lostparadise

>> For the first time in well over two decades, I’ve spent Christmas and New Year’s away from London.I’ve traded in turkey, cold walks and Crimbo TV (I say that, having binged on Downton and Call the Midwife using Hola) for sun, sea and food loaded up with Thai chillis.  I’ve just finished up a wonderful stay at Sri Panwa in Phuket – overindulgent piccy post to come later – and I’m now in Sydney, Australia to embark on an exciting trip up to Lost Paradise Festival in Glenworth Valley for New Year’s Eve.

I’m actually there to film some fun content with MTV Australia for their MTV Trippers series with the infinitely more festival-ready Mimi Elashiry.  With Wilderness/Port Eliot vibes lingering in the backdrop of this festival, there’ll be somewhat of a New Year’s Eve costume challenge involved, which I’m obviously always up for.  I come, ready with a headful of inspiration images, spurred by this BBC4 documentary ‘Dance Rebels’, which charts the history of modern dance.  The fluid choreography expounded by the artistic colony of Monte Verita, the folkloric costumes of Ballet Russes by the likes of Mikhail Larionov and wife Natalia Goncharova, avant garde female Dada-ists and Sonia Delaunay’s geometrics, are all coming together somehow when I go on my costume search tomorrow.  How this will manifest itself remains to be seen.

If a trip to Sydney is sounding particularly enticing, everyone is free to enter a competition organised by MTV Trippers and Destination New South Wales to win flights to Sydney.  You have until 6th January to upload a picture of a festival moment onto Instagram and hashtag with #MTVTrippers and #Win.  All the T’s and C’s are here.

monteverita_5

monteverita_3

monteverita_4

monteverita_2Monte Verità community

Sophie Taeuber Arp 2

Sophie Taeuber Arp 3

Sophie Taeuber Arp 4Costumes by Sophie Taeuber-Arp

simultaneous_dresses_the_three_women‘Simultaneous Dress the Three Women’ by Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay 1

Cat. No. 126 / File Name: 3413-183.jpg Sonia Delaunay Costume for title role from Cleopatra, 1918 silk, sequins, mirror and beads, wool yarn, metallic thread braid, lamé center back length: 45 1/8 in. (114.62 cm) headdress: 22.69 × 14.63 × 12.63 cm (8 15/16 × 5 3/4 × 5 in.) Overall mannequin footprint: 67 x 36 x 20 inches. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume Council Fund © Pracusa 2012003 Digital Image © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA. Licensed by Art Resource, NY Costume by Sonia Delaunay for title role from Cleopatra, 1918

Sonia Delaunay 2Sonia Delaunay in her studio

Delaunay_Poeme_1350_433

Delaunay_Danseuse_aux_Disques_1355_433‘Poeme’ and ‘Danseuse aux Disques’ by Sonia Delaunay

Costume_design_by_Pablo_Picasso_representing_skyscrapers_and_boulevards,_for_Serge_Diaghilev's_Ballets_Russes_performance_of_Parade_at_Théâtre_du_Châtelet,_Paris_18_May_1917

Costume_design_by_Pablo_Picasso_for_Serge_Diaghilev's_Ballets_Russes_performance_of_Parade_at_Théâtre_du_Châtelet_in_Paris_18_May,_1917Costumes by Pablo Picasso for Parade, 1917

RiteofSpringDancers

Dancers in folkloric costumes, moving unpredictably to pounding chords, characterized the 1913 Rite of Spring premiere at Paris' Champs Elys√©es Theater Costumes by Nicholas Roerich for the 1913 premiere of Rite of Spring

Natalya Goncharova 5

Natalya Goncharova 4

Natalya Goncharova 2

Natalya Goncharova 3

Natalya Goncharova 1Costumes and paintings by Natalia Goncharova

Mikhail-LarionovCostumes by Mikhail Larionov for The Tale of the Buffoon, 1921

07 Dec 1915 --- Original caption: Baroness Von Freytag-Lorington penniless in a foreign city, her husband a prisoner of war somewhere in France, the baroness has been driven to posing as a model in the men's class in the New York School of Fine and Applied Arts. Her husband is a lieitenant in a regiment of German Uhlans. Her father is the General Baron Lieutenant on the German General Staff. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

elsa_von_freytagElsa von Freytag

hannah hoch 2

hannah hoch modenschau

hannah hoch 4

hannah hoch 3Collages by Hannah Höch

>> London Fashion designers have had a tumultuous year of celebrations and shutterings.  In between Meadham Kirchhoff declaring they could no longer sustain their business last year and Jonathan Saunders as the latest (and perhaps most surprising) casualty, the likes of Christopher Kane, Erdem, Nicholas Kirkwood and Roksanda Ilincic have all notched up ten year anniversaries, each celebrated with a varying amount of gusto.  One London Fashion Week sequinned stalwart though, has also quietly clocked just over a decade of being in business is Ashish Gupta.  His wares might be brilliantly sparkly but perhaps he’s never had that mega-hype spotlight shone upon him and he prefers it that way.

“It’s scary how many have disappeared over the years,” said Ashish.  “People that I went to school with were hyped up for a while and then suddenly, you’d never hear about them again.”  From losing his graduate portfolio at the Gare du Nord, whilst on the way to job interviews fifteen years ago, to where Ashish is now, he has come a long way, honing in on a niche, sticking with it and exploring it to its full potential.  He did allow himself a moment to look back and reflect when he staged a Fashion in Motion retrospective show at the Victoria & Albert Museum back in October.

I wasn’t able to attend but killing two birds with one stone, whilst interviewing him for an upcoming book about London fashion designers, I thought I’d zoom in on the hours and hours of hand sewn sequins that have garnered a solid fanbase over the years.  Taking advantage of the skills of Ashish’s home country India, he has coaxed the unexpected out of the sequin – de-shining it if you will by rendering garments like a pair of jeans, a cowboy shirt, a safety vest and a ripped-up sweater in graduated layers of sequins, palettes and beading.  Eschewing the obvious routes of bling that perhaps his fellow Indian designers are known for, Ashish has taken the sequin to places you’d never thought it go – like a top that says “I’m have a shit day, thanks” in disco-ready black and silver.  Even if you aren’t a magpie by nature, you’d at least be able to chuckle at Ashish’s chutzpah.  Striking the balance of not wavering from a design signature and moving collections forward with discernible change is a tricky thing to do, especially in a city like London, where newness and revolution represents the fashion holy grail, but Ashish has done it without too much fanfare.  Instead he haps upon fans, who readily buy his sequinned pieces, paying a fair price for all of those hours of hand embroidery.  That’s a surer sign that Ashish can enjoy another ten years of being in business.

IMG_9767

IMG_9754

IMG_9756

IMG_9757

IMG_9761

IMG_9762

IMG_9764

IMG_9768

IMG_9770

IMG_9772

IMG_9773

IMG_9774

IMG_9776

IMG_9777

IMG_9780

IMG_9781

IMG_9784

IMG_9786

IMG_9788

IMG_9789

IMG_9790

IMG_9791

IMG_9792

IMG_9793

IMG_9796

IMG_9798

IMG_9800

IMG_9801

IMG_9805

IMG_9806

IMG_9807

IMG_9810

Nike has created many recognisable footwear icons in its time but can the same be said for its apparel?  The Windrunner is perhaps one of the few exceptions that really is the foundation of Nike’s clothing identity, when it was first developed in the late seventies by its then newly formed in-house apparel design team.  It was born first out of performance and function, meeting the needs of athletes who needed to train in a jacket that was lightweight and could withstand the elements, but then later was adopted into popular culture in the late eighties, particularly by spinning B-boys.  I first came to know it as a style item rather than a performance one as it was the ‘Mufti’ non-uniform uniform of choice for boys at primary school.    

“I wish those moments happened more in apparel, as it does in footwear,” said Kurt Parker, VP and Creative Director of Nike Sportswear, who I spoke to over Skype on the occasion of Nike celebrating its ‘Year of the Windrunner’. “Different cultures have been able to appropriate different Nike moments – like the AirMax for instance.  We get asked to design things that become iconic but you can’t breed that into the process.”  The Windrunner, with its 26 degree angled chevron stripe though did manage to transcend into a garment that has had not just its moment as an item representing performance but also one that has style iconography attached to it.  “It came from a naive but authentic place and it was really the beginning of Nike apparel, “ said Parker, when asked about why the Windrunner has endured through the decades.  “It was unique at the time and still is.  We don’t waver when we re-approach it.  Even when we’re working with collaborators hold hard and fast to some iconography of the details.  That makes it super familiar to people.”

In all its iterations, the chevron colour blocking device remains one of those constants even if it has undergone many a combination for Olympic athletes as well as being integrated with innovative detailing like Flywire, Nike Flash (a surface that glints under camera flash) and Aeroloft insulation for extra warmth.  What is now considered a Nike design classic has also maintained its moments in the athlete’s arena, especially when it took to the podium in the 2008 and 2012 London Olympics.   

nikewr1

nikewr3

nikewr5

nikewr4

nikewr6

nikewr7

nikewr8

nikewr2

windrunner

All of this is pre-amble though is perhaps preparation for what I think is the most extreme iteration of the Windrunner yet, thanks to Chitose Abe’s fourth take on this silhouette, as part of Sacai’s ongoing collaboration with NikeLab and as a contribution to Nike’s ‘Year of the Windrunner’ celebrations.  The exaggerated pleats in Abe’s first collection for Nike, already felt like a radical step, but in the two styles that debuted in NikeLab stores and online yesterday, pitting a faux-fur (mimicking shearling) chevron and hood in the brightest of volt yellows against that classic ripstock nylon is almost shockingly subversive.  “It was great to have someone from the outside to push us,” said Parker.  “It kind of feels right when you see it, especially in imagery.  But yeah, it’s something very different for us and of course, Nike doesn’t use a lot of faux fur in its apparel.”

