22 Feb Review: Symonds Pearmain / Dazed Digital
The story behind maverick design duo Symonds Pearmain is one of serendipity: Max Pearmain, editor of Arena Homme+ and stylist for the likes of Burberry and Calvin Klein, stumbled across an image of Kate Moss wearing an Anthony Symonds t-shirt and determined to track down the designer behind it. Following stints working under John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood in the 1990s, Symonds had quietly struck out on his own, relaunching in 2009 with commercial art gallery Cabinet to produce limited editions for collectors. An instant creative spark between the two led to the beginning of what has become one of London’s most intriguing design partnerships.
From the beginning, the pair have operated in the grey area between contemporary art and fashion, refusing to sit comfortably in either category. Their first presentation in 2016, titled ‘Retail Baroque’, saw model and mime artist Lily McMenamy adopting a series of poses and performances based on female archetypes called out to her at random. This season, Fashion East director Lulu Kennedy, a long-time friend of Symonds, saw their potential to sit alongside her seasonal round-up of London’s most talented graduates. “I just thought they deserved a platform,” she says. “Anthony really knows his craft and together with Max it just works: it’s got immediate lift-off, it arrived fully formed.”
Their desire to confound expectations began this season with their show notes, written by acclaimed video artist Ed Atkins: a hi-vis orange sheet, it warned ominously of sweat, dry-humping and tepid black gunk. “The idea of a press release to me represents so much about what’s pointless and depressing about fashion,” says Symonds after the show. “They’re completely artificial. I actually wanted to use another designer’s press release, but I thought we’d probably get in shit for that.” With all this talk of bodily horror and abjection, you could be forgiven for expecting a vision of dystopian gloom: instead the pair delivered their most upbeat and mischievous collection yet.