Feeling the Gauge

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Susiestyle

On the first day of London Fashion Week for the past two seasons, you might have seen me storming around the exhibition stands like a bedraggled bag lady, laden with a cherry hat on my head, a gaggle of necklaces around my neck and a ton of hangers.  That's me picking out pieces from the exhibitions to put together outfits for every issue of LFW Daily in a bid to talk up the designers that have stands at the now ever-sprawling space of Somerset House.  

Lucas Nascimento struck me straight away despite having a rail that was sort of tucked away by a staircase.  I vaguely remembed he had shown his last collection in Rio in Brazil and could recall thinking to myself "This guy is one to watch….".  It was a surprise to learn that Nascimento has in fact always been based in London and now he's making a go of it here properly by presenting his S/S 12 collection at London Fashion Week.   

Eagle eye precise knitwear with a subtle sensitivity for palette and texture has sort of been deserted since the likes of Louise Goldin departed London for New York (and is now supposedly working for Kanye West).  Lucas Nascimento therefore conveniently swoops in to make his mark at a time when level-headed and slick maturity is rampant (J J.S. Lee, Palmer Harding, Simone Rocha, Thomas Tait…. all from the same graduating MA year of Central Saint Martins incidentally).  

There's nothing stark about Nascimento's knitwear though that speaks volume through the techniques of creating his own textiles that are a feat in their own right.  For S/S 12, the painter Agnes Martin provides the textural inspiration as the appearance of a woven texture spurs Nascimento into experimenting with a cord weaving technique that looks immaculately reined in when tailored into swing jackets, peplums, trousers and simple dresses.  The yarn that loops over the layers of cord is something that Nascimento first experimented with to differentiate the spacing and as a result there are many swatches where the pattern is shifted ever so slightly.  The different colour combinations also has wildly different effects on the final textile and it's Nascimento's confident use of colour colour throughout the whole collection that really grabs your attention.  

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This jacquard pattern is meant to give the appearance of a loose woven textile and again has undergone a few swatch experimentations to get to the final pattern.  I love the very neat and tidy effect of the ultra thin collar and the buttoned-up sweater that also dips down at the back, a shape that Nascimento employs repeatedly in the collection.  He also cuts out sweaters in the front to present the cropped cardi as a layering option, something that Nascimento is hugely fond of – that sort of thing has my name written all over it.

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A roughened cotton yarn that has white mixed in with a colour creates a very fine gauge knit that also a very chalky appearance.  When made up into colour blocked trousers and shirts with collars, you wouldn't look at the piece and instantly think of "knitwear" and Nascimento is constantly challenging the conventions of knitwear with his use of tailoring.  Apparently he has a machine in his studio which is capable of veeeeeery fine gauge knits, handy for doing samples in this country before production in Italy takes over… don't ask me for the technical information but the machine certainly looked like a fine specimen.  

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Stretchy striped tops complete the textural gamut for S/S 12 and also means Nascimento can provide anything from interesting basics to more complex pieces making his prices fairly reasonable too for work of this quality.  

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Stormin’ down Kingsland Road

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>> Londoners and those in the semi-know might think of Dalston/Hackney as a fashion-filled area but what we really mean is, it's where people who work in fashion live and where many designers' studios are.  If a tourist with no prior knowledge of London was planted somewhere along Kingsland Road, they're more than likely to be baffled by the number of kebab shops, nail bars (and not the WAH Nails sort…) and council estates, trying to sniff out shopping spots, winding up huffing and puffing and teary-eyed.  Ok so Kingsland Road is loooooong and isn't a handy enclave like, say Redchurch Street or Carnaby Street but there's now definitely a feasible route to take if you work your way from the bottom Pho Mile bit to when Kingsland Road turns into Stoke Newington Road.  Just to recap – House of Liza for yer' vintage Moschino and JC-DC, Primitive London tucked away just behind Kingsland Road for an unusual selection of designers, The Pattern Market for vintage mags, clothes and furniture to rummage through and then further up, LN-CC of course which needs no explanation.  If you really want to round it all off, you can pop into the Beyond Retro Dalston branch which is a gigantic behemoth of a store for 'general' vintage shopping.

