Archive for


Fractured. This is my favourite piece of cinematography. Hands down.

Nicolas Roeg’s 1973 chiller “Don’t Look Now”, starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, is a study in restraint. I like the way the story unfolds gently, gaining momentum towards a creepy climax which, despite its now comedic impact, induces giggles of the nervous kind. The film stays with you for a long time. Its in parts love story, tragedy, murder mystery and horror movie, all this set mostly in Venice! I rank it amongst my all time favourite films.

I don’t normally look to film for inspiration but there’s definitely meat in this one. Visually alone there’s a contrast between the faded grandeur and slight seediness of Venice. Water is a leitmotif throughout, from drowning, rain and the canals, as well as the colour red. The red coat of a dead child. The use of red reminds me of Almodovar  or M. Night Shyamalan’s “Sixth Sense”. The film is famous for the love scene which is interspersed with shots of Christie and Sutherland getting dressed_

Julie Christie glows throughout the film. Her fragile beauty is unbreakable amidst all the gloom and sadness. She also sports a natty piece of tailoring in one of the scenes. The sleeve head is a feat of engineering and bears a resemblance to those Christophe Decarin made famous at Balmain a few seasons ago. The proportions are perfectly judged and I like the lean silhouette and how the jacket is paired with a dark roll neck.

The scenes I found most creepy were the more suggestive ones that hinted at something darker . For instance, the one involving the elderly sisters that start off being harbingers of evil but end up being guardian angels. This is perhaps one of the cruelest things I have ever witnessed on film. The younger of the two parades the elder, who is blind, around Venice wearing mismatched socks. So cruel. Mind you, the blind elder sister is supposedly psychic so she should have “seen” it coming! Very Prada, all the same_

Not sure who this photo’s by so I can’t give the credit. However, I’ve had it knocking about for a while. There’s just something about it… Kind of seemed like an appropriate choice to follow the previous post_


The man himself, Carsten Nicolai_

This is quite possibly the most beautifully designed record ever.

As well as his music, Carsten Nicolai/ Noto/ Alva Noto also works as an artist. The two disciplines are two sides of the same coin – one aurally captures the diagramatic nature of sound whilst the other translates sound in the tactile and visual mediums of installation art and sculpture.

See also Mikkel Metal, Raadiq, Matthew Herbert_

———

www.carstennicolai.de

A friend played me a piece from Alva Noto and Riyuichi Sakamoto’s joint album, Insen, the other night. It’s an incredible piece of music that requires a proper sound system to do it justice. The subtle glitches, the forlorn piano loops, the intense bass that’s quiet and menacing at the same time. Its the sort of contemplative piece that was recorded to be heard in the darkest recesses of the night or on one of those grey, rainy days when you’re feeling melancholic.

Alva Noto’s music is classed as “electronica” but it defies easy genre definitions. Insen is one of his more accessible works but other recordings are more uncompromising mathematical experiments in sound and texture. “Difficult” music – like an algebraic equation you’ve struggled to solve. His music requires patience and concentration to reveal its beauty. Pop music it isn’t. Abstraction would be an incorrect adgective to describe Noto’s work as there is method in the madness of the glitches and clicks that form these soundscapes. There’s also something quite primeval about his work despite its scientific, electrical nature. Tribal, almost.

Alva Noto is a pseudonym of Carsten Nicolai, a sound artist that uses sound as his canvas. Discarded noises from the studio form his paint and brush as he attempts to illustrate sound and electricity. He uses the principles of Cymatics or Model Phenomena – the study of visible sound and vibration. What I find intriguing are his music videos that implement abstract visuals, sequencers and desolate, nocturnal landscapes to convey a sparse mood. The images you see here are screen captures of some of his videos – beautiful, ambiguous and atmospheric. A lot like his music.

visit www.alvanoto.com

There seem to be two designers that have a strong influence over the collections thus far – Hussein Chalayan from his early work and Rei Kawakubo.

The Chalayan Construct_



_was evident in the styling and presentation of  the Marios Schwab collection for Halston – the hats may link back to the start of Halston’s career as a milliner but they remind me more of Chalayan’s headpieces. As do the almost medical-looking boots and the set design of the presentation. Jarring tongues of glass and metal. There’s nothing wrong with this, per se. I just like following the trail of thought – Fashion Etymology, so to speak.

