Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Milan Fashion Week A/W14: Salvatore Ferragamo and Sportmax Have Arty Animal Instincts

Being a self-confessed lover of all things leopard print (from shoes to pyjamas), I always have my eye out for a peek of it on the catwalk, especially as it rarely goes out of fashion. Many style bibles may claim that zebra takes over in certain seasons, but the truth is that leopard is here to stay, reminding us of everything from 1950s kitsch to 1980s sex kitten glamour, purely because there are so many visual references aligned with it.

Naturally I was pleased to see leopard print appearing in the collections of two Italian heavyweights, Salvatore Ferragamo and Sportmax, but I also noticed some other thematic similarities between the two, such as delving into other animal prints (specifically patent black coats with a croc or snake finish) and experimenting with painterly touches. 

Rawr Prints

Tan leopard print coats and overcoat
 [Images via]. Ferragamo favoured soft leopard tailoring worn for high impact.

Leopard dresses and jacket on Italy catwalk
Sportmax opted for a brighter and more precise print, teamed with leather trims.

I love how differently the print has been interpreted by each designer, and how far removed the two central looks can be, with Ferragamo's 70s-style tan cape battling against the 90s slim-fit approach from Sportmax. 

Black Lines

Black dresses with varying textures on the catwalk
 The power of applied volume and precisely placed belts is at hand.

Snakeskin coat on the Milan catwalk
 Here, the belts are almost obi-style in thickness, cutting straight across the body and almost creating two separate canvases.

I think it's safe to assume that a belted patent black coat, to knee length or below, will be a staple purchase for A/W 2014 and beyond. Personally my favourite is Ferragamo's collarless minimalist number - it's neat and edgy.

 A Fashionable Animal

Salvatore Ferragamo autumn winter
 Whatever the silhouette you're going for, Ferragamo has you covered.

Animal prints as a trend for Autumn Winter 2014
 Sportmax shows its full range of animal prints in action.

This is where the real trend-led pieces come in; the ones that are less classic and more instant fashion fixes. Enter high necks, puff sleeves, print skirts and other easy separates to pair with the rest of your wardrobe.

Artistic Licence

Painted leather and fabric seen at Milan Fashion Week
 Painted leather, oil slick effects and bursts of colourful dye transform these looks.

Paint splattered clothing on trend for AW14
Clear artistic inspiration from Jackson Pollock shaped the latter part of this collection.

It's interesting that both designers chose to combine animal prints with paintbrush effects, allowing them to push their collections in new directions, and that the end results continue to be so different. You'd hardly say that the watercolour-esque mustard lines of Salvatore Ferragamo were from the same school of thought as the Jackson Pollock splodges employed by Sportmax. 

I suppose the uniting factor about these two ranges is fun; the prints are fun, the experimentation is fun, and the wearers are going to have the most fun of all.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

LFW A/W14: House of Holland and Paul Smith Dressing Women for Women

Some people say you should dress for yourself; others say you should dress for the job you want, or for a man. However, the option of dressing for other women is also a potent one, and it's been taken to heart by two polar opposite designers at London Fashion Week - Henry Holland, the man behind House of Holland, and Paul Smith

HOH iridescent AW14 lime trousers
 [Images via]. HOH brings the iridescence to the yard.

Paul Smith AW14 pyjamas
Paul Smith's laid-back eveningwear as daywear: the student's dream. Note the damask trousers, too.

Whilst the collections are hardly identical, with HOH offering a heady mix of slogans, sequins and fur whilst Paul Smith showed off dark prints and upper-class pyjama party chic, I did find some similar takeaways from them. Both took advantage of damask prints to great effect and both used shiny finishes to give their catwalk looks that extra bit of polish, but ultimately it felt that both were dressing women without the need to gain a man's seal of approval. 

House of Holland aw14 damask
 Henry Holland can do cocktail hour, and even an LBD. 

Floral and paisley prints clashing with stripes
You can never have too many prints, Mr. Smith.

These were not great looks for first dates with a man, meeting his parents or going to a job interview (even Smith's brilliantly louche suits wouldn't have gone down well with a male-led HR department) and they weren't aimed at catching a man's eye across the bar. These were pure fashion looks, aimed at the sisterhood and, in the case of Smith, borrowing from the boys in order to subvert masculinity. 

Sequinned lipstick motif and orange tutu HOH
 Layer it up as you like over at HOH.

Suits for women by Paul Smith
The boys would never look this good in masculine tailoring.

Meanwhile, HOH's lipstick and cocktail decor, set beside gauzy layers over ripped jeans, was certainly bold and brassy, but probably not likely to get many seals of approval were it donned by the ladies of Take Me Out. Instead, I felt it was about celebrating girliness and not giving a toss about what men want to see you in.

