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Handwoven strips of cotton thread in ivory and indigo on traditional looms, painstakingly pieced together and passed down from generation to generation. Culture in cloth.

A while back I did a couple of posts that thinly disguised my hatred for the PLAGUE OF PLAID that had infested menswear. OK, that sounds a bit pompous and high-fallutin’. I still stand firm. Well, sort off… I’ve been drawn as of late to the geometrically patterned chemise but I’m leaning towards gingham as opposed to plaid. Thus, I don’t feel such a hypocrite.

Its that slight feeling of spring in the air that gets one thinking about the summer ahead — lovely rumpled shirts, sleeves rolled up past elbow, collar undone in a lopsided fashion. I do give good shirt, I must say. So its rather worrying that I live so close FRENCH TROTTERS on rue Vielle du Temple. Its one of those little local shops that has been garnering a lot of interest in magazines such as Monocle. Cool, lifestyle-y and low-key. A shop for men. No loud music. Something cool and hum-inducing on the sound system. But not too cool. Cute assistants – eye candy a prerequisite to a good shop session; oils up an otherwise reluctant carte bleue. Its pretty much all a guy needs in one space.

They stock brands such as Oliver Spencer, Margaret Howell, ACNE, A.P.C., Universal Works and Visvim. Great menswear staples. Good selection of accessories and shoes. Sweet little nothings like The Hill Side squared-off neckties — these really do perk up a “Look”. And luxe perfume brand Byredo. Smell Bal d’Afrique or Gipsy Water and DIE. So you see why this is so disconcerting. I don’t shop much and when I do I’m quick and precise. Go in for the kill. I never try anything on. I just need to check the lengths of sleeves –I’m over 6ft tall. And the width of shirts and jackets — my fondess for a tipple or two has left me, shall we say, portly, round the abdominal region. Hey ho, I’ll die satisfied, I guess!

image: The Selby

Anyway, back to plaid, sorry, gingham. I’ve always loved chef’s whites. I like all things culinary, really. But CHEFS ARE COOL. The slouchy trews, the aprons, white shirts. Its a utilitarian look that’s soft around the edges. Perfect. And this summer I’m drawn toward pattern. Not stripes. Bit off those. And definitely not Plaid. But gingham… Its simplicity and monochromatic nature make it such a winner. And not too micro, either.  2cm squares are about the right proportion. Present but not in your face. I’m gonna be rocking a few of those come summer. The blue and white Oliver Spencer  just bristles with the promise of a great summer to come. What fun we shall have, my dear, what fun.

image: Garance Dore


image: The Sartorialist

CLICK >>

WWW:FRENCHTROTTERS.FR

NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

If you’ve been down Hoxton Street  [quickly becoming the new Redchurch Street — more on that later]  then you’ve probably seen her. Dark hair, zingy, colour-loaded outfits usually including at least one  shade of neon, accessorised with a smile and sometimes her infectious laughter.

Shiba Huizer always makes me smile. We got to know each other whilst I helped my friend set up his shop, The Willow, last year.

Shiba also, always, carries her big camera around with her. At first I thought she was some sort of street style blogger. It turns out that she was in fact completing her final year as a Masters photography student at University of Arts London. Shiba is also Dutch. That could explain her fondness for florals!

Anyway, she just facebooked me about winning the Best in Class Award at her graduation show and the images you see here are proof that Ms Huizer is a name we’ll be hearing more of in the future. A lot more.

These images were shot in the Caribbean and they just blow me away. You could draw comparisons with fellow Dutchwoman Viviane Sassen’s “FLAMBOYA” series but I think that would be selling Ms Huizer short. Similar subject matter, yes, but  what I get from Shiba’s work is a distinct sensuality and a wry eye. There’s a sense of campy fun no doubt  but her approach to colour, light and the grace of her subjects makes the images warm and just a pleasure to look at. Well done Shiba! Love it.


www.showtimearts.co.uk

Something to chase those wintry blues away. A take on pressed flowers. Just hopped off the Eurostar. As freezing here as it was in London. I seriously recommend Uniqlo’s HEAT TECH thermals to ward off the cold and keep your delicate bits nice and toasty. In fact they work so well  that I’m seriously considering doubling them up and doing away with trousers all together. Now I really understand why girls are so attached to leggings. You feel kind of free but somehow held together.

Hmmph, food for thought…

Orlando Bloom as cover boy. As if we needed convincing? We’re sold, Mr Uniqlo, you clever man.

 

VISIT:

www.UNIQLO.com

La Jeune Fille: 1978, French Edition, Laffont, France

I popped into Ofr. the other day. Its a bookshop cum gallery on rue Dupetit Thours [metro: arts e metiers/ temple] that I’ve mentioned before. Considering its only round the corner I hadn’t been there for a while. Perhaps out of fear — I never leave there empty-handed. NEVER.

