VOCVN00WR0_1-2.pdf

“I like that she’s on the cover of Vogue.  It’s a really fitting denouement to this whole cultural farce.” (From Jezebel commenter Kirov)

It’s a generational thing.

It’s a moral thing.

It’s an intellect thing.

It’s a sex thing.

It’s a class thing.

It’s a race thing.

It’s a taste thing.

So many issues.  So many grievances.  But we’re all talking about this bloody cover.  We’re all engaged in these lengthy comment threads voicing our views on moral propriety and the “right” people to place on the cover of American Vogue and airily denouncing our allegiances to Vogue (come on – who ACTUALLY unsubscribed?  They make the process so lengthy you may as well stay subscribed).

I’ve never watched Keeping up with the Kardashians (no, for real – I don’t have MTV).  I only know her image by fleeting glimpses of her at shows and quick glances at her on websites and Grazia magazine.  She’s so far from my radar that I rarely ever wade into cover politics either.  The cover itself would barely have mustered a cursory thought in my head, until I started to read below the fold.  I delved fairly deep into the reactions – here, here and also on an in-depth Twitter/Instagram/Facebook search.

What struck me was a) the staunch values and “standards” that people place on Vogue US as a publication and b) the sharp level of judgement levied on all the things I mentioned above.  Feathers were ripped, rather than ruffled.  Or to borrow a phrase that people have been throwing about a lot – there was a lot of amusing “pearl clutching” as they denigrate this woman – who for them represents everything that is wrong with the world.

I’m just going to say it.  I kind of love that Vogue US threw out this controversial curveball.  At least, I love what has come out as a result.

On a personal level, whilst I highly respect the publication, I guess I have never placed such a high level of expectation that would get me riled up in the way that we’re seeing.  Their aesthetic is for me, mild-mannered, highly-polished with often very conventional notions of good taste in fashion.  There’s a multitude of style titles out there, that set the agenda for fashion in a way that I personally find far more interesting and so perhaps at the end of the day, perhaps I’m not the target audience for Vogue US.  Judging by a lot of their Facebook comments, their readers duly reflect this narrow view of fashion, as they make their sweeping generalisations of what is “classy” (a problematic word for me to the extreme) and what is “stylish”.  These rigid boundaries of taste feel constrictive and often not conducive to the extraordinary breadth of fashion that exists.

By placing Kardashian, this woman who, for so many, represents the epitome of “poor taste” on the cover, rang as first and foremost, a decision based on circulation figures and business nous (despite the heightened negative brouha, she WILL shift copies).  We can fruitlessly rile against that decision but it’s one that only Anna Wintour, who knows the ins and outs of the metrics of the publication as a business, can make.  And let’s not forget that’s what it boils down to – the business.  Romantic notions that Vogue as an establishment is held to these wildly artistic ideals are a little naive.  When people talk about Vogue like it’s a some sort of dreamy gateway to art and culture, it does make me chuckle when the reality is over 80% (maybe more) of the pages in the magazine is dedicated to selling pure product to readers.

Then beneath that, to me, it was a wry-tinged acknowledgement of the current culture climate – that for better or for worse, does reward the seemingly “talentless” (no judgement here – I have no idea what it is she does so am unable to assess her skills) people, who are very clever at self-promotion and putting out an image of themselves, that somehow engages people, based on a dichotomous mixture of hate and curiosity.  We live in an age of hate-fuelled voyeurism.  See this entire forum dedicated to GOMI blogs – as in “Get Off My Internetz”.  Vogue US, with this single cover, is acknowledging this movement and somehow, the debate spinning off of it as a result, is almost a positive contribution in itself as we sit here pondering the values of our society and how we have gotten to this point.

In a fairly safe but beautiful Lanvin dress, with Kanye West lingering in the background on this gold-y beige background, she’s toned down to the point of blandness so that the conversation beyond the pages of the magazine becomes far more interesting.  Let’s not hate the player, but the system that surrounds Kardashian, who is but a pawn (a very rich pawn, I grant you) in the game.  Let’s ask who are the people commissioning pap photos of her and who are the editors running them in their magazines, that are then bought by the public.  Who’s commissioning the reality TV series she’s on that has been renewed season upon season?  Who at Sears is saying “Let’s makes clothes together!” and piling them up on the racks?  Who is this whole other segment of the population propping all of these mechanisms up whilst this very public and noisy debate riles around her?

