Saturday, 23 October 2010

Shoe Tribute

I’ll freely admit it: I am addicted to brogues. I know they’ve been kicking around for a good few years now, but this is one trend that has longevity. I, for one, will be wearing mine for years to come, until the soles give up and let in more water than a sponge and I can feel all the detritus of the street on my toes. Why? Because they’re flattering, quirky, and as quintessentially British as bowler hats and Cheddar cheese.

I get the feeling that I’m not alone in my appreciation of brogues, either – in a recent episode of Gok’s Fashion Fix, the irrepressible Brix Smith-Start was seen practically salivating over the complex procedures involved in making a brogue at the well-established firm Lodger. I shared her enthusiasm as the soft, creamy suede was formed into a shoe and punched, then laced, and finally ready to wear. This was a real labour of love, not some fleeting fixation, and that’s how I feel about the brogue in fashion. You can wear this shoe for a job interview or just popping to the shops, with the same style suiting anyone from twenty-something to sixty-something. It can be a nod to the androgynous trend, worn with men’s slacks, or to balance out a floral dress. If you’re not much of a traditionalist then look no further than some of the brighter coloured options available at the moment – from floral print to turquoise to purple, the brogue is the ultimate chameleon of footwear, adopting various guises but always remaining functional.

I own several pairs myself and I’m constantly looking to amass more; the current collection is comprised of basics in white, pewter, tan and soft grey, so that they can be easily incorporated with my clothing. The first ones I ever owned were more of a semi-brogue; I bought some white plimsolls from an Army Surplus Store in Cornwall and meticulously applied the detailing of men’s black and white wingtips, using fabric paint. The eventual effect was something akin to Art Attack, though I loved them nevertheless because they were the closest I could get to the real thing. However, the fashion market has since changed, with brogues now available to suit every budget and transcend gender rules. If money was no object then I’d grab some berry-coloured brogues, designed by Stuart Weitzman for Mulberry, in an instant. Mulberry’s foray into footwear was heralded by the arrival of these beauties, and what a way to expand a company! Statement shoes are the way forward and the brogue is in keeping with the strong heritage of the Mulberry brand, whilst the shade adds a modern twist.

So what would be my ultimate brogue-centric outfit? As the old-fashioned side of the brogue is one of its strongest draws for me, I would add plenty of lace, either in a fingerless glove, a high-waisted skirt or tights. To dress it down I’d add a baggy vest in a deep khaki or burgundy, then pile on rings and necklaces haphazardly. Yes, the ensemble might make you think I’d had a fight in a flea market, but I don’t think vintage fashions should always be presented as immaculately as they originally were. I like to combine older styles with newer ones, such as harem pants, and see where that leads me.

But why should you choose brogues for a night out? They are perhaps not the obvious choice, but they are attractive in a subtle way – Victoria Beckham once described her failsafe sexy look as a white shirt and jeans, and brogues are similarly cool without trying too hard. They can include delicate additions, like the ribbon laces of an H by Hudson pair, giving you the edge over more conservative dressers. Another great design aspect is their resilience against the perils of being trodden on whilst clubbing, or the hours of dancing that may be ahead. Can you say the same for flimsy ballet pumps and platform shoes? I certainly can’t. My footwear should still be going long after I’ve called it a night. And, on an irritatingly practical note, leather brogues are wipe-clean, so you can spill as many drinks on them as you like but they’ll still look good the morning after, often in contrast to your own appearance. With everyone tightening their (waist-cinching) belts at the moment, financially speaking, it does become increasingly important to have more versatile clothing and accessories, fun as it is to buy the odd frivolous item. We need our footwear to be multi-purpose and to withstand our daily lives.

With all this in mind, I can safely say that brogues are essentially the glue holding my wardrobe together and adding a touch of vintage glamour to everything else.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

COS gets arty

Today I decided to check out a new video on the rather brilliant Dazed Digital website, which showed the partnership between the clothing line COS and the Frieze Art Fair:

I really like this video as a piece of art, but I feel like it takes too much direct inspiration from existing filmed content – namely the Sony Bravia advert with the bouncing balls of colour (directed by Nicolai Fuglsig), which become balloons here, and the Girls Aloud video for ‘Sexy (No No No)’, which used coloured tape and strips to create a tangled effect, which became entwined ribbons here. I would have expected something a little more innovative to be hitting me as a viewer, or at least to recall two ideas lifted from other projects within the space of a minute and a half. The mimicking behaviour also doesn’t really befit COS as a brand, because the company is giving the high street a much-needed injection of minimalism and innovative fabric cuts, not the same old tried-and-tested gimmicks. The one element that works for me is the switching between different areas and frames, which is visually stimulating and keeps you guessing as to what will be revealed next. I think that COS has headed in the right direction by using artists in order to develop their commercial presence, but the video should have been developed further and perhaps made more abstract than it currently is.

I feel that the video could have worked better if it was promoting COS' line for children, where the blobs of colour, glitter and ribbons would sit nicely amongst young models and perhaps I wouldn't have immediately connected it with Girls Aloud. That said, it's a great piece to watch if you just want to see people having fun in clothes and not looking utterly bored or serious. My conclusion would be: fun video, but too much deja-vu and not a clear enough brand direction.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Hell for Leather

[N.B. Images of my own leather shorts are still to come, so these are a few mood board-style reference ones to get you in the right frame of mind. To me, leather is more broodingly sexy and well worn rather than chavvy...]

I must admit that I’m a sucker for leather – yes, it’s not the most politically correct thing to say in the 21st century, but I just can’t help myself, so I was naturally thrilled when leather shorts began to pepper the pages of magazines and websites that I love. Sadly, this trend seems to be exclusive to London at the moment and, when I spied three pairs of leather-topped legs on Oxford Street, my eyes were being positively greedy. River Island’s black pairs were snapped up after Fashion’s Night Out in the capital, as the fashion pack has cottoned on to the versatility of this piece. Leather shorts work well alongside chiffon blouses, baggy jumpers, or a simple white t-shirt, as was the case with the three street examples I spotted; the important thing to let this piece speak for itself and not to team it with any other attention-grabbing item. You are flashing more than enough leg flesh without looking like a meat market (plus the vegetarians will already be after you for wearing leather, so let’s not provoke them further). Of course, there are some great synthetic alternatives which don’t leave you smelling like the bag department in Primark, so don’t rule them out until you’ve tried them.

My own exploits with leather shorts began when, frustrated at the lack of affordable high street options, I trawled Ebay and bought a black faux-leather pair of trousers. After cutting and hemming them (which was quite easy due to the flexibility of the fabric, but still a time-consuming job), they're still a little tighter than I'd have liked, so I'll either have to expand them with side panels or lose some weight. Probably the former.

Anyway, the images above are of an Edinburgh alleyway and some of my doodles with black spray paint before my final art project earlier this year.

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