The flurry of printed matter from Urban Outfitters never fails to impress me, and even if there's an aesthetic 'off' note (for me, the jury is still out on the spring 2011 lookbook shot by Harmony Korine), the fact remains that UO seem to put collaboration and freehand interpretation first and product second.  Say what you will about Urban Outfitters 'hipster' intentions or pretensions (again, the jury is out…), somehow their lookbooks, with their lovely paperstock and heavy scent, keeps them firmly on my bookshelf where others have fallen by the wayside and have been disposed of.  I suspect this is down to the work of art director and designer Monica Nelson who has been working with Urban Outfitters since 2008.  **EDIT** Trust me to trust the wise words of Its Nice That.  The art director of most of UO's printed matter including this Martin Parr lookbook is in fact Joanna Ewing.  Apologies for the mis-credit. 

Their latest lookbook to have dropped through is their summer 2011, which follows the ambitious Harmony Korine effort, with another surprising collaboration with documentary British photographer Martin Parr.  You can brush up a bit using Wikipedia but a quick click on his website will immediately tell you that Parr is not yer' average photographer where good and proper taste rules all.  Actually a lot of his work leaves you feeling slightly dirty.  Not because his work is necessarily pornographic or gratuitously violent but because he captures mundane life with a satirical eye – you don't know whether he's laughing at his subjects or celebrating them.  He's probably most famous for his "The Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton" series where you get a feel for all the unintentionally funny trivialities that day trippers go through when out on a typical British seaside resort…

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Since then, Parr has travelled around the world photographing the nouveau riche at Goutte d'Or, how Chinese people hang out on their own native beaches and the tourist industry of Machu Picchu.  Perhaps his collaboration with Urban Outfitters isn't such a surprise when you read one of his blog entries that documents his jaunt around the recent Paris Fashion Week in March, where he was both bewildered and enchanted by high fashion all at once (he hadn't a clue what Celine was…).  For the lookbook, he was tasked with placing Urban Outfitters high summer items in the context of Marrakech in Morroco, and I think he's done it in the a way that is instantly recognisable as Parr, whilst at the same time making the objects at hand covetable as well as looking a bit funny against their backdrops.  Once again the ridicule of tourist trap surrealities, a common theme in Parr's work, is at play here…

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Aleph by a Peace Treaty necklace in amongst dentures…

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Banana yellow and banana phone along with token monkey…

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What's interesting in this collaboration is that the product comes off looking covetable, showcasing a range in Parr's photography that may well open him up to more fashion commissions should he desire it.  I've come away wanting this Deena & Ozzy transparent bag

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This shot is priceless but it's a shame these Jeffrey Campbell shoes are somewhat problematic.  I'm probably in the minority of fashion bloggers who DON'T own a pair of Jeffrey Campbell shoes but I don't generally have a problem with their designs.  This however takes the biscuit.  They are of course a complete rip-off of the 1938 Salvatore Ferragamo rainbow shoe designed for Judy Garland.  Alright, alright they copy designer shoes and they have named the shoe 'Salvatore' but why pick such an ICONIC design especially when Ferragamo themselves have re-issued the shoe as part of their Ferragamo's Creations line?   Baffling…

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On a more positive note, the other things that I'm keeping an eye on include this Cambridge Satchel Company vivid orange satchel

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…as well as these Bass for Rachel Antonoff loafers.

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In other UO printed news, these images have been around the block a bit, but I did want to applaud the diligence of their latest Around the World project, which is sort of a replica of the Boutiques section of UK Urban Outfitters (probably hearing cries from State-siders who complained about UK UO stocking designers), selecting a similar wave of designers from around the world but for this second round of 'Around the World', UO have worked with up and coming photographer, also from around the world to shoot these designer pieces…

The pairings are striking and have had me flicking through the lookbook at least once a week since I got the lookbook a few months ago…

Charlie Engman from Chicago shoots Stockholm's Rodebjer S/S 11 collection, which I loved when I saw the show last summer…

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Roman Noven and Tania Schlegova from Kiev, Ukraine uses compelling photo collaging to depict another Swedish brand The Local Firm

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Of all the photographers featured, I'm most familiar with Korea-based Hasisi Park who gives Aussie label  Shakuhachi's clothes, an eerie blue tinge…

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You've got to be impressed with the photo commissioning when they go to Harbin in China to find photography duo Zhang Jungang & Li Jie to shoot British label YMC in an unexpected way…

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Same goes for Mariam Sitchinava of Tbilisi in Georgia who took on the innocent romance of French label Sessun

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To see this familiar font above a shop space is a happy sight indeed.  To see it on a Rivington Street shop space is even better.  When leather goods designer Jas M.B. closed his Doors by Jas M.B. store on Ganton Street in Soho, it was another jab into the number of diminishing independent boutiques (boo to the likes of Machine-A and My Sugarland closing in the last few months…).  That smell from the leather-clad walls used to beckon me to pop in even though I already had a trusty Jas M.B. bag (or two…).     

