“Three’s a trend!” somebody trilled on
Twitter, when the news was announced that H&M would be doing a show at the
forthcoming Paris Fashion Week
.  The
Swedish behemoth is the latest in joining the fashion week gang, following similar announcements from two UK British high street chains to stage events at London Fashion Week, with Whistles doing a small
presentation of a special collection
 and River Island
debuting its collaboration with Rihanna
, also in London.  Three chains doing their fashion week debuts
in one season makes it a story but nobody can really be surprised by how
far the high street (or for the purpose of international speak, mass produced fashion) has come in the last decade.  From the early ground-breaking designer collaborations to
sponsoring fashion designers, graduate schemes and fashion week events to the present day, when it is completely
feasible and appropriate for these brands to launch more “premium” collections that they deem proud enough to
show, nestled in amongst high end designers on the schedule.

For all the downers and evils laid at the
doors of mass produced fashion over the years, the fact is they have also ploughed a
fair amount of money into supporting emerging designers (Topshop’s New Gen
scheme, ASOS collaborations, River Island sponsoring Graduate Fashion Week) and
established brands (H&M’s collaborations with starry designers as well as
their recent student Design Award). 
These are moves that are part-philanthropic and part-strategic.  To ally with the
creative hub of fashion, shines a positive light on the high street's own product and
injects an aspirational quality that has over the years, blurred the lines of distinction
between what’s high street and what’s designer Рyou could argue that at
present what is the difference between lusting after a killer statement Topshop
Unique jacket designed by a savvy and creative design team and “dying” for an
Isabel Marant jacket, also designed by a savvy and creative design team.  When you look at product like/share sites
like Pinterest boards, Polyvore and The Fancy, the level of “love” reads the

At this pivotal moment, when three high street heavies are about
to enter into a high end sphere of fashion, I thought I’d get their thoughts on
this upward shift as well as pick out some of the SS13 looks that are looking
decidedly tempting.  I also thought it was ‚Äúhigh‚Äù time I
did a bit of flag waving for a mostly British set of stores, without which, the
dynamics of the way we consume fashion would be completely imbalanced.  It‚Äôs also interesting that most of the brands I
spoke to here talked of an element of pride when making the move to show at
fashion week.  People who get a bit
sniffy about the high street might even read that as arrogance.  I‚Äôm inclined to be open-minded about what is evidently an ever-changing fashion week structure, that does allow for more diversity in price points, so long as what
we‚Äôre celebrating is still ultimately creative.  Whether the brands make their credibility stamp or not remains to be seen but it will certainly be exciting to see how the high street pushes themselves to a new high.   


River Island – It wasn't exactly a curveball of a surprise when it was announced that Rihanna had collaborated with River Island.  Perhaps for those not familiar with this British high street brand (it has stores in Europe and the Middle East but not yet in USA or Asia), it seemed an unlikely pairing.  "Rihanna approached us last spring looking for a fashion partner to help realise her designer ambitions," explains Josie Roscop, director of press and marketing at River Island. "She was attracted to RI because of our customer base which she felt was very similar to her fan base, the accessibility of our brand, British fashion heritage and  London location ‚Äì she loves London style and feels very at home here.  Also the fact that RI is a family run and owned business means she could deal directly with a small team to work on the project."  The collection will apparently consist of clothes aimed at "sassy young personalities" and has been co-designed with her longtime costume designer Adam Selman.  

The collaboration is of course a starry one, and will attract global eyeballs on the brand.  Opening Ceremony in the States and Japan will be stocking the collection.  They effectively could have chosen any city to showcase the collection, given the star power of Rihanna but London felt like a natural show base for River Island and it's an opportunity for the brand to put their own aesthetic stamp out there as well as Rihanna's design ambitions, something which Roscop emphasises.  "Showing at LFW gives the Rihanna for River Island a great platform to demonstrate to the fashion press and consumers the ambition both Rihanna and River Island have. In an industry full of celebrity collaborations we wanted to show the strength and fashionability of the collection and shine a light on Rihanna‚Äôs design talent. The British fashion industry and high street continue to lead and inspire fashion and River Island has been a key player within the British high street since 1948."

River Island may not have waded too deep into designer collaborations or been that involved with fashion week activity but with this megawatt star power collaboration, they will definitely make up a lot of lost ground.  As someone who is admittedly cynical aobut celebrity collaborations, as far as I can tell, there does seem to be something quite intriguing about the pairing and no one can doubt Rihanna's passion about style and wanting to inject her own ideas in this collection.  We'll see how the show plays out of course but this definitely marks a shift in River Island's positioning.  




