>> In case you're one of those lucky sods who are enjoying sun, summer and heat somewhere in the world, the UK has been plunged into spring snow and a winter reprise.  I'm a horticultural-dunce but the spotting of the first yellow daffodils coming up from the ground have always been a sure sign that spring has come.  Sadly the only daffodils I've seen have been clothed in plastic wrapping in Waitrose.  

Therefore it was lovely to step into shoe designer Rupert Sanderson's Mayfair store last night and be confronted by a giant wall of daffodils arranged into a vertiginous heel, by Sanderson and journalist Mariella Frostup.  There were varieties that I'd never even seen but then again, according to Adrian, from R.A. Scamp in Falmouth, Cornwall who supplied these wonderful blooms, there are just under 30,000 varieties of daffodils in the world, and they grow a not so shabby 3,000 of them.  Turns out Sanderson has been naming every single pair of of his shoes since the start of his career, after a variety of daffodil.  A quick look at the Royal Horticultural Society's register of daffodil names yields specimens called Happy Miss Davis, Haute Couture, Dinkie Di, Dollar Princess and Misty Moon.  It could also be a hand book for hippy-dippy prospective parents to pick out names for future sprogs.    










The cheery notes of those bloom varieties are certainly injected into the shoes such as these A/W 13 woven iridescent wedges or S/S 13's parrot satin heels and fruit print wedges.  I ask Sanderson, why name shoes after daffodils?  Doh!  Dumb question.  He motions to the flowers.  "Just look at them!  So uplifting!"  




>> I emerged from a cosy West Village apartment in New York, in minus 5 weather back in January, bare-legged but skipping because I had had the honour and pleasure of meeting and working with Ilona Royce Smithkin, better known as one of Ari Cohen’s tenacious and colourful characters on his Advanced Style blog.  She’s also an artist, a performer and all-round living proof that joie de vivre (or some such cheesy phrase) flourishes rather than withers with age and experience.  Coach in collaboration with Advanced Style paired three of Cohen’s “ladies” with a younger generation of bloggers to get together to chat about life, style and creativity and they’ve been cut into some short videos series of “Generation of Style”.  I was lucky enough to be paired with the lovely Ilona, who at 93 is inspiration enough that, “toning” it down as you get old for fear of ridicule, is conventional tosh that can be thrown out of the window.  Ilona approaches her body as she does with her canvases, brushstroking herself with swathes of colour, fluttering up her immaculately hand-made eyelashes (from her own hair) with an ongoing belief that drawing mermaids and shimmying around with feather boas (she has quite the collection of boa action) will make the world a better place.  From our one hour meeting sitting inside her miniscule but awe-inspiring cubby-hole apartment, I left with a beautiful drawing of my eye and a re-affirmed belief that I can venture towards my future decades without trepidation.  “Dressing your age” is a meaningless phrase that I won’t be toying with.  Hopefully a recurrent visit to Ilona’s world will reaffirm that.

Coach and Ari also paired up Leandra Medine of Man Repeller with Lynn Dell and Nadia Sarwar of Frou Frouu with Linda Rodin if you want more generation-gap tete-a-tetes.

P.S. I had a bit of an overenthusiastic fringe trim for the shoot with some interesting eye-contouring, so apologies if I’m freaking you out with my vaguely 1920s Shanghai cigarette ad look.













As I was wandering around the quiet rooms of Central Saint Martins' fashion studio to take a closer look at this year's crop of MA fashion graduates, a conversation was murmuring in the background between Louise Wilson, whose voice can boom across a room making it hard not to eavesdrop and Fleet Bigwood, noted textiles designer and head of print at Central Saint Martins.  Bigwood was not happy with my taking pictures of the students' portfolios and samples whilst Wilson was fortunately coming to my defense and saying "She's giving exposure to the students!"  It ended up being a much ado nothing conversation as I quickly assured them that I would be obtaining permission from all students to feature their work and Wilson thankfully let me get on with it.  

From Bigwood's viewpoint though, I could see why he had reason to quibble.  The show at Central Saint Martins this year was highly edited, down from the usual twenty-something students selected to show to a heavily reduced number of fourteen (thirteen, if you consider that one student showed two collections).  It was also a crop that was very focused in on the textiles discipline and indeed, four of the students I've picked out here all come from a textiles for fashion background.  There were so many ideas that felt original and technically challenging.  Photo close-ups and details could therefore compromise a student's original vision.  I am 100% behind protecting students' work from being leached out and appropriated by the wrong people and so it is that I bring you this round-up of Central Saint Martins MA 2013 graduates with a little bit of trepidation.  