And yet, despite the strangely alluring Muppets-esque appearance of these pieces, the identity of the Windrunner prevails.  Its DNA is left intact.  It proves that you can intervene with the maddest of design moves and the garment is still recognisable.  “The Windrunner’s ability to go as high as we can imagine it and also for it to be accessible, is one of the things that keeps it somewhat understandable for the customer.” 

These plush Windrunners is again a deft hybrid move that is equal parts Sacai and Nike.  It’s in my mind one of the most progressive design collaborations that Nike have done and rather than a one-off drop, I’m glad it’s continuing to yield great things… like a PLUSH Windrunner.  Even the name sounds like an oxymoron.   And yet, in-person, faux-fur and nylon somehow seem like compatible material bedfellows.  Especially with the aid of the hood, the toggles and of course the Windrunner silhouette itself. 

“It’s education and it’s inspiration and we take from that like we would insight from an athlete,” said Parker on the experience of working with Abe and what she brings to the Nike table.  With Abe’s input, the Windrunner takes its most extreme style detour yet.  Question is, are you brave enough to go with the faux? 

0E5A0453

0E5A0423

0E5A0441

0E5A0523

0E5A0455

0E5A0466

0E5A0513

0E5A0479NikeLab x Sacai plush Windrunner worn with Jenny Fax pinafore dress, Pleats Please skirt, Matthew Miller t-shirt and Nike Flyknit trainers

0E5A0563

0E5A0538

0E5A0557

0E5A0540

0E5A0598

0E5A0621

0E5A0639

sacaiwindNikeLab x Sacai plush Windrunner worn with Junya Watanabe top, Céline trousers and Dior trainers.  

0E5A8757

Back in June, when I went to New York for Coach’s summer party on the High Line, I also got to check out the archives.  As it turned out, it was my first archive visit of any American brand actually.  The American thing is worth hammering in.  “Coach is really America’s house of leather,” said Stuart Vevers.  And as a Brit, I don’t have that contextual background of childhood memories and heritage nous.  If you’re old enough, you might be familiar with Coach’s combination of form and function pioneered by their first creative director, renowned American designer Bonnie Cashin, who helmed Coach from 1961 to 74.  If you’re coming at it from a second-hand/vintage perspective, then even after Cashin’s departure, those classic shapes established in the 60s and 70s bled on into the 80s and 90s until the arrival of Reed Krakoff.

And that noughties period thereafter, which gave way to the logomania-fuelled ‘C’ monogram, is how I first became aware of Coach.  Of course, since Vevers took over the creative direction of the brand, it’s been a deeper immersive journey for me.  But still, my own scanty knowledge made the archive visit, guided by Coach’s senior archive manager Jed Winokur, extra enlightening.  Set up in the mid 2000’s, the formalised archive is primarily a design resource for Coach’s design team to dip into on a regular basis.  Wonkier joined Coach in 2009 and has since been tirelessly filling in the gaps, constantly scouring for Coach specimens to add to this collection of 20,000 pieces dating back to the beginning of the company, when six leatherworkers got together to make wallets in a workshop that was on the site of Coach’s current headquarters (they will be moving into a new building as part of Hudson’s Yard next year). 

In 1950, Miles Cahn and his wife Lillian took over the business and began to use glove tanned cowhide leather for their men’s accessories and their newly introduced women’s handbags, inspired by the leather used to make baseball gloves and the way it softens and becomes weathered over time.  “Glove tanned leather feels quite American to me,” said Vevers.  “The fact that it’s got a weight and a heft to it.”

0E5A8646

0E5A8663

0E5A8666

0E5A8649

0E5A8662

0E5A8664

0E5A8656

0E5A8653

0E5A8719

0E5A8696

That hefty and durable leather became Coach’s signature well into the 70s.  It had also acquired its horse and carriage logo in 1959, just before Cashin joined.  That was perhaps when Coach really begun to blossom into the brand it is today.  “She had such a big impact on shaping the company,” said Vevers.  “The part that resonated with me was the 60s and 70x and that was the era was the golden period for leather brands in general.”  Vevers noted that in every leather brand he has ever worked with (the list is exhaustive… Bottega Veneta, Loewe, Mulberry…), a vintage Coach bag would be loitering around in their source of inspiration.  Looking at the Cashin-era of Coach, it’s easy to see why.  Her “Cashin-Carry” collections for the brand were forward thinking in many respects.

