>> The ‘A’ with a ring in the denim label Wåven (pronounced like ‘woven’) is vaguely significant.  Wåven’s founder and roots may be British but that Scandinavian touch is what marks this brand out as an affordable denim brand with a difference.  Anika Islam’s family has been in the denim business for over thirty years in South East Asia and after studying economics at Edinburgh and putting in a two-hour stint at Central Saint Martins and deciding it wasn’t for her, she went about setting up Wåven, spending a fair amount of time on getting the product and concept right, hence the minimal Scandi-feel of the imagery and the product.  The result is a branding experience – both on the website and in their temporary pop-up store in Soho – that feels like it’s been around much longer than its brief two seasons.

A solid and considered denim line for both men and women, that comprises not just jeans but tops and jackets (their S/S 15 Britta A-line coat is a standout piece) coupled with price points that is between £35 to £70, means that Wåven’s debut season saw them being picked up by ASOS, Urban Outfitters and from next week onwards, in Selfridges‘ prestigious denim floor.  I’m no denim expert but in my mind, there are few equals to Wåven, in terms of price and quality, as Islam and her team seek out the best denim that can be bought in scale to reduce costs.

On Thursday, I stopped by Wåven’s pop-up space on 3 D’Arblay Street in Soho, where they’ve got a jeans customisation workshop going on for the duration of their tenure until the 10th June.  From £4-£10 a patch you can go get your Wåven jeans personalised with plaids and different shaded denim patches downs.  We can thank Junya Watanabe for the proliferation of patchwork denim, and I’m still deathly faithful for my hardy Junyas but as a price-conscious alternative with a greater flexibility in fits and washes, Wåven’s patchwork denim is worth seeking out.  In any case, the pop-up gives people an opportunity to try out Wåven’s range in-person, as this fast growing denim start-up will probably be settling down with a more permanent presence soon.

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0E5A5754Customised Wåven jeans worn with Muveil breton top, Miu Miu jacket, Purified loafers and Miu Miu sunglasses

>> I’ve been on a vintage Courrèges fixation for a while now, which means I should be jumping for joy over the recent news that present day Courrèges, under ownership of former ad execs Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, will be revived under the creative direction of Sébastien Meyer and Arnaud Vaillant, who had their own label Coperni Femme.  All the better to go with that Mod spangly bulbous make-up collaboration with Estée Lauder right?  And yet despite my love of Courrèges and what that name stands for, the news does vaguely puzzle and perturb me.

Once again, we have another set of names thrown in to the ring of ‘Maison Madness‘.  And yet another promising young label is put on the pyre and sacrificed.  Rather than slogging it out to build something great on their own, they’d rather attempt to revive a once-great name with ready made investment.  I don’t blame Meyer and Valiant in the least.  The assurance of investment into the duo as talented designers is too much of lure to resist and of course, the name name Andre Courrèges is a great one.  What the duo did for the short lived Coperni aesthetically lined up with the clean lines and space age hinting fabrications of yesteryear’s Courrèges.  And I don’t doubt Meyer and Valiant will come up with the goods.  But will their employers have enough foresight to realise that rebuilding a moribund ready to wear house can’t be done in season or two?  Wouldn’t it have been better to attempt to build 21st century’s answer to Courrèges rather than flog a name that won’t actually mean much to most of today’s audience?    

Yeah, yeah, broken record Susie.  Play that one again.  I don’t say any of this lightly.  I have a deep deep love for Courrèges.  And the vintage pieces that I’ve got my eye on (thanks 1st Dibs…) are going to burn a deep deep hole in my pocket.  Wouldn’t it be much better if these once-great couturiers were left in the past, with their legacies still intact and admired, through preservation of memory and garment?  And then we can be free to go forth and forge a future with new designers that have their own names above the door?

