>> Fashion graduate season has come around again with a new batch of names about to be bandied around as ‘ones to watch’.  I’ve yet to talk up this year’s batch of MA students, specifically London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins, but some are already out of the starting blocks to strike out on their own with a brand.  ShuShu/Tong (first prize for a pleasingly onomatopoeic name) consists of Liushu Lei and Yutong Jiang, who both studied together on the fashion MA course at London College of Fashion.  Like sister duo Miuniku, who have gone before them, they already knew they were working together and produced pre-collection under the name ShuShu/Tong prior to graduating.   Based on Jiang’s final collection entitled ‘Naughty Girl’, ShuShu/Tong have a bona fide A/W 15-6 collection that looks ripe and ready to sell and wear.

‘Naughty Girl’ is the central character to the collection.  She wears bubble gum pink and lippy bright red for lolz with a dash of white.  She’s all about mixing it up, being mega random and tempering her girliness.  You could say that ShuShu/Tong’s aesthetic is indicative of the 2010s gen of designing where streetwear and sportswear get fused with fashion.  This sentence from ShuShu/Tong’s blurb just about sums it up:  “She can wear eveningwear when riding a bike, she can wear a fur coat on a tennis court, jeans and a T-shirt to parties… She is just having fun.”

And with all that spongey-looking oversized volumes (draped and ruched to resemble lips… which set of lips, one wonders…), exaggerated bows and of course that massive dose of red and pink, fun is exactly what these clothes are made for.

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I wasn’t expecting to blog about my visit to Clerkenwell Design Week last week.  I wasn’t even meant to go until badgered by my sister’s tempting pics on WhatsApp.  Blame it on the ongoing obsession with augmenting the house.  When faced with the choice between a new patio door or new season’s whatever, currently I’m swaying towards the door.  I know.  Tough life, eh?

Whilst Clerkenwell Design Week did yield vaguely useful home inspo pointers (polished concrete kitchen top anyone?) and yet more interesting designers that do insanely expensive chairs, I did find a myriad of textures and patterns that bear some relation to the fashion realm.  Isn’t everything a bit multi-disciplinary these days?  In fact, on the day that I went, there was a conversation held in the main venue about the blurring boundaries between fashion, design and architecture that partially explains why I occasionally deviate away from fashion on the blog.  Across the four main exhibition venues as well as the countless showrooms dotted around Clerkenwell, either for personal consumption or just as a visual treat, there was plenty to see and makes you understand why more well established events such as Salone de Mobile, Frieze, Art Basel and London Design Week warrant “fashion” coverage of sorts.

IMG_2472Architects Cousins & Cousins’ jewel-like glass installation on St John’s Square

At the Additions fair, Gemma Kay Waggett‘s patchwork textiles caught my eye, not just in the composition of pattern but in the colour combinations as well.  Her work was hanging up as part of Stroud International Textiles (SIT) Select‘s showcase.  Currently freelancing for Clarks, Waggett will also be putting out a collaboration with the classic shoe brand next year.

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I’m a fan of cray-cray patterned wallpaper and Bologna-based studio All the Fruits with their awesome geometric whimsicality was a good find.  Just need to figure out how to stuff yet another pattern into the house…

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When I was in the markets of Mexico City, deliciously colourful Guatemalan textiles kept on popping up, and London-based interiors brand A Rum Fellow has found a way to match up the best of weavers in Guatemala with quality furniture makers in England.  Unlike many of the cheaper mass-produced prints that are “inspired” by this part of the world, A Rum Fellow’s fabrics feel special and authentic.

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At the Craft Central studio, textiles designer Kate Lewis was selling examples of her work.  Lewis has created textiles for the likes of Chanel, Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton and one peek at beautiful pieces like the rainbow netting or the tightly pleated organza and you can see why.

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Also at Craft Central was Argentinian London-based jewellery designer Francine Oeyen‘s fiesta-themed cardboard pieces.

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From the latest crop of new wave furniture designers from the London College of Furniture, some interesting textures came to the fore in the shape of Matteo Pacella‘s recycled paper pulp chair and Isabel Farchy‘s ceramic tables.

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Icon magazine had their own Clerkenwell Design Week venue at the beautiful and rarely-seen Sessions House.  The peeled and stripped walls are especially Insta-worthy.

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With a similar veined-surface, I loved Ikuko Iwamoto‘s knobbly grainy textured ceramics at Craft Central.

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Depicting dusk until dawn, Whitebeam Studio‘s delicately painted ceramics are also on my radar.

