It was back-to-school day for London Fashion Week in more ways than one. After such a long hiatus from physical shows, Saul Nash was the first designer to present on an official runway here in a year and a half with a show themed around his memories of going to school in North London. Rough video footage of teenagers in a playground played immersively on the walls; a diverse bunch of teenage boys, exactly like Nash’s old school mates, congregated around a couple of London bus stops, and so it began.
“Not so long ago, my mum sent me a box of my old school stuff, with my records and my last-day-of-school shirt,” said Nash. Opening it, a wave of nostalgia made him want to piece together what his school uniform had meant to him and his friends—the rituals, the teen sub-fashions of 2009, the subversive tweaking of regulation garb. Fragments, as the collection is named, came out of the memories he said he’d put behind him; it was cleverly staged around the universal observation of what happens on the way to and from school—that thing of teens surreptitiously performing quick changes at bus stops, customizing their own rules and group identities into clothes that defy the codes that school authorities futilely construct to make everyone look the same.
There were fragments, too, in the sense of Nash’s integration of adjustable, transformable segments and magnetic fastenings into his blend of sport, performance, and fashionwear. His first trench coat, in acid yellow deadstock nylon, has detachable “bomber” bolero sleeves; a couple of boys changed into reversible nylon cagoules, plain on one side and printed with splashy motifs on the other. Nash pointed out they were warped images of the Oyster travel cards, given by the London transport authority to school-age children when he was young, which are now under threat of being taken away.
And there was a rubber key ring with a personal symbolism: “A nod to my Bajan and Guyanese heritage, and growing up in London trying to connect with these cultures in this city,” he said. “I also linked that to Fragments because we have these ties with countries we’ve never been to; so everything is kind of fragmented, the colors distorted.” His brand speaks to a generation that collectively went through the same experiences at school and relate to how Nash transforms those experiences into a sensitive portrayal of masculinity and friendship.
This season fans will enjoy his backward logo LUAS on soccer socks and his morphing of do-rag and school cap. At the end of the show, Nash ran out wearing the same blue school shirt on which his classmates had scribbled messages on the last day of term at Winchmore High School. They should be inviting him back as an inspirational alum: Proof to the next gen of teenagers that even rebelling against hated school uniforms can be a creative act that might lead to some very inspiring careers.