You might have gathered from my Instagram that I’m currently in Seoul in Korea for Seoul Fashion Week – or Hera Seoul Fashion Week – as it’s the first season SFW has come under private sponsorship.  The week will be coming to a close soon and I’ll be posting on the shows from the as a whole but first up, let’s marvel at what I think has been one of the best all-in-one fashion week venues I’ve been to ever.  With the inauguration of the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun Design Plaza (or DDP for short) last year, SFW found its new natural home, where every approach into a fashion show feels like you’re embarking on a space odyssey.  I’ve been in awe of the scale of the thing everyday this week and at night, this bulbous metal blob lights up, which makes you slightly giddy when you’re walking through its tunnels and passages.

If you follow the trail of  200,000 planted LED roses right now, you’ll find yourself at the free-for-all retrospective exhibition, ‘ANTHOLOGY of Jin Teok, Creation of 50 Years’, the opening of which kicked off SFW last Thursday.  I vaguely knew of Teok’s name but didn’t really know too much about the context and finer details of her work.  Suzy Menkes contributed the foreword to the exhibition, which summed up Teok’s work like this:

In this culture of MORE! – more sound, more colour, more fashion, more relentless noise – Jin Teok has offered us, for half a century, something uniquely precious: the still, small voice of calm.

Walking in, suddenly the noise of Dongdaemun is indeed turned right down.  Teok was part of a Korean fashion collection, which began to emerge in the early 90s, but her work in fashion dates back the 1960s when she helped pioneer Korea’s contemporary fashion scene.  Like the Japanese in the 1980s, Teok, along with fellow Koreans Lee Young-Hee and Sul Yun-Hyoung (who are all being highlighted in the current Korea Now! exhibition at the Les Arts Décoratifs in Paris as part of the France-Korea year), came to Paris to make their mark.  Their sombre and refined work bears little relation to the K-Pop and hallyu wave of fashion that dominates Seoul Fashion Week today.  In reply to Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto’s penchant for black, Teok answers back mostly in Edwardian blouse-derived whites and delicate shades of cream.  Although exaggerated and body-morphing silhouettes permeate Teok’s collections, an understated femininity is present in her work, where texture and touch are integral.  Teok makes great use of traditional Korean elements too as seen in the embroidered floral motifs and her use of Korean fabrics such as the very fine mosi (a gauze-like fabric made out of the ramie plant and typically worn in the summer) and stiffened silks that are used in hanboks.

Jin Teok’s presence behind the in yer’ face happenings of SFW at DDP is a potent reminder that there is a soul in Seoul’s fashion heritage.  It’s a powerful respite if you’re in Seoul and you find yourself wandering in after you’ve got your fill of pics of the plastic roses.

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Having been mired in the fashion month bubble, a few notable London happenings have passed me by.  London Design Week has been and gone.  And as we speak, I’m about to get on a flight to Seoul, whilst Frieze is in full swing and London Film Festival is about to commence.  I’m basically missing this that’s city constantly in flux.  I did manage to go check out Multiplex, conceived by interiors luminary Tom Dixon and dubbed the “multi-sensory department store of tomorrow”, which has been living in the back of Selfridges in what is normally a derelict space, for the past few weeks.

It was meant to coincide with London Design Week, but Dixon was keen not to just speak to design people.  “It’s like how fashion weeks works – you’re preaching to the converted,” he said, as he most graciously took the time out to show me around Multiplex, on the day before it came to an end.  Inspired by Andy Warhol’s Factory, the space shimmers with silver foil-covered walls, all the better to reflect Dixon’s clusters of copper home objects and metal lampshades.  Dixon’s various homeware collections are arranged throughout Multiplex but dotted amongst them are a carefully selected array of brands that make this an intriguing “alternative department store.”

