Cutting edge fashion show made me ditch England for good.

October 14th, 2015


Withering English roses
It’s nearly 8pm on Friday 18 September. The opening game of the Rugby World Cup, England v. Fiji at Twickenham, is about to start and I find myself…. at a fashion show. I have seriously mismanaged my calendar!

This is On|Off, brain child of fashion Einstein and Dark Lord of event design Lee Lapthorne. It’s a show that provides a platform for emerging talent during London Fashion Week. This season there were collections from three young designers, and, whilst fashion isn’t entirely my thing, I knew I was looking at some majorly creative threads. There was a raw grace about what came down the runway, some of it very edgy, some of it more considered, but all of it brimming with the joy of creativity. I was reminded of that old Picasso quote ‘Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when you grow up’. Not that these fashion graduates were naïve children, but you could see the proximity to innocence coming through all that learning in their curiosity, their willingness to try things (and maybe make mistakes or maybe make something new) and, most importantly I think, their ability to explore and embrace the random. These are all aspects of ‘play’, they’re what I think Picasso was talking about and are things I value most highly.

After the show I found myself, among the champagne, trannies and Dyson reps (yes, really) thinking more about the importance of play and its role in producing really great work. As we grow into our profession, I considered, we become more skilled, skill is acquired through repetition and repetition can cause parts of our work to become habitual. We probably make fewer mistakes and we come to believe that mistakes are not welcome. We have to perform to deadlines so we develop necessary processes to help make sure we deliver the goods on time, processes which streamline thinking but which can also stifle opportunities for chance and coincidence. Sadly, there often isn’t time to explore paths to unknown destinations like that blazed by wild curiosity. So, it’s possible that without regularly embracing play we are in danger of reaching our limit and becoming encrusted by skill, knowledge and experience. Our projects will be very good, but never great. How terribly boring.

On|Off was a bear-hug of playfulness, being there that night and the subsequent thoughts I explored were to have a profound effect on my national identity.

Eight days later against a keen Welsh side, the England rugby team played 80 minutes of the dullest most unimaginative rugby I’ve ever seen. The only thing they managed to do better the following Saturday in their gobsmacking annihilation at the hands of Australia was make it even duller. The men of the England team may have believed they were skilled warriors but their armour of knowledge and experience served to completely immobilise them. No-one was free-thinking enough to make anything happen, no-one created any space or possibility, there was no willingness to try out the unexpected, no welcoming of the random (and there should be randomness aplenty with a ball that shape), no curiosity to push through the wall of defence – no playing of rugby at all.

A few weeks later and the bunch of roses I bought in hope now wither, the symbolism of it all so heavily poetic.

In the quiet of the dark that has followed, with sensational, fluid games of rugby being played all over the country as the World Cup marches toward its Titanic zenith, I am not ashamed to say that I’ve abandoned England for good – what’s the point of supporting a team who bore you, and more than that who seem to embody the antithesis of all you hold most precious? You will now find me sporting an elasticated ginger beard and a ten-gallon, shamrock, Guinness hat cheering on the maverick, playful brilliance that is Ireland! I’m very much hoping my new look will be an inspiration for the next crop of On|Off designers.


  1. A good five minutes read Alice -as ever. You’ve got me thinking about my own playfulness and risk-taking – the child in me and how I embrace her more fully in my work to bring newness, randomness and creativity to complement my knowingness and experience of what works.

    by: Liz Crede on 14th October 2015 at 12:41 pm


    • Thanks Lizzie, I think the battle against encrustation is really hard, playfulness itself can feel knowing if it’s too thought through or practised. It seems to me that there’s something in having a commitment to regularly expose ourselves to what is new or different or unknown and to make sure we really see and experience it properly. By doing that perhaps a little of it rubs off on our own delivery. There’s a trust element there too, right? Trusting that it’ll be ok and our clients won’t leave in droves.

      by: shaell on 14th October 2015 at 12:58 pm


  2. Thought-provoking! Encrusted is a great word. Maybe the key is to have an encrusted cloak that can be put on and taken off. Possibly, even different cloaks for different occasions. Alternatively, that could miss the point altogether, as a cloak could be too contrived. You know what is lacking – play centres for adults – bouncy castles, big sheets of paper, lots of paint, scissors, glue and bits of material, hide and seek. When did we all get so sensible.

    by: Ann on 19th October 2015 at 7:48 am


    • A cloak would be spectacular Ann, and hide and seek simply inspired – I’m going to have a round of that now! Play centres for adults do exist, think of those big creative companies in the States with ‘ideariums’ full of bean bags and games and toys, seemingly the butt of many a journalistic joke but actually a really great way to nurture the imagination. Playfulness taken seriously.

      by: shaell on 23rd October 2015 at 12:46 pm


  3. Oh I think you were a little harsh to totally abandon the lads just because they’re a bit boring and maybe, like the roses you bought, they just needed a little something putting in the water to stop them withering. I heard bleach is surprising good though I haven’t tried it but I can imagine it would be.
    With you 100% about playfulness. Maybe that’s the bleach.

    by: Greg Spencer on 22nd October 2015 at 1:25 pm


    • You don’t follow the rugger do you Greg? In the 25 years I’ve been watching it, England have turned dull, uninspirational rugby into an artform. Ditching my national team wasn’t an easy decision, but it was an obvious one once I had all the relevant information in the right place. Bleach, however, is a superb idea – I will pass it on next time I’m in Twickenham – it will certainly help them get the opposition’s bootprints off the backs of their shirts.

      by: shaell on 23rd October 2015 at 12:50 pm


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