Style & Grooming

Watch a Dancer Perform in the Thames Estuary Wearing Archive Comme

Filmmaker Joseph Delaney premieres a short film created in collaboration with fashion archive Aro Archive and performance artist Al/ice/ex Donaghy

The Thames Estuary is not perhaps the most obvious location for a fashion film, but that’s where filmmaker and SORT co-founder Joseph Delaney decided to set this one, selecting a nature reserve on an island “tucked away behind a nudist beach at what feels like the edge of the earth”.

Created in collaboration with Hackney-based fashion archive Aro Archive (formerly known as Strut) and performance artist Al/ice/ex Donaghy, this film sees Donaghy perform butoh – an avant-garde style of Japanese dance – within this extraordinary landscape. “[The location] seemed fitting for a butoh performance, which came out of a repressed post-war Japanese society, and was originally called ‘Dance of Darkness’,” Delaney explains.

Donaghy did this wearing archive clothing by Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake; pieces from Aro Archive, which specialises in Japanese and Belgian fashion and opens its newly expanded and redesigned Broadway Market store tonight. “Having quietly worked with the archive for a while, I was interested in how they talked about their collection,” Delaney says of the project’s origins. “While they have this great respect for and knowledge of the design, they speak of each piece as having this life of its own.”

As Donaghy dances, these pieces become extremely muddy – and yet Delaney wasn’t driven by a desire to desecrate these clothes, but rather to “add to their story”. “Pieces can be cleaned,” he says. “This is about exploring what [Aro Archive’s] vision of an archive can be. The common vision is of a kind of clinical preservation – white gloves and clothes in garment bags tucked away and never seen – which is so contrary to Aro and the view that clothes are made to be worn, to have a life that imbues pieces with more value because of it.”

Watch the film below: