>> Allow this old fogey to look back a bit today – to the gestating period of this blog when I was quite literally a “bedroom blogger”, snapping away at my reflection in a vaseline-smeared mirror.  I got an email this morning updating me on the whereabouts of label Future Classics, which gave me so much joy with a singular navy silk buttoned/pocketed draped skirt back in 2006 (a £30 sample sale find at now-defunct store Jezebell in Marylebone – oh, more memories!).  It’s one of those skirts that I smile fondly at every time it pops up in the admittedly more crowded skirt drawer of present day.  Established in 2000 by Julie Wilkins, Future Classics did all kinds of neat and clever things with draped jersey and then went on to deconstruct and twist other cornerstones of a wardrobe.  The deconstructed language of Comme des Garcons, Margiela and Rick Owens ran through Future Classics of course but back in 2006, for me these were brands that were locked away in a far-removed glass cabinet.  Future Classics was immediately tangible and felt more adaptable to your style as you sat in front of your mirror playing around with the garments in a multitude of ways.

Wilkins put Future Classics on a hiatus but early this year, relaunched as a hybrid fashion and music label, focusing on smaller capsule collections.  The title of their S/S 14 collection “All you need is a (cool) White T(winset)” says it all.  Draping and deconstruction still feature heavily.  Their A/W 14 collection named simply “Super Classics” delves into dressier and tailored territory with a pale blue flounce-sleeved shirt leading their animated GIF campaign.  You can immediately recognise classic Future Classics traits like front ‘n’ back ties, asymmetric draping and buttons in unexpected places to facilitate a variation of silhouettes.  It’s an aesthetic that whilst has been momentarily shunted aside in the trend cycle, somehow retains its relevance in amongst the loud and blaring fashion landscape of today.  This Future Classic flashback definitely warrants that skirt to be dug out once again.  

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“It’s not an ‘if” but a ‘will.”  That’s what I said about my steely determination to get Dior’s A/W 14-5 (although inspired by their S/S 14 couture show) ready to wear embellished trainers on my feet.  Thanks to the peeps at Dior, I got to try on all five styles in a ridiculously decadent session of “Eenie meenie miney mo” of what I feel are the ultimate culmination of high fashion copulating with street wear.  It’s been a long time coming with high fashion crossing over into sportswear and in particular, the trainer becoming a focal point at fashion’s centre stage.  Despite high fashion trainers being on the up for the past few years, with stores like Sneaker Boy benefiting from the rise of either designers like Rick Owens collaborating with sportswear heavies adidas or brands like Givenchy, Lanvin and Dior creating cult trainers on their own, in womenswear it took Chanel putting every one of their models in tweedy Massaro-crafted trainers in their last haute couture show as well as Dior trialling their beaded bounced-up sneaker soles at their couture show for people to suddenly announce that trainers have arrived.  Their presence at haute couture was the final cherry on top of the already very elevated trainer.  

Furthermore, what these particular Dior sneaker specimens represent to me is the rise of 21st century contrasting mix and match in fashion.  High and low.  Expensive and cheap.  Couture and sportswear.  Casual and dressy.  The list goes on.  These shoes embody those contrasts.  Iridescent and shiny beads, sequins and paillettes on sporty mesh in black or white in theory shouldn’t work.  These delicately adorned spongey uppers shouldn’t be sitting on candy pink, yellow and pristine white rubber moulded soles.  Dior’s logo embossed on the side is the ultimate surprise.  It’s a combination that would have been unthinkable once upon a time.  Then again there was also a time when girls wearing trainers with prom dresses was frowned upon.  It’s a “Shouldn’t Work But Does” mentality in fashion that has pervaded the most interesting of creators and style figures to have emerged in the past decade.  Same goes for the “It’s so wrong it’s right” brigade and the Miuccia Prada aficionados who constantly question the boundaries of “ugliness”.   I’m of course a whole hearted supporter of all of those sentiments much to the chagrin of fair weather Instagram commenters who persistently ask “But why do you wear things that obviously don’t go together?”  What can I say?  I blame it on the inner child in me constantly trying to push square pegs into round holes.

