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Reading Renzo Rosso‘s, founder of the Diesel brand, interview in last week’s the Observer Fashion Special got me thinking about designer denim. In particular, the pre-aged, pre-ripped type. Rosso waxes lyrical about how he kickstarted the destroyed denim trend over 30 years ago. He “made holes, imperfections, variations, idiosyncrasies that suggested history, character, past lives.” Natch. Over 30 years of really terrible denim ensued. You know, the kind with bleached track marks over the back leg that ladies of a certain spatial dimension, who should really know better, love to wear. Look At Me Denim.©

The same supplement also profiled Tamburlaine Gorst, a menswear designer who also likes to take a pair of scissors and the odd pumice stone to a garment. Interestingly, Sally Brampton’s rather insightful piece in the current Intelligent Life magazine, paints a different picture – or should that be, rips a different 5 pocket? – on the Diesel Effect. I really recommend getting a copy of the magazine. Ms Brampton compares different consumer market levels to decide who is the best at a high, low and medium fashion – London, Paris or Milan? On Diesel, her 17 year old daughter comments: “Boring… What’s creative about jeans that cost £150… none of my mates would wear it, but I’m trying to be kind so I’ll give it 5 (out of 10.)” Ouch. I wonder what Mr. Rosso, the out-spoken, would have to say about the response of the youth to his self-proclaimed brand of cool?

“Designer Denim” bugs me. I find this idea of pre-ageing and all the, albeit mind-boggling industrious processes, fake. I like my denim quite simple. A good quality cloth, 5 pockets and a slim-ish cut with narrow cuffs. In classic colours. Indigo, grey and occasionally black. Fashionable utilitarianism is a bit oxymoronic. Why bother? The beauty of denim is that it ages the more you wear it. It takes on its own character and flaws as time goes by. Each time-faded rip should tell a story. A true story and not one prefabricated by some underpaid worker in India or Turkey that will probably die of lung cancer due to all the microscopic fibres inhaled. Not that I am in anyway implying this about the Diesel brand. I know nothing of where or how they produce their denim but I’d like to think that they would ensure the best conditions for their workers. It’s a matter of personal taste. One man’s acid wash is another man’s poison, and all the rest. I just find the concept symptomatic of the world we live in. A sort of inherent laziness. The quick blue fix jumped over the lazy slog. Who cares about authenticity?! As if!

The pair you see photographed here are over 12 years old. They’re by G-Star and were a dark indigo when I got them. Over time they’ve faded to azure and I’ve ripped and patched them as was needed. Crotch falling to bits? Why not rip off a back pocket and stitch it in? Pocket bag full of holes? My solution was to hand-stitch what was left of them directly onto the outside. As they shrunk with each wash I seemed to grow consecutively wider. I once had a 28inch waist? Really? The slits on the pockets was my desperate attempt to give me a little breathing space over the thigh area and perhaps a few more months of wear. Ingenious, no? Marvel at my creativity! This is the real deal. No sand-blasting, no clever washing, scrubbing techniques. Just a knackered pair of jeans that I was inseparable from for many a happy, slimmer year. There is NO WAY that they are ever going to fit me again. I think I’ll frame them. Le Fat Noir. Adios.

Listen carefully_

© images above, copyright Le Fist Noir. If you so happen to think: nice idea, I’ll rip ’em off, then DON’T. Ask nicely and I might let you have the original. For a fair price. Believe me, I’ll find out and you really don’t want to go there. Really.

www.diesel.com

www.g-star.com

www.tamburlaine.co.uk

It’s the stuff that surrounds you. As you’ve probably worked out by now,  I’m always snap, snap snapping away at the most random things. I’ve probably got the biggest photo library of blurry, out of focus – bad, if you’re being unkind – photographs known to man. Ah, well, keeps me happy and you just never know when a Rothko-esque shot of the wall next to Mr.Patel’s corner shop will come in handy. By the way, I wonder who the idiot that painted over the Tescos shopping bag in the Banksy on Essex Road was? Kind of funny in a way. The graffiti artist gets tagged.

Northern Italy. I’ve always liked the view of this square through the portico. It’s really hard to photograph but I’ll keep trying. It’s even more special at night time when the Duomo is lit up. It almost feels like a stage set. The way the curve of the arch is echoed on the pebbled walkway gives a nice symmetry. Italians seem to love their rucksacks, or “zaino” as they refer to them. The kids all have these fondant-fancy coloured ones that they personalise. I thought it was quite funny that the old man in the foreground was carrying one like the kids in the background.

