bicester

Ooops.  That would be the word.  Or make it a Bicester Ooops.  That happens pretty much every time I am up at Bicester Village.  To be fair, the majority of contents in those shopping bags are for other people but still, it is a bit of an ooops.  It’s that time of year again when British Designer’s Collective is back for another round at Bicester Village.  It’s the fifth time British designers have been gathered up to pop-up at Bicester Village to add into the mix of impressive label roster and this year, the theme has been to combine the worlds of art and fashion together.  A pre-event launch at Keeper’s House, Royal Academy’s new-ish art lover social space set the tone.  And then on an early morning train with other giddy fashion journos, we went up to Bicester Village to see what Yasmin Sewell and her retail magic team have conjured up.  A striking blue studded exterior that carries through to the inside houses a real snapshot of where British fashion is today.  Sure we’re talking past seasons here but it’s the range that is impressive.  Up above on the walls you have pieces by artists and Royal Academicians like Gary Hume and Grayson Perry to compliment the rails as well as adding an art dimension that hasn’t really been seen before at Bicester.

Designer wise, you have your established folk – Roksanda Ilincic, Mary Katrantzou, Peter Pilotto, Jonathan Saunders, Richard Nicoll and House of Holland – all wildly different and coming together in an eclectic pot.  Nicholas Kirkwood is a big draw on the shoe front.  They’re names that are reaching household status.  You then have  your new establishment or whatever you want to call this middling category with J.W. Anderson, J J.S. Lee, Michael van der Ham and Holly Fulton, again representing very different aesthetic strands.  Finally you have your very very new new designers in Marques Almeida, Claire Barrow and Ryan Lo, designers, who aren’t necessarily easy to find on rails in London.  That in itself is worth the short train ride up to Bicester.  On the day I was full-on dressed up in Team Ryan lace and glitter (I think I may have left a trail of iridescent glitter behind me on the Chiltern Railways train – that’s another “Ooops!”).  By the end of the day, I had procured a beautiful painted Claire Barrow white leather biker jacket, conjured up from her imagination.  These pieces sell themselves without needing instantly recognisable names as a draw.  New visitors to this year’s edition of BDC are definitely in for a treat.

P.S. If you’ve seen me tagging #BDCSelfie on social posts, that’s because I’m helping BDC to pick out creative selfies to win four £250 vouchers (and I promise that goes a long way at a place like Bicester – £40 Prada earrings anyone?).  Just follow @BicesterVillage on Twitter or Instagram and post a creative selfie, tagging them with #BDCSelfie to go into the competition pot.

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IMG_0265From left to right: Jackie Lee, Natalia Barbieri (designer of Bionda Castana), Desiree Bollier (CEO of Value Retail), Ellie Goulding, Yasmin Sewell, Claire Barrow, Ryan Lo

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IMG_0214Mary Katrantzou stamps and currency

IMG_0208Peter Pilotto dress

IMG_0239J.W. Anderson ensemble

IMG_0251House of Holland

IMG_0213House of Holland sunnies

IMG_0292Jonathan Saunders and Peter Pilotto are the star draws of BDC

IMG_0254Dreamscape pieces by Mary McCartney for Lulu & Co

IMG_0286Collage prints by Michael van der Ham

IMG_0222Holly Fulton gets lippy

IMG_0234Great workhorse pieces by J J.S. Lee

IMG_0206Lovely knits by Lucas Nascimento

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IMG_0241I heart Ryan Lo – duh!

IMG_0288One-off painted leather jacket by Claire Barrow

IMG_0274Claire Barrow’s painted bag

IMG_0287Frayed denim pieces by Marques Almeida

IMG_0224Geometric goodies by Nicholas Kirkwood

IMG_0216Bionda Castana powder blue beauties

Meet Ottopi. He has moon shaped eyes and is a playful little thing. He’s from planet MJ and has landed on planet earth to go run away with a circus, wrecking imaginative havoc wherever he goes. Ottopi has been conjured up by Korean designer Minju Kim, who successfully collaborated with H&M when she won their Design Award last year and produced what I thought was one of their most interesting designer collabs to date, with her signature manga-inspired illustrations and surreal storytelling through clothes. You may recall there was a pair of intricate wedge shoes with studded and fringed leather tongues. They were developed with the help of young Korean shoe company Acrobat, who specialise in pursuing comfort and practicality in footwear with interesting design details.

