>> If all jewellery installations were like the one I saw at Delfina Delettrez' latest 'Love is in the Hair' collection presentation, I'm more than likely to venture to write about something I know nothing about and be well prepared to be slated to bits for it. Fine jewellery is a world that is beyond me. Its terminology of silver/gold/diamond weights, semi/full/non precious stones and settings, chains and clasps is something I've yet to acquire. Delettrez therefore made it a whole lot easier for me to digest by bringing wigs into play. Wigs created by opera wig maestros in Rome to be exact, designed to Delettrez' specification ranging from goddesses to pop icons to Marie Antoinette types. Delettrez' eye is still everywhere, gazing at you from rings and pendants but the idea really came from encasing locks of hair in resin, an old fashioned token of love that developed into this madcap installation that did not fail to make everyone in Parisian sweltering heat smile and squeal a bit. Marie Claire's Taylor Tomasi-Hill, who was at the presentation marvelling at it all, got it in one – "You'd have to be a very boring person to NOT like this!" I'm inclined to agree….
I can finally say I had Stephen Jones on my head if only for a very very brief moment. Well err… not Stephen Jones himself. That would be odd and slightly uncomfortable. No, instead I'm speaking of this arresting swan headpiece by Stephen Jones created for Giles' S/S 12 show that was surprisingly featherlight as well as making me feel like I'm not worthy of such plummage.
This is slightly belated but can a fluttery swan headpiece ever be unwelcome here? If it is, then you guys might be barking up the wrong blog. Slammed into the middle of London Fashion Week, I snuck out to Giles' studio to do a preview of his swantastic S/S 12 collection for Nowness. There's an ok-ish interview there but read my disclosure note below. The key thing is that Phil Oh photographed me bumbling about a studio visit. I've done countless studio visits but have never had someone documenting me documenting the work of designers. New schtick? Seeing me see the clothes? Hmmm…. on second thoughts, perhaps not even though Phil took some lovely shots, which are on Nowness with some extra ones here…
My camera angle wasn't that advantageous at the show but suffice to say, the collection really showcased Giles as a real couturier, live and well in London. Perhaps the c word is too heavy and imbued with the sort of pedantic tendancies that would have people reeling off about who is and isn't part of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. In which case, GIles doesn't apply but the level of work, craftsmanship and hand finishing that goes on inside his vast studio has few equals at LFW. Why do I look like I'm gawping most of the time in the shots above? Because I was a) super impressed that when I went, everything was pretty much done, ready for Katie Grand to get her hands on it and style it (it goes against the LFW style of sewing trousers up, backstage a minute before the show…), b) details such as this silver leather laser-cut work mirroring the crumpled foil background of Cecil Beaton's early 20s-30s photographs (inspiring the set as well) and c) just seeing so much intricate work in progress by people who rely on delicate handskills is always going to make me coo and sigh.
Swan Lake or indeed a film like Black Swan didn't directly inspire the collection as one might think, but instead it was Giles' bedazzled tutus designed for the English National Ballet, which left traces everywhere in the collection. It was peppered with the easy-to-grasp separates, which has been a commercially viable path for Giles to follow. Still, it was these pretty pretty takes on flapper gowns with silver laser cut leather that brought me back into the warm arms of his collection, harking back to previous
Should I venture into figure skating, the top half of this outfit would do very nicely….
No embarrassing "Take them off me" faces on these models who wore the trio of swans as though they were part of their heads, reminding me of majestic figureheads on the front of ships.
I'm learning my figure skating static poses from the models who were plunged into darkness and lit up revealing these bird-like poses. THIS amount of swan in one collection could have headed down a dodgy path but Giles convinced us of the spectacular heights that a swan can go.
**Disclosure** Blackberries and their Voice Recorder app needs to come with a warning that say "I've stopped recording and you're just talking into me pointlessly." I lost quite a bit of the conversation I had with Giles so apologies if the interview seems a bit sketchy.
>> I'll be pandering to and praising Anthony Vaccarello's tipping point S/S 12 collection along with rest of the world who wants a piece of him – both buyers and press. For now though, I have to applaud my ex-backstage photographer comrade Morgan O'Donovan for capturing beautiful shots of what was stellar casting matched with a stellar collection backstage on the Quai D'Austerlitz enjoying a bit of fresh air until their stomped down a long-ass concrete runway. I'll be feasting and sighing over these on my Blackberry inbetween shows today just to remind me what a jaw-dropping start to Paris Fashion Week this truly was.
What London Fashion Week proffered up two weeks ago wasn't just the normal strengths of print and colour play but truly a broad range of designers that went with their own flow and had conviction in that. Sure, the printists and texturists had a field day playing with surfaces but a breakout designer that shone amongst the pattern fest did it with a simple white shirt.
Well, actually seventeen mens and seventeen womens shirts to be exact. Palmer Harding may be a fresh name but Levi Palmer and Matthew Harding's combined experience in freelance work as well as their respective degrees in Central Saint Martins menswear BA and MA courses have created a steady footing for them to start their highly focused label. When I went to visit them out in the super outer regions of London (zone 6 anyone???), I found the level of focus to be scarily high for such young dudes. I had to applaud their pragmatism and sensible ways – they run their studio from Harding's family home (hence the non-E postcode), they've researched production options extensively so that they can take on orders (and I predict many will be buying into their core collection) and they have singularly honed in on what most consider to be a basic. Playing it safe or steady shouldered thinking? I'm going with the latter when you think of so many London young guns that have disappeared off the face of the earth leaving transient catwalk images from shows that probably burnt their budgets out.
Ultimately, what Palmer Harding are offering for S/S 12 is a desirable line of shirts, which have a stunning subtle point of difference that separates their shirts from the others. You could apply Magritte's words here and say "Ceci n'est pas une chemise blanche". Or you could go down the M&S route and go 'This isn't just ANY white shirt. This is a Palmer Harding white shirt." Inspired by photographer Ingar Krauss and 1930s couture detailing, Harding and Palmer employ various twists and turns to inject into the shirts, creating wafts of volume, draping, pleating and metal fixtures to form the right shape as well as subtly referencing to Harding's MA collection. This is all a far cry from the bulbous shapes that I road tested when I bought a piece from Harding's challenging collaboration with Topshop but I love that there are still lingering references from that collection. Mostly white, grey and a very very light shade of green are also used to prevent complete white-out, although you don't miss the absence of colour when there's so much detail to be discovered. The extra bonus is that none of these details feel superfluous or just present for decoration.
For me, there's a quiet strength in Palmer Harding's work that got me really excited when I saw it in person. I can't quite put my finger on it but their approach seemed really refreshing and you feel somewhat assured that their debut will be a success. Hope my enthusiasm hasn't jinxed anything. Paris will be the real indicator as Palmer Harding take their collection to market this week.