I think I doth protest too much against going out West as though it were the cliched thing for a vaguely East/North-orientated London person to be anti-West London.  I do like it ONCE I get out there.  It's the journey stretching west beyond Knightsbridge that seems to take its toll.  Especially when the Central line plays up. 

Once ensconced into the lovely cocoon of Notting Hill though, I do slap myself for not coming over more often.  I find that the ivy-covered white houses, the abundance of electric cars and food delis suck me in just a little bit.  Now, coupled with a growing barrage of shops that entice me off the Porbello Road market trail, there's even more reason for me to stop this "North rocks, East is the tits" malarky.


Couverture isn't new at all but has shifted quite a bit in its scope of brands with the last few years being the first to bring some of my New York faves such as Rachel Comey and Tom Scott to these shores.  It always seems to astound me how some of my more quiet designer loves of New York Fashion Week never seem to make it over to the UK.  Rachel Comey for example is fairly established in New York with her shoes gathering quite the diehard cult following but no one in the UK apart from Couverture have taken her under their retail wing.  Boo.




Their selection of designers results in rails and merchandising of pretty clothes that are mild-mannered in an interesting way if that makes any sense.  I say mild-mannered only because the shapes are easy-to-handle but look closely and little quirks shine through be it through a particular print or a bit of embroidery.  Blended in with Couverture's interiors selection as well as childrenswear (with menswear store Garbstore down the stairs) and you have yourself quite a lifestyle overview.  It's the sort of lifestyle where vintage-inspired detailing, an appreciation for interesting colour palettes and textiles come through quite heavily.  A felt tip pen sitting next to a pair of shoes with a scarf and a rag doll next to it makes for an endearing display where any one of those items could quite easily be bagged up.  The aesthetic across the soft furnishing selection impinges upon the clothing selection but it never veers too far into yummy mummy chintz territory. 


Like I said, I squealed a bit to see Tom Scott on a shop rail in the UK but then again, Topshop have also recently started to stock a few pieces in their EMERGE collection so perhaps the tide is changing.


I discovered interesting print pieces by Ikou Tschuss as well as Mina Perhonen. that fit into the interior-to-clothing transition mould well.   







Slipper brands seem to be emerging from left right and centre for us to lap onto this ballet-flat alternative, but I love the look of these Charles Philip blue leopard print ones


I've forgotten who the designer is but I thought these four leaf clover hair clips sum up the charming pleasantries of Couverture. 


Couverture's website has just launched with what I think is a full selection of stock.  Rachel Comey's bits and bobs obviously rank highly on the imaginary wants list.  as well as a Jeffrey Monteiro's print parka and of course, Tom Scott's lattice lurex top

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Down the road and round the corner and we've into a newer and perhaps, much-shouted about venture.  Well you can't exactly forget a name like Village Bicycle but that is what owner Willa Keswick has chosen to go with for her new concept store venture, inspired by 60s legend of a shop, Granny Takes a Trip.  People will throw around comparisons to colette and certainly aspects such as the Japanalia-stuffed Wonder Wall – all pink neon, candy, anime action figures and eye-grabbing accessories by Lulu Guiness and Olympia Le Tan – bear certain similarities to the Parisian super store.  Keswick has also cleverly fulfilled the ¬£2-¬£2000 price range that hopefully will lure people in to hang out on the couches, sip a Red Bull and perhaps pick up a trinket or two.  Still, the selection for now is slightly kitsch-cultish – Tripp NYC jeans in super bright colours, Leger-esque bandage skirts covered with hearts, shoes by labels that range from mid-range Senso to haute Raphael Young.  Mark Fast, Felder Felder and soon, Craig Lawrence will fill the upper brackets of the store's fashion offering. 








When I visited, I was still coming down from my Tokyo-trip high so having this amount of kawaii (cool kawaii as opposed to cute kawaii) was like reliving aspects of the city.  Testament to that, every customer that was in there at the time kept on exclaiming how "cool" everything was and by my assessment, they looked to be some jaded seen-it-all sort of gals.  I'm looking forward to see how this hive of cool develops as Keswick promises this is just the beginning with a content-driven website on its way (as well as e-commerce), regular exhibitions (currently Scream gallerist Tyrone Wood has curated all the artwork) and more designers for next season. 





