Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fashion Raindrops: Happy Birthday, Van Gogh

 [Images collaged and taken from Vogue.co.uk].
Rodarte's S/S12 catwalk show was pure Van Gogh sunshine and sky blue.

March 30th would have been Vincent Van Gogh's birthday, and all the sunflower fever got me thinking about the distinct impression of the great man that the Mulleavy sisters, a.k.a. design duo Rodarte, left on their Spring/Summer 2012 collection. It's not as if they were influenced by a retrospective or a big anniversary (he's only 159 this year!) but it was clear that he was in their sights when they designed these dresses, which were a mixture of flowing fabrics and stiff collars or angular sections that chopped into the print. When I originally reported on Rodarte S/S12, it's fair to say that most of the range was underwhelming compared to the girls' normal standards of sumptuous, gloomy glamour, but you can't please everyone, especially not lowly fashion bloggers from England, all of the time.

 Turquoise and purple pieces reflected Van Gogh's intense use of colour.

What strikes me, looking at these photos on reflection, is how buoyant a lot of the patterns and embellishment seems, from the evening dresses with their tiers of lace and chiffon like painted forms, to the simple skirts that were cut from buttercup yellow silk. Whereas the original Van Gogh paintings can seem more sinister or frantic - especially if you've ever studied History of Art - the clothing produced by Rodarte glossed over that and focused on blasts of colour. The only indication of something deeper was the harsh eyeliner, seemingly taken from Taylor Momsen or the emo kids that hang around town centres, worn with a confident but angry pout. Other than that, this was mainstream Vincent in positive mode, with brushstrokes and delicate forms, and Rodarte were keen to emphasise it as much as possible.

[Image from Lolroflmao.com].

Now this is how to celebrate the big day, Van Gogh-style. It's strange and unfortunate to think that he didn't achieve much critical acclaim in his lifetime, yet we're still raving about him 159 years from where it all began.

Happy 159th, Vincent - still inspiring us in 2012.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

H&M's Conscious Collection S/S12

 [Images via H&M]. 
 Even ethical clothing now involves 'doing an Angelina'...

This image reminds me of a cross between Peter Som's peacock blue dress as worn by Lea Michele, and Jil Sander's flashes of bright pink from S/S11. It's also a brilliant start to H&M's lastest drop in the Conscious Collection, which uses organic and recycled materials without compromising on fashionable shapes and details. I'm a big fan of the range (and I've blogged about it in the past), but this was a triumph in its use of designer influences.

 It's a floral cornucopia.

With fashionistas going bananas for intense flower-saturated fabric (take your pick from the very in demand Mary Katrantzou, Proenza Schouler, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Stella McCartney's petal-heavy adverts across the page of every high-end glossy magazine this season), H&M hit a no-brainer here. The garment's shape, with its below-the-elbow sleeves and short collar, keeps things retro and neat, which contrasts to the frenetic energy of the repetitive print.

 Beyond amazing, this dress is the cream of the crop.

I cannot describe how much I love this ruffle number, as hideous as it would probably appear on me. There's something amazing about making a life-size crinoline lady's outfit seem appealing, and the endless layers of rough-edged fabric running into each other are pretty spellbinding overall. This will definitely be getting some red carpet wear, especially as H&M has recently been enlisting A-listers to wear its designs for premieres. If you're not a film star, don't panic. This would make a great alternative wedding dress or an eye-catching evening look with a minimalist clutch and Paperself false butterfly lashes.

My own collage of product snippets, with original images from Perezhilton.com.

As you can see from this sneak peek of other designs, there's an emphasis on vintage styling and ultra-feminine dressing. I really think that S/S12 will be Conscious Collection's best season yet, with so many strong offerings that should be snapped up for their fashion credentials and their ethical origins.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Fashion Raindrops: Retail Decay

[Image my own. Please click to enlarge]. 
An intriguing and battered shopface in Southwark. 

As a shopping addict, I'm well aware that I can sniff out a retail opportunity at 20 paces (aged 10, I went on a school trip to the local airfield when someone told me it was an airport and I thought there'd be some good Duty Free). Spotting this gorgeous olive green building in Southwark, London, I was naturally drawn to the 'Goods Inwards' sign, but the derelict state of the facade also meant I couldn't resist getting out my camera. 

Despite the fact that there was no shopping to be done here, I'm really glad that I stumbled across the site. There's enough peeling paint and rotting wood to make it worthy of an entire art project. I'd like to see more buildings like this being restored, even if they aren't commercially viable for trade and have to be snapped up by property developers. As much as I love London's modernity, it's more refreshing to get a glimpse of its past. Though I don't currently know what this place used to be in its better days, I'll be doing my research.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Shop Review: Monki, Carnaby Street

 [All photos my own. Please ask before reproducing]. 
Space-age bubbles in the windows of Monki.

It's always exciting when a new flagship store pops up in London, but Monki is particularly tempting thanks to its lineage (the sister brand of H&M and COS) and its reasonable prices. What this brand is offering is something between its two successful relatives - the sassiness of H&M's spring brights and its loud Divided range, crossed with the minimalist cool of COS. Case in point: the mannequins were dressed in putty and black Aztec prints with shift or batwing dresses and futuristic boots. I was excited to walk in.

