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I very nearly put this under the Travel category.  Did I ever recall a joke where I said the only time I ever left the M25 was to go abroad?  Hardy-ha… not so funny when you get confused over the geogrpahical location of Cheddard Gorges and Alton Towers. 

I decided in the end not to, because Bicester Village, the location of today's launch of the British Designers Collective pop-up store is only about an hour away from London.  There is really no excuse as to why I have not YET visited Bicester Village, the outlet haven, that as I discovered has everything a fashion bargain hunter would want.  Disneyrollergirl has been extolling its delights and frankly, a proper day out, complete with visits to Blenheim Palace and *fingers crossed* The Fat Duck needs to be organised.  See end note.

So, the order of the day is not to bleet on about discount shopping but to check out this unique collaboration between the British Fashion Council and Bicester Village.  They've basically gathered up a juicy selection of British-based designers to sell in this pop up store which is open now until May 7th, selling mostly past-season stuff, as per the way with outlet stores at prices of up to 50% off.  Not that the words 'past season' will matter to the majority of customers passing through Bicester Village who may not be familiar with the designers in the store and basically are being introduced to their aesthetics… (**EDIT**a reader emailed to say this isn't indicative of all customers at Bicester and that of course, there are people passionate and knowledgeable about fashion there too …. apologies if this may have caused offense… I was sort of paraphrasing what the management at Bicester told me regarding their clientele…!)

Enter the store and out comes the brollies… appropriate for the drizzly weather we're getting… thanks for the wet Easter weekend… really, mucho appreciated…

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First up… lovely lovely Emma Cook.  I know it's boring to describe a designer's clothes as 'lovely' but they really are… the perfect blend of whimsy and practicality…

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Phoar phoar Jean Pierre Braganza with two rails of strong strong tailoring.  My protective leather jacket with the shaggy collar is there… as well as some panelled skirts that are calling out to Queen Michelle… especially stuff hovering around the sub ¬£200 mark. 

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The Felder Felder girls were at the store along with their rail that traversed between tough and pretty all in one go…

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Todd Lynn, an Erin O' Connor fave…

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I quite like the way the ribbon collar connects with the shirt front…

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Pretty pretty Erdem… congrats to him for winning the BFC/Vogue award… a cool ¬£200k in his pocket… I personally was gunning for either Marios Schwab or Christopher Kane but there ya go…

Some really great bargains on the rail including a 100% instantly-recognisable-as-Erdem watercolour skirt…

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I had a good time felling up this printed watercolour rain mac…  it's possibly the prettiest sort of plastic I've ever seen… sadly it was still ¬£700 post discount and also in a size L…

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Hannah Marshall's LBDs should go fast… love the one at the front with the pronounced hippage…

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Graeme Black had the most individual pieces that I wanted, despite being the designer with whom I was least familiar…  feathers, plenty of texture and non-discernable prints on biker jackets… lots of wearable pomp in other words.

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Markus Lupfer had a rail full of really good ¬£100-mark bargains… I especially love the dresses with the hour glass prints…

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Louise Amstrup was also very tempting with these printed pieces…

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House of Holland will get the teen crowd in with plenty of tees from the S/S 08 collection…

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Osman Yousefzada aka the designer I don't mind doing head-to-toe in when I'm an older, wiser me, caught my eye with this tulip skirt with a tightly pleated monochrome panel underneath…

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Shoe offerings were particularly good for bargains especially when it came to Atalanta Weller's shoes for House of Holland as well as Maria Francesca Pepe sculptural velvet boots…

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Georgina Goodman's negative space wedge boots were on offer // Here's someone I don't know a great deal about but I'll investigate because a) her name is Gwendolyn Carrie and b) there are some very dainty flat options on offer…

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Accessories wise, it was a well-selected selection if that makes sense.  As in, there were only two jewellery designers but they did choose well with Fiona Paxton and Maria Francesca Pepe.

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In all honesty, I wasn't expecting such a broad selection and actually there were designers on the original press release that weren't in the store upon arrival (Louise Gray, Mark Fast – perhaps they're coming in later?), but still, the space was definitely bustling with stock and given that Bicester gets a fairly international crowd, it's actually quite a clever move setting up this 'pop-up store' where people can get a taste of what British fashion offers beyond the established Paul Smith, Mulberry, Vivienne Westwood and the like that have stores at Bicester.

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I also grabbed a few words with vice chairman of London Fashion week and spokesperson for British Fashion Council Erin O'Connor.  That she knew what the crap was a blogger was a surprise to me… guess I never thought err… ethereal beings Erin, once described with "she is like theatre!" (said Jean Paul Gaultier)… would be sniffing around the internet.

