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When a magazine came round to shoot the house last week, I sprung into visual merchandising mode, ensuring my multiple stacks of stuff had some semblance of colour and textural order.  There’s no way of minimising the amount of fashion paraphernalia that I have accumulated over the years.  Perhaps I’m clutching on to it all, with the knowledge that I might not be in this industry forever.  Further down the line, invitations, boxes and other gubbins will remind me of that fanciful time when I gallivanted about as a fashion blogger.

One particular colour  unsurprisingly dominates my piled-up packaging realm in the guest room and it’s pink.  Not the hot shades of Barbie dolls and Victoria’s Secret, but the duskier ones that flourish at Acne and Miu Miu and the softer hues that are bright but not burnishing your eyes, as seen at newer brands such as the inside of Shrimps’ lovely illustrated boxes, Mansur Gavriel‘s boxes and Simone Rocha’s pillowy shopping bags that she is using at her new-ish Mount Street store.  As the pink bleeds into “nude” territory (sorry to use such an odious word but none other seems to fit), it portrays something more grown up and sophisticated as seen in some of Prada’s shoeboxes and satin dust bags and Christopher Kane’s lovely soft suede coverlets for his new range of sunglasses.  These are the colours of the spectrum that apparently have calming effects, according to research published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry as scientists found that seeing pink slows people’s endocrine systems and tranquilises tense muscles.  Less tension perhaps equates to a higher likelihood of parting with your cash.  There you go.  Scientific reason for why all that dusky pink in Miu Miu created a giant hole in my bank account. 

And yet despite our positive associations with the colour pink, as this diagram from Veronika Koller’s academic study on the gender associations of pink shows…

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… it’s not statistically our favourite colour.  Koller’s research showed that only 7.7 per cent of informants rated it as their favourite colour, while 10.1 named it as their least favourite colour.  It’s also a storied shade that comes with more baggage than most.  Its back and forth gender associations (it only came to be known as a ‘feminine’ colour after the 1950s).  Its up-and-down love/hate relationship with feminism as a result of its misuse in female-directed advertising and stereotypical connotations.  Its historic associations with upper class decadence and flamboyance.  This piece on The Atlantic by Anna Broadway debunks the girly myth about pink quite comprehensively.

The proliferation of these gentle shades of pink in fashion, seems to correlate with quite standardised theories of colour psychology.  In its subdued form, pink is apparently non-threatening, inspirational, sincere and likely to attract a more sentimental and older market.  The hotter the pink, the more energetic and younger it skews.  To call brands like Miu Miu and Acne slow fashion would be inaccurate but their dusky pink packaging certainly commands you to consider each purchase with thought and care.  The boxes in particular with their mattified surfaces and close-fitting lids instantly feel like something ‘of quality’ will be nestled inside under the tissue paper.  Quality.  Longevity.  And yet, it also hints at an absence of convention.  That’s a winning combination for the aforementioned brands.

In the March 2015 issue of Wallpaper magazine, Jonny Johansson explained that the Acne murky pink came about after looking at a pink sandwich wrapper and calls it a “very positive colour” for both men and women.  It does so by having the amount of murkiness in it and so becomes an unlikely gender-neutral shade that appeals to Acne’s discerning audience.   

Miuccia of course is adept at all shades of pink.  I *think* she’s just about used them all in both Prada and Miu Miu collections over the years and for Miu Miu in particular, their powderpuff dusky pink anchors their branding from the interiors to the lookbooks to the shopping bags and every other aspect of packaging.  When combined with textures like deep pile velvet and cross-hatched heavyweight paper, you immediately made to feel like you’re buying something of significance. 

A crop of younger brands have also gone down the soft pink route – going lighter and brighter, whilst still maintaining its gentle qualities.  The more upbeat shades befit the youth of these designers.  Mansur Gavriel decked their entire presentation space last season – walls, carpet and furniture – in a shade of dulled pepto bismol pink that has transferred over to their packaging.  It’s a colour that compliments their now much-expanded collection of minimal-yet-interesting bags and shoes with a surprising high quality of make, considering the price. 

