OH BOY! London-based youth fashion brand BOY London celebrates its 40th year

RATHER than fade into obsolescence as so many edgy labels do after a few decades, youth fashion brand BOY London made the mature transition from urban to urbane with the launch of a premium line collection to commemorate its 40th birthday. When Stephane Raynor opened the first BOY London shop on King’s Road, the punk movement was just debuting. Thus, BOY London opted to kick of its year long celebrations with a party honouring both the anniversary of the punk movement and the launch of BOY by BOY, the company’s new collection.


Tech from BOY by BOY LCM SS2017Tech from BOY by BOY London for LC:M SS17

Punk is not the only movement in the shaping of British youth culture that BOY partook in. BOY was also cherished by the New Romantics and then the subsequent Acid House movement. During the ‘80s, the eponymous BOY nightclub in Paris and the reputation for wild fashion shows forever linked it to a celebratory spirit.

Rather than skulk quietly into its 40th year, the label summoned this streak for its Saturday June 11 presentation/party for London Collections Men SS17 at One Embankment. The “more elevated streetwear product” introduced its first collection in an energetic extravaganza  overlooking the Thames.

Military from the BOY by BOY LCM SS2017 12 copy.jpg=Leaders from BOY by BOY London for LC:M SS17

At the show, Glass was introduced to the head of design, Melody Maker. She was inspired to create BOY by BOY after seeing Asian customers mix the label with more luxury brands. Personal freedom is the cornerstone of the label’s identity thus Maker explored this concept in the context of the information age. Using state of the art fabrics and concepts, Maker produced a groundbreaking collection which tackled the more problematic aspects of existing in an era where we volunteer ourselves to be monitored and overexposed.

Leaders from the BOY by BOY LCM SS2017 10 copy.jpg=Tech by BOY by BOY London for LC:M SS17

We are living in a time where we are constantly watched by the world around us, according to Maker. Personal style is consumed by the public in new ways nowadays. Surveillance and privacy are the two areas that concern her. Taking utilitarian fashion to the next level, Maker employed such technology as RF blocking fabrics, drone blocking linings, and the code that makes up the darkweb in her collection. Despite all of these hi-tech features, the silhouettes and basic shapes honour the original style of the brand . Hoodies, baseball caps, braces, and lots of black dominated this collection that morphed Maker’s innovations with BOY’s distinct visual language.

Almost at capactiy, the venue can fit 750 people in its two stories. Entering through a  warren of darkly lit paths, it took some time to clock the models frozen in formation amongst the revellers. After ascending the staircase the labyrinthian darkness began to make sense. From the upstairs mezzanine, one could see a dance floor with four clusters of models at each corner and a dense crowd of attendees milling amongst them. Statue-like, they stood adjacent to one another in cohesive, colour coded groups with the hard aura of rival gangs (replete with gang leaders).  Divided into Military, Ground Force, Leaders, and Tech, the groups were not posturing  to face off with each other but to  fight off the privacy invasions and security breaches with their invisible armour designed by Maker.

Tech from BOY by BOY LCM SS2017Ground Force from BOY by BOY London for LC:M SS17

Leaders was the  most mature and preppy looking group. Wearing black and white geometric patterned outfits which were more tailored and less sporty than the rest, their styling conjured images of 1950s Teddy Boys.
The black/dark grey group was called Ground Force.  The subtle print adorning their outfits is bits of code taken from the Darkweb. They had their hands painted red, adding a splash of playfulness to the most dangerous looking crew (who added more than a splash of crimson the items they handled backstage).

Tech was the sullen gaggle of younger looking models in a palette of greys. Bits of metal reminiscent of orthodontic gear adorned their boyish faces. The shorts, tailoring and accessories in plastic mesh fabrics gave them an academic look.
Finally, there was the Military group, which featured pixelated camouflage matched with camouflage body paint on the neck. This battalion had the most ominous facial expressions.

Military from the BOY by BOY LCM SS2017 Military from BOY by BOY London for LC:M SS17

The models were not just proximal to the visitors but immersed in human traffic. This allowed the audience to take in nuances like body-paint and the unique prints on the clothing. This closeness forced one to consider privacy and personal space. They maintained their austere expressions as the audience mixed with working photographers, “citizen journalists”, and venue staff just inches away. Their vulnerability acted as a hyperbolic representation of how prone we are in public spaces.

However, all obvious aesthetics aside, the most gobsmacking aspects of the collection were invisible.  An uninformed person would not know that the models wore technologically advanced outfits that act as a barrier between the wearer and the prying eyes of the public space.

There were two vantage points from which to take in the show- above (the balcony) or within (the dancefloor).From above, the most conspicuous aspect of the showcase was the DJ booth. Wearing all white and moving abruptly, Dyan (who is FKA Twigs’ producer) attracted the eye from both levels. His kinetic energy contrasted with the models, who appeared almost catatonic. Their static state suggested calm- the sort of calm one may have from knowing they are protected from the transgressions of modern gadgets.  However, Dyan was the only participant in the show who had a physical barrier separating him from the spectators. His visible boundary could be conflated with the invisible armour engineered into the four group’s outfits.

After observing some initial reluctance from revellers to intrusively photograph the models, people began to lose their inhibitions- like a tourist gaining confidence whilst goading the guards at Buckingham Palace. . Eventually, some even began taking selfies up close to the models. It shows the ease with which society can accept being perpetrating such violations.

Looking down from upstairs it was clear that nearly everybody had access to their own cameras. However, one of the most popular stop offs in the venue was the GIF photo-booth which texted the moving images with the BOY logo on them to those using it. It attracted groups of strangers to it in droves, reminding one that Maker  also was investigating the “convenience and benefits of modern technology” .

The models exited at one point en masse for a quick break which was an unintentional but effective way of confirming to the  audience that it was part of the spectacle.

When the models disbanded after several hours, the event went from  a showcase to dance party in a matter of seconds (a shift likely helped along by the open bar). Not unlike the label itself, the party was rebelled against the constraints of time and was still going strong after midnight when Glass departed.

Despite Maker’s deep subject matter and serious innovations, the spirit of the party was lighthearted and great fun. It is safe to assume that most of those attending did not know of the deeper context and message scaffolding the event. Rather than coming away jaded about surveillance culture, those attending seemed giddy from  taking in a sublime collection while joining in on BOY’s perpetual teenage rebellion.

Somehow, BOY came full circle whilst shooting off on a new trajectory- a victory for  the idiosyncratic label and its commitment to personal freedom. Maker managed to pull off the paradoxical task of simultaneously reinventing the brand while renewing its commitment to everything it has always stood for.

by Yasmin Bilbeisi

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