Furthering with Furber

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I seem to be constantly reminded of my fashion sinning in more ways than one at the moment, so much so that writing a post about it is increasingly precarious, as I reconsider my stance on things.  One area that again, I have sinned to the point of ignorance is eco-fashion – that umbrella term that could mean anything from sustainable production to organic materials.  I have tried to understand.  I have tried to get enthusiastic.  Sadly the problem, similar to charity-propelled products, is that the final results of eco-fashion are just not aesthetically challenging enough.  I keep recalling Pia Stanchina as a label that actually shook my eyes into eco-mode but that was two years ago.  Nothing since has really touched that sort of awe-factor.  Hanging brown paper tags on products to mark them out as 'green', 'organic' and 'sustainable' is just a lazy trump card to keep playing if the clothes feel like they have been put into the constraints of 'green' design.

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I'm therefore pleased that I have killed two birds with one convenient stone by finding a designer who a) easily gets graduate footwear designer of this year (last year was the fearless Chau Har Lee) and b) also has impressed me with her will to combine forward-thinking production means with sustainability in materials as well as a mind-blowing aesthetic.  I finally saw 2010 Cordwainers Footwear design graduate Helen Furber's shoes in person (who you may have seen via I Don't Eat Bread) today at Carnaby Street and complete with a thorough reading of her detailed design blog (is it not f**cking fantastic that more and more designers and design students put effort into their blogs to document their progress?) as well as seeing her portfolio, I'm now ready to fly the Furber flag for Name Most Likely To Go It Alone With Her Own Brand.  That's a very long title there.  Not a bad one though if it can be achieved, eh?

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She may have developed a dislike for bubbles but I'll keep the flag flying.  Her final BA project 'Icica' is based on her clearly vehement ideas about the need for a sustainable and technology-focused design approach within the luxury market.  Thinking up her own prototyping technologies, she has thought of a way of redefining a shoe's lifecycle – essentially her shoes can be broken down into layers that are then recyclable or biodegradable after they have been worn and torn.  Helen has also used Soil Association certified Organic leather by Natureally which is able to trace the tanning of leather back to the individual leather to ensure every animal has been treated to the highest standards.  Her treatise on the use of leather in luxury is convincing even as I sit here surrounded by questionable leather sources…

That's a lot of jargon to process and I guess I shouldn't be banging on about those points so heavily because that in itself is the crux behind my unwillingness to commit to eco-designs.  You keep hammering those points in and you begin to wonder whether they are trying to compensate for lack of interesting design with the spiel.  Looking at Helen's inspiration images, it's clear that for her, the aesthetics of the final designs also need to be enrichened and whilst her design mission follow those lines of innovative materials and production, ultimately design needs to triumph…    

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And so come the final resulting shoes… which after reading Helen's thorough blog (with considerable amounts of text – YAY!), I feel as though I'm seeing the fruits of a journey that I was never on but somehow have memories of.  With apt sponsorship from Y-3, Studio Van der Graaf and Natureally organic leather, Helen has developed her transformable wedge/heel shoes that exemplify all of the 'spiel' above and more.  These are visually eye-catching on any level.  Even the design with the different layers incorporated into them could be looked upon as distinctive and beautifully organic design without even acknowledging the fact that they are recyclable/bio-degradable.  Is it weird that in my mind, technological-based design is often hard-edged or burdened with function'?  Not so in the case of Helen's designs and in particular the nude wedges that also stand alone with icicled Bioresin Sole Units (don't ask me what the heck that means…) are shoes to covet whether they are imbued with thoery or not… 

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Sweat Shop Kit

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Sewing (Photography by Laurence Tarquin von Thomas)

>> One issue of the latest Japanese mag So-En in and my bout of sluggishness is already beginning to withdraw.  Their feature on the sewing cafe Sweat Shop Cafe Couture in Paris was extensive enough not to just include a brief description (and yes, there has been a LOT OF chat about this lone venture in Paris) but in the true demonstrative/pictorial style of East Asian magazines, we have a useful photo story of the sewing kit that designer Pelican Avenue has put together for the cafe…

Whilst I'm waiting for Cari Marsden's Friendship jersey dress kits to get the support it deserves, I'm appreciating this tract of well-thought out DIY kits that are a) simple and b) things you'd actually want to wear.  Here, Pelican Avenue have used a print from their 'Calyx' collection to create a sort of hip sash garment that is in no way functional yet completely wearable in its layering abilities.  I love the idea of pairing up with designers to thrash out these kits as a way of coaxing people to the Singers.  Speaking of which, of course I was most excited to hear about this cafe venture in Paris which I've still yet to check out (will have a gander tomorrow as I'm in Paris for a couple of days…) and it goes without saying that I'm believing any inklings that they might open one up in London…

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