Pollini may not be a shoe label with a widely known history or heritage but it does have one and atemporary exhibit entitled "Unpacking 60 Years of Pollini", which was feted today exploited all possible elements that would reveal this shoe and leather goods company's background.  What made it particularly interesting was to have the involvement of editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman (haven't devoured the new issue yet but the cover is mighty enticing, no?) and creative digital producer Jane Audas (she has a very sweet blog about the subject of Shelf Appeal), as co-curators of the exhibition.  There was also striking graphic support from Veronica Ditting, who is responsible for the distinctive art direction of both The Gentlewoman and Fantastic Man.  All of those background forces combined with the ever-directional designs of Nicholas Kirkwood, who has been creative director of Pollini since 2010, made for a satisfying and fun way of exploring Pollini's history.  

A ramshackle pile of shoe boxes sat in the middle of the room with archive pairs of Pollini shoes popping up from past decades and you immediately notice that they mostly display practical and chunky heels as Pollini catered to the "modern" woman.  These were shoes made for walking.  That "sturdiness" is something that Kirkwood has definitely drawn from for his current designs.  At the bottom of the shoe box pile was the current A/W 13-4 collection, which immediately gets my vote for its mix of textures, colours and most importantly heel shapes, which I know can pound the pavement properly.  

In a special reinvention project, Kirkwood took the original 1977 Pollini "Cavaliere" boot and reinterpreted them for six of his ideal Pollini icons – Monica Vitti, Grace Jones, David Bowie, Ellen von Unwerth, Patty Hearst and Lena Dunham.  No doubt, Dunham's character in Girls would approve of the "wrong" deliberate clash of prints on the boots because she dares to go braless with a yellow string vest.

Upstairs, you could get some vivid neon orange and Yves Klein blue nail wraps done as well as get in on the "Pollini Social Club" action by getting your Polaroid snapped with a pair of Pollini's on.  Naturally I went for the pair of flatform sandals with the flashes of braided neon.  Few shoe brand birthdays get this many facets to its party so for that, I commend Martin, Audas and the Pollini team for squeezing as much out of its 60 year history as possible.  








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>> If you've seen me during London Fashion Week with my buried mostly head down tapping my phone or waving it about in the air hoping that phone signal might miraculously appear, it's mostly because I've been Instagramming like a crazy person, having been asked to participate in Hudson's SS13 Let Yourself Go #InstaCampaign (recap of the competition here).  With such an ambiguous brief, my Instas mostly drew from designers letting themselves run free on the catwalk (!!!Ryan Lo's Cruella De Ville mohair suit!!!, !!!J.W. Anderson's colour banded, one-armed sweaters!!!, !!!Louise Gray's bog roll brooches!!!, !!!Christopher Kane's electric tinsel tape dresses!!!, !!!Sister by Sibling's chunky hand knit pastel cocoon!!! to name just a few) with the occasional bout of letting onself go on cheese-themed cupcakes and berry jelly installations and then with more fleeting occurences such as meeting errr…. P'Trique (of Sh*t Fashion Girls Say) randomly at a Kinder Aggugini show.  It was all in all, as the good lady would say, #totesamaze.  A quick scroll through the Instagram folder, and I almost feel like I have no right to feel like a sad clown.  Onwards and upwards as we're in the thick of Milan and Paris Fashion Week is around the corner, where the real slog begins.  

Wearing Romance was Born jacket, Mo&Co. jacket, ASOS Black dress, Hudson skinny jeans, Meadham Kirchhoff x Nicholas Kirkwood shoes, Sheriff & Cherry sunglasses –  Thanks Vanessa Jackman for the photo.

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Last night saw the opening of an exhibition at the Poldo Pezzoli Museum in Milan, showcasing the sketches of the futurist artist Thayaht (born Ernest Michahelles), created for Madeleine Vionnet in the early 1920s.  It's a compact exhibition put on by maison Vionnet in collaboration with W Magazine, of sixty drawings alongisde a video projection of a Vionnet dress, which you can control with hand movement (great to play around with in person, difficult to photograph alas) and it's only open until the 25th February.  It did however send a clear message as to what the current maison Vionnet's intentions are.  Since its revival in 2006 it has undergone different ownership and has ploughed through a mix of named creative directors and annonymous design teams.  Its revival hasn't quite hit a high point as yet with all these comings and goings.  

Late last year, it was announced that Goga Ashkenazi, a British-based businesswoman had taken full control of the French brand and is now 100% stakeholder.  She is now both CEO and creative director.  Of the exhibition, Ashkenazi says "The exhibit is unique and demonstrates a little-known aspect of the aesthetic of the house. I was extremely fortunate to come across these drawings: they reveal a focal oint  not only of her work, but also of her cultural vision. This exhibition also underlines the importance of dialogue between Italy and France, the two poles within which Vionnet currently operates, whilst maintaining its roots deeply in the past."  In other words, Ashkenazi is keen to emphasise the connections between Vionnet's past and its present in order to move forward, a tricky balance to achieve that has been set at different levels for different houses depending on the current creative director.  