Before Minju Kim, who splits her time between Seoul and Antwerp, presents another formal collection next year, she wanted to engage in some fun projects with her friends. “I want to work with young designers who has a strong belief and philosophy in their work and the goals that they are trying to achieve,” says Kim. As I discovered last year when I went to Seoul, there’s a frisson of fashion energy there that is quite exciting – lots of local labels, boutiques, cafes and fervour bubbling up together to form an enthusiasm about fashion, that goes beyond the shiny surface of K-pop and celebrities.

So we have Minju Kim x Acrobat and their newborn creature Ottopi, who is a symbol thinked up and illustrated by Kim to represent their fusion of ideas and free thinking imagination. Ottopi has invaded Acrobat’s shoes in a collection of mary-janes with pleasingly chunky heels, flatforms and loafers so that they all essentially make funny faces at you as toy look down on your feet. Cut out leather pieces, studs, crosses, fringed tongues and allusions to faces of creatures. They launched on Friday in Seoul across some in-store events and are currently available in Korea only, but the plan is the sell them on the Acrobat website from July and possibly internationally when they go into a showroom in Paris in September, so this is an early early heads up.

It’s hard to resist the charm of an imaginative collaboration that is as well conceived as this. I especially like the video that Minju Kim and Acrobat have made in collaboration with Seoul-based VJ Parpunk and design agency Viewzic, with music created by Yukari. Kim’s original illustrations are animated mapped out and emerge thumping with energy. It’s a coming together of Seoul creativity with clever and tangible product at the horizon.

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As a side note, Minju Kim also took part in a small installation at Antwerp’s MOMU where she and four other young Belgian designers designed an ensemble inspired by Minnie Mouse and I have to say this is one of the best “fashion” Minnie’s I’ve seen yet.

Maison Minnie Mouse

Maison Minnie Mousse

HERMES MASK_3

>> One of my personal pinnacles of last year was going to Lyon to witness how a Hermès silk scarf is created from start to finish.  That was a mesmerising experience watching colourists, engravers, printers and finishers lavishing skill and love to produce those perfect carrés.  This year I’ll be having an altogether different Hermès silk experience.  I’m very pleased and extremely excited to announce that I will be collaborating with Hermès to have what promises to be a rambunctious night at their inaugural Silk Ball in London on June 26th, held at Koko in Camden.  Hermès is doing a surprise detour and having some fun, and with their signature silks, they’ve had the opportunity to express their whimsical spirit with campaigns such as J’Aime Mon Carré, their series of Swinging Silk events, and the recent launch of their Silk Knots App.  The Silk Ball, which they will also be hosting in other cities around the world, will be their night to showcase how their silks come alive once they emerge from those famous orange boxes.  Now, I’ve not been to a great deal of balls let alone one hosted by Hermès so I’m not au fait with normal ball protocol, but with the following mantra and dress code, it’s safe to say we can expect something that strays away from the stiff balls of yesteryear…

It’s time to metamorphose 

Extravagance and elegance 

Magic and make-believe 

Finery, sequins and flashes of folly

Dress Code: Beauty or Beast // masks and headdresses // silk scarves // fantastical make up

Give me a dress code and I’m there in a heart beat.  And as it turns out, you will be able to go too!  As in you, you and you.  Hermès and Style Bubble would like to invite people, who have a love of silk, dressing up and expressing themselves to come along to this one-off night so you’re not just vicariously living through social media feeds of a lucky few.  We’ve hopefully made it pretty simple for people to enter.  

– You can either leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me @susiebubble.  I will also be hosting the competition on Instagram in a series of posts so that people can enter there if they so wish.  

