In Search of Good Velour -- Not at Vetements

Lacost fall 2016 velour fashion

Cast your mind back to 2004, when Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, pop culture’s favourite Pollyannas, reigned supreme in a spectrum of powder-hued velour tracksuits, the same style that clung to the bodies of countless valley girls, hot moms (not regular moms), and suburban teenagers, most of whom wore it with the hems insouciantly tucked into a pair of tan suede UGG boots. That same year, at her wedding to K-Fed, Britney Spears regrettably went so far as to make every one of her bridesmaids wear candy floss-pink, rhinestone-embellished versions, a picture that has somehow manages to overshadow even the most appealing virtues of velour, velvet’s less stiff and more stretchy woven cousin. It’s an inherent shame that our collective memory chooses to focus on such bastions of bad taste, considering the plush touch-me-now fabric has indeed had many a finer moment. Who could forget Roger Moore as 007 in 1985’s A View to Kill, incognito in his midnight-blue loungewear, elegantly finished with rounded collar and white piping? It’s almost enough to cleanse the palette of the last decade and a half. Sartorially speaking, it’s best advised to approach velour with a distinct seventies flair, draped and louche in rich jewel tones, rather than a figure-hugging saccharine-hued offender, as celebrated 'ironically' by Generation Vetements. In décor, the slight stretch of the fabric makes it all the more suited to soft furnishings, luxuriously indulgent against the touch of bare skin (more so than its aforementioned coarser cousin). Be warned, though, it’s one or the other. Too much velour and subtlety is out the door. 

Photo: Lacoste A/W '16. This article was originally written for and published by Dansk.

The emerging talent that stole the show at LFW

Now that’s what you call London Fashion Week. Just when you thought that political turmoil and a see-now-buy-now movement would dull the British capital’s creative fearlessness, along comes a handful of bright young things that electrify the schedule with their utterly sparkling inventiveness, who staged sheer feats of visual splendour that were akin to performance art. There were apt articulations of Brexit’s aftermath. There were purpose-built sets that wouldn’t be out of place at MoMa. There was even a catwalk show that was so infectiously fabulous that it could inspire the most militant of health freaks to abandon their smoothies for a night of glitteringly unadulterated hedonism. Faustine Steinmetz, Matty Bovan, Richard Malone, Marta Jakubowski and Phoebe English create a sense of drama, excitement and sartorial relevance that flies the flag for what London is renowned for: unabashed, unapologetic creativity. As different as they are, what united these five designers in their success was the unapologetically personal nature of their collections, each one a glimpse into the lives, minds and worlds of each of these fascinating individuals. In a time of uncertainty, what is certain is the categorical brilliance of the industry’s youth. Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be inspired

MATTY BOVAN

Matty Bovan by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital


“I wanted it to say ‘I’m here’ – I am here. I am H-E-R-E - here!” exclaimed the chartreuse-haired, coral-browed, more-is-more Central Saint Martins graduate Matty Bovan after his debut show. Just like Bovan, who has been working away in his mother Plum’s garden shed in York for the last few months, this rainbow-hued riot of sartorial energy was so optimistic that it could send even the most disillusioned, Brexit-battered Eeyore strutting to the nearest dancefloor with rhythmic pace. Each look shimmered with streams of disco diamanté, fluoro fishnets, sculptural clay jewellery and Kabuki beauty looks that took their cue from Bovan himself, who said he was inspired by British mythology, pagan folklore and downtown New York in the 1980s. Make no mistake, this is a full wardrobe – brimming with synthy, toxic colour and vivacious velour and vinyl, and exaggerated by the spray painted charm-laden handbags and shoes. Saturated chainmail emerged as a sensible option for night or day. “Swarovski is actually really heavy. This is incredibly time-consuming but it’s actually light so you can wear it for going out; these are good going out clothes,” explained Bovan. “It had to look hard and tough and cool and sexy.” Underneath all that jazzy styling, however, there were printed T-shirt dresses with Victoriana leg-of-mutton sleeves, woven rope and foam trousers and metallic leather jackets – plenty to take away and make your own. In a world of digital perfection and lame photo filters, Bovan’s handcrafted sensibility felt especially refreshing. “It will always have that,” he promised. “It gives it value.”

FAUSTINE STEINMETZ

Faustine Steinmetz by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital


Faustine Steinmetz is a denim virtuoso. She doesn’t need a thematic departure every season, because her variations on a singular theme are enough to inspire awe at her hand-woven, artistic approach to the fabric that is worn in every city in the world. This season (not that Steinmetz is into seasons – she prefers to see her collections as chapters in her sustainable label), the French designer took on the questionable denim choices that dominated the early 2000s – think of how pervasive crystal-embellished, overtly washed, logo-monogrammed denim was in that era, and then consider how in-demand those Dior saddle bags are at the moment. Swarovski crystal rock formations sprouted from the ghosts of all that diamanté lettering to create jeans that were akin to sculpture. Elsewhere, hand-weaving and ancient ikat techniques were treated with innovative digital printing and hand-dyeing – a self-referential take on ‘denim on denim’.

Steinmetz said she was inspired by the way that light affects the surface of fabric, so a sense of duality ran through each look with seemingly polar sensibilities, appearing and disappearing like the illusion of light and dark: structure and surface; vulgarity and elegance; organism and object. Since collaborating with stylist Georgia Pendlebury and set designer Thomas Petherick, Steinmetz’s presentations have become a conceptual medium for displaying clothes. The corridor of aquarium-like dioramas were her take on Vanessa Beecroft’s 2004 photography series The Sister Project, in which women in the same pose are photographed under different lights. Everything was blue. Everything was denim. Everything was made by hand. Kanye, eat your heart out – this is the real deal.

PHOEBE ENGLISH

Phoebe English by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital


Phoebe English’s presentation was a sartorial somatisation of her feelings post-Brexit – one that articulates the vox populi of her generation. Having recently experienced a rapturous reception to her menswear offering, the designer was reinvigorated with a sense of fearlessness when it came to considering what she wanted to say with her spring collection. “I didn’t want to do an angry presentation,” said the designer of her seven looks, each of which was an allegory of the seven stages of grief she felt she experienced after the majority of her countrymen’s vote to leave the European Union. “I wanted to make a record of how I experienced it and I felt I could be creatively bold.” There was The Archer, a symbol of impulsive shock; The Water Bearer, a manifestation of her tears; The Inquirer, hunting for truth and information; The Chancer, marching down The Mall in protest; The Strangler, weaving away to pass the time of uncertainty; and The Mourner, all-black and grief-stricken. What could have been pretentious was, in fact, a beautiful expression, and each of the monochrome looks, which included twisted cotton shirts, striped suiting and asymmetric silk dresses, were actually calling cards for further looks that the designer will present in her showroom. As far as presentation goes, this was a head-on and spot-on balance of performance and cathartically-crafted clothes that will put English in good stead for next spring.

MARTA JAKUBOWSKI

Marta Jakubowski by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital

If you can’t already tell by the aromatic combination of hot pink (or shocking pink, as Schiaparelli called it) and zingy tangerine in Marta Jakubowski’s collection, the designer recently visited India, the spiritual homeland of that colour combination. Since her mother’s death four years ago, Jakubowski has turned personal introspection into the driving force behind her work. This season, she began thinking about funerals, especially her mother’s, and the act of celebrating one’s life. What did she do next? She went to five funerals a day in Varanasi, the holiest-of-holy city that sits on the banks of the spiritually cleansing Ganges river. “They believe in reincarnation so it’s so different,” she said. “There’s no crying and there’s music and colour.” Crêpe-de-chine dresses were finished with signature slashes under the breast or at the flank, as well as cut-out windows on thighs revealing glimpses into the wearer’s inner self.

The German-Polish designer also developed on last season’s pinstripes with laser-cut variations, which echoed her transparent cuts on a smaller scale. The set itself was a fabric-swathed merry-go-round that represented the circle of life and the constant dizzying pace of it all. “I’ve done a wedding dress,” she excitedly shared of the strapless white jumpsuit that she said is her ideal bridal gown. In India, however, white is the colour of mourning, and red de rigeur for brides. Luckily, Marta always does a red dress – it’s her favourite colour, after all. This time, they were in slashed claret velvet and silk. Mourning, wedding, and everything in between – Jakubowski is giving us life.

RICHARD MALONE

Richard Malone by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital


One of the most dynamic discussions to grip the industry of late has been the pervasive conflation of designers and stylists. After all, collections are increasingly designed to be seen through a screen, which arguably means they’re not designed to be worn at all. Counter-current to such widespread Instagram-friendly design is Richard Malone, who elevates his working-class heritage to artfully precise tailoring fit for a duchess. Malone is the Azzedine Alaïa of his generation. What this Irish designer can do with fabric is not just short of wonder, but deserving of a 360-view. As well as a host of ribbed-knit basics which are designed to flatter, there were micro-mini dresses with body-contouring seams, wide-leg trousers that fit and flare, sculptural knits which flamenco dance around the body and vests and jackets which celebrate womanly shape. “I actually started by looking at very basic nurse uniforms and functional clothes,” explained Malone, whose distinctive aesthetic always draws directly from his youth in Wexford, Ireland. “Then I looked at ways contemporary clothes are morphing the body, and I looked at how 18th-century stays and fourteenth-century corsetry alter the body.” His aim was to draw on the effects of such restrictive garments and translate them into clothes with stretch and ease. Zips were positioned at angles to ensure easy self-fastening, bustiers had sculpting structures but with adjustable ties or poppers to allow room for change, and spacious pockets were cleverly worked into garments because, well, who doesn’t need pockets? “They’ll never be the same in a different picture,” explained Malone of his dimensional work. “It’s to do with the body.” As for the sunny palette of seaside blue, yellow and orange, which could easily be taken from a scene in the south of France, the designer offers a satisfyingly subversive explanation. “I love them because it looks like a building site!”

This article was originally commissioned and published by AnOther. All photos are by Anabel Navarro for Dazed Digital.

Sign of the Feline

A musing on our age-old fascination with cats.

Loewe cat pendant necklace

For more than four millennia, cats have fascinated and inspired our own less graceful and poised species. Ever since the ancient Egyptians went as far as to mummify their feline friends, which they also happened to worship, the four-legged creatures have made their way into our homes, hearts, and newsfeeds. It’s hard to imagine what the Internet would be today without its glittering cast of celebrity kittens. Grumpy Cat now has her own memoir and an animatronic waxwork at Madame Tussauds; Pusheen, the slightly cumbersome burger-eating tabby, has been immortalized by the countless icons of her that are exchanged in Facebook messages every second; and meanwhile, swaths of the world’s population have been absorbed by Neko Atsume, the two-dimensional Japanese gaming app that allows you to collect kittens and spoil them with fictional toys and treats. Perhaps such cultural currency was what inspired Jonathan Anderson, Loewe’s famously esoteric creative director, to celebrate (or, perhaps, parody?) our somewhat sacred relationship with these creatures in the Spanish brand’s fall collection. Crafted from nappa leather, Loewe’s cat head pendants are feats of its leather workshops, which have somehow managed to make the material look like porcelain. There’s an air of the kitsch maneki-neko to them, the plastic Chinatown cat figurines with a paw raised firmly in the air, believed to give good fortune to their owners. Paired with the brand’s impeccable leather bags or handkerchief-hem flou dresses, it becomes less cartoonish and more iconic – a handcrafted nod to society’s feline fixation. That, and a fabulous conversation starter. As it turns out, just like the Egyptians, we’re utterly in awe of the statement charm and wouldn’t mind taking it to our own tombs. 