“Make things as lightweight as possible, as simple as possible—as punchy as possible—as inexpensive as possible.”  That was Cashin’s motto at Coach.  Whilst she pared things back for simplicity’s sake, as seen in the utilitarian leather shopper totes and the one-handled sling bag, Cashin would also introduce design elements such as contrast piping, poppy colours and metal purse frames that meant Coach transitioned from being a men’s accessories brand to a fully fledged women’s one.  Any element of whimsy was always anchored by function – as seen in the signature turnlock closure, which debuted in 1964 and was inspired by Cashin’s convertible top attachment.  The array of shapes from this part of Coach’s archive is quite extraordinary.  No wonder then that they’d inspire Vevers’ own work.  Cashin’s “Courier Pouch” is the latest source of inspiration that gave way to the new Saddle bag, featured in the S/S 16 show, dubbed Coach 1941 as a way of marking the brand’s 75th Anniversary.

0E5A8684Cashin’s famous leather shopping tote, combining form with function.

0E5A8681An attached mini booklet telling the story of Coach’s leather tanning process

0E5A8690The ‘Chunky’

0E5A8680A lady’s flask purse sold in Coach’s shop-in-shop at Liberty in the 1960s

0E5A8703Cashin introduced high contrast bold colours, that were a departure from Coach’s previous tan and black offerings

0E5A8731The mono handled ‘Sling’ 

0E5A8742The ‘Bucket’ with a limited edition hang tag celebrating Bonnie Cashin’s award in 1968

0E5A8743

0E5A8747The introduction of contrast piping in the 1960s

0E5A8748Cashin’s penchant for the purse metal frame

0E5A8732The ‘Swinger’

0E5A8759

0E5A8780The ‘Double Entry’ bag

0E5A8710Self-branding of Coach was only introduced in the 1970s

0E5A8717Original Made in NYC embossed patch

0E5A8718

The collection references to 1970s prairie girls chimes in nicely with the archive specimens we saw like the Duffle and Swag.  Bags were becoming roomier and more carefree.  More likely to be slung across the body (incidentally Cashin was the first designer to elongate straps and transform shoulder bags into cross body ones) than toted on the crook of the arm, this more casual attitude finds its way trickling into Vevers’ own point of view of the brand. 

“Growing up in Doncaster, I experienced the American dream through film.  There was a sense of positive and freedom that definitely affected how I see Coach.  As an American brand, it’s already  different from its European counterparts.  It’s about a hand that’s more honest, less precious.  There’s an ease and an effortlessness, as well as a playfulness.”

0E5A8701The ‘Duffle’ debuted in 1973 which was an instant hit for Coach

0E5A8694

0E5A8734The 1973 ‘Courier Pouch’ that has been reinterpreted for S/S 16 as the ‘Saddle’ bag

0E5A8740The ‘Swag’ satchel

0E5A8750The ‘Penny’

0E5A8762

0E5A8786

0E5A8771

0E5A8658

Strangely, it was Vever’s collaborative project with Junya Watanabe, one of the last projects he oversaw at Loewe, which really planted the seeds of change in his approach.  “That really opened up my mind.  I was always trying to make things perfect because that was my training in all the traditional European luxury houses I had worked at.  But then Junya was like, “Leave it!  It looks cool like that!’  At the same time, I had just met Coach and that project lingered on in my head.  I thought to myself, it could be really interesting to do something that’s more free.”

That freedom can be seen in Vevers’ fashion language for Coach, specifically in its ready to wear, which has become a way of re-introducing a younger generation to the Coach brand.  The bags however continue to retain the cornerstones of Coach’s archives, as Winokour bears witness to the design team coming in for inspiration.  What comes around does seem to always go around.  “When I first came to Coach, nobody wanted to touch the stuff in the 90s,” said Winokur, “Now they can’t stop going in there and looking at backpack styles.”  As the archive shifts into Coach’s more recent history such as the aforementioned ‘C’ monogram styles and noughties bags that are heavy-on-the-hardware and dripping in exotic skins, it was funny to see how dated they look.  And yet, you also wondered if that ostentatious style of accessory will have their moment in the spotlight again.  Thus is the cyclical nature of fashion.  “I’m a bit of a believer that ALL of your history is relevant,” said Vevers.  “I wasn’t scared of the more recent things that Coach had done.  It is something that enters people mindsets when they think of Coach.  All of those moments are important.”

0E5A8706

0E5A8773Coach classics in miniature made for a limited edition Barbie