London is Changing.  So says the user-generated art project overseen by Rebecca Ross from Central Saint Martins, who is using billboards in Holborn and Aldwych to communicate the impact that economic and political changes are having on this city.  People have been sending in comments about the unaffordability aspect, the processes of gentrification and the stifling of creativity in a city that has nurtured a reputation for being the source of it.  Those thoughts have been weighing heavy on young designers like Claire Barrow.  Her collection “High Flyers” reflects on her own conflicting relationship with London – she describes the city as a “mousetrap” for young and inspired people where creativity is now under thread and comrpomised.  In an accompanying zine created by Ditto Press, Barrow draws out figures of depressing day-to-day corporate scenes in a rain-drizzled, glass-ridden metropolis – “All this welth, who gains?” she asks.  Her own set of high flyers are given freedom though, as gusts of wind  sweep through ochre and deep magenta dresses and painted leather and sheepskin jackets nod to aviators of the past – the female high flyers of their day.  Bessie Coleman, Amy Johnson and of course Amelia Earhart.  Through an emotional upward flight, one can find hope, despite all this despondency.  “For the moment, nobody can stop me from flying so high,” scribbles Barrow as an end note to the zine.  That’s the thing about fashion’s engagement with socio-economic climate.  More often than not, a silver lining emerges.  And when our surroundings are ridden with tension  – that’s when creativity is at its most fervent.  It’s important to feel that fashion doesn’t exist within its own inward-looking microcosm.

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Danielle Romeril was perhaps also rebuking against mass consumerism as seen by the super wealthy of this city. Her collection was simply called “Survive” as she imagined a dystopian future where you can’t buy anything anymore and instead you scavenge and salvage to create new things. This sort of bricolage owes its debt to the likes of Margiela and Comme des Garcons but Romeril’s warrior wardrobe is more attuned to the female form. A bric-a-brac blanket collage of flocked lace, corded velvet, nylon quilting and tartan, stitched together with leather scales (made with the Japanese Samurai armour technique odoshi) doesn’t exactly appear to be a hardship to wear. Romeril’s inspiration point may have come from a dark place but the results are romantic with a toughness that has thus far defined this one-to-watch NewGen newbie.

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Yasuko Furuta of Toga prefers to get away from this sprawling corporate mess altogether. In a crowded London Fashion Week schedule, Furuta is making herself known with forward-thinking layerings that are more than just surface. This season, the Toga girl might tie up her coat and her rucksack and fling everything on her back and go on a spiritual journey out East somewhere. Banish any thought of gap-yah-year costumes ridden with world-travelling cliches. Furuta’s nomadic spirits collage trailing Victoriana-tinged capes and delicate shirts in netting and lace, with oversized coats and taffeta flared trousers. Sure it’s mostly down to styling that these ensembles hold such potency but the proposition at the very least feels fresh as Furuta continues to contrast styles in a way that piques your interest. You want to be that girl who gets away from it all with just the coat on her back and a pair of flat satin slippers to make her way through the world. What’s prompting all these flighty thoughts? Those statements on those aforementioned billboards could apply to any growing meglomaniac-filled city in the world.

‘I’m worried I’m signing up to a life of poverty, despite being highly qualified,’ says a student relocating from Australia to Hackney.

There’s a siren call from ALL designers out there.

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With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for providing transportation

 

>> The last time I was in Limelight in London, I was necking overly-sweet WKD drinks,  dancing to the Artful Dodger and thought my Miss Selfridge paisley polyester top was awesome.  Who knew that more than a decade later, I’d be back inside this former nightclub, that’s yet to be converted into an arts centre, and be flung into a topsy turvy world of circus freaks – or as Sophia Webster has dubbed it – her “Cirque du Sophia”.  The instant reference of course for Webster and set designer Shona Heath, who transformed this derelict church space, has to be the Bauhaus classic, Oskar Schlemmer’s Das Triadisches Ballett.  It’s a familiar reference, influencing the likes of Jean-Paul Goude and winding up on countless designer mood boards.  The costumes of the Triadic Ballet are singular and their costumes pointed to a far-far-away future that hasn’t actually quite happened yet, even nearly a hundred years down the line from when the ballet was first debuted.  It was an ambitious mise-en-scene for Webster to attempt.  To put this much effort in to the models in their bulbous and cuboid statement costumes which are after all, a vehicle to allow you to see the shoes and the bags, shows Webster’s commitment to her theme.

Webster cleverly combines both eyeball-grabbing set and product so that, the former doesn’t overshadow the latter.  These surreal humanoid beings with their spherical curves and hard-edged boxy angles can join Webster’s past gatherings of human Barbie dolls, garden fairies and jungle raver chicks, and all the other mini-universes that collectively spin out shoes and bags in Webster language.  This season that includes rave-meets-circus motifs, sassy slogans a-plenty and a capsule collaboration with Coca-Cola.  Webster, having had her first child, has also expanded her range of baby shoes.  Even though a Leigh Bowery-esque catsuited acrobat was doing “freakshow” type body contorting as you entered the space, there definitely isn’t anything that would freak people out about Webster’s collection.

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Triadisches-Ballett-23Screencaps of Triadic Ballet from Interiorator

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With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for providing transporation

It’s no secret that I’m into football.  Specifically, Arsenal.  I’m not into it to keep the boyfriend happy because he is also a hardcore football fan, but I’m into it because it’s a this perfect counterfoil to what I do in fashion.  It’s where you can immerse yourself in a tribe-based culture that is ardent, addictive and without a doubt, more passionate than even the most rabid of fashion fervour.  You go to matches.  You scream.  You swear.  You cry.  Your emotional journey can oscillate from ecstatic jubilation to gut-wrenching disappointment within a ninety minute time frame.  And then that’s extended as you follow your team through the season, enduring and enjoying the highs and the lows.  Fashion of course has those highs and lows but the instances where it produces as extreme or visceral a reaction as seen at a football match, are alas, few and far between.