You might be wondering why I’m talking about Multiplex at all, seeing as it actually closed yesterday.  The actual happening might have already happened but at the heart of Multiplex is an idea that has legs for the future.  Multi-displinary.  Multi-sensory.  Collaborative.  Sharing economy.  These are the buzz phrases that when used at will can sound like marketing spiel.  In the case of Multiplex though, what Dixon and his team created was a fantastic amalgamation of all of these things.  “There’s a danger that London becomes a bit anodyne, a bit impersonal.  London is multilayered and over-lapping,” said Dixon.  “And the way we live isn’t mapped out like a department store – where the beauty department is on the ground floor and interiors is on the top floor.  The modern world is about increasing your network.  The more you’re able to go beyond your hermetically sealed environment, the more it benefits you as a designer and as a label.  I’ve always battled being against being too much of an expert in what I do. ”

And so at the back of one of the world’s biggest department stores is a space that Dixon has called a “parasite”.  The good sort that is.  And inside are a host of young start-ups and fledgling labels that are all about fluidity or “elasticity” as Dixon puts it.  They sit well together because they are going about their specific fields in unexpected ways.  Take Haeckels –  one of the few of the brands within Multiplex that I had heard of.  Their Made in Margate moniker and their foraged cliff-side ingredients have made this skincare and fragrance brand a quiet success.  They’ve come together with spatial design firm Loop.ph to create a bubble-like spa, where you inhale a specially formulated medicinal fog.  This horticultural pod has been living inside of Multiplex.

It’s not necessarily about choosing UK centric brands either.  You have furniture from New Zealand label Resident and playful synthesisers from Swedish start-up Teenage Engineering.  The Danish brand brings Japanese binchotan traditions into their range of charcoal-based products.  On the fashion side of things, Multiplex turned me on to two new names.  Obataimu, a slow fashion label based in Mumbai but inspired by Tokyo, has an intriguing concept, which allows people to meet the artisans behind their work to understand the process and thus fully customise fit, fabric and colour of these wabi sabi-esque clothes.  Filipino-Australian designer Karen Topacio has just recently started her label based in Paris and for her latest S/S 16 collection, she developed a body-sensory draping software whereby you move your body in front of the screen and it creates these CAD-like volumes that Topacio then used to create the shapes for her collection.

The thing that excited me the most was the way this collective of labels were chosen on merit, rather than in a department store, where space comes at a premium to brands.  The ephemeral nature of the space means there’s an element of discovery which is becoming something of a rarity when so much of London’s West End retail is spoon-fed to you.  I spent a good amount of time with Cubitts, learning about their made-to-measure eyewear and looking at their vintage oddities.  I don’t remember when was the last time I spent more than ten minutes in a department store because I so often just zoom in for the thing that I’m after and get out as soon as I can.

Having grown up in London, Dixon was also inspired by the likes of Kensington Market and Hyper Hyper.  Funnily enough, Kensington Market was the original starting point of Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe’s Dover Street Market, which will be making a dramatic move to Haymarket next year.  That’s the level that Multiplex could well be aiming for, albeit with more disciplines and verticals added into the mix.

“I would really like it to last for three or six months – like a fun fair or circus that comes into town for a bit,” said Dixon.  “Then the year after, you might surprise people with a new location or new products.  People need to be surprised.  It’s a harder and harder battle to get people out and about.  I like the idea of a travelling circus.  It keeps people on their toes.”

Taking the time to discover, learn and ultimately purchase is my ideal shopping experience.  And it’s one that has definitely intrigued a swathe of people that managed to visit Multiplex.  What Dixon has created here feels like a blueprint for multi-brand, cross-displinary and collaborative retail.  Where independence can thrive and where brands and start-ups can be discovered as a collective.

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0E5A7775Tom Dixon‘s homewares

0E5A7825A paint splattered installation by print-on-demand company Moo

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0E5A7690Furniture and interiors by the New Zealand company Resident

0E5A7698Table arrangement by Clerkenwell London

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0E5A7705A rail of Zoe Jordan clothes from Clerkenwell London

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0E5A7863Unusual foods chosen by Arabeschi di Latte

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0E5A7747Portable synths and pocket OS systems by Teenage Engineering

0E5A7741Connected grown-up lego to illustration the powering of networks by Sam Labs

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0E5A7673Products from Made in Margate skin care brand Haeckels 

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0E5A7785Shoes from Filipino-Australian designer Karen Topacio‘s graduate collection

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0E5A7794Karen Topacio‘s digital draping software and the resulting garments

0E5A7763Utilitarian babys by Yvonne Kone

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0E5A7814Tokyo-inspired, Mumbai-based slow fashion label Obataimu that exposes the manufacturing process and preaches a ‘wabi-sabi’ philosophy

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0E5A7831Rive Roshan‘s UV light filtered printed scarves

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0E5A7867Cubitts‘ biometric measuring software to ensure glasses are a perfect fit

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0E5A7898Tom from Cubitts trying on a pair of vintage glasses that enable you to read whilst lying down

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It was all too tempting to do a comparative post between Louis Vuitton’s Series 3 exhibition and Chanel’s Mademoiselle Privé exhibition, which has just opened at the Saatchi Gallery in London on Monday.  Both are brand immersive experiences.  Both are free for the public to attend.  Both encompass huge spaces.  Both have technology and social media centred in the initiative, albeit with two very different approaches and that’s where the similarities end, which is why I couldn’t really compare LVSeries3’s apples to Mademoiselle Privé’s  pears.  They’re two very different houses with different brand agendas.  

Akin to the sort of brand “Disneylands” that Chanel and Dior have created in Harrods or in previous exhibitions such as Little Black Jacket and Miss Dior, Mademoiselle Privé does follow in that vein, where history, heritage and house codes bear repeating but in a way that is easily digestible, visually entertaining and of course, tailor-made for social media.  Selfie sticks were already in action as soon as you stepped in the specially-commissioned English garden, lining the entrance into Saatch Gallery.  The first floor deals with those Chanel-isms that even the most lightweight of fashion enthusiasts will vaguely know – that mirrored staircase of Rue Cambon, Coco Chanel’s beginnings selling hats in a shop in Deauville, her love of all things Scottish like tweed and fisherman’s sweaters and her attachment to certain totemic symbols such as the camellia, lucky numbers and colours like lacquer red.  Everything is anchored with the Mademoiselle Privé app, which is used to guide you through the exhibition as well as reveal interactive details that bring parts of it to life, such as the opening staircase revealing Coco Chanel’s apartment or a Mademoiselle Privé door opening with Gabrielle Chaplin as a 50-something year old Coco. 

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In the Chanel No.5 room, the famous scent is broken down into a theme park sequel olfactory experience where the different notes burst up as fragrant steam from floor portholes.  Multi-sensory is one of those exhibition buzzwords that actually applies here.

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You get into more traditional exhibition territory as you wade through curtains of tweeds and silks, that are meant to represent the raw materials of the Chanel atelier with shadows of the seamstresses projected onto the walls.  Upstairs, it’s an ode to Chanel’s haute couture tradition with a room placing neon lights through some of the most intricate and seemingly transparent haute couture pieces that Lagerfeld has created over the years.  It’s an effective way of magnifying couture.  The latest casino haute collection also gets its own room alongside Lagerfeld’s photographs of the stellar cast that rolled the dice at the table back in July in Paris.

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Finally on the third floor, the razz ma tazz of the ground floor is dialled down for the workshops with Lesage and Lemarié, both of course owned under Chanel’s Parrafection umbrella.  The public can sign up and make a fabric collage of camellias or try their hand at embroidering an intricate bejewelled brooch.  I was evidently terrible at both so instead I photographed the deft hands of Grazia fashion director Susannah Frankel.

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The inception of this exhibition might have had the digital world in mind and the method of viewing it might be seen through screens but if you do end up going to see the exhibition and take part in a workshop as well, you leave with two c’s in your mind, that are as important to Chanel as camellias or Coco herself.   Craftmanship.  Couture.  They’re not there just to endear mainstream audiences to Chanel to impel them to buy a lipstick or two but are still, thankfully working realities.