Hussein Chalayan, Lilly Heine

Looking at the leather hats at Narciso Rodriguez brings to mind the leather headrests that Chalayan integrated into shifts in the Echoform A/W 1999 collection. One of the stars from the Saint Martins MA show, Lilly Heine, used laser cutting to create contoured reliefs in geometric forms that again hinted at Chalayan’s layered shifts from the Geotropics show. Add to all this, the current obsession with geometry and mathematics coming through in the complex folds and sculpted forms, everywhere from Peter Pilotto, Louise Goldin, Calvin Klein to Marios Schwab, it would seem that we’re having a Chalayan Moment. Not surprising as the late 90s seem to be the buzzword. It would be interesting to see what the man himself does this season.

clockwise from top left: Hussein Chalayan, Marios Schwab for Halston, Halston archive, Hussein Chalayan, Narciso Rodriguez

The Kawakubo Curse_

_childhood fables,the broken doll, ghost bride, Romance Fragile… The Zingara gypsy,commonly seen on the streets of Milan, around Stazione Centrale, on the Metro. Her full, grubby skirt swinging about her ankles, the floral blouses layered one atop the other, the chink of coin necklaces, pendants and bracelets, the gold teeth, a flash seen through a crooked smile, the greasy, khol-black hair, locks clinging around her weathered, desperate face, the cloying smell of patchouli… A frightful, thieving creature and an unlikely muse, you would think. I didn’t see this one coming but since Alexander Wang’s dubious outing in New York, The Gypsy Woman seems to be gaining momentum, running against the wind. Rodarte’s muddle of pattern and texture, Meadham Kirchoff’s Gypsy Rose bedouin vagrant, replete with crown and veil… Its a path much trodden by Rei Kawakubo. However, there is something artful and appealing about the spontaneity of the silhouette. Romantic, each decorative, colourful layer begging to be touched. Peasant Grunge, if you like but I’m not sure how this translates in a winter season. All those flyaway tendrils of chiffon. Broken down into individual pieces in a showroom the garments will be more evident and also how well they will assimilate into more contemporary looks. It would be interesting to see what actually makes it to the shop floor. The nomadic layering is something the stylist Alasdair McLellan had already started at Missoni last winter. There it somehow made sense and rejuvenated the house’s famed but tad démodé knits. It felt urbane. Nevertheless, its an interesting argument. Let’s see if the big boys and girls  in Milan and Paris take it further and give it a seal of approval or if this one’s going to flap away into the distance.

You beggar believe me: Meadham Kirchoff, Missoni

Full Circle: Hussein Chalayan, Ambimorphous AW 2002

catwalk images: style.com, http://www.husseinchalayan.com

With an architetcural approach being at the forefront of the fashion debate again I thought I’d do a post on Charles James, the late American couturier. Like Christobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior, construction was key to his work which could be likened to feats of sartorial engineering. John Galliano cited James as an inspiration for his recent couture outing for the house of Dior but I found it almost too literal and tenuous at the same time. I see more of it in say Francisco Costa’s autumn-winter 2011 collection for Calvin Klein or in the structured coats of Narcisco Rodriguez showed at New York last week. Interestingly, both old and new were/are loved by the uptown society set_

Calvin Klein Autumn-Winter 2011

Narciso Rodriguez Autumn-Winter 2011

catwalk images style.com

The Genius of Charles James (Henry Holt & Co – November 1984), Elisabeth Ann Coleman

A v.long post, I must warn. But this needs to be said_

That Louise Wilson gets about a bit, doesn’t she? She keeps cropping up in Sunday supplements and magazine articles, pushing her brand of tuition and guidance every which way. Straight-talking Louise knows a thing or two. Louise knows best and don’t we know it!

The Harder They Come: Louise Wilson

I’ve sort of fallen out of love with fashion a bit. Fashion, to me, has become unfashionable. The worldwide financial meltdown, the ethical, ecological, sizeist, ageist, racial and moral debates, the endless backslapping, the championing of a 13 year old blogger in an industry that now criticises the use of under 16 models whilst still balking at the idea of a size 16… I could go on forever. Too many collections, too many voices, too many opinions that sound the same. Too much lip-synching and paraphrasing. What is the point of pointless clothes that nobody wants to wear or has the money to buy? Or merchanise that gets whisked off the shop floor to make room for a new delivery before you can reach for your credit card?