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A wallpaper for my eyes only as all the flora and fauna of this ‘Ecclesiastical Botanica’ print by Kit Miles would give Steve a headache.

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Ok terrariums and neon hanging planters are a bit of an interior ‘trend’ item but Geo Fleur in London has a point of difference with their way of presenting cacti and other hardy plants with their geometric structures.

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You’ll have heard of Quill London if you’re a stationary freak.  It’s hard to resist their meticulous displays of lovely typefaces, copper accents and marble prints.  Pressie options aplenty here.

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I love my Falcon enamelware (yet another interior cliche…) for baking but love these Dyke & Dean splatterware enamel plates and serving platters even more.  They have a comprehensive online store with a brilliant pick ‘n’ mix lighting fixture shop too.

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UK studio Dorothy combine wit and nostalgia in their prints and objects.  Their series of ‘Lost Destination’ prints are well-observed as is the nan clock with the endearing expletive, which caused a mini-debate on my Instagram.  Love the knowledgeable peeps that piped up to say that the C word in fact has a hefty history behind it.

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Learnt that a ‘Lekk’ is the Wolof word for a tiny gardens  tended mainly by women all over Senegal.  In collaboration with Italian furniture maker Moroso and landscaping firm Uncommon, a wonderful ‘lekk’ was created inside Sessions House, draped with African Queen Fabrics.

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I had to shuffle very quickly past all the lush furniture but at Stellar Works‘ stand, this series of ‘Blink’ furniture designed by Yabu Pushelberg was hard to resist.  It was refreshing to see a touch of the cute pared with minimal lines.

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Away from the architects, flooring and office furniture showrooms, bag label M.Hulot and shoe brand Ops&Ops joined forces to present a group of independent product designers that could be classified as fashion but also sit just as well in amongst the design scene.  David David for instance with his geometric prints has managed that crossover well over the years with his foray both into fashion and interiors.

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M. Hulot‘s made-in-UK leather goods designed by Anna Kreeger:

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The simple and graphic forms of Karin Andreasson‘s jewellery:

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Eleanor Bolton‘s coiled and handstitched rope jewellery:

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I know I talked about plumping for homewares when making the choice between buying things for the wardrobe or the house but as a flats aficionado, I had to get a pair of these Ops & Ops 60s-tinged patent flats in sky blue.  A newish shoe label created  by Teri Olins and Steph Jones, the duo were inspired by a vintage shoe from the 1960s and set about remaking it with quality and comfort in mind.  Thus their No. 10 shoe shape with its mould-to-feet feel and lightly cushioned sole was born.  It’s only the beginning for Ops & Ops but they’ve happed upon a shape that can be rendered in a variety of materials, prints and patterns.  I’ve been wearing mine all weekend and they’re pretty hard to part your feet from.  An investment flat for the future.

 

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When I put out an opinion poll out on Instagram asking which young designer could, aesthetics aside, leave a lasting legacy like Lee McQueen, the names that came up pleasingly revolved around London: Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane and J.W. Anderson.  They are all brands with sure fire longevity in the making (or in Kane’s case, this already exists).  There were also some curveball answers like Jeremy Scott or Alexander Wang, who are perhaps diametrically opposite to McQueen.  Perhaps people got stuck on the word legacy and thought of the brands that would go the distance.

To conclude my collaboration with American Express, which first began with a visit to the McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A, I wanted to put together a list of trailblazing designers that I think draw comparison with McQueen on an aesthetic level, but that also place innovation and experimentation at the heart of what they do, and who might also merit having their work scrutinised by a museum curator twenty years from now, just as McQueen has.  Nowadays, the word ‘groundbreaking’ isn’t often seen in fashion show reviews, unless used as hyperbole.  And yet I believe that McQueen, for all his love of the historical and the traditional, did break new ground, whether it was in the cut of a silhouette or in his mode of showmanship.  Therefore perhaps the question should be different:  Who is currently innovating fashion and pushing it to somewhere that can be called ‘new’?

The one name that did get crop up on Instagram unsurprisingly, was Dutch designer Iris van Herpen.If not for the stylistic and thematic similarities, then for her demi-couture approach that only recently saw her branch off from haute couture to ready to wear.  In my opinion, you can see her work is no less considered, as incredible close-up shots of the fabrics from her latest “Hacking Infinity” A/W 15-6 collection reveal.  Her work simply does not come from the realm of convention, nor is it bound by a sense of reality.  