Riverisland4River Island spring and summer looks 2013


H&M – Swedish H&M group is something of an unstoppable juggernaut.  With brands like COS, Monki, Cheap Monday, Weekday and now the newly conceived & Other Stories under their belt, their consistently high profile designer collaborations and the H&M Design Award (awarding EUR50,000 to a young student is mighty generous), the announcement that H&M would be showing in Paris didn't feel all that surprising.  It's a culminating cherry that makes sense in the trajectory of extravaganza events that H&M have staged in New York in the last few years to promote their designer collaborations

Ann-Sofie Johansson, H&M‚Äôs Head of Design spoke about the pending show, held in the grounds of Musee Rodin in Paris.  "Paris is the eternal fashion city and we are proud to present our Autumn 2013 collection designed by our own in-house designers under supervision from myself.  We show our seasonal collection each season in our showrooms all over the world, but now we are ready to present it in a different way.  We are very proud of our own designers and our own fashion, as well as our designer collaborations. We felt that the time was right now to show and celebrate our own fashion through a fashion show."  

It isn't exactly a separate or more premium collection but will be part of H&M's autumn collection for 2013 and will be widely available in over 200 stores in early September, within H&M's price range.  It will however be presented and sold in a separate area as a point of differentiation.  

Johannsson was also quick to emphasise that the point of showing in Paris was not necessarily to get clout points from the industry but to satisfy their customers.  No doubt, there'll be much marketing hub hub around the show in Paris as well as the launch of the collection in store.  It could well be a move to tap into the more fashion-savvy customer base, who follows seasons and collections and will perceive that there's something special or different about this key piece collection.  Johansson heads up a 150 person design team, which does of course make you wonder how a unified and strong aesthetic will emerge from this "show" collection but the wonders of styling will of no doubt tie that all together.  Again, we wait with baited breath.  



Hm3H&M Spring and Summer 2013 looks


WhistlesWhistles is perhaps the anomaly of the group, in that it is a little more premium and middle market in its price points compared to the other high street brands and that its decision to show at London Fashion Week is down to the fact that they are presenting a separate collection, which will be pitched to retailers as a wholesale and concession brand.  It's long been my own personal go-to high street fave since Jane Shepherdson, the wonder woman responsible for turning around the fortunes of Topshop, joined the then-ailing Whistles as CEO of the company.  What Shepherdson has done over the past five years is really to work on the design identity of the brand, giving its collections a desirability and longevity that is markedly different from other fast fashion offerings.  It feels like you're buying an affordable contemporary designer brand, which has its own flavour compared to the likes of Maje, Sandro etc.  Therefore the step up to show at London Fashion Week with a small presentation is very much in line with what the company's ambitions of expanding into new territories and hopefully attracting prospective buyers from the US, Japan, China, Russia and Europe.

Shepherdson really believes in London's ability to be a key fashion city, attracting those all important buyers and so their decision to show in London, as oppposed to Paris.  "We're very much a British brand," says Shepherdson.  "To do a first show outside of London wouldn't have made sense.  It pisses me off that we'd have to to show in Paris.  London should be a fashion centre."  

The modest presentation isn't about marketing razz but about showcasing the design of a 25 look collection.  The fabrics will be of a higher quality and the design will be in Shepherdson's words "edgier".  "It leads the rest of the collection.  It's the essence of what the brand is all about without the more commercial pieces."  

Incidentally, much of the design team working with Shepherdson at Whistles, were also responsible for taking Topshop Unique on to London Fashion Week, one of many Shepherdson's ground breaking moves.  "The main reason we started Unique was because we getting a lot of flack for copying designers.  So we thought to hell with it, we're just going to go ahead and do it.  We were hugely sponsoring NewGen at the time and it felt like a right thing to do.  There's definitely room at fashion week for all different levels of fashion, celebrating the success of British fashion."  

Shepherdson brings up a good point about this idea of celebrating British fashion at all levels.  You could argue that a store like Topshop does as much for projecting facets about British fashion as the likes of Alexander McQueen or Stella McCartney, to a mainstream audience.  For Whistles, Shepherdson just wants to spread the "effortless British cool" brand message further afield.  What felt a little like a national treasured secret that I always bang on about to friends from abroad, will now make its first exicting steps towards international establishment.    




