Some of you who follow me on Instagram will be familiar with this little one but allow me to formally introduce you to Lily…

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…. She is the niece of my boyfriend Steve and is objectively speaking one of the cutest and prettiest babies I’ve come across ever (and I’ve had a lot of baby experiences what with my many many cousins).  She’s coming up to her 2nd birthday and because I will be in Paris next weekend and will miss her party, I thought I’d give her an early pressie – a Roksanda Ilincic patent raincoat from her Blossom childrenswear range, which I had bought at a sample sale.  Actually you can add that pressie to the many indulgent gifts, which I have given Lily because I have gotten into this naughty habit of playing dress-up with her.  And so it is that I have shamefully succumbed to the thing that I used to vehemently scoff at – designer childrenswear and to some extent the parents who buy these clothes for their blessed children.  I scoffed for the usual reasons.  Babies and children grow and they grow fast (young Lily is actually wearing a coat made for a 4 year old because she is incredibly tall for her age) and there is no sense in paying over the odds for clothes that they will outgrow in a matter of months and will undergo regular wear and tear.  Others will weigh in with their own more moralistic reasons of objection – that kids shouldn’t be exposed to brands and rampant consumerism and that what they wear shouldn’t dictate their sense of self worth so early on.  This article on NJAL makes a point about contemporary childrenswear becoming more “adult-looking” – is that right when we hold this wafty moral judgement that “kids should be allowed to be kids.”  Or that the sanctity of childhood shouldn’t be tainted by concepts such as child models and unrealistic beauty ideals (although arguably you see a greater diversity in children’s modelling than you do in their adult counterparts…).

I liked this piece that Vanessa Friedman wrote last year, reacting to the launch of Global Kids Fashion Week in London and the rise of the childrenswear sector in amongst fashion brands.  She doesn’t necessarily object to designer fashion for children for the aforementioned reasons.  Instead she points out that there is value to learning about the way clothes are a form of expression.

Childhood is a time for learning that clothes serve a purpose (beyond warmth and protection); that they are effective ways to telegraph who you are: jeans-and-T-shirt tomboys, tulle-skirted princesses, spotty/stripy originals – all selves that my own children have, literally, tried on  When children appear in head-to-toe pink, or clashing patterns, it’s not because they don’t know how to dress; it’s because that’s how they have chosen to dress. That said, learning that choice has an effect on those around them is a key lesson, now more than ever, as image becomes a crucial tool in communication.

That may apply to older children with a better understanding of their peers, actions and surroundings.  It’s a weaker case when it comes to babies at Lily’s age.  Still, that hasn’t stopped me from going into Bonpoint in Bicester (I will let it be known that every piece of “designer” childrenswear I’ve bought for Lily has been heavily discounted…) and picking up little Liberty print dresses, being increasingly tempted by Stella McCartney’s persuasive kidswear and gorging over the cuteness-laden images in Milk Magazine.  The truth is I have succumbed because it is deeply satisfying for me to project my own tastes in childrenswear (and to some extent adult clothes – I mean, OBVIOUSLY I would wear all this stuff in adult sizes) and to have a little person, who is acquiescing to this dress-up routine by laughing and squealing whenever she tries on new things.  Case in point, after trying out the Roksanda raincoat in the park and picturesquely jumping in puddles, the next morning she wanted to wear the coat again.  Yikes – sartorial smart cookies are getting younger and younger.  Clearly Lily has already developed a taste for a well-judged trapeze volume and a perfect peter pan collar.

It may still be far, far away but it’s hard not to think about the choices I would make with my own offspring in the future, given how easily I’ve waded into designer childrenswear, against my better judgement – for a little girl who isn’t even related to me by blood.  No use in blaming the brands, who have capitalised on the growing demand from well-off folk to kit out their sprogs in designer togs.  Then is it a matter of making the right judgement calls when it comes to aesthetic and price?  I’m probably still unlikely to swan into Harrods childrenswear department and buy up Chloe baby-gros and Baby Dior nappy bags nor will I sniff at those that make the choice to do so.  In my head, I’ll be making concessions for occasional on-sale pieces from the likes of Petit Bateau because they are aesthetically charming and they errr…. wash well (Steve’s sister makes the same justification for her Petit Bateau purchases for Lily, which apparently wash better than H&M or Zara).  And of course working in the biz with perks of sample sales and discounts, the likes of Roksanda’s Blossom range as seen in this outrageously cute A/W 14 lookbook will be in all likelihood, immensely difficult to resist.

Scoff away people…

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>> This is how I roll as I ricochet from Hermes silk scarves to socks with hot dogs and cheese in a high-to-low brow vortex. It is like, oh my god, so RAN-DOM – a catch-all word to encapsulate the internetz over run with cat GIFS, rap star cursors, mega old images of TLC and Aaliyah and emoticons.  It’s this sort of world that Melbourne-based socks label Unempire occupies too.  I only got an email prod from Unempire designer Zoë Lea a couple of hours ago and considering that socks-wise, I’m pretty loyal to Ayame and Tabio for all my day-to-day and occasion-based hoisery needs, this little props post might come as a surprise.