What are the challenges facing British designers, because whilst initiatives like this are great, there are still problems.
Erin O'Connor: You're right, there are certain challenges and what better way to have understood these challenges than being a model because you can't much closer to a designer than a model. I've been a silent observer over the years and you hold with them that anxiety and joy and feeling of expectation and timing and all of those things that I get to see that some people don't even imagine. 
I think we need to diffuse the reputation between accessible shopping and keeping designers exclusive in boutiques. Everyone has a right to look through incredible one-off pieces that you might not have access to.

Do you think there are designers that still hold this view about exclusivity with their own brand?
Erin O'Connor:
Designers have really embraced this project in this gutsy way because they do face, especially with the economy as it is, a huge challenge with their reputation for galvanising the avant garde and everything that has been drummed into them since college. The importance of being accessible is so timely. The fact that they're showcasing together here altogether is unique in itself and that means that they are embracing it.

Which British designers in particular do you like?
Erin O'Connor:
I have a few but I would never really rock one designer all at once. It's rather over the top to rock an all-in-one look. It's quite nice to mix it up.
I'm really drawn to Hannah Marshall – I love how strict, uncompromising and sexy she is. Todd Lynn – I love to feel feminine. I look and feel more feminine actually in well-cut suits. I'm a big fan of Todd and his structure makes me feel more 'held within it'.

How do you feel about your progression from model to the spokesperson that you have become?
Erin O'Connor:
Traditionally we're known to be very passive and yet it's in two-dimensional form and it's quite ironic that now, the main part of my career is to be vocal and to express an opinion.
I've grown with a lot of British talent and it feels natural that I should be doing this and it makes sense. It all started with my role in the British Fashion Council and really what I love is promoting British Fashion and it's important to not be afraid with what you want to say and have to say and hopefully it will contribute to sustainable change. 

Finally… of course SOMETHING had to come home with me… and it had to be this Emma Cook painter's silk shirt that I plan on wearing with… well… not a lot actually just to let the shape of the shirt fly and breathe…

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… and this House of Holland cropped tee from the S/S 08 collection, which I have just realised has a bit of that Proenza Schouler S/S 10 surfer vibe to it… I also bought these Alexander McQueen footless crochet tights from the McQueen outlet…

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(Worn with Topshop velvet body, Jean Colona leather skirt, Urban Outfitters belt and Michael Angel x Manolo Blahnik ankle boots)

P.S. Related yet unrelated at the same time seeing as this post is about bigging up Brit designers but after a quick walkaround Bicester, I've decided another trip is needed when my next imaginary windfall is coming… not sure when this is given my state of employment but here's hoping because today, I squealed over many things… Versace/Gucci/Dolce/YSL/McQueen/Fendi/Marni/Luella etc etc.  This rather sad that I've not been yet given my track record with discount shopping but fortunately, Bicester should outlive my wait for the windfall…

I'm one of those peeps that prefers a grey beach to a sunny one.  I like sludgey cement looking sand, choppy waters the colour of pebbles and faded beach huts that look like they might fall down.  When I went to Calla Haynes' showroom in Paris and she told me she was possibly going to shoot her sophomore collection on a grey beach, a *ding ding* sound went off in my head as I exclaimed "Yes, this collection definitely needs a grey slightly rain-sodden beach!".  So the lookbook images are in for her A/W 10-11 collection and there are no beaches to be found which obviously gives ME the perfect excuse to see how I can get my hands on some of these beautiful melancholic pieces for my own grey beach consumption… I get a good deal of that going often to Westgate-on-Sea, Steve's hometown.

From fish skins and peachy pastel prints of her first collection, the tone becomes more sombre but actually more ethereal with this A/W 10-11 collection.  Yet at the same time with this collection, Calla has also gone with the 'grounding down' by catering to have more of a complete wardrobe – the boyfriend jacket that was the star piece of last season becomes quilted, there are coat dresses, printed jersey pieces and cigarette trousers for day.  The signature dress – the robe gaine – with its sweetheart neckline and elastic/mesh corset support becomes pleasingly l o n g e r in sheer printed chiffon which is an added bonus for me.  The dress also comes with a detachable ten layer skirt that flounces out at the waist if you're feeling a little more frivolous…

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Another star jacket of the collection…

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I know Breton has been done done done but I love the 'dirtied/texturised' feel of these stripes… // I never thought burgandy leather panelled leggings could look so good

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I love the iridescent quality of this jacquard…

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I love that along with print, Calla's speciality, there's also an element of texture which she manages to incorporate quite seamlessly so that there is this organic synergy.  So along with actual texture, she replicates textures from abstract paintings, flamingo feathers as well as a Breton stripe which looks like it has been pencil-shaded.  Then she has this wool/lurex jacquard that sort of mirrors the strokes of her prints as well as a handwoven Ikat and moir√© silk (I had this stuff hanging as curtains for ages at home… never thought it could looks so good as skirt/trousers) to make things more pronounced.  I'm glad she's given us an upclose look of her prints on her website to ensure everyone knows what Calla is all about!

