When I first started going to China for work a few years ago, I got into the whole Weibo thing for a while, updating in my pidgin Chinese and generally being very “Yay China!” about everything.  Then the few comments (and I don’t have a sizeable following on Weibo at all…) I got tended to be quite negative – why are you dressed like that, you’re fat, blah blah blah.  You get the same sort of thing on Instagram these days.  No biggie of course because eight years of blogging has thickened the skin somewhat, but in my head to go with what is a national stereotype anyway, conforming in China seems to be everything.  Go slightly out of line – be it through your choice of slightly voluminous trousers, your shade of lipstick or worse yet, your natural body type (yes, I have puffy cheeks – AND WHAT?) – and you put it out there and you can be sure to face a negative barrage of feedback.

Therefore it was heartening to find some sort of alternative haven.  A few days ago, I went up to Shenzhen to visit the designers ffiXXed for the book and they very kindly took me to OCT Loft – a creative assembly of studio and shops – where I met Timmy and Jason from Little Thing.  The Chinese name quite literally translates into “Fetish” but that would give people the wrong idea about this magazine and shop.  Timmy and Jason started their publication back in 2008 and has since built up a sizeable readership and cult following worldwide, and now they have added a shop to support all the sort of Little Things they like such as Indie Chinese and Asian labels, crafty bits and pieces from all around the world as well as their own clothing line Unilogical Poem.  It’s sort of like an Etsy vintage explosion inside the space as labels like patchwork pieces by Lu Flux from London and vintage-inspired Ms. Min mash up with cutesy patterned tights, handmade jewellery,  patchwork furniture (obsessed with the Brutcake chairs they had) and numerous kitschy knick knacks.  It can be twee overload but it’s nonetheless interesting to see Little Thing foster a like-minded community.  Little Thing regularly host events like flea markets and for the first time staged their own group indie fashion show last month, where their readers come together and suddenly, just when you think Chinese style seems so very carbon-copied and cookie-cutter-esque, out come a select group of eclectic mavens.

0E5A4392

0E5A4428

0E5A4427

0E5A4424

0E5A4432

0E5A4410

0E5A4433

0E5A4421

0E5A4403

0E5A4407

0E5A4401

0E5A4400

0E5A4397

0E5A4393

0E5A4395

The magazine was especially interesting to delve into and I took away a few issues to find a very thoroughly executed formula that makes Little Thing something of a unique entity.  I don’t *think* anything quite like it exists in other languages.  It’s kind of like a strange hybrid of Lula, Oh Comely, So-En, and Frankie mixed up with any number of those super specialist Japanese magazines about cookery, gardening and crafting.

IMG_4459

 

They have a love of labouring over the art of print, which has resulting in an opening page of paper cut pop-outs to go with the theme of every issue.

IMG_4467

IMG_4470

IMG_4473

Every issue has a set theme, such as Paper, Necklace, Candy or Porcelain.  They’re themes that feel thuddingly obvious and literal but in the magazine they manage to spin off in unexpected ways.  The theme is anchored with a central editorial where they really let their imaginations run wild.

IMG_4474

IMG_4476

IMG_4498

IMG_4501

IMG_4526

IMG_4527

IMG_4555

IMG_4557

IMG_4579

IMG_4582

They don’t run a great number of fashion stories in the magazine but there’s still enough to show some breadth.  Fortunately not everything is as OTT or kitschy themey as the central editorial.

IMG_4567

IMG_4568

IMG_4541

IMG_4520

IMG_4521

The theme then gets put into a educational and historical context.  The history of paper dolls, 18th century porcelain or Elizabethan jewels might be discussed.  It’s a pleasant surprise of a tangent filled with depth and detail, that you can’t quite imagine popping up in style titles in the West.  It’s well-researched (by my basic Chinese comprehension) and engaging and makes you wish other magazines would geek out on this level.

IMG_4502

IMG_4477

IMG_4536

IMG_4559

IMG_4584

 

The themes also get put into a contemporary cultural context so they give examples of cloud/space inspirations in fashion (for their Air issue) or jewellery appearing prominently in film (for their Necklace issue).

IMG_4562

IMG_4534

IMG_4560

IMG_4593

Then every theme is explored through interviews and profiles with artists, artisans, tradesmen, craftspeople and designers working today.  This is where Little Thing really excels as they seek to find names that aren’t necessarily household and then go quite indepth with their line of questioning.  It’s not a pithy one/two line mention with a pic or two but a real exploration of their portfolio and way of working.

