Monday 28 February 2011

Fresh From The Production Line: YSL

Imagery courtesy of YSL
As a lover of fine footwear, there is nothing I would love more than to own a line-up of YSL pumps such as these, although perhaps rainy London wouldn't be the best location to debut such fine suede craftsmanship. There's nothing more to say except 'I want!!'

LFW Diary AW11: Yang Du

A delight to see each and every season, I always look forward to checking out the Topshop/ NEWGEN tents and rooms to get an early peek at Yang Du's latest collection. Undoubtedly my favourite queen of kitsch, everything she turns her hand to screams fun and I love the spirit that her eponymous brand embodies. A visceral treat of texture and colour to look forward to in AW, Yang Du makes winter not seem so dark and dreary, after all.

Brands unite for Fair-trade Fortnight

Images throughout courtesy of Surgery PR
Although I’ve previously written about Ethical fashion pioneer, Katharine Hamnett’s SS11 collection Here Comes the Sun, as Fair-trade Fortnight is now upon us (28th Feb - 13th March), it seems a perfectly good time to highlight it again. Inspired by her own archive from the 80’s and 90’s, all items are made in sustainable fabrics (such as organic cotton and parachute silk), with sustainable trims and a minimum amount of recyclable polyester. Here comes the Sun will be available from 1st March exclusive to net-a-porter.
Another company flying the flag for ethical fashion are Australian accessories brand, Mimco, who for SS11 have collaborated with ethical brand MADE to create a stunning collection of 12 tribal inspired pieces. Designed by Mimco in Australia, Mimco for Made products have been handcrafted in Made’s Kenyan workshop. Pioneered by Cristina Cisilino, Made create stunning accessories through the ‘Trade not Aid’ concept, aiming to break the cycle of poverty and empower the people who make their products. By training local artisans in new skills at their Nairobi workshop, and providing them with fair wages and support at every level, all products are hand-made using sustainable local resources and can be enjoyed guilt-free. Mimco for Made will be available from Mimco boutiques from 1st March.

Sunday 27 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: Jena.Theo

Imagery throughout courtesy of Essence Communications
Opening the internationally renowned On|Off platform for AW11, Jena Theo was the first show I attended at On|Off’s new Covent Garden show-space, Mercer Studios. Ridiculously over-subscribed - mainly due to the design duo’s extreme popularity - we all packed in to the tight space and eagerly waited for the brand’s signature dark aesthetic to captivate us - and captivate it did.

Entitled Valkyrie, the collection name is taken from Norse mythology, with the term Valkyrie,representing a band of celestial female figures who decide who will die in the field of battle. Known as lovers of heroes, Valkyrie take their chosen warriors to the Hall of the Slain. For their eagerly anticipated third on-schedule appearance at LFW, talented design duo Jenny Holmes and Dimitris Theocharidis have boldly taken their strong and somewhat dark aesthetic one step further, deftly juxtaposing elements of fantasy fiction and Norse mythology, to produce a highly covetable and wearable collection.
Expertly blending elements of 80’s Cinema with their signature bold and modern cuts and bleak colour palette, shapes were voluminous, with geometry and repeat patterns bringing the theme into the modern age. Key pieces included cute cashmere sweaters, a leather patchwork jacket, opulent silk modal jerseys and sand-wash silk satins which appeared in soft hues of black, charcoal grey and cream. Baby alpaca and wool hand-knits softened the bold lines created in the collection nicely, giving each garment an added layer of complexity.

With dark bands of matt black across the eyes of the models, the make-up for me typified the dark aesthetic of the Jena Theo brand, an aesthetic that has so far brought them great success, which looks set to continue into next season.