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Just as the four leaf clover clip sums up Couverture, perhaps these smiley faced condom lollipops  will do the same for Village Bicycle, without meaning to be crude about it.  Or perhaps the crudeness is just want we're after at for this very non-Notting Hill set-up.


>> I found myself backing away from my own words as I somehow ended up doling out advice about how to stay cool in scorching 36 degrees celcius (that's 96 degrees Farenheit) here in Paris where there's a bit of a mini-heat wave going on.  I may not be running around like a mad chicken like I normally do when I'm in Paris and I'm certainly taking my time to walk to places to prevent sweatage but still, I think I came out pretty much unscathed after this day of arid heat, until I collapsed into a pool of sweat at an Argentinian meat house at night where it's strictly charcoal fumes in place of air-con.

I may have even declared quite airily to my friends that I wasn't at all hot because I had taken the following measures…

-Wear natural fibres.  Silk and cotton are my summer saviours, and very thin knits if you can get them mighty fine.  Just not err… a thick 100% wool jumper of course.  Today, it was time to resurrect an Alpha60 River 'Stand By Me' Phoenix t-shirt which never fails to have 30-something year old men stop in their tracks and go "Fuck…I LOVED that film…" and an old Future Classics navy silk button-down skirt that ties up at the front. 

-Those items happen to be airy and loose too.  I'm all for more fabric flapping against the skin just in case any breeze of wind passes along. 

-Carry a light bag that is hands and weight free leaving you arms to swing about creating gusts of wind going up arm pits.  Yay for the no-DSLR days when all one needs is a debit card, some euros and my phone. 

-The Urbanears white headphones are there not just for accessory but for drowning out any other people on the street possibly going "I'm SO hot!".  Soundtrack of wintry music is essential – a few Elliot Smith tracks, icy Four Tet perhaps and nothing involving vaguely tropical noises so that rules out Jamie XX's steel drum bonanza 'Far Nearer'.  Dang.

-Putting the hair up for obvious reasons.  People keep asking for video tutorials on top knots from but I'd feel stupid re-enacting how I do my hair on video, when it is so naively easy.  Tip head forward.  Gather hair.  Ponytail with hair tie.  Twist.  Another hair tie.  Bobby pin stray bits.  Done.  Gordon Ramsay would be so proud of those succinct instructions. 

-Wear sandals that don't rub which in this case are these old Surface to Air ones.  I'm not really into airing feet.  I actually don't like looking at feet in general and have now officially been warded off pedicures after seeing a friend who had her foot skin 'shaved' and in the process, a sizeable chunk of flesh taken off as well. An Itchy & Scratchy skit from the The Simpsons comes to mind.  Still, 36 degrees weather calls for sandals plus gnarly feet.  Hopefully people are so blinded by the sun they're not looking at feet.  Or else the men here for fashion week are looking at perfect plaids, raffish artisinal shoes and not much else.  

-Sunnies that actually shield the sun.  There are a few fash-on sunnies were the lenses don't actually prevent sun searing into eyes and I've been victim to a few pairs that now sit in my drawer mocking me because I don't actually wear sunglasses in any situation UNLESS they're there to protect me from blinding sun.  These Yves Saint Laurent ones do the trick as well as looking deceptively like a polka dot pattern when really it's a plaid.  CLE-VUH eh? 

-I'm always buying fresh bottled of CHILLLLLLLLED water along the way that I'm walking just so I can press it against my chest.   

-When I say 'Think Cool', I don't mean it in that Grease way when Danny keeps telling the T-Birds to 'Be cool, be cool.'  I literally mean think COOL temeprature wise.  Every time I walk around moaning and whinging "I'm so hot", somehow, I feel that much hotter.  Heat is a state of mind maaaaaaan.  And I don't mean err… hot as in beauty.  Wow that's a lot of double-meaning explanations there. 