IMG_4483

IMG_4479

IMG_4505

IMG_4532

IMG_4537

IMG_4585

IMG_4591

The obligatory street style element here is represented by a style diary of would-be Little Thing dream girls…

IMG_4488

IMG_4596

IMG_4513

To round-off the lifestyle component of Little Thing, much is devoted to interiors with people like Emily Chalmers of interiors store Caravan, regularly contributing a column about decoration and thrifting.

IMG_4542

IMG_4491

IMG_4570

Page space is also devoted to other lovely Insta/Pinterest friendly activities such as creating bouquets, eating healthily (but without the faddy diets) and other crafting techniques.

IMG_4548

IMG_4549

IMG_4496

IMG_4522

IMG_4573

IMG_4490

The point isn’t that I’m necessarily a Little Thing devotee.  Flicked at speed, the magazine can like I said, be too twee for my own taste.  But at the same time, in the context of a country that doesn’t necessarily have counter culture and rebellion against the mainstream ingrained into their mindset, Little Thing definitely is a breath of fresh air.  Judging by the number of advertorials it does run and the healthy print run it has, it also seems to be paying to be as niche as it is.  Cornering a specific aesthetic and mastering it is definitely one way of print media to weathering the great shift to digital.  I believe you can buy issues overseas through their Facebook page here if you think you might be slayed by the world of Little Thing.

>> Last year in May, I revisited and reminisced my teenage memory of Bath, and namely the wonderful Fashion Museum, where I distinctly recall pressing my 14-year old nose up against the glass so that I could better see an 18th century mantua court dress.  Who whudda thunk (yes, it’s a whudda thunk moment…) then that over a decade later, my own mug would be in a display at the Fashion Museum.  You might have already heard that I was asked to select Dress of the Year for 2013.

No surprise that I took the first opportunity to rectify what I thought was an omission from the DOTY line-up with my choice of a dress from Christopher Kane’s S/S 13 Frankenstein collection.  When it was announced that Kering would take a major stake in Kane’s business, that was a crowning point of Kane, and moreover London’s ascent in the industry’s eyes.  It’s no longer a will-skip but a must-see city in the roster of fashion weeks.  I could have chosen any one of the stellar designers that have emerged in London with not just creative output but sound commercially viable businesses as well,  but Kane obviously sticks out as London’s head boy designer.  No need for me to re-gush and re-labour my support for Kane – I’ve written reams already and I wear his wares consistently, which is how I put my money where my mouth is.  This dress with its components of anarchic black gaffer tape, sweet white lace, pretty pink crystals and a foundation of even prettier pink organza is a perfect example of the way Kane avoids design cliches, busts up conventional style genres and goes so outside of the box, that you end up at an entirely new place you never thought would work.  But it does.  It always bloody does.

To go with the dress, I paired it up with other London designers that are marking out their own idiosyncratic territory to showcase the diversity of talent that is coming out of the city – a signature pink pencil cap by Nasir Mazhar and a pair of liquorice neon bead shoes by Sophia Webster.

The decision to place an outfit picture behind the mannequin itself was to illustrate the odd nature of my being a selector at all.  In amongst the very impressive roll call of names who have selected dresses over the years – Vanessa Friedman, Sarah Mower, Alexandra Shulman, Hamish Bowles – I do stick out somewhat.  As an interloping bloody blogger (as some would like to see us) and moreover as someone with an unconventional induction into the industry – together with consultant to the museum Iain R. Webb and curator Rosemary Harden, we thought it might be interesting to contextualise DOTY.  If Christopher Kane’s selection is representative of a changing shift in the order of fashion cities where London has become more pre-eminent as a breeding ground for young talent, then me choosing this dress, is also representative of a changing media landscape in fashion.  The way we read, consume and find out about fashion has become splintered, sprawling and faster than ever with a multitude of platforms and sources coming at us.