I’m told Shrimps is doing brisk trade on her website’s e-commerce and no wonder, when you get delightful personal touches like these illustrated garment boxes with its prawn pink interior.  In this instance, the pink does skew more girly but as it doesn’t quite reach the hot end of the pink scale, you can still sense that there’s something sardonic in what Weiland is doing.

Simone Rocha confronts bubble gum pink head on with her bold spongey shoppers.  I was so delighted when the shop assistant at her Mount Street store packed my equally pink skirt into this bag, that I think I squealed a bit too much over what is essentially, mere packaging.  But that’s the joy of being able to control your own retail, that you can make the decision to send customers, merry on their way with these marshmallow carriers.  Rocha has of course used this shade of pink in this bonded foam fabric in her own collection, to recontexualise this shade of pink.  Much of her work centres around reclaiming notions of girliness whether it’s through pink, florals or Princess-dress silhouettes.  There’s power to Rocha’s pink that isn’t brash or vulgar, but recalls one of my favourite reads, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts.  Many of the clothes aren’t of course quiet in their design but walk into Rocha’s store and somehow the volume of the heavyweight brands on Mount Street quietens right down, enough so that you can appreciate these clothes that matter.  And if you do come away with that pillow of a bag, you’ve got yourself a protective cushion.  Against sharp elbows and hard-cornered shopping bags.  Against mediocrity.  One or the other. 

>> As part of United Colors of Benetton’s bid to re-affirm its roots, they’ve just launched the third drop of their Collection of Us, themed around the Carnival.  It’s an abstracted take on this Venetian tradition though, as an array of colours are united (to state the obvious) in a collection of premium intarsia knitwear pieces. 

In true Benetton marketing tradition though, the colours that Benetton are referring to aren’t just the bright hues in geometric knitted patterns, but the skin tones of different ethnicities, which features in their new ‘Face of the City’ campaign.  London, New York, Tokyo, Paris, Milan and Berlin are each represented with a digitally generated algorithmic composite “model”, combining all of the ethnicities of each city in the correct proportions according to population data

benettoncBenetton colour block polo dress and optical print tee worn with Sibling skirt and Nicholas Kirkwood slippers, Benetton optical print tee worn with C/MEO Collective skirt and top and Mother of Pearl sandals

Strangely, save for Tokyo, the faces have all emerged looking fairly similar, and it’s only when you look up close can you see subtle differences.  It would be interesting to see what physical ambassadors, Benetton chose to go into this algorithm but I suppose the point is to reflect the term “melting pot”, often used to describe cosmopolitan multi-cultural cities.  Quite literally, one city’s face segues into the other seamlessly.  It’s certainly an alternative take on diversity, as the campaign points out, not the differences but the similarities that we share, asserting a feel-good idea that colour is merely skin-deep.  As a contrasting foil, Benetton did also produce a more conventional ad campaign featuring diverse models wearing these Carnival knitwear pieces. 

Ethnic diversity aside, colour in all its exuberant variety is represented in the collection and again, makes for an upbeat affirmation of what Benetton do best. 

So I’m back to the velvet underground
Back to the floor that I love
To a room with some lace and paper flowers
Back to the gypsy that I was, to the gypsy that I was

It wasn’t a reference cited by Kate and Laura Mulleavy but as their gossamer-thin shimmying and shining frocks (and yes, these really are frocks as opposed to merely dresses…) walked amongst their neon tube jungle, all I could hear in my head were these words of Stevie Nicks.  And Nicks’ particular mix of Victoriana-tinged folksy sultriness could be seen throughout, what I think is one of my favourite Rodarte shows in recent years.

Mentioning poets like Emily Dickinson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning already partially immerse you into the Mulleavy’s hypnotic cosmos.  But it’s all about that final evocative rendering that really slays you.  That Victorian and Edwardian buttoned-up and corset-tied poetry ended up colliding with coquettish glamourama of the 1970s, from repeated listening of ELO.  It’s how all that lace, bugle beading and embroidery remained light and unapologetically frivolous.  It’s why in my own head, I thought of the vibes of American giallo classic The Eyes of Laura Mars, touches of Studio 54 and all its fur chubby-wearing revellers, and of course Nicks, who you could certainly see sashaying about in these frocks.  And so it wound up being a potent mix – one that affirms Rodarte as one of those labels that you appreciate for its very existence, as it occupies its own unique magical bolthole, away from the sea of ‘brands’ and ‘product’.  You’ll be hearing those two two words frequently of course, as New York Fashion Week will be kicking off on Wednesday.  Hurrah?