That said, it is indeed hard to resist socks that feature prawns, croissants, cheese, cheese-dipped nachos, frankfurters and my beloved fortune cat – especially when photographed with aforementioned food items IRL.  You want to delve deep into the mind that deems it necessary to send socks that make you rumble in the tummy out into the world.  After being made redundant from for a big fashion company, Zoë decided to design something useful and do her own thing and came up with Unempire – the words “unemployment” and “empire” fused together to put two fingers up to stick it to the Man.   Turns out that behind the peace signs, the mega LOLZ-food n’ feet and ironic (or totes serious?) rapper loving, Zoë does have a cause or two to fight for.  On her info page, she talks about how her socks are made in Taiwan – and no, not by an evil generic child-laboured factory but by a manufacturer who are certified members of SEDEX (a non-for-profit organisation responsible for empowering sustainable and ethical supply chains).  Zoë seeks to debunk a myth that outsourcing manufacture offshore immediately means you’re cutting corners to maximise profit.  “They (my Friends in Taiwan) turn my silly drawings into a really fuckin’ top notch wearable reality, and they do it whilst being friends to each other and friends to our beloved Planet Earth,” she concludes on her info page and so behind the lightweight foodie fun, there’s a hefty ethos.

It carries on as in an interview with website The Rogue, Zoë talks about the shift of shopping patterns in Australia (although not exclusively so…) – something I touched on when I rounded-up MBFWA on Business of Fashion.  To compete, you need something idiosyncratic and well, it doesn’t really get any more niche-like with Unempire’s fetish for food and feet.

Times are indeed tough in the fashion industry due to the shift toward online shopping, especially with huge global Meccas like ASOS that just beat out everyone in prices and product mix. Plus, online shopping aside, the world is a very small place now thanks to the internet. Ideas are very quickly shared, copied and re-packaged for a cheaper price to a wider market share.  So on a mainstream retail level, there is always a cheaper version of the item you want. The higher the manufacturing volume, the cheaper the price, and Australia is a small country in terms of population, so the quantities produced by even our largest fashion companies are no match for the cheap-fast-fashion juggernauts based in China and South Korea.  I think to survive, Australian businesses really to focus on quality and originality – offer a product and service that cannot be replicated by cheap overseas manufacturers.  Find a niche and fill it. “Fashion” is very accessible, but quality and originality are not…So, IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME y’all.

Hear that?  Now get ye to Unempire’s Big Cartel store and feed your feet…

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As I entered Koko, three hours or so before the Hermès Silk Ball was about to kick off, I was trying to sift through my foggy brain to remember the last time I was there.  It may have been seven or eight years ago.  It may have been a Foals gig.  I may have licked the gilded and red statues that adorns the interior.  It’s all a bit of a haze.  On this occasion though, Koko was no longer a drunken blue of red and gold but brought up to high definition thanks to Hermès lifting the venue up with illuminated prints of their silk scarves dotted around and a central tunnel of silk leading to the middle level of this cavernous space.  To put this all into context though, a party hosted by Hermès at Koko, with guests that included not just fashion industry peeps and a select group of Hermès clients but also a diverse crowd of competition winners (hosted on this blog and through my Instagram) and bloggers, is an unlikely combination.  With Hermès’ silk offering – their “fun” product – they wanted to stray beyond the polite boundaries of a luxury house like Hermès.  Fun was certainly the operative word.  

It was a memorable night filled with good old fashioned, unpretentious and non-wanky fun.  A fashion PR, who I had invited walked in and said “This doesn’t feel like a fashion party.”  An hour later and she was slurring enthusiastic words in my ear about how much fun she was having.  Not resembling a fashion party is a good thing, if we take typical “fashion party” to mean fashion industry folk dropping in for five minutes to an event, having one begrudged drink, saying “Hi/Bye!” to a PR to ensure that they’ve registered on their radar and looking around to see if there are any opportunistic conversations to be had with somebody better/cooler/higher up on the rungs.  The crowd was hugely diverse and thanks to everyone coming up to me every two minutes to say  “Thank you!  I’m one of the competition winners!” (yay for saying “Hi!” in real life – take that, virtual world), I learned that a mix of fashion/textiles/journalism students, designers, illustrators as well as accountants and lawyers were present with their plus 1’s.  By and large they were people who probably hadn’t experienced aforementioned sad-face fashion party.  They were up for it, enthusiastic and tellingly many of the competition winners who entered the venue bang on at 8pm stayed until the glitter and confetti-strewn end at midnight.

