>> I've been catching up on all the various fashion prizes that numerous designers go for at this time of the year when it feels a little like fashion funding lottery.  Who can scoop the various prizes worth up to hundreds of thousands of Euros, that are now sponsored by anyone from a famed hotelier to LVMH to eBay?  ANDAM recently announced its winners with the very talented and ultra-nice Julien David quite rightly grabbing the grand prize.  A few months ago, Wisharawish Akarasantisook, who I knew as a Hyeres finalist from many moons ago, won the Mango Award.  Louise Gray, Mary Katrantzou, Henry Holland and James Long have all just received their Fashion Forward sponsorship, which is now oddly sponsored by eBay.  Woolmark have also just announced all of their finalists from five world regions including Dion Lee from Australia, Christian Wijnants from Europe and Sophie Theallet from USA.

The latest shortlist for the Dorchester Collection Fashion Prize, a fairly new initiative started by fashion writer Bronwyn Cosgrave together with the Dorchester Hotel Group, has just been announced.  This year's criteria stipulates that designers have to be based in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland or Netherlands, which I knew would throw up a few unfamiliar names.  One of the nominees IRM Design caught my eye with their blend of accessories and fashion that is based on the idea of collaboration and experimentation.  The IRM Design team consists of Marion Lalanne and Pierre Alexis Hermet, a pair of friends who met at ESMOD Lyon and are now based in Paris.  They seem to be bursting with ideas, and as such haven't quite established a consistent signature yet, but show promise in the few collections they have done.  For A/W 12-3, they've done a collection of neck pieces, cuffs and a few bags entitled "Galactica" that macrame cord with stones, placed on palladium or silver foundations.  There's also a geometric backpack involving yellow fun fur and olive leather which feels strangely good in its texture mash-up.  It's a sweeping generalisation but the bottom line is that none of this feels stereotypically "French" which is a good thing in the scheme of pushing ahead with younger designers coming through in France.   

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Their S/S 12 fashion collection saw them collaborate with French painter Fran√ßoise Nielly, known for her neon streaked painterly portraits.  On a series of silk organza dresses, Nielly paints swashes of vivid colour with a knife directly on to the fabric leaving parts of the organza transparent.  Every dress was therefore a one off and one of them is still available on French e-boutique L'Exception, where the collection was exclusively sold.     

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>> I didn't plan for an Olympics-related post to pop up on the day of the London 2012 opening ceremony but this one is merely a passing comment rather than anything that's actually relevant to the feverish fervour for the extravaganza that is supposedly going to be unveiled tonight.  I couldn't resist the way Nike has referenced an old-fashioned etiquette book in this hardback bound lookbook showcasing their designs for the USA team's medal stand looks and attire for lounging around in the Olympics Village.  It covers the dos and donts of how to wear your kit when on that sacred medal podium such as tucking in untidy t-shirt hems, turning up tracksuit bottom cuffs up once to prevent unsightly bunching-up and perfecting the perfect tuck n' roll on a long racerback vest.  The book is the work of New York-based creative agency ceft and company and was photographed by Max Farago and for me, is one of the more impressive bits of printed paraphernalia to have come out of all things Olympics-related that have started flooding into my snail mail cubby hole.  It's suitably light-hearted and laden with tongue-in-cheek wording.  Still whilst  I chortle at sentences such as "From the stand-up collar to the satin finish, this medal stand look takes a minimalistic approach to eleganc.  And yet when flashbulbs pop, subtle bands of reflection will be revealed, adding accents of silver light to the classic navy base and a dash of shine to the victors," real athletes out there will be dreaming of their medal stand moment over the next few weeks.  I'll be witnessing some of those moments as I've luckily scored tickets to see all the events including the 100m womens final on 4th August and yes, I am actually genuinely excited.  To think I was bah humbuging all of this Olympics stuff a year ago. 

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After looking through the Nike athlete etiquette book, I had to reread this Manners for Women book, first published in 1897 and written by a certain Mrs Humphry.  It's part truthful and part ridiculous in its advice for us women.  Telling us to have brocade silks running down the centre of our dining tables for dinner parties may be outdated but some of the style advice actually isn't that antiquated.    

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"The object of a fashionable woman in dressing, is to make herself distinctive without becoming conspicuous – to excel by her union of graceful outline and fidelity to the fashion of the moment (no easy task), and while offering no striking contrast to those around her, so to individualise herself that she is one of the few who remain in the memory, when the crowd of well-dressed women is recalled only as an indistinguishable mass."

"There is intense vulgarity in dressing in loud colours and glaring styles in order to attract attention to oneself.  There is an immense difference between this sort of thing and the desire to look one's best, and to be as becomingly and suitably attired as one's means allow."

"A widow when marrying again, wears grey, mauve, heliogrope, lavender, biscuit or deep cream-colour, or any tint not mournful or lugubrious."

"Travelling costumes consist of tweed, serge, Irish frieze, homespun, and other all-wool materials, and are of the class of tailor-mades.  In hot weather, white muslins, piques and flowered or pale muslins are worn by the sea, with open worked white stockings and white shoes.  Glittering bead trimmings and elaborate embroideries are quite out of place."

