The designer tells Clash about contributing to the latest Ditto Press exhibition.

Ditto Press is the east London based arts publisher-cum-print and design studio meets book shop and gallery space with the jolly pink elephant logo, set up by Ben Freeman and Lynsey Atkin in 2009.

The tail end of last week paid witness to the launch of their latest publication, ‘Skinhead: An Archive’, with an exhibition of the same name just opened at DP HQ.

Designed by Jamie Reid, the new title features a selection of printed material curated by Toby Mott, while mirroring somewhat this summer’s Liam Hodges x James Pearson-Howes hook up, menswear designer Martine Rose this time came on board to present new work surrounding the topic.

“Having addressed skinhead culture and style in previous collections, Martine’s understanding of the subject meant she was the perfect designer to collaborate with,” explains Ben.

“It was important for us that no part of this project was superficial,” he continues, “or without a good level of cultural awareness, and Martine certainly got what we were doing.”

“We sat down and had a chat about Toby Mott and the launch of this amazing book, and that was it really, I was in!” offers Rose for her part. “Having already worked with some skinhead influences and materials previously, I looked at my archive and drew upon a piece that I thought would be an interesting twist in reworking the familiar uniform of the skinhead, the bomber jacket.”

And it stands to reason: the style played a prominent role in Martine’s AW12 collection – perhaps notably, her first standalone showcase following three seasons with Lulu Kennedy’s MAN initiative. Here she totally reinterpreted the MA1, unpicking, cropping and exaggerating the standard silhouette; elsewhere it has since made appearances for both AW13 and SS14.

“It’s so interesting that this piece of clothing has so many associations with it, good and bad,” Martine observes, “it’s really fun to subvert this and play with the whole identity of this jacket. There are so many sections throughout the book – left wing skinheads, right wing skinheads, girl skinheads, gay skinheads, OI! – the uniform is almost the only constant.”

In a nod to skinhead adornment and tribe mentality, badges and patches have also been produced. Says the designer, “I became fascinated by the primary characters involved in the scene, I found it really interesting to subtract them from the ‘movement’ almost, and just have their names on the badges as a celebration of them simply becoming ‘Jeremy’, ‘Nicky’, ‘Chalky’.”

Similarly, the patches reference Rose’s own AW14 collection, for which she partnered with Wild Life Archive. “A little bit teenage crusty, a little bit raver, Rose experiments with a mix-up of cultural uniforms for autumn/winter,” read the press release. The collaboration with Wild Life meant she was able to adopt archive flyers and posters, print them on to fabric and plaster them over silk shirts, fur coats and sweatshirts; Rihanna and Chris Brown have both since been photographed in pieces from the collection.

Defining skinhead culture as identity, community and youth, Martine was also invited to create printed material for the Ditto show, based on the culture’s elements with which she associates most closely, namely the reinterpretation of Jamaican Rude Boys and reggae music.

“It’s a small part of a great exhibition,” she remarks of her contribution. “I’m always so flattered and happy to be involved in something like this; skinhead culture was one of the most influential, authentic youth movements of the 20th century that encompassed fashion, music, politics. The book is incredible, as is Toby, his knowledge and enthusiasm boundless.”

Words: Zoe Whitfield

'Skinhead: An Archive' is on until 22nd January; the book is available to buy today, while tomorrow (Wednesday 17th) Ditto Press will screen the 1982 film, 'Made In Britain'.


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