Ever since I’ve been come back from my Christmas break, I’ve been afflicted with the strangest dreams every night.  Some feature death of love ones.  Some are more surreal as I waft through imaginary theme parks and mish mashes of places that I’ve been to.  Some are scarily real – like when I woke up thinking I was late for a show and had to file 3,000 words that very morning (in actual fact, I was late for a meeting and had a deadline for 1,000 words).  When your dreams are extra vivid and the nocturnal thoughts of your over-active brain permeate into your day, it’s no wonder that they enter into a consciousness when designing collections.

This is what struck me when I was looking back at the menswear shows I saw at LC:M last week – that dreams, emotions and more often than not, hard-to-articulate thought processes were woven into some of the best collections of the week.  These internal monologues are hard to write about and probably even harder to translate into solid garments but a handful of designers captured the complexity of their dreams and lateral thoughts into clothes that won’t need such analysis further down the line.

Has the act of sleepwalking ever been an inspiration point for a designer?  Craig Green might well have notched in a first with his A/W 15-6 collection that was an ode to “introspective dreamers”.  How else to explain the carrying of duvets, whip-stitched puffy pillow bags and fastenings on quilted trousers and eiderdown-esque jackets that resembled duvet openings?  Thankfully you didn’t feel soporific.  With a warming palette of military khaki, terracotta and ecru and with textures like comforting seersucker, washed silks and leathers, the effect would have been soothing, were it not for the tension created by the flailing laces, unfurling sleeves and tightly drawstring hoodies.  This language of release and restriction is evident in Green’s work right from the start of his career.  By entering into a state of sleep, he has found new ways of expressing that.

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Another dreamer was Jonathan Anderson.  His are more fanciful though, much to the scorn of some Grindr users, who might have happed upon the livestream of the latest J.W. Anderson menswear show on Sunday morning upon logging into the hook-up app.  Apparently, peeps on Grindr aren’t ready for furs made to look like cartoonish ermine and dozy creatures popping up on shiny organza.   

More’s the pity because this was one of the more fascinating collections from Anderson’s own menswear line for a while.  Only something plucked from Anderson’s complex internal thoughts could pit painted snails on a hard ’n’ fast techno nylon jacket or S&M plastic chokers paired with snagged wool cardigans.  Or how else would you imagine the strange ugly snoozing monster that was one of the collection’s central motifs?  Anderson’s head was definitely somewhere balaeric when he envisioned cloud-shaped pockets on techno club wear.  He did spend time in Ibiza over the summer, where he opened a surprising Loewe pop-up store.  Anderson even shot for the stars with a grey Mao-suit painted with rockets.   Weirdly rich, strangely cute and oddly comforting – these juxtapositions are de rigour for Anderson.  Grindr may have had a field day with the collection but being universally loved isn’t the end game for Anderson.  You could call it a sort of masochism.

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Grace Wales Bonner called her collection “Spirituals” although there was a worry that showing on a catwalk as part of the MAN show might have dented the spiritual aspect of her storied designs.  In continuation from her investigations into the representation of the black male, her man took on a less tangible and spiritual form.  It takes a brave mind to process Sun Ra, choral chantings of African slaves that were mean to reach out to God, kora resound ceremonies from West Africa and other touchpoints of Afrofuturist psychedelia.  Although Bonner’s work is best seen as one with her in-depth research, here the clothes stood on their own – throbbing with sensuality in their flared-out silhouettes, tactile textiles and Swarovski encrusted embroideries.  Sure, they were designed with far-removed spiritual enhancement in mind but could also easily walk – nay, strut – the streets with a new sort of masculine grace.  It was a collection that justified the surprise awarding of the Emerging Menswear Designer award at the British Fashion awards last year and showed a maturity that makes Bonner an exciting prospect indeed.

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Charles Jeffrey lives out his dreams at his club night Loverboy at VF Dalston.  And are unlikely to inspire others to follow a starry path to the freeing lights of London’s nightlife.  Alongside a set of cardboard totems created by Gary Card, Jeffrey sent out an array (or deliberate disarray?) or “drunk” mis-proportioned tailoring, painted abstract jeans and taped-up Aran knits as well as a shrunken cropped silhouette that is met with a high waist.  Both DIY rebellion and a respect for tradition permeate this collection that makes Jeffrey, fall right in line with fashion raconteurs like Vivienne Westwood.  It’s the sort of idiosyncratic spirit that feels like it’s fast being eradicated from British fashion today, but thanks to Jeffrey and his Loverboy ethos, we too can have a bloody good time with what we wear.