It's really liberating to see British designers bringing such a carefree attitude to dressing and not to prescribe women yet more body-con dresses or man-pleasing basics. We love clashing patterns, playing with textures and wearing something daring, so keep up the good work. Not all of us are dressing to please the men in our lives, and we don't intend to start any time soon.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Stylist's Rail: Bargain Hunting and Cocktail Sipping Galore

A shiny new fashion event hit the Hoxton Hotel in East London this weekend; The Stylist's Rail was a vintage-meets-new-designers shopping experience, complete with cocktails and goodie bags for the crowds of attendees. I went along to sip and shop (sometimes simultaneously) and report back for you.

Vintage stall with red retro hat
 Guests were greeted by quirky displays set against rails of pre-loved or brand new clothing and accessories.

Quirky travel themed passport covers and watches
 I couldn't resist snapping these passport covers by Elsie & Fred, made by customising brightly coloured pieces of leather. In fact, I ended up buying the top one.

Multicoloured scarf worn multiple ways
 A trader showed off her amazingly versatile silk scarves, made in batches of 180.

There was a real mixture of styles available, meaning that you were in no danger of leaving the event empty-handed. From rock chick fringed black leathers to 60s PVC and suede skirts, there was something to appeal to even the pickiest vintage shopper, whilst the new brands on show offered really interesting accessories and outfits, including delicate gold bespoke jewellery and grungy sheer dresses.

Close-up vintage knitwear
 These vintage knitwear pieces caught my roving eye.

Bloom cocktail glasses at the Hoxton Hotel
 Cocktails were kindly provided by Bloom.

Fashion blogger at The Stylists' Rail
 As you can see, we had rather generous glasses. Chin chin!

The cocktail element of the event was a real bonus. Whilst I'm not normally a fan of gin, I can definitely recommend a G&T made with Bloom, a dry London variety, and served with a strawberry. However, juggling shopping purchases and a glass became something of a balancing act for most of us!

Hoxton DJ in hotel
 There was even a DJ to get the party started.

Stylish Gin and Tonic at the Hoxton
 My +1 was one of my best friends, Katherine, who enjoyed her G&T as well.

Vintage shoes through the ages
 This retro shoe line-up shows just how diverse the stock was at the vintage stalls.

 One of the key considerations when buying vintage at events like The Stylist's Rail is to really go through the rails with a fine tooth comb, so you don't miss anything. We found it helped to do a circuit of all the stalls a few times, just to make sure we saw everything available, and we looked out for eye-catching patterns and textures.

Gold jewellery including clip-on earrings
 Jewellery on sale was affordable, blinged up and trendy.

White brogue sneakers
 Some of the pricier pieces were worth splashing out on. I would definitely have taken the plunge and bought these unusual brogue-style trainers (£68) if they'd been in my size.

D&G twill coat in jade green and yellow
 Incredibly, this Dolce & Gabbana coat was only £235.

 When checking out designer bargains, it's worth remembering that these items are going to generally be of better quality than your average high street vintage pick, so you won't really be able to haggle as much, because the price will be reflecting the brand name. Also, there will probably be someone willing to give the stallholder the offer they're looking for, so if you really want it then just go ahead and make that designer piece yours.

Denim twill handbag by Prada
 A Prada denim twill handbag hung from the rails.

Floral bomber jackets in bright colours
 These colourful bomber jackets were a photo opportunity waiting to happen.

Sequin, PVC and gauze pieces on sale at The Stylists' Rail
If you wanted something more futuristic and less vintage, this stallholder was happy to oblige.

Having seen the success of this event, I'm sure The Stylist's Rail will be delivering more fashion injections to the people of East London, and I'm looking forward to a similarly eclectic mix of brands and retro bargains.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Unlikely Inspiration: Ikea Channels Christopher Kane

Whilst browsing the huge warehouse space at Ikea Croydon last weekend, I can honestly say I didn't expect to find a significant nod to Christopher Kane amongst the tea lights and pine shelves, but lo and behold there was one. In fact, a whole range of prints had sprung up, focusing on plant life and biology, in a major reference to Kane's S/S14 collection, which he had referred to as 'sterilised petals'.

 [Image via] Who knew walnuts were so on-trend?

 [Image via] The catwalk goes botanical.

What Christopher Kane addressed was the perfect print quality of a biological drawing, with the symmetry of the petals and the overall flower structure creating something that's easy on the eye and flattering on the figure. Plus it doubles up as revision if you're studying biology or botany in any capacity, especially as Kane referenced textbooks in the collection itself, and education in the music choice of the catwalk show.

