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the MAN_

Jay-Jay Johanson is one of the most stylish men on the planet. Period. Ever since his debut album, Whiskey (1996) he has sported a perfectly dishevelled shirt on his album covers. Nobody wears a shirt better. I especially like the Grandad shirt he chose for the cover of his new album, Self-Portrait. More on that later. For now, let’s focus on the man himself.

How do you define sex appeal? Is it possible? Some might prefer an immaculately groomed type, not a hair out of place. Personally, I feel that a man is most sexy when he doesn’t really care too much about his looks. A fine line to tread, mind you. The beardy, way-farer urban poet look is quite common these days but it looks so try hard on some. With Mr. Johanson this is a completely natural way of being. Effortless, easy, a little bit crumpled, a little bit unkempt [I love this word] and quite a bit sexy. I wonder if that shirt’s from Cos? The stitching and proportions seem very familiar. Cos do very nice summer shirts by the way. Go with the collarless versions. Or even better, hack off collars that don’t sit right. Just cut along the stand and, VOILA!, a lovely collar-less shirt with edges that fray nicely after a few washes. You can’t skimp on price if you want a well-cut collared shirt. I reccomend Prada, Lanvin or Margiela for one of the those.


the MUSiC_

You know how it is these days; you hear a great track and check out the album. You’re not convinced and so you pick out the OK ones and download them on iTunes or add the album to your Spotify playlist instead – at least you don’t have to pay for it. It’s rare that you find an album where every song is a vital piece to the puzzle, even the weaker tracks. Somehow even those tracks lend a balance to the album. Without them the narrative is incomplete. Perfection can after all be found in the flawless or the imperfect. The type of albums I mean are for instance: Miles Davis Some Kind of Blue, The Blue Nile‘s eponymous debut, Talk Talk‘s Spirit of Eden, Nina Simone At Town Hall... I could go on forever.

Jay-Jay Johanson’s Self-Portrait is one of those beautifully balanced, sensitively composed records. It focusses on MELODY, something that seems to be increasingly absent in music. Each song is delicately crafted and Johanson’s deeply moving, melancholic timbre is cushioned by lonesome piano riffs, haunting drums and elegant strings. It’s at times optimistic, contemplative and heart-wrenching. This is as personal as music gets. Mr. Johanson literally wears his bleeding heart on his perfectly imperfect sleeve. Go listen_

www.jay-jayjohanson.com

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Once again, I’m drawn toward a Chanel ad campaign. It’s interesting to see how brands translate their catwalk message in 2D. Some show no product, some place emphasis on what sold the best, others on what reinforces their brand image the most. In all cases they strive to tell a story that will convince Joe Public to part with cash. However, in some cases an emphasis needs to be placed on con. (Both French and English meanings.) What I like about this image is that it makes you focus squarely on the product, the omnipresent circular framed glasses, but it also discreetly highlights, for an accessories campaign, the clothing. In this case The Chanel Polo. Its not just there to provide texture, colour and fill the space between chin and edge of page. And it isn’t there just to help Chanel shift polo shirts. It helps create the image by conveying a certain mood and attitude. [The Trendies seem to have moved on to square frames now, BTW – maybe a byproduct of Avatar and 3d cinema glasses.]

Yes, product. Red, beautifully set against a muted background. Shot from an unusual angle. Boy sees girl. Or the other way round. They connect. Or they don’t? TENSION. You’re drawn in. A film still from an Ingmar Bergman? It’s a subtle and mysterious image. I think the art direction here is superb.

There is this trend towards the cinematic. Colin McDowell wrote an interesting post on the subject in his blog. The recent beau-pic by Tom Ford, A Single Man, exemplifies this. I’m not so keen on Mr. Ford’s recent ad-campaign though [I must have a death wish. First Vogue US, now Tom!] It’s that familiar Mrs. Robinson get up. It’s quite funny and the bra tan line is kind of subversive. But it kind of stops there, on just about the right side of glossy kitsch. Valley of the Dolls sex bomb partnered with a younger, uptown dandy.The image comes off as both aloof and inviting. That’s the lure of Mr. Ford – making you want to be part of his club but knowing deep down that you’ll never be that perfect.

Tom Ford: HOWDYho

The ad campaign reminds me of the infamous monogramed crotch that Mr. Ford masterminded whilst at Gucci, albeit more subtle, more knowing. It seems that he is now quite comfortable with poking fun at himself. Sex sold. Is it time for IRONY to have a go?