For her latest collection, van Herpen imagined the biosphere of another planet and the textures that might inhabit its terrain.  A stainless steel weave is burnt so that it glimmers with hues of an oil-slick and then pleated and shaped into circular formations.  A 3D hand woven grid-like textile is created in collaboration with Aleksandra Gaca, creating an optical illusion.  In an ongoing bid to constantly look beyond fashion, van Herpen also works with professor of architecture Philip Beesley, to design sculptural dresses made out of fractal-like geometries.  Crystals crafted from 3D printing grow from beneath the vertiginous heels of Noritaka Tatehana.  McQueen had already begun to probe the dystopian questions of how the world might look in the future.  Van Herpen has set herself the path to take that probing further, aided by technologies in fabrications that McQueen may have delved into himself. 

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It might be fair to say Kunihiko Morinaga of Anrealage has drawn more comparisons with Hussein Chalayan than Alexander McQueen. His shows, which have decamped from Tokyo Fashion Week to Paris for the last two seasons, deserve praise for their willingness to open our jaded eyes to something really new.  Last season for Morinaga’s Paris debut, he played with photo and heat sensitive inks on white garments so that faint patterns would be revealed when shone with laser-like beams of light.   

This season, the effect was more dramatic as it was inverted with seemingly black fabrics made to reveal hidden patterns under ultraviolet light.  That effect was pre-empted with blacked-out garments printed with fade-in/fade-out patterns. In the final portion of the show, out trooped models in black ensembles which were embedded with photochromic patterns, that could only be seen when under UV light.  The UV spotlights moving around revealed distinct patterns of polka dots, floral prints and checks that would then disappear into darkness as soon as the UV was switched off.  It’s difficult to assess where all this supreme fabric research and innovation can go in the practical world, but I believe Morinaga is shining a spotlight (literally) on what may be possible in the world of textiles and there’s still so much potential.  Anrealage’s shows are a feast for the brain.  You leave excited about what is next.

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Finally, The Unseen isn’t a fashion label per se, but to me, it embodies the trailblazing spirit of McQueen in what it does.  Founded by self-proclaimed alchemist Lauren Bowker, who studied printed textiles at the Royal College of Art, The Unseen is more like a house of exploration, focusing on the metamorphosis of materials.  Bowker has been creating chromic, colour-chana inks that can then be applied to various disciplines, with fashion being one of them.  Alongside Bowker, The Unseen, now based in the Vaults in Somerset House, consists of anatomists, engineers, chemists and pattern cutters, who collectively aim to put their “magick” into bespoke projects.  

Their work is primarily based around inks that are sensitive to wind, heat, moisture and light and they, in turn, have been applied to couture pieces that act as a spectacular showcase in terms of what The Unseen can do.  For example, a winged cape that changes colour upon contact with the air around it, or a skull cap glowing with Swarovski spinel stones that visualise the heat loss from the head, graduating in colour from orange to red to green, to blue to purple.  Its latest piece entitled, “Eight Sense” is a coded couture piece, which changes in response to real-time digital media as it aims to discover and investigate the human state of being, by using a physical garment linked with human magnetism.  

So, basically… a wearable mood ring?  You might ask, who really needs that?  But when the effects are so beautiful, it makes you wonder how much more we can explore by bringing chemistry and fashion together.  You’re more than welcome to find out more by visiting The Unseen as they continue their explorative residency at Somerset House.  I’ll be delving deeper into what their “magick” entails soon enough and keeping an eye on all the aforementioned talent to see how they continue to trail blaze in their work; just as Alexander McQueen did before them.

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>> Having spent the weekend playing imagination-based games with a toddler where expensive toys were duly eschewed in favour of sticks and stones, I suddenly remembered how much fun I had aged six or seven, with my own lo-fi fun when I used to jump into books.  Vaguely inspired by the jumping into chalk drawing scene from Mary Poppins, I thought diving feet first into my illustrated picture books and thus further destroying their spines, was a surefire way of escaping reality.  Today, there are more effective ways of re-imagining and re-configuring your surroundings.  Why not just superimpose your feet with Photoshop on to any image you can glean from Google?  Or looking further down the line into the future, you might virtual reality it up with whatever new Google Glass-esque device so that your surrounding realm is a living fashion editorial?  And yet there’s something pleasingly silly and antiquated about physically standing on a book.  There might be slicker and more efficient ways of jumping into books but I’ll still be encouraging future lil’ ones (either mine or other people’s offpsring) to dream up a different realm when their feet meets paper.

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