Back to the trainers though.  The great thing about these shoes by Dior is Raf Simons’ own trainer pedigree he brings to the table, having had constantly produced trainers for his own Raf Simons line and also having recently collaborated with adidas to great effect.  That said, in truth, they are much more like a sporty slipper with a moulded sole, rather than a trainer that you can pound miles in with your fuel band.  Dior and Simons of course aren’t trying to wade into functional sportswear territory but rather they’re going for visual impact, as your eyes will try to compute beads, mesh and rubber all at the same time.  It’s already confused the kids of a family living next door to me.  Half the fun of them is the sheer juxtaposition of genres.

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0E5A1187Worn with Curated biker jacket, Craig Green shirt, Goocy skirt

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The other half of the fun is that surprisingly, these Dior sneakers will be available in both women’s AND men’s sizing as I discovered when I went to see the pop-up installation of Dior sneaks at Dover Street Market in London, who have the exclusive right now.  Guys will put an entirely different spin on these bad boys * (I know Nathan from The Provoker has been eyeing them up…).  At £740 a pop, these are not kick-about, throw-away trainers.  As a symbol of fashion’s genre defying, style-splintered present state though, they’re certainly worthy of attention.

*EDIT: I was misinformed.  These sneakers are only available in women’s sizes.  Men will have to make do with sticking sequins on their shoes.  Men with small feet can venture forth.

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>> I’m known for not taking care of whites in our house. White garments that is. Steve’s give once-pristine white t-shirts and four white shirts have suffered the fate of incorrect washing machine procedures. What makes matters worse is that Steve is the type of guy who cares deeply about the state of his fresh whites. The other day I had misplaced a pizza box and Steve’s brand new Christophe Lemaire jersey interlock t-shirt with a neat breast pocket collided into the oil-soaked cardboard. Reacting immediately, I frantically scrubbed at it but managed to make the stain worse and seemingly permanent (final verdict yet to be revealed as it’s still at the dry cleaners). It was another perfect white to the pyre and Steve’s mood was almost inconsolable. Apparently it was THE perfect white t-shirt, exacting in cut, proportion and weight of cotton and was destined to be his new wardrobe cornerstone. Oh, and this happened on the morning of the first day of LC:M when we were both supposed to be out at shows. His white shirt “mojo” was shot. Crestfallen, he opted for one of those aforementioned “dead” white tees instead to get on with his day.

That the white shirt matters to people like Steve isn’t news. That I still look at one and think that a spag bol stain is a surefire inevitability is both a stumbling block and a shame. Look at palmer // harding and the wonderful things they’ve done to elevate the white shirt. Their pleats, drapes and clever bits of detailing do distract me from the amped up odds of ruination. But the inevitable was There is a reason why my dry cleaners smile broadly when I walk in.

At the same time as I had dropped off Steve’s perfect Lemaire tee for salvage, at the post office I had picked up a neat package from New York label Tome and lo and behold, inside it – a white shirt that could turn me. Namely that behind the mandarin collar trimmed with canvas, the side slits and longer back hemmed oversized shirt, there’s a poignant cause. A few weeks ago, Tome launched their White Shirt Project with this single style on sale on Net-a-Porter, with all proceeds going to the Freedom For All charity, which works to emancipate people from modern day slavery – with cheap and forced labour set-ups, human trafficking and domestic servitude still rife all over the world. Here the white shirt is significant as a symbol of a clean slate and a fresh start for victims of slavery. Clothes with a cause are also nothing new but this one is a lovely marriage between what is on its own, a beautiful garment and a meaningful charity. Tome aren’t new to the nuances of a white shirt as they already have a hit on their hands with a sold-out backless tie back shirt from their S/S 14 collection. It more than an impetus to get over my white shirt fear. That said, I’m sure as retribution for my previous white wash sins, this shirt will still probably fall prey to one of the following – kimchee juices spluttering from a hot pot, bacon sandwich grease or a glass of Rioja. Then my dry cleaners will bail me out once again. Once again a clean slate.