I saw a friend the other day and he was wearing his black DB Comme jacket with the bleached collar, lapels and cuffs from the Homme Plus Evergreen line – I was green with envy, for sure. Its such a beautiful piece – the semi-stuctured cut, the way the bleaching process created a tie die effect on the lining, the nubbly peaked lapels…There is so much packed into one piece. That’s the beauty of Comme. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as I was writing the previous post when I saw him.

I also like the suggestion of outerwear on the under collar and stand by way of trench-style topstitching. The rectangular tab that juts out from breast pocket with a button hole at the end is a natty detail. The concept behind the Evergreen line is also quite neat – reissues of styles from past seasons. Always there. Always ready. Evergreen, like the tree. I wish other labels would do that more. Like, I’d do pretty much anything to get my claws on the Margiela parka trench coat from about five years ago. Or the Margiela knuckle duster belt. Almost anything.

Utilitarian hippy country city gent + The Great Gatsby does Woodstock = Genius.

I desperately want this _

Rei Kawakubo and Comme des Garçons: Deyan Sudjic 1990

I first came across this in the library during my first year at university.

It seems strange now, and it wasn’t even that long ago, to imagine trawling through dusty books and Dewey codes. Google is incredibly useful but nothing can beat the excitement of happening on a great book after hours of fruitless searching in dank, sneeze-inducing aisles – its like its been sat there, patiently waiting for you to turn up. There was no quick fix back then.

In 1999, the Hayward Gallery, on London’s South Bank, ran an exhibition entitled  “Addressing the Century: 100 Years of Art and Fashion“. On show were some of the infamous dresses from the Body Meets Dress Meets Body Becomes One spring-summer 1997 collection, or, as it became known, the “Lumps and Bumps” collection. This was a concept Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons had been exploring since 1996 but that show was the most lucid expression of it.

Body Meets Dress Meets Body

Spring-Summer 1997

It was one of those collections that sent shockwaves through the fashion industry. Dresses were padded with oblong pillows that distorted the female physique. These random, irregular “growths” brought to mind Hottentot tribeswomen, goitre, thalidomide babies, tumors and bodily organs. They also bore a striking resemblance to the artist Georgina Godley’s padded underwear from her Hump and Bump collection. Even visionaries can’t always be totally original! What added to the eeriness was the use of sheer virginal whites that made the protrusions visible in parts and also, the picnic ginghams in pinks and pale blues – an influence still revertberating, if you look at Christopher Kane’s last summer collection of perverse Sunday school girls decked out in razored pastel gingham. What was also clever about that collection but not immediately obvious was that the pads were removable. Double whammy.

Those pieces, along with the Comme des Garçons book, were the starting point of my first essay at university in 1999, “Like Boys”. It seems a million years ago but flicking through it reminded me of how important Rei Kawakubo is. She is 100% pure, no additives Fashion Genius. When is somebody going to do a bloody retrospective exhibition of her work in the UK? Because_

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Autumn Winter 2011

 

The recent autumn-winter 2011 Comme collection seemed to take its cue from the “Lumps and Bumps” collection. Timely, if you consider that most brands were returning to their core values. However, Comme des Garçons isn’t “most brands” so I found it quizzical. The oddness and shock of the new that characterised Kawakubo’s work and that of her contemporaries, such as Yamamoto, and protégés, Junya Watanabe and Tao, has become so familiar that you almost know what to expect – strange bird’s nest hair, theatrical make up, flat shoes, illogical, complex silhouettes. The most shocking thing Rei Kawakubo could do now, perhaps, would be an obviously sexy, stilletos-at-dawn, hair swept back collection. In a way I wish she would, to paraphrase Anna Wintour, “break out”. It would be so interesting to see her thoughts on celebrity culture filtered through her unique approach. A lot of her recent work seems like a retread, however beautiful it is. Consider this, Kawakubo made black the official uniform of Fashion Folk after seismically dividing opinions in the early 1980s with her black, hole-ridden clothes that were shorn of any obvious sex appeal or ostentation. I now struggle to see her influence on fashion. Rei Kawakubo as the charming old lady? Quelle horreur! I have a feeling that she isn’t completely done with us just yet. Don’t get too close; this one bites…

Lace Knitwear, 1982

 

 

The Rei is my shepherd, and I am her weakness…

As a student I worshipped at the Church of Comme. I was obsessed. And also, quite poor, so the very idea of owning a bona fide Comme piece was as alien as the clothes themselves. However I made-do and mended. Literally. Case point. Oversized sky blue Benetton shetland jumper. Boil washed. Yanked to one side and secured with a thick knot of yellow thread. I recoil now in horror but that was the closest I was ever going to get to the Comme look, by way of dip-dyed mass market Italian knitwear.

