The St. Mark’s Church hall in residential Dalston, home to the Little Yum Yums Nursery in its quotidian life, was where talented up-and-comer John Alexander Skelton staged his fall 2018 collection. So far, so prosaic. Inside, it was a different story: This was not a show lacking in drama or theatrics.
Nor was it lacking in ideas. Skelton based his collection around two British folk traditions: 19th-century folk theater, where members of local communities would stage productions to entertain their friends and neighbors in the days before Netflix, and wassailing, a medieval English pagan ritual performed in apple orchards intended to ensure a good cider apple harvest the following year.
“The sense of community that was held within British folk theater, in contrast to the lack of community we have now is something that I wanted to reference,” Skelton told WWD. “The performers were often laborers, farmers or very poor people who would get together what they could to make their costumes, so there was a strong DIY element to it.”
Skelton put his tailoring skill to work in elegantly voluminous frock coats and tweed waistcoats. Frayed edges on hand-knits and exposed seams on deconstructed blazers spoke to the provincial inspiration, while the dark palette and the Dickensian silhouettes, such as the high-waisted trousers suspended by twine “braces” over a striped, buttoned-up cardigan, held an Abel Magwitch menace.
British milliner Stephen Jones, who has collaborated with the designer since his graduate collection, was once again called upon, providing several top hats for the show, which was set to a soundtrack of silence broken by the sounds of the models announcing themselves with a line from a traditional Northern England play.
It all made for a very conceptualized outing, but with lots of wearable pieces in the mix, such as the hand-woven cream and gray striped wool trousers that were worn with a cream hand-knit cardigan embroidered with folkloric symbols.
Skelton is a rising star in London’s men’s wear landscape. He was awarded the Sarabande scholarship, granted by the Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation, and graduated from Central Saint Martin’s with an M.A. in fashion men’s wear in 2016.