Whistles4Whistles Spring/Summer 2013


ASOSASOS aren't hosting any events this forthcoming season at London Fashion Week but this web fashion giant has stepped up its design chops so much in the last five years as well as engaging with designers in so many different ways, that I had to get them to weigh in on what's happening in the high street sector.  Last season, ASOS did dip their toes into London Fashion Week with a super one-off and highly bespoke event, celebrating Marios Schwab's collaboration with ASOS on their Kallisti lingerie range, at the Crazy Horse.  "The Kallisti collection for Marios Schwab we felt was appropriate to be shown within the context of LFW," said Annette Burke, head of press at ASOS. "It's quite different from what we do at ASOS as this was positioned in a price point that was a little bit higher and the fact that Marios is a bit of a stalwart at LFW, it was very fitting to showcase what he'd done with ASOS in a similar light, on the day of his show."  Perhaps it's the nature of ASOS being a web destination, but they are definitely canny with where they spend their resources in terms of physical events, and only stage them where they feel it's necessary or appropriate.  I asked Burke whether ASOS would ever consider staging events centred around their many differentiated lines (ASOS Black, White, Africa, Salon, Revive etc…): "There aren't any immediate plans for now.  It's not to say we never would.  The Marios thing came off the back of it being so relevant.  If it felt right, we'd definitely consider it."

ASOS underwent a few key personnel changes late last year, such as the departure of its buying director Caren Downey and womenswear design director Sarah Wilkinson so there will undoubtedly be a period of transition but what is clear is that ASOS are making strides towards expansion abroad, having already establishing strong markets in the US, Europe and Australia.  On a selfish note, we can look forward to the upcoming ASOS Salon collection designed by CSM BA graduate Molly Goddard, one of my favourites to emerge from the 2012 class.  



Asos4ASOS Spring/Summer 2013

Kallisti by Marios Schwab for ASOS Inc Bardot Body Poppy Red √∫50 Full Body shot
Kallisti by Marios Schwab for ASOS Inc Mesh Backless Bra Top √∫60 Black Full Body ShotKallisti by Marios Schwab for ASOS lingerie collection


Topshop – I couldn't really round up the high street without mentioning Toppers.  In a way, Topshop has set so many precedents in allying with grassroots London fashion and shouting out its London Fashion Week credentials that it's almost impossible for another brand to do something similar.  They dominate London Fashion Week in that they have sponsored the British Fashion Council's NewGen scheme consistently for the past ten years.  Their collaborations with London-based designers have been numerous, varied and highly attuned to the designer's aesthetic.  J.W. Anderson's collection for Topshop last year was successful, not just in the UK but also in the USA and shifted an unprecedented amount of units and there'll be another collection from Anderson on the way imminently.  Kate Phelan's arrival at Topshop as creative director has also heralded a very subtle aesthetic shift, most notably in the Topshop Unique collection.  Gone are the heavily themed and slightly kitsch collections and instead we have a more grown-up Topshop Unique – aptly described by Phelan as the "big sister of Topshop".  There's no longer any question about whether Topshop Unique deserves to be shown at London Fashion Week and arguably, they're the ones that have sparked off this new influx of high street brands' presence at fashion week.  In the last two years or so, we've seen the store take charge in "owning" their physical spaces – secret gardens and coronation windows staged by Meadham Kirchhoff, styling take overs by key editors and style personalities and an awareness for visual merchandising and spacial design that most recently, sees Topshop working with an RCA interior design student to re-design the Topshop Boutique area in the Oxford Circus store.  Of course, Asia is now the new playground for Topshop to expand into with a new flagship in Hong Kong set to open in May.  I was a little bit weirded out by the Chinese New Year video that they recently put out but I suppose as with all brands doing their thing in China, marketing to Chinese customers will always be a learning curve.  Asia marketing strategy aside, to doubt the mega powers of Arcadia Group and the creative prowess of the Topshop team would be a mistake.  Topshop was and still is a high street game change and sustaining that will be a challenge they relish.  






IMG_5425Topshop Unique Spring/Summer 2013

RV_Topshop_lightingTopshop Boutique Oxford Street space redesigned by RCA Interior Design student Rob Vinall


Topshop Boutique styles arriving in-store for London Fashion Week

Topshop2Topshop mainline spring/summer 2013

>> Isabelle OC beat me to her mapped out post but the origin is the same.  My faithful Acne scarf printed with an old map of Stockholm on it has served me well in the printed map front.  The fresh influx of printed map activity from Carven's resort collection has been tempting enough but when paired with captivating birds of flight made out of maps or pleated map dresses seen at The First Cut paper art exhibition, it only exacerbates the need to get some new mapped out garments in my life.  

