Luella Bartley and Katie Hillier, currently entrusted by Marc Jacobs with the stewardship of the collection popularly known as Marc by Marc but more conveniently tagged MBMJ (brevity being the soul of wit), were shaped in the crucible of English rave culture. The optimism, the idealism, the sense of community that were fostered in those heady days tend to linger. Guido twisted the models’ hair into topknots like Björk’s, when she was violently happy on the back of a flatbed truck. So it made perfect sense that Bartley labeled the duo’s sophomore collection for MBMJ “hard-core idealism.” And once soundtrackist Steve Mackey kicked things off with the tent-show testifying of Rhythm Controll’s “My House,” it was even easier to see why.
“Second-album syndrome” was Bartley’s label for the pressure she and Hillier were under, after a debut that blew New York’s socks off last February. She didn’t need to worry. The BMX ninja girls from that collection evolved here into droogettes, just as hard-edged but slightly more sophisticated. Mackey mixed electronics and classical music, just like the original Clockwork Orange soundtrack. Bartley and Hillier roped in House of Harlot, the East End’s favorite go-to for fetish gear, to bring the latex. It was made into polka-dot skirts, tiny bandeau tops, capelets, and nurse-y stockings, and it delivered a sensationally perverse accent to underscore the collection’s utter girl-gang confidence.