Our Future.  Solidarity.  Unity.  Suffragette.  Choice.  These words punctuated Katie Hillier and Luella Bartley’s latest collection for Marc by Marc Jaocbs and despite the fact that they were tapping into the youthful energy of protest rather than any specific political oeuvre, it was hard not to think about the way this dynamic duo has set about clothing a new generation of MBMJ customers and imbuing them with the idea that it’s ok to be into fashion and to think of other things.  You can’t help but think back to Chanel’s faux protest last season where feminism felt like it was being mocked rather than amplified .  Difference being that Hillier and Bartley’s slogans (once again designed by Fergus “Fergadelic” Purcell) feel heartfelt.  Perhaps it’s also down to Hillier and Bartley being women, who have more than had their say about the subject of girl power through their collective output.  And in the context of Marc by Marc Jacobs’ youth-centric vibe, those aforementioned words rendered over the military-infused 1960s youthquake slash 1980s new wave silhouettes are more than likely to positively engage with a generation of girls (and young-at-heart women) who are thinking about feminism, our shaky political and economical climate and a future plagued by rising student debts, unaffordable rent and inequality between the rich and poor.

Bartley and Hillier insisted that they were thinking about an upbeat optimism amongst the youth they know; that they can incite change if they want to.  They called their girls “charming vigilantes” as New York Guardian Angels’ citizen patroller berets and studded stomping shoes were contrasted with a swirl of William Morris prints.  Namely his famous Strawberry Fields and Acanthus prints in army-derived shades of green and blue and comrade red – from a distance, they almost looked like camouflage.  Bartley and Hillier chose to use the prints, not just as a traditional contrasting foil, but because Morris himself was a social activist.  The duo were making a fervent point that you can be interested in all things related to aesthetics and be engaged with what’s going on in the world around us.  Politicising fashion has never been an easy ride but in this instance, Hillier and Bartley’s intentions come off as genuine and better yet, positive.  Those words that ring around the collection aren’t pithily employed.  For the lucky ones that can afford it (although I’m pleased to say that despite MBMJ’s renewed and revived status, the prices haven’t rocketed since Hillier and Bartley’s arrival) they can wear these clothes and be children of their own revolution in the making – whatever that may be.

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>> The question that has been popping up most frequently during the shows is “How are you staying warm?”  I don’t know whether everyone has experienced minus 15 wind chills.  Coming from mild and grey UK, I’ve certainly never done so.  I might have experienced it in Switzerland when I was about six and violently ill throughout the whole trip.  That gives you an indication of my ability to handle such temperatures.  This is the sort of cold that has been making my brain freeze whenever I stand still for more than a minute and my skin has been going into plasticine mode (pinch the skin on your hand and it stays like that…).  In answer to that initial question, I’ve moved away from my default answer of Uniqlo Heat Tech (duh…doesn’t everyone wear Heat Tech?) and instead have given thanks to Etre Cécile for their pre-fall padded hoodie jacket that has acted as a layering device or a sole piece of outerwear.  What started as an insider t-shirt brand has now been gradually building up its repetoire with a full blown wardrobe that feels essential without being dour.  Ditto goes for their newly introduced range of parka jackets and 70s ski inspired pieces for pre-fall 2015.

10399653_48432576569_3169_nMum, Louisa and I wrapped up warm up in Switzerland in 1990

It’s pretty much the grown-up version of the sort of jackets that my mum used to dress me and my sister up in – waterproof, lots of pockets, with a hood (qualities that my mum highly valued) and resolutely not stylish.  Etre Cécile’s version has bit of a kick with its cropped shape and contrasting blue bungee cords but essentially its DNA is rooted to the ones my mum made me wear circa 1990.  I’m refusing to succumb to the designer practical answers to these arctic temperatures which are Canada Goose, Moncler and the like.  I can’t quite justifying paying £500 or so for a garment stuffed (quite literally) with that much practicality and function.  Etre Cécile red puffy parka is the happy medium.

Susie-2573Worn with Rodebjer coat, Etre Cecile jumpsuit, Hogan shoes – photograph by William Yan

susie-lau.nocrop.w1800.h1330.2xWorn with Simone Rocha dress – photograph by Youngjun Koo for The Cut

Opening Ceremony do a lot of cool things.  In fact, sometimes they can be overwhelming in their endeavour for cool with their numerous collaborations, “x” ridden collections, parties, events and projects.  But the fact of the matter is, you do come away from 95% of it all going, “Wow that’s pretty cool.”  And then you berate yourself for sounding like a brainless sheeple.  Last night though, the consensus was a resoundingly solid thumbs-up “That was really cool!” from everyone who dropped by the Cheim & Read Gallery to see Opening Ceremony’s A/W 15-6 presentation slash exhibition hybrid show “Please Use Your Best Judgement.”

