>> I just left St Pancras station about an hour ago to head over to Paris in what the last leg of what has been a whirlwind month.  I know I say I’m frightfully busy every time I’m fashion-weeking and you’re all rolling your eyes at me when street style images make it look like I’m just loitering around on the streets with my phone, but this season, I promise, I REALLY have been busy.  This BBC iPlayer thing happened (I haven’t yet watched it – I can’t actually listen to myself speak because it’s too excruciating) where you see me dosing up on eye drops because the night before I was at Somerset House doing a shoot for the The Daily having just got off a plane from New York an hour before.  And so and so forth.  Yadda yadda yadda, I’ve been busy.

But anyhow, back to St. Pancras. just as I was on the platform, I peered over into the space at the very grand St Pancras Renaisssance Hotel where Japanese label Toga had their second presentation in London.  This time, it felt like they had made more of an inroad on an international audience beyond the core of people will have always known about Toga.  I love watching these Japanese secrets being unleashed and impressing.  As I was leaving, it was cool to overhear people go, “That was quite good wasn’t it?” as if they were surprised that it should be so.  My first show in Paris will be Anrealage, who are showing for the first time.  Having been to three of their shows in Tokyo, I’m hoping it will be as mesmerising an experience in the city of lights as it is in designer Kunihiko Morinaga’s hometown.  He will sure to be another Japanese revelation, following in mega success stories like Sacai.

But I digress again.  Toga was a whole lotta good.  It had a whole lotto things going on but it was all good.  They have a real knack of making the unexpected look convincing.  A neon pink organza ruffle poking out of a maroon sweater paired with a sheer knife pleat skirt is a odd take on prim but it works.  As does a demi jacket hybridised with a tailored shirt adorned with mirrored panels.  There’s contradiction and contrast aplenty – my kind of c words.  For every satin corset work, for frou ruffle or pretty plisse pleat, there’s a juxtaposing foil in a voluminous silhouette, a pair of jeans (beautifully patchworked together with invisible thread), or a wide buckled belt to weight things down.  The asymmetric metal earrings, the patent tasselled clutches and the netting sandals also gave the collection the sort of chaotic feeling that is at the centre of designer Yasuko Furata’s entire ethos for Toga.  There is a deliberate awkwardness to the way the silhouettes are mashed together but taken apart, Toga still excels.  Whenever I’ve seen Toga on rails in a shop or int he showroom, it’s always all too easy to beeline for individual statement making pieces that are interesting all by themselves.  Toga may not be an editorial secret anymore but the tactile touch of the product all is still something that only a few get to experience.  I urge people to go and try and get ye into some Toga if you can and feel it for yourself.

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A twenty minute walk on foot from the Marni show this morning, along which I got to pat a cute dog, see a more quiet and residential side to Milan and then arrive at Marni’s Flower Market, was enough to perk my entire Milan Fashion Week up.  When you’re funnelled around shows and appointments for hours on end, stuck in traffic, it’s a pretty distorted view of Mllan.  Therefore Marni’s Flower Market on the one day of full one sunshine we got during the week was respite indeed.

Marni gently kickstarted celebrations for its 20th anniversary, not with a private exclusive party in the murky depths of night time but an open-to-the-public flower market held in the beautiful Rotonda della Besana with proceeds going to children’s charity Vimala, aiding Tibetan children in India.  The product, created exclusively for the market for all your dream garden needs, had a similarly global humanitarian approach.  Brightly coloured with zebra’s faces came from Zambia and animal wire sculptures of giraffes and flamingoes were made by women in Colombia.

Virgin green-fingered me is just beginning to get stuck into the process of nurturing an outdoor space.  If I was living in Milan, I would have gone buck wild at the market, buying up enticing packets of seeds, bulbs, garden chairs, PVC bags with primary hued gardening tools.  The biggest sellers of the day were definitely the printed PVC tote bags, in various sizes, displayed as vase and bouquet holders.  Through the totes and throughout the market as seen on the bouquet wrapping paper, and at the craft stations set up for children, where you could make yourself a printed kite or, some beaded and floral jewellery, Marni’s aesthetic could be seen everywhere.  It really asserted a lifestyle element that you can see glimpses off through Marni’s clothes and the stores and in their participations at events like Salone Mobile but here was fleshed out completely, down to the stall selling various kinds of carrot cake or the uniforms the market stall staff were wearing (layered boat neck top, a perfectly tied neckchief, cropped trousers, a navy apron and hand painted canvas shoes).  It was a real generous act of giving, not just in the charity aspect but in the aesthetics and the fact that you felt like you could stay there for a while and really enjoy it as opposed to stopping by five minutes just to make some mandatory appearance.