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There were two bucolic dreams that caught my eye.  One was by upcoming duo Matthew Dainty and Ben Cottrell’s label Cottweiler.  They imagined a future where society goes back to the ideals of agriculture, combining man-made technology and the neolithic way of life.  The fabrics directly correlate to this as natural fibres like waterproof shearling get encased in tinted cellophane and single sheafs of straw appear on farmhand-appropriate tracksuit tops and bottoms.  It’s certainly a new take on agricultural attire.

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Then there’s the imagining of Edward Crutchley’s native Yorkshire – perhaps unrecognisable from the reality.  Crutchley works with the live-and-well crafts of the region to create a languid collection that represents an idealised take on this picturesque part of Northern England.  Hats by Lock & Co, silver badges by Toye & Co and fine wool suiting from Yorkshire and English-made cashmere and fully fashioned knits assert Crutchley’s respect for ethnographic craftsmanship.  The spirit animal of the Yorkshire Dales – the ferret even makes its way across the back of a silk satin dressing gown.  It’s a Yorkshire dream, rooted with British artistry.

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A collection themed around boredom that isn’t… boring.  In fact, it’s the opposite of, as according to Alex Mullins and his press notes, “boredom is provocative.”  Featuring a set of photos by Hazel Gaskin printed onto denim or over-washed in an acid bright colour palette, bored expressions stare back at you from every surface.  It’s the expression of a mind that goes into that state of being frustrated by wintry temperatures, dull surroundings and buses/trains that are never on time.  But Mullins manages to rejoice in this feeling because there is definitely an exuberance to these bored faces.  Bored.com never looked so good.

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And finally, an ode to the ultimate dreamer whose internal thoughts are well-documented… Sibling’s brilliant hand-knitted robe covered in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s graffiti-esque scribblings is a triumphant finale piece – one that already has customers lining up to buy it.

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coachcombWearing Babyghost jacket, Coach dress, Western shirt, patchwork ankle boots and Saddle bag – Photographs from Getty, Style du Monde and Join Comb

>> I don’t meant to cause people migraines with my pattern mashing, but I just can’t help myself, especially when I was presented with some of Coach’s spring summer patchwork ditzy florals.  And oh, it’s cold and wet – let’s load up on the florals with a vaguely Victorian tapestry pattern on a Babyghost hooded jacket that I’ve been wearing to death to try and counteract the grey dingy weather.

The pattern on pattern on pattern is one fun string to Stuart Vevers’ bow at Coach so far.  But he can cut out the faff too when required.  Case in point, I probably looked a little overexcited in my floral overload as I looked up at Coach’s latest autumn winter 2016 menswear show, where colours were sombre and silhouettes were serious.  As in seriously hefty.  The inspiration points were apparently Bruce Springsteen and early New York hip hop.  They’re chunky masculine touchstones that managed to come together to create rugged utilitarian clothes that are almost deliberately big not necessarily in the sense of physical size but it its simplistic in yer’ face expression.  Big sheepskin.  Big leathers.  Big teddy bear fur.  Big checked suit.  Big puffa coats for arctic winters.  Big rucksacks.  Big bucket hats.  These are clothes for wearing when your body sort of shrinks and shudders in the cold and your neck and head almost disappears into the warm crevices of a piece of outerwear, which as a category is fast becoming part of Vevers’ strong suit at Coach.   For its newly minted menswear ready to wear category, it will make for simple to digest thoroughfare on the rails, for everyman (and possibly women too) to get their teeth too when the temperatures plummet.