IMG_2672Courrèges’ collaboration with Estée Lauder – not sure whether to display or use these cosmetics…

courregesChoice selection of vintage Courrèges pieces on 1st Dibs

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When new app Frock Advisor asked me to take part in their Fashion Independents Day’ Grand Prix yesterday with the aim of visiting as many independent fashion stores in London as possible, garnering maximum retweets for the win, I was well up for it.  In other words, spending the day visiting shops that I’ve supported in the past and catching up with them, visiting new ones and all the while supporting independent bricks and mortar stores, that are toughing it out in harsh retail conditions in London.  A big fat hell yes to that.  Frock Advisor is a new app that aims to connect shoppers with independent boutiques around them, building up people’s profiles with lust items and loves.  Ok social shopping is nothing new but encouraging people to “find something different” as their tagline puts it, is bang on the agenda.

It certainly coincides with the release of The True Cost directed by Andrew Morgan (out on Netflix and iTunes) today.    On Tuesday night, I participated in a Guardian Live panel with my guiding stars in the ethical fashion sector Lucy Siegle and Orsola de Castro, designer Wayne Hemingway and Morgan after a screening of the film.  It was difficult to address all of the issues that this potent film brought up but what’s important is the beginning of the conversation of how we buy our clothes at large.  The film did a brilliant job of succinctly summing up what the problem is.  Now we can go and seek out the solutions, and have fun doing so at the same time.

I motioned that there isn’t one singular and correct way of having “guilt-free” wardrobes (and in any case, I’m against being ridden with guilt when shopping…).  Buying from independent boutiques is certainly one partially ethical way of opening our eyes to alternatives that exist beyond the high street and mainstream stores.  The optimistic glass half-full angle is that the act of buying isn’t bad but that instead, we could be buying well and make that bit of buying an interesting experience at the same time.

Furthermore the other crux of Fashion Independents Day is that we can all collectively seek out independent stores to support a fashion industry that is constantly coming out with the new.  Whilst Style.com busies themselves with their e-commerce venture and Yoox and Net-a-Porter become a joint behemothic force, indie stores still have a huge role in playing when a) supporting young designers and b) becoming the first port of call for shoppers to familiarise themselves with these new names and new brands.  And in the case of vintage stores… well, what comes around goes around.  London’s rich pick of vintage isn’t celebrated enough.  Ever year, one important vintage landmark seems to disappear, under pressure from high rents and changing shopping habits.  I’d love to see Fashion Independents Day made a regular thing, to encourage people to go off the beaten path with their shopping.  If not for other people’s benefit, than at the very least it gives me an excuse to shop properly in my own city and keep updated on what’s happening on those all-important rails…

On my own whistle-stop tour of ten boutiques in London, I bought/learnt the following…

… Bag designer Kate Sheridan‘s new-ish store on Lower Clapton Road is a beaut, selling not just her own wares but other brands like Bonne Maison socks and printed pieces by LF Markey.  Might have to do a 253/254 detour to E5 more often…

Pelicans and Parrots (and its sibling store Pelicans and Parrots Black) is still Stokey’s prime call for vintage…

House of Hackney‘s fashion offering has come a long way from printed tees and sweatshirts and I’m still pondering the need for the beautiful ‘Martello’ chair

… So.Much.Change. at Celestine Eleven since I first wrote about them.  Owner Tena Strok has changed up the buy so that it’s slightly more affordable and contemporary but no less interesting with labels like Claire Barrow, Rejina Pyo and Dorateymur…

Miista shoes‘ pop-up store on Redchurch Street is on until 7th June but they’ve done a roaring trade selling their S/S 15 Future Athens collection, full of pastel patent finishes and sporty details.  Here’s hoping they find a permanent physical space..

… I hadn’t been to The Laden Showroom on Brick Lane since I was at uni but to my mind, there’s no place quite like it in London with its assembly of super affordable indie labels.  It is the price-point alternative to the high street and is good fun to browse.  I loved the neon screen printed pieces by Typical Freaks

… Lamb’s Conduit Street is a bricks and mortar shopping delight and Darkroom is its biggest gem.  Founders Lulu and Rhonda have grown the store significantly since its beginnings with their own corner at Selfridges but their original store remains the better destination.  On this visit, I discovered that old Style Bubble fave Michelle Lowe-Holder has started doing plaited leather clutches that match up perfectly with Darkroom’s primary hued colour scheme…