Re-Visiting Barbra, Bender and Sizzling Season in Paris

Barbra Streisand in a leopard-skin suit she designed herself, with Richard Avedon sat behind her, at the Spring ’66 Chanel Haute Couture show.

Barbra Streisand in a leopard-skin suit she designed herself, with Richard Avedon sat behind her, at the Spring ’66 Chanel Haute Couture show.

I came across something stowed away on my hard drive the other day. It was this piece I wrote, four years ago, about a moment in time that fascinated me. I’ve always loved Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, in which a twenty-something Streisand delivers a musical portrayal of the legendary Fanny Brice, in costumes designed by the equally legendary Irene Sharaff.

There’s no doubt that Babs is a star. That ambitious gaze, those hints of perfectionism and a taste for statement making that ignited the dreams of a thousand starlets to follow. So it’s with great curiosity that I investigated the moment that it seemed she truly rocketed into stardom: a deliciously glitzy tale of a trip to Paris for the couture collections in 1966.

Streisand, who ditched Brooklyn for her $5,000-a-week stint on Broadway and her $5million TV contract for Color Me Barbra has often been portrayed as a rags-to-riches story. It’s certainly no secret that she was ambitious and a voice of youth and originality at time of immense cultural change. She and the rest of the 1960s’ emerging Jet Set were chronicled in ‘The Beautiful People‘, Marilyn Bender’s infamous exposé of 1960s celebrity culture in all its profligate, trivial and gripping glory. I highly recommend reading it.

Bender had this to say about Streisand:

In her one-woman television spectacular in March 1965, Streisand incorporated a nine-minute segment of fantasy at Bergdorf Goodman. She sang and flitted about the shop in the most opulent, throwaway chic by Emeric Partos, the custom fur-designer, and Halston, the milliner. The singer gave assurance that she really belonged in Bergdorf’s. For her next show, she landed Chemstrand as a sponsor, which arranged for her to attend the Paris haute couture shows. Richard Avedon photographed her there for ‘Vogue’ in designs by Dior. Miss Streisand never went back to feather boas.

LIFE magazine also accompanied Streisand and Vogue on the trip to Paris, which was orchestrated by Diana Vreeland and funded by Chemstrand, the fabric manufacturer. In the profile, Diana Lurie wrote:

This winter, Barbra, in pursuit of this new image—and a vacation— made a trip to Europe. The first stop was Paris, where she was to pick the clothes for next fall’s TV show from the spring collections, with her sponsor, Chemstrand, picking up the tab. At four of the six showings, Barbra was late, partly because she was ill and partly because she is Barbra. Dior delayed it 10 minutes while the Duchess of Windsor, among others, waited. “I didn’t expect them to delay for me,” said Barbra later. “No wonder the duchess looked so grouchy.”

Barbra didn’t like the Paris prices (“They sew buttons better here but they also charge more”) and the styles didn’t send her. At Gres, watching a large tent dress sway past, she whispered: “You’d never be able to tell what was going on under there.” At Dior, though, she broke down and bought day dresses, suits, evening gowns, sports clothes, hats, shoes and coats, costing a snappy $20,000, as though she were putting together an order of sandwiches, to go, from the Stage Delicatessen.

Of course, the same month as the LIFE profile, Streisand appeared on the March 1966 cover of Vogue. Ms. Vreeland had waved her Fairy Godmother wand and Streisand was transformed into an exotic swan to compliment her perceived years as an ugly duckling. Richard Avedon photographed her in “balooning chiffon pyjamas in layers of luminous, shifting geometrics—brilliant pinks, fuchsia, orange, and acid green” by Christian Dior’s Marc Bohan. Alexandre de Paris gave her flowing locks of thick, dark hair. She even had her own personal 'deli order' of Dior to take back to New York with her.

The profile is one of my favourites and I managed to find the original article, which I’ve re-published below. I recall reading that Polly Devlin, the Irish features editor of Vreeland-era Vogue, found her a nightmare to interview. Even by today’s standards, a f’row celebrity that keeps a fashion show waiting is just plain rude. Eithe rway, Streisand hit the fashion jackpot and she owed it to Ms. Vreeland.

After that, who would go back to feather boas?

 

INSTANT BARBRA

By Polly Devlin, Vogue, March 1966

BS 4.jpg

She’s a myth, the great American dream, the girl come through, the toast of Broadway, the fable, the moral, and the fairy tale. And most of all she’s been to Paris —here in a studio dressing room, where her own voice is singing French songs from a rackety record player and the only thing to do is stare. You see a face that changes from minute to minute, not so much changes as shifts as if she were constantly refocusing her features, anchoring the shifts with her famous unbelievable nose. She is about to meet Madame Grès and it turns out to be a remarkable romantic confrontation of two arts, two generations and continents; one epitomizes France, the other all we secretly think of as American. They complement each other perfectly. Madame Grès elegant, luminous, composed; Streisand glittering, flamboyant, and posed; one in classic sweater and skirt, turban and pearls, the other in a huge flowing poncho, a white nunnish coif, looking as though she had been designed by Le Corbusier.

Streisand in the poncho becomes statuesque, dignified, grand, and faces the camera with a terrible command in her eyes: “Capture me correctly.” A minute later in a short, pink culotte dress clowning it up she looks like a four-year-old who has found the hidden bag of sweets: her mood switches unnervingly quickly and it becomes apparent that her moods are induced by externals, by who says what to her, by what she’s getting, giving and doing, what Now is doing to her, Instant Barbra.

Streisand’s magic is her own. She isn’t invested with magic by onlookers, by reputation, by suddenly appearing on stage and singing. She invests that stage—or that room—and gives it magic by filling it with herself. The startling thing about this magic which can’t be cut down, put down, explained away, or hidden is that it has little to do with mental attributes, higher intelligence, or wider outlook; it’s a matter of personality. To have the magic excludes complacency, and those who have it are inside it. They know about the glow, they can see its effects; but they’ve never felt the effects and never seen the glow and there’s no way of bridging the gap between knowing and realizing. This is our safeguard, the insurance and guarantee that the magic will stay night after night when we’ve paid our money to see the show. It’s the star’s weakness as well as strength because she must keep trying, must keep proving by reaction that she is not a colossal bluff. It makes a star demanding company. Streisand has a constant need for reassurance, an ego that can’t be sated, a strange vanity, and a frantic pride. She needs to be told what she already knows.

She is capricious as a child, but the caprice is forgivable since under all the attributes of success, adulation, and admiration, underneath the poise, sophistication, and merriment there yawns the lack of self-confidence and the nervousness of youth. This girl is twenty-three, she has shot to stardom in a scant three years. Caprice can be forgiven when you have to cope with that, even though you’re built for it, made for it, and have fought and kicked for it. What is alarming is that when she is being bothered—or thinks she is being bothered—she doesn’t allow irritation to show; she simply darts out a beam of pure poison from her eyes and lodges it in the annoyer.

Here, in a navy-linen Grès poncho, and calm as a Buddha, sits Barbra Streisand—on top of the world.

Here, in a navy-linen Grès poncho, and calm as a Buddha, sits Barbra Streisand—on top of the world.

Equally she can radiate such warmth and interest that people fall over themselves to get close to the source as though she were the sun. She expects to be the sun in every company, likes the revolving satellites as long as they keep to their orbits. “Noli me tangere,” she says from her sloe eyes…. She uses her hands like a Javanese dancer, spelling out a mood with her fingertips, languidly lifting them, or pointing a long horrified finger at a heater that’s about to burn up the dressing room, “Hey that’s a heater with REAL fire in it.” Her hands, like the rest of her, are so cleverly and expertly presented that they appear more beautiful than they are. Which makes them exquisite. Avedon takes the picture. She damns him with her eyes, but when he looks up her eyelashes are benevolently brushing her cheek.

Four hours later she came back for more photographs: she was ill, quiet, and subdued. She had a stunned look on her face as though she couldn’t believe les choses could ever turn against her now. She has lost weight already and it’s noticeable. The glitter is low. Black mink coat, purple dress, and long alligator boots. Someone says, “What’re your boots made of?” She looks at them anxiously for a long time, then shrugs without caring at all and without answering. She sits down in front of the dressing table. “My nose all goes to one side so I’ll only do one cheek,” she says wielding a blush-on brush in her hand. “That’ll bring it back,” says Avedon and their glances dare each other in the looking glass. She tells a story of how when she was eighteen a painter used to paint her face with real paint and it was then she learned about planes and shadows; then she became convinced her nose wasn’t ugly. “Now I know how I look. I see everything in other people. Wrinkles, lines, you know. Boing.” Her voice sounds as though she were snapping elastic. But she’s ill and joking’s out. Grimacing and clutching the stomach is in and everyone picks up her shattered words and examines them as if they were the last prospectors at a burnt-out gold mine. It’s a bad prospect.

Avedon rushes in from the record player blasting out Streisand’s own voice and says, “That’s my favourite record, just listen to that note, it’s the greatest, isn’t it?”

“I’ve never thought about it,” she says. He plays it again and she listens, says, “I sure held it a long time. You know, I used to have a fight with the instrumentalist about who would end first. I said we should end together.” They end together.

“Comme elle est belle,” said Grès of Streisand, and wrapped her up tenderly in this delicious little coif—simply a clean white triangle of Moreau linen with a slit for the head and twelve-inch side pieces to tie this way and that.

“Comme elle est belle,” said Grès of Streisand, and wrapped her up tenderly in this delicious little coif—simply a clean white triangle of Moreau linen with a slit for the head and twelve-inch side pieces to tie this way and that.

A small vendeuse, economic of body and movement, comes in bearing Saint Laurent’s end- of-show fantasy—the bride’s dress. It is like the Lady of Shallott’s bier and Barbra climbs into it, peering over a thousand sprigs of lily of the valley, waiting until she has been trussed irrevocably into it—arms pinioned. Then blandly, “Imagine if I should throw up now?” She scutters into the studio in bare feet, with this garden of flowers around her shoulder, looking as vulnerable as Ophelia.

On the record her voice rises sweetly to a crescendo. “Turn your body,” says Avedon. “But that’s my bad side. . . . I’ve got an itch in my nose. My hair is splitting. . . . At eighteen I dreamed of success and it was much easier because dreams were clear. When you reach success it’s no longer exciting. You have to learn and you learn it’s never as good as the dream. It’s sort of anti-climactic, you know? I don’t think I’ll ever have enough confidence. I’m never satisfied with anything I do, I never think it good enough. Sometimes when I listen to a record I don’t get bothered but I don’t get ecstatic either—I hate it when I hear the mistakes. When photographers, people in the street, rush after me, I always think they are going to hit me or something, people coming after me…. I’m depressed now because I’m ill; that colours everything I say but what I’ve just said about success I mean.”