I’d loosely liken it to the way the personal style blogging genre is hated on, and how these girls are not “doing anything” other than get photographed (of course negating the hours and hours that goes into those images and the very fact that they SHIFT product).  Likewise, Kim Kardashian sells stuff.  The ongoing negative conversation around Kardashian still turns into $$$ for her.  We must ask ourselves why this is the case instead of emptily complaining, whilst hate-reading and hate-looking at the same time.

And so hey here I am penning a polemic about a US Vogue cover – that’s a first for me.  That’s because for once, they’ve touched a poignant extremity.  For better or for worse, the pair have lived up to that ungainly hashtag on the cover.  We are talking about them.  A lot.  Not in a good way but the discussion matters as our moral compasses spin violently, as we wonder whether we can change the system that the magazine, Kardashian and ultimately all of us are ensconced in.  And who instigated it?  Vogue US.  And what would have normally been a quiet and inconsequential April issue, throwing out pithy articles about pear and apple shapes no less.

We’ve been stuffing ourselves silly – gorging, even – on the fast food equivalent of fashion for years now to the point where (and I kid you not) in the pouring rain a woman accidentally dropped a bag full of brand new Primark clothes outside the Oxford Street store, but because she was running for the bus, decided to just leave it behind on the sodden pavement. And nobody batted an eyelid. Nor did they bother picking up whatever £2/£5/£10 pieces of clothing were inside to see if they’d be worth wringing out and taking home. They were that disposable. The bin man came and chucked the lot in his wheelie thing. That was about a year ago and I’m still fuming at the thought. I’m taking this opportunity to once again big up Fashion Revolution Day on 24th April – a tweet, a FB update, a cute Insta – anything and everything helps!

The very phrase “fast fashion” however took a different turn of events this season, as high fashion sought to either align or poke fun at fast/junk food treats. I’m talking namely about Jeremy Scott’s debut for Moschino, which I delved deep into for a piece that will be coming out in the forthcoming Style.com magazine so I’m keeping analysis to a minimum here.  Scott is no stranger to feasting in the junk food aisle, what with his pizza dresses and Snicker bar references.  It was a killer Insta-fashion move to marry up the golden arches with Moschino’s heart emblem and then put out an accompanying capsule collection out there on their website and in selected boutiques.  The collection and perhaps this central memorable motif incited extreme love coupled with extreme hate and that’s generally the way the pendulum has swung for Scott’s aesthetic.  That said, there’s no refuting the sheer energy, publicity and indeed, sales that Scott’s debut for Moschino has generated.  The sweater that I’m wearing here (full disclosure: it was a routine editor’s gift from Moschino in Milan judging by how many of these popped up on Instagram) is currently sold out on their site.

What started me on the fast food/fashion trail though was Kit Neale’s Perfectly Fried Chicken sweatshirt, from his Whammy! S/S 14 collection, which was a partial ode to his Peckham residence.  Fried chicken joints – not KFC, but the numerous off-shoots like Dixy, Chicken Cottage etc – are an integral, if slightly insalubrious part of urban high streets in the UK.  See Channel 4’s The Fried Chicken Shop for further proof.  There were a few sniggers as I walked down the street but certainly not out of malice – in Seven Sisters there is a universal appreciation for battered cheapo chicken.  The binge continued elsewhere as a personal childhood food reference popped up when new designer and fellow Hong Kong-er Ryan Lo centred his logo around Pocky packaging.  It says a lot about today’s fashion landscape, that young designers three or four seasons in are already thinking about overt branding and logos but Lo does it with a giant pinch of humour.  And dipped it in strawberry pink icing.  Tasty.

Both Anya Hindmarch and Chanel’s AW 14 supermarket escapades were well documented and made for a field day for trend reporters (oh my god – MORE than three shows that married food with fashion!) and analysts who could read deep into these commentaries on 21st century consumerism.  Hindmarch has long been kitsching it up and whilst we have Daz bags and Kellogg’s Cornflake clutches to look forward to in the coming season, her crisp packet clutch, debuted last season in her Out of This World show, has been making a crunchy metal impact.  Three of the colours are sold out, waiting to be restocked already.  And these aren’t cheapie value packs either.  They’re nearly £1,000 because of their lengthy manufacturing process, well documented on Hindmarch’s site.  Eating real crisps out of it involved lining it just so that the beautiful camel suede wouldn’t be greased up.

