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>> As soon as I read "Sound of Music inspired.." on Olympia Le-Tan's AW 13-4 review, I knew I should have eschewed review write-ups that night during Paris Fashion Week and gone along to her "Schnitzel with Noodles" presentation – always a fun respite from the formal show hub-hub of Paris.  Actually, the title of the show should have been another clue for me to go – Schnitzel with Noodles – errr… only my FAVOURITE line from My FAVOURITE things?!  I really felt utterly connected to Julie Andrews, when I, aged five watched her singing that line over and over again (The Sound of Music along with Grease were the sole two VHS tapes my parents put on repeat to shut us up…).  She was an Austrian governess with an odd idea of playclothes and a love of noodles.  I was a child who loves playclothes living above a Chinese take-out shop eating yes, lots of noodles.  CONNECTION!  On an unrelated schnitzel note, I had the fortune of trying out what I thought was a pretty darn amazing schnitzel in Vienna a couple of week ago, where I made an exception to my rule of not eating anything bigger than my face (all in one go…).

What I'm trying to say is that everything about Olympia Le-Tan's A/W 13-4 collection indicated that I would have been charmed off my socks had I bothered up to turn up the presentation.  Now that the two-pronged lookbook has been released, with a little help from Ellen von Unwerth on the photos and Olympia's father Pierre Le-Tan on the illustrated animal heads, I'm making up for my oversight.  Should I make it to Salzburg one day and realise my dream of a full-on cheesy Sound of Music tour, which would embarrass Steve and my would-be kids or grandchildren, then I can't think of a more appropriate mode of attire than Olympia's Tyrolean collection.  Laden with loden and lederhosen and generally chocker block with Austrian-kitsch, like Olympia's accessories, it's all done with a bit of a literal wink.  Neat sweaters, full circle skirts and Peter Pan-collared dresses are less costume-y fare and are inspired by Olympia's own sense of style, to perfectly match up with the bookish charms of Olympia's clutches, which for A/W 13-4 sees Austraian/German classics and kitsch stamps immortalised into her signature star piece.  The Schnitzel with Noodles belts are a Sound of Music fetishist's necessity.  I may have to get it for the sole sake of walking into a schnitzel restaurant and sitting down to another slab of breaded veal, twice the size of my face, knocking back a few bottles of Almdudler and loosening the belt as the evening wears on.   

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Pics from Olympia Le-Tan's Most Excellent Tumblr – like I said before, a fine example of a designer's blog

After a quick catch up on Olympia Le-Tan's well-maintained website (I still rate her Tumblr as an EXCELLENT example of how designer's blog…), it seems her e-commerce has also had a bit of a redesign rejig and looks a whole lot better for it.  It has the most complete stock of her do-wop, shoop-shoop S/S 13 collection, which saw her introducing her 7inch record box bag.  With a much roomier volume of 1,920 cm2, it's a much more "useful" size for carrying the daily grind of stuff, compared to her signature book clutch.  It's also weirdly, slightly less expensive, although still a long way off from affordable (one day, I'll have a snoop around her studio and find out why it is OLT pieces command such lofty prices as I'm sure there is a reason why…).  The one I'm seriously lusting after is the Barney Bubbles-designed The Damned 7inch bag, which certainly puts a whole new spin on the naff record bags of yesteryear which we all carried until our left shoulders ached from uneven weight distribution.  

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A few weeks ago whilst enjoying the last vestiges of N7 life in Le P√©ch√© Mignon, along with Sunhee Oh, the in-house stylist of Korean brand Lucky Chouette, I also met London-based contributor to Vogue Korea, InHae Yeo and we all got talking about blogs and magazine content.  InHae briefly showed me snippets from Sunhee's blog (in Korea, they're mostly hosted on Naver which means it's not possible to translate to English via Google unfortunately), where she features fashion visual merchandisers of key stores in Seoul and talks about their work in what looks to be great detail.  Steve and I moaned about the lack of diversity in fashion blogging in the "Western" world and why content such as what Sunhee had on her blog generally isn't prevalent.  InHae deduced that Korean fashion enthusiasts generally showed a desire to learn and therefore content goes indepth and detailed, something, which I had already observed when I had picked up a stray copy of Vogue Girl Korea and proceeded to compare the editorial:ad ratio between Vogue Girl Korea and Teen Vogue.  I used to think that this kind of ultra-informative content could border on being didactic but in an age when content and particular in fashion has become so throwaway, I've got a new found appreciation for detail, information and knowledge.  