The title is a reference to Spike Jonze’s process of selection when going through contact sheets, which conveniently ties in with the show’s sponsor Kodak (featured in a few of the looks).  Lim and Leon had unprecedented access to Jonze’s photographic work, spanning the years of 1985 to 2005 from his early photography of the BMX/skate scene to stills from behind the scenes with Björk’s video for Triumph of a Heart from the album Medúlla.  Waves of heartfelt nostalgia washed over us as we looked up at the 35mm film photographs of Björk, Karen O, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth and Sofia Coppola and for guys from the BMX and skate scene, in-action shots of Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton and Mat Hoffman will no doubt have prompted the same.  

This late 90s/early millennium era of optimism and blurry soft-hued photographs summated by the collection and the exhibition definitely stirred up my own memories of that period.  When gigs at the Forum (RIP…), cute slogan t-shirts and running to The Shop (RIP again…)  to check out X-Girl and Milk Fed (double RIP – unless you’re in Japan) ruled my world.  The Opening Ceremony collection similarly taps into that casual don’t-care-if-everything-is-too-big look.  If Britpop ever had a fashion aesthetic, this collection could certainly lay claim to it, what with the rain macs, shirt coats and culottes in autumnal retro-tinged shades.  The highlight of the collection is definitely the pieces featuring collages of Jonze’s photographs.  In particular, a print featuring outtakes of Björk, Chloe Sevigny and Kim Gordon pasted together like a sixth form year book scrapbook, will be on my personal hit list.  The scribbles from Jonze’s contact sheets are also translated into a print – another example of the human hand creating pattern and print in recent collections to rebel against all things digital and instanteous.  I’m no fan of saccharine nostalgia but Lim and Leon’s flash back and tribute to a genuinely inspiring epoch is difficult to resist.  The chasmic gap between then and now means it feels good to look back and mine that decade for references.  One look at Björk at the bottom of a pool in a diaphanous green dress blown up on the wall and there’s no way you wouldn’t want to tap into that bright-eyed exuberance.    

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Friday the 13th, kink in the movie headlines (or lightweight facile kink according to the critics who have panned Sam Taylor Johnson’s 50 Shades of Grey) and all shades of red coming at ya’ thanks to a combo of Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year next week – that’s certainly a cumulatively appropriate backdrop to be talking up Ammerman Schlösberg aka duo Liz Ammerman and Eric Schlösberg, who ever since their debut at a VFiles mixed show two years ago have been LOL-ing (as in LOLita) up the New York young designer scene.  In a landscape where commercial viability generally rules above all, Ammerman Schlösberg are unapologetic about their wayward idiosyncracy, rooted in Japanese lolita subculture, kitsch pop referencing remix and their staunch dedication to the idea of dressing-up and becoming different characters.  That doesn’t mean what Ammerman and Schlösberg do is costume.  In a culture conversation role reversal, in a similar way to how Japanese fashion-heads have approached English punk or American cowboys, Ammerman and Schlösberg have looked at Lolita style tribes and cosplay lifestyle and those iconic images you’ve seen in Fruits and mixed their perceptions of these subcultures with personal references.  

Their latest A/W 15-6 collection entitled “Furry Hospitals” was partly inspired by their fascination with the dark depths of a hospital and Ammerman’s family being in the medical industry and also specifically with the “Guro” or gory Lolita, who don gothic gear with fake blood dripping on the face.  Every model was presented as a broken doll – bruised and bleeding – girls interrupted in an psychiatric hospital that might feature in a series of American Horror Story.  Still despite being bandaged and stitched up, these girls are no pushovers.  They stomp and cavort in breast-baring fishnet tops, attitude-ridden mini skirts and black buckled boots, drenched in black and red and some aspects of Japanese furry culture.  It’s a darker place than what Ammerman and Schlösberg has previously explored.  The current S/S 15 collection was a twisted take on Christmas (yes, Christmas makes sense in a spring summer collection apparently…) where anything from Paris from the Simple Life, Gwen Stefani’s ska era, hospital scrubs and candy cane welding elves were injected into the Lolita frocks kawaii kink outfits.  

Up until recently, neither Schlösberg or Ammerman had been to Japan, the source of their inspiration.  Late last year, Ammerman finally made it to her spiritual home where she got acquainted with maid cafes, robots and the strangely simmering underbellies of smut in Tokyo and Osaka.  An Ammerman Schlösberg tour of Japan is on the cards.  Not surprisingly Ammerman got recognised on the streets in Tokyo as their American take on Japanese lolita has potential to make impact in the other direction.  It’s the sort of bi-directional culture conversation, indicative of the shrinking world we live in.  

0E5A7066Eric Schlösberg and Liz Schlösberg

0E5A7068Countercultural feet: Doc Marten boots and Vivienne Westwood platforms

Ammerman Schlösberg A/W 15-6 collection presented as part of Made Fashion Week:

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0E5A7079A Lolita nurse greeting guests at the door yesterday

 

Ammerman Schlösberg S/S 15 collection: 

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