In a continued trail of instant recognisable tropes in post-2000 fashion – first the digital prints, then the return of the logo, then the rise of word art and slogans – to couple with the way our lives play out on social media, a marriage with recognisable food brands or items is a logical next step, whether people truly align themselves with the food brands or not.  Food corporation logos have a universal recognisability that goes beyond the double CC’s of Chanel or the Louis Vuitton monogram.  I lost count of the number of people in Marc Jacobs’ Coca-Cola-sanctioned S/S 14 sweatshirt or the Moschino French Fries phone cases dotted all around fashion week this season.  Some people will say they’re cheap ploys or “streetstyle bait” (a term I’m increasingly annoyed by) but what it all is essentially is a bit of fun.  There is no Naomi Klein-esque agenda or even vaguely subversive undertones.  It’s face value, everyman fun.  And by everyman, I mean the joke can be shared with people that are not remotely interested in fashion.  Just as Campbell Souper Dress made its impact on populist culture iconography, so too will these examples of co-branded food/fashion send ups.

P.S. Just so you know that I’m putting money – or in this case, food – where my mouth is, I am actually partial to McDonalds at least once a month (their Filet O’ Fish hits a a sweet sweet gherkin mayo spot – don’t ask me why), and I will leap off a plane in New York and head to a Popeye’s for what really is Perfectly Fried Chicken (sadly our UK counterparts just don’t cut it – unless you go to chi-chi-cool joints like Rita’s in Hackney).  As for Pocky and Walker’s crisps?  Well… need, you ask?  By the by, salt and vinegar IS the only flavour to be chomping on and I far prefer matcha to strawberry Pocky.

IMG_9588

IMG_9609

IMG_9628Kit Neale Perfectly Fried Chicken sweatshirt worn with Sacai skirt, J Brand jeans and Purified shoes

IMG_9650

IMG_9652Moschino Over 20 Billion Served sweater (sold out – for now) worn with Flavia la Rocca striped dungarees

IMG_9686

IMG_9698Ryan Lo t-shirt, lace shirt and matching skirt

IMG_9711

IMG_9754

IMG_9774Anya Hindmarch crisp clutch worn with Tome metallic shirt and Oh My God skirt

24th April will mark the one year anniversary since 1,133 people died in the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh.  It will now henceforth be known as Fashion Revolution Day, as Carry Somers, founder of ethical fashion label Pachacuti and Orsola de Castro, will be encouraging everyone and anyone to use fashion as a power to do good.  We’re asked to be curious about the origin of what we wear and so everyone can get involved by Tweeting, Facebooking or emailing the brand of your favourite piece of clothing, worn #InsideOut to ask them “Who Made Your Clothes?”  My interview with de Castro earlier in the year wasn’t just a one-off gesture.  I’ll be getting involved by asking a whole series of #InsideOut questions.  We shall see what answers come back in this united bid to seek out transparency from fashion brands.

FRD_Facebook_Cover_Pattern_Pink

FRD_posters27

thecutPhotograph by Koo for The Cut

One designer that doesn’t need to be turned inside out is Flavia la Rocca.  Originally from Rome, but now based in Milan, Flavia comes from a PR background but since 2011 has started her own label with a difference.  Flavia approaches sustainability in a number of ways.  The foundation core of her clothing is based on the idea of interchageable modules.  “The Folded Looks” series developed for SS14 comprises of a number of components with specially concealed zippers – a top that can be elongated, a pencil skirt that can then be adapted into a mini skirt or a mid-length skirt with a flounce, and the two can be connected to create a dress.  It’s eight outfits in one, handily folded up into a pouch, that saves energy and resources on the part of manufacturer and for the wearer, encourages a less-is-more approach.  Flavia doesn’t ignore the origin of her materials either as she a) makes everything entirely in Italy and b) uses a material called Newlife, made from plastic bottles to convert into a high performance thread.  It ticks the right  boxes without sacrificing or scrimping on design.  I’ve already had firsthand experience of Flavia’s concealed zipper action as she very kindly sent me a pair of red striped dungarees from one of her earlier capsule collections that a number of people have been asking me about, regardless of Flavia’s green credentials.  Yoox.com have just introduced the S/S 14 collection featuring a few of these combi-pieces as part of their Master & Muse project, selected by Amber Valetta.