Cathy Horyn premised the stress of running a global business and the constant need to deliver as a factor that played in Alexander McQueen’s suicide. A grain of truth in that, perhaps. Fashion has been eating itself from inside for quite some time now. Ugly. I’ve worked as a designer for the best part of a decade now and the change has been gobsmacking. Gone are the days of designing a collection, taking a break and recharging one’s batteries. Oh, no, the pantone ink’s barely dry before you have to reach out for another ream of paper and start churning out yet another collection. Pre-fall? Pre-spring? Winter-Spring? Autumn-Summer. Bummer. Makes you want to Resort to jacking it all in.

Looking at what’s been trudged down the catwalk lately reaffirmed why I put my own label on the back burner for a while and focussed on consulting for other companies. Things are in a sorry state of affairs when Victoria Beckham’s fashion line looks fresh and new.

+ + +

Anyway, back to professor Louise Wilson, course director of the Central Saint Martins [CSM] MA and her right hand woman, Sarah Mower of Style.com. Back to London. Back to the future_

I hazarded a look at the show images of the CSM MA with the usual trepidation. Who’s trying to knock off Christopher Kane now? To be The Next BIG Thing? What’s this I see? I nearly fell off my chair. What, graduates having a direct dialogue with high fashion? Empress Phoebe Philo and her wipe-the-slate-clean approach having an influence? Graduates sat at a round table with the likes of Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, Nicholas Ghesquire, Miuccia Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Helmut Lang? I totally agree with Sarah Mower in her review that the new graduates had left their elders trailing in the dust. It must be noted, the elders in question have mostly labels less than five years old. It seems that even that’s too old these days.There’s been a lot of believing in one’s hype lately. Of regurgitating the same old idea thinly veiled with stylistic skulduggery as newness. Don’t get me started on digital printing – that cheap trick of making a basic shape look more interesting than it is – and of the twinkle-twinkle of Swarovski, who seem to have monopolised  talent with their sponsorship and quasi-shameless brand-pushing. Granted the funding such sponsorship brings comes in very handy and designers such as Peter Pilotto have really pushed digital printing techniques but FUSSY FINISHED, to quote Polly Mellon from Isaac Mizrahi’s mid 90s documentary, Unzipped. Indeed.

I felt totally energised watching these images. Perhaps they’re more in synch with what I believe is au courant. Perhaps… What really blew my mind was the focus of proportion and cut. The fundamentals. And then the plethora of techniques, detail, finish, use of colour and the unexpectedness of it all. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen all season. Controlled, confident, assured and an overall lack of the superfluous. And also, the return of womenswear to the fore. Relatively young as my career might be I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve gained in experience I’ve lost in freshness so its good to see something that sharpens the eye and points the way. Bravo graduates! And Bravo Louise! A job really well done. Fait accompli.


Postscript_

A dear friend of mine, Stuart Bourne, works for the acrhitects Stanton Williams and art directed their book Volume, celebrating their first 20 years. Why relevant, you ask? Well, Stanton Williams are the architects of the new Central Saint Martins campus in King’s Cross, London, uniting all the various branches spread about London in one space. There’s been a lot of tutting about how it will affect the course, how Soho is the lifeblood that makes the fashion school so good. Well Soho isn’t Soho anymore and change is good, is it not? This is an industry that demands change after all. Added to that, the cross-pollination of different disciplines and line-blurring that characterises modern design surely makes this a logical step forward.

With the architectural nature of the new MA show and the architectural influence of the most relevant shows of recent seasons – focus on line, balance and the essential – it sort of brings things round full circle. Back to the beginning. Back to the future. Adios. LFN

catwalk images courtesy of style.com

Louise Wilson, 10 Magazine, Issue 34

Stanton Williams, Volume, Black Dog Pubishing 2009

www.stantonwilliams.com

Just had a lovely supper with an old friend in a restaurant in the Emilia Romagna region in Italy. A novel way of presenting a menu – literature classics. I got Tolstoi and she got Shakespeare. The grilled scamorza cheese with honey was very good. As was the swordfish. V. delicate. I also liked the way the wine glasses were placed on the table, lying atop a napkin.