“Hand lotion?” she suddenly yells. “Like you know—hand cre-eeam.” Everyone rushes with hand cream. Alexandre, looking like the demon lover and acting like Bambi, does her hair, gives her yards of tresses. She looks marvelous with long hair and knows it. He makes her a present of the hairpiece. (“Fringe bene- fits,” warbles Avedon.) And suddenly the stomachache has gone. “C’est uncreeedable,” she squeals. “One of those things I’ve always wanted and never had. Can I wear it in the street? Yeah, and then personne ne me will recognize.” Alexandre guesses she is pleased and sparkles when she tells him she’ll bring him her new disc tomorrow.

Barbra Streisand Vogue Avedon Vreeland 1966

All her luggage is labelled BSG and suddenly the G part arrives, Elliot Gould, her husband, bundled into a trench coat and bearing a gift of baked potatoes. Baked potatoes? In Paris? She falls on them with a spoon. A moment later she is holding her stomach and muttering.

But even though she is ill, and even though just before the camera clicks she has been agonizing, when it does click she looks glowing, dazzling, perfect. And even though she’s sick she still can laugh. When she laughs she keeps a cool face. Only when she’s smiling does her mouth widen, showing perfect teeth. But it’s her living-dying laugh people like most to inspire. Her voice, when she’s talking, doesn’t promise all she can do with that voice when she’s singing.

It’s the only thing which doesn’t promise; one has only to look at her—and one must look—to realize that hers is that imponderable, enviable quality which has been analyzed so often and which still defies analysis—that quality that lights up a room, a stage, or a continent. She’s got it, has Barbra.

All photographs courtesy of Richard Avedon / Condé Nast Archive.

Barbra Streisand Vogue Cover 1966 Avedon vreeland

Why Alessandro Michele Wants Westminster Abbey...

Do Michele's matchy single-toned outfits remind you of anyone? Clue: she just turned 90.

Gucci Jamie Hawkesworth Vogue

Kensington Gardens was taken over by an ostentation of peacocks this weekend for Condé Nast’s annual Vogue Festival, held in a Frieze-like tent called ‘Vogue World’ and auditorium of the Royal Geographical Society. Every year, Alexandra Shulman, Vogue’s editor-in-chief, and the magazine’s staff open their arms to the public and bring the magazine to life with a line-up of starry guest speakers. Alessandro Michele, creative director of Gucci, closed the festival with an in-depth chat with Shulman herself. Having joined the Italian brand a decade and half ago under the tutelage of Tom Ford (who had his Gucci studio in London at the time), Michele has enjoyed an anus mirabilis since his appointment in early 2015, rising from anonymous designer to toast of the fashion world, as well as Jared Leto’s Oscar date back in February. “I had five days to make a collection and I was sure the day after the show I would be fired,” he said of his boy-in-a-blouse debut, which was heralded as a landmark for gender-fluidity – a poignant far cry from Ford’s buff brand of louche, heterosexual hedonism. 

Michele will be giving our very own Westminster Abbey a Gucci outfitting next month for the Abbey’s first-ever fashion show, which will be held in the Cloisters. “We didn’t think they would say yes – it’s a bit like asking for Buckingham Palace!” said the designer, before adding that show would be an homage to the city and English people, all of whom he claims to love. “I chose Westminster because everyone is always trying to communicate the coolness of London with all of its hidden places, but I think Westminster Abbey is the coolest – it’s obvious but nice and it shows that history of the city is still alive.”

The Cloisters isn’t the only Christopher Wren building to have its fashion moment: Blenheim Palace will be taken over by Christian Dior next week for its resort fashion show, too.  It marks an industry trend for monolithic brands to fly dozens of international editors, models and celebrities to grand locations for a five-star treatment and a fashion show that is rather ironically live streamed to the rest of the world. For Michele, his choice of venue is more a statement of intent, chiming with the nostalgic, vintage-like feel to his heavily embellished designs. “Any time someone asks me about the future, I cannot answer, so I’m always trying to let the past talk for now.” Hmm...

Photograph courtesy of Jamie Hawkesworth, Vogue July 2015

Inside London's Most Famous Umbrella Shop

Welcome to the rarified world of James Smith & Sons

J Smith & Sonds walking stick

Millions of people pass the façade of James Smith & Sons every day, curiously peering into the wood-panelled windows lined with umbrellas of almost every conceivable variety. Some go through the heavy doors, intrigued by the museum-like categorisation of these hand-crafted items, whilst others remain blissfully mystified as their buses glide by. Even black cab drivers taking ‘The Knowledge’ are expected to know it when it pops up on their exams. It’s not surprising, considering the iconic New Oxford Street shop has witnessed two world wars and the ever-expanding hoi polloi of central London whilst remaining largely unchanged from its original 1857 design. 

Nestled in the middle of central London traffic, the umbrella specialist now stands as a flourishing relic of Victorian commerce and craftsmanship – largely thanks to the fact that the family didn’t think it would last, and therefore refused to invest in renovations. It’s straight out of the pages of Dickens, complete with the gentlemanly custom that still sees everyone in the shop addressed by their prefixed surnames. A downstairs workshop still operates, producing the handmade umbrellas that the firm pioneered and subsequently built its world-renowned reputation on. Meanwhile upstairs, tokens of the Smiths’ worldly travels decorate the upper halves of the walls — Tasmanian antlers, bamboo sculptures from Sumatra, and a majestic Bornean pear lending an air of 19th century gymkhana to the joyfully cluttered space. Rarely granting access to press, we took a tour of the London institution to learn the art of umbrellas just in time for those infamous April showers. 

James Smith & Sons

The Shop


Almost a decade before Queen Victoria sat on the throne, London’s umbrella market was booming (it was the only solution to Britain’s idiosyncratic weather) and James Smith set up shop in London’s Foubert Place, today tucked away behind Liberty. The founder’s son soon took over and moved the shop closer to Savile Row, where it served Gladstone, Bonar Law, and Lord Curzon, before finally settling on New Oxford Street in 1857 as part of a government scheme to regenerate the area with commercial buzz. 

The Smith family lived above it, while the shop – a former dairy (the area was formerly known for dairies and bakeries) – sold its umbrellas through an open window to customers on the street. Below the shop floor is a workshop that is still quietly producing the wooden shafts and metal frames, employing almost 20 people of varying ages. There’s also a door that opens to an arched cave that sits beneath street level, echoing the sounds of footsteps and the conversations of passersby. Today, the shop’s walls are eclectically covered in framed umbrella-related photographs and imagery. One 18th century cartoon, Good Manners in Umbrellas, shows how not to survey a shop window – by using your umbrella to highlight your interest and resultantly smashing the glass.

James SMITH & SOns

The Story


“We’ve always been known as a gentleman's house,” says Mr Harvey, the fifth generation Smith who currently presides over the business. “It wasn’t until about 50 years ago that we started to cater to ladies, too.” During his tenure, Mr Harvey has introduced much more than ladies’ umbrellas – there’s now a range of modern styles, from expandable everyday brollies, to exotic one-offs crafted from ostrich leather and snakeskin. When the first Mr Smith founded the business, walking sticks were an essential gentleman’s accessory and umbrellas were substantially larger and heavier, a result of their whalebone and brass construction. They were carried almost exclusively by coachmen and doormen. Jonas Hanway, the 18th-century fashionista, caused an uproar when he was the first Londoner to carry an umbrella — crowds mobbed him for what they perceived to be putting them out of their jobs.

In light of Hanway, some years later James Smith Snr. pioneered the fox frame, a lightweight alternative to the bulkier styles before it. Metal was used instead of brass, and innovation was achieved by Smith when he created curved ribs, which increased agility without increasing weight. Each of the wooden shafts would be sourced from the various plantations in the South East, the remaining few still providing wood to the workshop. The umbrella biz was a waning interest, though – he moved to Tasmania with two his sons to take up farming. It was only until 1930, when his great-grandson Mr Mesger moved back to London to return to the business. 

The Umbrellas


Almost every imaginable umbrella available is at James Smith & Sons. From those with quirky animal heads, to ones with antique ivory canes, and dramatically long ‘country umbrellas’ featuring rustic raw wood handles. “What we’re known for,” says Mr Harvey, “is the London umbrella: a slim black rolled umbrella with a cane handle.” This style became fashionable in the 1870s, populating urban streets until the late 1950s. Since then, there’s been a demand for more colourful styles – particularly amongst women. Mr Harvey points out that The Queen’s clear PVC umbrella, usually finished with an edge of colour to match her oft-monotoned outfits, was designed by Mary Quant – simultaneously allowing her to see everyone and everyone to see her. 

There’s also much care that goes into maintaining an umbrella. It should always be rolled so that the flaps are not trapped; if you carry it over your arm, point it away from you so you don’t get your legs wet, and always hold it against the wind. According to one employee, Mr Naisbitt, the idea that opening an umbrella indoors causes bad luck is an urban myth invented by an umbrella salesman. As it turns out, the best way to dry an umbrella is to leave it open indoors. When wet and left closed, it begins to rot - therefore inspiring frequent custom to the local umbrella shop. Despite this, a large horseshoe adorns the ceiling of James Smith & Sons – just in case. In the words of Mr Naisbitt, “We’ve been going for quite a while, so we can’t have been that unlucky.” 

This article was originally commissioned and published by AnOther. All images courtesy of Jack Wilson / AnOther. 

Hedonism in an Age of Health

Just as I was getting into Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane is off.

Saint Laurent fur chubby AW16

I loved the sheer, unapologetic hedonism of this show -- it made me want to go out rather than attempt a boring health fad, or sit at home and watch Netflix. The concept was bold and simple, and the girls were fabulous and fun. Isn't that what can be great about fashion - clothes that inspire you to live in the moment? To have fun?

We are now living in the age of athleisurewear, heralded by brands that want you to wear gym clothes to work and dinner. Call me old fashioned, but I like to think that gym clothes should stay in the gym. Why don't we put some of that effort that's going into the treadmill into our wardrobes. Come on, people, let's get dressed. 

I suppose that heart-shaped chubby fur coat - see YSL's scandalous SS'71 collection for a bit of context - was the perfect kiss good bye. I thought it cleverly echoed the heart-shaped button we all click to show our appreciation on Instagram. I didn't just like this, though; I loved it. 

Tom Ford's Sexual Revolution at Gucci

One of my favourite shows: Gucci AW'97. Read about the post-waif hedonism of Tom Ford's Studio 54-inspired vision, which I wrote about for AnOther

Tom Ford Gucci AW97

Today, when one thinks of Gucci, Alessandro Michele's signature eclecticism – ditsy florals, saccharine colours and girlish silhouettes – immediately spring to mind. This aesthetic is in total opposition to the house's output during the 90s, when it became synonymous with hedonistic glamour under the creative hand of Tom Ford. In fact, thanks to Ford's firm, high-octane directive, Gucci underwent a complete transformation and, following a slightly tumultuous period, by 1996 had been firmly restored to a position of utmost glory.

