Stephen Sprouse's graffiti leopard is so much ingrained into part of Louis Vuitton's 21st century identity, ever since Marc Jacobs introduced it back in 2005.  Same goes for the cartoonish kitsch of Takeshi Murakami or Yayoi Kusama's polka dots.  Once established, that artist-borrowed visual language doesn't feel out of step with Louis Vuitton, despite the widespread tokenism of luxury brands pairing up with the art world.  And so it is that we have another famed graffiti auteur invited by Louis Vuitton to treat its products as a blank canvas.  Ben Flynn aka EINE will be no stranger to those that follow the ins and outs of street art or regularly walk around Shoreditch in East London.  In fact, his work might have crept up into your visual conscience without you even noticing.  Eine has designed a scarf as part of Vuitton's Foulards D'Artistes series with a neon-lit depiction of the words "Great Adventures" in his signature bold 'Vandal' font.  Navaz of Disney Rollergirl, Shini of Park and Cube, Betty of Le Blog de Betty and I were therefore invited to go on a condensed art walk around Shoreditch, visiting (or in my case, re-visiting) Eine's famed work on the streets, guided by longtime Eine supporter Cassius Colman, who owns the Nelly Duff Gallery.

Colman was quick to point out how Eine's work immediately distinguished itself from the rest of the graffiti scene by way of elaborate typography.  His most famous piece of work is probably the then-dubbed Alphabet Street where he painted the sequence of the alphabet on the closed shutters of shops all along Middlesex Street, lending a visually cheerful vibe to street art that perhaps hadn't existed before (not surprisingly people who buy Eine's prints like to buy them for their children to encourage them to learn the alphabet).  His work tends to spell out messages that point at pertinent issues.  Take the "Worth More" piece on Old Street, which previously spelled out 'Change', which I barely noticed for two years when I worked at Dazed & Confused across the world.  Both were painted in commemoration of Tom Easton, who was knifed to death in 2006 and commissioned by the Tom Easton Flavasum Trust to bring awareness to knife crime in London.  There's often tongue and cheek involved in both Eine's choice of fonts as well as word play.  A newish mural on Middlesex Street sees A-B-C building block lettering jumbled up and when deciphered, it says "Sell the house, sell the kids, sell the wife", a line from the film Apocalypse Now.  Entirely appropriate and slightly hilarious as the mural is on the edge of London's financial district and even as we were taken photos of it, 9-5 workers were asking us what was it we were looking at.  It's a chuckle at corporate culture's expense without being needlessly offensive.  Eine's SCARY piece under the tunnel on Rivington Street has stood the test of time alongside bits of Banksy's stencil work (they were partners in crime back in the day) as examples of street art that showcase the 180 degree shift from renegade forms of expression to respected national treasures almost.  Sanction by the establishment doesn't get more official than British prime minister David Cameron gifting President Obama an Eine print.  

We were finally led back to the man himself, at Selfridges Oxford Street where he was creating an installation wall, laboriously stencilling and painting out repeat patterns of his Louis Vuitton scarf design and where I got to 'artfully' drape Eine's font around the neck to ensure as many of the letters from his Great Adventures would be exposed.  Eine was as down to earth as you'd expect from someone whose work is fundamentally meant for universal and democratic consumption, despite his mainstream crossover into commercial projects.  It's also abundantly clear that whether it's a 140cm x 140cm silk chiffon scarf in a luxury brand atelier or or a closed shop shutter at midnight – to Eine, they're all just blank canvases.  

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IMG_5674Mural on Middlesex Street painted in 2010 spelling out "‚ÄòSell the house, sell the kids, sell the wife" from the film Apocalypse Now 


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Ben Eine with owner of Nelly Duff Gallery Cassius Colman

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Some of the above photography of art tour taken by Mark Rigney of Hooked

>> Last week when I went to see the exhibition of Central Saint Martins, students were filing out, laden with garment bags, portfolios and boxes.  School lockers were empty and open and nearby bins were flooded with unwanted crap.  It was the last day of school and like the sad nearly-thirty person that I am, I found myself yearning for that feeling of breaking up for the summer and that sense of relief when yet another academic year comes to a close and you can switch off for two months or so.  At our school, we got to experience a relaxed build up to that momentous last day as we basically dawdled about doing not much work for two weeks and teachers put on films in class to kill time (Amadeus and The Piano were the films of choice…).  I'm digressing and reminiscing.  

