, to be exact – and the first to be designed by Loweth alone. The designer spoke of wanting to unite a sense of community in a time we needed it most – bringing together over 30 people of different genders, sizes, ages, sexualities and abilities.

Rugged raincoats and mini dresses came restrictive, boxy and in moody hues – made from cow hide which was vegetable dyed. A succession of ballgowns and slashed tailoring felt apocalyptic at times, as models marched with their eyes whitened and their necks adorned with chains. Artist Richard Porter was in charge of the jewellery, accenting each look with miniature sculptures made of clay.

Loweth dubbed this collection Therapy, a reaction not only to the year we’ve had but a celebration of his Art School community coming together once more. He took his final bow to Celeste’s “I Can See The Change,” a soulful ballad about searching for the light in times of darkness – something Art School has been able to do once more.

Photography by Chris Yates.