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New is the operative word when looking at the latest incarnation of Selfridges’ ongoing Bright Young Things project.  Last year, the word ‘Young’ was replaced by ‘Old’ to celebrate an older generation of maverick creatives.  This year, we’re making way for the ‘new’ – because Selfridges aren’t merely celebrating burgeoning fashion talent that is ‘young’ but they’re focusing on a ‘new’ approach in fashion.  Well perhaps, it’s not so ‘new’ to those that have been involved in the conversation of sustainable fashion, but in the context of the industry at large, the steps to overturn some of the grave atrocities committed in the name of style (raw material waste, fast fashion labour, damage on environment from the way fabrics are produced etc etc), are only baby ones.  Introducing these ‘new’ approaches to the general public is still in its wee wee infancy.  Weighing up the product that is sustainable and ethically made versus the stuff that isn’t, the balance falls firmly to the ground in favour of the latter.  Change is still very much in progress.  Hell, the conversation about instilling change is just beginning to get off the ground.

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My personal interest in sustainable fashion of course stems from the ‘new’ burst of creativity that is coming from a generation of designers that acknowledge the problems and are contributing in their small but significant way, by working differently, creating with alternative material and production sources and in the end, the clothing stands up to the age-old litmus test of “Hey, this looks really really great!”  No, they’re not crusading to save the planet all by themselves but they offer pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that collectively presents us, the fashion lovers and shoppers and they, the industry on a creative solution.   

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Selfridges has placed its focus firmly on these solution conduits and have chosen nine designers that each embody this new wave of sustainably minded designers (even if some of them don’t label themselves as such).  In addition to promoting talent that deserve attention, regardless of their ethical stance, the value of having windows that scream out with slogans such as “The Human Face of Fashion” being seen by thousands and thousands of people passing by on Oxford Street, can’t be underestimated.  Selfridges add credence to the project by working directly with the esteemable Centre for Sustainable Fashion in a pledge to “Buy Better” in their own stores and making sure the brands they buy in meeting standards on ethical trade.

The majority of this year’s BNT’s are very familiar to me.  A few weren’t.  Going in to see the windows being installed last week gave me an opportunity to find out more as well as learn new facets about the production process of the designers that I do know.  Their windows are of course, eye-catching affairs.  The hope is that if your head is turned by say Katie Jones’ confetti covered donkey or Cloth Surgeon’s sterile toile-filled operating theatre, you’ll also be interested in #WearAware conversation that Selfridges are promoting.  “Be curious.  Be knowledgeable.  Be part of our journey.”  The last part of that anaphora is perhaps, a tad cheesy but the first two sentences are certainly sound calls to action.


Katie Jones

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Ah Katie.  Her window is a self-explanatory ode to her love of colour, crochet and craft.  You’d have to be pretty mean-spirited not to at least smile at her ode to Mexican cheer, based on her SS16 collection.  Employing more of her resourceful material reclaiming skills, denim and ribbon, inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, run riot with cotton thread crochet and summer vibes amped up with customised Juju sandals and pom poms.  Jones’ quirky way of patching the unwanted up into real labours of love, isn’t for everyone but it is by far one of the most uplifting iterations of upcycled fashion around today.  Her signature crocheted Aran knits are currently on sale in Selfridges as part of their shop floor support of their BNT’s.

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Faustine Steinmetz

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fstein1Photos of Faustine Steinmetz’s studio from Yahoo Style

Walk into Faustine Steinmetz’s current studio (which happens to be very close to my house) and you’re confronted by a giant loom.  Her painstakingly hand woven textiles are what brought her to the attention of the fashion world, with continuous support of NewGen as well as being one of the finalists of last year’s LVMH prize.  For S/S 16, she worked with a Spanish denim mill called Royo, who create their fabrics out of recycled old jeans, as her first venture towards outsourcing textiles.  Steinmetz is still all about hand crafting of course but she’s also quick to realise that to meet retailer demand, she’ll have to look at alternative options that also share her interest in sustainable and storied fabrics.  The best thing about Steinmetz’s clothes of course is the way she’s recontextualising familiar garments such as a white t-shirt, a pair of jeans or a denim jacket.  Nestled in amongst Thomas Petherick’s set of curved white blocks are the curves of Steintmetz’s clothes because we should see fashion from all angles.