Seen in tandem with the S/S 15 collection that Marni sent out before the market opened up  and you could see the correlation between the two.  What started off in neutral jutes and linens built up to a floral crescendo where prints of daffodils, lilies and daisies – the recognisable heroes of a garden – are blown up, abstracted and given a strong textural treatment in different ways be it through metallic jacquards, a crepe-embroidered fluffy technique or printed leather.  Marni has always excelled at flower power but here it was also the asymmetric shapes, built up by petal-like curves and added swathes of pleating that gave the collection some substance, weighted down by the Teva-esque sandals and circular pipe heels.  And the swinging drawstring bags and fringed totes?  Big enough for a shop and a gander at Marni’s Flower Market for sure.  The show to market experience was a treat.  Just wish my garden could have benefited from Marni’s act of generosity.

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In between missing a flight, buying another one, switching up from LFW to MFW, I somehow managed to drop by Chanel’s new exhibition “Second Floor” at the Saatchi Gallery.  On the second floor of the gallery, is a beautiful series of painterly photographs by Sam Taylor-Johnson, who went up that famous mirrored staircase to the second floor of 31 rue Cambon in Paris to capture treasured objects and furniture in Coco Chanel’s apartment.

In addition to seeing the exhibition, it was quite impossible to turn down an invitation to get made up by the legendary Mary Greenwell, who was make-up artist to Princess Diana and is currently Chanel’s make-up ambassador as well as be dressed up in Chanel’s supermarket sweet AW14 collection.  Make-up tips for a make-up dunce AND the sort of clothes that I’ve only mostly written about rather than physically experience.  You say… “YES!”

So bleary-eyed from show-going and boshing out over 1,000 words everyday, I schlepped into the New Bond Street Chanel mason before it opened up and went about picking out clothes and accessories and then headed to the make-up counter where lovely Mary immediately declared, “Now darling, you have great skin but you need to exfoliate.”  Direct and to the point, I’ll heed her words.  I do need to exfoliate.  She was also incredibly swift in applying all the magical lotions and potions to my face to get what can only be described as a smoky eyed vamp look, which I kind of loved because it was so far and away from what I normally slap on my face.  Face-wise, I discovered the wonders of Le Blanc Sheer Illuminating base that literally made my face looked glowy in an instant.  I’ll be smudging my eyes with some Illusion D’Ombre without the deft skill of Mary, in a bid to do “smoky”, whilst probably ending up with “messy”.  And I’ll smear on Rouge Coco lippie in shade Rivoli thinking I’ll achieve what Mary did in literally half a minute.  Her motto is apparently “Quick and good!” as opposed to laboured and not as good…  I’ll be taking the quick but not so good route.

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We then made our way over to the Saatchi Gallery so that I could have a gander at Taylor-Johnson’s photographs of Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment on rue Cambon, which I vividly remember visiting from way back in 2007 in ye olde Style Bubble days.  They’re certainly impressionistic rather than realistic, which probably deepens the mysterious aura about that beautiful bijoux space.  In stark contrast to those still and chiaroscuro-filled photographs, I came crashing in, decked out in the most exuberant of Chanel’s A/W 14-5 looks like this yellow coat with abstract patterned lining and matching shirt paired with some of the best fitting silver trousers I’ve ever had on (yes I’ve tried several…) and holographic panelled tweed trainers (check out all the awesome  colourways… ).  I also squeezed my way in to one of Chanel’s coat dresses with inbuilt corsets, which immediately changed my posture for the better.  The novelty bags like the milk and eggs carton purses also made an appearance as did the quilted bum bag, which like SS14’s canvas paint-covered backpack, is defo more my speed in terms of not wanting to look too lady-lady.  No chance with this kitsch-tinged collection though as  jewellery wise, I got loaded up with tin can cuffs, giant padlock necklaces and once again, ooohed and aaahed over the candy bracelets and necklaces.  In less than two hours, I had gotten a very intense Chanel fix – which in between shows was actually a fun respite.  Until Paris when the next Chanel extravaganza will play out… in just over a week’s time.  With about 6,000 or so words to bosh out between now and then.  Me thinks I’ll be using that Illusion d’Ombre stuff to add to the panda eye effect.

