Images by Ollie Grove

Sports Banger Spring/Summer 2020 review

by Luke Leitch for VOGUE International 17.09.2019

When a model blinded by the mask of his hot pink recycled-pool-toy hazmat suit veers off the runway and hits your laptop with a wheel-wide replica ecstasy pill, well then that’s quite an unusual fashion show. The same applies when the photographer Gavin Watson of 'Skins' and 'Raving ’89' opens it dressed as a town crier decrying modern culture in the sweariest of terms, or when the comedian Diane Chorley struts past in a top printed with Kate Moss as the queen and a judge’s wig made of five-pound notes created by sometime Gaga and Björk collaborator Fred Butler. It is also surprising when the models snatch iPhones from the front row while wearing outfits made from reassembled child-size Moncler jackets and tiny, doll-size leather trousers and jackets. And as for the vogueing section…

This was the second show from Sports Banger, a fast-growing guerilla collective effort whose hub is the Tottenham-based bootlegger Jonny Banger. Held in a very North London industrial unit late on Sunday night, it collided politics, music, hedonism, humor, and fashion to uproarious effect. The product was a show that felt akin to, say, going to Blitz, the Wag, Kinky Gerlinky, Taboo, or Soul II Soul way back when, or maybe spitting and snarling with the punks in the ’70s, or losing your sweet mind at Shoom in ’88 or Castlemorton in ’92: Something was happening here.

The early part of the show used a big bloke wearing billboards to signal four past themes in Banger’s guise of bootleg T-shirt designer. British tabloid targets Tulisa Contostavlos and Nigella Lawson, both past subjects of supportive Banger T-shirts, were two of them: a velour tracksuit printed in tabloid splashes (front-page stories) screaming about Lawson made by Banger’s neighbor Luis Tottenham Textiles was especially funny. The Nike Swoosh x NHS design in support of British health-service workers featured a dress worn by Natalie Amoatin, who was cured of sickle cell disease at age 14 by pioneering NHS treatment. A Tottenham-based NHS midwife, who kept her mask on for anonymity, wore scrubs printed with legal letters that Banger received complaining of copyright infringement as well as letters from NHS workers in support. There were also designs casting F-based judgment on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the policies of his Conservative Party.

After the politics, an interlude: Ballroom scene dancers from Paris and London emerged in trash-bag blouses and trash-can hats (the collection was entitled Pop Culture Is Trash) and did their thing un-be-lievably to the accompaniment of an MC named Taboo, choreographed by Emanuelle Soum, aka Elle Miyake Mugler. Banger said afterward: “Often when they do vogueing in fashion, it is white females. We wanted to rep what it is; butch black gay men femme.” In between some raucously worn high-camp dresses, some made of pool toys and studio scraps, others referencing Thierry Mugler and Fantazia raves, there was the phone-snatching Moncler section as modeled by rappers Black Josh and Chunky. Banger said the point was to highlight the wave of London “moped muggings,” in which young kids steal phones to buy designer clothes. The Moncler look, made of counterfeits he’d bought in Manchester, was quite genius.

All through the show the sound system at the end of the runway was doing its thing. My bench was bouncing. And at the end of it, an audience that had laughed and screamed throughout the show screamed for more. Outside, Banger name-checked the designers—Maria Bracher, Max Allen, and Ancuta Sarca—who had helped him build this hilarious and excellent show. He said: “This has been the work of a lot of people who’ve come together and had fun. And we’re starting to think let’s just focus on the fashion, and try and build a team, and do wages and make a fashion house—and use it to smash heads together.”