When I was in Florence, I found the time to pry myself away from the perfect pin striped suits, immaculately matched shoes and socks and too-tanned-prettiness of Pitti Uomo and made my way to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.  Back up there.  As a somewhat vocal devotee of Ferragamo shoes and having been to Florence five times, I've NEVER been to the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum?!?  *Clasped hands to chest major gasp*

To be fair, I'm a half-hearted devotee, harbouring an addiction to the Vara pump which was in fact created by Salvatore Ferragamo's daughter Fiamma in 1978, long after the shoe maestro's death.  With four pairs and counting, half an hour each day is exclusively devoted to scouring eBay ensuring that I haven't missed any unusual colour ways in size US8A – that's hard work, that is. 

Therefore the visit shored up my scatty knowledge of Ferragamo's legacy, with a glimpse into a teensy part of his 10,000 shoe archive (he was a fastidious hoarder…) as the basement of the Via Tornabuoni store.  Cleverly of course, after being entranced by the museum's exhibits of Ferragamo treasures, you can go straight up into the store to do some 'inspired shopping' which is how I nearly spanked a wack of money on some new Varas, stopping myself to say "eBay will yield me better ones…" 



In the 'Creations' section of the store, you can also buy re-issued replicas of 1930s-40s Ferragamo originals which come at a pretty penny but are so far distinguished from the conservative ilk of Ferragamo shoes that they really are quite astonishing as shoe speciments consideirng the age of design. 


There were a few things that I knew before seeing the exhibition – that Ferragamo held many patents and trademarks to shoe shapes which he could call entirely his own, that he blended science and art when approaching shoe design and that he had strong ties with Hollywood.

I love this quote from Ferragamo's autobiography Shoemaker of Dreams (I must try and find a user copy of this‚Ķ): "I have divided the women who have come to me into three categories: the Cinderella, the Venus, and the Aristocrat. The Cinderella takes a shoe smaller that Size Six, the Venus takes Size Six, the Aristocrat a seven or larger."  I'm presuming he means US sizes in which case I'm neither Cindrella or Venus.

The first section of the museum documents Ferragamo's relationship with Hollywood starlets well with clientale that included Ava Gardner, Audrey Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall and for me, most famously Judy Garland, who for me will be equally associated with the famed Ferragamo "Rainbow Platforms" as seen above, as well as her ruby red slippers.  Through the 30s-50s, you can really see how Ferragamo experimented and pushed boundaries of what materials could be used creatively in times of rationing and restraint – cork, fish skin, cellophane and raffia were just some of the things that Ferragamo used in prototypes, some more successful than others but a lot of these styles have had a lasting impact just by looking totally contemporary and standing up to what is out there today.    

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The museum's permanent collection is accompanied by temporal exhibitions, with the previous one about Ferragamo as Craftsman covered extensively by the blog Theatre of Fashion.  When I went, they had just started the 'Salvatore Ferragamo: Inspiration and Vision' exhibition where the curator has made a connection between the discoveries of Ferragamo's time – the excavation of Tutankhamon's tombs and  other archaeological and ethnographic finds that were inspiration material for Ferragamo. 





I particularly love this chain sandal created in 1956 for a private client (the chain is unique to Ferragamo's design) and its ties with Andy Warhol's shoe drawings from 1955…



In the next part of the exhibition, they present a connection between Salvatore Ferragamo and Futurism.  Certainly Ferragamo had ties with Futurism especially as Italian Futurists such as Lucio Venna created the Ferragamo logo as well as several adveritising campaigns.  Still, the link is presented as a hypothetical one – Ferragamo may not have met Sonia Delauney, Thayaht or Giacoma Balla but you can certainly draw parrallels between their work and Ferragamo's creations in the 50s-60s.  








The final part of the museum presents again an imagined parrallel between the creations of milliner Stephen Jones and Ferragamo.  Both creators don't seem to be restrained by their product genres.  The creative heights of shoes and hats can be dizzying in both cases as displayed in this portion of the exhibition.  It's extraordinary to think that the shoes seen in the museum are just a teensy tiny portion of the full Ferragamo archive which means the possibilities for exhibition curation are endless, making this museum more than just a rudimentary history footnote to the expanding Salvatore Ferragamo brand of today, but a real contextual foundation for customer and enthusiast to enjoy. 






