>> When Tommy Ton sends you emails at 4am in the morning with the succinct sentence "Balenciaga F/W 10 trousers.  Yoox.  NOW!" and you spring up in panic and pounce on to the computer, only to discover that the trousers in question have sold out, which then puts you in a dour mood for the rest of the day, you can be sure you have something of an addiction to past season designer shopping.

I could go on and reveal other Yoox-related absurdities that occur on a regular basis but instead, my Yoox addiction has been officially sanctioned with a wee project I did with them in conjuction with the launch of Yoox's site in the all mighty China.  I travelled out to Beijing in August and was shot for a short video alongside another mighty force, the fashion blogger Han Huohuo (I gather that everything in China is all mighty), whose Weibo (China's answer to Twitter/Facebook) following is a whooping 1.3 million.  That number is mind boggling.  My Twitter following is meagre in comparison.  That awe was reflected when I met him but fortunately, HuoHuo (his name literally means "Fire Fire" in Chinese) is lovely and thoughtful and that's reflected in the slightly introspective interview that we both did on camera.  The premise was that we took our favourite Yoox pieces, style them up for the photoshoot and then talk a little about style, individuality and online shopping in the video.  It was my first shoot in China and gave me a glimpse into the industry in a part of the world that I'm surprisingly not that familiar with.  Mega Meng Meng, a stylist and bone fide Beijing IT girl (I mean that in the best sense of the word) was the creative director of the shoot, coming up with the Chanel-esque mirror set up for us to freak ourselves out with the multiple reflections.  

Both Huohuo and my Yoox selection is up online now featuring a Miu Miu leather jacket, an odd Lou Mistraou hat that looks like boxing attire as well as some Proenza Schouler bits and bobs.  I could go on adding to that list of course… say, this sheerly delightful Celine shirt, a ballsy pop of Balenciaga satin, the Prada SS 12 car print skirt that has come on to the site quicker than I thought, a Jil Sander knit… yes, I could definitely go on…    

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Tis the season for coffee table tomes flying out of Amazon and bookstores and especially for fashion books.  The Alexander McQueen tribute book epidemic alone could weigh heavily on postmen the world over – three books (none sanctioned by McQueen thesmelves) is a tad excessive no?  So often you come up with glorified picture books – beautiful visuals that look good opened casually on your desk – but they lack depth and reading value.  Ok, so I do know a lot of fash types who really aren't into reading (even Grace Coddington professes to not having read more than two books in her life that weren't picture books) but me, I like a good chunk of text to get my teeth into.

Issey Miyake's Pleats Please celebrates its 20th anniversary and quite rightly does it with a Taschen tome.  It celebrates its anniversary not from when the collection was launched but when Issey Miyake began research for this stroke of design genius.  Perhaps the world takes this wondrous line of clothing for granted with its portable permanent pleats but I never fail to get excited when wearing my own Pleats Please pieces.  Trend forecaster Li Edelkoort sums it up by saying "Wearing a Miyake is like wearing an experience."  The book celebrates the technical innovation of Pleats Please as well as the inarticulable joy of a Pleats Please garment.  

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The main takeaway point is that Pleats Please was born out of a desire to create a piece of design rather than fashion.  "I wanted to delve into the potential, not of fashion but of clothing as a product," says Miyake in the book.  It was also born out of necessity when the Japanese weaving business at the time was in decline as well as function, when women's roles were shifting from home to the office.  Pleats Please was and is a problem solving solution that also happens to be aesthetically mesmerising.  

It began in the late 80s when Issey Miyake and his textiles innovator Makiko Minagawa happen upon a silk scarf folded in four and pleated at and angle, which planted the seeds for Pleats Please.  Then began the laborious fabric research which led them to developing their own textiles.  Natural fibres were out of the question as they couldn't hold the pleat permanently and cost was an issue.  Japan at the time was busy developing the 4th generation of synthetic fibres and so they turned to a tricot knit fabric normally used for linings.  They then had to solve the problem of static caused by synthetic fibres and did so by creating polyester threads coated with an antistatic treatment, an original thread for Pleats Please.  

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When they tried to pleat the garments, they broke a few machines in the process.  They had to convince their partnering company Polytex Industry to place pre-cut, pre-folded garments into a pleating machine.  Eventually the pleating process was perfected.  The first use of these pleated garments was for the William Forsythe 1991 ballet The Lost of Small Detail, which triggered off the first proper Pleats Please collection in 1993.

The book highlights each step from thread to final pleated garment and is surprisingly candid and open about all of Pleats Please' manufacturing partners.  From Toray Textiles which makes the thread and knits the fabric to Polytex, who does all the pleating.  This again underscores Miyake's approach to Pleats Please as a product, that wouldn't be possible without this line of production.  In the wake of the tsunami where companies in this production line were affected, the way that Issey Miyake pays tribute to the factory employees seems even more pertinent.  

