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Marianne Gunn O’Connor

Sketchbook page 90

I seem to be getting into the habit of having cross-Atlantic crossed-wires with meeting up with people.  Last time it was with Angie Johnson of I Heart Montreal where she came to London and I happened to be in New York.  Then whilst I was in Montreal, it turned out that Montreal-based, Belarusian shoe designer Anastasia Radevich was in London/Italy sorting out production.  Doh!  To think I could have sniffed out her studio to see how in the world she came up with her new collection 'Kinetik' which features some fibre optic lights embedded into the body of a shoe.  Yes, lights in shoes… see if that was a subject line in an email that began with 'Dear Blogger' (really, I would prefer Sir/Madam…), I'd be groaning thinking "Oh dear… someone thought it was MIGHTY clever to stick a light in a shoe and feel really smarmy and smart about that…"

I've spoken about the fusion of fashion with technology that more often than not, the final product results, not in Hussein Chalayan-esque levels of beauty but in clunky pieces that have a giant battery pack attached to it (t-shirts that have LCD screens, jackets with iPod rechargers etc… ) and are basically garments packed with computer chips for the sake of showing that fashion and technology can produce something 'nifty' or else they are one-off pieces that aren't meant to be worn on a day to day basis (dresses worn by Katy Perry/Rihanna for shock factor…).  It is probably a matter of years before the fusion becomes a coherent one but for now I prefer the investigation of technology in fashion to be a subtle or slightly more evolved one than just sticking lights in a garment.

However, for Anastasia Radevich's ankle boots and shoes that feature fibre optics, I take it back.  Francesca Castagnacci has also been highlighted recently with some fibre optic shoe action but I'm glad that the results are VASTLY different.  Whilst Castagnacci's shoe shouts "Hey I'm made out of fibre optic and I've got it coming out at EVERY ANGLE possible!", Radevich's version is subtle to the point where you could turn off the flat bar switch (embedded inside the top of the boot…) and still have a beautiful shoe mainly because of the heel and platform which are constructed to look like a doodle in the air or some mish mashed curves of a Gaudi building.  The fibre optics are also embedded into a mesh panel that is surrounded by a suede upper which again, adds more design to the shoe as a stand-alone shoe as opposed to just a shoe that lights up.  In any case, when that switch is on, the fibre optic splay of light is like a cell formation, something more natural, as opposed to the disco/rave antics that light-up or glow-in-the-dark shoes often display (probably because the light doesn't flash on and off…)…

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The natural world definitely infiltrates Radevich's work a lot as per her last 'Biofuture' collection though she often delves into the more mysterious side of nature which is why you end up with shapes, textures and THESE fantastically conceived line-art heels that are in the rest of the Kinetik collection.  There's something genuinely exciting about seeing her develop a brand of shoes that goes beyond just looking 'pretty' and translating her highly ornate style into something that can go into production.  When you have the likes of Chau Har Lee being stocked by Selfridges in their new shoe floor, there perhaps is a certain shoe niche where simultaenously directional and wearable shoe design will be accepted and available to the general public as opposed to just being admired from afar with comments like "Wow, that's ART!".  No, these are shoes.  Shoes that can go on people's feet.  They just happen to have a lot going on and that's reassuring to know despite our collective return to supposed sensible fashion sensibilities.

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>> Sluggish Bank Holiday post-Istanbul slump has left me with no option but to turn to flashier memories.  I mean FLASH as in camera flash as opposed to bling because I forgot I had been sitting on these extra shots from the Elle Japan shoot I did a while back for their September 'London' issue.  As you guys know, I'm always keen to participate in anything that promote my beloved Laaaaaaandon and all that it offers so again, we went around some shops in a similar vein to the Time Out article with Jackie Dixon of Show Me Your Wardrobe as photographer and giant-flash welder.

Shoots like these are of course an excuse for me to go to treasure troves like Merchant Archive AGAIN and raid the rails for some dressing up…

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(My original outfit of vintage Breton top, Opening Ceremony x WTWTA faux fur skirt, Emma Cook for Topshop boots, Corrie Williamson necklace)

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(Worn with 1920s vintage velvet jacket)

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(Vintage kimono, MiH shirt, Lanvin wool trousers, vintage shoes)

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(Vintage chiffon jumpsuit, beaded shoulder pieces and belt, floral headpiece)

The next natural stop an perhaps as an anti-thesis to the beautiful Merchant Archive is Machine-A where things take a darker and complicated turn… their roster of new designers is always in constant flux so that I'll always discover something new every time I'm in there.  When we did this shoot, this was when I discovered the likes of Yasmin Kianfar and Manuela Dack hence the ensuing posts.

