28 November 2018 - 27 January 2019
Richard Malone has every ingredient to become one of the most successful, new, British labels. With an emphasis on feminism and dressing real women in his work, as well as a vocal standpoint against ‘fast fashion’, he has secured himself at the front of a dramatic shift occurring in fashion. This is a shift from unhealthy body images and shockingly unsustainable production towards “getting woke”, in the words of the recent report from the Business of Fashion. Combining these beliefs with his passion surrounding fashion, art and movement, Malone has recently opened the exhibition ‘RINSE, REPEAT’ at the NOW Gallery, Greenwich. It is a showcase of his label, featuring environmentally-friendly products in sculptural designs – the pieces acting as a middle finger to unsustainable fashion, and stereotyped beauty today.
Malone is native to Wexford in Ireland, and has exploded into the London fashion scene with an eponymous label for AW15. This off the back of a sterling performance at the renown Central Saint Martin’s. He graduated with a BA in Womenswear in 2014, having earned the sought-after LVMH Grand Prix scholarship; a prestigious award testament to his unique ability and vision. His experience working with private clients allowed him to create a namesake brand at break-neck speed, rather than the more common route of climbing the ladder in previously established brands. It is the private work with industry executives and art gallerists which has helped consolidate his brand’s image and understand his customer. The process allows him to curate pieces that relate to his buyers and make clothes they can see themselves in. It acts as a vast contrast to many larger labels today, sending much skinner, younger models down the runway, girls which his customer can’t understand.
Malone’s feminist approach to fashion collides with a life-long passion for sculpture in his ‘RINSE, REPEAT’ exhibition. As one enters the open space in the Greenwich Peninsula, you are first stuck by rather peculiar floating structures of wire and fabric. Left alone they appear to be deflated masses, reminiscent of piles of laundry. Admittedly on my arrival, I was somewhat confused. It wasn’t until I watched as two women approached the hanging pieces, opened them up and buttoned themselves inside, that I began to understand the concept. As they danced together in the clothes, their body shapes were morphed and the forces of fashion, art and sculpture intertwined; Malone’s vision was surely completed. My initial confused is elucidated by Malone who states “I don’t think there is much to clothes, until people are in them”. This is a concept tackled by the name of the exhibition, an exhibition that understands dressing to be the act which sparks life into clothing. Throughout the opening event I watched as the piles of fabric were worn and brought to life for a matter of seconds, before being removed and left hanging waiting for the next person – rinse, repeat.
US Vogue editor Sarah Mower was in conversation with Malone at the opening night of the exhibition. She is known for her support of young creatives, and was vital in the rise of the now greatly successful designers including Christopher Kane, JW Anderson and Erdem. What makes him so unique, she said, was his subject of real, grown women who need to move and work. He joked about “a Comme des Garçons blob” being totally unsuitable for his client on this subject of movement, before explaining how the importance of motion is weaved into the exhibition: with three 23 foot high screens projecting models dancing in the sculptural pieces, with hanging outfits ready to be danced in and with live dancers on the night. Mower also focusses on his upbringing, with roots in Ireland, and how his family are much of what has shaped him as a designer. He speaks fondly of how his Grandmother Nellie inspires him and how she has never called herself an artist, but has always been one. A conversation with her can be heard in some of the headsets which litter the exhibition space, along with other discussions with his friends and collaborators that make up Malone’s creative process. The headsets are attached to asymmetric display cabinets which present the inner workings of his brand, filled with sketches, fabrics, pictures of half completed clothes, completed clothes, street style images and videos of fittings. The combination of multi-media comes together to form a really special glimpse into his process, vision, and the world of fashion design.
NOW Gallery has been home to a string of greatly successful designers, including Molly Goddard who strung up 7 metre long embroidered tulle dresses, and Charles Jeffery who welcomed the public into his mind with vast hanging sculptures of his drawings. Richard Malone joins this indomitable team with his exhibition, and becomes part of a massively exciting group of young London based designers, all blending fashion and art.