 [Image via] A more traditional botanical drawing on sale.

 [Close-up image via]. The brain-like walnut in detail.

With Ikea bringing the scientific side of florals into the home, it's a clear sign that Kane is onto a winner. It's normal for colour trends to cross over into interiors but I've never seen a mainstream home ware brand so obviously take a cue from just one designer. The walnut print, in particular, is an unmistakeable tribute to the S/S14 range.

[Images via] Snippets of Kane's floral notes.

Perhaps in the future we should expect to see more lone design inspiration making its way onto the shelves of Ikea - Rodarte-esque sunflowers or goth weaving? Dolce & Gabbana-esque Italian domestic seaside images featuring buxom models in pasta earrings? The floor is open...

Friday, 24 January 2014

The Cambridge Satchel Company's Brand Evolution: S/S14 Looks Bright

Today I received some of the shiny new images from the S/S14 collection by the Cambridge Satchel Company, which has gone from strength to strength since its formation around a kitchen table back in 2008. This latest range shows just how determined the brand is to achieve longevity and not just be part of a short-term satchel trend. No wonder it's just had a cash injection of over £12 million from Index Ventures. Peach Pink and Bellflower Blue are going to be it-colours for the season, mark my words.

 [Images via Cambridge Satchel Company S/S14 launch and Google+ profile].
These longer strap options won't hang around for long this season.
 I would snap up this navy clutch in an instant.

Candy clutches (and traditional black) are sure to be successful.

Whilst I'm yet to get my hands on one of these bags, I can definitely see the appeal of their latest evolution into clutches, two-tone variants and long shoulder strap numbers. The key to keeping the brand fresh is to offer something desirable and different, as well as the same reliable models that the public knows them for. 

 Two tone works well in both of these colour ways.

Even small adjustments, such as panels made from leopard print or tartan fabric, Vivienne Westwood designed prints or iconic Harris Tweed, show that there is more than one ideal CSC customer and they will all be catered for. I've seen the Accessories Editor of Elle carrying a neon number at London Fashion Week, but I've also seen grandmas, students and mums buying into the brand as well. 

 There's nothing like a bit of punk spirit from a British brand.

Admittedly the designers could have easily become stuck in a rut of continually reinventing the wheel and trying not to shake up tradition, knowing how well the standard styles were selling, but instead they've tried new innovations and colour combinations regularly. Fluoro, double colour and metallic options have all proved popular, suggesting there's no let-up in satchel fever, and the company's products are stocked in over 100 countries. 

 These fluoro music bags would certainly brighten up a dull music lesson...

Taking a look at the latest styles, I have a feeling that Bellflower Blue is going to look great with S/S14 outfits, whilst the patent croc print clutches are real investment pieces for smarter occasions. The Cambridge Satchel Company has come a long way from its humble kitchen table beginnings, and I'll be eagerly anticipating its next move.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Fashion Resolutions for 2014

Can you believe another year is over? It seems like only yesterday that I was getting excited about wearing Spring/Summer 2013 pieces, yet already it's time to start thinking ahead to next summer, and February will see the Autumn/Winter 2014 season trends being revealed. 

In early 2013 I resolved to spend less in order to save for travelling, and I'm pleased to say that I (mostly) managed to achieve this. I've now come up with three resolutions for the next 12 months of style...

Shift dress in bright yellow on sale at Czech boutique
A buttercup yellow dress on sale at Czech Labels & Friends, Prague

1. Continue to explore fashion around the world

This year I brought you shop windows from Rome, a fleamarket photo essay from Reykjavik and notes on what to wear in Thailand and how to dress in Cuba. 2014 will begin in Peru, where I'll be on a guided tour until mid-January, then I'll be back to tell you all about Peruvian style in two very different climates, from the warm coastal weather in Lima to the chillier mountain conditions.

Also on the cards are trips to some of Brussels' best boutiques, and I'm hoping to visit India as well, which has been on my wish list for some time. Wherever I go, I always carry that fashion mindset with me (checking out what people are wearing, eyeing up window displays, etc.), and I'm drawn to markets and shops just as much as the official attractions of a destination. 

Marilyn Monroe in bathing suit on beach with curves
 [Image via] Marilyn Monroe, curve ambassador

2. Embrace the curves with more confidence

I've always been a staunch defender of the curvy girl but when I started blogging I was admittedly at least one size smaller (ok, two at a push, depending on where I shop) than I am today. I've come to terms with the fact that I don't have the flat stomach that I did back in 2009, and consequently I can't wear the same clothes, but what has been difficult is finding really flattering pieces on the high street. Many of the items in my favourite shops are designed for women with a small chest, washboard abs and skinny thighs, whereas I'm the one trying to work around boobs that generate turbulence when I dance, not to mention a muffin top and the rest. 