All the students were very obliging in allowing me to post their work and I've refrained from posting any samples of work that haven't been fully executed yet into silhouettes.  I'm torn in two directions, obviously wanting to showcase the best of these students' work, promoting their ideas and fruits of labour but without stepping on anyone's toes, especially at this early stage in their careers.  For me, straight-on catwalk pictures only tell (literally) one side of the story, hence why I endeavour to seek out the other facets of their work but there's a line of balance in overexposure, to be tred around delicately.  Hopefully I haven't overstepped my mark.  I will also be delving into the work of some of the MA students who didn't make it to the show, which equally deserve a bit of spotlighting.      


Elena Crehan – The fuzzy textures of Elena Crehan's gender-ambiguous jumpers instantly grabbed you on a visual level, not least because they were deceptive in their appearance as knitwear.  Crehan wanted to experiment with the idea of lace in outerwear and looked at textures such as grass growing through football nets to mimic when experimenting with her intricate lacework, which had fur sprouting out in an unexpectedly sensual way.  Rugby shirts and Innuit children in oversized jumpers informed the simple silhouettes, which let the boldly tactile textures do all the talking.  Crehan invites wearers and onlookers to touch and feel, which means pictures are always going to be a bit of a poor subsitute.  Having seen some of her range of swatches and samples, it's clear Crehan has an arsenal of techniques to call upon, so that hopefully she can build on top of these intriguing surfaces.  














IMG_2173 IMG_2175


Eilish Mackintosh – It's natural that the L'Oreal Prize winner at the Central Saint Martins show gets a fair amount of attention but Eilish Mackintosh confounded audiences initially by presenting not one but two collections.  The link between them was blatantly clear as her Araki-esque knotted rope body accoutrements and ceramic cast pieces seen in her first collection progressed into a form of construction in her second, emulating exaggerated stitches in leather sports equipment.  It's interesting that she was disciplined enough to develop both collections in a thorough way, and that Louise Wilson felt it necessary to show both as a way of presenting a journey.  The second collection with its patent shells stitched through boldly with what appears to be giant shoelaces does have a more resolved coherence to it and innovatively centres the rope material as the focal textile as opposed to a sideline trimming or accessory.       


















Jaimee McKenna– The sole knitwear collection selected to show belonged to Jaimee McKenna who dipped her entire collection in a saturated shade of Yves Klein blue.  The decision to use that one emphatic shade was guided by the intricate pleated knit fabrics, which make up this vaguely ecclesiastical and stately collection.  A 1950s Vogue image of an elaborate pleated skirt planted the seeds for McKenna's pleating, which was then stiffened with felting to create the stiff pleats and concertina folds, held by metal bars.  The combination of traditional lambswool ribbed fabric and the structural elements create a sense of ease and fluidity.  The pieces don't feel weighed down by their complex construction and in that unmistakable hue of blue, there's an elegance that feel fresh.  














Marie Ryland - The subtleties of Marie Ryland's collection really needed an in-person viewing to take in the cultural mix, which she has woven from the loom herself.  Her quiet collection of tunics were a controlled mix of different cultural strands – Middle Eastern embellishment, religious garments, Norwegian folkloric textiles, glitched-up abstract art – which together feels rich and satisfying to see.  Her technical patterns are first created on Photoshop and then woven up, sometimes with experimental accidents that can turn out for the best.  Disregarding gender or rigorous silhouette, we have garments that tell a tale through the different types of yarns and the incidental appearance of a pattern or a slight differentiation in texture.  It makes for serene viewing.
















Sadie Williams – Disco Darleks (coined by Alex Fury of Love Magazine)?  Quality Street gowns?  Whatever they were, Sadie Williams' metallic flash of brilliance were for me, one of the show's highlights.  The inspiration was neither Dr. Who or chocolate related.  Instead Williams looked at old fashioned motor bike attire, and in particularly the photographs of Masuyuki Yoshinaga of showy Japanese biker gangs, which informed the crisp graphic quality of her metallic ensembles.  The real innovation behind her rigid floor-length dresses, nodding to the straight lines of both Cardin and Courreges, was the fabric development.  A jumbo lurex was bonded to a loop-back tracksuit, elimnating the need for lining and giving it its stiff quality, with the graphic shapes created by sandwiching cut pieces of neoprene in between.  Heat transfer paper or digitally printed inks were then applied on top for the print element.  It's a multi-step and layered process, which looks deceptively simple, part and parcel of the genius behind the collection.  

