Apologies for the posting gap. Some of you will know that I'm currently doing my usual stint in Paris of covering shows for Dazed Digital so I'm temporarily decamped back to my old hat of running ragged during shows, chasing after designers for backstage interviews and scouring the front row for interesting people to pounce on.
In the meantime, I've got another phrase to reconsider and get all pedantic about. Geek chic – another odious turn of phrase (although not quite as bad as pretending that the word "rock" actually referred to something genuinely rock n' roll) for multiple reasons but mainly because it's become a lazy tag to label anyone/anything that features a heavy black pair of specs. Bung on some Woody Allen-esque glasses and BAM, it's apparently GEEK CHIC! When I saw Macao-born, London-based designer Steven Tai 's S/S 13 collection, centred around bookish types enjoying all the pleasures of a library, I immediately thought that geek chic needed a redefinition, one that fitted what Tai had produced Tai ransacked bolts of fabric to create layer upon layer of texture in ways that mean many of the silhouettes in this graduate crossover S/S 13 collection are exaggerated to the extreme. Take for instance the suspender trousers which are bulked up at the waistband with multiple layers to form a rigid waistline. The layers refer to pages in a book as do the woven embossed texture, resembling papyrus. The shredded crepe with embroidered fish embedded underneath the threads is a potently sweet and craft-based gesture from Tai. Every rough edge, awkward silhouette and deceptive tears and gaps in the fabric have a geekish obssessive quality to it as you look up close and it all looks even more complicated than at first glance.
Tai takes his inner geek to another level as he made catwalk waves with his pen nib dress that was constructed from 795 fountain pen nibs, each one mounted on tiny motors so that they spun round with adjustable speed, creating a hypnotic shimmer. Watch the video to believe it and spot Tai's father in the video helping his son to install the motors. These technological feats make you think of the possibilities of designers putting their mind at work and maybe getting fabric embellishment to move in this way. If moving particles on garments aren't your thing, then at the very least, his methodology of fabric innovation – layering pieces together, cutting up huge amounts of fabric to create these brilliant textures and knowing that every rip and tear is highly strategic – would impress most. It certainly did that at this year's Hyeres festival, as Tai won the Chloe prize of EUR10,000, impressing a jury presided over by Yohji Yamamoto. For Tai, he's keen on carrying on the MA and he definitely has the foundation to be given the Louise Wilson-once over in her legendarily scary lessons. Here's hope he raises enough to get there eventually…
I believe 26 international bloggers have each been given a letter, five of which have got hold of C, H, L, O and E. I haven't quite weaved around the blogosphere to see who's got what but I've been charged with the letter O, representing roundness.
The Rockstud. Just the name alone put me right off. ‚ÄúRock‚Äù a word that can be naffly attached to
stuff that is the antithesis of anything genuinely rock n‚Äô roll. ‚ÄúStud‚Äù in my mind maps on to men who might be
called Chad or scarily tanned and shiny chest pecs. Put the two together though and in
Valentino‚Äôs world, it apparently equates to a shoe and accessory jackpot. In China (my new barometer for trend
popularity), in Beijing and Shanghai, I counted at least twenty versions of the Valentino Rockstud shoe on teensy tiny feet, walking along the streets, on
their way to work, the mall or to slurp some soupy buns. Some could well have been fakes but most were
definitely real. I rarely ever see
designer shoes schlepping around on yer‚Äô average streets numbering into double
figures so this is testament to the fervent popularity of what is a simple
formula – an elegant pointed flat or heel dotted with pyramid studs that are
perfectly judged in their size, proportion and spacing, as they snake their way
round the curve of the tip and up along the ankle straps. The stud has come to represent Valentino‚Äôs rejuvenation
and reboot under Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli. Tellingly, both had previously
headed up Valentino‚Äôs accessories department so investing in the longevity and
popularity of their successful studded wares makes absolute sense. The Rockstud now graces a plethora of
shoulder bags, totes, clutches with that tell-tale hand strap, gloves and of
course on the shoes, which collectively has elevated Valentino accessories from
lady-lady no man‚Äôs land to fashion‚Äôs most wanted.