Squirt here.

As I flicked through the April issue of American Vogue – a mercifully thin, advertising-light edition – I noticed that every one of the three or so editorials were in the same style despite being the creative fruits borne from different creative minds. Grace C, Edward E, David S and so forth. All major players yet how come this similarity and reduction of their efforts to Dynamism? “Dynamic”. I loathe that word. Especially when used in the context of fashion to imply movement caught freeze frame. The jumping model, all gangly and wide eyed, arms flaying like spaghetti, caught in some contorted pose. Or the mock I’m-going-to-work executive power stride, model caught legs akimbo, feet comically just off the ground, bemused mock gasp at the camera, usually with a pair of sunglasses, arms tucked behind her ears, lenses perched precariously atop barnet.

Added to this, the way American Vogue portrays “serious” portraits of women of importance – goodwill ambassadors, presidents, first ladies – in a serious, classical style gives a mixed message. There’s a constant flit between composed worthiness and girlish excitement. Will the real SLIM LADY please stand up?


Its all very 80s. And quite repetitive yet stagnant for something that should suggest movement. What irks me the most is that this type of photography reduces the model to a gangly, that word again, school girl – hopelessly, haplessly happy! Women as time-starved hysterical beings, caught like rabbits in the headlights. I just don’t get it. It reduces American Vogue to a predictable door-stopper when really it should be breaking boundaries not just in content but  also in the presentation of style. After all, it IS a fashion magazine first and foremost, is it not?

Movement implied, even when absent

American Vogue isn’t the only culprit but it has somehow made this style its trademark. Now signatures are crucial but at some point the line between them and cliché becomes blurred. In general, magazines really need to evaluate how they portray themselves. Nary a day goes by without the naysayers foretelling the print industry’s curtain call. A bit premature, perhaps. Nothing beats flicking through real pages. It’s a bit like smoking – sometimes its the routine and process rather than what is ingested where the PLEASURE lies.

Regarding content. Fashion to flatter every figure? Is that possible? Diets, eating disorders, cosmetic surgery – The Beauty Lecture. Haven’t women read enough of these dogmas masquerading as good advice? Its spring so what’s new? Well lose weight and slap on the fake tan. Escapism. For sure. But what about an issue dedicated to staying in? Finding your own paradise at home, in your own company? The wardrobe foibles of a stay-at-home executive? I don’t know. Something useful. Something real. Something fanciful. Just get the models to stay perfectly, beautifully still. (From time to time, at least)


PS Amazing hair on Liya Kibede.

See also:

Vogue Italia: Ease up on the soft focus romanticism.

British Vogue: Keep it up.

Vogue Paris: Let Helmut Newton rest in peace.

YE HEAVENS OPEN FORTH!!!

I think I’ll make my flight on Monday, after all. But let’s not get too hasty and tempt fate. Tempting fate seems to be a special talent of mine but never for good things, mind you…

What better way to celebrate than a digital skyline, courtesy of my transfer cache on Vuze? Rev up ’em engines, baby! This little birdie needs to fly!

Flicking through last Sunday’s The Observer’s supplement and I came across this article by Alice Fisher. Initially, the vitriol rose, nostrils flared – bull, red flag, boiling point. But in all fairness I was a bit judgmental. Ms Fisher’s piece is more of an Observarion. Very Observant, seeing that you would have to be blind to miss this trend. O, plaid shirt wearer, how I love thee. In the article, Topman design director, Gordon Richardson, quasi-boasts that sales of pl*!D shirts [I cannot bear to type that dirty word again] are up 540% from 2 years ago.

540%!!

Pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap, Gordie. Having said that I do have to admit that I don’t mind them on girls. They can look sexy on the right sort of girl. Like Gabriella, the model, below. She wears it well but then again she’s a model and it would be criminal if she didn’t_

Gabriella, 19, Model

Oh, no. Oh, hell, no! Sat in a restaurant. Dinner. Thursday night. Probably about forty diners. Roughly a 50/50 split between men and women. I count 10 men wearing some form of plaid shirting. Enough! E basta, as the Italians say. This. Has. Got. To. Stop. If I see one more BLOODY PLAID SHIRT AGAIN I THINK I WILL EXPLODE. But I wont, of course. I will just have to grit my teeth as yet another too-cool-for-school twat saunters by, a kick in his step, a twinkle in his eye and a bloody plaid shirt on his back. It ain’t clever. No, you’re not cool. You’re just another “numty” who harbours a lumberjack fantasy and dreams of Desperate Dan showing him some man-love over a Cow Pie. Get over it. Plaid. Is. Dead. Chuck out the f*cking plaid!


