Meadham Kirchoff SS 2012

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”

Courtney Love, Miss World video

I want to talk about Meadham Kirchoff SS 2012 and maybe I will be a little overtalking but there’s so much to say! I know some “serious” designer could see this as a very childish show, but I found this collection full of references, allegories and different meanings that can be all summarized in “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

This catwalk is conceived as a three act show: the Courtneys invasion, the catwalk and the “girls on the cake” called Madonnas.

The music and the pastel colours carried around an atmosphere of flippancy, lightness, stupidity and everybody thought about whimsical adolescent period. I think that in some way the show wanted to underline the changes a girl went through during adolescence, as the time when a girl feels always inappropiate, and her transformation from a baby to a woman, the moment when she is still innocent and also sexy. I love this theme because it speaks of a period of decadence which coincides with the decomposition of childhood and the entrance to adulthood.

Meadham said after the show that they’d been preoccupied with what he called “the girl on the cake”: starlets, showgirls, beauty pageant winners, models, and princesses. “I wanted to take them off the cake, and put a real girl up there,” he explained. “A real girl not defined by feminine frippery, though she may occasionally indulge in it.”

As for me, I was fascinated by the ambivalence between purity and decadence, but maybe what I loved the most about this collection is the pastiche of the references (that can be properly considered kitsch), the moodboards and the mixing process of two of my favorite fashion eras 1700 and 90’s melted unexplainable and brilliantly together.

A mood of  irreverence and playful feeling like a squashed cake.


– 90’s: kinderwore style, Courtney Love. Another designer inspired from 90’s was Jeremy Scott.

– 1700: Maria Antoniette, pastels colours, Zardosi embroideres, Paniers silhouette, gloves, powder-puff

– Hollywood divas: crystal-and-sequin-embroidered showgirl knickers, fancy dresses, Busby Berkeley choreography

– Spain: dancers, tutu, Catholic religion, postcards

– College: kitschy and naive drawings, pinafores, teddy bear-shaped bags, glitter and rhinestones

MEADHAM KIRCHHOFF / SS12 from osborne+bisoux on Vimeo.

The Madonnas

The five Madonnas actually were a collection into the collection and closed the catwalk. They represent the girls with the most cake, like Courtney said, and appeared on a giant cake like those decorations for layers wedding ones. On the top there were the girl dressed in white which I supposed to be the Braid. The cake seems also a kind of holy halo like the one of that religious icons of the Virgin Mary. I think it’s the sanctification of the woman in all her antitheses, the stupid vulgarity of adolescence and the sacredness of the woman.

“This jacket is called Madonna. It is a pannier-hipped, sack-backed, zardosi-embroidered frock coat with powder-puff boobs. When Benjamin Kirchhoff and I returned from our first-ever holiday in Spain this past June, I had an epiphany where I pictured this piece and the powdering Courtneys in the show. Zardosi is an incredibly labor-intensive type of embroidery traditionally used in ceremonial Catholic dress and ornamentation and military dress, made by stitching coils of metal to create the pattern.”

on the left: this jacket is called Kathli. It’s a silk zardosi-embroidered ottoman jacket with a sack back, with crystal-and-sequin-embroidered showgirl knickers.

sketches for the cake

“This is my drawing of all the Madonnas on the cake. It changed a bit before the show, but not much. Nobody seems to have taken a photo of the Madonnas-on-the-cake reveal—they were revealed from behind a gold curtain, holding flowers like pageant-winner bride goddesses, and they dropped their flowers like Courtney at the end of the Miss World video and stomped off of the cake, rejecting their elevation. When I call them the Madonnas, I don’t refer only to Madonna Ciccone and the Virgin, but also to all of the venerated icons of beauty.”

the cake of the show (snaps from this video)

Courtney in Miss World video, Our Lady of Lourdes, Carrie (1976 film)

The Catwalk

one of my fav, the most Marie Antoinettish outfit of the whole collection and very XVIII century inspired

Kirsten Dust as Marie Antoinette and Marie Antoinette potrait by Joseph Ducreux, 1769

“We worked on this jacket for a long time. It’s appliquéd with a sequined lamb motif that is from an old crib decal that I have on my computer. He is the lamb that is on the invitation to the show under the collection title, “A Wolf in Lamb’s Clothing.””

pastel colors and funny faces on the cardigans, very childish

“This dress is called Mary Kate, and is made entirely from ballerina embroidery. It was inspired by those old Spanish postcards where the flamenco dancers have real fabric skirts, so each ballerina has a little sequined tutu that you can lift up, and a pearl necklace and crystal tiaras. The dress was made from bands, or strips, and between the bands are ruffled Broderie Anglaise lace ribbons. The sequins make this dress glittery in the most glittery way.”