THE  SHOW


Without a doubt, the subtext of Tom Ford’s shows was, first and foremost, S-E-X. Having moved to New York just in time to experience the glitzy debauchery of Studio 54, Ford drew inspiration from nightlife for his Gucci fashion shows. The venue for A/W96 was dark, and the soundtrack sensual: Patti Jo’s Make Me Believe In You, The Fugees’ Killing Me Softly With His Song, Love Unlimited’s Under The Influence of Love and Dusty Springfield’s The Look of Love. Ford employed a spotlight on the runway, a move which Gianni Versace pioneered – but, while Versace’s shows were like pop-tastic parties, Ford’s was more of a grown-up soirée. “I wanted that girl to be in the spotlight,” said Ford. “I decided to kill the backlighting and put the clothes under a spotlight because I wanted to control the room. That sounds silly, but with a spotlight, you can’t see your friends across the aisle; you can’t wave at people and roll your eyes. You focus on the show.”

Tom Ford Gucci AW97

THE PEOPLE


A photograph of Tom Ford’s black lacquered desk at Gucci shows an Andy Warhol portrait of Roy Halston staring out, somewhat aloof. It was under this watchful gaze that Ford designed the A/W96 collection, drawing from the designer’s use of jersey and the long, columnar dresses he made for Elsa Peretti. Just looking at the louche trouser suits, dramatic fur coats draped over the shoulders of models and the huge lapels and necklaces, it’s clear that the days of his Studio 54 youth were Ford’s biggest reference point. “I think everyone’s notion of beauty is formed – your sense of taste, most of your values and opinions are formed in your childhood – the first thing that you ever see that makes you think, ‘God, that’s beautiful’: Those things stick in your mind forever. So I will probably forever be stuck in the sixties and seventies,” he has said.

On another note, perhaps the best appointments Ford made at Gucci was that of Mario Testino and Carine Roitfeld, who together created groundbreaking advertising imagery for the brand. For this particular collection, Testino shot South African model Georgiana Grenville in a Rem Koolhaas interior, provocatively gazing out to the viewer in a silk shirt unbuttoned to the navel and flirting with her lover in one of the streamlined jersey gowns, her slicked-back hair matching the gold-tone buckle under the peephole. The images perfectly resonated Ford’s clean, polished vision of sensual sexuality and luxury.

Tom Ford Gucci Red Velvet Suit Fur AW97

THE IMPACT


When asked what he considered his legacy of Gucci, Ford answered: “I think I brought back hedonism, a certain kind of ostentatious fashion. I brought back a certain sexual glamour, which we probably hadn’t seen since the late seventies because of the way that AIDS altered fashion.” It was that approach that attracted swathes of actors and actresses to the brand, controversially exploding the idea that the brand was synonymous with sex and celebrity upon a generation of young consumers. Within a year of his debut, Gucci profits were up 90% and Ford eventually became more involved with Gucci Group management, designing for Yves Saint Laurent and steering the acquisitions of Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney.

Ford felt that this particular collection proved Gucci’s clothes were more than mere editorial-friendly adjuncts to a lauded accessories business. “The strategy from the beginning was: Make the brand appealing through fashion and then sell loafers,” he told fashion critic, Bridget Foley. “Madonna went out in our hip-huggers and our loafer sales went up. Now, here were pinstriped suits that started to sell, that everyone from thirty to seventy could wear. I am a commercial designer and I am proud of that; I have never wanted to be anything else. This gave other people an inkling of what I always knew – that we could really sell clothes.”

This article was originally commissioned and published by AnOthermag.com. All images courtesy of AnOther.

Tait Modern

After winning the LVMH Prize, the world looked to Thomas Tait to see what the youngest-ever graduate to leave Louise Wilson’s classroom would go on to do. Last Monday, he won the Emerging Womenswear Designer category at the British Fashion Awards.

Thomas Tait Osman Ahmed 1 Granary

What do Raf Simons, Karl Lagerfeld, Phoebe Philo, Marc Jacobs, Riccardo Tisci and Nicolas Ghesquière have in common? Last year, they all agreed to award Thomas Tait an unprecedented €300,000 cash prize as part of the inaugural LVMH Young Designer Prize. Since winning the prize, the Montreal-born designer’s star has risen to the heights of international recognition, which has only been aided by the additional year’s worth of mentorship from the luxury conglomerate. It’s fair to say that all eyes are on Thomas Tait.

In person, Tait is less tortured designer, more boy-next-door – that is if you live in East London. He stands over six feet tall and teenager-thin, with pale angular features and a silky dark fringe brushing his eyebrows. His jeans look like they might be his decade-old favourites and his boxy grey sweatshirt echoes the effortlessness of his scuffed white trainers. He speaks in long, drawn-out words in a soft Canadian accent that has succumbed to the weathers of living in London for most of his adult life and sits with his long limbs crossed-over and tucked away.

We meet in the open-plan studio the designer has set up in the hub in the City, a stone’s throw away from the Thames and the ruins of Roman Londinium. The former office space is lined with wide windows, one of which bears the remnants of a sticky solicitor’s sign. There’s a notable absence of collaged boards and walls seen so frequently in designers’ workspaces – Tait doesn’t believe in mood boards, preferring to work in a sanitised environment laced with rails of his current collection and his striped leather accessories neatly arranged on the floor.

It’s far away from the creative hub of Hackney Wick’s Old Peanut Factory, home to a small studio Tait occupied when I interviewed him a few years ago, and even further from LVMH’s Avenue Montaigne slick showroom, where I bumped into him during Paris Fashion Week at the cocktail reception held for this year’s thirty shortlisted designers eager to follow in his footsteps. That night, le tout monde showed up to tour the carousel of booths assigned to each of the designers to create a mini-showroom for their collections. Editors-in-chiefs, design giants, CEOs, supermodels and even an overzealous hip-hop artist made their way through the maze of photographers, TV crews and publicists to seek out the designers nominated for the prize. Tait was there at the centre of it all, still wearing his glowing crown, only to leave shortly after.

“It was really nice,” he assures me, “but quite an intimidating setting to be in and, atmospherically, it’s not really where I feel most comfortable, so I wasn’t there for very long. I just remember that day last year and you could see the designers who are so tired, just stood in that booth on their very best behaviour, being hyper-social and hyper-networky all day. It’s an intense experience to go through, and I don’t think most designers are the kind of people who are used to speaking about themselves, so when you go the last thing you wanna do is pick someone’s brain when they’ve been standing doing that for 12 hours.”

Thomas Tait Osman Ahmed 1 Granary Fashion

As a finalist in last year’s prize, many considered Tait as the underdog. Compared to some of his competitors, sales and profitability were at the forefront of his appeal. What set him apart from the rest was his approach to designing runway collections and shows that radiate a sense of modern product design, attitude and spectacle that can’t quite be quantified by a list of stockists or stylistic references – in his own words, his work isn’t an “easy pill for huge amounts of women around the world to swallow.”

“The jurors were enthusiastic about his pure talent, vision and the philosophy behind his brand and what he wanted to do,” says the impossibly elegant Delphine Arnualt, the executive vice president of Louis Vuitton who dreamed up the prize to begin with. “I think it’s very brave and courageous to develop your own label. But you have to have a style and a vision that’s very different from what’s on the market. You need to offer your own personal style in products that are different from what already exists. Thomas draws very well and had prepared a book of drawings, displaying his brand and his style and I think that the jury was very sensitive to that. We also felt that he was the one who could really do with the help.”

Help would be an understatement. Since winning the juicy cheque and year’s worth of mentorship, he’s caught up on production and established relationships with three factories in Italy that supply some of LVMH’s biggest brands. Previously, he struggled with the battle of putting on a show in September and only being able to pay for materials in August, when most Italian factories are closed, which usually allowed him only a few days to create an entire ready-to-wear collection. Although he’s not unfamiliar with the various strains of sponsorship schemes and fashion awards – his label was kick-started by winning the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize of £25,000 and joining the British Fashion Council’s NewGen scheme – the last year has, without a doubt, been a meteoric development for the designer, and one that has saved his business.

“To some people [€300,000] might seem like an enormous amount of money, to some people it could seem like something that could go overnight,” he says with deadpan clarity.  “That’s the truth. It’s something that can really save you, and it’s something that can go quickly when you’re a business, regardless of fashion.”

In a moment of self-reflection, Tait ponders the heavy price that starting an eponymous label comes at. “There are some things that you’re ashamed of – when you think of how many hours you pushed yourself and how many nights you didn’t sleep, and it’s not just you – it’s a team of people, some who are paid and others unpaid,” he says in a softer, retrospective tone. “The desperate lengths that you go to to keep your dream alive, which is a selfish endeavour because it’s your business. For a little while, I did ask myself, “What am I doing this for? It this some kind of highly expensive and elaborate arts and crafts project? When will this pay off? When will this be something that I’m proud of?””

If you haven’t guessed already, it did pay off: with a year having breezed by since his victory, Tait now has a staffed studio to be proud of – but that doesn’t stop him from considering the alternatives. “There’s a lot of people who have this false idea that you know, you’ll be fine –just keep it up for a few years and somebody’s gonna hand you a creative director’s position,” he says with a smile. “That might not happen. It’s a very, very rare occasion when a young designer gets offered that kind of opportunity and not all designers want to be juggling their own brand with leading a huge corporation. The sensationalism of fashion creates this false sense of comfort where people think that you can really get yourself into a huge financial mess and then some kind of magic trick is gonna clear out all the debt and you’ll become a big star. People have gotten so used to reading these kinds of stories that so many young people have this glamorous idea of what fashion is and it becomes a huge problem.”

Thomas Tait Osman Ahmed 1 Granary

Tait speaks of this from his own experience as a bright-eyed fashion student, and later as a young designer dealing with the collapse of the prepaid deposit system that stockists once employed when ordering collection. His own academic trajectory is stuff of CSM legend: the youngest ever student to graduate from the MA Fashion course at the tender age of twenty-two, following a three-year technical diploma at his hometown’s Collège LaSalle, where, he says, “they taught you how to make clothes and that was it.”

Without any formal training in art or design, over six months he worked through the night on a portfolio centred on dark notions of posture and bone diseases – a million miles away from what he does now, he says. The portfolio made Professor Louise Wilson OBE sit up and take notice, and thankfully so considering he didn’t apply to any other colleges. Under Wilson, whom Tait thanks for giving him space to develop his very personal collection, he struggled and almost failed the first year before finding his feet with an all-black final collection of streamlined separates elevated by precise tailoring, sculptural panels and swishes of rectangular streams.

“When I started at CSM the last thing I wanted to do was to start my own label and become a starving designer in East London, which is of course exactly what I went on and did,” he laughs. “I had this idea that I would go to this really famous school and have a great time and develop my interests, but in the first year I was freaking out and felt as though I had such a difficult time trying to develop a project and present and package my ideas in a Saint Martins way and it just came off as disingenuous. I was looking at other students and seeing how they were making portfolios – most of the students and my peers had gone on to do a BA in design at an art or fashion school with a foundation course or a gap year. Some people had been in fashion school for six years!”