In addition to textiles wizardry, Williams has other skills up her sleeve as she, together with her brother Joe, has also created animations for the likes of HIllier London, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Topshop.  Who knows where this or her sublime fabrics will take her next but it's sure to be somewhere sparkly.  





















Did somebody at Disney HQ get wind of the fact that I'm a not-so-closet Disney fanatic?  Indeed, did the Blue Fairy, Merryweather, Flora and Fauna and Fairy Godmother combined, decide to grant me my one true wish after weeks of fashion-show vaulting?  Affirmative to both as I've just returned from a weekend of magic, courtesy of Disneyland Paris and the extended fun of their 20th year anniversary, a birthday I remember for all the wrong reasons.  

Just under twenty years ago, aged 11, me and my family toddled off to Disneyland Paris, not long after it had opened, thinking that my Disney dreams would come true and then discovering that a sick baby sister, freezing cold weather and 45 minute queues at every ride made for a hellish holiday.  I didn't even get to meet a Disney character.

I've more than made up for that holiday gaff with a weekend that was admittedly planned to perfection – a shameless perk of being "press".  We were there to see Disneyland Paris play host to their first fashion show featuring Minnie Mouse' and Lanvin dress collaboration as well as some interpretations of Disney characters by eight designers from Europe, most notably Sister by Sibling from the UK.  Whilst I was obviously there to wave the flag for London's madcap knittist trio, it was definitely an opportunity to soak up the world of Disney at its most saturated level.  I am after all that annoying girl, who sings Colours of the Wind in the shower in cartoonish falsetto.  I am that girlfriend who had to indoctrinate her boyfriend on all the Disney classics because he was brutally deprived as a child.  I am that person, who sometimes sees animated bluebirds and rabbits popping up around mundane real life because it looks so much better in my head.  

Therefore this post is a little bit out of turn although, I could make a vague fashion connection here, as you're assaulted by Technicolour pastels, surreal imagery and idealised brushstrokes, which have all definitely played their part in fashion inspiration (even if designers don't want to admit their sources‚Ķ).  As if by magic, a fashion student from Paris, who came up to me for a picture, was in the theme park doing a spot of sketching and research field work.  No doubt her resulting collections will be right up my sartorial street.

A glimpse of Sleeping Beauty's Castle and I'm guaranteed to let out a squeal.  A surprise package from Australian label Something Else contained a head to toe outfit of cloudy pastels, which was made for going loopy in It's a Small World and wandering around the candy-hued Fantasyland.  


IMG_2695Something Else jacket, jumper, shirt and jeans, Comme des Garcons polka dot gilet, Miista shoes



Disneyland isn't Disneyland without the staff doing their bit to prop up the dream from swashbuckling pirates (very Vivienne Westwood) and a Disney fairy godmother of sorts called Ilaria, who basically was our shadow for the weekend, taking us through secret paths and special entrances to skip the queues.  Didn't I say there was a shameless perk to being "press"?



At the Disney Magic on Parade, I came face to face with my first childhood Disney fairy memory, as my parents invested in one solid Disney VHS of Sleeping Beauty and never bothered with any others until i was about 8 (bootleg Beauty and the Beast video was my 8th birthday pressie).  I was always Flora and my sister pretended to be Merryweather.  Fauna was deemed dull by both of us.  I wasn't keen on hearing any "real" stories concerning the cast members who play the Disney characters but apparently Mary Poppins has to also be Ariel and Cinderella, sometimes all in one day.  I pity her skin, having seen the caked on make-up but am in awe of her Disney heroine range.








What made meal times extra special other than the fact that Disneyland is big on buffets is that Disney characters are at the ready for photo opps.  You're not even embarrassed to ask for multiple device pics.  They've seen it all before.  