“This is a close-up of a Broderie Anglais–type embroidery, where there is no unembroidered fabric. This one is called Abigale and is a pinafore dress made entirely from that type of embroidery. We wanted it to look like those paper-cutout snowflakey things that you do in primary school, where all the ladies and their cats are holding hands. Between each band is stitched an iridescent tinsel yarn that’s actually meant to be used for something to do with fishing?”

more Marie Antoinettish and paniers alike dresses+housemaid apron-style

“These dresses are called Molly and Lacy, and are some of the most difficult patterns I have ever made. They have practically only horizontal seams and have a pannier-hipped inner layer. They are made from silk satin gazar, which is like a really really springy satiny organza type of thing. They both have pin-tucked panels, and although you can’t see it in this picture, they have ballerina embroidery through the skirt.”


“Fluff is pretty much where this collection started. I just wanted to lose myself in pink fluffy loveliness. These pieces are made from marabou feathers, and they actually weigh a ton! There is so much volume in them—the hem of the blue jacket, pink skirt, and green dress is like 26 meters, and it took an hour just to stitch the band of feathers onto one of these hems.”


on the right: “this is one of the first garments I did for this collection. There’s a TV show that Ben watched called The United States of Tara. The daughter on that show is kind of cool, and she wears this brown-bear pinafore. I was totally obsessed with it. It looked so cool. So it seemed very logical to me, since we were working with these little figures and illustrations from old cards, and decals from a baby’s crib, that we should do the checkered bear as a pinafore. The bear is called Danni, and is entirely embroidered, with 3D leather-appliqué eyelashes.”

college style with ties and buttons

The Moodboards

The concept of the collection: Courtney Love in the 90’s, Hello Kitty, feathers, heart-shaped balloon, glittering stickers, L’origine du monde by Courbet; Marie Antoinette potrait , Edwars Scissorshands soundtrack; Catholic madonnas, Shirley Temple, doll dresses pictures, Busby Berkeley choreography (?).

“All of the images that influenced me while making this collection. I wanted to include representations of every classic beauty (within the parameters of my aesthetic): sex symbol, goddess, Hollywood goddess, showgirl, little girl, Shirley Temple, Marilyn, Jayne Mansfield, old paintings and portraits from Ingres, Marie Antoinette, dolls, the Virgin Mary. Basically I was thinking about extreme artificial beauty, appropriated female beauty and all its trappings and languages—loving it and hating it at the same time, jamming it all together into one great big giant joyful scream of rage and delight.”

Courtney Love again, a self-portrait by Arvida Byström, Pierre et Gilles photograph, rhinestones, plastic flowers, Sally Mann photograph.

Jayne Mansfiel with fluffy bikini, Courtney again, Brian de Palma’s Carrie, Catholic Madonnas, Marilyn Monroe.


These shoes really seem slices of cake, they’re the best thing of the show. Ed Meadham said “I wanted the shoes to be the most ridiculous and entertaining things, like if you wore them they would keep you amused all day. Big, glittery, cakelike frilly bed things.”

“We made these shoes with Nicholas Kirkwood, who’s been doing our shoes pretty much always. These ones were quite successful. We had just gotten them when this picture was taken, so I was in the middle of stitching the crystal bows to the Madonnas’ embroidered shoes, and making marabou pompoms for the others.”

The Courtneys

The catwalk started with the invasion on stage of a group of Courtneys wearing a dress inspired from the outfit Courtney wore for the Reading Festival in 1994. They all started powdering themselves like the beginning of Miss World video.

Courtney at Reading Festival in 1994

“I decided to try to faithfully remake pastel versions of the dress that she wore for the Reading Festival in 1994. I love that dress. It’s one of her classics. And I love the message she was sending to the world with that dress. Reading ’94 was Hole’s first show after her husband died, and the world was waiting to see if Courtney would curl up and die with him. Instead, she showed up in this tiny little gold dress, and really worked and defined her “thing.”

“These are “the powdering Courtneys” backstage. I have always been so obsessed by Hole’s Miss World video and have stolen from it endlessly. Right at the very beginning of working on this collection I knew that I wanted to have an army of Courtneys powdering themselves for the show.”

snaps from Miss World video

“These women are wearing tights by Meadham Kirchhoff and shoes that we bought from some bridesmaid place and colored with Pantone. All of the Courtneys came onstage and powdered themselves with beautiful pastel-colored goose-down powder puffs from Penhaligon’s, and put on lipstick (Ruby Woo by M.A.C.) whose tubes we had customized in pastel colors and glitter, and then started to dance.”

Make up

“This looks so good. It’s a painted/melted wig by James Pecis. Usually the hair is the first thing that comes to me for a collection, but this season I was really stuck. I wanted something really traditionally glamorous, but something gross and cool too. And I wanted them all bleach blonde. James sent me this idea he had been working on: melting wigs. It seemed perfect, to combine his melted-wig idea with all of these classic blonde-beauty glamour hair do’s, and a splash of color. Here we can see the nail stickers that Nail Rock made for us, using all the little figures we used throughout the collection.”

sources: catwalk images from; backstage and Ed Meadham comments from rookie.mag; tumblr. snaps by me.

Aesthete. Art historian & blogger. Content creator and storyteller. Fond of real and virtual wunderkammer. Founder and main author of

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