I think I’ll go to bed now.

Thanks, ‘sis, for alerting me_

Acapella [2010]

OMG! I HEART Kelis. Was kind of thinking where the hell she was, the other day. Well, prayers answered, box ticked. Her new video is out on YouTube. After Beyonce and Lady Sodding Gaga’s load of codswallop its great that La Kelis has returned to stake her hold on that much fought after crown. The song’s a grower. A leftfield, trancy uptempo/ slow tempo track produced by the proverbial Will.i.am. Clever. Hints of Donna Summer and Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free.” Catchy. Soundtrack to the summer? We’ll see. The video’s chock full of arresting imagery. Sort of digital age tribal queen. The Masai-inspired outfits brought to mind John Galliano’s first haute couture show for Christian Dior. You’re doing Debra Shaw [90’s über couture clotheshorse] proud. Some sequences are a bit hammy but she is KELIS. And there’s no need for any silly lesbian gimmicks here, naming no names… You’re ga-ga-going to burn out, luv, if you’re not careful. One word. Britney…

A bit raw, a bit unpredictable and very, very Kelis. You go, girl! Blow’em outta the water.

Kelis: Acapella [YouTube link here]


Graffiti. Its universal. Public art for the public by the public. It’s also age old. The cavemen were at it. Its nothing new. Some loathe it. Some love it. Most of us carry on with our daily lives and just accept it. Or stop seeing it. Jean-Michel Basquiat made it cool. The art establishment lapped up every colourful splatter. He also brought it full circle with his neo-tribal approach. I guess we’re still cavemen at heart.

Last week Topshop flew over Tokyo-based graffiti artist Houxo Que to bring some day-glo magic to its Oxford Circus window. I initially thought, “Great, amazing idea.” Topshop are so quick on the mark, always one step ahead. To have a grafitti artist in your window, creating a hyper-colourful canvas was a very clever way of getting people to stop, look and walk in through the doors. The frenzied kaleidoscope of florescent yellows, pinks and oranges mirrored the clothes inside. Fast, upbeat throwaway clothes for the increasingly savvy customer.

But why Houxo Que? With the all the amazing graffiti artists in London alone why fly in somebody from abroad? I feel this was an amazing opportunity missed and that the gesture was somehow shallow. Topshop is at the heart of London retail and has its many fingers on the pulse of cool. It draws in girls and women of all ages, not to mention boys and men or, indeed, tourists gagging for a slice of Kate Moss style. This was mere window dressing and it probably did the trick. However, companies like Topshop can afford to take risks, be a little bit braver than the rest. That whole store should have been given over to street artists to do something radical and inspirational.

Banksy: Before + After

I’ve always likened graffiti art to tattoos on a metaphorical urban skin. Heavy.Tattoos are interesting as they can be both tribal or individualistic – a way of marking yourself as different from the rest. After all, our bodies are quite generic – in most cases two arms, two legs a head, a torso. The permutations within those parameters are endless, of course, but a tattoo separates you from your doppelgänger.

Graffiti is a way that the individual can make their mark on their environment – illicit, clandestine, rebellious. Apparently so. The success of the artist Banksy throws this into question. Graffiti, an anti-establishment art form, is now firmly embraced by the establishment. The defacing of the Banksy on Essex road seemed brutal at first but was this the work of teenager up for a laugh or was this the lampooning of Banksy for “selling out”? I wonder if Banksy approves? It is a logical conclusion as the Banksy arguably stopped being graffiti once it had a stratospheric price value placed on it. This is a grey area. You could also say that the Banksy piece is now as officially public art as, say, a Henry Moore sculpture.

Grafitti + Commerce

The Banksy on Essex Road was infamous for the Tesco shopping bag as flag. Tesco is the largest supermarket chain in the UK. It has stores everywhere. Not only mega stores that sell everything from clothing to celeriac but also satellite outposts that are strangling the life out of many a British high street. It regularly undercuts its competitors and independent grocery stores, or corner shops as we call them, don’t stand a chance. Even it’s logo takes its cue from the colours of the Union Jack, the British flag – red, white and blue. It doesn’t get more patriotic than that. The rapidness with which a new store appears is jaw-dropping. The logo is such a familiar sight you could say it was a kind of corporate graffiti,tagging its irrepressible might on practically every street corner.