Saturday 26 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: Bora Aksu

Imagery throughout courtesy of Essence Communications
One of the best designers to practice within the UK, Bora Aksu was a show I was particularly looking forward to this season; however I sadly missed out due to other shows on the main schedule running late. Entitled Angel + Fiend, Aksu’s AW11 offering is born out of the duel in humanity where angel and fiend each strive for mastery. Highlighting contrasts of proper and improper Angel + Fiend echoes many sentiments that can be found in the story and time of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Taking traditional men’s tailoring reminisant of the late Victorian era (think along the lines of long capes, bow ties and tailored jackets), Aksu cleverly transforms masculine shapes with feminine pleats, texture and volume. Showcasing a plethora of elegant and ethereal cocktail dresses, interesting fabric choices were at the fore with Aksu utilising leather to great effect as piping on dresses made from individual panels, bound with cord. Imaginative use of plastics and leather were used to represent the animalistic core beneath the polished exterior of silks and gentry tweeds.
With colour inspiration coming from the dark and foggy streets of 18th Century East London, smoky greys and midnight blacks dominated with occasional flashes of brilliance visible in a pure emerald green – a rich colour sadly not seen all too often. Fully embracing the masculinity of the collection, Aksu ran with his theme creating a more diverse mixture of separates than we’ve seen in previous seasons – Short tailored jackets, shirts and trousers were expertly tailored and functional.

Of his inspiration Aksu said; “Old movie posters and book covers of Jekyll and Hyde and Sweeny Todd were good reference points. Dark motives hidden by an air of respectability was very interesting and how to incorporate both those characteristics into one look. It also allowed me to play with shapes and fabrics especially when considering the tailored pieces.”

LFW Diary AW11: Osman

Imagery throughout courtesy of Catwalking
One of my all-time favourite designers, whom I think of as the king of respectable hemlines, it was an absolute pleasure to attend Osman Yousefzada’s AW11 catwalk show last Sunday afternoon. My first to witness in person, the atmosphere was electric inside the BFC tent. On superb form as one would expect, the audience were treated to Osman’s signature architectural cuts, once again emphatically demonstrating why he is the go-to designer for the discerning modern woman.

Deriving inspiration from the 2002 Turner Prize nominated artist Catherine Yass’s recent series of light-boxes titled Decommissioned, Osman infused the deep blue slick of colour used in this series as the starting point for his AW11 collection. Taking his minimal-luxe aesthetic one step further, trademark silhouettes were present throughout the collection in a combination of textured winter fabrics such as cashmere, quilted brocade - which looked a lot like quilted seersucker from where I was sat - matelasse, nappa leather and alpaca wool.
With capes and floor-sweeping coats featuring heavily, it was the softly structured dresses that really stood out, deftly utilising the zip detailing present throughout the collection to transform the garments into multi-functional pieces – enabling them to be converted into separates of differing lengths, further enhancing this truly versatile collection. Demonstrating a mild foray into print, the rich colour palette consisted of fuchsia pinks, strong oranges, bright aquas and vivid greens blocked with cream – perfectly styled to compliment Osman’s signature shade of blue. Clean lines and fitted bodices sat atop impeccably tailored trousers and soft bell-shaped skirts, culminating in a range of sharply tailored and elegantly draped separates, chic enough to be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.

Key garments included a cute panelled calf-length A-line skirt in peach sorbet and a variety of tops which were finished with thick bands of leather in fluorescent greens and pinks to accentuate the waist, also repeated on elegant strapless dresses. With spat detail peep-toes complimenting the collection perfectly, heels were - perhaps predictably - on the chunky side, with stacked-heel loafers making an appearance in what looked to be the softest of leathers and pony skin. Adding to the drama of the occasion, models wore sharp black bobbed wigs - bearing close resemblance to Victoria Beckham’s now infamous 'Pob' - hinting that this could once again become the must-have hair cut of the season.

In sum, a timeless and classically beautiful collection from Osman that will once again see his stock rise further on the trajectory to fashion infamy.

Friday 25 February 2011

Garment Of The Week: OH! By Ohema Ohene

Image courtesy of Liz Parry PR
Much to my surprise, this week I’ve fallen in love with a range of African printed trainers called OH! By Ohema Ohene. Bang on trend for SS11, these unique and unisex trainers first launched back in 2009, to celebrate and promote the talent of African designers working around the world. Originally created using off-cuts and wastage fabric from the clothing range, the shoes are produced using a range of exclusive prints sourced globally, as well as fabrics from sustainable sources, including vintage wax prints.

