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Saul Nash AW19 The Freedom of Movement

Presenting oneself in a way that allows cut for movement and personal freedom of expression

Review by Roisin Toppani

Photography by Silvia Draz

 

This was not a fashion show. It was a dance performance, a movement, a series of gestures extending beyond the tailored restrictions of clothing. “Movement should follow the rhythm of the waves: the rhythm that rises, the continuing beauty of the curve is needed” (Isadora Duncan, Depth), although written by a female contemporary dancer over one hundred years ago, there was something equally timeless in the statement performed by Saul Nash’s AW19 menswear show.

 

The clothing was streamlined. When moved, no material was awkwardly flapping, twisted or flaying. Rather, material struck more contact with the skin than the air, knitted compression pieces dynamic and natural on the body. Rendered in three-way stretch nylons and Kaihari denim, the collection was cut for movement, intricately detailed with intarsia ribbing, mesh linings and bonding. Highly-controlled movement was fought in high-functioning garments.

There was a primal sensitivity, lacking all frivolity the performance was a last dance for survival in organic yellow, dove blue and earthy taupes. It was emotional, there were tears in one dancer’s eyes. Contact between the dancers increased as the piece progressed — the performance of interaction was not frivolous but vital, the dancers supporting each other with all of their weight. Instinctive and improvised, sequences relied on leading and imitation between the dancers responding to each other, like the clothes responding to the moments of the wearer by moving in harmony with the body. The limited contact was meaningful and emotional, stark against the lonely solo movements throughout the piece; despite being equipped against the elements with windproof coats and drawstring trousers, contact was still craved.

It was a self-reflexive performance — the narrative was about watching and being watched, such primal activity comparable to the dynamics of the fashion world. Sizing each other up in the style of capoeira or a street gang, the dog-eat-dog outlook reminiscent of Saul’s ‘Unit’ project inspired by gangs from his East-London childhood. A solo mover boldly flexed between contemporary and street dance in the middle of the human circle, this isolation of the solo dancer a metaphor for the competition central to toxic masculinity.