Review: Norman Rea Gallery x Hard Magazine’s fashion gala


Flora Tucker reviews the event that was part of the Modern Renaissance: York’s Creative Festival.

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Image by Camille Fang

By Flora Tucker

How do you throw a Y2K fashion show in 2022? While Y2K fashion (which is fashion that takes inspiration from the trends of the late 90s and early 2000s) may be having a revival, there’s no denying the difficulties that come with it. Fashion in the early 2000s typically centred around white, skinny bodies, in a way that people are finally pushing back against, with Victoria’s Secret dropping its Angels brand in summer 2021. I was at the Fashion Gala to find out. Modern Renaissance: York’s Creative Festival is a collaboration between the Norman Rea Gallery and HARD Magazine.

Although the doors closed at 7:30pm, there was a buzz of anticipation in the air from 6:45 onwards. As the audience took their seats, they were illuminated by cool pink and blue lights that transported you to the candy colours that characterise the early 2000s for much of this generation. Surrounded by artwork from the exhibition the previous night, That’s Hot, you had the sense of being part of the continuity of the Festival across its events, and looked towards the catwalk that snaked through the whole gallery to see what the night’s artwork might hold.

The first designer of the night was Mush. With tattoo sleeves, and graffiti-style stylings onto the clothing, Mush brought forwards the skatepark presence of the early 2000s. The brand offered a complex reading of the 2000s, with “Never Mind the Bollocks” painted on the back of a jacket. The Sex Pistols reference reminded the audience that the early 2000s didn’t exist in a vacuum, but were a product of the decades that came before it, and referenced the past, even as we do now. Mush mixed the austere and the playful, with bullets painted onto trousers, reminding the audience of the darker moments in a decade so subject now to nostalgia.

Tash Crane and Becky Banner both worked effectively through the medium of crochet, to very different effects. Crane’s bags were gorgeous, tightly-woven pieces. With only two models, one was forced to consider the labour that went into designing and creating the pieces at hand. She brought home her protest against the hegemonic culture created by fast-fashion, with pieces anyone would be glad to sport. Meanwhile, Banner moved faster and looser, dropping perfection and displaying loose ends and sometimes holes in her pieces. Covering everything from underpants to hoods, Banner brought out the fun of the creation through crochet, bringing out tops one might wear to the club.

Sophie Norton’s collection, Worn Words, featured phrases and words from her 2021 poetry collection, A Snake Charmer’s Assistant. Norton worked with second-hand clothing sourced locally, moving against the fast-fashion that characterised Y2K trends originally, and certainly does its revival. Norton’s use of primary colours to characterise each outfit brought the collection back to basics, allowing her enhancements and alterations to stand out further from the clothing. Blurring the lines between fashion and poetry, Norton’s collection was the gift that kept giving. Each item of clothing left you desperate to have a closer look, and to unpick the words that seemed sewn into the seams.

Matilda Herd stole the show with her collection. Herd’s collection tackled “body image and how we see ourselves”, and was about “saying ‘fuck it’ to what we look like”. When I heard this, I didn’t quite expect the fever dream that Herd’s work produced. Working mostly in pinks, oranges, and reds, one can feel the inspiration of the Y2K trends, but stylistically, she took us to another plane. Herd produced work that distorted one's image of bodies, with huge hands worn over real hands, and long, trailing, opaque sleeves. Herd managed to discomfort and comfort simultaneously, with her huge duvet-esque piece, and certainly distorted the watchers’ senses.

Xyber Clothing was inspired by the retro-futurism art movement. Using sustainably-printed, AI-generated patterns, the technological and psychedelic patterns are unique and eye-grabbing, another collection of clothing that instantly seems wearable, but not beyond a sense of humour. The  collection also featured comic sans-printed t-shirts with art printed onto the lower back, reminiscent of early 2000s tourism. I found myself coveting many of Xyber Clothing’s pieces, and can’t wait to see what they produce next.

Finally, Tim Ozdenya was representing Nightmares, the brand he started with Aaron Kraev Conin. The Nightmares collection consisted of sturdy-looking streetwear, often with their logo printed across it. The artistic element of the collection augmented across the models, beginning with one of the Nightmare signature t-shirts, while the next sported the same one with a Wu-Tan Clan member patch sewn on, or a crucified monkey on the back (presumably to ward off the titular nightmares). The collection was superficially understated, but packed surprises in.

Overall, the Fashion Gala covered a wide range of styles, from crochet to streetwear to high fashion. There were threads of 1990s-2010s inspiration drawn throughout, though this was certainly more apparent in some collections than in others. The event was well-run, and went smoothly. There were tons of exciting artwork, and of clothes I would be surprised not to see worn around York following this event.