London-based fashion designers Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones unveiled the Spring/Summer 2014 women’s wear collection for their label Teatum Jones during London Fashion Week on Sunday, 15 September 2013. A late-summer grey and wet afternoon framed a reasonably quiet Somerset House (the official venue for the British fashion showcase) in a gloomy ambiance that mirrored the emptiness of the large, white and almost clinical room chosen for the presentation. However, no sooner did the doors of the venue open to reveal the collection, than a panoply of delicate colours, exquisite prints and intricately codified narratives started to brighten the mood of all those who paused to observe Teatum Jones‘ latest creations.
Titled ‘Jacquie and Mary Ellen‘ and described as “a tribute to women built on real experiences”, the collection had many reviewers looking for the physical manifestations of what they interpreted as a mere laudatory motto in the images of women in the black and white film projected on a wall and in the clothes worn by models and displayed on mannequins. Similarly, the shapes and patterns of the garments were understood by some people as derivative of the silhouettes that Nicolas Ghesquière used to create for Balenciaga or the prints recently adopted by Phoebe Philo for Céline in a dismissive way that overlooked not only the very intimate details of story-telling underpinning the collection but also the highly accomplished treatment of a concept (a skill that has consistently defined every Teatum Jones collection), with each carefully chosen colour, texture and shape revealing a layered narrative of personal memories.
After I managed to grasp the emotional magnitude of this brave starting point, I took my time to examine the collection. And the more I looked at the garments, the more I realised the raw and emotive inspiration that Catherine and Rob found in the manifold representations of women during the 1970s and the more seduced I became with their genuine admiration for lives lived with authenticity: these were neither the sort of women with flawless skin dressed in moss green silk blouses and sharp black pencil skirts that Tom Ford praised during his days at Gucci nor was their physicality edited by digital retouching; these were women who lived and inhabited reality and all its beauty and its flaws with a relentless sense of happiness and of selfless devotion to their partners and children.
Confident in their celebration of motherhood and femininity as the conceptual anchors for their Spring/Summer 2014 collection, Teatum Jones set out to develop what can best be described as a treasure chest of mementos of family life and domesticity. The practicality of housework became evident in textured coated and bonded fabrics used to create wipe-clean and waterproof garments, in the layered fabrics that brought to life utilitarian aprons, and in the laminated silk check organza (in soft hues of dandelion yellow and powder blue) and the high-gloss table cloth linens that evoked the check patterns of tea towels. Similarly, the cut chosen for the garments, with elongated patch pockets and draped fabrics as the most striking examples, evoked the recollection of tea towels thrown over shoulders.
To illustrate the desire to escape the realm of the home, a tinge of rebellion could be found in oversized bombers and biker jackets, whereas sleek textured satin column dresses conjured a world of aspirational sophistication. Furthermore, in order to combine the notion of how private lives are shared with the family within the home and the importance of dreaming about luxury and beauty, Catherine and Rob resorted to floral prints in the beautifully poetic ‘Generation’ print, where arrangements of petals proved to be, on close inspection, elegant collages of photographs of their mothers’ hands and fingers as a veritable sensorial depiction of, and homage to the first memories of bonding through touch and affection.
In every single one of their collections, Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones have revealed a skilful and painstakingly rigorous analysis of how womanhood and motherhood have been represented throughout history by writers, painters and architects. However, for Spring/Summer 2014, the two designers opted for turning their gaze inwards and explore their own creative psyches. Stemming from a joint understanding of how to paint a celebratory portrait of real women, the collection developed fluidly and confidently as an emotionally intelligent tribute to the roles that their mothers Jacquie and Mary Ellen played in their lives. And, for the perfectly balanced treatment of such a personal and emotional concept, Teatum Jones have confirmed why they deserve the applause of the fashion industry.