Steve and I walked back home and began to harp on like old blogging biddies.  "Why can't mainstream media handle depth and detail?"  "Why are blogs (the ones that are high profile and successful) predominantly of the 'Look at me and my beautiful lifestyle' ilk?"  "Why aren't there more 2,000 word articles online profiling key visual merchandisers?"  The dude passing us by on the street must have shook his head and thought to himself, "What fucking losers…"

A week later, InHae had a few recent issues of both Vogue and Vogue Girl Korea sent over to me.  Lifting it up my fire escape was my weight lifting exercise done for the year.  Ads of course dominate the pages of both titles  but a quick appraisal of the content (without being able to read any of it…) also confirmed what InHae was saying and that perhaps there could be a page (or two, or ten, or twenty…) taken from their content strategy that would enrichen magazines here.  

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It's timely that British Vogue's inaugural issue of Miss Vogue has recently been released and whilst it's still not known whether it will be a permanent newstand title, it's an interesting time again to assess the relevance of printed fashion content aimed at what has historically been a tricky market in the UK.  I don't want to compare Miss Vogue UK – a tester thin issue, created by the British Vogue team with various budget/time constraints with Vogue Girl Korea – an established title with secured advertising and a wholly separate editorial team; but it is interesting to note the cultural differences, most of which I personally seem to prefer.  

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Looking at all the Vogue Girl Koreas, the beauty sections are HUGE (all the better to cram in those advertisers) and they are at the front of the issues and speaking as someone with a real lack of interest in beauty, there certainly were aspects that jumped out – interesting imagery and features such as a guide to nail art to match catwalk looks.   

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What I really found impressive was the amount of page space devoted to certain features, such as this "Girl's Internship Challenge" which interviews people in a wide range of creative/fashion-based careers to give to prospective interns.  Everyone from a beauty brand PR to an advertising AE is featured and it spans eight pages of what I think would be useful information for girls aspiring to careers in the creative industry.  

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Features like this six page profile of graphics/creative agencies in Seoul wouldn't be out of place in publications like Its Nice That.    

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Beyond the obvious fashion designer and celeb profiles, you also get introduced to interesting creatives such as pop-up paper artist Mathilde Nivet - her work is the stuff that spreads like wildfire on Tumblr and so it's nice to see a mainstream print publication latching on to that sort of subject matter.  

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In general, there's a feeling that Vogue Girl Korea isn't afraid to step outside of its FASH-ON remit or go too far leftfield.  Take this lovely visual diary of a girl who does embroidery – the likelihood is that this would be seen as too twee or "out there" in their equivalent titles in the US or UK.  

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Even simple features such as "What's on your desk?" (far more interesting than the "What's in your bag?" fashion approach take a new twist as each desk is illustrated by six different illustrators, instead of being photographed.

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What struck me about the issues of Vogue Girl Korea was the diversity and all-rounded aspects of content.  There's room for pieces like a tutorial on scuba diving, a filing cabinet line-up and reviews of strawberry desserts all around Seoul.  The magazine seems richer because it isn't 100% fashion and probably reflects the tastes and interests of their audience.  Likewise, their culture section, books and movie reviews all seem longer and a lot more indepth too.  

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On the fashion side of things, just little fun details such as presenting collections as a fashion comic creates a dynamic change-up in format.  

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There's inclusion of menswear in every issue, which is something that was also interesting.  Clearly there are titles that cater to fashion-loving men in Korea so perhaps it's just to inform girls of what's out there for the boys?  When menswear and womenswear crossover a fair bit and when menswear is particular strong in Korea, it feels like an appropriate inclusion.  

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Nuff' said about the fashion editorials in Vogue Girl Korea, which I've always been a fan of.  There's LOTS of them in every issue (even the supposedly flimsy February issue) and they range in skewing younger, older, affordable and designer from the looks of it.  

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A quick look at the big sister Vogue titles and the first thing I notice is the creative and playful art direction.  It's not to everybody's taste but I quite like the retro and graphic font mix-up.  

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Again, there's coverage of menswear, which presents fashion as a subject to be knowledgeable about to the reader, as opposed to just knowing about products and pieces to buy.  