One of my favourite Comme periods was the tail end of the 90’s/ early noughties. The height of deconstruction, Brit Pop and a re-energised creative London scene. This was the time of The Pineal Eye, Jessica Ogden and Shelly Fox. I recall schlepping off to Brook Street, where the old Comme des Garçons shop was located, to study the haphazard, asymmetric, inside-out collages of tailored jackets and coat dresses trimmed in white cotton. Those pieces were poetry, and I don’t mean that in a pretentious way. The Japanese were on a roll during that period. Remember Yohji’s wedding collection? That incredible crinolined dress with the zippered pockets that contained a veritable trousseau with which the model proceeded to dress herself? Gone were the funereal statements. In was an artsy, lightness of touch.

Catherine Long in Comme des Garçons, Dazed & Confused, September 1998 issue.

Guest edited by Alexander McQueen [RIP]

What I’ve always loved about Comme is that its innovation encompasses more than just the clothes. Kawakubo is a boundary-pusher in every aspect of design, branding and marketing. Forward-thinking retail spaces? From the hallowed concrete halls of the 1980’s through to the red Paris store with moving cubicles and the legendary Dover Street Market in London, Comme des Garçons has tirelessly rewritten the rules on not only what constitutes clothing but also how and where it can be sold. Pop-up stores have recently been all the rage but remember the Comme Guerilla stores from a few years back that popped up in abandoned spaces in the most unlikely, unfashionable areas? Rei got there first. Indeed, the old Brook Street store stood on the periphery of Bond Street polish, close and present but also defiantly distant. On the edge. The Dover Street market site was an unoccupied office building and when it was converted into a modern day souk filtered through the Kawakubo Process it retained a lot of the original, corporate details – halogen lighting, abandoned filing cabinets and industrial fittings. The impersonal was used to create a very personal space.

Perfume? Odeur 53, the Incense Series, all challenging, non-conformist scents… Now everyone’s at it – Frederic Malle, Le Labo, Byredo… Rei Got There First. And how about abstract branding? The Marc Jacobs/ Juergen Teller campaigns, Alber Elbaz’s whimsical shoots for Lanvin, Celine’s new art direction that focusses on just the clothes all owe a lot to Kawakubo’s irreverent, subversive ad-campaigns in which she collaborated with leading artists and tastemakers. REI GOT THERE FIRST.


One of the most direct influences of Kawakubo on her contemporaries is evident in the Versace spring-summer 1998 collection. View the image below and tell me if you get the same sense of déjà vu? Rei most definitely got there first, with her autumn-winter 1997-1998 collection, to be precise.

 

Spot the difference.

Fashion needs people like Kawakubo now more than ever. Visionaries that aren’t afraid to push the envelope and challenge us. However, the element of surprise is all but gone and the Japanese style has become a little bit predictable and somehow  mainstream. No, that isn’t the right word. Acceptable is better, perhaps. The clothes are still innovative, don’t get me wrong. And I’m certain that she is still copied, be it more in terms of garment finishes and details now. What’s missing is the sense of danger, that definitive, driving message that has been absent for some seasons now. Hopefully, it will return, like a dormant volcano waiting to unleash one final attack. In the meantime a retrospective of Kawakubo’s oeuvre is long over due. We need to pay our respects and remind ourselves of what a powerhouse she is.

 

 

 

Came across some old photographs whilst packing. The ones here are photographs of the house I shared with two friends while we were at university. Very quaint. A lot of chintz. But a lot of fond memories. Like our eccentric neighbour, the middle-aged music teacher, who used to water the flowers in his speedo-style briefs. The combination of sagging, liver-spotted flesh and water fanning out from crotch level was funny-disturbing… Or the hedgehog that decided to set up home in the pile of branches and weeds we wanted to burn after a pre-summer [barbeque season!] clean up. I think we waited a few days before finally setting it alight, giving the branches a good shake beforehand and hoping that Mr. Hedgehog had found a safer place to live. I think… Barbeque season might have come a little earlier for some tragic souls! Oops!

