Water coolers. Strip lighting. Desk dividers. Air conditioning. I entered the revolving doors of the building and walked through the office with familiar sounds echoing in my ears: the telephone ringing, the keyboard drumming, the printer printing. I sat down in a hard seat and felt as if I’d been there before, slotting back into the tap tap tap of day-to-day routine. I waited for the Xander Zhou show to start like I was watching the clock at the end of a day’s work, a drab mundanity weighing down on me through the grey surroundings. But when the bell rang, I quickly realised that this is not your predictable nine-to-five.
Destructive music cut through the air like a gunshot and the models entered. The office guidelines were adhered to with buttoned up shirts, ties and smart leather shoes, while corporate accessories such as suit bags, briefcases and name badges completed the looks. However, as expected, the collection didn’t follow all the rules. Shoulder pads and high waists exaggerated the shapes to create an unfitting, corporate 1980s feel, and as the show wore on, the office rubric was unravelled more and more. Shirts were unbuttoned and covered in tie-dye, as were the shoes. Nipples poked through strategically placed gaps as an homage to Zhou’s infamous sexual freedom – too often squashed when we grow up and get that job we said we’d never get. The occasional sparkly fabric (it wouldn’t be Xander Zhou without it) glimmered in the uniform and took us throughout the working week, past Casual Friday, and into the weekend we all live for.
Unlike the designer’s past collections that have explored sub-cultures and club scenes, SS18 took us to an all too recognisable space and the effect was sinister. The show created an eerie emotionlessness that lifted us into an outer body experience in which we looked down upon ourselves with despair, but colour was the saviour from the tedium of the setting. If office life will look like this in 2018, that accounting job might not look so bad after all.
Words by Jonny Clowes.
Photography by Caoimhe Hahn.