I‚Äôve succumbed having been fortunate to
lose my Rockstud shoe virginity to this particular pair, adorned with Valentino
red studs to match the leather. I
thought I was going to be bitching about the kitten heels by the end of the day
but upon wearing them, I found them to be mighty comfy and I think Nam from
Street FSN‚Äùs videographer (Nam has a hugely popular documentary series in
Korea) can prove it as I ran down the streets outside Missoni in Milan,
manically looking for taxis. There‚Äôs a
poise and elegance to the shoes that somehow makes it ok to wear, say a garish Phenomenon
men‚Äôs shirt with them.
This limited edition shoe basically begs
the question as to what other colour combos and finishes this stud can go on to
become. Valentino‚Äôs soon to be launched online Shoe Room (still not live yet as I go to post) will exclusively sell the all-red ones, but imagine
what a customizable Rockstud shoe (much like Prada‚Äôs espadrille brogue ordering
service) could yield. I‚Äôd be there in a
flash, demanding the studs in matte neon yellow or oxidised bronze matching
up with hot pink and nude patent leathers.
There goes my louche taste, tainting what is a well-conceived piece of
design. Valentino's Shoe Room should meet most Rockstud fans' more conventional needs.
"What do you think is the future for fashion and digital?" says interviewer who thrusts mic in my face, expecting a portent prophecy from me, the supposed "fashion in digital" oracle. I never have a satisfactory answer for the poor souls that ask me this wretched question. In any case, I'd rather not know. Instead of constantly looking forward, trying to see what seemingly clever technology we can foist on to the fashion space, with sometimes meaningless results, I'd rather concentrate on solidifying what we have, looking at how the internet and technology has enhanced our experience of fashion and at the ways it is becoming a much more integrated experience with our own reality – the physical experience that still counts for so much within fashion. Therefore, I've picked out a few instances spotted during the past few weeks where "digital" isn't shoved in a stowed away box, cornered off into an intangible space. Instead, we have technology and physical reality coming together in ways that actually communicate something meaningful to the consumer or the reader.
Y-3's S/S 13 Show Space – When they used to have their shows in the Park Armoury in New York, Y-3 used to be known for massive productions that have included anything from lasers to Zinedine Zidane taking a penalty kick. For their 10 year anniversary show, artist Dev Harlan created a video 3-D projection on a pyramid panelled wall that was the backdrop for the entire catwalk. In person, it was a mesmerising sight, as the coloured triangles lit up in sync with the music and often with the clothes as the colour palette and print themes played out on the walls in a fluid and streamlined movement. Hopefully that was communicated to viewers watching the live stream. This was a technology-driven set design that was really effective from a viewer's perspective and really enhanced Yohji Yamamoto's design vision.
Google Glass on the DvF Catwalk – I mention this with a bit of a raised eyebrow. The novelty factor of debuting the Google Glass in a Diane von Furstenberg show (not a brand necessarily known for digital innovation) was high. Rendered in an array of juicy colours, they often took away the attention from the clothes (although creative director Yvan Mispelaere announcing his departure from DvF the day after the show may have also overshadowed the collection in the end). When von Furstenberg herself came out wearing the Google Glass, looking like she was slightly confused as to why she had this piece of apparatus on her head, it definitely raised a few eyebrows. That said, the resulting film is quite well edited as a summation of what the Google Glass is capable of and I do like the idea of von Furstenberg herself taking to this partnership with such enthusiasm. Who else thinks though, that in essence, you could also strap a mini camera to your head and achieve the same result? Did this actually showcase the full capabilities of the Glass? Hmmm‚Ä¶
Topshop Unique Customise the Catwalk – The results of Topshop's newly shippable, social and customisable experience can be seen in their impressive stats (they even sent round a Google Analytics snapshot to prove it) with over 2 million people from all over the world logging in with a purported 200 million being exposed to Topshop Unique S/S 13 content due to people sharing their experience as part of a partnership with Facebook. That's pretty humongous. I was trying to test the experience out whilst watching the Topshop Unique show live at the venue but sadly my wifi was a bit dodgy so I couldn't benefit from the full experience. I take it from Twitter comments that no glitches cropped up though and that people were heavily using the 'Shoot the Show' feature where people could instantly snap away at the livestream and share their favourite looks via Twitter or Facebook. The Customise the Catwalk and pre-order feature was maybe a little limited. Was it just me or did you only ever see four items (dress, jacket, trousers and bag) that were customisable/shoppable? Let me know if it was just my crap connection letting me down on this front? I think Esther Adams of Vogue.com had the same problem. A wider selection of looks would have made this part more fulfilling considering how much love was going around for the show and the collection.