… I need to race back to BOB by Dawn O’Porter’s pop-up on Monmouth Street as I loved their rail of designer vintage, and I believe their pop-up is ending pretty soon.  But on a more affordable scale, there’s fun to be found in Dawn O’Porter’s own range of clothes; especially in the latest addition – a Dirty Dancing inspired ‘I carried a watermelon’ skirt’ designed by Karen Mabon

Machine-A is obviously a primary destination for both myself and Steve.  It’s the boutique that I do go to frequently because I categorically *ALWAYS* find something to buy here.  I only had five minutes to browse on my Grand Prix shopathon but I’ll definitely be back to convince myself I need Ambush’ denim jumpsuit or some of the Diesel Tribute neoprene pieces…

… Finally, I made my way back to One of a Kind, the vintage store that used to feel so intimidating when I was a young teen exploring Portobello.  The prices were of course super scary back then.  Now though, with my more selective approach when it comes to vintage, I’m definitely going to task them with a list of specific designers to see if they can work their vintage-sourcing magic…

FIDAY21 From left to right, top to bottom: Clutching at Kate Sheridan’s geometric tote; Trying on Ambush’s denim jumpsuit at Machine-A; Getting to grips with “I Carried a Watermelon” skirt at BOB by Dawn O’Porter‘s pop-up store; Loading up on Pichulik Ndebele necklaces and bracelets at Darkroom; Discovering Typical Freaks‘ screen printed fun at The Laden Showroom; Scrambling for Claire Barrow at Celestine Eleven; Cycling to nowhere on Miista’s bike installation at their pop-up on until 7th June; Loving House of Hackney’s popular ‘Narcissa’ print; Getting into the carnival spirit at Pelicans and Parrots.  
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>> A familiar conversation crops up whenever I’m shopping with Phil Oh from Street Peeper, aka my male counterpart, who shares my love of pastel cuteness, cartoonish prints and kawaii themes in our clothes.  With advancement into his thirties and a desire to be taken seriously by society on his mind, he’ll cautiously ask me, “Is this too much?”  I have no idea why he seeks such counsel because he already knows what the answer will be.  I make this face…

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… and then I promptly exclaim, “Nooo of course not!  It’s so cuuuuuuuuute!  Get it.get it.get it!”

I am the kawaii-facilitator.  Or with alliteration, a cutie conduit.  And I don’t quite know when I’ll stop being forever attracted to clothes that look like could be sized down for babies and toddlers and trying to infect everyone around me to feel the same.  Judging by my squeals when a pair of Minna Parka leopard print trainers with bunny ear tongues and pink pom poms arrived, it’s not likely to be anytime soon.  A year notched into my thirties and I’m still perpetually wondering when an iota of doubt will creep in as it has done for Phil.  I envisioned a post thirty year-old me where I’d gradually begin to waft around in well-judged pieces of Comme des Garçons en noir, the sensible pieces from Prada and the occasional bit of Céline, tempered with a lot of COS.  That chic utopia or chictopia if you will has never manifested. 

Going back to Phil’s original question I’m scratching my head trying to remember when it was ever too much.  It comes down to shopping habits which haven’t changed much since my teens.  I normally shop alone and if I am with somebody, I rarely ask for their opinion.  I zoom into rails.  I don’t venture into changing rooms.  Five minutes later  When Steve shoots me a bemused smile at my latest cute-overload purchase, I give a sheepish shrug.  As if to say, “It is forever ingrained into me that I WILL categorically and compulsively buy things themed around cats/bunnies/pineapples.”

By the by, I’m typing all of this whilst staring down on a keyboard adorned with stickers of cats thanks to Supersweet x Moumi’s kitty catty sticker sets.

The deeper question to Phil’s pondering though is – do cats and cartoon-themed clothes hamper people’s ability to take you seriously?  That’s a question that I’m choosing to flout for now.  At least until the next arbitrary age milestone.

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0E5A5657Coach x Gary Baseman leather bomber jacket, Jonathan Saunders glasses, To be Adored shirt, Tsumori Chisato skirt, , TL-180 bag, Ryan Lo scarf, Pum Pum socks, Minna Parikka trainers