Capitales-Modes-Galeries-Lafayette-Goude >> Bon-jor folks.  I now vaguely know what I read like in French with some of my blog posts up on Galeries Lafayette' La Mode C'est Vous website.  I think I sound more sensible.  I mean…. how does one translate words like 'Whazz', 'Deets' and 'Doi' into French?  Oh right, they're not words… that would be the problem…

I've become a lot more competition/giveaway friendly this year.  I'm not about to turn into the Wheel of Fortune just yet with prize giving but at the very least, I'm not being so bah-humbug about the chances of winning stuff (yes, I am still in fact embittered from not having won a single thing as a child… why, god why?)

Zee famous department store is having a gigantic fashion show on September 15th with a ginormous 700 looks walking on a catwalk outside near l‚ÄôOpera Garnier and Boulevard Haussmann.  The Biggest Fashion Show in the World (yes, they can claim that…) will take place across France with 5,000 street cast models.  How does it work?  Well, I can't say it's not convuluted and slightly limiting but hey-ho it's two days in Pareeeeeeee staying at a cute hotel.  

Whaddya do?  

  • Choose your city's 'look' - New York preppy, Milano glam or London hipster.
  • I'm not even going to pretend that the names are not anything less than eyebrow-raising.  
  • Take a pic of yourself that represents that 'look' and add in the name of your picture on the registration form, #SB (Style Bubble), #MR (Man Repeller) #FF (Fashion Fruit) denoting the corresponding city's blogger.  
  • Upload the pic here on the form.
  • Do that internet thing of getting people to LIKE, love or ‚ô• you and do the same to others (well, if you want…) 

Whaddya get?

  • You…. GET TO HIT THE RUNWAY!!!  
  • More importantly you get a round trip ticket to Paris (from Milan, New York or London) and two nights at a lovely hotel… 

But?  

As the brackets denotes, this competition is basically ONLY open to those that can depart from Milan, New York or London.  Harsh but T's and C's are the norm for competitions.    

On Monday August 29th, apparently I get to choose the winner who comes with me to Pareeeeeeeeeeeeee.  Well you might not be physically with me on the plane as I'll be heading over from New York, tired, weary and irritated.  But, but, but I'll squeeze your hand a little too hard before you walk that red carpeted Boulevard Haussmann outside Galeries Lafayette, I'll come and coo and oooh over your hotel room and scare you with how much I can pack in at a breakfast buffet?

Interested?

*Awkward silence*

**EDIT** One way of getting around the whole limited departure thang is of course if you live outside of nearish those cities, you can take a cheapie flight/train/coach that won't cost a bomb to get to NYC/London/Milan and still make the trip sort of worthwhile.  I know that only adds to the convolution.  Depends how much the thought of Pareeeeeeeeeeeee excites you.   

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I must have spent a good part of two hours going through a practically full SD card of photos from last weekend's Port Eliot festival.  The overview of the fashion side of things might have erred on the right side of relevance.  I wasn't going to cross the line and go off topic but with so many snaps to offload, treat this as a bit of a Port Eliot Flickr page if you will.  The magic of the festival wasn't just contained within the Wardrobe Dept in the walled gardens and sprawls all over expansive hilly land that also butts on to the Tamar estuary and overlooks the St Germans viaduct.  I don't want to get all National Trust on you and reveal to you that I am in fact one of those geeks that would one day like to go around England visiting one grade listed house after another.  Actually, I may as well just let that be known.  You can therefore tell that I was in my element wandering around for the weekend, exploring the nooks and crannies, getting lost in a patch of forest with the safe knowledge that seeing some water would guide me back to where I needed to be…

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Everywhere we went, there'd be something unexpected that pops up, temporary installations and hangings that didn't at all intrude on its lush surroundings…

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Right by Cinema Paradiso, the outdoor cinema that overlooked the viaduct was a lounge where we could scoff fresh, hot doughnuts slathered in chocolate.  Unlike other festivals, food at Port Eliot is pretty sublime.  Cornish crabs, lovely scallops, wild mushroom risotto, amazing bacon baps courtesy of Fifteen – I tried to pack in more food with the safe knowledge that I'd be burning it off whilst roaming the fields…

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We watched the Powell and Pressburger spectacular 1948 film The Red Shoes whilst under the stars of Cinema Paradiso and promptly froze our arses off.  We attempted to warm up with what looked like baco-foil emergency heat blankets but gave up and basically went numb watching this stunner of a film.  Totally worth it. 

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I'm not in the right age group but the Hullaballoo area for kids to run around wearing butterfly wings and play in sand pits was right up my street. 

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Like I said, being prone to allergies meant I never ever got my face painted.  I was therefore envious of the little tots running around with the most elaborate of designs on their faces.  High five to the teenager who enterprisingly set up a face-paint stand with a beautiful sketchbook and offered her face-paint skills for ¬£2 a pop.  Other teens were errr… less enterprising.  There were three girls running around offering Free Hugs.  Oh well, as long as they gave people joy. 