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…continued on from Part 1

Hyein Seo – The name from this crop of graduates that’s likely to be the most recognisable is Hyein Seo.  Like her Korean compatriot Minju Kim, who the 2013 H&M award with her third year collection, Seo also got a head start when she showed her third year collection as part of VFiles in New York last February.  It made instant impact, with Rihanna wearing Seo’s signature “Fear” fur stole around Paris last season and stockists clamouring to stock the collection.  Seo had to graduate first and so she’s done so with a collection called “Bad Education”.  It was the most “shopfloor-ready” collection of the lot and unsurprisingly got the most Insta-love with eye candy hits like ‘Loser’ lace, ‘School Kills’ slapped on the back of jackets and dare I say girl-friendly school uniform silhouettes.  Seo worked in her name as though she was ready to launch her own brand but also poked fun at the fact that she was the ‘bad girl’ of Antwerp precisely because of this commercial ambition.  It was interesting that Seo said that her collection was perhaps not very ‘Antwerp-y’ because of its instant saleability.  True that it lacked depth in terms of inspiration compared to the others.  But you want to buy it and wear it.  Hyein Seo now seeks to set up her label in Antwerp and will most likely to be the solo hit of this crop of graduates.

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Madeleine Coisne – In a sparse room in the beautiful school grounds of the Academy, Madeleine Coisne replicated the tunnels that lead up to Antwerp’s Central Station to display her highly accomplished print-based collection.  She looked at the geometric patterns on the tunnels and also ecclesiastical clothing to create silhouettes that featured interlocking flat planes that were the perfect foundations for Coisne’s elegant geometric prints, rendered in rich colour combination – sometimes in velvet, sometimes in silk satin.  It was as though Coisne was sending out a visual CV to Dries van Noten, who incidentally was present at the show with his team, as they gave out a prize (it went to third year student Laure Severac).

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Raffaela Graspointner – Surface decoration reigned supreme in this year’s batch of Antwerp graduates and Raffaela Graspointner led the charge on the adornment front with her collection ‘Holi Blush Bubble Crush’.  Ray and Charles Eames (with a touch of Memphis?) inspired Graspointner along with Joan Miro’s shapes, David Hockney’s colours and an ornate mood derived from Bollywood.  It could have been an overload of art, design and cultural references if it weren’t for the fact that Graspointner executed her silhouettes with precision and strong head-to-toe conviction (note the excellent socks and shoes).  Indian embroidery in eye-catching colour combinations veering between pastel and vivid on leather surfaces were again handled brilliantly.  What should have been too much turned out to be spot-on.  Of course, there’s no denying that there’s a personal aesthetic bias.  Graspointner’s eye for colour, decoration and textures makes her a delicious prospect, whether she does her own thing or works for a house.

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Clara Jungman Malmquist – In football, there’s a game of two halves and in fashion, there’s a presentation of two halves.  In Clara Jungman Malmquist‘s presentation, it was hard to see her clothes properly as they hung limply on rails, supported by admittedly strong drawings and research materials inspired by childish paint-by-numbers and Karlheinz Weinberger photographs of post-war Swiss teenagers.  In the show however, Malmquist’s sense of colour, layering and texture play came to life.  Her tulle canvases hand painted with geometric compositions and simplistic landscapes exercised technique but also an uplifting joyfulness – a feeling felt similarly in Eran Shanny’s collection.  In further conversation, Malmquist comes across as a true independent and experimental spirit, which would be great to see explored further in the future.

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Virginia Burlina – Last but certainly not least on the installation rounds was Virginia Burlina‘s collection “Lunatica” presented in a church, where she had set up her beautiful and haunting paintings alongside her collection with a sacrificial alter laying out the scene of her abandoned bride.  Burlina was inspired by the outsider artist Marguerite Sir, who went insane after she was jilted at the alter.  Sir created a hypothetical wedding gown for her imaginary nuptials as an art piece and Burlina takes the lead, combining wedding dress elements with hospital gowns as the basis for her highly ornate collection.  Surprisingly, Burlina taught herself (and members of her family) to do embroidery for the purpose of this collection.  And yet her beadwork looked incredibly accomplished as though they had been sewn on by the hands of a specialist.  Burlina’s collection was impressive on an emotional front and her technical tenacity married (geddit…) well with the narrative of the collection.

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