The next day, I was having a Mickey/Minnie hybrid moment with those iconic hand gloves and some Minnie-esque polka dots from Meadham Kirchhoff.  My Maison Michel ears were a mere nod to Mickey and Minnie whilst Steve also got in on the ear action with the real shebang.  We were fired up to meet Mickey in his dapper tail coat ensemble.  Steve and I even managed to get him to cover his right eye i-D style (where Steve works now).  I got not one but two opportunities to pose it up with Mickey as we took to a special stage for a wee promenade before the fashion show.  Come to think of it, Mickey seems to have an awful lot of outfit changes in a day.  I'm assured that he never doubles up though, to avoid ruining the fantasy.  


Acne jumper, Meadham Kirchhoff dress, COS poloneck, Nike trainers, & Other Stories waist pouch, Jaeger red purse, Maison Michel ears








Then came the main event.  An unlikely fashion show in an land, far far away from the rides and the hum drum of the theme park.  Minnie took to the stage and introduced the designers, wearing a Lanvin creation, which was sculpted and bejewelled to perfection.  Alber Elbaz remarked after the show that Minnie was a delight to fit but surprisingly short, even next to his relatively diminutive height.  






Then came the eight designers from Europe, who were tasked to interpret a Disney character – a brief that I doubt few would turn down.  Without *ahem* a hint of bias, I can safely say that UK representatives Sister by Sibling did us proud with their inspired ensemble, not of CInderella but her three mice friends Jack, Gus and Mary, who made that initial ball gown for Cinderella.  Cozette McCreery, Joe Bates and Sid Bryan, felt an affinity with the mice but thankfully their fruits of labour didn't get torn up by evil stepsisters.  They injected a bit of wit into 11:59 jumper (hand-embroidered by Laura Lees) and powder puff pom pom miniskirt, complete not with glass slippers but a pair of sparkly Katie Grand Hogans.






From the other parts of Europe Jean Paul Knott brought the apple from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to structured life.  Michalsky from Germany gave Cindrella a more conventional gown and Alexandre Terekhov from Russia ensured Alice wouldn't be late for her very important date.  Luisa Beccaria from Italy had Jasmine from Aladdin in purple plisse and Custo Barcelona vamped Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty up in purple leather.  Finally Phillip Treacy gave Peter Pan a new hat to don.  










Disneyland Paris Hotel, where we were staying, is the sort of place with plush carpeted staircases and peach-hued velvet curtains.  No wonder princesses aged 2 to 12 roam around in Disney Princess costumes.  Never have I seen so much tulle, taffeta and organza floating about in one space.  Therefore for our "ball" (gala dinner), I too donned a spot of tulle since Disney Princess costumes to go beyond aged 12 sizing.


Mo&Co. lilac faux fur jacket, Jonathan Saunders top, Lesya Paramonova tulle shirt dress, John Rocha culottes, Miista shoes, Christopher Kane purse, Comme des Garcons Tricot collar

No boring set menu or naff entertainment at the fun-fun-fun dinner.  We got pastel cold soups in tubes, face-painting and of course, Disney characters in snazzy outfits, outdoing pretty much everyone in the room.  Goofy was particularly into my lilac furriness.  










To end the weekend, we had our spines tingled by a show that sums up what Disney means to me – that iconic shudder of anticipation when you hear those first notes of "When You Wish Upon a Star", the lilting perfect cadences of so many Disney songs accompanied by colour, jolliness and emotive gazes and early memories of understanding themes of love, death and life.   Disney Dreams was premiered last year at Disneyland Paris in celebrate of their 20th anniversary and it's an all-singing, all-dancing, water n'fire 4-D mapped projection spectacle, which plays out at the Sleeping Beauty castle. 

The show has gotten a 2013 uplift with two new scenes added in from the films Lion King and Brave,which debuted last night.  We were also the first to don a set of Disney Light Ears.  These Mickey ears that light up were an intrinsic part of the show as the lights were programmed to complement the sequences, syncing up in colour and beat.  We were all instruments to the show for one special night, and the ears will be available to the public later on this summer to accompany the nightly show spectacular.  

I dare any Disney naysayer to come away from this show and not be impressed because even a few hardened blokes around me were making "WOW" faces.  Beyond the theme parks, the merchandise and the live action movie empire, Disney Dreams underlines what is at the heart of Disney for most people, which is the many many well-loved characters that are like childhood friends you've grown up with.