Completely sustainable I’m OH! By Ohema Ohene’s biggest fan, and am particularly impressed with the ingenious design of the high-top trainers which come as a detachable ‘high top’ and base plimsolls. Each style has been named using popular Ashanti names such as OH! Kofi for boys, OH! Nana which is unisex and OH! Classic – which is exactly what it says on the tin.

Available in a plethora of vibrant colour ways, OH! By Ohema Ohene are stocked at MyAsho, and can be delivered within 24 hours so what are you waiting for?! Prices range from £28-£80.

Thursday 24 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: Anya Hindmarch House of Intrigue

In between fashion shows on Sunday afternoon I popped down to the aptly named Hindmarch House of Intrigue, a grand maisonette situated just round the corner from The Strand on Craven Street.
Three stories of delight, there was so much to see and do besides examining the beautiful new Anya Hindmarch AW11 accessories collection, which incidentally was outstanding. Brimming with water snake, snakeskin and sting ray (finishes pictured above) - with which I was very impressed - offering a bag for every eventuality and occasion.
Starting on the ground floor, the first room - the Parlour - hosted an array of culinary delights mixed in with the most exquisite of evening accessories, lovingly displayed on silver platters, a hostess trolley of sorts and cake stands mixed in with an assortment of wobbly jellies and blancmanges. I was also rather excited by the tuck shop on the main staircase, offering visitors a variety of bon bons and boiled sweets to enjoy whilst mulling over the collection.
In the parlour and the adjacent Newman room I found a whole host of period accessories all branded with the signature Hindmarch bow. I spied a grammar phone, and old spinning radio, vintage television sets and stacks of vintage luggage – all things I would own given half the chance, in a heartbeat. There was also a beautiful vintage rocking horse, adorned with Hindmarch’s softest leather bags, which a few days later the only words I can think of to describe how tactile they were are ‘soft and buttery’ .
Also in the Newman room was a huge imposing display of Anya Hindmarch interior accessories, lovingly displayed in the form of a bed scene reminiscent of The Princess and the Pea fairytale, due to the sheer volume of bedding stacked to the ceiling. In chic white and navy stripes, this summed up the Hindmarch aesthetic to a tee – effortless and classy.
In the Alban Library books played a key part in the set, used as tables to display handbags, and to block fireplaces, which I thought was an inspired idea! Adding to my amazement I discovered a beautifully branded black piano in a room, which had been programmed to play a fantastic array of songs vaguely recognisable from great scores of old, making me stop to pause in wonder for ages at how it worked.
In the first room on the first floor, the Huxley room; I was greeted by a great model of a white Tim Burton style tree which cleverly doubled up as a delightful place to hang the bulk of the AW11 handbags. An unusual display, it worked wonders as it enabled myself and I’m guessing other press, to get a 360 degree angle of each bag, which was made for some great photographs. In this room I also loved the vintage sofas in soft pastel pinks.
Probably my favourite part of the whole house, I loved the room at the top back of the House of Intrigue called the Dressing Room. I was most drawn to the beautiful vintage oak wardrobe, not taking it on anything more than face value. After flicking through the capsule collection of Hindmarch garments contained within, the lovely man showing me around enlightened me and moved the clothes to one side, revealing a cute installation of a mouse and a Hindmarch sewing kit hidden in the corner. Also in the back panel of the wardrobe was a peep-hole which led backwards to a screen projection of a Burton esque animation which was yet another mark of brilliance.
Having been told about the Wonky room in the basement as I was being shown round I was expectedly intrigued, so at the very end of my tour I popped down to see what exactly it was. Essentially it was a room that works in the same way as a hall of mirrors that you might find at a fair, distorting your image through perspective. Opting to be the small person - a rare opportunity afforded to a tall person - you can see me posing below with a nice bit of Hindmarch arm candy, while a lovely member of the Hindmarch team played the giant coming to steal my handbag!

