Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fairer Fashion Footprint (written for SIX Magazine)

At the end of May the SIX team descended on the West-End store of Swedish vintage hipsters Beyond Retro for a sophisticated evening of wine, debate and perhaps more importantly, sustainable shopping. Out in full force for the London School of Economics Student Union Fairer Fashion Footprint event were many an eco-pioneer including several SIX friends such as the Ethical Fashion Forum’s SOURCE magazine and one of SIX’s favourite S+E designer the delightful Ada Zanditon.

Lured to Beyond Retro for such a worthy cause, our motivation was ever-so-slightly boosted by keynote speakers Lucy Siegle and Livia Firth. Offering what could be described as a thrilling and informative overview of the state of the S+E fashion market, the social justice issues associated with fast-fashion and consumer awareness of S+E fashion in the UK.

Having formed a close bond through working on the Green Carpet Challenge for back in 2009, Firth and Siegle often join forces to highlight the social benefits of  S+E fashion, something which was evident in their interaction. Both ladies were firmly on point, with Siegle in particular reeling off the statistics, proving the breadth of her knowledge and in-depth research into the trends, product ion and side-effects of fashion leaving us all in no doubt that she knows the world of S+E fashion inside out.
Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Art-iculate: BP Portrait Award 2011

A few weeks ago I popped down to the National Portrait Gallery to view the annual Portrait Prize sponsored by BP. I cannot believe it’s now over a year since I last viewed the nominees work and meet a lovely Elizabeth McDonald (who won the award for BP Young Artist), whom I subsequently interviewed for the Hub Magazine.
Distracted by Wim Heldens © Wim Heldens [1st prize]
For 2011, as always there could only be three main winners, and of course the most exciting winner of them all; the BP Young Artist. In a record-breaking year for entries, the prestigious first prize was won by 57-year-old artist Wim Heldens, who has been exhibited twice before in the competition (2008 and 2010). Shortlisted for the first time this year, Heldens is proof that determination pays off. His winning portrait, Distracted, is a picture of a 25-year-old philosophy student, Jeroen whom the artist has painted 20 times at different stages of his life. Winning a grand prize of £25,000, Heldens will also be awarded a private commission at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth a further £4,000.

Heldens says: “I paint from intuition, always trying to paint that what touches me deepest, but being a painter who is more of a doer than a thinker, it is very hard for me to explain what I try to capture. As Edward Hopper says: ‘If you could say it in words, there would be no more reason to paint’... I paint what I ‘feel’ with my eyes and maybe it is for other people then to tell what I have captured”.
Holly by Louis Smith © Louis Smith [2nd prize]
The second prize of a cool £8,000 went to Mancunian Louis Smith for Holly. Since studying scene painting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Smith has exhibited in Britain and Italy and at the 2009 BP Portrait Award. His eight-foot portrait shows a naked model called Holly hand-cuffed to a rock in a wild cave-like landscape. The Allegory of Prometheus is re-imagined in female form. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. As punishment he was bound to a rock while an eagle ate his liver daily only for it to grow back to be eaten the next day. Holly looks into the eagle’s face with calm resilience, accepting her fate.

“It’s a message of composure in the face of adversity, something we can all draw strength from in our struggle to make a daily living!”, says the artist. The portrait has a huge gilt frame with a marble plaque at the base, inscribed with the name ‘Holly’. “It’s an extravagant attempt to illuminate the Baroque style”, says Smith.
Just to Feel Normal by Ian Cumberland © Ian Cumberland [3rd prize]
Coming in third is Ian Cumberland for Just to Feel Normal, who took away a respectable £6,000 for his efforts. Living and working in County Down, Northern Ireland, since graduating in Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Ulster in 2006 Cumberland has had a solo exhibition at the Albermarle Gallery in London and has won several awards – also exhibiting in the BP Portrait Award in 2009.

