Drawing inspiration from your surroundings for a collection is hardly going to raise any eyebrows but when your surroundings are as specific as a place like Dalston, then it is likely to produce something that sears into your brain immediately. How to describe Dalston to someone who has never been? It's in East London. It's not particularly easy to get to if you're purely dependent on the Tube. Through the years, it has welcomed immigrants from the Carribean, Poland and Turkey, and is ethnically diverse, evident in Kingsland Road's mix of black hair salons, Carribean food joints and Turkish cafes. Then nestled amongst all of that is a hive of London's fashion activity with many of London's biggie designers (Christopher Kane, Marios Schwab, Roksanda Ilincic, Meadham Kirchhoff etc) based there, in addition to all the fashion journos, stylists and general enthusiasts who also call Dalston home.
It's no surprise therefore that progressive hat designer Nasir Mazhar turns to his Dalston turf for inspiration for the set and the atmosphere of his presentation as well as the collection itself. Mazhar does clothing for the first time ever to go with his signature Box Peak Bully Caps, which I'm still itching to get my hands on because of my rejuvenated love of wearing caps in a dorky fashion to the side. A street cast crew of models wear cropped mesh polo shirts sometimes with fun fur sleeves, logo-ed sweatshirts and trackie bottoms (complete with on-show boxers), net vests and dresses and jeans printed with an illustrated rendering of Mazhar's hot babes. Once again, Mazhar does mini backpacks, necklace purses and holsters in a variety of prints, harking back to days of raving in the nineties, bouncing up and down to jungle and garage music. Speaking of which, the music at the presentation, which has always been an important component of communicating Mazhar's vibes, was provided by Red Bull Studios' roster of MCs. Needless to say, Bedford Square probably hasn't seen anything this loud and bangin' grace its genteel square before. I loved some of the part-bemused, part-curious looks that some of the international press bore when watching this presentation. Hopefully curiosity gets the better of them and they make it over to Dalston to see what it is that Mazhar so successfully taps into.
Fred Butler may not have been directly inspired by her Dalston surroundings but it's definitely clear that some of the area's style mavens and their penchant for ironic gold bling infiltrated this gold-tastic collection entitled "A Bee in My Bonnet, With a Honey Hair Comb". In fact, Butler played around with the "Bee in my Bonnet" saying and came up with her very own Queen Bees of hip hop, combining the genre's love of bling and qualities derived from honeycomb and all things bee. Once again, Red Bull Studio came to help Butler out with a specially composed track by Two Inch Punch, consising of crackling and buzzing noises (Butler even laid down some vocals for the track herself!). Manicurist Marian Newman created winged bee nails complete with stinging horns. Butler is also working with The Bumblebee Conservation Trust to support the declining number of urban bees in the city. That speaks of dedication to her unlikely inspiration source, which when fused with sexy ghetto bling, produced some visually arresting looks as seen at the presentation. Butler uses her crafty skills to patchwork gold in all manner of textures and materials as well as adorning everything with daisy chains, for her Queen bees to buzz amongst. Backpacks, baseball caps and headphones all referencing hexagonal honeycomb shapes are plausible items to take to the streets or fields of flowers, depending on if you're a rude girl or a rude bee. Collaborators include Rosy Nicholas, who did the shoes and William Wilde, who made the latex pieces to cover up the girls. Butler has also worked with Elisha Smith-Leverock again on a film that uses the exclusive Two Inch Punch track. It's dreamy, sexy and whimsical all at the same time. Two Inch Punch describe their music as "lovestep". They need look no further than Fred Butler for the ensembles that best sum up that genre.