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The newly rejuvenated 'Doors store on 20 Rivington opened last week before Easter, to a heaving guestlist, all welcoming Jas M.B. back onto the bricks and mortar circuit with wide open arms.  The two-storey space was so rammed that decent picture taking wasn't possible unless I intended to knock people's champagne glasses over with my DLSR…

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So in prettier daylight, I came back to see the store which is altered in concept from the last Doors by Jas M.B. store in Soho.  They're not stocking other designers as yet although the gallery space on the first floor could play host to artists, designers in the future (right now Jas M.B.'s own paintings are on display…).  The store has the current collection of bags available as well as offering a made-to-order pieces from the label's archive pieces combined with a selection of skins and finishes.  If you so wish, a tea selection is available if you have to ooh and aah over what skin to go for which sums up the relaxed and meandering shopping experience that is fitting of Rivington Street…

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I haven't written about Jas M.B. in a while so longtime readers will have to bear with me whilst I re-affirm and re-tread my devotion to these sturdy, well-made and all-rounder bags that designer Jas Sehmbi has been producing for the past decade.  These are the sort of bags that you use and use WELL and over the years Sehmbi has built up a loyal customer base in a similar vein to other Brit bag makers Ally Capellino and Bill Amberg.  With production all based in London, the control over the quality as well as the ability to do made-to-order commissions is also one handy advantage but the other is that Sehmbi knows leather and knows it well.  In fact, he's clad the walls in his new store with quilted leather as well as incorporating his love of car interiors into the shelving which are actually old Porsche doors lined with quilted leather. 

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This red rucksack very nearly became my latest Jas M.B. order but then I reasoned that I was in the regularly habit of stealing Steve's rucksacks…

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The current S/S 11 collection is ready to be enjoyed in the sun, filled with picnic goodies, taken on bike rides and generally requires a good deal of country air to fully compliment the relaxed nature of say a canvas or plaited leather rucksack.  Practicality is always the key sticking point with all Jas M.B. bags which actually makes picking one an even harder task for someone like me, who has always been a firm believer in useful and pragmatic bags rather than purely decorative ones.  My key questions for bag-buying normally begin with "Can I fit my iMac/magazines/books/packages from the post office in it?"

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The sweet little camera bag has been a recent Jas M.B. hit and though it's not quite the right size for my 'proper' camera, it's definitely a good vessel for the Canon S95 as well as a Blackberry.  Come to think of it, I might even consult with Jas about the possibility of a leather case for the DSLR that can accomodate different lenses too…

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What I really took to from the current collection was the abundance of leopard print.  My 180 degree turnaround from fear to love of leopard print is somethng that even I'm gobsmacked over and right now, I seem to be making up for a lifetime's worth of leopard print fearing…

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Therefore I opted for this compact bag which will be made up in the yellow lepoard print, a choice that is either garish or cute depending on who you're talking to… in about two weeks, it will join its larger, more practical bigger sister of a Jas M.B. cream tote and I'll do a great deal of inhaling…

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Just to prove that the Jas M.B. customer is indeed diverse, just as I was finishing up at the store, this lady here came in to pick up a custom-made bag made for her dog Lady Midnight.  Now, I'm not the biggest fan of dogs in bags, especially when they poke their heads out unexpectedly or look like they are dying to get out.  However, I'll make an exception for Lady Midnight who is actually a professional 'modelling' dog and actually needs to be carried around with care.  It also explains why she was so ready to do a bit of posing for me as it leapt into its new nylon home.  Suffice to say, it totally made my day that I ran into Lady Midnight…

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I'm glad Jas M.B. have started to shoot their bags on people for their lookbooks as this A/W 11-12 collection is looking all the more appealing when worn on insouciant girl and cute geek-glasses-clad boy.  What a chump I am for falling for such model trickery.  Seriously though I spy a rich mix of burgandy, purple and tan leathers, chunky knitted ruck sacks, roomy weekender sacs, and military green canvas in styles that could be unisex which can only mean more stealing/sharing with Steve. 