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steviec2Stevie Nicks

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Mary WardEnglish novelist Mary Ward

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emilydickensonEmily Dickinson

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lauramars1Stills from The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

fighting-vampire-layingPhotographs of the character Laura Mars by Rebecca Blake

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corset2Still from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

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biancajBianca Jagger in British Vogue 1974 photographed by Eric Boman

deborahtYves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche photographed by Deborah Turbeville 

Vogue-September-1977-Gold-Surprises-Photo-Deborah-Turbeville-Models-Sunny-Redmond_-Jerry-Hall-_-Unknown-Hair-Garren-Makeup-Ariella_4Vogue 1977 photographed by Deborah Turbeville

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picnicStill from Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

nova-magazine-1970-04Nova magazine 1970

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rrPhotography by Rebecca Blake

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mode2Callot Sisters Salon in Paris photographed in 1910 – they were known for using antique laces and metallic lamé on their couture dresses

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discoHalston dresses in action in the 1970s

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victoriana1French singer and entertainer Marcelle Lender

victoriana2Photography of the May Queen Festival in 1892

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Stevie-Nicks-White-Top-Skirt-StageStevie Nicks

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Without fail every season, I make the pilgrimage to the Sacai store in Tokyo to survey the full range of Chitose Abe’s pieces because even as her ascent stockists-wise has sky rocketed, you still get a better scope in the flagship store.  These are workhorse clothes because they tend to encompass an array of silhouettes, genres, prints and hidden clever details, thus making them supremely versatile to wear.  With every movement you get a little “Oooh…” because you’ve discovered a useful popper or zipper, a feel-good grosgrain tab or a secret slip dress.

I don’t get to Tokyo until March/April but I got to wear one of the more elaborate looks from Sacai’s SS16 collection for last week’s dinner at Dover Street Market (significantly, the last event at their Dover Street location before the big move to Haymarket on 19th March) to celebrate their collaboration with the jeweller Sophie Bille Brahle.  The keyword for Abe was to “disrupt” in a change-up from her usual garment hybridisations.  And so she sought to disrupt and distort the most recognisable of vintage-isms – the typical souvenir silk scarf that you might find in £2 bins in Beyond Retro and then later, paisley bandana prints straight from Canal Street.  Of course, these banalities under Abe’s cutting prowess were entirely transformed – rendered in complex lace, spliced in silk banded stripes, pleated and volumes created with open-backs, asymmetrical lengths and slits.  Once again, Sacai’s clothes seen front-on don’t even tell you a quarter of the story.  They need to be turned inside out, seen from the side and viewed with the excess of fabric trailing at the back.

Somehow Abe’s Sacai-isms went crazed this season – more off kilter, more textures, more asymmetries.  I would hazard a guess for the wearer, there’s even more of those delicious deets to discover.  With the dress I borrowed for the dinner,  I loved the detachable navy pleated slip dress inside, the tailored shoulders slashed with slits and the double tiered shape that meant the lace cascades just so.  With its clever play on kitschy holiday gifts, my forthcoming Sacai spree should yield a few enticing (and expensive) souvenirs to bring home.

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0E5A6755Sacai SS16 dress worn with Dior Cruise 2016 boots

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It was a good thing that the jewellery collaboration between Abe and Brahe was feted last week because in amongst the pleasure dome cacophony of prints, textiles and spliced this and that, it was difficult to see what was hanging off the ears.  The ten piece capsule collection of mono earrings entitled ‘sacaisophiebillebrahe‘ centres around the pearl – either in a curved croissaint formation or singularly on a dropped chain.  With my non pierced ears, I of course can’t partake in these pearly delights but these could definitely tempt me to test out the current status of my skin-metal allergy.

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