When I'm confronted with endless body-con dresses, high neck crop tops and unforgiving high-waisted pencil skirts in stretch fabrics, it can feel a bit demoralising; suddenly buying a last-minute outfit for a party becomes near impossible because the selection just isn't there. In 2014 I am going to try and look past this shortfall and really nail down the retailers that play to my strengths - the ones that don't mind a bit of cleavage or a skirt that's built to skim cleverly and not to cling. I'm looking for empowering pieces to add to my collection. 

Models wearing minimalist monochrome dresses
 Keep it simple at Fashion Week and beyond

3. Be more minimalist - in outfits and in wardrobe volume

Every time I see Fashion Week street style photos, I always gravitate towards the minimalist dressers. They look so chilled out and mature compared to the fraught tension behind the eyes of the brand-clad hipster teens with their eyes rolled, and the girls with bunches and Harajuku dresses trying to look coy. Okay, so the minimal look might have taken just as long to put together in reality, but what makes it extra special is its effortless facade - simple shapes, one or two colours, happy to blend into the background at Somerset House and watch the performances of others. Next year I want to channel this look in my outfit choices, but also in the sense of culling the amount of clothes I currently own.

A spring clean of my wardrobe is very much overdue, taking the opportunity to get rid of all those pieces that no longer fit my shape or my lifestyle. I'm notoriously sentimental about the things I own, being something of a self-confessed hoarder who can always think of a not-so-plausible scenario when I might need to wear or use an item, and this means that it's hard to pass anything onto the charity shops. But 2014 feels like a turning point in many ways, as I'll be travelling and freelancing before seeking a permanent editorial role later in the year, by which point I will have also turned 25. Maybe all that change is the perfect opportunity to be a bit more ruthless and hold onto less of the past.

What are your fashion resolutions for the year ahead, and will you keep them? Let me know on Twitter (@misspallen). 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Photo Essay: Liberty's Christmas Windows for 2013

With Selfridges out the way, it's time to focus on Liberty, another London department store with a rich history. Right now, Liberty is also the centre of attention thanks to a behind-the-scenes Channel 4 documentary, the final part of which will be broadcast tonight, so there's no better time to look at the windows of the famous mock Tudor building with its signature purple bags, that same purple of the lining of a bar of Cadbury's chocolate. Tuck into the company's minimalist visual merchandising vision for Christmas 2013...

Christmas star shaped arrangements at Liberty department store
 In previous years, these windows have featured a psychedelic frog and glamorous tableaux of mannequins, but 2013 called for simplicity, a smattering of sequins and starbursts.

Wooden mask, maps and bag on display in Liberty window
 Each star contained products based on a particular theme or customer - this one definitely covered travel, with a distinctive wooden sculpture and some beautifully covered maps.

Minimalist window display in London
 More travel, anyone? The phrenology head sat alongside a globe and a Moroccan lantern.

Festive window displays Xmas 2013 in Liberty
 A little Statue of Liberty snowglobe or paperweight added a pun on the shop's name.

Globe, ship in a bottle and toiletries in Christmas 2013 display
 Fancy setting sail with these gifts?

Flamingo in London department store
 A flamingo ticked the kitsch box.

Luxury designer brands in festive store window
 A solitary mannequin in this window showed just how uncluttered the displays were in comparison with previous years, when it was hard to see everything crammed in.

Black Rockstud pump by Valentino with red trousers
 Rockstud pumps by Valentino got my attention.

A taste of the seasonal windows at Liberty 2013
Fur trimmed boots were placed with stylish homeware pieces.

Purple Liberty boxes on mannequins as hats
 I couldn't resist a peek inside, either. These mannequins and their present hats stopped me in my tracks.

Matilda-inspired display overlooking scarf hall
One of the building's rare open spaces, overlooking the scarf hall, was dedicated to the West End musical, Matilda, complete with letter panels and a paint-splattered satchel.

Considering Liberty's Christmas shop alone attracts 250,000 visitors every year, it's fair to say that the visual merchandising on the outside plays an important part in drawing potential customers through the doors. 

Obviously going minimalist can be a risk for a place so readily associated with opulence and floors piled with goods, but I think it will help Liberty to stand out from the crowd. I would have liked to see a bit more colour in the windows, but otherwise the content is still going to grab people as they walk past. 

Do you think going minimalist at Christmas is a good idea for the store, or would you have preferred something crazier? Tweet me - @misspallen - or leave a comment below.
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