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SusieB119All photographs by Becky Maynes

All clothes and accessories from Chanel A/W 14-5 Act 2, now available to buy in Chanel boutiques (if you can venture forth and afford it) except for my own scraggy Miuccia band tee that I’m wearing to get my make-up done.

‘Second Floor’ by Sam Taylor-Johnson is open at Saatchi Gallery daily from 10am – 6pm until Saturday 4th October. 

One look at the invitation (no stickers, no cutesy animals, no Lisa Frank vibes) and its C-U-Next-Tuesday depiction as well as the title of the collection “Reject Everything” and you knew you were in for a rough ride at Meadham Kirchhoff.  Rough, as in it would shake up the system (or at the very least the MK system), get very angry and annihilate any thought that Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff were just about fluff, glitter and pretty pretty things.

Then there was the venue – the back of Phonica Records, which I didn’t dare to enter when I was a teen (only amateur DJ boys went in there…) – a much more intimate space than where the duo normally shows.  They had festooned it with trees, ribbons and… paint dipped tampons.  The focal point of the set was a piece of trash art with bicycle spokes colliding with car doors and radiators.

On our insulation foam seats was a zine first confronting you with all the slurs that both women and men might encounter (slag, slut, fag, batty boy etc) based on what you look like or how you dress – i.e. the way Meadham Kirchhoff have been dressing their women (and men for a while) and themselves for the duration of their careers.  It then opened up to a list of MK Like and Hates…

Likes: Viv Albertine, Quentin Crisp, RuPaul, Girly Clothes, Arvida Bystrom (who incidentally closed the show)

Hate: Conformity, Putin, Paul Hollywood, High Street Shit, Tony Abbott

Even more telling was the thanks/shout-out notes page.  “This is dedicated (if it works), to two women who have revolutionised my pitiful existence – Ms Viv Albertine – I am in LOVE – and Little Ms Trojan. (E’s pet dog)  I am revived.”

“It would be retarded of me to not acknowledge the obvious and undeniable influence that Dame Westwood has had on this collection.  Forever indebted to your genius.”

“Fuk LVMH corporate fashion.”

These are just some of the choice lines that tell you of the inspiration roots of this joyfully disruptive collection and the subject of anger that both Ben and Ed are channelling their hate towards.  Maybe they are biting the hand that feeds them but the hand that fed them hasn’t treated them with the just respect they deserve either.  Their work is merely a commodity or a novelty for the fashion industry to mine, take and exploit as “product” when they’re not necessarily product-focused designers (they create beautiful things that anybody with a sense of aesthetic appreciation would want to wear – that’s different from “product” for the sheeple).  It’s like jamming a square peg into a round hole.  They have every right to be angry.

It’s hard not to think about what in my opinion was a gross injustice, that they did not progress into the finalists stage of the inaugural LVMH prize, when they reference the conglomerate in their zine.  They’re probably not angry about the fact that they didn’t progress but that they were entered into that competitive environment in the first place.  Fighting the system is a naive mission in fashion.  It usually just elicits sneers of “Well, if you don’t play the game, you’re never going to be a game-changer.”  Ben and Ed have on their part played the game.  They’ve been propelled to great heights.  And now they want to tear all of that asunder and write their own system.

They’ve got nothing to prove by pandering to conventional notions of beauty.  They’ve done all of that before.  So now they can venture forth and wade into new territory for them, paying homage to the Westwoods, the Bodymaps, the Leigh Bowerys of the past but also carving out a statement for the future in amidst fashion’s current state of middling mediocrity and “We must sell things!” remit.  The results?  Panelled knitwear – deliberately lumpy and bumpy.  Smocked white dresses with red toggles resembling bloody tampon strings.  Cut-up pink latex as if it were cut chiffon.  Swiss dot lace dresses, ripped and worn over “man-repelling” yellow wooly long johns and slogan knickers.  Blue asymmetric shirting, cut-up, voluminous, an echo of Westwood’s pirate shirts.  Jackets frayed at the edges made out of laundry bag material.  Bulky bomber jackets made out of automotive foam.  The MK-isms were still there in the shirred chiffon dresses, stitched with extra TLC, in the flutters of black feathers hanging off of gowns and just in the general method of “Don’t-give-a-fuck” layering that has always captured this layerist’s heart.

In a week of politeness, niceties and all things Net-a-Porter ready, Meadham Kirchhoff unofficially closed LFW by reminding us all what British fashion has been in the past and should always try to be in the future – disruptive, probing and uncompromising.  Lose those qualities and you’re just like everyone else.

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Scans from Meadham Kirchhoff fanzine SS15 from Dazed Digital