His shortlisted portrait for 2011 is an enigmatic half-smiling head-and-shoulders study of a friend. ‘This is a painting of a friend whose story is like many others from my generation that have fallen victim to themselves and their preferred habits”, says Cumberland. “The title Just to feel Normal refers to his answer when asked why he continues along his chosen path.”
Mrs. Cerna by Sertan Saltan © Sertan Saltan [BP Young Artist Award]
For the fifth year of its existence, the BP Young Artist Award of £5,000 for the work of an entrant aged between 18 and 30 was awarded to Sertan Saltan for Mrs Cerna. Born in 1982 in Eskisehir, Turkey, Saltan now lives and works in Avon, Connecticut, where he is developing a studio. His sitter Mrs Cerna is the younger sister of a friend in New York City, who is caught glancing at the artist, almost menacingly, in her hair rollers and latex gloves sharpening a large knife.

“The contrast of knife, gloves and rollers brought both humour and horror to mind”, says Saltan. “The animated sharpening of the knives and thoughtful facial expressions were burned into my mind’s eye. I wanted to capture on canvas that moment which allows the viewer to meet this extraordinary woman and experience the richness and complexity of her preparation for Thanksgiving dinner.”

The BP Portrait Award 2011 and BP Travel Award 2010 will be displayed, free of charge at the National Portrait Gallery until 18 September.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Brand Of The Week: Kana Tojo

Images throughout courtesy of Kana Tojo/ LCF and Catwalking. The above and first block below are photographed by Sean Michael. All further imagery is photographed by Christopher Moore.
Hailing from Japan, womenswear designer Kana Tojo was one of the stand-out designers from the recent LCF Class of 2011 showcase. Having completed a design placement with S+E designer Christopher Raeburn in her final year, sustainability has become a focal point for this burgeoning young designer.
Themed around Reincarnation, Tojo’s striking AW11 collection interpreted her starting point through recycling, breathing a new lease of life into discarded and outworn materials. Clearly inspired by Raeburn’s re-appropriating of decommissioned military fabrics and parachute silk, Tojo innovatively styled her collection to reflect the ‘rugged’ mood often seen in an ‘orphan’s way of wearing clothes’ – reminding me of a chicer Oliver Twist.
Generally inspired by artists and photographers, Tojo’s AW11 offering is inspired by the drawings of an ‘Unreal World’, by Dutch graphic designer M.C Escher. Reflected through the intricate twisting and layering of her pieces, Tojo’s colour palette is a combination of rich blues, reds and burnt oranges neutralised by luxurious camel tones and pastel greys.
Aesthetically epitomising this summer’s popular nomadic trend, lots of headdresses and wraps were present, with beautiful swathes of luxurious silks, velvets and thick cottons cocooning the body. Tied together and cinched with rivets and leather laces, longer laces featured heavily, cleverly used in many guises, most noticeably as fringing when tied through a concession of metal eyelets.
Footwear consisted of primitive flat leather Roman type sandals, tied together with the same leather laces that feature so heavily throughout the collection. The twist came where the models feet had been bound in flourescent carrier bags first, further enhancing the ‘living in the elements’ vision that accompanied this bold collection.

Utilising recycled and reworked materials to their fullest potential, Tojo triumphs using the most random discarded fragments for a new purpose, such as mens canvas sneakers reborn as epaulettes. Setting us the challenge of working out which redundant garments and accessories have been employed for what, Tojo plays to her strengths and displays her superior skill at breathing a new lease of life into the most unwearable of garments.

Read my write-up of the catwalk show to refresh your memory.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

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Last Night I Got Lucky With Aldo

