>> When I got my tot-tot feet measured aged 4 at the Clarks store in Brent Cross for my first pair of school shoes, little did I know that two decades later I would be swanking it up and styling a lookbook for the very same brand.  Child who grew up living above a Chinese takeway does good and all that.  This is the sort of stuff I can show my parents and they'd have some point of reference to comment back with approval.  "Ah Clarks!  Good quality shoes! Last very long!" they would say.  Indeed (except my mum still thought it prudent to stockpile on Clarks shoes – on sale of course – to the point where our understairs cupboard resembled a veritable Clarks outlet store at one point).

This is a very different kettle of fish though to the patent t-bars and butterfly-stitched mary janes I had as a child.  For a year now, Clarks Sportswear coming out with small capsule collections that combine the company's rich shoemaking heritage with modern sports shoe technologies so that craft and function come together in a subtle way.  They started off with mens styles which have been increasingly hotting up on the "bloke" press radar – men who were addicted to their Originals Wallabees and Desert boots could take on the extra bonus features of ankle cushioning, EVA moldings and TPU gaskets (those are fancy words for rubber and stuff).  Dudes that like their shoes to be "dope" have been digging Clarks Sportswear, especially when they collaborate with the likes of cult sneaker store atmos.

Naturally the womenswear counterparts were on the cards and so for A/W 13-4, they have launched two styles, the Juno Hi and Lo, pepped up with brightly colour blocked soles to contrast with more muted suede uppers that have a hint of Desert Boot about them.  Someone probably took one look at neon pink soles and thought that I'd somehow find synergy with them, and so it is that I ended up styling this small lookbook for them to celebrate the launch of Clarks Sportswear for women.  They were right of course.  It didn't take a great deal of imagination to cobble together colour jigsaw pieces that would pick out the soleful shoes (TEE-HEE-HEE).  The line may be called Clarks Sportswear but it's clear these shoes are made for active day-to-day lives as opposed to hardcore sporting prowess.  So I picked out pieces that had hints of "GO" power rather than full-on sportswear.  Which meant ots of neoprene (thanks new season ASOS), some handy purple bits from Beyond Retro and some of my own sports-lux pieces.  Beth at Storm was to be my hapless victim and Jamie C Gray, the consumate profesh photographer, guided by Liz Hay at Dry creative agency.

Together I think we made colour-pop fun for Clarks Sportswear's first foray into women shoes. Mama and Papa Lau will be ever so proud.  

Clarks Sportswear available at selected footwear stores and Office online now.

Juno-Lo-Black-SuedeASOS neoprene sweater and neoprene skirt, Beyond Retro shirt, Clarks Sportswear Juno lo lace-up

Juno-Hi-Grey-SuedeBeyond Retro top, Nike hoodie, COS dress, Clarks Sportswear Juno hi ankle boot

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Juno-Hi-Wine-SuedeASOS quilted sweater and pleated skirt, Lover shirt, Kenzo belt, Karen Walker sunglasses, Clarks Sportswear Juno hi ankle boot

Juno-Hi-Black-SuedeLucky Chouette jacket, ASOS quilted dress, Louise Gray skirt, Clarks Sportswear Juno hi ankle boot

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Juno-Lo-Grey-SuedeBernstock Speirs hat, Kenzo jacket, ASOS grey sweatshirt, Joe Fresh neoprene skirt, Clarks Sportswear Juno lo lace-up

Juno-Lo-Purple-SuedeBeyond Retro vinyl mac, Merchant Archive top, Lucky Chouette skirt, Clarks Sportswear Juno lo lace-up

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Gimme feathers!  Gimme camo!  Gimme kilts!  Gimme velvet!  Gimme lace!  Gimme flowers!  Gimme errr… MRI brain scans!  

After a plodding summer that wishes to drag on compounding with my own pre-fashion month brain meltdown, revisiting Christopher Kane's AW13 jam-packed, ideas-a-buzzing, hit-hit-hit collection was just the jolt I needed to kickstart September.  Especially as the stores are now currently flooded with the things I listed above.  There was much to read into the collection.  Some said it was too much.  Some said it was much ado to make a statement signifiying a new era for Kane, with regards to Kering Group's investment in the brand.  Some said there was much to admire about Kane's ability to take a fleeting idea and make it a working reality.  I'm inclined to go a combo answer of all three interpretations.  Too much of something is a good thing in this instance.  You can justify excess and indulgence when it's all genuinely convincing.  Well, ok I'm not so hot on the crazy-layers of black-edged organza squares but that's only because I thought Kane tricked out that motif in his AW09 way better.  And that's only one questionable out of many many hits, some lifted from the classic Kane lexicon and given an evolved update.  