Anyway, the back wall was shrouded in ivy. Quite beautiful. I just loved the way the marigold dishwashing gloves were positioned in the window. So elegant. So gay. I’d do strange things to get my hands on that chintz armchair. Funny how one’s appreciation of things change over the years. Actually, I lie. I liked it as much now as I did then. No accounting for taste!_


Clarissa Cestari’s work, from the previous post, reminds me of the late Hans Hartung, one of my heroes. The day I own a Hartung sketch will be one of the happiest in my life. I first came across the work of Hartung many years ago as an art student. There was a retrospective of his work at the Tate Britain – this was way before the Tate Modern existed. I actually prefer Tate Britain. I loved the way you could criss cross your way between pre-modern and modern art… staring at a Turner one minute, pondering Marguite the next. I also loved the Rothko room which housed The Seagram Murals – my favourite works of art. Its almost criminal, blasphemous even, the way they are now displayed at their new home, the Tate Modern. That dark room commanded a deep reverence the moment you walked in. It was a cathedral shrouded in silence. A truly spiritual experience.  Now they’ve placed them in an overlit, raucous corridor, well at least that’s how it was the last time I saw them.

I digress. Back to Hartung. I was totally blown over by his drawn work. The abstract mark makings in black. They were alive, so strong was their energy. Broad strokes drawn in a frenzy, mad spindly scribbles, a wash of paint here, a smudge there, a flash of primary yellow. Its the sort of art that the moronic make comments such as, “Even I could do that, my three year old daughter could do that.”  Have a go, mate.


Its easier said than done. There  is something deeply intuitive about the randomness of the drawings/ doodles. Naivety is contaminated by cynicism the older we get. We need distraction to tap into it. Take doodling whilst on the phone, for example. Why is it that you can never consciously recreate the freedom and dynamism of those marks? That’s the power of a Hartung. The ability to tap into the deepest recesses of the subconscious and make it all look so easy_


The Creative Process

Clarissa Cestari’s large canvasses are instantly engaging – magnified, curvilinear brush strokes of apparently thick, luscious paint. The broad, sensual streaks are at once familiar and suggestive. I like how she quietly subverts tradition and turns the rules of painting upside down. Paint and the process of painting are both subject matter and muse.

Brazilian Cestari defies easy categorisation. This is abstract art in one sense yet the paintings are large scale reproductions of projections of real brush strokes. Each line of these intricate compositions is painstakingly rendered by a paint-loaded syringe, slowly tracing line after line, curve after curve with the steadiest of hands. Distinctions are blurred. Questions are asked. Is this painting or is this drawing? The artist’s hand becomes “invisible”. Contradictory. The fluid lines abruptly fade to blank. The spontaneity of the brush strokes belie studied control. The strokes overlap, interact with and interrupt each other in a fragmented dance that is simultaneously fluid and illogical. Moments of clarity and elegance are interspersed with confusion and chaos. Rushing waves, hair, Japanese Nanga style painting, the complex patterns of finger prints, the groves in an old record,  post-feminist metaphors – the use of a syringe to apply the paint carries notions of icing bags, cake decoration and domestic bliss – are some of the messages these extraordinary pieces convey. So much of contemporary art strives to say so much with mixed, sometimes convoluted results. These paintings speak with a casual ease. Like Damien Hirst or Anish Kapoor, Cestari is economical in her approach. On an initial level the work is universal due to scale and its graphic, visual nature. Peel back the layers and you find the hidden meanings. This is art to be enjoyed but also art to make you think. The two don’t always go together.

There is something quite human about Cestari’s work – conflicting emotional states, fragility, strength, grace, destructiveness, unpredictability. The sum of all our fears. So much said. All from the quick swipe of an artist’s brush. Genius?  Without a doubt.


Clarissa Cestari. Currently showing at the east central gallery, 13 March – 24 April, London

http://clarissacestari.blogspot.com/

www.eastcentralgalleries.com

Double take_

A friend sent me the link to Sam O’hare’s short film, The Sandpit. At first I thought I was viewing an incredibly realised model reproduction of New York. And then the penny dropped. This was New York – real, pulsing, alive. 35,000 photographic stills were taken to create the film which records the events of a day in the city from a bird’s eye view. A labour of love if there ever was one. There’s something about the perspective and use of light that gives the impression of looking at models. It invokes childhood memories of Lego, toy railways. Hypnotic, naive and clever.

You can view the film at: http://gawker.com/5483684/beautiful-new-york-in-miniature-sort-of

Enjoy!