Having moved to London with the support of student loans, the realities of being a fashion graduate soon kicked in after completing the course. “It was 2010 and we were in the midst of the recession and it was eight months or even a year before anyone got a paid job. Some people were graduating with BA and MA, having won some kind of award at school, and being offered an unpaid internship at a fashion house in Paris,” he recalls.

Part of the problem, says Tait, is the infinite amount of fashion graduates emerging from art schools, often carrying the burden of student debt that runs into tens of thousands. “There’s no other place where there are this many fashion colleges, which is a plus and minus in a way because when you think about it there’s over eight thousand BA womenswear graduates every year in the UK,” he says with a sigh. “When you think of how many jobs are available that will be able to pay your rent in London, it’s a dangerous position to be in and it’s a lifetime of debt. It was a big reality check for a lot of us. I realised there were literally no jobs. If someone handed me a contract with a great salary, I would have reconsidered and done that for a few years to pay off my student loans, but that wasn’t happening, so I had to keep myself busy and that’s how the wheel started turning.”

Thankfully that wheel has taken him far, and perhaps further if he had hired a business partner early on. He stresses that designers pairing with financial minds is a much more frequent occurrence in America: “You see designers there setting up brands because they want to own a brand,” he says. “In London, designers start labels because they’re designers by nature.” For Tait, being a designer entails much more than crafting a well-executed collection. One his most notable achievements has been to put on a show during London Fashion Week every season since starting his label, regardless of major financial throwbacks and constant compromises. Each one has contributed a considerable air of energy and excitement to the schedule, which is quite remarkable considering his shows are usually held on the same Monday as Christopher Kane, Burberry Prorsum, Roksanda Ilincic and Erdem.

1granary_csm_central_saint_martins_thomas_tait_issue35.jpg

“I’m a bit of showman in terms of how I direct my shows,” he says with a smile. “I’ve always designed and sketched the runway show while I was designing and sketching the collection, so it was difficult for me to separate the two. It’s a house for the collection; an environment. I’m also attached to the idea that what you see on the runway is what you want to wear – something that you can buy in a store rather than some kind of elaborate art project. I strive to see it all crystallise in that moment.”

The A/W ’15 show at Westminster University was benchmark for the designer. The collection itself drew on Tait’s ability to exaggerate the average. It was a dark line-up of voluminous, roomy tailoring mixed with textural touches of finely pleated leather, ribbed cashmere pyjama sets and sweaterdresses, satin apron tops and a number of layered looks balanced with and decadent touches of mink. It was made slightly more sinister by the slicks of black patent leather gloves and clinking ring-pull zips throughout and the eeriness seen the clothes was only echoed by the paths of light on which the models walked, each tracing its way over the venue in rectangular projections that disappeared as the models walked by in stilettos skewering plump crystal balls.

He decided to expel the “terrifying” photographers’ pit, often the source of noise and aggression, as a way of creating a calmer atmosphere and slowing down the tempo of the catwalk. “In London, a lot of the models are very young – some of them are in their first season or their first fashion show and I am often really taken aback by how violent the photographers can be towards them and the things they can say to 17 year-old girls. That’s not an energy I wanted.”

Instead, the lighting was cast to a narrow degree of almost-darkness, inspired by the theatrical lighting designer Michael Hulls, who is known for creating object-like three-dimensional spaces. Tait tells me that the lighting was also intended to immerse and hide the guests, preventing flash photography and the seen-to-be-seen spectacle of the front row.

“I went to a friend’s show on the Saturday before and nobody clapped when the girls came out because they were squished together and, half the time, people were looking at the show through their phones,” he laments. “Someone, if not a large group of people, put a huge amount of energy and effort, emotion, passion, talent and finance into making this moment happen, and you guys are sat on your phones. I find it so depressing, not just for the designer, but also for the people. Why are we doing this? Sat, looking at life through a screen? You’re a special person, sat front row at a fashion show – enjoy it! You’re privileged to be here! There are so few people who get to be in that position.”

For now, Tait is content with his studio and the parameters to which he is achieving his dream. Twice a year, his shows set alight London Fashion Week and despite the near-impossible time constraints on producing a collection in time, something tells me he enjoys the high-pressure conditions. “There’s something attractive about being constantly positive about the potential of the not so distant future,” he lets on. “If by nature you’re designing, you’re creating a product for the not-too-distant future and you’re always looking forward to something. When you think of someone who is suicidal, they can’t see past tomorrow and in this case you’re constantly looking forward to something that’s not now but a little bit later – whether that’s six months or a year.”

All eyes may be on Thomas Tait, but his are looking straight into the future.

This article as originally commissioned and published by 1 Granary in Issue 3.

Photography by Laurence EllisPhotography assistant: Tom Ortiz. Stylist: Ellie Grace CummingArt Director: Luciana Britton NewellSet Designer: Miguel BentoHair: Philippe Tholimet at Streeters. Make-up: Thomas de Kluyver at D+V Management. Make-up assistant: Andjelka MaticFashion Assistance: Molly Bridgwood. Casting: Eddy Martin for File and Parade. Model: Cheyenne Keuben at Viva London. Special thank you to Robert Kennedy from Dalston Pier Studio

What is Cyber Monday and what does it mean for fashion?

Cyber Monday, the largest online shopping day of the year, goes global and no longer has much to do with Thanksgiving, as I discovered for Financial Times last year

This week the US experienced the single largest online shopping day of the year. Cyber Monday is the virtual cousin of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the US’s biggest shopping day of the year. It will see more than $1bn spent in less than 24 hours – that’s almost $695,000 a minute, according to digital research company comScore.

It is, however, no longer a US-only event, and it no longer has much to do with Thanksgiving. According to Andrea Panconesi, owner and chief executive of the Florence-based luxury retail website LuisaViaRoma.com, the international market for Cyber Monday will soon begin to overtake American demand. “Cyber Monday will become the first true online ‘transnational’ phenomenon,” he says. Sarah Curran, founder and chief executive of my-wardrobe.com, the UK-based luxury e-tailer which last year experienced a 184 per cent increase in sales on Cyber Monday, agrees. “For us, it’s not just a US phenomenon; we see it in the UK and even in Portugal,” she says. “It’s becoming a global phenomenon that starts on Monday and grows in momentum all the way up to mid-December.”

Matthew Cheng is founder of eCoupons.com, a global marketing website that carried out a survey of Cyber Monday intentions earlier this year in conjunction with Ipsos, a market research company. Cheung says that Cyber Monday is set to become even more global this year, as China is expected to overtake every other nation with almost 65 per cent of the population planning to go online and buy during the Cyber Monday period. This compares to 45 per cent of the US.

The globalisation of Cyber Monday is largely due to international marketing by Shop.org, part of the US trading association National Retail Federation, and the unofficial organisers and founders of the event, as well as widespread special promotions and discounts. Cyber Monday is, confusingly, growing from a day-long phenomenon that started in the early 2000s into a whole week, usually spanning seven days beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving. Christoph Botschen, chief executive of the Munich-based luxury online boutique mytheresa.com, points out that different countries hold Cyber Monday on different dates because of a variation in national paydays.

Some online retailers are also beginning to capitalise on the more traditional bricks-and-mortar consumer-fest known as Black Friday. Gilt Groupe, popular with luxury-obsessed bargain hunters, began its Cyber Monday promotions early this year following a global expansion to more than 90 countries, including the UK.

Boticca.com, a London-based online accessories marketplace founded in 2010 for independent designers, will also be doing everything possible to maximise sales during Cyber Monday week by using social media. “We will be using a Facebook application that will enable designers, who each sell directly to customers, to easily set up a store on their fan page,” says co-founder Avid Larizadeh. “Given that most of our designers do not have transactional websites, this will allow them to make the most out of Cyber Monday, and cut through the noise of traditional online retail.”

Another person looking forward to Cyber Monday is Alison Loehnis, vice-president of sales and marketing at London-based luxury fashion website Net-a-Porter. “Cyber Monday often falls into our sale period, which is a great transaction driver,” she says. “Last year it was our biggest day in terms of sales, and we see it increase every year. While the majority of sales on the day come from the US, we have started to see an increase in the international market. Cyber Monday has become the kick-off to the Christmas season for the entire online world.”

On your iPads, get set ... shop.

This article was originally commissioned and published by FT Weekend.

The YSL Collection That Shook Couture to its Core

Louche, liberated and sensationally incongruous – I wrote about the scandalous S/S71 Yves Saint Laurent show that caused public uproar for AnOther

Yves Saint Laurent 1971 Spring Summer

1971 was a dramatic year for Paris fashion. Even before the heightened scandal of Yves Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer ’71 haute couture show, an air of nostalgia and generational disparity permeated the city’s streets and couture salons. In 1968, Cristóbal Balenciaga closed his Avenue George V maison because there was “no one left to dress”. Ready-to-wear had become the meat of most fashion houses and in just one year, from 1966 to 1967, the number of couture houses in Paris plummeted from 39 to 17. The reality for most couturiers was that their real estate was more valuable than their business.

The resignation of Charles de Gaulle in April 1969 was the dramatic finale to a presidential run that stretched back to the time of the occupation. The death of Gabrielle Chanel, one of Paris’ mythic fashion forces since the 1920s, in January 1971 seemed to mark a new era of cultural institutions and attitudes. When Luchino Visconti’s cinematic adaptation of Death in Venice, Thomas Mann’s haunting study of longing, old age, and the maddening insolence of beauty and youth, was released in the spring of ‘71, it had a strange resonance with the Paris set, where each age surveyed the other with curiosity. “The older generation were nostalgic for a youth they had lost, longing to feel the surge of desire and possibility of youth course through their own veins, while the younger generation yearned for a past they could not recall,” wrote Alice Drake in The Beautiful Fall.(2006)

Nowhere was this more pertinent than when Marie-Hélène de Rothschild threw one of Paris’ last great bals costumés, in December 1971, which nodded to the gilded last quarter of the 19th century in the vein of the early 20th century’s flair for celebration. Cecil Beaton was the official photographer, capturing the ancestors of Proust’sfaubourg meeting a new generation of social stars: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, Andy Warhol and Jane Holzer. The candidate to dream up Rothschild’s gown for that night was obvious: Yves Saint Laurent, Paris society’s darling designer who delicately treaded the balance between old world and new; sexuality and morality; politics and scandal.

Yves Saint Laurent, Haute Couture, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

Yves Saint Laurent, Haute Couture, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

THE SHOW

In the few months running up to the show, Saint Laurent’s studio at Rue Spontini had come to life with the addition of two stylish women that would breathe life into his vision: Paloma Picasso and Loulou de la Falaise. After meeting at a dinner party that October, Paloma Picasso began making jewellery, belts and shoes for Saint Laurent, drawing on her own sense of style which was achieved by shopping at flea markets and borrowing her mother’s 1940s dresses. Picasso wore velvet turbans and strapped wedges in the style of Carmen Miranda. Loulou de la Falaise came into the studio every day, collaborating on every aspect of the house with the 34-year-old Saint Laurent, offering exotic flair and an eye for colour and accessories.