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More indepth content about the relationship between design and fashion… 

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… or a rundown of 120 inspirational Korean women in a plethora of fields…

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This piece written by InHae investigates th role of Savile Row in British fashion – again a subject that could skew too masculine or niche but somehow finds an intelligent place within Vogue.  

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I can't figure out what this is other than an analysis of fashion logos/labels?  Looks interesting nonetheless… 

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I think this is an article about the art of selling in luxury stores – in any case it looks substantial and indepth.  

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Talking up tree photography – why not?  

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Again, the issues are STUFFED with editorials, with only one or two syndicated from International Vogues.  There's a lot of risk-taking going on with the casting and aesthetics with some images not necessarily sticking to the standard Vogue remit.  

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This isn't to say that Vogue Korea and Vogue Girl are superior or better than their British, American or other international counterparts.  My general observation about detail, niche and indepth content still stands though.  When widening range of fashion content is now so freely available online, it feels like a great time to to go out on a limb and stake a claim on content that isn't the expected norm, especially in the volatile teenage market.

Just as the final mannequin in the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York gave us the finger, wearing Hussein Chalayan S/S 02 bare-all dress, it was sort of predictable that there'd be fingers being thrusted back up at the Met, lambasting the exhibition with comments like "WTF?", "Fashion, by definition, is antithetical to punk" and "Punk isn't about what you look like!" (Guardian commenters I'm looking at you…).  What punk is or isn't is contentious stuff and the word means very different things for different people.  A dissident cultural movement born out of the frustrations of the working class (in the UK at least…), a groundbreaking musical genre, a handy catchphrase for the media to round up the anti-establishment or the more romantic notion of a nihilistic and rebellious attitude – how then to marry such a loaded word with gowns that cost ¬£5,000 and upwards, attached to fashion houses, which make millions in profit.  

What I found interesting in the ensuing chit-chat about the exhibition in the media, was what constituted the look of punk – who were the "real" punks and who were the "pretend" punks, hampered by the fact that the word and the look was parodied and cliched six months in the media after it had begun.  If fashion was antithetical to punk, getting the look certainly wasn't, judging by this round-up of "real" punks whose hair antics defined their stance.  Image certainly mattered but to what extent?  On BBC's Woman's Hour, you had fashion historian Caroline Cox talking about being a young punk in Derby.  She criticised Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren's clothes for being prohibitively expensive and accused the people who bought their clothes of being "pretend punks", who had more money than sense.  To Cox, dressing up in charity shop garb and putting together outfits with imagination represented the true spirit of punk.  She also put a downer on punk leitmotifs like the safety pin or the garbage bag dress – to her, that was all "Top of the Pops Punk" or punk for fancy dress.  In John Lydon's essay for the accompanying Punk: Chaos to Couture book, he cites the safety pin as a symbol from his childhood when he wore diapers/nappies and was a way of constructing clothes without sewing.  According to Lydon, the rubbish strikes in London, where garbage bags were piled high on street corners, also prompted DIY garbage bag dresses and became part of punk's uniform.  You'd be more inclined to believe John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon but who's to say that talking up the look of punk in the 21st century, doesn't in fact serve to maintain his own legacy in pop culture.  Then there are those who also like to point fingers at the originators of the look of punk – Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren – the central point of comparison for the beginning of this exhibition entitled "Clothes for Heroes", where outfits by Junya Watanabe, Alexander McQueen and Rodarte are pitted against almost-identical c. 1976-80 ensembles from Westwood and McLaren's Seditionaries store.  Cox sees Westwood and McClaren as punk "svengalis", who moved with trend-led zeitgeist from teddy boy gear to fetish wear to anarchic t-shirts.  Lydon in his essay said Westwood and McLaren didn't like it if customers mixed and matched their clothes with other pieces, as they wanted to prescribe a total look, something which pissed Lydon off.  Who's right and who's wrong?  Who has the final say about this dispirate movement that was crushed as quickly as it came about?  