To illustrate my footie meets fashion love-in, yesterday I was in red and white as of course any self-respecting Gooner should be, augmented with a touch of pink thanks to Simone Rocha’s delicious S/S 15 frock.  The scarf wasn’t worn just for warmth.  Arsenal were playing (we won 2:1 if anybody cares to know).

IMG_5488Photograph by Ben Ramshaw – Wearing Tome jacket, Nike waterproof, Simone Rocha dress, Simone Rocha shoes and an Arsenal scarf

instasimoneSimone Rocha veil meets Gooner scarf

Why all the footie talk?  Gareth Pugh’s grandiose epic of a homecoming last night held in the V&A’s Raphael Room had chants from his hometown Sunderland Football Club.  Distorted and warped by Pugh’s longtime sound collaborator Matthew Stone, it could have been any football club chant.  In my head, it went like this: “And it’s Arsenal.  Arsenal FC.  Are by far the greatest team.  The world has ever seen.”

It was but one reference in Pugh’s poignant and powerful collection.  The central protagonist was a Britannia-esque warrior anointed with a blood red St George’s Cross, ready to do battle.  Fervour.  Incidentally, at the top of the catwalk behind the LED screen where Ruth Hogben’s accompanying film played out, there’s an altarpiece of St George, depicting him slaying the dragon and his martyrdom.  St George.  Sacrificing yourself for your country.  Fervent nationalism.  Football culture.  All of these things fed into a collection that revisited Pugh’s volumes in black but they felt even more annunciated in this room especially when models wore leather breastplates, furry helmets and spiked out textures made entirely out of black straws in reference to a dragon’s scales.  That was also a nod to Pugh’s DIY couture past and the very beginnings of his career in London.  I remember standing eagerly at those shows with my heart palpitating as each look came out.  Here it was much the same but instead of rowdy club kids cheering, it was the formidable fashion establishment witnessing an elevated incarnation of Pugh.

Probe deeper and you wind up asking yourself what Pugh was trying to say about those aforementioned references.  Pugh was adamant that it wasn’t about being needlessly aggressive.  There was a darkness of course, especially when one thinks about what those red crosses would mean to say, the English Defence League or extreme Ing-gur-lund football hooligans.  It felt more like an cultural fascination on Pugh’s part.  He was probing without criticising.  He was tapping into the alchemy of what happens when a group of people get together and get roused and riled up to fight and chant for your “team” be it country or club.

Who knew that years of frequenting Arsenal matches (I used to waitress at the old Highbury ground) would help me understand a Gareth Pugh show?

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With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for providing transportation

Out of the frosty temperatures (in the clothes as well as the weather?) of New York Fashion Week, yesterday comparatively speaking, London felt tropical.  The same could be said for the clothes.  Not tropical in theme but in that collectively, a trio of young female designers showing on the first day of London Fashion Week, doing their one sweet thing, made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.  All three of their presentations had personality and character, and they managed to draw us into what felt like an alluring brand universe by specialising in one solid idea, done very very well.  As one presentation segued into the other, and with all three designers being women, it did feel like something of a movement.  A positive one that taps into nuanced aspects of girlhood, be it cuteness, prettiness or uniform preppiness – they’re ideas that translate for women as well as girls.

Let’s start with Shrimps.  Apparently it was Star Trek meets Wizard of Oz.  Although it wasn’t quite as spacey or costume-y as one might imagine.  That’s down to Hannah Weiland’s 60s slash 70s tinges affecting  both the colour palette and the expanded range of garments which included sweet embroidered knitwear, featuring more of her hand-drawn doodled characters (one of them is called Frenchie after Grease) and kilts.  Beyond her faux fur antics, Weiland employed silver lurex fabric, faux shearling collars and big chunky crystal buttons to broaden out her outerwear.  Anyone accusing Shrimps of being a one-winter wonder can just put that thought aside.  Shrimps fans keep growing in numbers (judging by the room full of Shrimps wearers) and the unpredictable sub-zero weather frankly means she has a duty to fulfil a need for winter-warming cheerfulness.

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Molly Goddard‘s one sweet thing are her tulle dresses – ruched, smocked and made with plenty of love.  From last season’s awkward prom party, Goddard’s girls goes to art school – a life drawing class complete with a slightly rotund naked man, to be specific.  They’ve grown up a bit.  Just a little though, as there’s still an imperfect messiness to the way they wear these pretty frocks, now available in mustard velvet and black cotton, especially when worn with Fair Isle and grey slubby knits underneath.  It’s the spirit of scruffy art school attire contrasted with Goddard’s innate love of all things pretty and pink.  Goddard is clearly on to a good thing as Dover Street Market are currently selling out of her S/S 15 dresses.   From her BA to that ASOS collaboration to her debut prom party, and now to sell-out collections and New Gen sponsorship – it’s been fantastic to witness Goddard’s ascent.

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Up in the cosy enclaves of L’Escargot in Soho, Samantha McCoach presented a new interpretation of the Scottish bonnie lass with her kilt-focused label Le Kilt.  Yup, it’s one thing done well again and that focus is yielding supporters like Dover Street Market.  After all, who else can you turn to for kilts rendered in lurex flecked forest green tartan or patchwork clan checks.  McCoach somehow managed to avoid the clutches of costume territory, despite introducing her new tam o’shanter caps.  My mum tried to make me wear one whenever I’d go up to Edinburgh to visit her side of the family.  She’ll be pleased to know that thanks to Le Kilt, I’m now half-swayed by the proposition.

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With thanks to Mercedes-Benz for providing transportation