 The neatly scallop-edged shop fittings.

On entering, things did feel a little bizarre. Although it was a massive space, the shop certainly felt more claustrophobic than it should, thanks to over-the-top fittings and garish fixtures such as ornate chandeliers, mirrored ceiling tiles and some very odd pink, yellow and green decorations on the stairs. This is not the place to come with a hangover, unless you're a sadist. If you can ignore the young teenage girl's boudoir that the interior designer seemed to be replicating, you can get to the good stuff: the stock.

 Well-draped basics were par for the course.

Colour blocking was the name of the game in Monki, with bold and largely plain items across the store that would be easy to pair with each other. Even the patterns seemed to be secretly harmonising with the garments either side of them. The main shapes were boxy jackets, batwing jersey t-shirts, crossover draped skirts and retro 3/4 sleeve anoraks, with prices starting from £6.00 for basic tees and £25-£35 for silk shirts. 

The accessories were also very strong, and I can see them being a major attraction for shoppers. Prices varied from £4.00 for green apple earrings and £6.00 for a leather purse, to £15.00 for an angular clutch bag in black or neon green.

A riot of colour and some beautiful buttery leather.

I couldn't resist these boots (£35). Available in three colourways across the shop - mustard, red and putty - they were so simple and yet incredibly flattering, with a platform wedge. After a bit of wavering, I plumped for red and squeezed myself into a size 39 (note to staff: applying the security tag on the elasticated section makes it a bloody good achievement to get them on your feet, regardless of being a theft deterrent).

So, will Monki survive in a recession? The shop fit is garish enough to attract attention from younger crowds, and the fashion weeklies are sure to love the clothing shapes, so I think it's safe to say that the brand will continue to be on the radar for some time. As long as the prices are kept reasonable there will be a place for Monki on the British high street, and I'm sure us Brits will style the clothes in our own eccentric way. Just remember to wear sunglasses if you're easily offended by bright colours.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Es Mi Cumpleanos

[Photo my own].
 The skull-tastic window of Cheap Monday, Carnaby Street.

Today I turned 23 and celebrated with a fashion-centric day out in London, taking my mum along for the ride (and my ever-busy sister, who found a window in her schedule for the sausage and mash restaurant at lunch). We checked out Vivienne Westwood's shop, World's End, which is on the King's Road in Chelsea - not a part of London I spend much time in, but it was great to explore. My best discovery of the day was finding the Chelsea branch of Oxfam that sits next door, where I had a field day rifling through vintage clothes and homeware and definitely did not come away empty-handed. 

Later we tried out the new Monki flagship store in Carnaby Street, browsed in Cheap Monday and got excited at the surprisingly reasonable prices of Mango. We finished the day in the incredibly hard to find Wapping Project exhibition space, near the Tate Modern, where Paolo Roversi (one of my favourite fashion photographers) is currently showing some stunning images.

I'll stick the photos up A.S.A.P, but in the mean time I'm kicking back on my day off and enjoying being a year older!

Best street style spotted: a man in a poncho with gold buckle detail, walking past COS on Regent Street.

Strangest fashion discovery of the day: Shoppers in Monki have really big feet. I couldn't find size 40 boots for love nor money, but sizes 36-39 were in abundance - as a result, I now own size 39 red platforms and just hope I've stopped growing.

Magazine observations: the readers of Shortlist (London's free weekly men's magazine) obviously know how to splash the cash. An extensive feature on brogues had nothing under £150.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Say It With Flowers: Quince, Brighton

 [All images my own - click to enlarge. Please ask before reproducing]. 
You can't beat the smell of a florist's shop.

As per usual, spring has brought us the trend of florals - no surprises there, then. But whilst I was dreaming of clashing my flower-strewn pastels and brights on a sunny Saturday with friends, we came across this gorgeous shop in Brighton's Lanes. If you think that being a florist involves putting a few daffodils in a vase, you'd be very much mistaken. This is a lesson in how to do florals, from the people that sell them.

 The shopfront, in a muted tobacco/sage green.

Quince has only recently opened, and it offers a mixture of flowers, antiques and upcycled objects that have taken on a new purpose. Whereas many antique shops can be stuffy or intimidating, this was a really welcoming place and the owner was genuinely sweet.

 The flowers speak for themselves.

 Inside we were met by a riot of colours and shapes.

 If we were to take anything fashionable from this, it's that you can definitely mix the size of your florals - in this case they're real, but in an outfit you could combine corsages with Liberty print shoes by Clarks, or some sunflower print pieces by Rodarte.

 I love pieces that tell a story.

Forget faux-vintage - when you see this 18th Century trunk, dating back to approximately 1760, you'll be hankering for objects with a genuine history. I'd love to know what was kept in here - clothes, documents or the equivalent of a man's tool shed? It was made by Arabella Brown, whose husband was a chest and box maker and an undertaker, and she carried on the family trade when he died. One of my ancestors was a box maker in the 1800s so it was pretty special to see what other people in the same profession were doing, albeit some years earlier.