ShopBop Apartment – Breathing life into a website and creating a physical event out of e-commerce is nothing new but this season, there seemed to be more and more press events centred around this concept. I personally took part in selecting pieces from ShopBop to fill my "room" at the ShopBop Apartment event in London, held in the super lush Neo Bankside apartments by the Tate Modern. My "room" was festooned with print upon print as my selection was telling and people could wander from room to room in an intimate home setting rifling through rails, try on shoes/bags and shop the selection on ShopBop.com. I would have personally liked more time to make the room more "me" but sadly time wasn't permitting. Some of my favourite pieces from ShopBop came from unlikely sources such as this DSquared2 ombre cable knit jumper or this Willow gladiator skirt. Of course staple labels like 3.1 Phillip Lim and Derek Lam really propped up my selection.
Shoescribe Blogger's Day in Milan – Who else read the brilliant profile of Yoox Group CEO Federico Marchetti in the New Yorker? I'm forever an admirer of Marchetti's vision and strategy for e-commerce that historically has bucked the conventions of the traditionally tech-slow fashion industry of Italy. His ethos has led him to manage e-commerce for many of the super brands, become a high end retailer with TheCorner.com and more recently he has launched shoe site ShoeScribe.com as well as relaunching Yoox.com with a new redesign. Shoescribe put on their first ever physical event where product from the site was to be showcased alongside a girly day of mani/pedis at Layla salon in Milan. I've written about the shoe site before, which is doing a decent job of dedicating itself to footwear with an interesting buy that skews contemporary. The event was pretty textbook standard blogger-friendly stuff with cupcakes, shoes and nail polish fumes intoxicating us with their charm. Sure it's a frou frou event but from Marchetti's perspective, it's not something that Yoox Group have really ever taken part in. I'm personally a fan of these physical representation of e-commerce sites when done right. More cake and polish I say.
O: by Tank and its New App – Finally we have a publication and integrated video content that has really cheered me up to no end. Trying to integrate video content and physical publications is nothing new. Remember all those QR codes flying about in magazines? I don't believe I've personally come across a mainstream fashion publication (O: By Tank is distributed in The Guardian in the UK) that has done such a fine job of embedding video content throughout the entire magazines in such a seamless way as the latest issue of O: by Tank, which came out during London Fashion Week. The introductory video says it all really (with personable introduction by Tank's publisher Caroline Issa) as you simply download an app onto your iPad, iPhone or Android (yay for Android support!) and scan your device over the pages where video content is indicated by target points and immediately the video content pops up. The video content ranges from interviews with designers such as Guillaume Henry, simple 30 second videos of the product coming to life, videos of shows, animated flip books of catwalk imagery or accompanying film shorts for fashion editorials. Some of the content is not even necessarily produced by Tank themselves such as Miu Miu's Women's Tales films or an ad campaign supplied by the brand. The point is thing is that the content is sign posted clearly so that you read the magazine and then integrate your experience of flicking through pages with the video extras. It's even as simple as waving your device over a product and having the website of the brand come up. Many of the videos that Tank have produced are fully available on their video portal site Because but for me what's great is that the magazine experience is really enhanced by putting video and print content together, hand-in-hand with each other. Oh, and the redesign of O: by Tank is ace. All Bauhaus, stark and to the point. I like.