The Natural History Museum is an incredibly impressive address to have on your show invite. I imagine choreographing and orchestrating a fashion show in one of London’s most iconic locations is no mean feat. Indeed, there was something special about walking into the grand building after dark, passing Pterodactyl bones in glass cases and up the escalator, into the glowing globe. Referencing the Krizna Jama caves of Slovenia, the Cottweiler duo, Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell, had decked the winding stairs toward the runway in an ultraviolet haze, geodes and gems laid on excavation benches, complete with tools and trough. Staged in the museum’s darkened 'Earth’s Treasury' room, the show was settled amongst the permanent exhibition of meteorites and volcanic rock. 'Metal ores' read the museum sign in front of me, 'Laterite deposits' said another.
The duo are known for their incredibly concept-driven collections. They dive into the most detailed and unique referencing, often focusing on the uniformity within groups that stand out from the rest of society. Previous collections have been rich with niche references; new build homes, muddy workwear fetishes (mudboyuk.com - worth a Google) and Mediterranean culture to name a few. This season, the show notes spoke of subterranean lakes and elaborate cave networks - calling reference from the technical equipment one would need to access such spaces.
Mottled purple and blue marbled tones - not too dissimilar from the gems set around us - appeared on shoulder slung windbreakers and slim-line shorts, whilst thigh-strapped harnesses in shades of grey, purple maroon and white, complete with hiking clasps, were a whimsical nod to the excavating miners mentioned as influences.
Rose quartz Merino wool jumpers and backpacks, a pearlescent hard hat and little blue guide-lights alluded to the spelunkers of Slovenia. As too, did the 'Planino, Staro Planino' by Dragostin Folk National (ancient Bulgarian singing) playing overhead. Those Mulberry bags, given a subterranean twist with faux stalagmites and ombre jewel tones - were an unlikely collaboration, but one that felt like a reminder of Cottweiler's luxury influences and aspirations. Having previously collaborated with Reebok, allowing the consumer to be able to buy into the brand at a snip of the price, the addition of Mulberry accessories felt like a push from Cottweiler for the luxury market. As they should. Even with this collection's new leather additions, Cottweiler's approach to design has always felt high-fashion and high-tech.
Amongst all that design precision it's commonplace for a Cottweiler show to be peppered with subtle innuendos, the duo's designs often come with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge. This time, models were slathered in clear slime, hands entirely submerged. With a plip and a plop, the goop fell from finger and thigh as the models strode past. Allegedly, the slime mirrors the drip of stalactites, but the KY Jelly reference is not lost on anyone.
This collection subverts the banal; clashing nature and technology, sportswear silhouette with tailored technicality, Mulberry Antony bag with neon abseiling cable, hooded sweatshirt with leather loafer. A merging of meticulous craft and intriguing concept, this collection was not only commercially appealing but a cut above.