Last night I attended a spectacular launch event for Aldo’s new AW11 collection Get Lucky, held in one of my favourite venues, the resplendent One Marylebone. Bursting with celebrities such as a radiant looking Aldo spokesmodel Lily Donaldson, Henry Holland, Jade Parfitt, Jasmine Guniness and Sunday Girl spinning the decks, this soiree proved to be the evening’s hottest ticket.
Jade Parfitt and Jasmine Guniness / Lily Donaldson and Aldo's Douglas Bensadoun - courtesy of Surgery PR
Celebrity spotting aside, guests were treated to an endless flow of vodka sours cocktails, champagne and delicious canapés while we looked around a glitzy array of new designs from the Aldo holiday collection. Several presentations by the brand’s creative director Douglas Bensadoun, kept us up to date on all the progress in Aldo land (they love it so much in London they’re opening up a design studio here). Quirky campaign videos were also unveiled for Get Lucky (seeing the brand once again work with Lily Donaldson and Terry Richardson), themed around a Las Vegas vibe; think poker chips, cards and magicians hats (complete with white rabbits, of course).
Dotted around the vast space were several capsule collections, among which was a rather chic premium menswear collection called Mr B’s, alongside a brand new capsule collection by New York designer Christian Cota. The Christian Cota collection is part of Aldo’s most exciting project to date – Aldo Rise. This initiative sees the footwear giant collaborate with rising talent in the UK and US with their British partners announced as Mark Fast, JW Anderson and Preen. With collaborations seemingly being the key to Aldo’s ever-increasing success, there was something on display for every fashion fanatic, including the opportunity to meet the UK stalwarts.
If any of the shoes take your fancy, do not fear for they will be on sale across the UK a little later in the year!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A Point Of Design: Sanserif Creatius' Habla

Another new and innovative product from Valencia-based design studio Sanserif Creatius, is a shelving system that facilitates communication with roommates or fellow workers. Imitating the form of a speech bubble, Habla interacts with objects in the home and creates a visual communication system. Formally speaking, Habla is a wall shelf with two possible arrangements, in which the strength of the concept based on adapting the speech bubble borrowed from comic books, opens up interaction with the space and its other users.

Habla has been conceived to hang from or be fixed to the wall, being completely integrated with the vertical surface thanks to the use of an invisible fixing system. In this way, it reinforces the sensation of a 2D vignette of the composition you wish to make. Just as the speech bubble in a comic strip or graphic novel provides us with essential information that allows us to understand what is going on, or which reveals key details about the main character in the story, as designer Ana Yago explains, “Habla provides us with information on the space where it is located, on who lives there, underscoring an element or a series of them”.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Pop-Up For The Dirty Pretty Things

Last week I was invited along to the Dirty Pretty Things lingerie pop-up store, situated in the heart of Soho. Exclusively open for two days only, the pop-up was a novel way to celebrate the launch of the British brand’s new e-commerce store.
Images courtesy of Surgery PR
Greeted by a bevy a beautifully dressed ladies, who literally stopped traffic, guests were served Mahiki cocktails from a bright purple van, which proved to be a big talking point of the evening.

Setting themselves apart from the run-of-the-mill high-street lingerie brands, Dirty Pretty Things offer a selection of sensual and luxurious underwear at affordable prices. Designing for a liberated woman who wears sexy lingerie for herself, the focus is on the texture and comfort, making DPT the go to brand when you want to feel empowered.
With Leroy Thornhill of The Prodigy and Pam Hogg on decks, this party is certainly one to remember.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Brand Of The Week: Harold Kensington

Images throughout courtesy of Harold Kensington/ LCF and Catwalking. The above are photographed by Sean Michael. All images below are photographed by Christopher Moore.
Entitled ‘Samburu Gathering’, Kensington’s eye-catching autumn 2011 collection consists of strong rouched stripe detail dresses and sophisticated separates topped with thick boiled wool coats, complimented by unfinished swathes of draped fabric in bright, block colours. Capturing my imagination to the full, Kensington’s models sashayed down the catwalk looking like far-flung nomadic tribal goddesses, oozing luxury, class and elegance.
Created on what one would expect to be a tight, student budget, ‘Samburu Gathering’ is fittingly ‘inspired by the turmoil and depression of the 1940s, mixed with African tribal stripes and layering’. An intriguing collection that incorporates Kensington’s love of photography juxtaposed with different interpretations of the humble stripe, my favourite look would have to be the first to hit the catwalk; an 80s silhouette luxury woollen burgundy coat and canary yellow/ stripe detail blouse paired with the 'Bodi' high-waisted two-tone blue and baby pink trousers with a slightly dropped crotch and side buckle detail.
What really impressed me most about this collection was the level of attention to detail and superior intrinsic design that shone throughout, being particularly evident in the accompanying accessories. The bags were divine: coming in a variety of low-slung and shoulder designs, each made in red/ yellow or red/ blue leather, complete with studs on the base to rival the finish of any top designer. Shoes were painted (with stripes naturally), wooden block platforms with leather and metal detailing, that followed through beautifully in a variety of chokers and cuffs.

