GOING UNDERGROUND

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Underground cultures don’t get much more literal than a dip into the archives of the thing that keeps London moving. The Roundel by London Underground project is a particularly considered approach to the history of the tube to coincide with its 150th anniversary, with Andrew Bunney, Slam Jam’s Giovanni De Marchi and DK Woon doing good things. Often cursed by its customers, but a subterranean world of its own, the whole system has a history that’s full of eccentricities and overlooked geniuses creating colour schemes, their own letterforms, mascots and logos. This collection feels like a (more official) extension of the British Remains brand and what might sound dull is a well thought out collection of clothing using London Underground images — we’re not talking “Keep calm and…” whimsy here — workwear gets literal but subversive, shirts get strange alphabets in punk sloganeering prints, MA-1 jackets hark to a history of skins and other subcultures in the capital with tube map back prints or linings that carry the District Line pattern introduced in the late 1970s and used on carriage seats. There’s even a full marl grey tracksuit bearing the griffin logo used on London Transport catering back in the day. The Roundel (the actual name for the London Underground sign) collection is London culture celebrated the right way, amplifying things so familiar we long ceased to pay attention and dusting off some inadvertently odd imagery along the way — Mr. Bunney has a knack for research and an eye for the authentic, but somehow there’s an air of subversion to it all. There’s also a collaboration with a sportswear brand on a couple of shoes that London loves, plus an Bunney-edited book of Derek Ridgers’ photographs (a key reference point throughout the collection — even in other photographers’ work) called 78-87 London Youth. The current wave of British subcultural nostalgics should gravitate towards Roundel by London Underground, but the trainspotters and graffiti guys — who fetishise all that’s train related with some serious parallels between both camps — might go crazy for it too. Fair play to London Underground for backing something that commemorates a real side of the city rather than an HSBC welcome ad campaign at Heathrow representation. After all, if it wasn’t rough around the edges in terms of content, it wouldn’t be an accurate depiction of tube life. Keep an eye on Roundel-London.com for more information over the next few weeks (cheers for DK for the only pictures here that don’t look like they were taken by an idiot who can’t work an iPhone)…

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