Therefore it's no wonder that the curator of the exhibition Andrew Bolton turned to what would be the most direct and upfront way of talking about punk,which would sit well within the Costume Institute's remit.  You can harp on about the semantics of what is "punk" but what's undeniable is that above all subcultures in the past 20th/21st century, the appetite for punk's associated aesthetic is unsatiable.  Why is it that in fashion vernacular, "punk" has become an adjective?  Anything studded, ripped or graffitied is immediately "punk" but on the flipside, a houndstooth drape jacket doesn't say "teddy" to most people? As an investigation of the mere aesthetics of punk, (and whether the "real" punks like it or not, there was an aesthetic…), this exhibition is comprehensive in its gathering of everything from the most banal results of punk-inspired fashion to exquisite pieces that transcend any cliches and go above and beyond what the likes of Richard Hell would have imagined at the time when he was wearing a ripped-up t-shirt with insouciance.  The exhibition makes no attempt to link up social upheaval, political change and cultural context with the garments on display, and that's ok so long as you accept that this is an exhibition that looks at the pure surface of punk – why it has been so enduring within fashion as a tried-and-tested inspiration point.  No point in moaning about the fact that Christopher Bailey of Burberry, most likely wasn't thinking about the "No Future" mentality of early British punks, when he was liberally studding up his S/S 13 leather jackets.  Better to question, why it is that physical traits seen in the galleries themed under "hardware", "bricolage", "graffiti and agritpop" and "destroy", are still so pervasive – turning up time and time again in collections by both independent designers and large fashion houses?  Ultimately specifics and semantics don't matter so much when what we're really looking at here is fashion's desire to rebel, or at least appear to rebel, even if the results are far and away from the ideology of punk.    

The thing is in many cases, it may not have been the original designer's intentions to even touch what has become such a cliched and parodied style genre.  Certainly when you look at a chain dress from an early Nicolas Ghesquieres for Balenciaga dress or a ring-and-lace number from Christopher Kane's S/S 07 collection, the hardware aids construction integral to the piece rather than it being a reference to sadomasichistic DIY ensembles.  In some cases, contexts of the brand itself elevates the visual language of destruction and DIY – like for instance a Dolce & Gabbana ballgown splattered with paint.  It ain't exactly punk but paint splattered anything in Dolce & Gabbana's razzle-dazzle world is certainly a refreshing change.  Same goes for holes expertly burnt into a Chanel jacket.  You might say that artfully destroying anything is pointless but there is something amazing about the fact that a house like Chanel can get away with selling a holey-jacket for top dollar, not only because of the way it was crafted (and it is beautiful in person) but also because of its attached brand value.    

I personally didn't take away anything new from the exhibition itself other than a re-affirmation of fashion's tendency to appropriate subculture – some doing it better than others.  I certainly don't have a problem with it when the results say resonate in ways one wouldn't have expected – Rodarte's A/W 08-9 beautiful collection of Japanese horror film-inspired mohair knits, which prompted girls to get knitting to DIY their own versions of cobwebby tights and jumpers.  There's a touch of that imaginative "punk" spirit that Cox was talking about perhaps.  Fashion will continue to co-opt, adopt, interpret and be inspired by the visual language of punk – genuine or not – but at least here, we got to see the clothes, ladened with safety pins, studs, paint splatters and holes, which stand the test of time and exist, not to please punks but fashion enthusiasts.  

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IMG_0159John Galliano for Dior haute couture A/W 06-7

IMG_0164Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren parachute jacket and bondage trousers from Seditionaries period

IMG_0168Recreation of CBGB bathroom in New York c. 1975

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IMG_0195Recreation of Seditionaries boutique on 430 Kings Road London

IMG_0172Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren t-shirts from SEX/Seditionaries period

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IMG_0175Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren "Bondage" trousers and mohair knit from Seditionaries next to Junya Watanabe A/W 06-7

IMG_0201Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McClaren sweater from Seditionaries and "Bondage" trousers from SEX next to Rodarte A/W 08-9 ensemble

IMG_0187Vivenne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren sweater from Seditionaries next to Alexander McQueen A/W 01-2 skull dress

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IMG_0222Balenciaga A/W 04-5 // Givenchy A/W 07-8

IMG_0225Givenchy Haute Couture A/W 09-10

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IMG_0244Thom Browne A/W 12-3, Givenchy S/S 11

IMG_0276Gareth Pugh A/W 13-4

IMG_0249Helmut Lang S/S 04, Prada S/S 07

IMG_0259Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal S/S 06

IMG_0260Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal A/W 08-9, S/S 90

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IMG_0271John Galliano S/S 01 

IMG_0268Maison Martin Margiela Artisanal S/S 11, A/W 08-9, Maison Martin Margiela S/S 09

