Trading politics of depravity for emancipation, expression and joy.
Betsy Johnson’s independent line Freckled Ace has long affiliated itself with queer perspectives on identity. FA’s latest – Dark Spaces – explores the parallels between Northern England’s industrial depravity and the emancipatory hedonism of Berlin’s party culture.
Johnson’s designs feel clever and deliberate – frail cuts, refined shapes and reflective fabrics that once decorated uniform factory workers now stand to implore unapologetic self-expression. Though “victim of reality” is reiterated throughout the collection, Johnson’s utilisation of overt industrialism instead stands to highlight an abrupt departure from the stigma of working-class status – forgoing the sterile minimalism that has come to dominate mainstream workwear and reclaiming a warts-and-all historical pride that has been associated with working-class movements in both England and Germany.
The working-class politics of depravity in both regions are conceptualised as facets of a complex identity that intertwines the two, underpinning a shared history – and, more importantly, a shared understanding – of both hedonism and oppression between Berlin and Northern England.
The result of Dark Spaces is an astoundingly queer take on the historical trade-off between the industrialist and individual expression – trading the politics of depravity that has undeniably shaped both Northern England and Berlin for the politics of emancipation, self-expression and joy that can be felt in the collection and in the regions more widely today.
words SAMUEL J. LINDBLAD
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