fold1

fold2

fold3

fold4

Flavia’s A/W 14 collection was the breakout hit of the Esthetica showcase at London Fashion Week.  It carries on that combi-zippered structure with the major change-up being the core fabric – an ultra soft regenerated and recycled wool, made out of surplus fabric.  Shirts can be cropped, sweatshirt sleeves can be elongated and coats can be shortened into a jacket.  Wool check tunics can be worn in a myriad of ways.  And the zippers are still subtly concealed to provide a smooth transition from one form to another.  Flavia’s forward thinking extends to the way she sells her clothes as most of her A/W 14 collection is currently available to pre-order at a discounted (and might I add, very reasonable) pricing on crowd-funded fashion site Wowcracy.  You can take immediate action by supporting her Wowcracy project, and that would be a fine starting point when looking at fashion #InsideOut.

flaviar2

flaviar3

flaviar1

flaviar4

flaviar5

flaviar6

flaviar7

flaviar8

flaviar9

flaviar10

flaviar11

flaviar12

flaviar13

flaviar14

Cara Delevigne stole the headlines with what was proclaimed to be the first ever Selfie on a fashion runway at the Giles show during London Fashion Week but on the night before, at the Drury Club in Covent Garden, the young designer Tessa Edwards had her models taking selfies, whilst modelling her A/W 14 collection “As Seen On Screen.”  Sure, Cara and her millions of followers make the story a prominent one but at Giles, the selfie was used as a publicity device – a bit of fun and froth to amplify the charm of Cara D – and bore little relation to clothes.

Therefore Edwards can indeed claim first dibs on the selfie-on-the-catwalk-thing as well as a salient bit of commentary on the way we perceive and project ourselves into the public sphere.  Edwards isn’t a designer that shirks away from “deep” ideas.  Having been to one of her shows, her work deliberately flits between platforms of fashion and art to investigate the idea of identity – or “society’s monster” as she puts it as she deems society to have become sheep-like consumers rather than conscious individuals.  She’s someone who reads between the lines to present collections that bristle with ideas and make you think, as well as push fantastical boundaries that Edwards can truly call her own.  Last season for S/S 14, Edwards explored the values of “sportsmanship”, where sportswear codes take on deeper meanings beyond the surface-driven way the fashion world has appropriated sportswear.

JayKirton:Catwalk04

aw14-high-res-lb-image-4

aw14-high-res-lb-image-3

JayKirton:Selfies11

aw14-high-res-lb-image-10

JayKirton:Selfies04

aw14-high-res-lb-image-1

JayKirton:Selfies03

aw14-high-res-lb-image-15

JayKirton:Selfies08

aw14-high-res-lb-image-9

JayKirton:Selfies05

aw14-high-res-lb-image-13

JayKirton:Selfies07

aw14-high-res-lb-image-7

JayKirton:Selfies09

aw14-high-res-lb-image-fakey-real

JayKirton:Selfies10

It’s impossible to over-read into Edwards’ loaded A/W 14 presentation where the models carried iPhones vacuum sealed in gold, to tie in with their mirrored gold ensembles, spliced with crystals and slashed lace-up detailing and cut through with bold chevron stripes.  The abundance of gold was a reference to the biblical story about the worship of the Gold Calf and physically reflected the models taking pictures of themselves – just another way for them to glean at their faces.  There are both grandiose silhouettes that jutted out at all angles and shapes that referenced the Islamic burka, raising questions of choice and freedom of the way we express ourselves through dress.

Full disclosure, I wasn’t physically at the show but could feel its sentiment through the resulting images.  This wasn’t a #totesamaze selfie to perk editors up and give them a snazzy headline to write about.  Edwards was striving to make us think about the way we take to social media today and how the abundance of images that we see on a day-to-day basis shape our 21st century vision of fashion.  Just as I wrote a defense for street style imagery, which has freed our perception of fashion, at the same time, I do wonder whether the internet has also narrowed our notions of what is deemed acceptable or cool, because of the way our images are out in the public domain, open to judgement.

IMG_5360

photo-(7)

photo-(10)

photo-(17)

photo-(8)

photo-(11)

photo-2

photo-1

photo-(12)

photo-(5)

Edwards doesn’t merely put out a presentation as an artistic statement.  She understands what fashion is – you can make cultural commentary but at the end, there’s something to desire and buy too.  Her e-shop launched with the AW 14 collection of “Nexus” jewellery immediately available to buy alongside a core collection of tees.  The product doesn’t diminish what Edwards is trying to say.  They’re the physical manifestations of her messaging.  Even with a teensy bijoux pair of crystal studs she has something to say.  The same can’t be said of everyone.

aw14-high-res-lb-image-5

aw14-high-res-lb-image-6

aw14 accessories final web wrist cuff

aw14 accessories final web neck cuff

aw14 accessories final web hoop

aw14 accessories final web ring

aw14 accessories final web stud