A Day At The Maul
Who would have thought that the anti-establishment manifesto of ‘The Maul’ - initially a reactive graduate project - would ever show on schedule at London Fashion Week? In 2016, Gareth Wrighton created The Maul as an interactive commentary on our gluttonous consumption habits. Built as a video game he coded from scratch; it depicted a playable character wearing his clothes, trapped in an abandoned shopping mall, with nothing more than their wits and the derelict shops around them as their resources. Described as “George Romero for Net-a-Porter,” it critiqued the cold disconnect of online retailing by rendering the garments he’d spent months making from contemporary detritus, painfully intangible. Four years later, Wrighton reawakens the beast in a Hollywood live-action remake of sorts, wallowing in the bleak future it foretold.“I’m remaking my final major project because no one paid it any attention and I was right all along”
This final show with Fashion East completes a triptych which continues in its obsessions with Americana, the shifting digital landscape and post-post-modern culture at large. Season one’s frolic in the pines looked to the past, the failures of countercultural movements, broken landscapes and corruption. Season two’s nosedive into the present-day dark web of digital fatigue and desktop perversions, came full circle, as SS20 muse Damien Leonhardt applauded Wrighton in his using of their story as a parable of the ages. The final act, Season Three, looks to the future, there's a glitch in the simulation, we’re all just going loopy as we go about the motions of being without actually being.
In his quest to knit the impossible; Wrighton repurposed 344 used make-up wipes to forge his opening look – a witty and subtle appropriation of The Shroud of Turin - rendered in varying shades of bronzer, foundation and contour. The face of Jesus Christ stares back at you from the wipe you’ve used to cleanse your own. A vest is entirely woven from the hair off of his head during his time at Central Saint Martins. Catch a whiff of his lace sailor dress as it leaves a minty trail behind due to its dental floss composition.
His archive was plundered with this season’s trouser looking back at the culottes of Soft Criminal - the 18th-century macaroni meets the 21st-century criminal disruptors - his 2018 collaboration with Ib Kamara and Kristin-Lee Moolman. He bootlegs his own designs with a tongue-in-cheek iteration of SS20’s popped cherry print, complete with an up-cycled pair of AW19’s trousers, “I’ve been looking to answer the question’s I’ve raised with the other shows, there is a real banter between this show and those before. By showing clothes in this way, I’ve done the very thing I set out not to do, and I want to confront that.” In a riff on his coveted landscape sweaters; he imitates Jenna Marbles following a Bob Ross tutorial; “if the 2010s were a person, she’d be Jenna Marbles.”
Beneath the surface of blockbuster memorabilia and human waste, ‘A Day At The Maul’ is the culminating web of recurring themes, references and obsessions, spun into a yarn with which Wrighton knits his sartorial swan song. As per, it’s a dark, twisted and bleakly humorous tale of the very real world around him. As outward-looking as the themes are, it is painfully introspective; “It’s all so referential, but it’s all entirely my own, it’s a confident wrongness, blind loyalty to the obscure, the flippant, the triple entendre, the dry heave, willful ignorance.” This is red pill couture, it’s the problem and the solution.
Words by Kacion Mayers