Speaking of his collection Kensington says: “My initiative explores projects that create new possibilities of fashion through the discovery of forms and mediums it exists in. I have the ability to reinvent fashion archetypes and basic shapes to create interest; this is a vantage point in an industry where it is central to stay relevant. I feel it is imperative to grow, revise and realize my ideas through recurrent analysis and critique to enable a suitable/wearable product for the Kensington woman, also to define idiosyncrasy as a contemporary luxury designer.

With the notion of novelty as a brand value I pull references from an extensive research pool covering cultural, historical and contemporary influences to form a body of explorations shaped by design process as well as my opinion. My style is informed by oversized fit translated into refined wearable womenswear; delivering a quality assured/luxury collection amidst the exploration of new surfaces, fit and creativity.”
Aged just 21, BA Fashion and Technology graduate Kensington currently works for Holly Fulton as a designer and pattern cutter, and with an ambition to design for a luxury fashion house such as Lanvin in the future, I have every confidence that the world is Mr Kensington’s oyster.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Fresh From The Production Line: Desigual and Cirque du Soleil

Images courtesy of Surgery PR
With new collaborations popping up every week, I don’t tend to take much notice, however last week Spanish mid-range brand Desigual and Cirque du Soleil announced a worldwide partnership which caught my attention. Aiming to bring together the worlds of art, show business and design through a range of 60 items of clothing and accessories, which will go on sale online in November and in retail stores in December, making a piece an ideal Christmas present for any circus lovers.

Featuring vibrant coloursways, bold graphic prints, embroidery and embellishment, this isn’t a collection suitable for wall flowers. Embodying the traditional circus spirit combined with a Cossack vibe, this inspired collection is bound to garner lots of attention next season.
Of the collaboration, Mario D'Amico, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Cirque du Soleil said:
"Cirque du Soleil and Desigual have much in common. Desigual has chosen to be different in the clothing industry with its outstanding designs and whimsical, fashionable clothes. Cirque du Soleil has brought a similar innovative spirit to circus arts and live entertainment."

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Brand Of The Week

In lieu of the traditional Friday Garment Of The Week posts (which you’ll have noted has been on sabbatical due to a fundamental lack of stimulating pieces), I’ve decided to re-brand the regular spot as Brand Of The Week instead*. Last week I excitedly blogged about how much I loved the LCF class of 2011 BA Design and Technology catwalk show, and have decided that there is simply no better way to kick-start BOTW than by writing about four of my favourite exhibiting students; Harold Kensington, Kana Tojo, Yumiko Isa and Yingzhi Luo – Chi Chi over the coming month.

*Please note that where there are no suitable BOTW to be had, there will not be a post.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The salt of the Earth; hairdressing at its best

On Thursday I was invited to attend a bloggers evening at Earth Hairdressing salon located behind Oxford Street. A stone’s throw from the main shopping drag, Earth is tucked just around the corner from Topshop.

Greeted by a vast spread of gorgeous sushi, hand and head massages, threading and facials from luxurious organic brand Meltiva, there were plenty of activities to indulge in and I was made to feel very welcome.

A concept hair salon founded in Japan, with 21 years of experience, 210 salons and 3,000 employees, Chairman Toshiharu Kokubun knows just how to pamper a variety of clientele. With cafes, dog parlours, a nightclub and hair salons, it's no surprise that Earth are leaders in the Japanese hair industry.

What impressed me most about the East Castle Street salon was its vastness, with four floors, of treatment rooms and a plethora of hair stylists able to recreate every style imaginable. With a VIP room and free Wi-Fi thrown in for good measure, I’d recommend Earth to anyone looking for a day of pampering.