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The brilliant thing about the Pleats Please line is that whilst the attributes have been constant over the years, the technique and design process have been altered and refined over the years.  Inkjet printing has allowed precise and mind-blowing graphics to be used.  Different pleat structures such as kashi pleats (pleats in some places and not others) or fine "mist" pleats add different textures.  They've also introduced a new initiative where retrieved Pleats Please fabric and remnants are shipped to Nippon Steel to be converted into energy to heat the gas generators inside.  This partly addresses the issue of using petroleum-based materials for Pleats Please.  

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On the creative output of Pleats Please, the book doesn't scrimp on imagery or detail either.  It documents the artist series which saw the likes of photographer Araki printing audacious images on to Pleats Please pieces using the then newly employed inkjet printing.  It is clear that Miyake never "used" art to vanity boost, but instead invited artists with the word "Please." to treat the garments as humble canvases.   

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That said, Pleats Please seems to conveniently cross into the art genre unintentionally.  I loved the way the pieces were displayed at the Big Bang: Creation and Destruction in 20th Century Art 2006 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou.  

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Then there's the memorable creative campaign and art direction.  Francis Giacobetti captured the movement of Pleats Please on expressive bodies.  Ikko Tanaka set the tone for his spare and simple image compositions and really sent a strong image out to the world to promote Pleats Please.  The current art director Taku Satoh carries on that tradition with witty results – recontextualising Pleats Please pieces into anything from sushi to typography to pencils.  

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The final chapter in the book showcases the gorgeous imagery shot by photographer Yuriko Takagi who took 120 pieces of Pleats Please between 1995-9 to India, China, Kenya and Morocco asking people to wear the pieces in situ.  There are few clothing lines that could be assimilated so seamlessly into these extremely remote settings in wildly varied cultures.  The focus of the photos aren't the Pleats Please pieces, but the people wearing them.  That in itself is the ultimate achievement for Miyake: "(Clothes) must bestow freedom on those who wear them.  It is our job as designers to work with manufactures to create clothes from materials in such a way that those who wear them have the freedom of expression and its resulting joy.  For me, that is the legacy of Pleats Please."

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>> I'm starting to wind things down a little here at Style Bubble, starting with a little mini-break to the wonderful restaurant and hotel Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxford, as a belated birthday getaway with Steve.  If I wasn't "feeling" Christmas-y beforehand, I've returned with traditional choir carols in my head, the scent of pine needles on my clothes and a thorough lesson in traditional Christmas decorations.  Le Manoir is about the most Christmas-y place I've ever visited.  I'm now ashamed as I sit in my tree-less N7 hovel.  

Charlotte Olympia has come to the rescue to adorn the flat with her version of Christmas spirit.  As part of her special Christmas collection, which includes christmas pudding flats, jingle bell platforms and glitter kitty slippers, she has created this spectacular Christmas stocking.  It literally is a black spide webbed lace stocking (why are the conventional stockings named thus, when they are normally chunky sock/boot shape) over a blush satin leg complete with an organza stocking top and the dolly pump rendered in red suede and gold leather at the bottom.  You can fit in a pair of shoes or two as well as any other bits and bobs that go into stockings (I've never had a Christmas stocking in my life so you can educate me as to what goes in one).  I'm going to figure out a way of hanging it up so that the provocative shape of the leg is fully preserved.     

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>> I don't want to be loading the blog with heavy analysis or weighty commentary when most people are itching for Christmas to come and ready to go offline in anticipation of eating their own weight in roast potatoes, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and brussel sprouts (in that order of course).  Thankfully young Ella Barton Buchanan emailed me in the nick of time to provide me with pure eye candy – quite literally, this is lace that is so edible that each look book image should come wrapped in a pretty Charbonnel et Walker box with a bow tied around it.  Buchanan is from Wellington in New Zealand and has just graduated from Massey University with this delicious collection.  Turns out those Hubba Bubba, saturated macaroon tones were inspired by the legendary French filmmaker Georges M√©li√®s and the innovative way that he hand painted every frame, amongst other groundbreaking techniques.  

From the complicated, surreal and bonkers world of M√©li√®s' early 20th century filmmaking, Buchanan deduced something quite simple but hugely effective.  Her entire collection is made out of curtain lace which she stiffened by painting the fabric about five to eight times to perfect the colour and weight.  The point was to complete change the properties of the lace as well as build up colour in a controlled way.  This fussy fabric that normally lies limp over chintzy fabrics, becomes something quite structural and is intensely vibrant with the layers of textile and acrylic paint.  I may have to plagiarise that idea to see if painted lace curtains would work in my new abode (signing the dotted line soon… that's a cue for you to congratulate me seeing as I'm already congratulating myself).  Then I can break out into song and enthusiastically tear down my "drapes" Sound of Music style and make myself some play clothes.  Well, that's the plan anyway.  

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