Touching is believing with this collection and more so than others, revisiting the collection in a showroom or indeed, in stores right now, proved to be persuasive.  Kane's camo pieces may have stiff competition from Whistles' equally impressive warped camo jacquard, but his also comes in patchwork felted wool, tufted at the edges to create a texture akin to autumnal leaves and moss on a forest ground.  Beyond the show, the colourway combining orange, pink and grey produces an unnatural camo but no less eye-catching.  Move on over to the passage of velvet loops and swirls of intricately embroidered lace and you start getting some The Craft vibes.  Alt chicks who weren't into the exuberance of Clueless dug The Craft.  Whatever happened to Neve Campbell, eh?  When feathers and flowers take over, it becomes unabashedly romantic.  At the show, all I was thinking was that they conjured up packets of pot pourri and Dutch still life paintings of flowers – two things I'm particularly into at all – and wondering how Kane managed to make those visual references enticing on clothing.  Another sort of craft was at the heart of it all.  Those ostrich feathers are curled just so.  Those feathery flowers are constructed and composed to convince you that they are blossoming into life on sweaters and skirts.  The final brain wave (well, after the actual brain waves embroidered with beads and thread onto beautiful brain scan sweaters) came when an electric blue frisson of what I thought was some sort of tinsel came flurrying past.  In fact, upon closer inspection at the showroom, it turns out they were hundreds of individual strands of bugle beads.  Ditto for the shimmering wires poking out of dresses – more devastatingly minute bugle bead work.  There goes another naff pas.  Aren't bugle beads supposed to live on dusty prom and bridesmaid dresses?  In Kane's hands, they come alive with electricity as with 99.9% of the collection.  Let's hope that Kane knows how to take "too much" as a compliment.

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Backstage photography by Joseph Piper for Style Bubble

"What happened in the end, for the show, just wasn't the collection I was trying to make, in almost any respect.  I don't really know what to say about the collection you all saw."  

Elle Collection AW 13 is the magazine that keeps on giving and as I keep delving into it as a resource when pondering the collections.  Yes, SS 14 shows may be about to kick off but I'm actually snuggling into AW 14 vibes.  Multi-season brain mode is switched on and ready to go.  One particular quote from EC that stuck with me in particular was in Alex Fury's feature piece on Meadham Kirchhoff where Edward Meadham rues what their "Helter Skelter" AW 14 collection didn't turn out how he wanted it to.  A search for perfectionism underscores his verdict but also there's a feeling that he's bristling at the sudden idea that this was the season that big wig editors and journalists suddenly turned around and declared it to be their best yet, heaping hysteric praise upon it.  They declared that the duo had raised the bar, upped their game and produced work that was finally palatable to their minimalist and well-heeled tastes.  

"The reaction (to the show) makes me more depressed, honestly.  the people who apparently liked it before, who said this was their favourite – obviously, you didn't like it before," Meadham carries on in the light-shedding interview.  Well, I might be just go out on a limb and say that no, this wasn't my favourite Meadham Kirchhoff collection but that I can recognise it because it excelled in another regard.  In truth the real story here is that Ben Kirchhoff and Edward Meadham pushed on and evolved.  Just as there exists the film trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, so it is that Meadham Kirchhoff have created a Manic Meadham Kirchhoff Girl, since A/W 2010 when they began their "A Chronology of Women" collections.  It's a style trope based on shallow readings of their collections – pastel frou frou, overt decoration, glitter, stickers, more is more is more.  Other designers and brands following Meadham Kirchhoff in their wake have adopted this Manic Meadham Kirchhoff Girl as their muse.  A veritable tribe exists in London who subscribe to this adorn and express approach in their manner of attire.  They might whizz past you in a blur of marabou, lace and all-out Kawaii expressionism.  And they genuinely don't give a shit what people think, something which both Kirchhoff and Meadham wholly advocate.  All over Tumblr, you can see trails of glitter stickers, symbolically attached to Meadham Kirchhoff images, with teens hearting them, loving them and thoroughly pledging aesthetic allegience to all things MK.  

If it sounds vaguely like I'm disparaging the Manic Meadham Kirchhoff Girl, you've got it all wrong.  I've got my MMKG moments for sure.  Pulling out pieces from my wardrobe for a journalist today, she remarked, "My eyes literally can't adjust to all the colours and textures you've got going on in here."  More is more is me for sure.  That said I'm able to recognise the need to change and develop and Meadham Kirchhoff's AW 13-4 collection, whilst yes ticking those more "commercial" and "wearable" boxes, also showed a different side to their MMKG.  Dare I say she is now "chic"?  Urgh.  I can see Ben and Ed cringing at such a notion.  According to Fury's piece in Elle Collections, they were trying to explore the "pursuit of perfection" at home – keeping things tidy and baking nice things.  If that seminal S/S 12 collection underlined the idea that wearing sickly pink and girliness on your sleeve was still a form of female empowerment, then Helter Skelter takes ownership of domesticity.  It neatly chimes in with the current foodie obsession and series like the The Great British Bake Off going stronger than ever.  All the more need then for slicked black latex wipe-clean surfaces and pinafore/apron detailing.  

Better than evolution though is the collection's emphasis of Meadham Kirchhoff signatures that go beyond the MMKG visual trope.  That signature involves painstakingly magnificent construction as always, seen in the pin-tucked chiffon dresses and well-tailored tweed jackets and prim uniform dresses.  Even a pointed collar edged with broderie anglaise on a velvet dress is treated with deep respect from the duo.  These are the things that mark out their couture-on-a-shoestring-resource approach.  Where Meadham Kirchhoff go from here will always be intriguing, whether you're a MMKG or not, if you have a deep appreciation for unabashed beautiful quality.  