I haven't had a school's out moment in years and haven't really had a chance to take a proper no-emails, no-blogging longer-than-a-week summer break since… well, since the blog began.  I'll be trying to make amends though with my upcoming trip to Los Angeles and Portland in July, which no doubt you'll hear more about when I start banging on about it here to fish for shopping/eating/doing tips.  Until then, I've got my own summer uniform of sorts, which sort of harks back to the puff-sleeved, round-collared checkered dresses most British girls wear at primary school during the summer months.  Remember Julien David's "Les Enfants Gates" (the spoiled child) S/S 12 collection?  I ordered a few pieces and belatedly received them in time for UK's rubbish washout summer when short sleeves are still somewhat questionable.  Similar pieces from the collection are currently well on their way to the sale rail on Far Fetch, Matches Fashion and the like, but the childish French scrawl in beginner's cursive writing and toy print made up of David's memories of playing with objects like a Buckingham Palace guard, a dinosaur, a rubber duck and a Mickey Mouse glove will long be relevant past the summer months.  I've yet to feel the joys of running around carefree and bare-legged in a crino-lined egg-shaped skirt (David's version is becoming something of a signature shape for him) and a broderie anglaise Peter Pan collared blouse so the timing is ace.  

Coupled with the summer school vibes of the Julien David's ensemble is my very first Olympia Le-Tan accessory – THAT Barney Bubbles designed cover for The Damned on a 7inch record box bag.  It was a delightful surprise in the mail that also came with the longest postcard written by Ms. Le-Tan herself, explaining the ins and outs of what makes an Olympia Le-Tan clutch/bag cost the price it warrants.  There will be a follow-up investigation to this when I head off to Paris next week for couture shows.  Suffice to say though, having carried around this beaut of a record bag around, I'm feeling its worth already with every touch and every click of the brass clasp, as satisfying as the sound my Rainbow Brite lunchbox used to make.  God, I really need to snap out of it.  Peter Pan syndrome isn't really becoming on me.  

Other scholastic accoutrements include a beautiful pale blue mesh lace tie by Marwood London.  Steve doesn't really wear ties so his hang forlornly in the wardrobe.  Took me a while to get back in the school tie swing of things though.  After all the last thing you want is a knot that resembles that of a cheesy estate agent's.  On the feet are a pair of Milan-based brand L'F Unisex tongue-less slip on brogues from the new S/S 13 collection for the forever-child who doesn't want to fiddle around with shoelaces.  Not that I'm troubled by tying shoelaces or anything but it IS super handy to just slip on a pair of brogues with swift ease when you need to leg it down the fire exit stairs to catch the postman.  

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I'm late, I'm late for an all-important Royal College of Art fashion student round-up!  I'm mozying along at the moment with a good deal of projects, work and yes, more ongoing house-hunting, so this has been a little delayed.  No time like the present though as RCA's renowned exhibition is still on until the end of the month.  The fashion show itself is by virtue of showcasing MA students as opposed to the BA grads of the student shows of late, was a brilliant showcase of rigorously honed technical experimentation and immersive discipline.  These are graduates and designers ready to apply their research and expertise to jobs at houses and brands or on a more optimistic level, to their own independent start-up endeavours.  I'm more inclined to think that any of the four featured here would flourish in knitwear or textiles research positions at houses, where a laboratory-esque environment is fostered (constantly reminded of Nicola Ghesqui√®re's description of how he ran his Balenciaga studio like a science lab) where they can go about their ways with cutting up leather, dipping knits in plastics or coating surfaces with silicone.   

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Seiya Chen – In one of the few obviously "themed" collections of the RCA line-up, Seiya Chen presented her version of speeding around a skate bowl after getting into skate herself.  High fashion's interpretations of the subculture have been numerous but rather than referencing the real uniform of skaters, Chen looked at conveying speed and action by picking up on the chevron patterns in road marks and arrows, and how they would traverse around the body.  Cutting up and folding black leather into the correct formation became Chen's central motif and they'd appear unexpectedly alongside dusky pink or hazard yellow silks or contrasted with lame sewn on the other side of the leather. They are strategically placed on the curved-shouldered sweatshirts, cropped gauchos and A-line skirts, bending around as though there were numerous hairpin turns on the body.  Skate might be "so hot right now" but there's definitely more to see in Chen's surface detailing arsenal.   