Fearing that the photographs may not quite do the enigmatic Hindmarch House of Intrigue justice, I cannot stress enough what a wondrous world it was to step into and just how much effort and man hours went into such a beautifully themed presentation with such extreme attention to detail, the scale of which was simply unthinkable. Everything was laid out to thoroughly intrigue visitors and it was the really kooky touches such as the mice and animation in the wardrobe, the garden filled knee-high with leaves with Hindmarch branding evident in a wall made from tree logs, and the Wonky room in the basement that truly made me want to give up all my worldly possessions to move in. On a professional level it was an amazing display that I could not fault for love nor money, and on a personal level it left me feeling so inspired that I can’t stop dreaming of my dream home; The Hindmarch House of Intrigue!

LFW Diary AW11: Jazzkatze

A designer whom I didn't know too much about beforehand, I was delighted to be back at the resplendent Freemasons' Hall last Sunday afternoon, taking a front row seat at Jazzkatze's AW11 catwalk show. With a collection called The Name of the Rose and an invitation depicting what looked to be a red rose covered in snow, I wasn't too sure what to expect from the collection, but am pleased to say I absolutely loved it! Founded in Japan, the intriguingly named Jazzkatze is the label of Central Saint Martin’s graduate Ayumi Sufu, who takes inspiration from her personal experiences of Japan’s economic growth and fall, paying particular attention to the cultural mix of traditional and western values, somehow unified as one identity.
Inspired by The Name of the Rose novel written by Italian medievalist Umberto Eco in the early 80's, the story is an intellectual mystery, reflecting the paradoxical relationship of existence that is made by individuals and their memories. As the title of Eco's novel suggests Jazzkatze playfully experiments with images of a rose, subtly exploring the beauty and femininity of the petals, in stark contrast to the masculinity of the thorny stalk. As the lights dimmed and the show began, models strode out confidently to less well-known songs from The Smiths/ Morrisey back catalogue. Displaying a rich colour palette from the offset, royal navy, dark grey, nude beige and wine burgundy featured heavily throughout, however it was the variety of textures on display that were the real feat of ingenuity; melton wool, mohair, silk, embellishment and embroidery galore.
Stand out garments included silk pussy-bow shirts in blood red, cute wool floral hot-pants and the quirky medieval inspired hooded coat. Simple yet chic dresses dominated, with the majority featuring Jazzkatze’s signature AW11 print – a snow covered ground with blood slash roses, artfully symbolising birth. I particularly loved the pearl encrusted tights - which bore clusters around the knees and ankles – adding an unusual level of glamour and sophistication to the collection. Hair was beautifully stacked in buns and layered like wedding cake, decorated with an assortment of blue extensions and ribbons, which for me typified the collection as being good enough to eat!

Wednesday 23 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: Eun Jeong

In the heart of the famed Covent Garden Piazza for the second season in a row, the 2008 Fashion Fringe Award winner, Eun Jeong held her AW11 showcase with breathtaking results. As we waited for the second showing to start late on Friday afternoon, guests were more than happy to examine our Kipling and Cosmetic á la Carte goody bags whilst absent-mindedly tapping our feet to a variety of delightful speakeasy tunes which really set the scene and gave me instant visions of the latter years of the hot new HBO drama Boardwalk Empire. It was a pleasure to see the talented and serenely beautiful Iraina Mancini (of former pop group Mancini fame), manning the decks, and as we went to school together it was lovely to catch up after the show and hear all about her hot new band and plans for 2011 – all I can say is watch this space!
As the lights dimmed and the show began, we were treated to an artful collision of Jeong's modern and timeless aesthetic, emphatically displaying the designer's love of her craft – evident in her intuitive fabric choices and refusal to stray from her signature draping. Taking 30's tailoring and embellishment as her inspiration, Jeong deftly discovered ways of resurrecting the classic minimal silhouette, which originally came to international prominence with stars of the silver screen such as Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford wearing minimalist fashion in Hollywood.
Iraina Mancini
With an emphasis on neck lines and sexy structured bodices, Jeong's garments embodied a sense of empowerment rarely seen in a designer so young. Beautifully crafted intricate airy pleating combined with an unexpected injection of colour in the form of striking Art Deco prints created a look just as relevant in the 30's as it is today, some 80 years later. Simply blocked base colours of nude, beige and black were cleverly mixed with vintage gold and cold grey shades to create an air of elegant and youthful femininity. Offering a variety of textures and an assortment of skirt lengths to rival any high spec prêt-a-porter collection, Jeong perfectly encapsulates the spirit of 30's tailoring with this bankruptcy inducing collection, appealing to the modern working woman.