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Down by the WAH Nails bit of Kingsland Road though is Storm in a Teacup, which has been open since the summer but yet again, I seem to always miss the first boat when it comes to keeping track of store openings.  Stylist Joe Miller and his model girlfriend Claudia Raba have been collecting designer vintage on their travels and their store only showcases a smattering of this collection.  It has a distinct vibe that combines the aesthetics of a Wild West saloon and an old English sweet store.  SHOP or DIE is their current window mantra but the interior isn't quite so threatening as you're faced with a selection of Chanel, tons of GREAT Westwood (as opposed to crap Anglomania jumpers…) which is probably down to Miller's experience of working with Vivienne Westwood, Margiela, Comme des Garcons, Azzedine Alaia at prices that aren't hitting the roof.  In fact there's a veritable bargain in there right now as a pair of the SUPER high Prada espadrille/brogues are in there for ¬£280 when they were ¬£600 full price (size 39.5 if you wanna go get em…).  The selection of second hand designer clothing in London is still not amaaaaazing when compared to cities like Paris or Tokyo but it's getting better with the likes of Strut in Broadway Market and now Storm in a Teacup, which also has a strong menswear selection for the guys who get left out.

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In any case, I'll have to keep stalking ALL spots in London just in case any beloved Tao by Comme des Garcons pops up…

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Next up on my London shop review list, vintage store Pelicans & Parrots' second store, which opens tomorrow – finally I'm actually ON the ball this time round. 

My Sorta Denim

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>> My time in New York was brief but packed because apparently fashion folk over there cram in as many events and press days into the working week, that leaves slow plodding London me panting.  Or it could have been that week in particular.  I dropped by J Brand and Christopher Kane's launch just to yelp at Christopher and say "I'M NEEEEEEON TILL I DIEEEEEEE!" and affirm my allegiance to a set of colours that most people think should belong to highlighter pens and nothing else.  I also got into a convo with J. Brand's CEO Jeff Rudes (not rude at all in fact…) about their Californian factories, their upcoming ready to wear lines and the fact that this collaboration isn't a one off and that Kane will be introducing denim as a stable offering in his collection with the help and expertise of J Brand.  

All good things to know but for now, as part of Kane's rainbow-tastic resort collection, this J Brand collaboration comes in three bright neon shades almost as if the denim has been blasted with spray cans.  There's a slightly chalky effect on the denim that has probably come from the aftershock of dyeing denim in these ultrabright colours.  I have nothing against the flares other than I think I'd wind up wrecking them like I did with my corduroy super flares aged 16 as they got ravaged by puddles and ended up fraying like crazy.  Perhaps that's the whole point.  The whole collab are available on Net-a-Porter now but colette and Barney's also have dibs on them too.    

A safer bet for me are the cycling shorts and the denim jackets which just also happens to slot right into the outfit gameplan for my Six London shoes.  No, I'm not pushing them to gen pub, seeing as the general consensus is that they're "Ugly as hell!".  However, I am allowed to revel in the fact that I'm MIGHTY happy with them as shoes that can match up with random artefacts such as neon denim, pink fun fur, lime sun ray pleats… you know…. the sort of stuff that would be lying around in my wardrobe.  Emphasis on the first person there.  Anyhow, I'll be playing around a bit with the shoes this weekend to explore all options.  For now, I have to sit on my hands to stop myself from taking a Sharpie highlighter and scribbling all over the back of all of this deliciously neon denim canvas… 

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(J Brand x Christopher Kane denim jacket and cycling shorts, Topshop dress, vintage top, SIXLondon shoes)

DVD Trio

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Yohji

I didn't expect Yohji Yamamoto to utter the word "gorgeous" several times in the opening scene of the short film Yohji Yamamoto: This is My Dream that documents the run-up to the S/S 10 Y-3 show in New York, directed by Theodore Stanley.  I associate the word with a brassy blonde making kiss noises with juicy red lips, not a 68-year old Japanese designer who undoubtedly is up there in mine and many other's top ten of inspirational figures in fashion.

I guess I wouldn't mind being cocooned in Yamamoto's version of 'gorgeous' if that involved an oversized, perfectly formed black wool coat, something that I've been searching for obsessively on eBay ever since I was 17 and had an ephiphanal experience of trying on an Yohji coat in Hong Kong.  To Yamamoto, the word  doesn't call for sensationalist excess but instead is about boiling it down to clothes that are seeped with heartfelt feeling and purity.  Seeing Yamamoto at close quarters and at work in this half-an-hour short, only serves to demonstrate the devastatingly "gorgeous" simplicity which he and his staff embody in dress and in the designs they produce.  I  enjoyed his autobiography Yohji Yamamoto: My Dear Bomb as well as the Wim Wenders film Notebook on Cites & Clothes immensely and this film is a truly wonderful updated accompaniment despite its brevity.  The highly quotable nuggets from Yamamoto just keep coming‚Ķ

"I didn't want to disturb people's eyes.  Too many colours.  I am very tired to look at colour.  For my total life, I am comfortable being in black."

"I was born in the ruins (of bombed Tokyo)  I had no memory of Japanese culture because those things were all destroyed.  This is my root – the ruined Tokyo."

"I'm not interested in fashion … I'm just interested in how to cut clothing."