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Alice Gibberd – At first glance, it's difficult to figure out Alice Gibberd's deceptive knitwear.  She might have notched up a technical first with her heat-pressed  polyurethane yarn knit which meant she was able to raw-cut her garments.  Coming from a family or architects, Gibberd has long been obsessed with the interplay between light and darkness which has resulted in her largely monochrome and controlled collection.  Once her technique had been finely honed in, she concentrated on the contrast between sections in the garments which were heat pressed (where it has the appearance of leather) and the sections which were au natural as it were.  Even where the "knit" looks visible in the mohair sweaters, the yarn has actually been meticulous combed to ensure there's a high level of control, which Gibberd favours.  It's a real mastery of textural composition as well as adding a new technical strand to knitwear, which would benefit from further research or perhaps a major house's endorsement.  


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272597Images from AnotherMag.com


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Ana Corina del Pinal Saenz – There's more technical wizardry from Ana Corina del Pinal Saenz, who wanted to create garments of minimal ease but maximal visual impact.  Her silhouettes really "flowed" on the catwalk as they slinked and slided their way around the body.  Your eyes were following the central textural theme of silicone coating and the way they changed the silhouettes on the body.  A lot of people thought it was latex but in fact del Pinal Saenz experimented meticulously with coating different fabrics with liquid silicone, spreading it on to a surface in a thin layer so that it would solidify to add weight and subtle decoration to the fabrics as well as finishing the edges so they wouldn't need to be hemmed.  Depending on the base fabric be it a smooth silk or a woven viscose, and how the silicone was brushed on to the fabric, you'd get different effects.  For instance del Pinal Saenz would drag a metal comb through the silicone to achieve a fine-lined nubbly surface.  There were also pigments she could add to get different coloured effects.  There's infinite scope here for del Pinal Saenz to take this idea further for herself or for others.  

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Xiao Li Xiao Li is one of the only graduates here, whose trajectory I've followed through from her BA at London College of Fashion to a fashion reality show in China to winning prizes at Pitti Filati and now to her final MA collection.  It's most definitely an upward trajectory where she has gained discipline and built her up knitwear technique.  Li took the pastel colour cue from the foam sculptures of Eindhoven-based art duo Raw Color and looked to create exaggerated proportions with giant matte knits.  The smoothness and almost plaster-like texture of the knits were achieved with a cotton yarn and then further accentuated with moulded silicone pieces debossed with the cable knit patterns or the knits themselves were dipped with silicone.  Xiao then adorned her knits with cast silicone jewellery so that they blended in with the garments as though they were part and parcel with each other.  A power sports mesh in pastel hues also gave the collection an extra element that meant nothing looked heavy or overwrought (in truth, the pieces do weigh a ton despite looking like effortless marshmallows on the catwalk).  Li is keen to start her own thing and I for one would definitely cheer her on to amp up the knitwear contingent in London.   

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Following on from my dour-noted menswear/LC:M/fashion/life rant, I thought I'd make amends with something more chirpy.  The point I was really trying to make re: all the "What man would wear this?" type comments, which dominate mainstream menswear discussions (especially on newspapers), is how joyless and patronising they are.  Is it physically/spritiually getting in the way of your day that these designers are creating these collections?  Can you be 100% sure that there is no man in the entire world that would wear this? Is it not much better that someone is out there creating such clothes so that elusive "man" does have the option to wear halterneck tops/lace onesies/floral tracksuit bottoms should he choose to do so.   

I'm oddly beginning my LC:Menswear round-up with two pairs of shoes – one is a pair of Jeremy Scott x adidas Originals pair of men's penny loafers and the other a pair of Topman Design trainers.  Both were intended as menswear but luckily bought in small enough sizes so that I could get in on the action too.  The conservative folk might ask that key question: "What man would wear them?"  Well plenty as it happens with sizes purportedly sold out.  So let's just renounce that question as pointless and redundant shall we and shelve it away, shall we?   

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LC:M was a hotbed of designers, who also threw that question right out of the window,  to design not as the market dictates but as they saw fit.  And quite rightly so.   As a first time goer, I can only echo other menswear regulars' thoughts and say that the energy was throbbing and from my perspective, because I didn't quite know what to expect from some of the designers who are just starting out or cementing their aesthetic, it was genuinely exciting to watch.  And even though it's besides the point, you can definitely count on this wo/man here to get onboard with pretty much everything you see in this post.  It may not be a designer's intention but once it's off the rail and paid for, these are clothes ready to be "borrowed" by women should it take their fancy.  They're options, choices and fashion in general is made all the better because they exist.