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Was it a weird coincidence that the week before I went to Hong Kong, the lovely Kat from Style Lines got herself some lifesize cut-outs done in a Sportsgirl store and then I hop over to HK and got myself…

…yes… some 1:1 life size cutouts too… actually in some cases, it's 1:1.5… that's a GIANT me, hulking over you with fringe, frills, colours and my top knotted hair that is threatening to topple over…

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Let's backtrack…

I mentioned that I was going to Hong Kong and whilst I was there covered the still mind-searingly spectacular Maggie Cheung x Rodarte event and the Versace event hosted by Joyce (I know I keep saying Joyce like it's something everyone should know it… let's see… it's the Browns/Maria Luisa or HK…).  I was also there to basically have a super elevated version of what I used to do in Topshop back when I was 16.  That is, try on a load of clothes.  Only this time, the clothes involve labels like Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, Toga, Marios Schwab, Tao, Ohne Titel etc etc… the list goes on.  Plus I have my own clothes and accessories at my disposal to mix it up.  I'm also being photographed as opposed to emerging from the changing room to give my best friend a twirl to get a yay/nay.  Oh, and the photos get blown life size and larger in some cases to be put into the window.  Ok, so it's QUITE different from what I did back when I was 16.

That Joyce asked me to do this, thinking that it was something of a hardship, was also quite funny because clearly ransacking their rails at their Pacific Place store, choosing things that I could only dream of owning (well collectively anyway…) and mixing it all up with my own stuff was of course insufferable!  In all seriousness though, I am most grateful to Joyce for this weird yet wonderful opportunity and I'm just hoping passers-by are not too freaked out by a 2 metre cut-out in towering Acne shoes.  I also got my Mannequin moment when I freeze framed in amongst the cut-outs, standing very still and then freaked a passer-by out by suddenly moving my arm.  If that wasn't a moment of pure awesomeness, I don't know what is.

Ok…so bewarned, there are a LOTTA images here and because Steve had to take them in a mall where there's no natural light, I did have to colour correct them a little, something I never normally do so apologies for that…

I've also bunged in some of the images Joyce took as a behind the scenes thingamajig…

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1) House of Holland x Levis jacket, Richard Nicoll skirt, my own vintage hat, Topshop velvet body and Luella shoes – It's funny how I go all the way to HK to see Brit designers that I rarely come across in London.  Plenty of things to play with courtesy of the straps on the jacket, which I'm contemplating buying and ….yesssh…. grosgrain and fringe on the skirt! 

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2) Marios Schwab Swarovski gem jacket, Rick Owens grey skirt, Rick Owens grey cardigan Alexander Wang grey suede sandals, my own long sheer vintage dress, American Apparel vest and Sou Brette necklace – Magpie me instantly honed in on this Marios Schwab jacket.  I love how the crystals are encased within the organza of the jacket so they're not so blingy.  Note to self: Must save up for Rick Owens knitwear that felt really good to stretch over the arms.

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3) Manish Arora embroidered neoprene vest, House of Holland pink and orange shirt dress, my own Bebaroque tights and Acne shoes – It's pretty easy to limit the layers when you have things like this jutty-outty neoprene structure throwing some wild shapes over your body.  American Quarterback shoulders with a bit of bling bling, no?

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Steve and I very SERIOUSLY pondering the meaning of these Alexander Wang long johns… 

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4) Alexander Wang grey jersey waistcoat, Anthony Vaccarello ruched cut-out minidress, Marselle black and white lace-up flats, my own Marc Jacobs tee, vintage lace trousers and zipper chains – This was the point when I started feeling like I had to pick up the pace a little… with more than ten outfits to go so I think this is a slightly cheesed off face at the camera as the lighting kept on going bezerk.  I wish I had shot the detail of the amazing cut-out dress.

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5) Rick Owens grey leather jacket, Sacai dotty dress, Alexander Wang grey suede sandals, my own COS white t-shirt, H&M cycling shorts, I Heart Norwegian Wood cage dress – I started delving into the Japanese label rails and Sacai has always been a fave of mine.  I especially loved the rubberized texture of the dots on this dress which you can't see in pics.