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The Flower Show is undoubtedly one of the main highlights of the festival.  It's supposed to be a parody/homage to traditional British Flower and Vegetable shows, the sort where WI members get quite snipey and competitive about whose hydrangeas are the best.  At Port Eliot though, it's curated by famed art director and fashion set designer Michael Howells and features show categories such as 'Lend me a Tenor' and 'Salad Days'. 

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Speaking of Howells, I saw an insightful conversation between him and Patrick Kinmonth who was once art director of British Vogue and has gone on to design sets and costumes for operas as well as designing Valentino's 45th anniversary retrospective exhibition at the Ara Pacis in Rome.  Fact of the day?  Why is Valentino red so specific to Valentino?  Because every fifth thread is orange which gives the shade of red its luminosity. 

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My favourite category of the flower show was definitley Veg Factor created by little ones… I'm not sure why some kid chose to give Melon Gaga geek specs but it's hilarious all the same…

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Rainbow roses might be a little naff and scarily artificial but they do look ever so pretty on camera…

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There were plenty of blooms outside of the flower show area too…

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Oh and some flowers came with added plummage as seen on Phoebe of Pamflet's hat, adorned by Tammi Willis of Each Piece Unique

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I did go around snapping some random bits.  It was a streetstyle haven but sadly my skills are rather limited in that area.  Best leave it to the real street style pros.  I loved this girl's Michelle Lowe-Holder bracelet, no doubt, made from fabric scraps she had hanging about….

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Louise Gray's arm after one hour of painting people's eyes…

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I prefer my festival specific Converse over wellies…

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I think it was Louise Gray who made up her eyes and said this Christopher Kane-wearing girl was 11!  Wowzers, who are these generous parents who gift their kids with Kane? 

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There were a few opportunities to go inside Port Eliot house itself and one of them was in the extraordinary Round Room, where we saw Ed Harcourt woo a load of middle-aged mums and a few nans.  The mural in this circular room is fantasically surreal and is definitely one the features of this house that makes it stand out amongst its grade-listed peers…

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In another room in the house, we watched Sally Potter's adapation of the Virgina Woolf novel Orlando starring Tilda Swinton, followed by a Q&A session with the art director and costume designer of the film – Michael Howells and Sandy Powell.  I loved how Powell was so blase about designing 400 years of costume on zero budget.  She nit picked at some of the things they could have done better in the costume department (despite it earning an Oscar nod at the time…) but for me, this highly stylised take on period costume still looks stupendously impressive today.   

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A couple of weeks ago, I stood at the edge of the Olympic Park in Hackney Wick with the new stadium in clear sight for the very first time.  It was the designer Christopher Raeburn, who took me on a little detour through the canals and newly built greenways before we entered his nearby studio.  Thus far, I've been rather reticent about all things Olympics – will I be able to enjoy it without lamenting how badly the city is functioning, will it just an event of cock-ups a la mockumentary Twenty Twelve – but even I had to marvel at the enormity of the structure, embued with a sense of hope and anticipation for next year and beyond.  Raeburn is similarly positive and enthusiastic about the regeneration of the area (unlike some of the naysayers here) – a representation of possibility that relays rather well to what he is doing with his own ambitious work.

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I have a rather strange blogging history with Raeburn.  A month into starting my blog in 2006, I brazenly asked asked Raeburn for an interview on the back of his brief but memorable appearance on Project Catwalk (we only got two series America).  His list of inspirations in my naive questioning have stayed with me since and of course his career has taken a mind blowingly upward trajectory.  Vogue US advised "Remember the four R's – reduce, reuse, recycle and Raeburn" summing up the ethos of his work, which stores like Barney's (Julie Gilhart, before she *ahem* left Barney's, championed Raeburn quite strongly), Browns, Harvey Nichols and The Corner have enthusiastically bought into. 

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Therefore I took this opportunity to have another go at interviewing and investigating this designer who piqued my interest even whilst on a crap reality TV show.  In his studio, I found Raeburn to be someone who looks for problems to solve and finds the most practical and intelligent way of getting there, the antithesis of a flighty creative designer you might say.  There's no frivolous fuss about him.  "I like things that are useful," Raeburn says.  With a TV diet of The Apprentice, Dragon's Den and Grand Designs, this self-confessed geek definitely has an unconventional approach towards fashion fused with functional product design.   

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'We were encouraged to draw something in the week and then challenged to make it with my dad on the weekend," he recalls 'From the age of 11, I was in air cadets, I learnt to fly.  I was doing my Duke of Edinburgh.  I was doing walks in Holland.  I had this love of being prepared.  I think there's something great about having everything on your back and being self-sufficient.' This childhood love of survival, making-and-creating and constant interaction with functional gear, paved the way for his idea of remaking military garments which deconstruct patterns to reuse a glut of military surplus that has been sitting in warehouses for over fifty years. 