Astrid Andersen - Florals + Basketball + Sweat = One sexy summer where the court could fry an egg and the boys shooting ball are staking claim on a visceral looking floral.   

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Agi & Sam – Ahh‚Ķ. a reference to the wonderful buses of London and their myriad of bad taste/amazing textiles.  Give it up for Agi & Sam, who have toned down the twee and upped their game in terms of designing a fully rounded collection.  The prints haven't gone away entirely though.  They're familiar in a good way.  You might have sat on them on the number 43.  If anyone does buy into these prints, PLEASE do me a favour, find a bus that matches the print and take a pic.  HEAVEN.

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J.W. Anderson – What hasn't been said about yet another collection that has been banally portrayed as an act of heinous gender provocation.  I doubt J. Dubs minds though.  He's glad he's provoking.  And he's certainly glad that it divides opinion.  The whole collection was "bent" (no, not in that way‚Ķ) by way of geometric altercations.  He's really growing into that asymmetry, which really took shape in the A/W 13-4 womenswear collection and is getting lots of people hot and bothered because of it.  More please‚Ķ

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Sibling – Jolly.  Upbeat.  All smiles.  Sibling's East Side Story boys came out coiffed and buffed in Bruce Davidson-tinged Americana meets British zane.  I definitely liked the zane.  Especially in the collaboration with artist Richard "woodgrain" Wood and the loose plastic friendship bracelet yarn knits, inspired by Ndebele tribe decoration. 

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Shaun Samson – There's no doubting that Samson is from Southern California.  The medley of West Coast rap made sure of that.  The hip hop vibes were made sensual and tactile through Samson's fascination with felting seen here where grey wool segues into silver foiling.  It's still a great signature style calling card to play, evident by the fact that half the room were wearing something by Samson.  

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The Fashion East menswear installations provided another bonanza of concentrated newness.  It's where I bounced around the happiest, from one world to another to get up close and personal with the clothes.  

Joseph Turvey – From the dalmatian spots of last season Turvey turns to the legendary female NASCAR driver Ethel Mobley and her female influence on a sportswear-infused collection.  Hand drawn florals meet Rothko-esque colour blocking in a convincing way.  Spray painted hair optional  

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Liam Hodges – Morris Dancers meets Metal.  I liked the sentiment of this mixing pot of a presentation.  Hodges mixes up his own version of the band tee with patchwork folksy elements as well as paint-tinged workwear for those that graft hard and drink hard.  

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Kit Neale – Whammy!  That's exactly what I felt when I walked into the presentation and that's exactly what Neale called his collection.  Son of Rambow meets Lord of the Flies meets Peckham and Love Shack.  That's quite the cacophony and it works!  Behold, the intricacies of the genius "Peckham Riviera" print or the neon hues inspired by that B52 video.  I'm busting to get pretty much everything in this collection.  Neale thankfully doesn't mind.

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Craig Green – It was brilliant to resee the beautiful paint-slicked cardboard explosions which adorned Green's models at the MAN show.  They make sense by themselves and in situ with the clothes (which are all beautifully made and entirely wearable in spite of media protestations).  It was also a chance to see Green's collaboration with Purified footwear as it resulted in a set of slip-on trainers with unique silicon straps.  

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1037833 1037828Photography by Quentin De Wispelaere for Dazed DIgital


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Marques Almeida– It was inevitable that Marques Almeida would give some love to the guys who wore their ripped, distressed and thread-bare womenswear.  It is but a small capsule collection for Opening Ceremony but it's ever evocative with denim camouflage carried over into oversized tees and a patchwork ponyskin biker jacket that is definitely a stand out piece.  

And some others which I didn't see but wanted to HURRAH anyway.  HURRAH for Richard Nicoll getting together with artist Linder Sterling again for a triumphantly beautiful menswear collection, his best yet.  I hear there's more Nicoll/Sterling pieces on the way for womenswear too, which I'm obvs excited about. 


009_London_FashionWeek_Men2014_Richard_Nicoll_day_1Photography by Arnolt Smead for Wallpaper

Hurrah for Jonathan Saunders turning up sensual heat on city slickers.  

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And HURRAH for Christopher Shannon and his youthful rave of a collection complete with this stunner of a biker jacket using a medley of Liberty tana lawn fabrics.  

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… which will be luv-ver-ly with my newly arrived Liberty x Nike ID Air Maxes.  Trying hard to keep these pristine… 

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