– Just complete the following sentence

“I would like to go to the Hermès Silk Ball because… ” 

– Obviously on Twitter you’re limited by 140 characters but if you’re leaving a comment, feel free to go word wild.

– If you’re commenting, please enter a real email address in the comment field so that we can contact you and on Twitter, please follow me so that I can DM you if you are chosen.

– I’ll be picking out the answers and you’ll be notified either by email or DM if you are chosen as a guest.  All guests chosen will be free to bring a plus one to the ball.

T’s and C’s: You have to be over 18. Obviously don’t enter if you know you cannot attend the ball on Thursday June 26th.  Please be aware that you would need to be in London on the night and obviously you’ll need to get yourself to the ball.  You must also have a verified UK address to enter as Hermès would need to mail a physical invite to you.  All answers must be submitted by 6th June to be eligible.

I look forward to playing fairy godmother with Hermès… 

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Louise Wilson

In my last post, I didn’t go into detail about the course of roller coaster emotions, which preceded and followed the Louis Vuitton Cruise show in Monaco.  In between the anxiety of keeping an eye on the FA Cup score back in London (Arsenal were 2 nil down just before the show) and watching an incredible collection play out on a digital water catwalk, and then finally concluding the footie with a comeback win (jealous of everyone who got to see the parade in Islington by the way…), a piece of shocking news broke.  Louise Wilson had passed away.  Imran Amed and I were poring over Twitter/Google+ updates to verify the news as we were taking our places for the show.  It was a shock, not least because Wilson was only 52 but that a creeping sense of panic over her loss had already set in.  Her name might not be in the wider public consciousness but her impact on fashion at large, from high street to high end, can’t be overstated.

Even as the Louis Vuitton show was playing out, I wondered about the design team, which is working under Nicolas Ghesquiere and how many of them have passed through the tutelage of Louise Wilson.  People focus on the starry names who studied under her twenty-year plus charge as course director of Central Saint Martin’s illustrious MA programme.  They regularly reel off Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Jonathan Saunders, Simone Rocha as examples but look into every major house and fashion company in the world and Wilson proteges exist in every corner.

I don’t want to write a fluff piece reiterating bio facts and achievements.  I don’t want to pretend that I knew Wilson well either.  I didn’t.  Instead, I had a number of brief but memorable encounters with her, where her every word made me think, especially with regard to my own tenuous position as an industry interloper.  Here was a woman, who was a behemoth in the industry, who knew it inside and out, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes to push fashion further, through the output of her students.  She had seen it all, and saw past the fluff and chaff of fashion – a category which “bloody bloggers” could well fall under.  Therefore nuggets like “I hate bloggers but I like you” will always mean much more to me than she’ll ever know.  When I’d go and see the MA students’ portfolios at Central Saint Martins and other tutors would be reluctant to let me take pictures, Wilson was kind enough to let me go about my business.  She was fiercely protective of her students’ talent and ideas.  After all she understood how the system abuses creativity.  I was keen to make her understand that I want to champion and showcase CSM MA fashion design at its finest.  Wilson obliged and even fought my corner once, by saying “I know what you’re trying to do and I get it.”  That meant a lot.

At our other encounters, Wilson would rail about funding in education, the way young designers are quickly promoted in London, and how companies (which shall go unnamed) exploited fashion graduates.  Every word rang true and stayed with you, not least because physically her voice boomed and her speech was peppered with F’s and C’s.  Wilson did make me think that sometimes what I did as a profession was part of the problem. But that she didn’t tell me to fuck off whenever I saw her was a sign of approval.

My thoughts are with her immediate family of course but also the hundreds (nay, maybe thousands?) of people whose careers and outlook were shaped by her dedication to fashion education.  If my fleeting meetings with her got me thinking harder about what I did, then every person she has ever taught in that intense CSM environment will be feeling this loss far heavier and harder.

I’ve been typing in present tense and correcting myself constantly throughout this post.  I still can’t quite grasp what Central Saint Martins’ fashion department will be like without Wilson.  Actually, I can’t fathom what fashion period, will be like without Wilson.  That’s how great her impact was.