There's no denying Vionnet's illustrious past is rich enough to draw inspiration from.  This is the woman that invented the bias cut and was dubbed "the architect among dressmakers", promotiong expression, freedom of movement and natural grace in her Grecian-style dresses.  She was also not a fan of the fashion system once stating that "In so far as one can talk of a Vionnet school, it comes mostly from my having been an enemy of fashion. There is something superficial and volatile about the seasonal and elusive whims of fashion which offends my sense of beauty."  What has pervaded Vionnet in its current maison form with its constant revolving door of designers, is a stream of collections that whilst beautiful, haven't captured people's imaginations at large in the way that Vionnet did.

Perhaps this exhibition will ignite Ashkenazi's fuel to re-explore Vionnet's design DNA and to find a way of communicating the influence of Vionnet's innovations.  Vionnet and Thayaht exchanged ideas quite intensely between 1919 and 1925.  He designed the logo of the house and produced the visuals that interpreted the way Vionnet would drape fabric on mannequins.  The geometric lines and the freeing proportions are the main take-away points from these sixty sketches (the first time such a collection has been exhibited).  It's interesting that this multi-discplinarian futurist, who was a pioneer of industrial design, as well as designing futurist garments like the TuTa (or coveralls), collaborated with a fashion designer in such a way.  It's a partnership that reflects the tide of revolution that was going on in all facets of society at the time.  They both shared an interest in the way geometry and movement would bring about emancipation both in the clothing on the body or as political, cultural and sociological ideas in the mind.  How Ashkenazi and her team interprets this freeing collaboration today remains to be seen.  

Speaking of drawing from the past, I quite liked Vionnet's latest video dedicated to one of Vionnet's contemporaries and muses; the dancer Isadora Duncan.  Just wish it was showcased in a less clunky website. 















It was REALLY tempting to title this post with Purple Rain just because a quick scroll through the images below hits you with shades of berry, violet, magenta and just about every delicious word you want to associate with the colour.  However, seeing as I've been meaning to do a post on London-based label Thu Thu for a while, I thought I'd hone in on the thing that makes this contemporary label storied and rooted.  Contemporary has become a loose-ish category to put every brand in it that comes at a price point that isn't quite high end designer but quite a bit above the high street.  Suddenly everything is "contemporary".  Everything has become "product" and "easy to buy into".  Those things are all well and good but how about individual designers who are creating pieces that do tell a personal tale, has real design merit and also fits that contemporary price bracket.  

Enter Thuy Duong Nguyen.  Born in Vietnam, she moved to Germany at an early age with her family but her Vietnamese roots have stayed with her.  After a trip in 2009 back to Vietnam with her parents and experiencing the mountainous Sapa region in North Vietnam, the vivid skirts and blankets made by the women of the H'mong ethnic group, inspired her to create her first key piece – a biker jacket incorporating this distinctive cross-stitched embroidered and hand-dyed textile.  This then led to further trips to Sapa when Thu Thu the label was officially born in 2010. 

My personal love of Hmong tribe textiles came about because of a pair of This is Not a Mall wedges, sourced and produced by the hill tribes in North Thailand (similar strand to the tribe in the Sapa region of Vietnam).  Love Birds in LA also do their fabric sourcing in Thailand and the Philippines for their worldly clutches.  It's my annoying "Gap Yah!" world traveller instinct coming through.  I'm reconciled with the fact that I am naturally attracted to textiles of lands far away and will be no doubt be bartering with sellers in Mexico, India, China and countries in Africa, with the help of hand signals until my dying days.   

Therefore Thu Thu's work was always going to be right up my street.  Nguyen actually uses the textiles, unravelled from metres and metres of pleated skirts, in an nuanced way, inserting them into the shoulders of jackets, into the waistbands of a skirt or the cuffs and collars of a shirt.  Building up a solid silhouette language of biker jackets, neat little dresses and co-ordinating shirts and skirts has also put Thu Thu in good stead for scoring those all-important stockists.  At present, the label is stocked in Matches and Browns.  With the help of her family in Vietnam and the fact that these pleated skirts are so lengthy, Nguyen doesn't experience any problem in shortage or limitations in producing her collections, my first question about the way the label operates.  It's a cultural showcase of the Hmong tribe that works and doesn't feel banal or tired.    

Still though, Nguyen is aware that she can't keep retreading old ground and keep using Sapa embroidered textiles.  Her latest A/W 13 collection entitled "The Unnatural Nature" goes some way to rectifying that.  Inspired by the stunningly surreal exposions of purple in photographer Richard Mosse's infrared images.  Screen printed corduroy and tie dyed silk add a dreamlike texture without resorting to embroidery.  Solid grey outerwear also adds weight to the collection.  The Sapa textiles are still there in parts but the collections is accented with it rather than overwhelmed.  She was also keen on using darker Sapa textiles, reducing the peppiness that a fabric like this naturally gives off, which is down to the bright colours, the almost-neon lines and the intricacy of the cross-stitching.  Hence why Purple Rain descended so beautifully at her presentation druing London Fashion Week at the St. Martin's Lane Hotel giving us contemporary to get excited about.    

























IMG_0198 THU THU ALL SMALL-8802Incidentally fitting into the purple rain theme with a James Long tweed biker and a Thu Thu skirt.

Presentation photographs, group shots, orchid overlaid images and the photograph of myself were taken by Stephanie Sian Smith