Claire Brewster's intricately cut-out vintage map birds made me wish I was the sort of person that put away money for a rainy day to buy an extravagant piece of art.  Brewster creates movement and breathes life into old maps and atlases with incisions, mimicking birds in flight, swarms of insects or tropical plants.  They're often installed standing away from the wall or foundation board so that they cast complicated shadows that make the cut-outs look like they're fluttering about on the walls.  I've got my eye on any one of the London map pieces by Brewster to start my spiralling downfall towards being one of those people who say "Oh, I'm a collector…"






Carven is no stranger to maps printed on garments.  Guillaume Henry's girl has always tended to be a bookish creature, travelling in her head by flipping through atlases.  Last summer she was skipping around a bright chartreuse-tinged map of Maine.  This time round, she's closer to her home turf, bounding about an old engraving of Paris.  Now's the time to say cheesy French phrases like "Ooohhh…tr√©s jolie!"  There's no way you can't feel that old cartography printed on to cute blazers, A-line skirts and blouses is anything but jolly/jolie.  The temptation would be to buy the whole lot and skip around the streets of you guessed it, Pareeeee…


Carvenmap2Carven printed jacket, skirt and wedges from Matches Fashion, Carven printed dress and shirt from Net a Porter.  

Elisabeth Lecourt is perhaps the most common answer on Google if you search for "map dress".  Her famous series "Les robes g√©ographiques" reach almost iconic levels, when it comes to being blogged and reblogged, so much so that I suspect some people are looking at these flat pleated dresses and wondering whether they're actual wearable garments.  It would be criminal to leave Lecourt out in an exhibition about artists who cut, sculpt and manipulate paper.





Christopher Raeburn made some incredible new strides in his Deploy/Flight S/S 13 collection.  The signature lightweight macs and nylon outerwear is injected with femininity seen in the trapped lace parkas and a delicate looking ripstock lace looking like a camouflage pattern.  The most impressive part of the collection though was the "Remade" element, which is always present in Raeburn's design ethos.  Raeburn came across a cache of old 1950s military escape maps that were printed on lightweight silk so that they wouldn't get destroyed in the rain.  Raeburn didn't even have to transfer any print to a wearable fabric as they were already printed out for him, ready to make playsuits, bomber jackets and dresses.  Up close, it's fascinating to make out the physical geography on the maps but from afar, it's a beautiful print that looks anything but upcycled or reused.    









This 1970s vintage Chloe dress has been hanging around the Merchant Archive website for a while.  What with their starry clientale these days with fans such as Florence "and the Machines" Welch, it's surprising that there's anything left to be honest.  I might falter and give in to this dress anytime soon though if nobody shares my love of this abstracted colourful globe pattern.  



Chris Kenny's piece Capella is based on a galaxy formation of found map pieces.  For him it's "a fetishistic accumulation of data" – an observation of human presence in a world divided up by unnatural territorial borders.



Finally, trusty Etsy (which has somehow become more interesting than eBay in terms of unique pieces…) has a mapped out specimen, printed with the highway routes of USA and set into a diagonal window pane shift dress.  



I have a super deep respect for Loewe's leather goods ever since I went to go see their factory in Spain last year and heard many an employee say the word "leather" with a heartfelt and impassioned Spanish accent.  I emerged gaining a newfound knowledge when it comes to their world famous leathers but the truth is all in the touch.  The Flamenco bag, which I've used for a while, is constructed out of Loewe-approved lambskin (as ridiculous as it sounds, this isn't just any lambskin, this IS lambskin culled from lambs bred in the heights of the cool Spanish Pyrenees) is unmistakably on another level of butteriness and the leather is so thin that I'm always scared someone/thing might scratch it when I'm pressed up against someone's armpit on the tube.  The new Leo bag which is an open top-handle tote is made out of calfskin which is hardier but still buttery.  Maybe not wafer thin buttery but you definitely still feel the urge to pick up the bag and smoosh your face in it (doesn't everyone want to do that to great quality leathers?).  It's also a roomier specimen and comes with a snap-on envelop clutch inside the contrast-colour lined bag.