A genuinely great show and an amazing collection, I loved the little details such as lace and embroidered underskirts, hip bustles and who could forget the beautiful linear print that featured on the invitation and heavily throughout the collection – most noticeably on printed colour pop silk scarves worn in the models’ hair. Accessorizing with super-skinny belts and an assortment of black knee-high boots from Dune, it was little touches such as vintage inspired leather driving gloves by Sermoneta that really offset Jeong's period designs. Soft curls by Lock On Ego added to the drama as did seductive and smoky eyes by Cosmetic á La Carte. All in all, an incredible display of staggering attention to detail and genuine raw talent making this one of my top three shows of the season.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: Krystof Strozyna

For the second season on the trot I was pleased as punch to be in the front row for Krystof Strozyna's AW11 salon showcase. A master of muted colour blocking, beige dominated the Vauxhall Fashion Scout catwalk, with beautiful accents of petrol blue and turquoise fiercely juxtaposed with acid orange hues – making Strozyna's collection anything but boring.
A designer whom I like to refer to as a master of print and cut, draping was the order of the day at Krystof Strozyna, resulting in a beautiful array of chic dresses with separate panels of bright colour and differing luxe textures.
With a subtle nod to possible fashions of the future I loved little details like spike heels, chunky metal bracelets and metallic ankle cuffs which accentuated all of the trousers – something I'll be looking forward to experimenting with later in the year! With rather plain centre parted hair in ponytails and minimal make-up in the form of heavily iced eyes, Strozyna kept it simple and chic, letting the collection do all of the talking – and talk to me it did!

LFW Diary AW11: Angela Cassidy

After watching the lovely Jazzkatze do what she does best at Vauxhall Fashion Scout on Sunday, the emerging design talent platform's director (Martyn Robert), was on hand to direct press and buyers upstairs to view an unscheduled static presentation by Angela Cassidy – which proved to be a lovely surprise. A new designer on my radar, I was really impressed by Cassidy's use of what I can only describe as a bleak colour palette (think oat, snow and earth shades), deftly compensating with outstanding technical design in knitwear.
Complimentary pink champagne in hand, I viewed the Scottish designer's third collection and could instantly see why she's won such coveted industry awards as 2010 Textile Brand of the Year at the Scottish Fashion Awards. Taking her inspiration from nature this season, Cassidy's AW11 collection explores contoured landscapes, cloud formations and water with wondrous effect.
Exploring the very structure of fabric, Cassidy cleverly opted for clean and simple silhouettes delivering an elegant knitting collective, showcasing variations in weight and technique to produce highly wearable pieces that will work wonders as the base of a capsule wardrobe. Beautifully textured cashmere staples were commonplace as were panelled luxury sweaters and overtly feminine pieces. With visible seams and patchwork like garment construction, Cassidy's is as transparent a collection you're likely to find, where what you see is genuinely what you get.

Monday 21 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: PPQ

Images courtesy of Catwalking
I felt especially lucky this season to be invited to - in my humble opinion - one of the most eagerly awaited shows of the LFW season among press, buyers and celebrities alike – PPQ. With a front row boasting infamous names from Nat Weller and Jo Wood to Jaime Winstone, Paloma Faith and Corrine Bailey Rae, it seems that PPQ is one of London's hottest tickets so it was great for lil' old me to be there too, in the penultimate row, but I'm going up in the world - much to my delight and relief!
Entitled Francesina, the AW11 showcase had the entire audience on the edge of our seats - after openly gaping at the now prolific inflatable man being mobbed by the paparazzi - as the musical introduction started, but the lights stayed dim, enticing us with what was to come next. As the lights flooded the catwalk, Lil' Kim's Put Ya Lighters Up broke the eager crowds collective "shhh", and really set the tone with everyone tapping their feet and bopping along cool gangster style - something I never thought I'd see at LFW, where let's face it, the majority of the visitors and patrons could loosely be categorised as middle class and/or white - but perhaps this in itself reflects the magic of PPQ.
In terms of fashion, we were treated to an endless stream of models sporting glittery red lips and cutesy plaited pigtails - worn just above the ears - with an assortment of soft structured feline come papal hats in black (which I took as a reflection of the darker side to Catholicism). Great feminine cuts and short and flirty hemlines were mainstay as were the dark colour palette of black and grey, which had the occasional lift with splashes of regal purple. A texture rich collection – ideal for someone who loves all things tactile like moi – velvet was the dominant fabric utilised within garments; as trimming and finishing and also to tie the model’s plaits.