Therefore first and foremost, Hermès have to be commended for even allowing such an event to happen and eschewing luxury fashion etiquette norm.  Then there were the many bonuses because Hermès had thought of every single detail to make the night full of fun nuggets to take away.  The dessert buffet laid out with edible flower-strewn profiteroles, fruit platters and all kinds of fondants/mousses/creams.  In abundance were pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and lobster rolls too.  Route to fun?  Food.  Eating is certainly not cheating.  Upstairs on the upper level, was a Room of Transformation, with a gang of make-up artists ready to adorn your face and hair with flowers, butterflies or both in your chosen colour scheme.  There was a Room of Emotion where the mystical Stefan read your fortune with both silk and tarot cards.  Mine was Phoenix Cheval – some kind of embodiment of fashion’s past and future.  Intense!  There were the creatures – a Princess, a Cheval, a Faune and a Phoenix – parading around in incredible costumes constructed out of Hermès silk.  There were the chameleon photobooths set up by the dancefloor for guests to be draped in silk and pose against matching walls to echo their S/S 14 Soie Folle campaign.  Photos would be sent to guests as a souvenir of the night.  People were astonished by the level of detail and care that had gone into it.  It wouldn’t have surprised the more cynical crowd and in truth there was a deliberate intention to create Insta-friendly fodder, inviting everyone to squeal, snap and  share.  But that generosity was appreciated and happily reciprocated, havine done a quick search on Instagram/Twitter.  Satisfaction from both parties.  

On the subject of dress code, Hermès may have asked us to metamorphose into Beauty or Beast with masks and fantastical make-up.  However it was all open to interpretation.  Nobody was going to be barred if they didn’t arrive in full ball regalia.  Some people dipped their toes into dressing up.  Some people were full on (thumbs up to the two guys who turned up looking like extras from the Amadeus masquerade ball scene).  If you wanted to gussy up your look, Hermès’ handsome hosts and hostesses were handing out paper cut-out masks and wetting temporary tattoos on the skin.  As much as I fantasised about an 18th century mantua dress covered in Hermès silk, that wasn’t going to happen and so even I, lover of all things new-and-shiny, dug out a trusty Rachel Comey print dress and let the Hermès scarves do their knotted and draped thing.  Paired with a some jingle jangle by jewellery designer Lucy Folk, I *think* I was going for a sort of, ish, kind of, not-really, tropicana theme.  Rule of thumb when it comes to good old-fashioned fun – not being overly precious about what you’re wearing.  

It’s no ball without dance.  And this was the part that Hermès really aced, considering that so many fashion parties consist of people standing cooly on the dance floor, drink in one hand, business card in the other.  They called upon an amazing group of Vogue-ing dancers, who performed at regular intervals during the night and then urged the audience to “Silk It Up” with easy-to-learn routines.  And yes, loads of people participated.  At one point, I looked down from the top tier balcony to the dance floor and stage and thought, “OMgeeeeeeee, it’s like a She’s All That co-ordinated prom scene!” with people dancing routines in sync and in line.  My hands were clicking on a camera as opposed to Vogue-ing but it was awesome to watch.  I chose to break out with cheesy moves in the last hour instead.

The results of the evening? A barefooted walk home, a cracking headache the next morning and a tasty bacon sarnie as a hangover cure.  That’s the sort of fun I remember having the first time round when I used to frequent Koko.  Some things don’t change.

P.S. I forgot to take a picture of the lovely MC Orla who led the proceedings of the night.  I have to apologise for subjecting her to half an hour of the most haphazard, improvised styling session as I tried to fashion an outfit out of scarves for her.  There is a reason why I’m not a proper, legit stylist.

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0E5A1503Rachel Comey dress, Comme des Garcons sequinned sleeve, Minju Kim x Acrobat shoes, Lucy Folk jewellery, Peaches and Cream earrings and a ton of Hermès scarves…

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The Room of Emotion with Stefan…

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The Room of Transformation…

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Creatures of the night…

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0E5A1596One of my favourite outfits of the night to the right.

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0E5A1825Princess Julia in Meadham Kirchhoff and her friend in vintage Mugler

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0E5A1780Lisa King twirling around in her silk prints…

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0E5A1836Sister Lau’s unite!

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0E5A1996Love that illustrator Clara Gomez came and decided to draw some of the guests and creatures

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>> I’m in a GIF-y kind of a mood.  Why?  Tonight is the night when I peel myself off couch/chair and head down to Koko to dance the night away (or at least embarrassingly shuffle around with a drink in hand) at the Hermès Silk Ball!  As we speak, I’m still surrounded by a mound of scarves wondering how to fashion it all into something resembling ball attire.  The GIF is definitely still a work in progress but a little help from Comme des Garcons and a beloved Rachel Comey dress will hopefully help me in my scarf puzzle quandry.  Oh, and I seem to be outfit-procrastinating since I’m waving around a tennis-themed scarf, and somewhat distracted by Wimbledon on telly.  With five hours to go, I’ll be just fine *she whistles and wonders*… 

There’s still quite a few surprises to be sprung upon guests tonight but for those of you there in spirit and not physically, the Hermès Instagram will be your best bet as well as post-event vicarious reel of pics here.  Koko is quite a cavernous space so there’ll be plenty going on in all its nooks and crannies.  Looking forward to seeing all the winners attending, who were chosen via the blog and my Instagram (thank you to everyone who submitted entries) and also please say “Hi!”  I don’t bite à la Luis Suarez (sorry, couldn’t resist… I’m quite fascinated with the whole sordid saga).  Oh, and whilst I’m still figuring out how 140×140, 90×90 squares and maxi-twillys all come together  in a coherent ensemble, here’s some pre-amble tracks to get the ball rolling…