In terms of Earth’s hair expertise, initially I was hesitant as I ignorantly presumed they wouldn’t cater to my mixed race hair, but I was delighted to find two Afro-Caribbean hair stylists on hand giving expert consultations. I was thoroughly impressed with my personal consultation which discussed every aspect of my hair care from the shampoos and styling products I use to how much heat exposure my hair gets and how regularly. I was recommended to use a great range of products by Mizani (named after the Swahili word for ‘balance’), a division of L’Oréal. I’m yet to try them out, but I’ll keep you posted on the results.
Earth Hairdressing, 37 East Castle Street, London, W1.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Juergen Teller lets the proverbial cat out of the bag

Image is the property of Juergen Teller
It made my day earlier today when I heard that my FAVOURITE photographer of all time published leaked images of his campaign shoot for Marc Jacobs AW11, featuring none other than fashion media scapegoat and stellar British actress Helena Bonham Carter. Having shot the Marc Jacobs campaigns for seven years, I can of course only be talking about Juergen Teller.
Celebrated by few (myself and some liberated fellow fashion journalists), Bonham Carter is renowned for her individual sense of style and passion for corsets and unusual accessories. I love this collaboration and am pleased as punch that Jacobs (who is set to introduce slightly larger models to the NYC catwalks very soon), has plumped for a slightly more mature lady to embody his newest collection – and why ever not. High fives for all the smart and sophisticated women finally getting the recognition they deserve!

Fresh From The Production Line:Le Coq Sportif

It's come to my attention that le coq sportif has teamed up with the powers that be at one of my favourite sporting events of the summer calendar, The Tour de France. From next summer, around the same time as the London Olympics, le coq sportif will become the official suppliers of the highly coveted jerseys; green, yellow, polka-dot and white.

Coinciding with the French brand’s 130th birthday, this renewed partnership will mark a historial moment, as from 1951 the production workshop of le coq sportif was the official supplier of the jerseys for the Tour de France. For forty years the most famous riders, from Jacques Anquetil to Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx, pulled on jerseys bearing the le coq sportif logo.

Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing Brit Mark Cavendish and Lance Armstrong wearing the new shirts, provided the latter and seven-time tour winner doesn’t mean business with his most recent retirement announcement. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

LCF class of 2011 BA Design and Technology catwalk show

Images throughout courtesy of Alex Maguire
Last night I attended the LCF class of 2011 BA Design and Technology catwalk show held at the new sprawling LCF showspace The Studio, in Paddington. A bit of a trek west, I was worried I wouldn’t make it in time, however as it turned out my arrival was perfectly timed and I had the opportunity to catch up with one of my former university lecturers, Tony Glenville (now LCF Creative Director, School of Media + Communication), before taking my back row seat, before being bumped to the frow (due to no-shows).

Featuring presentations from 25 groundbreaking designers (from a combination of Womenswear, Menswear and Surface Textiles courses), the innovation displayed was breathtaking and surpassed all of my expectations – with each annual show consistently smashing through the ceiling of previous successes. Packing a socker-punch straight to the kleptomaniac and magpie regions of my brain, every collection had its strengths and intriguing elements, with no designers taking the easy route, each creating a myriad of layers and displaying exquisite attention to detail that resulted in the most superior design execution and innovation I’ve seen in London for a long time.
Taking pride of place in the frow was BFC chairman Harold Tillman and continued LCF supporters Jodie Harsh and Jo Wood, whom I’ve seen at numerous shows over the years. Other celebs dotted around included the legendary Barbara Hulanicki, model Daisy de Villeneuve and one of the most influential women in fashion, Jane Shepherdson.

Featuring models discovered through LCF Loves - an open street casting which aimed to find unique individuals who reflect the diversity of this year’s collections - I was really impressed by the level of ethnic diversity on the catwalk across both womenswear and menswear. It’s of my personal opinion that the African male models really brought a different edge (not seen in other shows), and reminded me of some of the beautiful models favoured by Simon Foxton in the early i-D days.