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Oh, and I got to see how many steps I could take in Gabriella Marina Gonzalez's towering lace-up wedges before needing assistance.  Actually, Ella from Machine-A was at my side as I hobbled along.  Was feeling something like a 19th century Qing dynasty concubine…

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(Manuela Dack chiffon and leather jacket, Yasmin Kianfar sheer cut-out dress, Gabriella Marina Gonzalez shoes)

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(Vintage Thierry Mugler suede dress with Gabriella Marina Gonzalez shoes)

A little late in coming but perfect apt to shower the slow-mo Sunday with some toothy, flashy smiles… I almost expect a little twinkle to appear with perhaps a slogan….

"Make your day a better one…

With Merchant Archive and Machine-A…"

*TWINKLE GRIN*

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(Belle Sauvage dress)

Throngs of champagne, wine, a varied array of canapes, meze, baklava and sea spray will cease tomorrow and I'll need to show something other than an engorged gut.  It has to be said that Istanbul's complex DNA in ALL respects has made the fashion scene here harder to crack, analyse and dissect than other cities.  For a start, Istanbul Fashion Week in its organised entirity is only in its THIRD season and that beyond the schedule, you get the feeling there's FAR more to be discovered in the local fashion design scene.  One that's sadly not going to get explored by incompetent me.  I've got one more day… and my fingers are still crossed though.

Still, if from the shows, I take nothing away but the name Zeynep Tosun, then I'm leaving Istanbul as someone who's been fashion-sated.  Whilst being sea-sprayed on a Bosphorus cruise today, several other international editors/journos were also raving about her which should give Tosun an international boost.  I can't gather too much information on the designer herself but seeing as her collection was shown as part of a group show, I think she's a fairly young designer.  Actually I can only really dig information on her via Facebook page. I'll take it though.

Afterall, all I really need to know is that what I saw had a spark to it.  A reader who spoke of cultural appropriation in fashion and that it really needed to haveseveral degrees of abstraction to it and this has seemingly stuck with me the past few weeks through my travels.  What of course I forgot to say/mention on that cultural appropriation in fashion post is that when you're inspired by your own culture/ethnicity/surroundings/heritage, onlookers definitely feel that extra sense of attachment/connection between designer and collection, that personal tie making the clothes seem more poignant.  Tosun has therefore ticked both these boxes.  I can't EXACTLY articulate her influences because only she can be specific about what she did, but loosely, I'm able to draw parallels between the colours and familiar motifs that are rife in Istanbul to elements of the collection, thanks to the amount of sightseeing I've done these past few days.

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DSC_3214 (Textiles hanging outside the Blue Mosque, paint pigments in some hardware stall-selling street, one of the rooms in the harem in Topkapi Palace)

On top of the obvious colours, the floral embroidery, the choice of fabrics though is Tosun's own sensibility towards the notion of 'undone'.  The shirt dress that is unbuttoned down the front.  The sheer qualities of a negligee.  The exposure of certain areas.  This is physically interpreted through different variations on the shirt dresses, shirt-front robes and button down skirts that are cut-into strategically with slits and plenty of peekaboo areas.  Sexy and mumsy roll into Tosun's collection in similar ways that definitely is rooted into Miuccia Prada's design ideology.  High waisted knickers, sharply cut bustiers, sheer fabrics, emphasis on wee ankles and wrists as well as the exposed shoulder all tug and pull with the almost mormon-esque ribbons in the hair, the clunky tassels on a heavy cape, floral embroidery and patterns and the mid-calf lengths.  Makes me almost want to have a go at slitting away at some of my high-necked vintage tea dresses to see what conceal/reveal results I can get…

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The path from her last A/W 10-11 collection to the one just shown above isn't inconceivable with the cut-out soft tailoring already beginning to take hold.  Again, I may be wrong about Istanbul's make-up influencing elements of the collection above, and if so, then I applaud the connection even more.  Istanbul's celebration of its current cultural city status may or may not have have impacted on Tosun and her work but the important thing was the subtlety in the resulting collection.

Her A/W 10-11 collection:

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