Ever since the label’s first fashion week appearance – as part of the Fashion East Menswear Installations, prior even to the introduction of London Collections: Men – Kit Neale has been defined by colour and print.
In the five seasons since, Neale, along with his business partner Casper Hodgson, has communicated a vision of varying shades and manic patterns, more recently offset with motif fronted tees and sweatshirts.
When Clash meets them both, upstairs at the Ace Hotel’s 100 Room, Hodgson dons the latter (courtesy of SS14’s now infamous Chicken Shop sweat), while the Peckham native bucks the bright trend, favouring instead a busy monochrome jacket from AW14’s Elephant and Castle collection.
Dotted around us in the sunlit room stand seven female models, their wares the result of Rainbow Brite by Kit Neale, the label’s debut foray into womenswear.
“Hallmark wanted to do something special to celebrate the 30th birthday of Rainbow Brite and asked us if we would be up for creating a unique capsule collection that captured nostalgic memories for fans, and introduced her and the gang to a new audience, who might not otherwise be familiar with the cartoon series,” the designer offers.
Initially launched in 1983, Rainbow Brite and her talking horse Starlite touched down on TV screens the following year; “The films on Youtube are brilliant for anyone who’s not watched them,” says Kit, who remembers watching the series with his sister.
“I love her, we are all obsessed in the studio” he continues. “It’s also unusual and never been done before,” he remarks of the collaboration, which also boasts a hook up with milliners Bernstock Speirs.
And what are they most excited about showing off? “The Steiff fur! As in, the teddy bear fur which picks up on the fluffy textures of some characters like Twink and Lurkey. And the embroideries and prints too.”
Referencing the pastel palette of Neale’s most recent SS15 collection, here pieces take on soft shades of blue and purple; similarly shapes are easy, with culottes, girlish collars, shirt dresses and simple knits all prominent. A silk fabric reinterprets the Peckham street map that first made an appearance last year.
It’s Kit Neale light in many respects, which will no doubt fit the more commercial, pre-collection model in which it will sit (the full range is available from May 2015), and it’s also terribly girly. No bad thing – ! – given the menswear already claims a large female fanbase.
“But the shapes don’t always fit or aren’t flattering,” the designer assesses of the gender wide appeal. “We wanted to tackle this and address the problem straight on. Of course women have a rich history of wearing men’s clothing – and too right, forever long it continues – but what about if you wanted a dress or skirt for an occasion? We wanted to create this offering for our fans, and introduce Kit Neale to new fans.”
It’s an apparent theme across London menswear today, with Christopher Shannon and Baartmans and Siegel both introducing womenswear in 2014; elsewhere Joseph Turvey this year cast a woman for his SS15 look book.
“The fits and shapes are notably different!” Kit states of the contrast between designing menswear and womenswear. “But the greatest thing was that women love to give their opinion and they know what they like.”
“We relied heavily on the girls in the team and extended friends to advise us,” he continues, “How high the waistband should be, what was most flattering and what would they really want to wear. It was an honour to have their views and we could not have done it without them.”
The NEWGEN Men’s designer is anything but new to novelty, having previously partnered brands such as Sky, Kew Gardens and Mi-Pac; for SS15 alone he produced monsters with Tatty Devine (here) and worked with Coca-Cola on new prints.
“We love to partner with other brands for various reasons,” he tells Clash, “maybe because we share brand alliances or we admire what they do, or it’s just a really interesting proposition. Collaborations are really great for us to build a portfolio and wardrobe for our fans.”
They can also offer, as in the case of Coca-Cola and Rainbow Brite, access to image archives you’d never normally be allowed near he says: “Incredible files of history.”
Words: Zoe Whitfield