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Oh so many "Come to our HQ and dress up in our clothes and take lots of pics!" events have beenand gone over the years.  Ever since Topshop broke ground with their realisation that fashion bloggers apparently like to rabidly dress up, take pictures and consume sugar-y treats, the onslaught of similar events at other brands and retailers has been relentless.  And I've purposely given a lot of them a miss.  Part of it has much to do with the enforced fun factor – couldn't I just buy/borrow pieces and play around with them on my own terms without having to systematically get 10-15 good quality shots out of them.  Then there's the group girlie mentality that makes me cringe a little as we reduce ourselves to champagne quaffing and cupcake-cooing harpies, whose default response to everything is "That is so awesome!".  Finally another reason is that there are a great deal of personal style bloggers out there, who are far more profesh and adept at these events than I am.  Some bring their videographer boyfriends to artfully document proceedings.  Others have swish-y lenses and Instagram things with skills that render pictures looking like pre-conceived still life masterpieces.  After a while I kind of feel a bit sheepish and redundant at these events.  

My Wardrobe's get together for bloggers to celebrate their London Lab launch had an interesting angle though.  In one of the most prominent moves in the fashion publishing to retailing migration that is going on in the UK, Carmen Borgonovo, former senior fashion editor of Harper's Bazaar, was snapped up as My Wardrobe's fashion director, in charge of the site's buying direction.  Subsequently, it was also announced that the founder of My Wardrobe Sarah Curran, would be stepping down.  This was the shake-up that made me perk up.    

Borgonovo has come in, cleared out some existing brands, with the aim to streamline My Wardrobe and give it a better edit.  For the new season, she has introduced a raft of London designers, dubbed "London Lab", which represents a shift in My Wardrobe's aesthetic and brand positioning.  My Wardrobe in my mind was always the more affordable out of the e-commerce biggies and when it came to price vs. selection, sometimes the latter lost out in favour of the former.  However by introducing labels such as Palmer // Harding, Meadham Kirchhoff and Lucas Nascimento, Borgonovo addresses that with a leftfield flourish.  The likes of J.W. Anderson, Preen and Richard Nicoll are also part of the mix as the widely-stocked and established offerings but it's the support for the likes of fledgling labels like Palmer // Harding and Lucas Nascimento that really caught my eye.  In addition, the "contemporary" level gets a timely update with the addition of AntidpodiumOstwald Helgason and Mother of Pearl, reflecting fashion's enduring love-in with brands that dish up tasty design without the sky high prices.    

So it is then that last month, we, the bloggers (Elenore Carisi, Wendy Nguyen, Jessie Bush and Marie Hindkaer Wolthers) were fuelled with dinner and drinks at St Martins Lane Hotel before heading over to My Wardrobe HQ in Camden the next day to do our blogger thang, armed with DSLR's and beady eyes.  I zoomed straight towards a beautiful Meadham Kirchhoff slip dress from their triumphant A/W 13-4 collection, which just happened to be a piece that I had already placed a personal order for.  Mother of Pearl's embellished Vans-esque slip ons were a natural pairing considering my penchant for the brand and I also got to grips with Preen's leotan/tarpard print.  We then took off to nearby Primrose Hill to go ogle at millionaire pastel houses and take some pics along the way.  Back at the office, I had a pattern cutting epiphany where I discovered the clever construction of Lucas Nascimento's off the shoulder fleece jersey dress, which slipped on without zippers and felt like a sleek column of a piece.  I also had a play with Palmer // Harding's French knot adorned shirt for the new season.  Naturally, the day ended with cupcakes.  Personalised and fashionised cupcakes at that.  Cue five indentical Instagram photos going up and an unwillingness to actually eat them.  

Borgonova's editorial eye can clearly be felt in the new season's buy at My Wardrobe.  It's that eye, which means I can now get my mitts on pieces such as J.W. Anderson ruffled bonded wool shorts, the very same ones which caused some hilarious Daily Mail ire his A/W 13-4 menswear show debuted.  With everyone upping their game in an increasingly crowded space, London Lab is definitely a step up for the etailer.

IMG_8325Wendy, Eleonora, Jessie, Marie and myself

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IMG_7231Carmen Borgonovo and I at the My Wardrobe dinner at St Martins Lane hotel

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IMG_8519J.W. Anderson grid jumper // Palmer//Harding shirt

IMG_8532J.W. Anderson comic print tee

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Anya Hindmarch clutch

IMG_8535Mother of Pearl knit top

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IMG_8555Lucas Nascimento dress, Mother of Pearl slip-ons

IMG_8522Antipodium dress

IMG_8523Ostwald Helgason shirt

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IMG_8510Sophie Hulme bags

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IMG_8580Palmer//Harding shirt, Lucas Nascimento skirt, Mother of Pearl slip-ons

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IMG_7488Preen polo neck, Meadham Kirchhoff slip dress, Mother of Pearl slip-ons