Saint Laurent was inspired by Robert Bresson’s 1945 film Les Dames due Bois de Boulogne, which tells the story of a society lady, in costumes by Schiaparelli and Grès, plotting revenge on her ex-husband by tricking him into marrying a former prostitute. The look of the 1940s pulsated throughout Saint Laurent’s collection, which featured plunging-neckline chiffon dresses worn with short, fur chubbies in electric green and blue. There were navy sleeveless blazers outlined in white piping with white lapels, a velvet coat that was covered in sequinned lipstick kisses smoking cigarettes, squarer and more pronounced shoulders, which would become the “Saint Laurent shoulder” from then on, clinging ruched waists that flattened the stomach, dresses printed with “pornographic” Greek ceramics, and wedge shoes and clumpy heels, following two generations of pumps.

A marked absence of underwear, dark lipstick-stained mouths and smoky eyes exaggerated the louche look. Loulou de Falaise bought the make-up for the models in London, as it was nowhere to be found in Paris. “It was the collection that everyone calls ‘kitsch’ (I hate that word),” wrote Saint Laurent in 1972. “That was a reaction against the turn fashion had taken … the gypsies, all those long skirts and bangles … so I did my collection as a kind of humorous protest, only everyone took it seriously.”

Paloma Picasso, Marisa Berenson and Loulou de la Falaise at the YSL show, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

Paloma Picasso, Marisa Berenson and Loulou de la Falaise at the YSL show, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

THE PEOPLE

“He knew it was going to be a disaster,” recalled Loulou de la Falaise. In anticipation for the heated response, Saint Laurent’s tactically seated his allies amongst the most important guests. Loulou de la Falaise, dressed in a salmon-pink satin jacket and purple shorts, was seated with the French press and buyers, while Marisa Berenson, in a shrunken sweater, shorts and lace-up boots, took care of the Americans and Paloma Picasso, who had on a bright red turban and her mother’s black 1940s dress, was seated amongst the most prominent socialites. For the audience, their style was a hint of what was to come.

The collection wasn’t the first time 40s dresses were seen on a 70s catwalk – Ossie Clarke had been making yoked, bib-fronted dresses and tough-shouldered Blitz suiting for at least three years before that in London, where the flea markets were stripped bare of any fabric or accessory remotely 1940s. What made a difference was that most of the audience were of a generation that had lived through WWII and experienced Paris under Nazi occupation. Some argue that it wasn’t the 1940s references that outraged, but rather the blatant sexuality of the clothes, which evoked the memory of France’s ‘horizontal collaborators’: the women that slept with Nazis and were subsequently publicly shamed by having their heads shaved and paraded down the streets in their underwear.

One of the models, a redhead called Annie Ferrari, was especially provocative in her braless and blowsy appearance. Guests cited her movements as sluggish, languorous and lewd. “Everything jiggled,” according to de la Falaise. “She was very sexy. People were used to couture models who were very spiky; it was a shock to see a big sexual girl like that.”

Annie Ferrari for Yves Saint Laurent, Haute Couture, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

Annie Ferrari for Yves Saint Laurent, Haute Couture, 1971 © Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris

THE IMPACT

The reaction to the collection was a harsh wave of negativity. Eugenia Sheppard of New York Post dubbed it “completely hideous, the ugliest collection in Paris,” while The Daily Telegraph labelled it “nauseating”. The reaction was so strong that there were even articles showcasing the press’ collective response. Some critics accused Saint Laurent of being influenced by ready-to-wear, while buyers were furious that short skirts were back when they had been pushing long. The press, according to Olivier Saillard, curator of 1971: La Collection du Scandal, considered Saint Laurent the heir to the great tradition of French haute couture. That’s why they couldn’t forgive him for the reminder of years of deprivation and restriction through which most of them had lived.

It was the first time that the word ‘kitsch’ had been used to describe fashion, referring to a camp vulgarity that could only be appreciated with a sense of irony. What Saint Laurent was doing, however, was bringing the way that the women around him dressed into the court of haute couture. Flea market finds, second-hand clothes and Carmen Miranda-style styling were for a younger generation of women who had the excuse of not living through the occupation to be nostalgic for it. It’s this approach that made Saint Laurent the paradigm of postmodernity, collecting from a collage of references and moving glacially through symbols, era, styles and cultures throughout his career.

In an interview at the time, Saint Laurent said: “I don’t care if my pleated or draped dresses evoke the 1940s for cultivated fashion people. What’s important is that young girls who have never known this fashion want to wear them.”

Angelica Huston in YSL photographed by Bob Richardson for Vogue Italia, June 1971 © Condé Nast Archive / Bob Richardson

Angelica Huston in YSL photographed by Bob Richardson for Vogue Italia, June 1971 © Condé Nast Archive / Bob Richardson

This article was originally commissioned and published by AnOthermag.com.

Breakfast with 1 Granary: Hettie Judah

Writing comes from knowledge and a natural sense of curiosity, says Hettie Judah, the writer and curator who made her name at ArtReview. Here, she talks balancing the worlds of art and fashion.

Hettie Judah

Interviewing another journalist often puts one on edge. After all, these are people so used to being on the other side of the questions that there’s an altogether heavier pressure to get them right. Hettie Judah isn’t too discerning and offers an anecdote that immediately lightens the tension. “I had this absolutely terrible incident last year where I got the opportunity to interview somebody who’s a great hero of mine: an artist called Shirin Neshat. I forgot to turn my phone on flight mode and I lost half of the interview. My heart just sank.”

It’s comforting to know that even the most successful writers can fall onto a moment of vacancy, but don’t let that colour your image of Judah. My first impression is that she’s sharp, articulate and incredibly curious; a result of which is that she’s extremely knowledgeable. With over two decades experience of writing about the art and fashion markets, Judah made a name for herself on the editorial team of ArtReview, where she wrote about both fashion and art – a first for the magazine. She’s not a “big breakfast person” so she orders a cappuccino and we get settled in.

“It’s quite difficult because I’m very much in between the two worlds. From the art world perspective, there is a certain degree of,” she pauses hesitantly. “Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a certain degree of snobbery towards the fashion industry. They come from different impulses, so the art world is very much about looking at things in the long term and building up a body of work over the course of a career, as opposed to changing things season after season.”

She considers both avenues of discourse essential to her working life and is keen to keep them a part of her output, although she considers herself neither an art nor fashion ‘insider’. She’s never reported on fashion shows, but is open to doing so, and has worked across a wide range of publications, writing about travel, photography, design and even cookery. Today, however, she contributes features to Business of Fashion, with whom she is working to develop jewellery coverage, as well as ArtReviewFinancial Times and The Independent on Sunday, for which she writes about contemporary art.

It was while studying English Literature and Language at Glasgow University that she began to be involved with the art and articulating it into text. “I’ve always been a very wordy person,” she explains. “I was book-obsessed as a kid, so I guess I’m somebody who gets very excited by the written word. When I was at college I did a lot of performing, whether it was performance art or theatre or whatever. From that, I got into directing and from there I ended up directing an arts festival in Glasgow, which gave me a great insider knowledge and allowed me to write about it. So, in fact, the writing really came from having the knowledge as opposed to purely being desperate to write.”

Following her graduation, she moved to London and immediately started writing for The Times. “The mid-90s were just an extraordinary period for London,” she recalls. “There was this enormous boom in contemporary art and it became such a huge part of popular culture. Up till that point contemporary art wasn’t really embraced by the mainstream British media. A lot of British artists had upped and moved to Germany, for instance, to get some kind of critical acclaim. That whole thing was quite new and dynamic, and it was all very interesting to report on.”

Judah lived on Portobello Road in Notting Hill at the time and fondly remembers seeing Cool Britannia figures, such as members of Blur, going in and out of the pub opposite her window and stumbling down the road. “There were still vestiges of a slightly more accessible fashion industry going on,” she says. “Preen had a tiny little shop at the end of Portobello Green and you could just walk in and ask for a garment to be adjusted, and there would be a person sitting at the back with a sewing machine. That aspect of the fashion industry seems to have completely disappeared.”

Fashion, for her, came into the fold while growing up in London. Her father moved to the UK from Calcutta, India at the age of five and adopted a debonair sensibility as a way of becoming the ultimate English gentleman. “He had all of these beautifully tailored suits, and it was a ritual for him to polish his shoes every morning and have everything immaculately pressed.” Her father’s sister was also a big influence, having once worked at Vogue and favouring avant-garde designers such as Bodymap.

Judah spent her youth trawling the stalls of Kensington Market and devouring the pages of The Face, like any other culturally astute teenager of the time. “It was a huge influence and it made it seem like it was exciting times to be in,” she recalls. “It made me aware of the wider cultural landscape – it wasn’t just about fashion but about anything interesting at the time. I remember seeing that photo of Kate Moss in the feather headdress by Corinne Day and thinking that it was this compelling force. That whole Corinne Day and Juergen Teller photography aesthetic had this sense that fashion wasn’t meant to be precious – it was to be mixed up with market pieces and high street pieces. There wasn’t that dressed up thing. Maybe you did have a pair of Prada shoes but you wore it with a pair of old jeans and something vintage on top. Nowadays, with magazines like Grazia, there’s an idea that everybody should own high fashion. There wasn’t that before – it was pre-‘It’ bags.”

Hettie contributed to the book of Belgian photographer/make-up artist duo Ronald Stoops and Inge Grognard

Hettie contributed to the book of Belgian photographer/make-up artist duo Ronald Stoops and Inge Grognard

She relished that market-like atmosphere where one could have direct contact with a brand or a designer.  “It’s such a huge industry now, and I think it’s a shame for young designers starting out that they would be seen as unserious if they started off by having a small stall in a market,” she says. “In fact, it’s incredibly beneficial to have close contact with people that are buying and wearing your clothes. I love market stalls. I sell my old clothes all the time. You get a completely different narrative – the way people see their bodies, their self-consciousness and the way they really wear something.”

Judah recalls the end of the turn of the millennium as the turning point for the fashion industry. “I was writing about Prada’s fashion shows the other day and looking at all of their shows, right from the first one in 1989, and they seem so informal and almost ramshackle in the early years and then, all of a sudden, something just switches and they become this ginormous, luxurious glitzy thing and everything was just ramped up to another gear and it became this idea of the monolithic luxury industry.”

After spending a handful of years in the United States and Turkey, during which she had two sons, she moved to Belgium in 2005, where she lived in Brussels and contributed to The International Herald Tribune, before taking a job as editor-at-large and subsequently editor-in-chief of The Word, a Brussels-based magazine focussed on fashion, photography and culture. “Brussels has a lot of exciting photographers, artists, fashion designers, as well as cheap housing, cheap beer and pubs that stay open until 3AM,” she laughs. “It’s actually a really great place to live and particularly photographers moved there, because it became this hub point between Paris and London, but a lot smaller, and it had an enormous amount of art institutions because of European funding.”