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6) Toga jacket, Mary Katrantzou printed dress, Markus Lupfer lace-up leggings, my own Fred Butler necklace and Acne shoes – Mary K's dresses have grown up in the past few seasons, so I in turn had to make it less so with the necklace.

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This is the 'checking size of bum' shot..

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7) Dress33 velvet sequinned one-shouldered dress, my own vintage floral jumpsuit, Topshop headband and Irregular Choice shoes – I had to grab this dress even if on me, it does sort of look like a lost toga.  Damn that furry shimmery blue texture for reminding me of Little Mermaid tails.

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8) Undercover dress with underslip, Manish Arora sequin leggings, Alexander Wang leopard print wedges, my own Michelle Jank necklace – Apologies for the very moody over the shoulder shot.  I just had to show the back with these equestrian-inspired tan straps that hold this dress altogether.

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9) Ohne Titel wrapover cropped knit, Ohne Titel draped front knitted dress, Alexander Wang leopard print wedges my own Cooperative Designs legwarmers – I had to work these legwarmers in somewhere and though I'd pit American knits against Brit knits.  I love the simplicity of the Ohne Titel pieces. 

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10) Mastermind Japan blazer, JC de Castelbajac red and blue knit jacket, Margiela yellow trousers, my own Tim Ryan scarf and Luella shoes – Couldn't resist the primary plus nautical combo when I saw both jackets by Mastermind Japan and JCDC.   

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Another serious couple shot of us err… 'hard' at work…

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11) Anthony Vaccarello jacket, House of Holland nude and black lace shorts and black lace tee, Ann Demeulemeester strappy wedges, my own grey tee, Bebaroque tights – I'm sure you're familiar with these statement jackets and of course with Joyce being one of Anthony's first stockists, I definitely had to get my mitts on these. 

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A fair amount of straps to do up on the Ann D sandals…

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12) Tao fluro pink and safety pin knit, House of Holland pink lace dress underneath, my own vintage frilly bed jacket, lilac tights and Irregular Choice shoes – It was the colour of the Tao knit that hooked me in really and with all its stringy goodness, it's a fidgeting fashion lover's haven…

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13) Markus Lupfer scribble print top and matching leggings, Richard Nicoll navy silk trousers, Ann Demeulemeester strappy wedges, my own vintage floral blazer – Seeing as I normally have a fear of trousers, it seemed weird that were so many viable options at Joyce. 

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14) Manish Arora sculpted blazer, Alexander Wang stripy draped shorts, Alexander Wang leopard print wedges, my own Acne dress and Prada socks – Yes, it seems the Wang's S/S 10 collection had me with all its easy-to-wear pieces.  I thanked my lucky stars that I had the Prada socks with me as I think bare legs might have killed the outfit somewhat. 

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15) Yuima Nakazato chain shrug, Marios Schwab gem-print dress, Ann Demeulemeester strappy wedges, my own Michael Angel leggings and Jennifer Loiselle headband – And the final one!  The last hurrah as it were… I really wanted to have a go at Yuima Nakazato's changeable sandals that zipped into a gazillion different combos but as we were running out of time, we bunged on the chain piece instead. 

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And… c'est fini…

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>> Is every Blogger blog going doolally today?  I'm one for words most of the time but it's quite depressing facing blogs with that broken image icon.  It's made it a little bit difficult checking out London-based designer Maaike Mekking's entirely Blogger-based website for instant.

Anyhow, I've been meaning to post these images from their A/W 10-11 collection and I'm hoping they'll do the Blogger rounds (image uploading permitting…) a LOT as I *think* I'm right in saying that this is probably Mekking's most accessible collection to date and in terms of the boxes that this collection ticks for the new season, it's pretty much got it all going on.  I jest a little when I call myself a trendwhore.  I do get excited about emerging trend strands each season, but at the end of the day it is the binding force of personal style that hopefully navigates through those trends.  So even though Maaike Mekking's collection does do a whole lot of box ticking… denim, camel, longer lengths and shearling, there's something in the mixing of the elements, the sheer panels, the cut-outs in the dresses and also the addition of that geometric patterned tattoo bodysuit that doesn't just make this a trend pumped collection.  I also love that the collection references films like Badlands (not one for a cosy Sunday night though…) and takes facets of Middle American landscapes and filters that down into the clothes that make the mundane pretty.  Holly Sargis (played by Sissy Spacek) would most certainly be down with a lot of this for her getaway gear.        

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