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Last season I met up with Kit Neale, in his studio off Kingsland Road in central East London, to discuss his then upcoming collection for Fashion East, one of London’s menswear’s best regarded platforms for emerging fashion talent. Known for his punchy prints, which have incorporated seafood and allotment vegetables amongst other motifs, I was curious to learn whether Kit was at all worried that fashion’s love affair with print had reached its zenith.
Six months later, I’m back in Kit’s studio: there are are fresh moodboards and sketches all over the walls, and fashion has yet to have its fill of print: the louder the better it seems. Most enticingly, rolls of fabric have arrived in readiness to be made up into garments for SS14.
Last season, Kit was inspired by Michael Clark and the colourful world of ’80s London, brilliantly documented in the recent commemorative Blitz magazine book and exhibition, when Clark and polka-dotted friend Leigh Bowery stomped their way from the squats of Camden into the very centre of the art and fashion scene.
This season, says Kit, his inspiration is “misadventures and adventures of adolescent youth”, “a bit Lord of the Flies, Son of Rambo… that period in childhood… a bit lonely I think”. “Lots of boy toy elements… and the B52s!” “Have you seen the video for Love Shack?” he asks, “It’s amazing!”
Whilst bold prints are still prominent, Kit has worked hard to refine a set of shapes, from the perfect sweatshirt, to loose-fitting T-shirts, bombers and denim jackets. The sense of newness with Kit’s work is about surface and the treatments that are applied to these garments, rather than unnecessary tinkering with established shapes. For SS14, there will also be blazers, biker jackets and some surprising accessories and even items where print appears in isolated segments. Despite the high-fashion setting of Fashion East, Kit Neale is a brand with the potential to do equally well in the high-end sports and casualwear arena, alongside (mainly Scandi) labels such as Our Legacy, Wood Wood and Norse Projects.
A week or two later, the garments have started to fully take shape from their paper origins. While my own misadventures may be more middle-aged than adolescent these days, being able to see how the fashion process works from the inside is still new enough to me to be exciting. I enjoy the storytelling inherent in Kit’s approach, and the quality of certain items like those loop-backed sweatshirts is impressive. While we’re clearly not of the same generation, I’ve lived through some of the eras he is inspired by, we share a reverence for the New York based designers Duckie Brown (Kit spent a formative internship with the designers), and I just MIGHT have once pogoed to Love Shack in a bouncy castle at Bestival.
Peckham has never looked quite like this before. Applying a touch of metropolitan New York’s grid-like glamour to the streets of South London (complete with a few neon palm trees):
The soft palette makes adds a touch of maturity to this genius print:
More details from the streets of Peckham:
Moodboards, concepts and sketches:
A classic casual jacket shape gets the Kit Neale treatment:
As a T-shirt:
And in a great denim jacket detail: