>> Back in February last year, I wrote a profile of Jeremy Scott in lieu of his debut for Moschino for Style.com’s print issue.  It was a result of some close following of Scott, observing him at work as well as interviewing him in depth.  The one thing that I will always remember from that experience is Scott’s candidness about how people see his work.  My brain thinks in icons and working with things that universally bring people into it. I’m never going to be inspired by some obscure film, which isn’t to say I don’t enjoy that sort of thing. I just want to share my work with everyone.  I like to think of my work and the way people approach it in the same way people approach a Lichtenstein painting.  You can write a one-hundred-page dissertation about why he used comics. Or it could be like, ‘This is cute!’” 

And so it is that surface presented itself in abundance for his energy-charged menswear collection for Moschino, presented as part of this season’s edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence.  So much so that I got stuck in a Fashematics rut.  It was a hyper graphic, hyper literal and hyper period gleaning of the sort of references that I’m always going to be fond of – with one or two vaguely obscure films thrown into it for good measure, despite Scott’s protestations last year.  Fellini’s Casanova was the primary inspiration.  But Amadeus, Behind the Candelabra and of course Marie Antoinette come to mind.  Then throw in cycling jerseys, Formula 1 graphics and motocross gear – aka the kind of active wear that is ripe for a style crossover (didn’t I say motocross would happen?) and you have yourself a feasting of Baroque ’n’ Roll.  By ‘roll’, I’m referring to the wheels of speedy vehicles that skid on tarmac race courses.

As always, Scott’s visual treatment is always going to be a touch too brash for most – ‘clownish’ even.  Well I say clown away.  I’m down for the mashing up of Tour de France with 18th century frock coats, Mr Motivator with Napoleon or Liberace with Grand Prix – and everything awesome but the kitchen sink.  Wasn’t it Franco Moschino himself who once said: “”Good taste doesn’t exist.”

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At Pitti Uomo in Florence, you almost get battered with brands that constantly talk up their “timeless”, “classic” and “well-crafted” credentials.  It’s evident everywhere you go in many of the tradeshow’s booths and on the men that stalk around Fortezza Basso.  Therefore when Thomas Tait was deep in discussion with Pitti over a year and a half ago to be their guest designer, it’s no surprise those values would seep into his carte blanche Florence “happening”.  This wasn’t a show.  This wasn’t a presentation.  This wasn’t even a new collection.  Instead, Tait, together with architect Mehrnoosh Khadivi and the support of Pitti Immagine put together an exhibition inside the Boboli Gardens where, he reflects upon the current state of fashion, through conversation, installation and the tightest edit of physical garments.

Tait’s conversation piece segued rather nicely into what I recently wrote a piece for AnOther/Dazed Digital, where I talked about our obsession with the “new” and not allowing designers enough time or freedom to really work out who they are as creatives.  Ever the contrarian, who will do things his way at his own pace, he rebuffs the new and instead decided to revisit and refine the old.  In seven displays, there was a face-off between the initial experimental “original” from one of Tait’s old collections and then a new-and-improved version, made with specialist manufacturers mostly in Italy.  In the central display, a video featuring conversations between Tait and longtime supporter Cathy Horyn, his stylist Beth Fenton and architect Khadivi showcases the physical dialogue to support what we were seeing.

Whilst it’s something of an insight into the way a designer like Tait creates and develops collections and his technical nous in terms of how to really perfect a garment as a complete vision, what’s more significant is the way he is probing the industry and goading them to slow down, touch and see with our own eyes an attention to detail that is in danger of not being appreciated.  In Khadivi’s mirrored and neon-lit set, a light is being shone upon us and our bodies are warped in the reflection.  We’re confronting and questioning the industry’s modus operandi as much as we are pondering say, an expertly made red patent plonge leather jacket.  By taking advantage of the luxury of having the freedom at Pitti to do what he wants, Tait gets to showcase what his design ethos is really about – disciplined design, where every cut of the cloth, every seam and every aspect of fabrication is considered and considered again.

That doesn’t make for an in yer’ face snappy moment to upload onto social media.  In any case, there’s no way of digitally communicate exactitudes like Tait’s use of a dandelion and smoke fragrance by Perfumer H that permeated the space.  Nor is there a filter or lens sharp enough to do Tait’s choice of fabrics justice.  Therefore there will be people looking at these photos scratching their heads.  What are we looking at here?  What are we seeing?  A better question would be to ask – is there too much “new” in fashion?  Can we learn to appreciate what has gone before ensure that there’s an established foundation before moving on so swiftly?

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0E5A8433The Original: Nude lycra thigh boots from S/S 13.  Now: Purple stretch thigh high boots manufactured by Mario di Castri in collaboration with Tacchificio del Brenta

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0E5A8447The Original: White plonge leather biker jacket from S/S 12.  Now: Double faced bonded patent red plonge leather jacket manufactured by BIMAT Paris.  

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0E5A8461The Original: Yellow and clear filament yarn striped knit jumper from S/S 15.  Now: White cashmere and celluloide knit jumper manufactured by G.P. SAS

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0E5A8469The Original: Resin mould LED earrings from A/W 14.  Now: Silver plated crescent LED earrings manufactured by Forlioro group

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0E5A8474The Original: Navy leather clutch from A/W 11. Now: White moulded leather with patent leather tubular pocket manufactured by Atelier Betenfeld-Rosenblum

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0E5A8485The Original: White viscose jersey t-shirt from S/S 12.  Now: Black knitted silk tee manufactured by G.P. SAS

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0E5A8499The Original: Navy cashmere and wool coat from A/W 11.  Now: Black and navy reversible wool knit coat manufactured by G.P. SAS

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Down the road in a different part of the gardens, we got to see something very new indeed.  So new in fact that it’s not even being labelled as an official season.  It was new creative director Massimo Giorgetti’s “Pilot Episode” for Pucci, to showcase what is suffice to say, a radical new aesthetic.  You couldn’t get more of an aesthetic volte-face as Giorgetti does away with that glamour-ridden cliched-hippy sass of Peter Dundas’ Pucci girl.  This is meant to be a taster of a collection, perhaps for Giorgetti to “feel” his way into the house before he presents his first show for the house in Milan in September.  And feel he did.  When you Google Image “Vintage Pucci”, you’ll find zane, kookiness and an absolute abandon for convention in colour combinations and print formations in what Emilio Pucci did.  Giorgetti dialled all of that up for his pilot episode, dipping into veritable vintage prints like a 1950s paintbrush design, abstracted colour combos that hone in to what the house did for rainbow palettes in fashion as well as adding his own touches of the oddball.  Tourists in Florence on a cartoonish print for example (if you look closely, Obama can be seen taking in the sights).  Never mind the saturated colours and eye candy prints though as the most dramatic change-up about Giorgetti’s vision for Pucci is in the casualfication of the silhouettes.  There’s a newfound slouchiness and off-kilter sense of proportion.  A sweatshirt creeps in here and there (albeit attached with feathers).  Shirts are twisted and made asymmetrical.  Foulard tops aren’t body conscious but hang off the body.  Giorgetti rejects stereotypes of sexiness and reaches out to search for “modernity” and “realness” – ok, they’re vague catch-all words but you get the idea.

Viewed in a broader context, one by one, each house belonging to LVMH has been radicalised in branding, aesthetic and feeling, with seemingly one ultimate goal – the ensnare a younger generation of luxury goods customer – one that isn’t necessarily attached to heritage or history, but is looking forward to the future, much like the visionary creative directors ensconced at the maisons.  It’s too soon to say whether Giorgetti’s radical vision is a step too far for the existing Pucci customer but not knowing what to expect is what keeps you tuned in.  At the very least, given that I’m an unashamed colour and print kookster, he has hit something of a bull’s eye.  I’m there.  But how many of my ilk are out there, you wonder?

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When I went in to see Chanel’s press day a few months ago, they asked me with a vaguely tentative tone, what I thought of their new “Girl” bag, introduced for S/S 15 and championed by Karl Lagerfeld.  It’s certainly a bag that inspires a “Love it/hate it” reaction judging by the comments on Purse Forum (yes, I only seem to have one source of info where bags are concerned…).  But seeing as I am a lover of similarly divisive foodstuff equivalents like Marmite, oysters and sea urchin, I am, as you guessed, decidedly in the “Love It” camp.  Whilst the bag has been christened as “Girl”, it actually has more of a boyish air, what with its tie-up-yourself straps and postman’s satchel slash record bag feel.  The name is perhaps in reference to tomboy girls who might hang around Camden in Doc Martens and a bag that gets slung around the body rather than say a 2.55 that politely sits on one’s shoulder looking all fancy with its chain hardware.  And its deliberate kitschiness with the body of the bag taking on the shape of a classic Chanel jacket or cardigan is precisely what draws me to it.  Like the S/S 14 art student rucksack, it calls to me with its unapologetic slouchiness.  Just call me contrary.  I like it.  Deal with it.

Perhaps the best thing about the Girl though is the fact that it sort of amalgamates into an outfit depending on how you wear it and so it becomes less bag but more outfit accoutrement that happens to be able to hold phone, wallet, keys and other gubbins such as a Bluetooth keyboard (essential in my case when working on the go).  So when Chanel asked me to have a play around with their Girl, I gladly accepted.  It was touted as a challenge but a quick dip into my current wardrobe favourites (sunlight = less layers) and the Chanel Girl finds herself being tied up all over the place, ever so easily.  Worn as a rucksack, a longer cross-body, a shorter under-the-arm pouch or a bum bag (or hip apron if you will), like I said, the Girl is more of a garment slash accessory.  It’s the sweater that you “nonchalantly” tie around your waist that can double up as a bag.  This is a 2-in-1 that actually has some serious mileage in it.  Just wait until the colder weather come around again, as the layering cogs in my brain are already beginning to turn… 

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0E5A8183Worn with Eo To To jacket, Tome jumpsuit and Celine slip-ons

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0E5A8231Worn with Etre Cecile dress, J. Kim belt and Nicholas Kirkwood flats

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0E5A8277Worn with Bliss & Mischief shirt, Coach skirt and Pollini wedges

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0E5A8305Worn with J. Kim x Masterpeace top, Marques Almeida jeans and Chanel sandals

LC:M has been and gone in a flurry of essential pieces, “wardrobes” for reality and perhaps a dose of predictability that seems vital in order for businesses to kick on.  There was one big exception though.  At Fashion East’s Menswear Installations, which was previously a house of cacophony where four or five designers converge to bring madness to the method, Lulu Kennedy and her team have edited it down to two strong voices.  They couldn’t have been more of a contrast to one another but they both sung from the same hymn sheet that preaches out why London’s is still the epicentre of creativity in fashion.  I came out buzzing with excitement and optimism because in a nutshell, they had collectively summed up the state of fashion at present and where it should be going if we’re to have an industry that isn’t devoid of feeling and inclusivity.    

Charles Jeffrey, a Central Saint Martins MA graduate from this year took over the ground floor of the ICA with a replica of his club night Loverboy, a dress-up-or-you’re-not-coming-in residency at Vogue Fabrics in Dalston, which has been dubbed the successor to the Boombox and Ponystep nights of the early noughties.  Jeffrey actually used the door takings of Loverboy to partially fund his MA course – just another pertinent reminder that fashion is increasingly in danger of slipping solely into the hands of the privileged. 

A throng of Loverboy regulars, ready for Instagram or Instax, waved their hands like they just didn’t care in a combination of their own charity shop or DIY ensembles mixed in with Jeffrey’s own customised denim, tailoring made in conjunction with Savile Row Chittleborough & Morgan and spliced up Aran knits by fellow CSM grad Joshie Beatty.  What Charles Jeffrey is communicating here is the fighting spirit of a group effort, that is saying no to formalised product, seasons or structure.  He’ll chuck paint Jackson Pollock style directly on the models.  He’ll screen test his tribe with Andy Warhol-esque Factory videos.  He’ll break up a chandelier and fashion it into a necklace.  And yet at the same time, Jeffrey knows what goes into the cut of a well constructed coat.  Loverboy goers throng about in amongst flower petals and broken glass and with every thrust of a limb, don’t-give-a-fuck scream and sellotaped seam, there’s desire to retain what London has always so successfully spawned – a club kid scene that elevates fashion to some non-formulaic heights.  Your entry into Jeffrey’s Loverboy world isn’t compromised by race, sexuality, wealth or social standing – just let your unbounded creativity do the talking. 

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Upstairs in the ICA you couldn’t get more of a contrasting foil to Jeffrey’s antics.  If Jeffrey thrilled you, then Grace Wales Bonner floored you.  As I was leaving, I passed my boyfriend Steve, who had emerged entranced for forty-five minutes in Bonner’s universe.  Bonner has had an unprecedented rise since her award-winning CSM BA collection ‘Afrique’ in 2014.  She debuted her second collection ‘Ebonics’ with Fashion East in January and has also taken part in V&A’s Fashion in Motion programme usually reserved for designers who have built up at least a decade’s worth of collections.  That’s just one indication of how deeply impressive Bonner’s work is, with deep being the operative word.  Few designers at such a young age pair academia and design in the same way that Bonner does nor use fashion to further a conversation about identity, race and culture as she has done.  Conner’s fixation with investigating black culture in fashion isn’t a gimmick but rather, she’s seeking to refute stereotypes and create a dialogue between clothes, wearer and onlooker that seeks to go far beyond whatever race you happen to be.  Hip hop swagger and heavy-handed streetwear or sportswear have no place in Bonner’s world where she explores a gracefulness that borders on being regal. 

Precisely why her S/S 16 collection is based on Malik Ambar, a 16th century slave in Ethiopia who becomes a ruler in Western India with an independent army.  That journey is a beautiful one as we wafted from room to room observing tranquil gestures and an abstracted sartorial take on Ambar’s life.    Our idea of African diaspora is altered as we observe this man of ease in battered silks, sun-bleached checks and wide linen trousers segueing into crushed velvet ensembles, encrusted with Swarovski and shells and nehru collar-ed shirts.  With Bonner’s clothes, the context is just as important as the construction and whilst that may not be a set-up that is sustainable, for now, Bonner is free to create candidly, trickling down her ideas to further the conversation at large not just with her collections but with projects like her Everythings for Real zine published by Ditto Press.  When fashion is powerful like that, it needs to be free to grow and develop at its own pace and the industry will do well to support this visionary.   

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