Reflecting fashions from near enough every era imaginable, I felt that each and every student was a winner, however as is always the case there could only be three winners on the night.
Barnett Lawson Award for the best use of trimmings - Charlotte Barry (22):
Hailing from Liverpool Barry was praised for her incredible detailing and superior use of embellishment and trimmings in a year where every designer went for broke. Reminiscent of Mary Katrantzou’s beautiful SS11 collection, Barry utilised tassel shoulder detailing to create perfect proportions. My pick for this award, Barry sampled beautiful brocades in rich golds, with appliqué and a delight of trimmings and embellishments reading like a master-class in Asian textiles. Perfectly completing the ethereally styled looks were stacked textured bangles to match the dresses and mock-croc effect shoes also embellished.
Biddle Sawyers Silks Award for innovative use of fabrics - Stine Riis (28):
Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark Riis was celebrated for her innovative use of silk with wool, chiffon and patent leather. With an array of stunning blue, white and green pieces I feel Riis would be perfect for a Milan fashion house, with each of her garments made with such precision and attention to detail that they reminded me of Miu Miu and Celine under the helm of Phoebe Philo.
Collection of the Year - Wun Wun Nova Chiu (24):
Originally from Hong Kong, Chiu was judged to have phenomenal technical skill and creative flair by the panel. On my note pad, upon seeing this collection, the first words I wrote were ‘jingle, jingle’ as small (but loud), silver bells featured heavily throughout the collection. Brightly dyed furs dominated, coupled with the most intriguing tribal inspired headdresses. Beads, plait detailing and of course bells, were a signature appearing everywhere including on beautiful two-tone platform sandals.
Stay tuned for another LCF post later in the week with details of my (other) favourite designers from the showcase, who sadly missed out on the awards.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Effortless Style; Parisian Chic

Image courtesy of Orange Square PR
Back in April I attended the Knightsbridge launch of Ines de la Fressange’s new book, Parisian Chic. For those younger generations unfamiliar with this French fashion stalwart’s name, Ines de la Fressange started as a catwalk model in the late 1970s; becoming Karl Lagerfeld’s muse and the face of Chanel in the 1980s, going on to launch a clothing line in the 1990s. Fast forward twenty years and Fressange now works as an illustrator, creative consultant to Roger Vivier shoes and is an interior designer for a new Parisian hotel. As if all that wasn’t enough to keep her busy, aged 53 Fressange most recently returned to the catwalk to star in Chanel’s SS11 show, solidifying her position as a key influencer on style and international fashion.

Offering readers a variety of top tips to becoming the all-round sophisticated wardrobe mistress, Parisian Chic capitalises on Parisians international reputation for their chic approach, not only to fashion but to lifestyle. Bound in a beautiful and luxurious red leather-effect cover with gold writing and quirky – Quentin Blake esque – illustrations drawn by Fressage herself filling the pages, Parisian Chic is the modern style bible. Covering everything from choosing your wardrobe staples, what to pack for a weekend in the country, how to wear a blazer, shoe shopping pointers, how to choose the perfect jeans, and so much more! An all-round guide, the latter pages (also known as the ‘black book’), detail the best stores in Paris to find everything from the most exquisite jewellery and flowers to the best salons and cafés.

In the Dress Like a Parisian section there are fashion pointers including invaluable advice on how to build a wardrobe around seven affordable basics mixed with a few high-fashion touches and great accessories. Offering step-by-step do’s and don’ts for the wardrobe make it easy to avoid pitfalls, going one step further with a guide to avoid fashion faux pas for those who are 50 plus.

In Belle of the Ball, beauty tips are abound as well as an outline of beauty no-no’s. Chez Moi addresses home décor concerns for the studio apartment or the château. Ines underscores the power of flowers, how to create the perfect closet, and how to construct a sensational dinner party.

My favourite quote of this inspired book has to be within the Parade of Shoes, All About Heels section:
“Many women think they look better in heels, but this is quite wrong. Just ask any man. No man would ever say, ‘I’d love you more if you were four inches taller!’ And remember, many women have no idea how to walk in high heels. Nothing looks worse than a girl tottering about on unimaginable heels! So she wants to look sexy? The key to sex appeal is a feline walk, not a precarious wobble. I know girls who have ended up on crutches because they wanted to walk tall without mastering the rudiments of striding with confidence in eight-inch heels. Practice first, at home!”

My sentiments exactly. Learn how to add some je ne sais quoi to your personal style. Parisian Chic, published by Flammarion and priced at £19.95.