Peter Jensen's often cinematic influences makes me want to hit Fopp and hunt out old DVDs that are hopefully going to be part of their 3 for ¬£10 deals (seeing as downloading older films on torrents can be troublesome…not that err… I'm into illegal downloading or anything…).  One season, it's Mike Leigh's Nuts in May.  Another it's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.  I can thank Jensen for a significantly augmented DVD collection.  

The last few seasons has been about shifting the focus slightly with a more American slant, an effect of having shown in New York for a couple of seasons or working with photographers like Autumn de Wilde or stylist Shirley KurataLast season despite basing his collection around Godard ingenue Anna Karina, it was very much a trip to LA, a new experience for Jensen and his design aesthetic.  The season before that, Shelley Duvall was his muse of choice which resulted in a playful, colour-blocked take on 70s staples.  For his resort collection, he takes a shift towards the late 70s and effectively matures his clothes by looking to Meryl Streep in films such as The Deer Hunter, Manhattan and Kramer vs. Kramer where Streep's wardrobe is the sturdy and practical part of the  70s that meant she was a constant style inspiration for my mother at the time, pre-babies and all that. 





On set for the lookbook shoot, Americana was amped up in the props section with items such as questionable jars of Frankfurter's, macaroni cheese in a box and an overpriced jar of Skippy peanut butter (it's overpriced once it gets to these British shores alas…).  I don't think any of that made it to the final set of pictures but hey-ho, they looked the part…



Iekeliene Stange was the charismatic model who was required to act out a variety of scenarios which made for a much more dynamic lookbook shoot than yer' average 'Stand-Straight-Like-Fash-Zombie' lookbook.  She also donned a blonde wig to emulate Meryl's late 70s flowing blonde locks.  Fellow Dutch-speaker Tim Gutt was the photographer who coaxed some wonderful shots out of Iekeliene…


I noted that Jensen's sketches had quite angry/terrified/petrified expressions on them.  Apparently he has always sketch liked this. 


I've only just recently been seeing LA-based stylist Shirley Kurata in a non-backstage-context (she styles Rodarte's shows) and I'm quite taken with her style.  This is the second time she is working with Peter Jensen and on set, she wore a quilted polka dot vintage dress…


There were tears required for this shot so copious amounts of drops were needed to bring a sorrowful stare into the mirror…



Still, as pragmatic as Peter Jensen gets with his shapes with American sportswear infiltrating his clothes – the trench, the cropped trouser, the loafer, the neat button down shirts – it's the colours and prints that ensure he doesn't lose that Jensen-ish quality about his work as evident in this purple and lilac ensemble.   


I love these patent loafers from past seasons and vaguely remember passing them up when they were on sale…  I decree to myself anything involving lilac and patent should not be passed up. 



In pieces such as this sweatshirt where Sissy Spacek a la Badlands is depicted with clusters of white beads, Jensen's whimsy is ever present. 


Still, it is Americana-flecked neat preppy that reigns strong in the collection, especially in the accessories such as these new season shoes consisting of loafers and peep-toe pumps with bows that are on the conservative side. 


Or these satchels and bucket bags that Jensen produces in England with the help of a leather maker on Redchurch Street. 


I love this enlarged version of the 'Angela' bag which came in a variety of colours over the past few seasons.  This one is about twice the size and could well sit with Streep's character in Kramer vs. Kramer


Jensen-ish qualities jostle with this new level of preppy with sweaters that are banded with stitches of unusual colour combinations or gingham dresses that have a vaguely 50s matron kind of vague that are left raw-edged and finished with a lining of tulle peeking out…



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Even in utilitarian pieces, details such as different coloured pastel zippers on the pockets make Jensen's point of difference even more pronounced. 


I especially love these prints where Jensen has been excelling for years where his trip to LA from last season once again turns up in these graphic vistas of 50s LA…


Of course Jensen's bunny makes an appearance too and this time he's encased in this postage stamp chequered print that works particiuarly well as a shirt and cropped trouser combo. 


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