Anyway, I browsed the shelves for about 30 minutes. There wasn’t much that interested me this time, strangely.  I’d spotted the new Marc Jacobs/Juergen Teller book in the window post-dinner a few nights ago so I’d been wanting to check it out. It’s OK. Quite hefty. I don’t know. I didn’t feel that familiar pull towards it. I’m more a Wolfgang Tillmans kind of guy, even though you can’t really compare the two, even though its perfectly OK to like both.

Anyway, I digress. David Hamilton. I knew about his work but it was the first time I’d come across his books in a shop — I think. I believe that books find you, not the other way around. There it was, high up on a shelf at the back of the shop. La Jeune Fille/ The Young Girl. First edition. In pretty good nick. I reached up, pulled it down, flicked through and yes, that familiar pull… I HAD to have it.

Hamilton wasn’t fond of working with professional models. And you really understand why. I like the way he captures that fleeting moment of girls on the cusp, oh, what the hell, precipice of change. How wordy does that sound! He is no stranger to controversy with the predictable, unimaginative tag of child pornography being thrown at him more than a few times. There is nothing even slightly “dirty” about his pictures. Technically they are brilliant. There is a gentleness to the light that caresses his subjects. And they are incredibly beautiful images. I find them very calm and quiet. You, the observer, is invited to just simply watch. The subject’s gaze is either direct and inviting or blissfully unaware >> IN HER SOLITUDE.  The tone of the pictures is sweet and innocent rather than provocative and sexual. They seem more sensual and celebratory as opposed to exploitative.

In a way they are quite painterly. Their stillness and muted tones make me think of a Vermeer or Hammershoi, dipped in sepia. I also like the focus on fabric and hair, giving the images a textural couterpoint, the way the aforementioned artists captured the lush heaviness of a silk duchesse, for instance.

A timely purchase, perhaps, as the controversial Larry Clark exhibition continues to pull in the crowds. The two couldn’t be more poles apart but for the naysayers taboo is taboo, I guess. Let it rest, guys.

 


visit: Ofr. system

 

Not that this matters but I might as well finish off the saga_

Vanity 6 was a short-lived affair. Sordid tales of sex and egos resulted in lead singer, Vanity [real name Denise Matthews] leaving the group to pursue a — you guessed it — short-lived solo career. The hits failed to materialise and poor Denise became a born again Christian — I’m not making this up. Fair Denise was replaced by Patricia Kotero – her evil nemesis who went by the stage name Apollonia.

Thus,

Apollonia 6 was born with the subtly titled debut album, Sex Shooter. Once again success eluded the girl group and they disbanded in the mid 80s. You can’t flog a dead horse or,

to paraphrase ” D”‘s, my Parisian girlfriend’s malapropism:

“You can’t F*ck

a dead horse.”

I like her version much better. I guess you could but I’m sure that its an illegal act and, at the very least, not very pleasant. Apollonia was last seen in 1984, scouring the streets of Brooklyn for her skirt…

Actually, I lie. She did a 10 week stint on Falcon Crest, that other 80s gem, appearing as her fully-clothed self.


You better work!


I love it. Just when you thought that there could be no more 80s bands left to discover Sister Fate throws one your way.

I won’t go into details as to how I came across this little gem.

All I’ll say is that The Almighty Prince discovered them.

They only had one album. Bless ’em.

The eponymous Vanity 6.

Love, love, love!

Love the Logo.

These girls were on it. They OWNED it before Tyra Banksese was invented. They could have actually given birth to Lady T.

These girls were doing the Pussy Cat dolls when the dolls were still in diapers or not even born yet.

Well maybe not in the case of

Nicole Scherzinger.

Lord only knows how old that pussy is…

Anyway my top tracks must be Make Up, Nasty Girl and Wet Dream.

Go get it. Its so bad its goooood…

See also The Slits, Marine Girls [You can hear Tracey Thorne before she became part of Everything But The Girl]

Lady Sings_


Piano Necktie.

Irony.

We like a bit of irony.

A funny name but don’t be fooled. From the exquisite monochromatic box with its natty pull out drawer, the lush black tissue paper that unfolds with a satisfying “crchhh”, the grosgrain ribbon that binds together the beautiful printed Tee, Piano Necktie is anything but naff.

This is Serious Tee-Shirt Business with the air of a Collector’s Item about it. Esoteric, refined graphics. Super soft cotton. Wear it till it falls apart.

And then wear it some more.