“Antwerp’s a different kettle of fish because it’s a much smaller city and it does feel more like a provincial city,” she says. “One thing, from a fashion perspective, was that whenever I spoke to designers they said that it was a lot more calm than working in Paris. There’s a lot more space to think and to experiment – and it’s a mutually supportive atmosphere between the graduates and they help each other along, rather than competing for the same jobs.”

It was in Antwerp that Judah became intimate with the inner workings of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, courtesy of Walter van Beirendonck, one of the notorious ‘Antwerp Six’ and the current head of the fashion department. “It’s really tough,” she says of the fashion education there. “They take 40 people in the first year and only about six people graduate, so they kick people out every year. I’ve been privileged enough to sit in on ‘The Pass’, where they have this long table with Walter in the middle and 18 tutors, and the students come up and present the silhouettes they’ve been working on, and they really get interrogated. It is tough and a lot of people cry, although the industry is tough and there’s realism to it. If people can’t cut it, maybe they should consider a different pathway.”

An image from Footprint, a book she co-authored together with Geert Bruloot

An image from Footprint, a book she co-authored together with Geert Bruloot

She credits the school’s success with the traditional roots in dressmaking, despite the fact that the Antwerp Six – Walter van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Marina Yee – as well as the unofficial ‘seventh member of the Six’ Martin Margiela, found themselves rebelling against those traditional methods of teaching. “At the point when they were studying there, it was much more of a classically French fashion school,” she explains. “There was a big emphasis on drawing, pattern-cutting and tailoring, and it was more about working in the industry rather than a sense that they’d eventually be fashion designers running their own brands.”

“All of them were looking at these very dynamic designers hitting the runways in Paris. They were all going there, forging tickets and seeing these great shows by Jean-Paul Gaultier and Claude Montana,” she continues. “They took a risk in presenting their own vision, but if you look at their careers, they all spent time working for other people before doing their own thing. A lot of them worked for Bartsons, a Belgian raincoat manufacturer, after graduation, which is probably why Margiela has such an obsession with trench coats. There were a few years between graduation, coming over to London, and showing their designs at the trade show in 1986.”

It’s this kind of knowledge that sets Judah apart from a gaggle of fashion journalists eager to write about the latest so-and-so. She’s the first to admit that there has been a dearth of well-informed, well-researched, contextual, critical fashion writing for a while. “Maybe, in all seriousness, it’s because fashion is considered to exist within the female realm, rather than the male realm, and for that reason it’s been seen as less serious,” she theorises. “It’s still rare to get a serious piece into a mainstream fashion publication in this country. It was taken a lot more seriously in Belgium, and there were journalists who had been looking at the industry for over 30 years and had a really good perspective on it. The magazines were prepared to take quite hard-hitting serious pieces, whereas a lot of the fashion writing in this country has been driven by desire and turnover and trends. There’s a lot of ‘must have’, ‘want’ and ‘need’ language and it’s just quite fluffy, which is a bit of a shame.”

Before the onslaught of blockbuster fashion-related exhibitions, Judah curated an exhibition called ‘Delvaux: 180 Years of Luxury’ at MoMu in Antwerp, which followed Belgian brand Delvaux from the manufacture of travel goods for the local nobility in the 19th century through to the rise of the modern handbag in the 20th century, and to the company’s journey into the 21st century. “I was working within their archives and workshops for months on end,” she says. “An exhibition is like a book on many levels. You have to create a narrative and a structure and, as a journalist, I’m constantly curious about how things work. It was wonderful to spend a few months focusing on one thing. The only thing is that afterwards I came back to a point in the UK when all of the museums were slashing their budgets in half.”

Currently in talks with the Victoria & Albert as well as the Design Museum about developing some multi-platform projects, she is keen to get back into the curatorial saddle. One thing Judah objects to, however, is the acceleration of the fashion industry and the lack of elevated discourse within exhibitions. “The reason for Louis Vuitton to do an exhibition to accompany their show is just to grab a piece of attention and bring the focus back on themselves,” she says in a matter-of-fact manner. “It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot with the ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ show. I’ve just been reading My Dear BB…., a book of an enormous amount of letters between Kenneth Clark and Bernard Berenson, two of the 20th century’s most important art critics, and when you read about them going to exhibitions, they’ll spend three days there. With the McQueen show you’re funnelled through and to spend more than an hour and a half there is incredibly difficult. You’re being carried along in this huge tide and I found that incredibly sad. You’re forced to only have a certain level of engagement with what’s going on, so it remains relatively superficial.”

Our conversation is drawing to a close and I have just one last question for Judah. What advice would she give to a recent graduate eager to forge a career in the written arts? “I think it’s a really difficult market,” she sighs. “If I was starting out now I probably would have done a blog. You need to set yourself apart from the rest of the field. Dan Thawley, Alex Fury and Dean Mayo Davies really know their shit and their fashion knowledge exceeds people who have been working in their field for twice the amount of time. Also, having a wider cultural knowledge is really important and being able to express yourself in an individual fashion with a range of reference points. If you’re doing that, people will notice you.”

This article was originally commissioned and published by 1 Granary.

A Dior Departure

Christian Dior Raf Simons 1952 Esther

I was sad to hear that Raf Simons is departing from Christian Dior.

I'm sure there'll be many a news piece speculating as to the motives behind his decision and, as always, who will be his successor.

I'd rather point out one of my favourite Raf-at-Dior moments: his debut AW 2012 couture collection (above left). He took a lovely but slightly stuffy AW 1952 Esther-style couture dress (above right) and interpreted into something utterly streamlined, spunky and modern. 

When I worked at Kerry Taylor Auctions, we sold this dress in 2008 - to Dior. At the time, John Galliano was the creative director and I imagined it would have been turned into something much grander, much heavier or simply much bigger. As someone who worshiped at the altar of Galliano-era Dior, I couldn't imagine that I'd one day prefer such polar opposite approach to the translation of the maison's ten-year archive of original M. Dior designs.

What made Simons' approach so potent was that it was that of a curator rather than an heir apparent. He was under no such impression that the house was his - in the vein of that Gallianoesque exhibitionism - but rather his role there was  to de-code Dior's symbols, attitudes and aesthetic tropes and reassemble them in a new way for a modern audience with such a solid understanding of this storied fashion house. 

I suppose that makes Raf Simons a great designer, and why I'll miss keeping up with his collections. 

Introducing Hockin

Hockin is a name you’ll soon be hearing a lot more often. It’s the surname of CSM alumni Charlotte, who has been quietly working away as a freelance designer since graduating in 2006. After years spent gaining experience with high street and high-end brands, building relationships with factories in Italy as a result, the time has finally come for this reserved talent to stand in the spotlight.

Charlotte Hockin

Charlotte has the finesse to focus on every detail of her label, which consists of unlined separates in simple yet striking shapes, crafted from lightweight double-faced cashmere. She is aware of the competition, having worked on various brands for years, and is conscious of pricing and production – skills that come from a career spent focusing on the finer details. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without that experience,” she admits, acknowledging that her time at CSM didn’t necessarily provide her with the skills for a sustainable career. “I would have known how to make a great dress, but I wouldn’t have known how to execute it or how to coincide with brands who are doing exactly the same thing but everyone knows about them.”

What prompted her to start her line was an overwhelming sense that, having gathered this experience, the time was right. “I was always scared to because it’s so much more than just clothes. It’s everything in between, like this interview, reaching out to buyers, making sure you have a good relationship with factories, making sure you can produce it in the same way you’re showing.”

After receiving the support of a factory in Italy that also works with Prada and Givenchy, the ball began to roll. Her first port of call was gathering the imagery and references that would inform her aesthetic, and having come of age during the golden years of Jil Sander, Calvin Klein and photographers such as Corinne Day and Juergen Teller, it was the clean line of 90s minimalism that presented itself as the overarching influence.

Hockin SS16

“I think the words ‘minimalism’ and ‘clean’ have been overused and not necessarily for the right things, which means it can be misconstrued,” she carefully stresses. “It’s really hard to describe the collection I’ve put together because you don’t want to use the same words everyone has used for years – they don’t convey anything anymore. That’s why I realised what I want it to be is revealing the beauty of construction.”

The collection is cleverly crafted with ingenious design detailing. A number of the double-faced cashmere pieces are designed to be reversible, with the seams featuring as a detail. Colour combinations of icy pale-blue and sandy camel, indigo and emerald green, and ecru and natural tan all echo the muted ethos of the label.

“When I was building the collection I had to make sure there was something for everyone, which is very hard to do when you’re creating your first collection,” says Charlotte. “I had to amalgamate the two elements so that there are graphic, playful parts and also quieter pieces that are more wearable. The shapes I’ve created aren’t about drama – they’re about the beauty of how you can construct garments in a slightly different way.”

Hockin Aw15

Not a single garment in the collection is lined. Hockin has employed a unique hand-crafted process, which allows the fabric to be lightweight and double-faced with exposed seams that are finished with seam tape and often cut in the shape of inverted pockets that one would usually find in the lining of a coat or dress. It’s the kind of thoughtful detail that comes from a thorough understanding of the ways clothes are constructed.

As for the intended customer, it’s clear Charlotte has drawn considerably from her own lifestyle. “I’m normally quite a tomboy. I don’t dress up. As you get older, especially as a woman – I’m in my thirties now – I feel like I still want to wear clothes that are feminine but don’t make you feel childish. When you’re young you just do your thing, but when you’re working – I know it sounds boring, but being in meetings and things like that – I’m conscious of wanting people to know I’m experienced from how I look.“

There’s no doubt about it: Charlotte’s experience is an asset to envy.

This interview originally appears in 1 Granary’s third print issue. All photography by Kirill Kuletski

Dazzling in the Age of Austerity

After nine months of painless joy, not many tears but lots of laughter, plenty of adventure and a whole lotta learning along the way, it's here... The labour of my love: the third issue of 1 Granary.

Edie Campbell in Meadham Kirchhoff. Photographed by Drew Jarrett. Styled by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.

Edie Campbell in Meadham Kirchhoff. Photographed by Drew Jarrett. Styled by Anders Sølvsten Thomsen.

The primary focus of the issue is to spotlight the creatives that are defying the current downward-spiraling tendency in the arts. Entitled Dazzling in the Age of Austerity, it is about individuals and collectives beating out their own paths and taking risks to push their respective fields forward. It features the current generation of students who have graduated with tripled tuition fees, as well as creative forces such Meadham Kirchhoff, who have struggled to keep their artistic spirit alive in an age of increasing commercialism. Our aim is to bridge the gap between what is taught in art colleges, such as CSM, and the real-world conversations and difficulties facing today’s generation of artists, designers and creatives. The result is a gallery of the individuals of the generation that is changing the way fashion is conceived, presented and discussed. 

1 Granary is encouraging creative collaboration between students and industry leaders - beyond assisting
The magazine features an array of talent and talking points. There are interviews and editorials featuring Meadham Kirchhoff, Thomas Tait and Simone Rocha; as well as essays on artists Richard Deacon, Luke Turner and Lucien Freud; and longer profiles of Sandy Powell, Adrian Joffe, Sarah Mower, Andrew Rosen, Hugh Devlin, Sophie Muller and Daisy Jacobs. Contributing photographers include Laurence Ellis, Hart + Leshkina, Drew Jarrett, Joyce NG and Camille Vivier; and contributing creatives include Alister Mackie, Anders Sølvsten Thomsen, Ellie Grace Cumming and Lotta Volkova. 

