In May of 2020, the face of fashion changed forever. Dries Van Noten, alongside a multitude of designers, CEO’s and fashion professionals, wrote an open letter to the world addressing that they no longer felt the need to adhere to the traditional fashion schedule of season by season, but instead would release collections as the designer saw fit. The public reaction was a mid-point between an uproar and a relieved sigh; as the industry has needed an immense transformation for years. Behind the curtain and backstage, conversations were almost always referring to the amount of staff being overworked and the desperate elongated scramble that filled the beckoning months before every seasonal show; comprised of too many garments being produced for even the wealthiest of clients to keep up with, contributing to global waste and carbon emissions which have now tarred the name of the industry, written off as nothing more than a rich persons playground - creating pain for the sake of pain at every corner - overworked, over wasteful and imprudent. Tackling this beast of convention, however, produced a new opportunity. Not only for the designer to release collections as they wish, but at long last, a chance to truly challenge the facade of fashion, how we view and interact with it, and its importance to society as a whole.
From the moment of its publication, the letter produced an optimistic bustle among fashion houses, with suggestions for the new arrangement presented from every corner of the globe. The initial idea was to alter the dates of seasonal collections, so they made more sense for the consumer. The possibility of navigating a new terrain free from the confines of tradition and lack of limitation quickly developed into proposing that the focus of the fashion houses should shift from the client and to the designer. Allowing them to release collections at their own rate of inspiration and thus changing the focal point of the fashion industry to being of the art that each artist produces, rather than scurrying to produce a new bikini for the client to wear on the shores of St Tropez by early summer. The year following this decision has seen a cataclysmic array of collections and schedules, allowing the artists more time and freedom to create.
"Allowing them to release collections at their own rate of inspiration and thus changing the focal point of the fashion industry to being of the art that each artist produces, rather than scurrying to produce a new bikini for the client to wear on the shores of St Tropez by early summer."
Exploring this new open landscape is MCQ, a brand originally birthed by the legendary fashion house Alexander McQueen. Rather than existing as one brand with a solid head or creative director, MCQ has since evolved from its humble beginnings as a diffusion line in 2005 to inventing a new kind of fashion brand altogether. They operate as one collective who partners with an ever-changing cast of creatives every six months as part of its “cycles.” Its decision to disintegrate its previous attachment to Alexander McQueen creates, in part, an openness and creative freedom to these collaborators, whom the house call its “icons.” This new kind of brand not only challenges the traditional fashion schedule but also confronts the mode in which fashion is respected and produced at all, no longer succumbing to the vision of one person, but making space for many to develop their art collectively on a global platform.
MCQ are currently in cycle III, the theme of which is breathe. During the evolution of cycle III the brand was influenced as they explored the influence air has on movement, from parachuting and sailing to the more carnal, such as the effect of breathwork meditation on the human body. They attribute their conceptual catalyst as being a “creative search for both lightness and strength.”
Icon collaborator Myles O’Meally and Areté senior designer Slimane Cherif Khaldi have applied these concepts into footwear, producing a new sneaker design called Aratana, named after the japanese word for “new.” Through this design they work to preserve the houses core values whilst representing modernity, symbolising British youth culture whilst exploring the concepts behind self sustainable materials which are endlessly malleable, such as air, creating ease of wear for the consumer. Through structure they create a weightless volume, Myles explains how important it can be to consider such details, “a good design, regardless of the product, enriches life. It simplifies life. It can make you feel good.”
The construction of the shoe is multilayered, combining recycled leather with mesh underlays along with a double-cord lacing system. The sole is modular, built ready to incorporate add-ons that will be released in cycle V. The addition of these accessories will entirely transform the design and prolong its lifespan, making it both sustainable and customisable. The insole is composed of between 1-10% Bloom™ material, a textile that transforms harmful algae bloom into a substitute for plastic. The algae helps clean the air and purify water, they use an eco-facts certification process which helps both business and consumer track the direct impact of the product on the environment. It is estimated that a product using this material weighing 200g cleanses 45 litres of water and 28 cubic metres of air. Sustainability is an extremely important factor for both the brand and the consumer, as the fashion industry contributes to 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
"It is estimated that a product using this material weighing 200g cleanses 45 litres of water and 28 cubic metres of air."
Myles discusses how he was influenced by British rave culture, which is evident in its campaign, shot by Anton Reva. The shoot resembles rave posters highlighting an aesthetic almost reminiscent of 90s grunge, the REAL Y2K. The campaign stars some of the most modern maestros of the music mob featuring household names such as Aitch, Rina Swayama, Park Gyujeong, Bloody Osiris, Coi Leray, Deb Never, Ilaria Bigg, MLMA (Me Love Me Alot) and many more. The Aratana sneaker is stocked globally and available at retailers including SSENSE, Luisa Via Roma, Julian Fashion, LNCC, GOAT, Level Shoes, Nubian and Antonioli.