P.S Thank you to Christopher Kane for providing a really ace quote to accompany the display.  “It’s a huge honour to be selected for the Dress of the Year award at the Fashion Museum in Bath, the dress means so much to me.  It’s a really good mixture of both tough and sweet.  It’s a remarkable dress chosen by a remarkable woman.”  *Blush* *Blush* *Blush*

P.P.S. Thanks to Rootstein for creating the mannequin with a razor sharp straight cut fringe and make-up that is doesn’t detract away from the bejewelled dress.  It’s my Kim Catrall in Mannequin dream come true!

dressoftheyear2013-03

SUSIE LAU DOTY 2013 C

0E5A0080

0E5A0087

0E5A0120

>> Morning Possums!  Oh wait, it’s morning here in Hong Kong, late into the night back in London and sort of late morning time in Aussie land, where possums – both the animal and affectionately called human beings – might be found.  There is a reason why I’m confuzzling you all on Instagram (ooops… how ru-ude of me to assume actually that you lot follow me on Instagram) with my jaunty travels from Sydney to Tokyo and now to Hong Kong.  The reason being is that I’m gathering pics and words galore for my upcoming book.  Yes, I’m writing a book.  Has it been formally announced?  I don’t think so… does it require a formal announcement?  Probably not.  And for good reason too seeing as I haven’t quite formulated the right words (or media blurb) to describe this thing that I’m penning.

In the meantime, I’ll be backtracking a little on the blog.  Real time, from-the-locale real blogging will be on hold for a while.  Back in Sydney just as MBFWA was coming to a close, I paid a visit to Little Hero’s PR showroom and was greeted with a table of colourful magpie-attracting lushness.  Lushness that hails from different corners of Australia by way of Melbourne, as compiled by Pieces of Eight – a jewellery collective that represents, showcases and gives workspace to mainly Australian jewellery designers and artists.  I visited their workshop site in the Fitzroy area of Melbourne a couple of years ago where Lucy Folk is based.  They have a more centrally based gallery, where their large scale installations and exhibitions can really flourish.   If Melbourne is a touch too far and remote for what I’d imagine would be the majority of you guys, then Edition X, Pieces of Eight’s online e-commerce and showroom arm will be worth a  click.

It’s where you can purchase similar if not the exact pieces that I ogled at in the showroom.  Like Melbourne-based Hamish Munro and his obsession with rubber balloons – scrunched up and compressed into bangles and rope necklaces or wrapped up in interlinking rainbow chains.  Or Renee Damiani from Adelaide and her use of plastic friendship bracelet lace and squeegy balls clustered into cartoonish formations.   You might be familiar with artist Kate Rohde‘s psychedelic coloured resin world, as she has previously collaborated with Romance was Born on their Dinosaur Renaissance collection (incidentally the first ever RWB show I saw).  That prompted Rohde to create more accessible jewellery pieces.  Self-described as “the natural history museum on acid”, Rohde’s work definitely adds impressive scale to Pieces of Eight’s roster.  Last but not least are Sophie Stone‘s beaded beings, which go bump in the night.  All of which of course made me wish I had added in a few days in Melbourne to revisit the left field side of Australian fashion that I tend to gravitate towards.  Just couldn’t really wreck the schedule for that thing I can’t quite articulate yet.

0E5A2095

Hamish Munro:

0E5A2038

0E5A2039

0E5A2057

0E5A2056

0E5A2089

0E5A2046

Renee Damiani:

0E5A2047

0E5A2041

0E5A2049

0E5A2076

0E5A2078

Kate Rohde:

0E5A2067

0E5A2072

0E5A2082

0E5A2074

0E5A2084

Sophie Stone:

0E5A2071

0E5A2068

>> During Milan and Paris fashion weeks, Phil Oh from Street Peeper and I were doing a spot of sun-chasing so that we could perform our double act as photographer and photographee for & Other Stories.  Those scant sunny days seem an age away but the pictures have finally gone live.   What’s the premise?  & Other Stories have print print print, colour colour colour going on for their high summer collections, which have just dropped online – a spot of marbling, some fruity florals, a pixelated landscape and folksy applique – and let me play around with it all, whilst goofballing it up with Phil.  The clothes may not have been weather appropriate when they were shot but you can almost smell good weather now.  Spring slash summer is well on its way here in Tokyo (I *gasp* wiped a bead of perspiration today off my forehead).  I gather it’s sort of the same in London.  Here’s hoping bare arms and legs are coming to us soon.

LO-14-13-PA-06 P 1 001 R1

BE-14-13-PA-03 P 1 001 R1

BE-14-13-PA-04 L 1 001 R1

LO-14-13-PA-05 P 1 001 R1

QU-14-13-MI-60 L 1 001 R1

QU-14-13-MI-55 L 1 001 R1

BE-14-13-PA-06 L 1 001 R1

QU-14-13-MI-56 L 1 001 R1

LO-14-13-PA-03 P 1 001 R1

BE-14-13-PA-05 L 1 001 R1

QU-14-13-MI-59 P 1 001 R1

BE-14-13-PA-02 P 1 001 R1

QU-14-13-MI-57 L 1 001 R1