"Women dress irrationally.  The only time that we don't grumble about modern dress is when we see a sister-woman attired in 'rational' costume.  it is then that we hug our faults and follies to our breasts, and delight in our delinquencies.  We compare those heel-less prunella shoes with our own neat patents – wicked things they are with their pointed toes and narrow soles.  We contrast their shapeless figures with our own smart outlines, and we are so lost to a sense of our sartorial sins as to congratulate ourselves on our sumptuary superiority."

There are some brands that you take for granted because you know you can rely on them and they'll always be there for you through the good times and the bad.  When I first walked into Folk's store on Lamb's Conduit Street maybe six or seven years ago, that's how I felt about their then-solely menswear offering and their solid shoe range for both men and women.  Their clothes are quiet but absolutely not sterile.  They come and give you a gentle hug as you reach out and touch their knitwear, their lovely shirts or a well-formed pair of camel ankle boots.  There are also quirks that they've built up over the years thanks to their obsession with crafty elements.  In addition to caring about the fabrications and the quality of their clothes, they don't short change you on aesthetic treats for the eye – a detailing on the pockets, a tiny pair of people embroidered on a shirt (one of Folk's little emblems), the inside of a jacket being just as nice as the outside – all things that have contributed to a hardcore group of Folksters who appreciate Folk's blend of quirkiness and functionality.    

Folk have clocked in just over ten years of being in business and have six standalone stores under the belt with a ton of stockists but instead of making a loud shout about that achievement, they've plodded on and recently launched their womenswear for A/W 12-3 in the quiet and assured way that I'd expect them to do.  Cathal McAteer, founder of Folk together with designer Folk designer Elbe Lealman always knew that womenswear was on the cards but saw no reason to rush it or lazily rehash their menswear styles in womenswear sizing.  Lealman originally came from a womenswear background but drew influences from the androgynous style of Japanese/Antwerp designers.  That led her to designing the menswear for Folk and now she gets to return to her original field of interest.  "It's hard to describe what we do but it's very instinctive to us and so it's been quite easy to apply that to womenswear." explained Lealman when I met her at the a little Folk shindig that myself and Steve hosted on Tuesday night at the Shepherd Market store.  

For A/W 12, we get a taster for Folk womenswear that incorporates some elements of the menswear but with a freer hand when it comes to  pieces such as the painted silk dress that I'm wearing below  "The first collection was piece together the masculinity of the menswear and adding in what I felt was a good capsule collection for women that still want to look feminine but not ridiculous.  It's a balance between aesthetics and things looking beautiful and the practical element."  Lealman says the word "practical" almost with an apologetic tone.  I'm not sure it's necessary because there is real merit and skill in creating clothes that people fall back on time and time again.  The very fruition of the womenswear came about partly because there was intense customer demand for it.  It will be interesting to see if the women who buy Folk shoes on a regular basis will also buy into the womenswear.  

For a first time Folkster like myself who has always admired the ethos and infrastructure of the menswear business, leaping about in the new A/W 12-3 collection has been a real joy of discovering that I do indeed have a real need for a brownish tweed coat with huuuuuge pockets that can fit two paperbacks in each.  Or a chambray shirt that has a maroon diamond on the elbows (Folk have a real addiction to primary colours and primary shapes, which lends a pleasingly childish undertone to their pieces).  Pieces like this flighty silk dress with exaggerated batwing sleeves, printed with one of Lealman's paintings or a red dress with wooden toggles are Folk's more overtly feminine pieces that will shape up as an exciting prospect for future collections.  I've already spied lovely Indian-influenced embroidery and bright pink fuschia pink in the new S/S 13 collection.  

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Folk dress worn with Fleet Ilya visor, Rachel Antonoff x G.H. Bass shoes

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Folk red dress worn with Peter Pilotto cardigan underneath, Jaeger bag, Salvatore Ferragamo Vara pumps

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Folk tweed coat and polka dot top, Pleats Please trousers, Underground creepers

Despite Folk's foray into womenswear, I still couldn't help stealing a few things from Steve's Folk menswear pile.  For A/W 12 menswear, pieces like the reversible knitted sleeved bombers, fleecy trousers and no-brainer sweatshirts and tees are ripe for picking.  It's easy to see how the two collections are playing off against each other too.  "We made a conscious decision that we just didn't want to be pigeon holed in to doing a women's fit of the menswear.  They've got to appreciate each other.  It's got to stay focused in the same direction."    

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Folk womenswear chambray shirt and trousers, Folk menswear sweatshirt worn with Christopher Kane jewelled sandals

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Folk menswear bomber, Folk womenswear cardigan and white shirt worn with Balenciaga skirt and Tommy Hilfiger x G.H. Bass loafers

>> I'm currently grappling with a mammoth cook off for a friend's birthday party so I can't do much more today other than alternate between this new Versus S/S 13 video and the theme for The Clothes Show (an instrumental version of Pet Shop Boys' In the Night).  Both soundtracks kind of nod to a jubilant time when a fashion-y soundtrack was basically anything with a watered down Chicago house vibe that seems to be fitting into my current state of melting into my chair.  Have a go at having both on at the same time.  It's indoor euphoria when coupled with Versus' campaign archive thread on The Fashion Spot.      

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