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One of the most memorable moments whilst touring the Louis Vuitton Series 3 exhibition at 180 the Strand in London, which will be coming to a close on the 18th October, came just as we were about to exit.   It was behind the video screen room, entirely exposed, with cables and plastic sheeting there for all to see.  That was left as such on purpose.  “This is the back of the experience with its pants down,” remarked Es Devlin, the renowned stage designer, who was showing me around as she has been working with Nicolas Ghesquière since S/S 15 on the staging of his shows and on the creative direction of these Series exhibitions.

“So erm… Louis Vuitton were ok with this?” I asked tentatively as I peered into the industrial space with its metal shelving and exposed projectors.  According to Devlin, Michael Burke, the CEO of Louis Vuitton was the first person to really urge Devlin and Ghesquière to expose all of it.  “They’re so up for it,” affirmed Devlin.  “I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t.”

That illustrated just how different this brand immersive exhibition is to the ones we’ve seen before in the past.  Dior’s Miss Dior and Esprit Dior or Chanel’s Little Black Jacket exhibitions that have toured the world often feel like branded Disneylands, designed to delight, tell a straightforward narrative and re-affirm the history of each house in a very deliberately spoon-fed way.  At Louis Vuitton, we’re starting a new chapter with Nicolas Ghesquière.  This exhibition dubbed Series 3 follows on from Series 1 and Series 2, where each of Ghesquière’s  game changing collections have been explored.  “Whilst I respect the patrimony of the house, I’m also here to look forward and create something new,” said Ghesquière backstage after his most recent S/S 16 show.  That also in turn sums up the point of this exhibition.  The history of Louis Vuitton and what it represents as a house lingers in the background, but isn’t hammered into you like a branded bludgeon.  Instead the focus is on the way Ghesquiere’s thought process behind the A/W 15-6 show reveals itself to you through ways that you might not have thought about.  It’s the antithesis to linear story telling and easy-to-digest brand messaging.  For the fashion rabid amongst us, that felt exciting.  And for the everyday person passing by?  It could be a head scratcher.

“For Nicolas, that idea of a museum exhibit is not his thing at all,” said Devlin.  “We could have taken his moodpboard and sketchbooks and hung up some of the clothes and left it at that.  But we just wanted to approach it in the way that Nicolas would do anything he does – with imagination.”  Imagination is exactly what’s required when stepping into a room where Juergen Teller’s poem is read out by actress Adele Exarchopoulos underneath a geodesic structure, mirroring the set of the A/W 15-6 show.  Through a wind tunnel you’re then confronted with an archive Louis Vuitton trunk, from which characters, CAD-like break downs of the Petite Malle and the set are unpacked on to a 360 degree surround screen.  Then you enter a recreation of the A/W 15-6 show space where models walk at you in different directions and you can sit wherever you like to see the show in different angles, which is essentially an expanded view on the rigid structure of show formats.  Devlin was interested in the participatory experience of a fashion show.  “How do I share a fashion show with my mates?” she asked.

0E5A7865Exposed behind the scenes debris

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LV_S3_JMS_InfiniteShow1Recreation of the A/W 15-6 showspace with models walking towards you 

Over the next series of rooms, Ghesquiere challenges the presentation of “savoir-faire” not with classical and nostalgic demonstrations but with a futuristic vision that involves close-up cameras zooming in on artisans putting together the Petite Malle, a leather laser-cutting room and the making of a bag, presented in real time and sped up as an abstract interpretation of those skilled hands.

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0E5A7799Artisans from Asnières making the Petite Malle with close-up cameras

LV_S3_JMS_ArtisanVideoDesks_LightStreaks-webVideos of hands in simultaneous in real time and sped up

LV_S3_JMS_LaserRoom3Laser cutting machines following the lines of pattern pieces for the Petite Malle

In essence, it’s also a more abstract exhibition to engage with but one that intrigues if you stay there just that bit longer.  It’s not an exhibition for quickie selfies just to say you were there – although the physical takeaways of the motif stickers,  are obviously social media worthy but one that’s open to interpretation and there to be unpicked.    That’s Ghesquière in a nutshell though.  His collections aren’t open books either, that can be read in an instant, which is precisely what makes them exciting.  It’s why Alexander Fury and I were able to spend an hour “unpacking” the fashion identity that Ghesquière is creating at Louis Vuitton.  Why the Petite Malle holds so much significance as a symbol of the coming together of Ghesquière with Louis Vuitton’s history.  Why he looks at the archives and is able to extract symbols, motifs and techniques and incorporate them into the clothes.  Why we never really associated a fashion silhouette with Louis Vuitton but how in a few years, that short and sharp A-line 1970s inflected ensemble feels very “Vuitton” and has subsequently permeated into other designers’ work.

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0E5A7839Exploring the A/W 15-6 wardrobe

0E5A7849The view from the lounge, looking out on to a London in flux, much like Louis Vuitton 

0E5A7855Those stickers that make excellent physical souvenirs

0E5A7860A teenage bedroom taped up with campaign images 

Which brings us neatly to Ghesquière’s latest collection presented in Paris last week.  If Series 3 is one indicator of how visions of the future intrigue Ghesquière, then S/S 16 saw these ideas really gestate in the clothes.  The wardrobe has been made concrete with the first few collections.  And now Ghesquière is free to hurtle towards the unknown, towards a future that plunges Louis Vuitton into a very exciting moment, where you don’t quite know what to expect.  The beginning of the show, soundtracked by an ad for the game Minecraft said as much.  “Let’s go whoever you want to go… build anything you want.  Build your own little community…Nobody can tell you what you can or cannot do.  With no rules to follow, this adventure begins now.” 

Where we went clothing wise wasn’t necessarily a stretch.  This wasn’t about creating sci-fi costumes fit for the films like Tron (original and rebooted), Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 or the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, which Ghesquière cited as inspirations for the collection.  The wardrobe is still there but this time, amplified by unexpected techniques and sharpness.  The opening pink leather jacket on Fernanda takes on an anime-like saturation (along with her Sailor Moon-esque headband).  Metallic embroideries on black mirror oscillate between flowers and motherboards.  The softness of billowing poet’s blouses and Edwardian-esque bubble-hemmed dresses are contrasted with motocross panelled trousers and leather holster straps.  Ghesquière also exercises his fabrication prowess with gel induction embroideries that look like liquid capsules adhered on to silk jumpsuit as well as coiling sequins under painted tulle for a finale of mind-bending dresses that look straight out of Cloud Atlas (starring the Korean actress Doona Bae, who Ghesquière is really inspired by).

I was really struck by what Ghesquière said about looking at this digital and virtual world as some sort of a reality.  Fashion has had to confront the digital world with anxiety and trepidation over the last ten years.  And even now, there remains scepticism.  At Alber Elbaz of Lanvin’s latest exhibition “Alber Elbaz / Lanvin: Manifeste”  at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, which I wrote about for AnOtherMag.com, it begins with a classic Elbaz quote inscribed on the window: “In this digital age, we live through our screens, documenting the moment.  We no longer look; we film.  We no longer listen; we tape. And we no longer talk; we post.”

I loved the exhibition and its contents but to that quote, I’d have to heartedly disagree.  Can we not live through our screens and also take in life outside?  Can we not look AND film?  Listen AND tape?  Talk and post.  Ghesquière’s collection for Louis Vuitton seemed to highlight the joys of our cyber lives.  It is a reality, and one that can be reversed now.  Devices, screens and connecting without physically being present aren’t going away anytime soon.  And by embracing that, Ghesquière manages to unlock something incredibly potent in his own work.

When Louis Vuitton has previously talked about travelling – it’s in reference to its steam boats, carriage and planes – now that journey is one that travels through data and pixels.  Being along for the ride suddenly feels exhilarating because the final destination is unknown as yet.

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Louis Vuitton Series 3 on until 18th October at 180 The Strand, London – ticket booking not necessary, walk-ins welcome