>> On Saturday, when I did the big move over from old house to new, I could sense the dagger-esque glances of exasperation from the woman, who I had hired to move my stuff (yes, no man and a van – it was refreshingly a woman and a van).  She didn’t say so but I could tell she was wondering just how many more bags of clothes, shoes and bags there were to shift.  Hah!  Little did she know that I had already shifted well over 60% of my wardrobe a fortnight ago.  I could also tell that she was wondering why I had chosen to pack things up in designer shoe boxes (Prada, Miu Miu, Lanvin and Acne have thus far proved to be the sturdiest), meaning that she had to carry lots of fiddly little boxes rather than one big massive one.  It apparently made sense to me to divide up all the printed paraphernalia, which I’ve accumulated over these blogging years, up into different boxes.  Scuzzy kitchen utensils and hardy “normal” books were packed up into anonymous brown boxes but reams of torn out fashion editorials, stacks personal letters, cards and postcards from designers, lookbooks and other bits and bobs from fashion events, went into branded boxes.  I lavished twice the time to pack those bits up.  Opening them up and sorting through them at a time of year when yet more lovely handwritten things come through the post (birthday, new house congrats cards, Christmas etc) always makes for a nice and fuzzy thing to do.  Especially when accompanied by a strong cup of tea (sales of tea are down and instant coffee is up – DEVASTATED).

It struck me that I’ve got a peculiarly obsessive attachment to these bits of paper.  They might be rudimentary thank you notes on headed paper (probably NOT hand signed by Mr van Noten or Mr Gaytten but still, it’s the thought that counts) but I’ve kept them all the same.  It continues to surprise me that the handwritten thank you note is still something that the fashion industry observes so faithfully and shamefully, I’ve received a great many more than I’ve sent.  I’m clutching on to them like they’re written proof that at one point in time, I somehow mattered in this transient industry.   I’ll probably get found out to be a fraud one of these days and all of these lovely thank you notes, gifts and greetings cards will disappear in an instance.  So they’ll stay with me.  In their designer shoe boxes, to be opened up every now and then so in the distant future, I’ll remember   I’m not sure what other editors, journalists and stylists do with their printed paraphernalia.  Maybe they go straight into the recycling bin.  Maybe they get stuck up on a pin board (as observed from Louise Wilson’s office).  Or maybe everyone else also has secret boxes that will be given the deathly stink eye by future mover men/women.

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A big “Hello” from Patternity

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The show notes written by Antony Hegarty to accompany Givenchy’s A/W13-4 show…

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A Christian Lacroix card…

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A postcard from KOSHKA

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A girl with a glint in her eye on a Victoria Beckham postcard…

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A SHOWstudio thank you card depicting the roundtable discussions they regularly broadcast…

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Geoffrey J. Finch from Antipodium looking virginal…

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A fabric envelope from Daydream Nation that I love the feel of…

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A doodle of a me donning the Richie Tenenbaum headband look from Julien David

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A pretty birthday card from Eye of the World

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An old Marios Schwab show invite…

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A personalised illustration by Valentine de Cort for Delvaux

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A Christmas card from Cooperative Designs with a pertinent message…

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A tasselled card from Hermione de Paula

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A Christmas card from Becky Marwood fashioned out of an envelope…

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A very Merry quilted 2.55, Chanel No.5 filled Christmas from Chanel… one of the most impressive Christmas cards I’ve received thus far…

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… although somethings do come in non-printed packages that are just as impactful.  Just received this YouTube card from Maison Martin Margiela

>> It’s that time of year when choir boys singing hymns in exalted church surroundings, advent calendars, nativity scenes and all manner of Christian traditions are taken up en masse, even if we’re now a largely secular society.  It just so happens that Sorcha O’Raghallaigh, who has long been pre-occupied with religious iconography in her work, has produced a collection that fits into this pre-Crimbo narrative.  That’s not to say, Raghallaigh’s collection is just for Christmas.  It isn’t.  But I’m certainly more inclined to go misty-eyed at the abundance of gold, silver, red and midnight blue and the indulgence in huge swathes of fabric and weight of embellishment that this S/S 14 collection entitled  “Forget me Not” posesses.  Raghallaigh was in fact inspired by the Victorian English sculptor Alfred Gilbert, most famous for creating “Eros” on the Piccadilly/Regent Street/Shaftesbury Avenue intersection (I only found out that the sculpture actually depicts Anteros, brother of Eros).  She looked at Gilbert’s memorial sculptures and tried to evoke the same melancholic romantic aesthetic of his elaborately crafted odes to the majestic death.  For a young designer who is really just at the beginning of forging her own label, Raghallaigh doesn’t shy away from unabashed grandeur.  As opposed to taking the easy route and “commercialising” her work, Raghallaigh ploughs ahead with weighty decoration, consisting of 100,000 safety pins, threaded with glass bugle beads.  They’re given a wearable platform in form of collars and cuffs but also grace crowns, capes and a jacket entirely stitched out of safety pins.  The result is a piece that looks tiled with silver without you ever sensing that the raw beginnings of it was the humble safety pin.  All that hefty hardware and intricate beading is contrasted with a mass of delicate tulle, which Raghallaigh so loves.  It’s a collection that isn’t afraid to delve into pageantry territory.  Save for the bags – a collaboration with Betangible – Raghallaigh is really going for it in a way that is extra appealing at this time of the year.  I’m not church goer but there’s certainly something greatly appealing about wafting about in a cold cathedral wearing Raghallaigh’s frocks.

