Intellectualizing Fashion

An idea-driven approach defines the work of London-based fashion label Boudicca, which—as founders Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby describe it—is “investigative rather than simply decorative.” The partners, who founded their studio in 1997, use fashion as a forum for exploring issues related to contemporary society, imbuing their work with narratives that provide a context for understanding and interpreting their output. Their women’s collections are loaded with references from the contemporary social and political landscape, inspired by figures from David Bowie to science fiction author Bruce Sterling. It is the coexistence of these diverse influences that defines their output. Boudicca’s approach follows a tradition of conceptually driven fashion: Pierre Cardin, Mary Quant, and Paco Rabanne mined the discipline of fashion and outside influences in the 1960s and 1970s, as did punk designers like Vivienne Westwood and avant-garde designers such as Hussein Chalayan. Like their predecessors, Boudicca’s designers delight in reinterpreting traditional modes of fabrication and tailoring techniques, especially from the history of British fashion, in an effort to move beyond historical precedents and create work that is fitting for today.

Broach and Kirkby constantly rethink how their work is presented, seeking increasingly varied methods to engage audiences in the thought processes behind their creations. Most prominent is a rich body of short films made to accompany collections or as independent explorations. These films reinforce their ideas, build and strengthen the narratives in their work, and at times reveal the complex processes inherent in their creations, ultimately furthering an understanding of their output.

For Boudicca, fashion is a means of communicating personal and universal ideas and concepts. Yet as the studio’s films demonstrate, clothing is never the only departure point. Through the layering of images and ideas, the designers create unexpected juxtapositions and set up narrative plots related to everyday life that demand analysis but are left open for individual interpretation.