 Find an interesting vessel for your flowers and you're onto a winner.

The range of containers on offer was really interesting - as I approached the desk to buy a Mother's Day present (I went for a blue and white china pot with some indigo flowers) there was even an old sugar bowl about to be an important component of the next arrangement. Everything from glass to terracotta was on offer.

Look out for the lamps - they're also pretty unique.

To really set off the bouquets, there were also some amazing lamps at Quince, where upcycling had given forgotten objects a new lease of life. This clarinet caught my eye, as did a champagne bottle light. 

The key thing to take from Quince is to expect the unexpected. Whether you're planning an outfit or decorating a room, don't go for the easy option if there's a way you can inject a little personality instead. English eccentricity is worth embracing, especially when you say it with flowers (or clarinets).

2 Nile Street

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

PFW A/W2012: Kanye West Relies on Old Ideas for Attention

 [Images via Stereogum]. 
Boots with multiple straps... where have we seen that before?

I'm still not convinced by the whole 'Kanye West, Fashion Designer' thing. Personally I find him to be outspoken and out of touch with reality, and his desire to be cutting edge all the time (and to often rant in CAPITAL LETTERS LIKE HE IS SHOUTING) seems to wear a little thin. It was with trepidation that I researched his latest efforts on the catwalk, and rightfully so. The image above illustrates the kind of pieces that West considers to be ground-breaking, as if he has invented the wheel. Multiple straps on shoes, boots and heels are hardly news to many fashion lovers, especially when they look as clunky as this.

 In which Kanye has just got the memo about the goth/grunge look from last Autumn/Winter

A large part of this show was about old aesthetics and the generic looks that we're all too familiar with, from bondage-tainted leather jackets to smudgy black kohl and high necked pieces which add to the severity of the whole affair. It would have been nice to see individual quirks and influences in the collection, or something that reflected personality rather than recycling of industry standard trends such as the massive fetish moment last time we embraced Autumn/Winter.

This is what the wool from a foetal lamb looks like. Brace yourselves

I have spoken on the blog before about my views on real fur in modern society, but this really takes the biscuit. I don't consider myself to be much of an animal lover, let alone an activist, but it's genuinely horrifying to see what the coat of a foetal lamb looks like when it's been turned into a two-piece. There really isn't an excuse for using this as a fabric, no matter how cool you think it might look (which, incidentally, is not cool at all). Where is the inventiveness in taking an unborn animal and using it for a fashion statement? What's wrong with experimenting and producing digital prints, like Mary Katrantzou or Etro, but using your own ideas? Why not explore the textures of knitwear or faux fur and add your personal touch? How about slogans that mean something to the designer? It really strikes me that this collection is leaning on the use of various animal offcuts to make headlines, and that is both lazy and immature. 

To be honest, I wouldn't have expected anything less from the self promotion machine that is Kanye West, but it's disappointing to see that all his interning and studio time hasn't led to any creative development.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cardigan O'Clock

 [All photos my own]. 
 Sometimes you just need a big chunky knit - the thicker the better.

Playing with proportions - massive knit, flat hair. 
£10 cardigan, Princes Vintage.

It's so big, I can't wear it without feeling like I've got a blanket on, but I love my new cardigan even for smarter occasions. I'm currently using a bright orange skinny COS belt (£6 in their January sale) to keep it all together, usually over leggings or mannish black trousers with boots. The pattern is pure 1980s and I love how dated it looks now - part granny chic, part cool. The cyclical nature of fashion means that you could stick this in Topshop and it would sell today.

Three other types of knitwear to look out for when you buy vintage:
  1. Batwing jumpers are incredibly comfy and they are the secret weapon for ladies with bingo wings. Plain black batwing styles are timeless and look great over shorts, maxi skirts or cigarette pants.
  2. Ballet-style wrap cardigans - although it's a little late to be riding the ballet wave following Black Swan, this shape is flattering for most women and it's easy to wear. Yes, the threading of ties through holes is a bit of a pain, but it smooths over your stomach and avoids the shelf effect that bigger-busted girls dread. 
  3. Christmas jumpers are great all year round. Watch someone's expression when you wait for the bus in June, wearing a reindeer knit.
 It may be March, but it's not too late to stay cosy.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Preview Post: The 90s, with Jeremy Scott and Ashish

 [Images via Style.com and presented by me]. 
Jeremy Scott's show was a myriad of pop culture references from the 90s onwards.

Ashish's collection was also 90s-heavy, with the smiley face, yin and yang and many modern hippie references that channelled a Brit on a 'Gap Yah' style adventure.

This week I've been writing for This Affected Youth on the influence of the 1990s on both Ashish and Jeremy Scott's collections for A/W 2012. Although they took them in different directions, there were many shared symbols and themes in their designs, and I couldn't help but compare the two. 

To see the full post, please click here for This Affected Youth does Fashion Week.
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