Rather an eclectic collection, borrowing bits and bobs from their highly acclaimed back catalogue - the old adage ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ definitely applied - with volume being the big focus. Frills and ruffle details were visible everywhere from collars and hemlines to the tops of knee-high socks and shoes, with exaggerated Jacobean shoulders enhancing the kooky aesthetic further. In sum, a great spectacle of Catwoman meets Jacobean pope with a bit of loud hip hop thrown in for good measure – an inspired combination I can guarantee you won’t be seeing anywhere else!

LFW Diary AW11: William Tempest and Mechante

Entitled Dia Anna from William Tempest and Mechante, this short film stars Amber Le Bon and whilst it's a slow starter, once it gets going, it's great!

Sunday 20 February 2011

LFW Diary AW11: BFC NEWGEN scarf installation

Beside the epic BFC/ NEWGEN scarf installation were flyers that featured each of the 12 designs, complete with a pop out bookmark, which I think is a brilliant idea! Have fun guessing who designed which scarf.

LFW Diary AW11: Ada Zanditon

A concept designer whose bold collections I genuinely look forward to seeing every season is Ada Zanditon (pictured above with her collection), whose talent and international renown has gone stratospheric since I was first introduced to her work in October 2009 through a writing assignment for Amelia's Magazine. Taking a different approach for this AW11 season, Zanditon's collection, entitled The Cryoflux, premiered with a short film inspired by the collection (directed by Andrew and William Ho), accompanied by a static presentation at On|Off's new show space at The Mercer Studios. As a must-attend event off-schedule, Ada's presentation created so much buzz that guests had to queue to take pictures of each mannequin in a very orderly and classically British fashion.
Season after season Zanditon continues to show why she's at the forefront of ethical fashion, winning awards for her pioneering, creative and intellectual approach to womenswear. Continuing to persu her trademark aesthetic for sculptural and architectural design, this season Zanditon takes inspiration from the extreme climates of Antarctica. Reflected through a cool colour palette of navy, marine and flame, Zanditon plays to her strengths utilising the fluidity and structural elements of her heavily textured fabrics: melton wool, Scottish tweed, Ocean Buckingham shantung, firebird, marine double ombre chiffon and black vegetable tanned leather – bet you've never heard of some of those fabrics before!
With fewer garments showcased than I recall seeing in previous seasons, the collection had a great impact none-the-less, with many of the bloggers, fashion editors and stylists in attendance 'coo'ing over each and every piece. With a strong collection of show stopper dresses (perhaps out shining the separates), references to the natural formation of unbroken Antarctic waterfalls were bountiful. Eye-catching separates included the garbadine flared shorts and a stunning double silhouette maxi skirt. Coats also featured heavily, as you'd expect from a winter collection, with a variety on offer to suit any occasion (military, pea, trench and puffa), geometrically cut in an endless variety of digital prints and glacial silks. Building upon their prior collaborations, once again Zanditon has teamed up with chic jewellery designer Luca Romanyi to produce a magnificent range of geometric statement necklaces, created using a combination of printed tiles, silver chain and vegetable tanned leather.
Not necessarily how I would have chosen to present en mass on the inaugural day of LFW, somehow it worked, and yet again Ada Zanditon has triumphed, proving ethical and sustainable fashion can be just as chic, visionary and exciting as non, if not a hundred times better  and as an added bonus you get to enjoy your wardrobe with a squeaky clean conscience.