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>> The countdown to my landing into Sydney on Sunday morning has begun.  Apologies for being so gushingly tingly but despite the amount of travelling I do, I am THAT excited to be going back again.  So I'm wetting my own appetite by revisiting a few tidbits that I unearthed last time I went.  I'm not sure how much purpose that serves you, the reader but I'll just have to chance it and hope that you'll take some pleasure from discovering say…. Gala Curios' latest collection 'Into the Fold'.  I saw the work of Gala Curios aka jewellery designer Jasmine O'Loughlin, on the tail end of my trip last year, and her dipped lace, powder coated steel and lacquered metal has been imprinted on my mind since. 

Jasmine is seemingly a dreamer who takes the name Gala from Salvador Dali's wife which explains some of the surreal tricks that her jewellery plays.  The oft-explored theme of origami has inspired this new collection which instead of just taking on the form of origami folds, also uses the material of origami by encasing real paper in 24ct gold and nickel silver.  The paper is also cleverly recycled from Jasmine's studio which makes adds extra value to this paper which has been made entirely NOT disposable by way of the Gala Curios metal coating treatment. 

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Softly pleated leather repeats the pleat and fold motifs of the collection and is particularly striking on a cuff which when worn on the top knot as shown in the lookbook here, tips me off to embellish my own mound of hair…

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The new Gala Curios collection is available through her own e-store as well as on Kabiri

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Luckily, I'll be trying out that cuff on a top-knot trick as Jasmine was very kind enough to dispatch these new Gala Curios pieces to me to belatedly thank me for my coo-ing over her lace n' bow-filled previous collections.  They're of course going into the suitcase that I'm trying not to overstuff in excited anticipation (the sign of a good trip is when I stupidly think I need to pack five outfits for each day…).

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>> What's a fashion blogger to do when confronted by SEA, SAND, GRASS, lots of GREEN GRASS, DAISIES, weeds masquerading as LOVELY BLOOMS?  She is of course bound to her duty to swish about in a vintage kimono and a sheer skirt, snapping away, totally unaware of the OAPS that are milling about Westgate on Sea walking their dogs and cries of "Chinky-Winky!" from local yobbish youfs (no exaggeration there – but outside the M25 in areas where the chances of spotting a Chinese person walking about is one in a million, it's understandable you get misguided chirpings from kids…).  Granted, the kimono and the sheer skirt are grounded somewhat by another Uniqlo polo shirt, the only piece in this Uniqlooks contribution that is acceptable Thanet attire – again, no exaggeration – or so says my other half Steve, who is a Thanet native, which is why I spent the weekend milling about in the sunshine of Westgate-on-Sea, being knocked out by the strong saline air, taking afternoon naps and generally enjoying a respite from London pace and wifi.  

It's therefore that time again, when you'll get needless streams of photos where dawdling fashion blogger gets to grips with the natural elements and the environment suffers at the hand of amateur DSLR photography.  Expect more of the same in about a month's time, when we hit another coastal area of Thanet, bewilder another set of local peeps and we spend more time looking for photo-appropriate locations than actually taking in the prettiness of the locale.  Tsk… the youth of today, eh? 

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I'm at ONE with nature… !  Though I hope I don't drop my Karen Walker sunnies down the cliff… says the grubby London materialist…

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Looking down and pondering why the sky is so blue…

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… and why Pierre Hardy's latest design for Gap is so deceptively simple yet refreshingly elegant for me.  Who the bleeding hell cares about the green green grass of the abundance of daisies when there's nude patent and grosgrain ribbon to coo over? 

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Sheer skirt + sprinkling of flowers in background = Photo Composition GENIUS… (err.. or not… sarcasm can be hard to convey on the internet…)

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On a less sarky note, along with repeat patterns of Kentish photo-taking, another prospect of summer, brings another kimono into my wardrobe.  This time, it's courtesy of an impulse buy in Reykjavik's vintage haunt Nostalgia and I'm just discovering some other ways of tying it around the waist or wearing as a cape to lessen the 'costume' effect of the garment…

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(Uniqlo polo shirt, vintage kimono, vintage flocked velvet sheer skirt, Pierre Hardy for Gap shoes – for Uniqlooks)