Yesterday a guy called Ujk, pronounced “yook” popped into my friend’s shop, The Willow Shoreditch, for a coffee. Ujk is Montenegrin for wolf. He had a quite a look going on. Black woman’s poncho teamed with tough boots and a lot of studs. I especially liked his flat cap with the studs on the beak. We had a long chat about his life as an artist, fashion designer and special effects make up artist. He customises leather pieces and does a lot of graffiti. He also squats, moving from one place to another, an urban nomad/ modern day punk Romany. He was a big fan of MuTATE Britain and Joe Rush. MuTATE is an art movement of underground artists founded by Joe Rush and his Mutoid Waste Company. They create huge, moving robots out of industrial wreckages and monumental canvasses of graffiti. Rather than show their art in traditional galleries they choose desolate locations such as underneath the Westway Flyover in West London. Their logo is a devilish play on that of the hallowed – be thy name – Tate gallery. It would be amazing if their art filled the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern but that would go against the grain of what they do.

Ujk was quite drawn toward this type of art. It resonated with his beliefs and way of life. He talked about Joe Rush with the admiration and adoration of a teenage groupie. It was quite refreshing to hear such an honest and open response to art. As he said, “Art should be dangerous and strong.” He comically mimicked The Modern Artist throwing a cup of paint at a canvas and sighing contentedly at his new masterpiece. Ujk said Yuk! Inspiring.

Wolf Man: Friend or Foe?

mutatebritain.wordpress.com

Ok, I know I’m jumping the gun a bit here. Ever so slightly. The spring blossoms have barely fallen off the trees yet! I was sorting out some boxes of research and came across these two images from my collection of old photographs. The first image is so beautifully composed. I like the movement. The ball looks like a freeze frame eclipse hovering over the stylish girl’s head. White bermudas and a leopard print halter. Perfect. I also like how the black buttons on her shorts echo the ball. Then there’s the texture of the sand… It just says summer: carefree, easy, playful.

The second image makes me think of white wine and seafood on a marina in Southern Italy. Or Lake Garda. I really need to go on holiday this year. Absolutely gagging!

In my earlier post about the film Kiss Ass I mentioned Barbara Carrera, who starred in 80’s action hero spoof, Condor Man. She’s probably better known for playing Bond girl Fatima Blush in Never Say Never Again. She rocked some super-fierce looks in that one. I just remember her being incredibly beautiful and HOT! Half-American, half-Nicaraguan, she was a precursor to the Brazilian bombshells of the noughties like Giselle Bündchen. Anyway, as summer approaches with its untold promises of hot days by the pool and sultry evenings spent sipping too many margaritas nobody does it half as good as you, Barbara. Baby, you’re the best…


OK, must have hit the Cava pretty hard when I wrote the last post. I cringe ever so slightly. Talk about being forlorn! And ever so slightly arrogant. It all came out a bit wrong. Ah, well, such is life.

Ok, I’ve been doing this for nearly 8 months now. 8 months! I started this blog on a whim – bored one rainy day in August. I have a very short attention span and I guess it was sort of a challenge to see if I could keep it up for more than a month. I’m talking about blogging here. I am also prone to being puerile from time to time! I didn’t realise how much hard work blogging is. Hours of editing photographs, writing, checking the layout… I guess I was tired of all the “fashion” blogs out there. Mostly girls taking pictures of themselves wearing apparently cool things. How original, how stylish, darlings. You like but do you understand? You could swap one for the other. This has never been a blog purely about fashion. It’s a diary of sorts. And I’m not just interested in NEWNESS.com. Good design is good design, old or new. I’ve always liked writing but never finished a short story – that attention span thing rears its head up again! Valerie, from Christmas will return. I’ve been sporadically working on her trials and tribulations. My father still has all the stories I tried to write when I was a teenager stored in box somewhere. I’m dreading the day I look through them. Some of them had a few “erotic” scenes in them. I dread even more that he might have, probably has read through them! Blame it on the hormones.