"I have my own judge in me. And …he's always… (hesitates) judging me"

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Yamamoto's relationship with Y-3 is surprising in that it was Yamamoto who approached adidas to collaborate back in 2001 before the relationship between designer and mainstream brand had even been formulated.  The reovlutionary turn of that relationship is something we take for granted now.  The Y-3 S/S 10 show therefore is a perfect vehicle for this documentary to take place, with its memorable  World Cup related shenanigans, and Zinedine Zidane and Yamamoto himself taking a penalty kick (which they didn't show in the film).  The frenetic pace of a New York Fashion Week casting and show prep provided the perfect contrast to Yamamoto's quiet and brief musings as well as a surprise turn on the guitar (not many people know that Yamamoto recorded an album and regularly jams with his band).

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The DVD is available from Y-3 stores in limited edition boxes that also come with a cedarwood, patchouli, lavender and grapefruit scented candle, one that's worth burning for a bit WHILST watching the DVD and if you're lucky to have be able to watch a TV/laptop from your bathtub, then it makes for an altogether GORGEOUS half an hour – that's the Yohji sort of gorge by the way.

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I wish I had a similarly positive experience with Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (now out on DVD in the UK) directed by Whitney Sudler-Smith which was at least four times as long as the Yohji one.  Despite gathering up a starry list of talking head contributions from the likes of Liza Minelli, model Pat Clevland, Cathy Horyn, Andre Leon Talley and Angelica Huston, Sudler-Smith's failed to get to the bottom of WHY Halston was such a pioneering American designer.  Instead, he shimmied about in a comical 70s get-up, and revealed himself to be nothing but a Studio 54 fanboy.  WOO!  Who cares about the fact that Halston could cut a beautiful dress straight from a bolt of silk satin when we can talk about gay orgies at a club?  Alright, so there are probably more people out in the world who are interested in the latter but at least TRY and conceal the fact that you have zero interest in the clothes and make SOME effort to understand what Halston did for American fashion.

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Now, if he was going at it Louis Theroux style, where having zero interest makes for pure comedy, that would be a different thing.  Except we have a poor half-earnest attempt at trying to track Halston's career from beginning to downfall with some hazy memories of crazy nights out by a few eager talking heads who look like they just want to get more screen time.    

What I did find interesting was the part where they talked about Halston's disastrous collaboration with J.C. Penney's, a high-low designer collaboration in its very early and experimental form.  It highlighted the problem of the general J.C. Penney's consumer not being able to justify the prices of the clothes, which depended on Halston's name alone.  This sort of ahead of the curve ambition as well as less than prudent company takeovers ultimately cost Halston his label.  I just wish the film concentrated more on the magic of Halston's designs and their effect on women of that era so that when the concluding part on his demise came, the loss felt would be more emphatic.

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Finally we come back to an exalting high with L'Amour Fou directed by Pierre Thoretton which is also out on DVD on the UK and USA.  Filmed after Yves Saint Laurent's death and centred around the sale of his and Pierre Berge's vast collection of objets d'art acquired over twenty years.  Berge is central narrator, an obvious choice and you feared that telling the tale of his beloved partner might be something of a burden.  He probably gets stopped in the street countless times by people asking inane questions about Saint Laurent.

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Fortunately, he doesn't tire of recounting their meeting, Saint Laurent's time at Dior, the start of the label, the meeting of muses Betty Catroux and Loulou de la Falaise, and the rest of that very familiar trajectory with some of the sad and tortured times omitted.  Berge telling the tale obviously gives one view of bias, a rose-tinted one but that you want to hear over and over again.  It's dazzling to hear of Berge and Saint Laurent's relationship that went beyond simply being lovers – they were friends, business partners, soul mates and they were loyal to each other despite difficulties.  Berge was the caretaker in all aspects or at least that's the view affirmed by him.

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Having read The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake COUNTLESS times, the film felt like a visual reminder of all of those events with the added bonus of archive footage (my favourite bit being the YSL extravaganza show at the World Cup in 1998) as well as beautiful present day filming of Laurent and Berge's residences in Paris, Normandy and in Marrakech.  This can feel somewhat slow and meandering to some but through the rich array of objects on display that isn't confined to style or period, you get a sense of the wealth of inspiration that filtered down into Yves Saint Laurent's work. 

Once the packing and preparation for the final auction of these objects comes, there's a sadness because the film has been so object-focused but the Berge's  sentiment iterated at the very beginning of the film, rescues the whole thing from feeling like a House and Country/Christie's showcase and that is this "But you know, losing someone wih whom you have lived, with ups and downs along the way, for fifty eyars, whose eyes I closed… You know, that is another thing entirely than seeing one's objets d'art leave."