1 Granary, 10 Commandments

The issue will be launched at London Fashion Week, September 2015 and available for purchase at 1Granary.com and selected international retailers shortly after. 

Molly Goddard: Presentation Skills

Molly Goddard AW15

Presentation is a word that has taken fashion weeks across the world by storm. The idea of creating an entire world in a singular room, combining clothes with sculpture and developing a thoughtful concept is something that feels altogether more modern than all of those boring runway shows, crammed together in a chock-a-block schedule.

Think about it: curated details over heavily styled runway looks; an open audience rather than a hierarchical seating structure; slow contemplation and the ability to really look instead of those speedy, angular models rushing to get into their next outfit and on to their next show. The age of the presentation has truly begun.

Nobody did it better than Molly Goddard: who else could turn such a middle-class wet dream of bohemia into something so enchanting, so beautiful? Goddard gave us a nostalgic vision of pre-nine grand tuition fee art school – the days of unbridled creativity, when bright young things could afford to be hungover in last night’s frothy tulle and not care about getting it covered in charcoal. At least that’s what we’d like to think…

The truth is that Molly’s presentation came from the heart – it was her friends who modelled the clothes, her sister Alice who styled it and her mother Sarah who helped with the set design. The result was something inspiring and authentic that combined Lolita-like sweetness with an overwhelming sense of feminist pride. These girls aren’t just posh and arty – they’re comfortable and unapologetically in control of their saccharine femininity. That, and it all just seems so much more modern than those clinical parades, don’t you think?

You heard it here first: welcome to the age of the presentation.

Photo: Philip Trengove / Dazed Digital

The Show Must Go On

THE LEGACY OF LOUISE WILSON IS IN EVERYONE THAT WAS TOUCHED BY HER, EDUCATED BY HER AND AFFECTED BY HER AND I DO BELIEVE THAT FOLLOWS DOWN THROUGH GENERATIONS, SAID SARAH MOWER, AMBASSADOR FOR EMERGING TALENT AT THE BRITISH FASHION COUNCIL. AT THE CENTRAL SAINT MARTINS MA SHOW 2015, WE WITNESSED THIS EXACT LEGACY IN THE LAST OF A LONG LINE OF HER GRADUATES. TODAY, WE APPLAUD THE REMARKABLY STRONG WORK OF FABIO PARIS AS THE NEW MA COURSE LEADER, AND CELEBRATE THE STRONG BELIEFS OF LOUISE; HER STANDARDS AND HIGH EXPECTATIONS, HER FIGHTS FOR SCHOLARSHIPS AND BURSARIES EVEN IN BLEAK TIMES, THE IMPACT SHE HAS MADE ON THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY, AND HER CONSTANT PUSHING FOR THINGS TO BE BETTER; AND BETTER; AND BETTER.

Friday 20 February 2015 marked a historic moment for fashion.

Ten months after the passing of Professor Louise Wilson, a memorial was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, the first time the historic London institution has opened its doors to the fashion industry since the untimely death of Alexander McQueen in 2010.

Upon arrival, the 1000-strong congregation was welcomed by the striking sight of a lone horsewoman sitting side-saddle on a calm brown horse outside the cathedral. Dressed in head-to-toe mourning, comprising of an equestrienne skirt, jacket, stock-shirt and veiled top hat, it was a powerful image that nodded to the life of a truly powerful woman.

The horse stood still and the elegant equestrienne sat silently, both unabsorbed to the bustling crowds desperate to get a photo for Instagram. The moment was remarkable and unbeknownst to those stunned passers-by, it was a fittingly grand visual tribute to one of the fashion industrys least grand visionaries.

This was no mean feat. The memorial was organised over the period of eight months by a group of Louise’s friends: in large part by Sarah Mower, Contributing Editor to US Vogue and the BFC’s Ambassador for Emerging Talent; as well as Sam Gainsbury, one half of production consultancy Whiting & Gainsbury; Wallpaper*’s Nick Vinson, who was the student-helper on Louise’s own graduate collection at Saint Martins; Fleet Bigwood, Louise’s compadre in print on in the MA department; Alistair O’Neill, curator and head of the History & Theory pathway at CSM; John Vial, a close friend of Louise; and Hugh Devlin, London’s most prominent fashion lawyer.

The lone horsewoman was the result of a collaboration between Alister Mackie, one of Louise’s favourite students, and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton, who was not one of Louise’s students but had become a close friend, often encouraged and advised by her. When Louise told Sarah that she had a “cupboard full of cups” from her childhood days of riding, it prompted her to ask for the photo of her as a young girl jumping at a gymkhana to be printed on the back of the Order of Service. The money was raised to pay for the service through generous donations, many of which came from Louise’s graduates, and some of their grateful parents, while other services, such as those of Sam Gainsbury and TCS’s Daniel Marks, were offered in-kind.

This gives some indication to the impact that Louise Wilson made on people around her. In an industry where designers are heralded as ‘geniuses’ and the majority of journalists play the role of cheerleaders, she was a formidable, honest voice that many felt grateful for, and which often went uncredited in the breath of its outreach.

She was an educationist who truly believed in a democratic fashion system that should give everyone a chance to learn, study and, most importantly, improve. She was also a match-maker for students and fashion houses, a fund-raiser for countless scholarships and bursaries and a true modernist at heart, always interested in the vanguard of design and youth culture, constantly pushing for it to be better; and better; and better.

All of this, of course, was often overshadowed by her unforgettable, authoritative voice, often peppered with witty curses and could be heard through the corridors of the Charing Cross Road building before being echoed through the high ceilings and open studio space of the third-floor MA classrooms in the Granary Building.

“What people forget is that there was a context, always,” says Louise’s successor Fabio Piras of her hyperbolic enthusiasm. “The yelling, for instance, was never yelling for the sake of yelling. The rudeness was actually informed rudeness; it was educated rudeness. It was theatrical and if you were to listen to the rudeness, it was beautiful and there was always an enormous amount of care.”

This was a sentiment that was repeated throughout the various speeches and readings at the memorial. Jane Rapley, former head of CSM, delivered an account of Louise as a colleague, unpredictably brilliant and confrontational, working not for the college itself but for her own standards and passions that had a direct impact on the fashion world today. “The world at large did not meet her standards,” said Rapley. “Nothing was perfect enough for Louise, especially not her students. There was the annual autumn agony; “I’m not going to have a show! None of them are good enough! They’re not working hard enough and they’ve got no ideas!”

It was these standards and high expectations, combined with an innate encyclopaedic knowledge of global fashion and history that made her students hang on to every last bit of feedback, largely because we knew that it was honest and entirely accurate, even if it did leave us wobbling in fear, anxiety, and occasionally, resentment that we didn’t anticipate such feedback.

Her core belief that education should be free was matched with action. In the programme for the MA show, held later that evening at Somerset House, her efforts to persuade fashion houses to put unrequited investment into education underscored the majority of designers – luxury behemoths such as Chloé, Alexander McQueen, J Crew, Tod’s and Stella McCartney are all listed for their contributions to the line-up of graduates, including the winners of the L’Oréal Professionnel prize, Matty Bovan and Beth Postle, largely thanks to Louise’s undeterred disregard for privilege.

What’s more, Louise had no time for egos, even though she was arguably domineering in her own demeanour. While there are a long list of names on the London Fashion Week Schedule that owe their presence there to Louise – Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, Craig Green, Simone Rocha, to name but a few – a large number of her students went on to happily work for fashion houses and studios of creative directors around the world.

Alber Elbaz, creative director of Lanvin, spoke of the enormous trust that was bestowed upon Louise to source talent and match her students to the right working environment. He poetically described their relationship as that of a blind tango, entirely based on trust of her decisions – the type of trust that would be delivered with anecdotes such as “He’s so horrible, you’re going to like him,” or “She is so bad, you have to have her!”

What Mr. Elbaz described as her “fashion kitchen” was left distraught following her death. No student can forget the eerie atmosphere in college on May 16 2014. Flowers were laid near the fountains outside the college, mostly by those who weren’t taught by her and countless tears were tasted by those who did. Many felt her death was abandonment to those left behind, especially her class of 2015. But as Louise understood every year at the beginning of the academic year, even if she did sometimes deny it, the show must go on. And that’s exactly what it did.

There was no mistaking that designers who presented their graduate collections on Friday were what the MA is all about. Each designer had a distinct point of view that felt honed and informed, largely thanks to the courage of Fabio Piras to take the helm of a captain-less ship. Visually, it was clear that they were all the product of not only Louise’s mentorship, but what Fabio has described as the “tightly-knit nucleus” of the MA staff.

Who could confuse Matty Bovan’s rainbow-hued, Lucky Charm-flavoured psychedelic fantasy with Erik Litzén’s crisply tailored menswear-with-a-flourish? Or the witty charm of James Theseus Buck’s textured scarecrow-boys from the salmon-pink woven-polyester boas and cobweb knits of Hayley Grundmann? These were collections that were achieved by the support and mentorship of extremely good teachers, who understand how to encourage growth in skill and creativity.

However, among a number of students and journalists, the show stirred consideration for what it was that made Louise’s students special, and whether this will continue, even though it is evident that Louise’s approach was tailored to the personal development of her students, not herself, so that every February her students had a collection that had not only travelled light-years from their initial sketches, but provided them with an entirely unique visual identity and process that could be taken away and applied to the real world.

“Her legacy is in everyone that was touched by her, educated by her and affected by her and I do believe that flows down through generations,” said Sarah Mower on the phone yesterday evening, following the end of another London Fashion Week dominated by designers that owe much to her and Louise’s mentorship. She added that Louise taught her the value and meaning of fashion education and, more importantly, good fashion educators; something that initially prompted her to start visiting colleges to personally meet students on a regular basis.

“Her teaching was centred on being true to yourself, finding out who you are and having a point of view; and to execute it to the nth degree of excellence,” she elaborated. “A man who was taught by her and taught alongside her is now in her chair and he is fully equipped [to direct the MA course]. Louise would not have wanted it to stay in the same place; she didnt want it to stay in the same place. She wanted more – more money, more scholarships, and more of the right people applying. Her total belief was in access to education.”

So fear not, students, the MA Fashion is not going anywhere, and it certainly won’t be any less demanding, intense and bloody hard work under the eyes of Fabio Piras, who has brought twenty years of international experience with him, showing his own eponymous label at LFW from 1994 to 2000, and who has since enjoyed a successful career in both creative direction and luxury consultancy in Europe and China, as well as over twenty years teaching alongside the rest of the MA staff and Louise, who once taught him.

Louise’s loud, quick-witted voice will continue to echo through the third-floor studios, reminding us to continually push ourselves no matter where or what we’re working on. Given how unforgettable and pertinent it is in the minds of her students, colleagues and peers – and as a result the industry at large – the MA Fashion course can and will only get better.

And we all know who believed in better.

Originally written for and published by 1 Granary