Post dinner we bumped into La Boda, a local transvestite of a certain age. She’s friends with Grace Jones from way back. She bought us some beers whilst she knocked back the camomile! Something to do with Shiva. When I asked what La Boda meant she regaled that it was Spanish or Catalan for “bride” or “wedding”. Quite a character, she is. Wants me to bring her some Stilton the next time I’m around. Her Stilton Macaroni is apparently legendary. Oh, La Boda also means bream, the fish, in another language that I can’t remember. Hilarious!  OK. Tipsy. Knackered. Bed. Early flight. LFN

Queen Vic, on the cover of a magazinnnne

Soz. I’m away from my desk at the moment, so to speak. Some thoughts on New York fashion week_

Victoria Beckham: Top marks. Classy. Really loving me a bit of VB. Really great clothes. Very smart lady. Loved the fact that she let the buyers in on what she’d wearing to the Oscars. I wonder what the best-selling dress will be?


Marc Jacobs: Been gagging for Mr Jacobs to go back to his nineties roots when a pleated flannel skirt cost about $2000. Luxe frump. Really, really, lovely.


Rodarte: Jury’s still out for me. Nice colours, lots of clever styling but still struggling to see the clothes.


Alexander Wang: His T-shirt lines more on the money for me. I’m not convinced on how this qualifies as high end. Too many gimmicks obscuring an interesting concept. Lace, chenille, pinstripe and velvet. A bit student-y for my liking. Soz. too cool for school. And how do you make Natasha Poly look fat? See exit whatever it was.


Altuzarra: Assured and well-executed. A bit hard-edged but there’s nothing wrong with going your own way if you can pull it off. And he did. In spades.


Halston: A bit of a let down. Early days and all that but was really rooting for Marios Schwab. I’m not sure how relevant Halston is as a brand. And parts of the collection reminded me too much of Hussein Chalayan’s work. It didn’t feel luxe. I’m not sure. Need to muse over this one a bit.

Catch ya later.

Thank you, style.com for the images!

H & M but not as we know it_

Bread & Butter, Gin & Tonic, First & Class – some pairings are just perfect. No reason for concern or to doubt their companionship. Harold and Maude is one partnership that just shouldn’t work. I remember the first time I saw it, recoiling at the idea of a teenager having sex with a 79 year old woman. It made The Graduate seem like child’s play, haha. At the same time the film was so beautifully done and the plot so engaging that I couldn’t help falling for its oddball charm. It sends out a positive message – love has no boundaries and it shouldn’t. I don’t want to give too much away just in case you haven’t seen it but its one of those films that makes you look at life in a totally different way. Thought-provoking. Cinema the way it should be. Risk-taking done with elegance and subtlety. Great soundtrack too by Cat Stevens. Harold & Maude – an unusual love story for Valentine’s Day. Snuggle up and enjoy_


Speaking of “gerontophilia”, I came across this website that lists all the “-philias”: www.word.info. An interesting read…

chrematistophilia, chrematistophily: A sexual perversion in which the necessary condition is that the relationship with the partner be on a monetary basis: the partner must charge the “client” or otherwise force him or her to pay for sex, or must “rob” or “blackmail” him or her.The term is sometimes broadened to include sellers as well as clients, e.g. “compulsive” hustlers, prostitutes, and sexual blackmailers [so long as such activity is needed for their own sexual arousal and is not just their way of making money].

chromulithophile, chromulithophilist: A collector of music-title pages.

And my favourites_

cisoriaphilist: A collector of scissors.

clyvesophile, clyvesophily: A collector of mugs.

Hilarious. HAPPY VALENTINE’s Day

Would you like me to seduce you?

Miss Faithfull came on my iPod this morning – it was on shuffle – and I thought to myself, Oooh, hello! If I was a lady of a certain age I would like to be a little bit like Marrianne Faithfull. That husky voice is so damn sexy. All she needs to do is talk, let alone sing. And “Broken English”. Bloody great record. She’s up there with La Rampling as one of my muses. Without coming over all gerontophile [?], like a reverse Anna Nicole Smith, there’s something to be said about the smouldering, knowing sexiness of the more mature lady. I guess if you make it that far you’ve seen and done it all. You know yourself and know exactly what you want and how to get it. Confidence. I’m in love_