The hardest thing about blogging is being disciplined. I try to do a blog every day. Try to… There are moments of absolute panic when I get Blogger’s Block ©. No ideas, nothing to say. I’m gripped with fear [insert melodramatic gasp here]. Its similar to designing. Doesn’t matter how many collections you’ve got under your belt its like starting all over again. You try, you hate, you scrunch, you smoke another cigarette, you try, you scrunch, you reach for the Merlot, you try, you almost cry and then… Aha! You find your way in. I know I’ll be done with designing and blogging when that feeling of pure anguish goes away. It means that I’m not challenging myself, that its too easy. The reward is breaking through that pain barrier and riding that big ole wave of creative euphoria. Knowing that you’ve still got “it”.

A big thank you to all who have read, commented, emailed and criticised over the last 8 months. I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the process. Blogging has also sharpened my eye and allowed me to make sense of things. It helps de-clutter one’s thoughts. Let’s see if I can make it to year one. I’ll give it a go.

PS Apologies for the numerous typos. I have the annoying habit of proofreading after I’ve posted. I also hate the look of large text and have slight short-sightedness. You get where I’m going with this. TTFN. LFN


Pound shops. Don’t you just love ’em? Everything on sale for just a pound – ish. They always seem to have just what you’re looking for.

The other evening I was walking along Hoxton Street when I noticed a crowd of people stood outside a shop, knocking back the vino, chatting, laughing, carrying gaudy paper bags. Another art gallery, I thought. I was kind of right. It turns out that it was the opening night of The Poundshop, a pop up store that sells everything for a pound – posters, cards, screen-printed note books and other nice little things done by the creative East London set. Not your typical pound shop, then!

Its a great concept organised by HOUSEHOLD. Just when you thought that you’d pop a vessel if you saw yet another pop up store. I especially loved the “till” – sheets of paper with photographs of the objects that the cashier marked off after each sale. A bit like noughts and crosses. Clever. I walked away with a couple of posters and some cutlery dipped in primary-coloured rubber. Borderline naff but I just thought, Breakfast in a sun-filled kitchen. Ah, domestic bliss! They would have been quite Margiela Homewear if they’d been dipped in white. Mind you, I saw one of the Margiela wine bottle lamps the other day. €450.00! No way! No f*cking way! Well, maybe…

The Pound Shop, Hoxton Street. Open till Monday

visit: www.house-hold.org


I’ve never really been into comic books. The closest I came was Beano and the occasional sneaky peak at my sister’s stash of Judy and Bunty. Nuff said. I saw Kick Ass tonight, a spontaneous choice as Alice In Wonderland was not showing, and I’m glad I missed Tim Burton’s apparently flawed film for something that, well, kicked ass.

There have been hypocritical moans from the media about the extreme violence, especially when coming from a foul-mouthed 11-year old girl. I personally found Bugsy Malone quite violent and there wasn’t an ounce of blood shed. Call me peculiar. Its a thoroughly enjoyable, laugh out loud film from Matthew Vaughn and, aside from the more obvious laughs, its full of equally sidesplitting in jokes. Take, for instance, lead character and wannabe super hero Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson. A regular high school teenager. A little bit goofy but in a cute way. Not too far from Aaron Johnson himself, who in real life is engaged to the artist Sam Taylor Wood, about twenty years his senior. The classroom scene where Johnson fantasises about his middle aged teacher’s (who also happens to be English) ample bosom is absolutely hilarious on two levels. (a) It is funny. (b) It is funny because its a self-concious wink-wink at the reality of now pregnant Taylor Wood and Johnson. Milfs and Twinks.

The room that leads to bad guy Frank D’Amico’s (Mark Strong) office is like a miniature YBA retrospective. It’s full of artwork (real?) by Damien Hirst, Gavin Turk and co. Then there’s that poster of Claudia Schiffer, Vaughn’s wife. I think this self-referential approach is the film’s saving grace. It feels very personal. As for little girls with guns, well, Leon, anyone? Kill Bill Lucy Liu sequence? Nothing new here. It is a violent film but in a  super-exaggerated way. Just like a comic book. The Britney Spears outfit on the oddly cute Chloe “Hit Girl” Moretz is another example of how Kick Ass cleverly dips into popular culture.

The idea of normal civilians becoming super heroes isn’t totally new though. Who remembers Condor Man? Shame on you if you do!


This makes me laugh. Provenance TBC – details in a box somewhere still waiting to be unpacked. I like how she encapsulates the de rigueur 70’s look with the Avatar-style make up. Kudos.