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Perseus Arming 1881-3 by Sir Alfred Gilbert 1854-1934

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Comedy and Tragedy: 'Sic Vita' circa 1890-2 by Sir Alfred Gilbert 1854-1934

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This is going to sound like a strange admission but up until yesterday, I had never stepped foot in Brompton Cross, the area where in quick succession has seen some key fashion store openings.  For Navaz of Disney Rollergirl, this very posh and well-to-do part of SW London tucked behind South Kensington, is back on her radar.  For me, it was never on the radar.  I ain’t gonna lie.  I grew up being far more familiar with the other “B” Cross – Brent Cross Shopping Centre – ah, so many listless hours frittered away there buying sickly lipglosses from the Bodyshop and training bras at C&A.  The only reason I ever had to go anywhere near Brompton Cross was to pass by the family-owned Chinese restaurant on King’s Road or to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  No use in trying to “posh” it up and pretend I know what Brompton Cross is all about – I don’t – other than I’ve always been in awe of the art deco/nouveau hybrid Michelin building.  As a fashion destination, it has never occurred to me to go either.  Up until a few months ago, everything this quaint design intersection had to offer in terms of clothes shopping could be found in the West End.  However, in recent months, both Carven and 3.1 Phillip Lim have opened up their first UK stores on Pelham Street, running off the Brompton Cross intersection, joining Acne, which opened up its second UK store back in August.  J. Crew’s more premium collection also has a store on , albeit operating in a quieter fashion than its Regent Street counterpart.

Therefore inspired by Navaz’s post, instead of turning towards the V&A from the South Kensington tube, I thought I’d go the other way and head towards Brompton Cross and go and be a tourist in my own city.

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Pelham Street is now effectively now a one-stop drop for “contemporary” go-to labels (still need to work on finding a better word to describe this supposedly “accessible” raft of fashion).  Just add Kenzo into the mix of Carven, Acne and 3.1 Phillip Lim and you’ve got yourself a street to get kitted out in all the cool kids’ duds you could want.  Except that the surprising thing about the customers frequenting these stores have mostly been local residents, who tend to be older (and obviously wealthier) than the target market that we’d associate with these brands.  Carven was looking quite grown-up, prim and proper with their Christmas window of resort satin frocks in addition to the last vestiges of their A/W “Deer Caught In the Headlights” collection.  I’ve loved the swerve of direction that Guillaume Henry has been taking the brand starting with that altogether more “toughened” up collection although judging by the wall of Carven collars, the brand is still definitely doing brisk business trading on the girly codes that Henry has had such success with.  You’ll find Carven in abundance in other stores in London but here, the most complete selection of both its womenswear and menswear does make the Brompton Cross trek more than worthwhile.

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The same can be said for 3.1 Phillip Lim next door.  Both Carven and 3.1 Phillip Lim are stores operated in partnership with Club 21 UK and they sit complimenting each other.  The space is bigger than Carven and takes advantage of the high ceilinged space at the back, with industrial windows overlooking the train lines.  The airiness suits 3.1 Phillip Lim’s sense of ease.  “Everyday classics accented with a sense of madness” is exactly how I’d describe the fabric flower embroidered bomber jackets that caught my eye in the store as well as the crystal adorned black patent slip-on loafers.  A wall of Lim’s anchor bag, the Pashli will definitely pull in the accessories-loving foreign super rich crowd, that is flooding into London, spending perhaps only a portion of their time in the city.

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Acne started the Brompton Cross shift earlier in the year as they opened their second UK store here.  It’s a vastly different store from the Dover Street branch.  You’re unexpectedly plunged into a dramatically industrial space clad in brushed steel, lit up by neon tubes and LED screens.  It’s definitely in stark contrast to the gentile and quant feeling of the area.  I asked the manager if the selection was any different from the Dover Street store and interestingly he said that they would strive to get unique colour ways exclusively for the Pelham Street store as the customer demanded special pieces, which sits in the tradition of an area once known for cutting edge design, namely from the Conran Shop and Joseph.

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A quick peek at J. Crew on Draycott Avenue and I already prefer the more intimate vibe of this store in comparison with the Regent Street Behemoth.  Maybe it’s because I’m at the age when Regent Street generally does my head in.