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'With all the remade things, we're completely deconstructing original garments.  Essentially you're taking a menswear uniform outerwear piece, they're generally  badly/roughly cut and so for me the exciting thing is to reimagine that for womenswear.  It's about deconstructing and reworking it into something new. You're able to make a garment with a history beyond its own, and there's something quite exciting about that.'

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This is best seen in a mens duffle coat and womens cropped jacket for A/W 11-12 which sees the date stamps of the original jacket or uniform floating around on an innovatively cut, seen in the triangular pattern pieces that piece together.  The leather trims around the buttons are also recycled from old German leather waistcoats.  The lining reveals an old camouflage pattern.  I might reel off these upcycle/reuse plus points, but in person, it is the design that strikes you.  To cheesily appropriate an M&S ad, this isn't just any duffle coat.  This is a Christopher Raeburn duffle coat.  

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You might be tempted to lump Raeburn with sustainable, ethical fashion labels but he himself, never classified his company as such and instead likes to think of his collections as products that make sense.  'It's really nice to look across your company and think "There was a reason for everything." We're really thinking about what we're doing and why.'

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The very act of gathering up fabric scraps to make soft toys that are actually sold to the stores is a simple step to take towards reducing waste, something he developed whilst he was studying at RCA.  He had interns busily sewing these up when I was there proving that these toys aren't just a showy gimmick. 

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Another example of Raeburn's constant analysis is a rare thing indeed amongst young designers – he holds customer focus groups. 'Our S/S 12 menswear collection was ripped apart by architects, graphic designers – people who might buy our pieces.'  After all, from the point of view of men, the question is simple. What's it for?  This sounds like an incredible dull question to try to attach to fashion, an expression of creativity and an art form in its own right but Raeburn is right to ask it.   

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Raeburn goes back to the word function over and over again, not because he's on a broken record rant but because he's cleverly carving out a niche for himself that customers are now beginning to recognise him for.  He admits that the initial parachute parka jackets that propelled his label to recognition a few seasons ago, have now been changed and instead of recycled parachute fabric, he uses a recycled polyester.  'I hate the idea that someone bought that jacket and was left sodden at a bus stop. We have an obligation to think about both design and function. You'd be stupid not to change things.'

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He also talks of his 'company' repeatedly and credits his team profusely, showing that in a very short time, he has already grown his brand to have a good support infrastructure of designers, pattern-cutters and sales force.  Christopher Raeburn, the company and the designer has already begun to think about what other areas they can explore beyond military surplus reuse.  They have collaborated with British mills and fabric manufacturers such as Hainsworth in Yorkshire or Halley Stevenson in Dundee to produce exclusive fabrics.  Perhaps another R needs to be added to that American Vogue quote – rediscover

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I kept on pressing Raeburn though.  What about contradicting with the somewhat frivolous nature of fashion?  Doesn't he clash with a system that upholds excess and things that AREN'T useful?  'I suppose I hope that my voice in fashion is valid for that reason. That idea of being an archetypal fashion designer doesn't exist for me.  I'm interested in so many different fields and I cross so many different product areas.'

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That in itself presents itself as an exciting process.  Fashion may not be the final full stop for Christopher Raeburn but for now, we can revel in his special fusion between style and function along with an intelligent sourcing of materials.  We began by being confronted by a structure that represents change and is supposed to leave a legacy.  My bet is that Raeburn will leave one of his own, a legacy that is bloody useful.  How novel is that in fashion eh?

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Christopher Raeburn A/W 11-12 presented in the disused Aldwych Underground station during London Fashion Week in February 2011

>> I'm not particularly good when it comes to predicting 'HOT TRENDS' namely because these things tend to only come back and bite me later on.  Having been around the show circuits for a few years and witnessing the mass of streetstyle evidence that ensues afterwards, I think it's fairly safe to say that after last season's Prada brogue/espadrille hybrids, pops of Jil Sander and neon Cambridge Co. satchels, these Givenchy VG 782 glasses, will follow the same trajectory of those hot trot items gone before.  It's perhaps slightly unchracteristic of me to be pimping HOT fandangled things but then again, I was one of those mugs who bought a pair of Prada brogues ad unashamedly, from Prada's S/S 11 bananas and monkeys, I'll now be attempting to shift to Givenchy's A/W 11-12 panthers and violets and these glasses are the entry level ticket in (¬£350 for the acetate ones, ¬£390 for the fur covered ones).  I don't even feel mildly ridiculous about saying that (except that I can concede that ¬£300+ for something is hardly budget friendly… frighteningly that is about as cheap as it gets with Givenchy…).  I'm even contradicting my stance against wearing glasses with non-prescriptive lenses in them as I think these will be slightly too large for my mammoth prescription to handle.  Damn Riccardo Tisci for all this self-confounding talk.  I blame the violets.  The panthers.  The Versace-esque prints.  Even the bloody cat-ears caps that will undoubtedly emerge in the gardens of the Tuileries come October. 

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Backstage photography by Morgan O'Donovan for Dazed Digital

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