In a way the piece reminds me of Thomas Demand’s photographs [click here to view my post on the photographer.] Whereby O’Hare creates a hyper-unreal version of the real, Demand does the opposite with his hyper-real photographs of precisely assembled paper models. They both walk the thin, grey line between fantasy and actuality. Both equally engaging.

From Thomas Demand’s Nationalgalerie

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A fashion show is a delicate balance of many parts that come together for one fleeting moment. A memorable show is about the clothes, of course, and much more: the casting, the venue, lighting, production and, perhaps most importantly, The Music. Poor music selection can throw everything off balance. It can be distracting, jar the designer’s message and make the models walk funny. Not a good look.

This is where Bespoke Sounds come in. Show music production has been monopolised as of late by Michel Gaubert [Collette CD fame] and Frédéric Sanchez. Name a show in any of the four capitals and you’ll no doubt find one of their names in the credits. They’re great at what they do but things can turn formulaic, no? Thierry Depuis Grizard, one half of Bespoke Sounds Paris, spent 3 years honing his craft at Chez Gaubert. This baby’s now  flown the nest, grown his water legs and decided to head out into the big wide open world of sound. About bloody time too as Mr Grizard’s music taste is second to none. His obssession reaches anorakish, train-spotter standards. He and partner in crime, Pierre Mazerolles, have already produced music for a host of shows and soundtracks for Ralph Lauren and Gaultier. I can see big things happening for these two talented, charming fellows. Ever heard of the one about David and Goliath?

visit:www.bespokesounds.com

The most interesting developments this show season happened not on the catwalks. Yes, Miuccia Prada made us pause for thought with her sizeist polemic and Raf Simmons’ Jil Sander collection left some confused about what sort of working women wore tailored romper suits. But all that’s just a mere distraction from the matter at hand – Fashion Broadcasting.

Munch: The Scream

Information overload or a democratic putting across of one’s opinion? This is the season where live streaming went a few steps further and you could pre-order what you saw careening down the runway. Designers such as Christopher Bailey at Burberry became reporters. Domenico and Dolce took us behind the scenes to stamp a seal of authenticity on their heritage of craftsmanship.They also have their own TV channel. Everyone’s tweeting, blogging, streaming, self-publicising. Clothes? What clothes?

The choice is dizzying. You have the Rocks of Sages on one hand – Suzy Menkes, Sarah Mower, Cathy Horyn, Tim Blanks – and his trusty camera man. Admittedly, Cathy’s the most with it of the bunch – New York Times Blog and Twitter! Let’s not forget the bloggers – Bryan Boy, Tavi, Tommy Ton, Susan Lau of Stylebubble, Diane Pernet, Garance Doré, Scott Shuman of The Sartorialist… the latter two are a real life couple. Cute.

Most interesting is when editors themselves become TV presenters. See Sophia Neophitou from 10 Magazine coming over all Mother of Carrie. I love 10 Magazine and they seem to love every show. Is that possible? Never seems to be a bad word said. Hmmmph. Its all very entertaining. The show must go on but under what guise, I wonder? Props to Alex Fury over at Showstudio. I think we’ve found our heir to the Colin MacDowell throne.

What next? Fashion Big Brother or I’m A Fashionista, Get Me Out Of Here!? That really would be hilarious. A bunch of fashion darlings trapped in a desolate factory in Romania forced to do menial tasks like stitch on buttons or fold jumpers. You could have them show their fashion stamina by setting up challenges where they have to wear labels like Escada or St. John and see who took the longest to breakdown. Actually, some of the boys might enjoy that. And how about trapping them in a dark room with interns hellbent on getting revenge…? Scary.

Yes, interns. The unsung heroes of this jamboree. I interned once at Clements Ribeiro – during their original incarnation, I might add, on South Molton Street. Some of my tasks involved hunting down Suzanne’s Louis Vuitton cigarette case she’d left in a bar in Soho – which one she couldn’t remember – the night before and mailing flat-hunting letters by hand for the evil product manager who wanted to live in a W1 postcode but couldn’t afford it. She actually wanted me to go around every residential property within a 1km radius! Witch! Miraculously, luckily, quickly I found the cigarette case and proceeded to spend three hours in Soho Square, in the glorious sunshine, cruising the talent. As for the Evil Product Manager’s mail-outs, they ended up in a bin at the back of John Lewis and I made my way to Selfridges to dribble over Comme and Margiela. There you go. Just desserts.

PS The irony of a blogger taking a wry look at blogging, etc. isn’t at all lost on me. LFN


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