20th November 2017
PJ Harvey is the ultimate McQ woman. Romantic and poetic, but balanced with a devil-may-dare provocativeness and strength. She really doesn’t care what anyone thinks and just when someone thinks they have got her sussed, she will turn on an axis, throwing off all she did before and take a new unexplored direction. You can’t quite define her; is she a Goth, who made us all want to wear oversized black knitwear, dye our hair to match and understand the armour created with a sullen what-do-you-want look? Is she the androgynous figure who subverted, through talent and style, how female musicians were perceived? Or is she the ultimate ‘90s icon, who made it acceptable to wear pink and florals and sequins and a drawer full of make-up in an un-ironic but entirely cool way – a girl just wanting to dress like a girl – regardless of what people thought? In truth PJ Harvey is all of that and always so much more.
It’s the light and dark side of her character and those who she has inspired that leads the AW17 collection narrative. The experimenter who inadvertently directs the trends (in fact she hates people replicating her), twisting our gender concepts of what is masculine and what is feminine. Someone who feels as comfortable and completely themselves in deconstructed pinstripe tailoring as they do in a Technicolor floral slip dress. The extreme Victoriana femininity of corsetry, lace panels and antique netting forming tulle skirts, embraces and shares the spirit of Rockabilly as it manifests itself in uncompromising studding and mannish shapes. But it is the ‘90s, Harvey’s acclaimed decade, that continues to dictate, instructing on the silhouettes – the oversized Grungy knits, the assertive stripes in red and black and khaki and black, the shaggy faux fur coats and the exaggerated blackwash denim; on the flip side, thin shirtdresses and skirts sweep the ankles, and chunky knits are as cropped as the hems of the miniskirts. Barely-there camisole dresses are layered over band t-shirts, detailed with fragmented graphics based on Nick Cave and Harvey’s infamous murder ballads, and even sequins are transformed from disco highlight to wistful daytime statement.
A meeting of Indie, Gothic, Rock, Glam and Punk, where aggression is tempered by the ethereal, and the delicacy finds vigour in the mysterious, this is a collection of extremes for all women of extremes.