IMG_0273Maison Martin Margiela S/S 90

IMG_0285Viktor & Rolf S/S 98

IMG_0286Alexander McQueen S/S 09

IMG_0291Vivienne Westwood S/S 07

IMG_0295Dolce & Gabbana S/S 08 

IMG_0298Katherine Hamnett 1984 dress, Moschino S/S 95 bathing suit

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IMG_0329Comme des Garcons S/S 13

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IMG_0325Chanel S/S 11 // Viktor & Rolf A/W 13-4

Just as I was catching the beginning of the Punk exhibition, I saw the tailend of the brilliant, if not more so – Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibition, where works by key Impressionists and their contemporaries are shown alongside period costume, accessories and fashion plates to highlight a relationship between fashion and art.  I got to indulge in Zola's observations in his novel about the rise of the department store Au Bonheur des Dames at this marvellous exhibition, where the gowns depicted by Tissot, Renoir and Monet, are presented as pieces which are just as important as the subjects themselves.  Up against realistic photographs or intricate fashion plates, Impressionists sought to depict the stylish ladies and gents of their time in a way that put focus on the frocks, corsets and accessories.  The exhibition has sadly ended but the accompanying book is really quite an indepth read about the the changing role of attire and dress in society at the time.  In contrast to the Punk exhibition where my imagination couldn't really run wild within the confines of ideology, he-said-she-said semantics and rigid collections, here there's still mystery to an unrecorded relationship between artist, subject and dress.  Plus, I like big bustles and I cannot lie.  I might even try and catch it again when it hits the Art Institute of Chicago in June.   

IMG_0339Promenade dress 1865/68 (English) in front of close-up of Claude Monet, Camille, 1866

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IMG_0349James Tissot, Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, 1866 with sample from Marquise de Miramon's peignoir, 1866

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IMG_0356Claude Monet, Bazille and Camille, 1865 with Day dress 1862/4 (American)

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IMG_0362James Tissot, The Two Sisters, 1863 with Dress 1864 (American)

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IMG_0365Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lise – The Woman with the Umbrella, 1867 with parasols c. 1860-9

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IMG_0371Albert Bartholome, In the Conservatory, 1881 with original 1880 summer dress worn by Madame Bartholome 

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IMG_0374Paul Cezanne, The Promenade, 1871 inspired by an engraving in La Mode Illustree entitled "Toilettes by Madame Fladry", 1871

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IMG_0380James Tissot,July: Specimen of a Portrait, 1878 with Day dress 1878/80 (American)

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IMG_0394Edouard Manet, Before the Mirror, 1876 with various corsets 1877-80

>> The Other Shop formerly known as bStore, previously in Savile Row but now firmly rooted in Kingly Street has settled in quite nicely with its womenswear offerings growing stronger by the season.  A new addition to their S/S 13 roster of labels is which I got quite excited about was A.Knackfuss, designed by Brussels-based, German-born Alice Knackfuss, whose career I've coincidentally followed without meaning to.  I happed upon her work when she entered the Hyeres competition back in 2009 and also saw her later joint label venture at the Brussels store Hunting & Collecting.  Now she is properly solo with her brand A.Knackfuss and has three solid collections under her belt, which fully exploit her experience of designing menswear with Ute Ploier and Kris van Assche.  Her vibe of incorporating the oversized proportions of menswear in womenswear chimes in nicely with the sort of cross-genre and in her words "chameleonic" state of fashion today where women don't simply crave the simplistically feminine and increasingly reach out for menswear pieces.  That doesn't mean they want to eschew textural, print and colour interest either as A. Knackfuss' A/W 13-4 "Syncopia" collection attests.  Psychedelic tripped-out prints, quilted leather sleeves, sheer layers and vibrant purple and yellow plaid all manage to blend seamlessly with the tomboyish silhouettes that Knackfuss proposes.  It's a collection that for me speaks of 21st century MP3 pick n' mix culture – a raved up electro ripple of a print here, a quiet ambient XX-esque zippered coat there and the ever pervasive slackercore checks lingering on from the nineties.  What brings all the elements together is the dissonance of Knackfuss' chopped-up proportions – cropped and elongated where necessary and employing tailoring and peplums to balance out any oversized pieces.  Hopefully The Other will carry on supporting Knackfuss' collections as her work certainly adds a dynamic energy to their existing roster of labels.  

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