If Reuben Selby's SS22 show was a human figure, it would be a well nurtured child. From conception to showcase, the brand's key principles pour from the seams at every turn, drenching the audience with each calculated detail. Through design and creative direction the theme of the showcase, CLASH, seeks to represent ‘the duality when exploring what makes us unique, yet unified, a society that has grown bold in its individuality, and found harmony in its collectiveness.’
Hannah Sheridan, Head of Design at Rueben Selby, explains the meaning of the concept; “The name of the show, CLASH, is about a clash of cultures, clash of classes, and really bringing together those juxtaposing inspirations and making something really interesting.” One of Reuben's inspirations for the collection was rooted in his Fillipino heritage, in particular the Fillipino custom ‘Bayanihan,’ which means ‘community’ - a reference to unified teamwork. Meeting Hannah backstage before the show, it is clear that the ethos behind CLASH lives and breathes in the team's collective organisation. Elucidated by the name, I expect a microcosm of rushed creatives, clambering over each other to turn the cogs and make the machine run. Instead, the team is calmly collaborating, so organised and collected that the atmosphere is almost serene. Each person, pacific. As the team churn away behind the scenes, the seats begin to fill. Romeo Beckham is in attendance as well as Bimini Bon Boulash, who was spotted wearing an oversized lilac suit from Reuben’s Paris Fashion Week collection. Reubens partner Maisie Williams debuted her first live DJ Set opening for a high-power surprise performance from British rapper Headie One.
Almost every element of production is entirely collaborative; before the show, Reuben is chatting with the public via telecommunications app Discord to take advice on editing upcoming garments, using technology to blend the relationship between consumer and designer. “I think we wanted it to be a really collaborative experience,” Hannah explains, “We don't want to put people in things that are going to make them feel self conscious or not themselves. When we have our fittings we ask the models, how does it feel? Is this something that you would want to wear? I think it's just that whole idea of working with people and being collaborative, and to create garments for people that means that they can express themselves.” One of the brands key principles is to produce pieces which are to be used as an ‘introspective showcase’ seeking inner validation from ‘self-empowerment and acceptance’. In doing so, Reuben Selby is working to rewrite industry standard; creating a workspace so collaborative they break the fourth wall and allow decisions to be made by those wearing the items, not only the models but the customers too.
The collection is built with sustainability very much at the forefront of conception, “Reuben comes in and helps pick the fabrics, which is mainly deadstock, so that's why you see a lot of patchwork.” Ninety five percent of the materials used for the show are upcycled from obsolete materials, an environmentally friendly alternative to buying newly produced fabric - the designer instead buys what hasn't been sold from other companies, saving it from landfill and avoiding the carbon pollution of creating new materials. The remaining materials used are made from cactus leather by Adriano Di Marti and FLWRDWN, a down-fill made from wildflowers, biopolymer and aerogel created by Pangaia. Even the set design, created by PLAYLAB, INC, was made using recycled cardboard, to stress the importance of using sustainable materials.
The brand Reuben Selby was formed during lockdown, a collaboration in itself between Hannah and Reuben, who met on an art foundation before going separate ways. “He's always wanted to start a brand. Just as I graduated he messaged and was like, “do you want to design for the brand?” It started off as really really small working with Reuben and we basically said what can we do? This was back in June of last year, and then that kind of escalated and we managed to do more and more and a month later Reuben was like, “Do you wanna do Paris fashion week?” Somehow we just made it happen.”
Their Paris Fashion Week presentation impressed critics for its ability to remain wearable whilst embodying the avante garde in silhouette and structure, and their SS22 show is no different. The influences from Selby's filipino roots are clear, with heavily structured bell shaped sleeves, reminiscent of terno gowns, the national dress of the Philippines. The collection uses the same concept of construction yet includes structured trousers and gloves too, each with unique shaping. The garments are plush and relaxed yet the form of the silhouette is striking, the colour palette is somewhat muted and natural, but the textures and textiles reinvigorate the garments. Each piece is a refined and exact midpoint between two ideas: the creative partnership between Hannah and Reuben is distinct in each item. “We have quite different tastes but getting his direction and putting my own design into it, putting it within those constraints, is why it comes out quite interesting. I don't think I would ever have come up with the designs if it wasn't for the starting points that Reuben gives me.”
Each design is outlandish yet non abrasive. The type of clothing that is extremely eccentric, but only if you notice it. The kind that you could miss if you didn't double take, it is the fine details that provide an heir of extravagance. Hannah explains that the collection was also born from the influence of brutalist architecture, “There’s three main starting points that Reuben is sort of pushing off on, one of them was looking into his asian heritage, like his filipino roots, so there was elements of traditional Fillipino dress also looking to a lot of aerial pictures of the rice paddies in the philippines so that inspired a lot of our textures, that was kind of one inspiration - and then brutalist architecture, which is like a lot of the more structured leg pieces and making those really interesting silhouettes that comes from that.”
A year since its inception and across only two collections, Reuben Selby has already begun turning heads, with a distinct house style emerging. “I think we have some key silhouettes that do come through - lots of asymmetry, and there is that fluidity between genders. We don't tend to really assign looks to a particular person, it's whoever we think the look fits. In that sense I think, our core values and the idea of the model being really comfortable, and that will always be the case.”
By Kaycia Ainsworth