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Stella McCartney is a seasoned Brompton Cross resident but special mention goes out to their Christmas lights.  I love how they dance around the borders of tackiness – it’s like they’re competing with Crimbo-obsessed people in this documentary King of Christmas Lights.  Funnily enough, I never feel like it’s properly Christmas until I drive past that one wacked-out house in Neasden, near Wembley Ikea, that always goes all out with its Christmas lights.

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Another reason to do the Brompton Cross walkabout at the moment is to pop into Christie’s on Old Brompton Road to see Fashion Illustration Gallery’s exhibition, which opened last night with a discussion about the merits of fashion illustration with Tim Blanks, David Downton and editor of Christie’s magazine Meredith Etherington-Smith.  Some interesting topics arose, concerning the need to consider fashion illustrators as fashion artists and the ways in which fashion illustration could and should be commissioned by editors today.  The exhibition showcases great examples of both the established – Downton, Cecil Beaton, Richard Gray and Antonio Lopez for example, and the up and coming – Zoe Taylor and Ricardo Fumanal.  I found myself doing something else I’ve never really done before, which was to consider actually purchasing a piece of art from a gallery.  That would have probably been one too many firsts in a day, so I resisted but Fumanal’s delicate draughtsmanship is certainly lingering on the brain.

As a staunch North London girl, I suffer, like most other Londoners, a severe case of inverse postcode snobbery.  Some places are always going to frighten me off with their very very posh surroundings and potential awkward encounters with shop assistants where I look down on the floor feeling like a small speck of dust because that’s part and parcel of having had a frugal upbringing.  That said, times are a-changing and if there’s to be more interesting brand openings to come to Brompton Cross, it will always be worth taking the detour from South Kensington station.

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I have become a perpendicular fiend lately.  The spirit leveller is my new best friend and I am constantly cursing the wonky walls of my newfound house for not co-operating with this 90 degree angled fixation.  That said, my obsession with straight lines doesn’t even touch that of French artist Jean Pierre Raynaud, who is most famous for his investigation of space at La Maison in La Celle-Saint-Cloud in Paris.  In 1969, he began to build this house, with an interior composed almost entirely of 15 x 15cm white tiles, evenly spaced out with 5mm black grout joints and so began twenty five years of fastidious study of space.  The house was open to the public in 1974 but then as the artist entered into self-imposed “wilderness”, he closed it in 1988 and subsequently demolished it in 1993.  The fragments of which, have since been exhibited in various installations in a strangely poetic continuation of La Maison’s lifespan.

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Maison de Jean-Pierre Raynaud à La Celle Saint-Cloud

Jean-Pierre Raynaud Standing Inside His La Maison de La Celle-Saint-Cloud

Their continuity in the context of Raynaud’s work isn’t their only re-appearance though.  Even if the name isn’t familiar, the distinct black grid lines in white space are more than recognisable.  See Balmain‘s latest S/S 14 campaign starring Rihanna, shot in New York by Inez and Vinoodh.  I was more struck by the contrast of the strictly linear background with the excess of Olivier Rousteing’s fabu-bling collection, than the subject of the campaign.  For Rousteing though, perhaps it was a background device to ensure no attention is taken away from his superstar: “Rihanna embodies my vision of Balmain in this new campaign. In front of the camera, she makes you feel like she is the only girl in the world.”

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Of course Raynaud’s lines have popped up in fashion before, most notably in Balenciaga’s F/W 11 campaign and on the floor of the runway, where Nicolas Ghesquière zoomed in on proportions of spongey black cable knits and exotic florals, which again acted as a contrast against those perfectly proportioned and evenly spaced lines.  Better still that the Raynaud-inspired white tiles played off against the gothic curves of a church in Harlem.

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Perhaps the biggest homage to Raynaud’s La Maison in fashion is French knitwear duo Piece d’Anarchive‘s S/S 14 collection.  In fact sisters Deborah and Priscilla Royer went one better and managed to score a collaboration with Raynaud for their S/S 14 presentation at the Palais de Tokyo back in September.  Against the backdrop of a composite video lookbook, Raynaud worked with the duo to install his arrangement of steel containers, filled with original fragments of his white tiled house.  Piece d’Anarchive were lucky enough to learn about his creative process and whilst the pure surface of his work permeates their collection, it is also his rigorous obsession to detail that influences the way they create their beautiful knitwear.

This collection entitled “Chapter 05” represents something of a shift for Piece d’Anarchive as they begin to explore a younger and for want of a better word, more “street” inspired style.  They avoid hackneyed cliches though because Deborah and Priscilla are so dedicated to technical perfection in their knitwear.  Styling devices like baseball caps, platformed Nikes/Converses (yes, I want them OBVS!) and logo-ed elastic suspenders don’t distract you from the precise machine knitted grids in yarns that along with other new generation knittists like Brooke Roberts and Lucas Nascimento, take knitwear to another level.

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