Go figure_

The Billie Holiday


VISIT:

WWW.PIANONECKTIE.COM


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]


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…


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

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

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_


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

Regular readers will know that I’m not a fan of uploading ad campaigns or editorial. This isn’t what this blog is about. When I do so its because I genuinely like the piece or it relates to something else. Like this Chanel jacket you see here, from the Spring-Summer 2010 campaign. I like it A LOT.

I have a love/hate relationship with Chanel. Individually, I love the pieces. As a show I sometimes find it plodding and contrived, bordering on the twee despite the creative chutzpah. Recently, however, their ad campaigns have been amongst the strongest. I wonder if Karl Lagerfeld still shoots them? They tell a story that is unmistakably Chanel’s and in a time when most brands are distilling their core values Chanel is arguably up there, stronger than ever.


This jacket is worth doing time for. If I was a girl and if I could afford it I would definitely be popping down to Rue Cambon. Hell, if I could afford it I’d buy it anyway. Collector’s item. Museum piece. Hang it on the wall and drool. It sums up the house ethos perfectly – a nonchalant approach to luxury. Who was it that said [Yves Saint Laurent?]  “Wear your furs like a t-shirt, and your t-shirt like fur”? Or words to that effect. The message is still the same.

The collection was inspired by a romp through the farm yard, albeit a custom-built one in the middle of Paris. A couture barn dance. Not your typical farm hands, indeed. The pictures speak for themselves. An incredible amount of detail and texture done with a light hand. And the cut at the back… New Oxygen ©

“Handmade in England” – has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Seldom written these days, unfortunately, so it’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you Norton, MacCullough & Locke_

Messrs Laurelli, Gn and Manchée joined forces a year or so ago to create a brand in the vein of 1920s bespoke luxury. Dominic Laurelli headed design at Saville Row’s Swaine, Adeney & Brigg after a stint at Alexander McQueen. Lester Gn’s masters graduation collection featured impeccable tailoring and umbrellas. David Manchée spent many years at Swaine, Adeney & Brigg hand crafting trunks and custom made briefcases for the company and a roster of top level clients that included Hermes. These guys know their stuff. These guys know luxury.


The Devil is in the details. What I find refreshing about the brand is it’s subtlety. There isn’t a monogram in sight. Leave that to Louis Vuitton and Goyard. The pieces scream “collectables”. They are for keeps. Every little detail is so beautifully considered and brilliantly executed. From the super-soft skins, expensively muted palette, luxe components and perfect proportions. For a young brand it feels like it has been around for ages and that’s the clever thing about Norton, MacCullough & Locke – classic but contemporary at the same time. Ageless + cool.

They have already garnered an impressive client list including the Berkley Hotel in Knightsbridge, London and their services are in demand everywhere and in between Hong Kong and Scandinavia. I can see big things happening for these guys. Very big things.

An accessories trunk a group of friends and I commissioned for a very dear friend’s birthday.

Beautiful, no?

visit: www.nortonmacculloughlocke.com

The Willow Shoreditch

92 Hoxton Street

London N1 6LP

orders & enquiries: 020 7739 3009 / 020 7613 2587

OK, I might be a little bit biased here but one of my dearest friends has just opened his first shop in Hoxton, London, and what a beauty it is. Blooming marvellous, to use a cliché. Picture this: an urban East End setting, a bit rough round the edges, to say the least, and then amongst all this the most perfect florist and tea shop. The locals are abuzz. They’ve been literally gagging for something like this. Smart move or what? The opening theme of The Willow Shoreditch is “School Lab”, so the well edited selection of flowers are arranged artfully in oversized Pyrex beakers and test tubes. There’s a great selection of homemade cakes, salads and sandwiches. The coffee’s quite good, too. None of that watery Starbucks nonsense. You can also browse a selection of found objects and customised beakers & test tubes that make lovely gifts or that finishing touch to your coffee table if you’re feeling downright selfish. Love it.

Ooh, and there’s a beautiful mural by the talented Mr. Greg Lewis,who’s hard at work on his graduation collection at Central Saint Martins. The boy’s already started taking commissions for Paris-based fashion houses.

Oh, and did I mention furniture and interior designer, Rupert Blanchard of Styling & Salvage? Especially brilliant is his signature higgledy-piggledy display cabinet created out of vintage drawers. Plug, plug! Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together? LFN

I love this shot of Rosario Dawson from the film 7 Pounds (2008). The way her hair and face are  partially submerged in the bath water remind me of Millais’ painting of Ophelia. Underwater, her hair  takes on a hazy, airbrushed texture, almost like ink drops bleeding in water… Dawson’s facial expression is flawless, subtly expressing an incredible amount of emotion. I also like how the shade of her eye shadow complements the colour of her lips, all enhanced by her honey-hued skin, and how the curvy shape of the bath frames her, cocoon-like. Its a perfect, perfect composition.

Drowning By Numbers: Millais’ Ophelia