All last week, Loewe went Leo mad by asking seven bloggers to showcase how they'd wear the Leo.  Inevitably the candy pink style came to me.  Bubble pink would also be a more appropriate description and naturally all of my bubble coloured outfits all came out for the occasion.  I gather I've already been cussssssssssssssed down in Spanish on Loewe's Instagram for looking ridiculous.  Ha!  I say to them, that it's their dead loss for not knowing the joys of matching up the pink shade of the bag to pink-friendly bits and pieces.  In essence, it's an ongoing extension to my Funny Face-inspired Think Pink mantra.  If a character modelled on Diana Vreeland declares that thinking pink is the way for a lady to have a bit of joie de vivre and that quelque chose, then who am I to say she is wrong?  

P.S. I know my language about leather can be a bit gross inducing.  Especially if you're a vegetarian and/or don't buy leather goods.  I blame Jay Rayner and his unapologetic meat eating.  How he writes about pork fat is basically how I feel about leather.      


IMG_9709(Wearing Acne jacket, J.W. Anderson pink top, Louise Gray jacket, Comme des Garcons shorts and Fleet Ilya visor)


IMG_9769(Wearing Meadham Kirchhoff jacket, Antipodium dress and Nike trainers)


IMG_9879(Wearing Swash cardigan, Versace print shirt, vintage Loewe leather trousers and Feminine Masculine shoes)


(Wearing Romance was Born denim jacket, vintage Todd Oldham shirt, P.A.M. culottes, Ayame socks and Salvatore Ferragamo shoes)


(Wearing vintage pink coat, Prada jumper, vintage leather skirt, Loewe butterfly scarf and Luella shoes)

Disclaimer: Please note that this post relates to a commercial project for Loewe.  

I've jumped from dressing like a hyperactive anime character to some clean shaven sobriety just to take the time to appreciate a few things that never would have caught my eye six whole years ago.  Oh, youth.  Back when dinosaurs were roaming on this blog (quite literally in some cases when a dino-themed collection would pop up every now and again), I used to be so proud of myself for eschewing a sensible shirt in favour of a three-armed one.  If it didn't have an unnecessary amount of padding/PVC/straps/pointy bits, I wasn't all that interested.  I'll put it down to a combination of growing age and the effects of living with a man, who thrusts jackets and jumpers in my face going "Look at the stitching/yarn/detailing on this! This is properly sexy bit of a tailoring!!".  Whatever it is, an independent label like the consistently stable and long-serving Stephan Schneider is finally popping up on the blog.  

A search alas on Google doesn't yield too much information but this Antwerp-based, German-born designe graduated from the Royal Academy there in 1994 and has since been designing his own label, building a brand that has loyalty, longevity and doesn't need to kick up a noisy fuss whenever they show a new collection.  Those in the know though can certainly wax lyrical.  Check out this 193 page two-year old thread on all things Stephan Schneider on Style Forum.  As some of ye olde Style Bubble readers will know, I was a big participant on The Fashion Spot forum and to this day, I find all the forum chatter a fairly useful way of gauging an array of opinions (if taken with a pinch of salt).  That said, it is rather endearing to see people analysing the sizes of arm holes, the proportions of a coat and the quality of cable knits and above all, demonstrating a very involved and deeeeeep love for a brand like Schneider's, which doesn't exactly get a ton of international press. 

"I sometimes compare a fashion house with a restaurant: There are no haute cuisine chains in the world as the chef has to cook in his own kitchen. To me fashion should be like this," was a pertinent comparison that Schneider made in this interview with Steve, a veritable Schneider fan thanks to the store Other (formerly known as bStore) being a loyal stockist in London.  Interestingly I remember the other famous Antwerpian, Dries Van Noten making a similar comparison of a fashion designer being like a chef.  The fact that both designers connect the act of designing and creating clothes with nourishment and good food is heart warmingly down to earth.  And so it follows that the spring summer 2013 collection is full of lovely and vaguely familiar textures – moire, watercolour brushstrokes, faint checks, book binding marbles – they all look to be derived from the world of tasteful interiors.  As per the Schneider remit, every piece looks to be useful, well-made, but fortunately not without a bit of design interest to pep things up.  See!  I too can join the Subtle Design Appreciation Society and say things like "Look at this perfectly-judged sleeve length on this shirt!  Itsn't it marvellous?"  Just as long as I can wear a spangly holographic skirt with it of course.