Alex Noble of EMG

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Alex Noble was actually part of Selfridges’ first round of Bright Young Things back in 2009 and since then, his path has taken a more, well… noble… nature as he started up the EMG Initiative to highlight environmental and social problems within the fashion industry.  They primarily create Salvage T’s out of surplus fabrics from London designers like Agi & Sam, Henry Holland and Giles Deacon.  The proceeds then go towards a TRAID and ChildHope project to assist daycare centres for children of factory workers in Bangladesh.  EMG’s window mashes up videos collated on Noble’s travels with neon-laced messaging paired with mannequins that feature the prints of their Salvage T’s contrasted with white-washed corporate suiting.  I liked what Noble said when he likened sustainable fashion to punk – that it’s about ripping up the rules and starting again.  It’s this attitude that will spur others to think up ‘new’ ways of working rather than sticking to the status quo.

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Mich Dulce

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I’ve worn Mich Dulce’s hats before in the very early days of Style Bubble but haven’t had the chance to catch up with what she has been up to lately until now.  After garnering all-important experience at Maison Michele, Dulce’s collections have gone from strength to strength and have recently taken on a personal slant, when she began to source straw from her native Philippines from local communities, who use banana, pineapple and buri palm leaves to weave the finest of materials.  She’s gone one step further and together with the Philippine Textile Research Institute, she has sourced a very hardwearing, multi-faceted and ultrafine straw called T’palak, handwoven by the T’boli tribe.  These fibres hang in the window in shades of dusky pink and natural straw.  Behind Dulce’s neat fedoras and more fanciful fascinators, there’s rhyme and reason to why they cost what they do.  The price is set by the Filipino craftsmen, who initially didn’t want to weave straw because it was so time consuming and labour-intensive.  The results though are indeed special and it’s a story that definitely needs to be communicated to more undiscerning eyes.

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Martina Spetlova

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mspetgranary1Photos of Martina Spetlova’s studio from 1Granary

I was more than familiar with Martina Spetlova’s instantly recognisable woven leather pieces, which has been her signature since her MA Central Saint Martins collection back in 2011.  However, I wasn’t aware that Spetlova now sources her leather from an ECCO leather tannery – one that has very strict water and fuel policies, in order to cut-and-weave her distinctive pieces.  These woven checkerboards are currently draped across her window like colourful kites.

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Clothsurgeon

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One way of combatting fast fashion is of course to slow things right down so that it comes back to the traditional idea of a tailor, a pair of scissors and a measuring tape.  Clothsurgeon aren’t strictly speaking a fully sustainable label but head designer Rav Matharu’s processes encourage customers to rethink their wardrobe by offering bespoke customisation services, which happens to be the mainstay of their business.  People can upcycle existing garments that they have and combine them with new fabrics to create unique pieces.  Hence why their products consist of patchwork plaid shirts and repurposed bomber jackets.  In their “operating theatre”, they dissect garments by their patterns and origins and bring them to a new place.

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Auria

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I’ve overworn my favourite rainbow-hued swimsuit, which happens to be by sustainable swimwear line Auria, designed and conceived by Diana Auria and Margot Bowman.  They happen upon a sustainably sourced nylon, made out of old fishing nets, and have since been creating fun and cheeky swimwear, that sums up the bright-eyed optimism of sustainable fashion today.  As opposed to selling product, Selfridges together with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, will be mentoring Auria to help them grow and develop for the future.


Hiut Denim & Co

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Hiut Denim Co’s story is an extraordinary one.  Husband-and-wife team David and Claire Hieatt were inspired to resurrect the denim manufacturing industry in their hometown of Cardigan in Wales, when Marks & Spencer decided to offshore their jeans production.  In swooped the Hieatt’s to breathe new life into Cardigan’s denim craftsmen as Hiut now creates high-end jeans made out of Turkish organic or Japanese selvedge denim.  One click on their website, and you might look at your existing pile of jeans with a wincing eye.  With Selfridges, Hiut are currently encouraging people to join the No Wash Club, going six months without washing your jeans to save water.  An easy order for myself, who rarely wears jeans but perhaps taller for denim nuts.


Unmade

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The most impressive of shop floor participation by a BNT perhaps belongs to Unmade, a really exciting and innovative collective that are changing the face of knitwear with their made-to-order creation process.  Using the most high-tech of programmable Stoll machines, Unmade allow the customer to choose from a curated variety of patterns (created by the likes of Kate Moross and Christopher Raeburn).  On their site, you can interact with the pattern – shifting them and changing their size – and choose the colours to create a unique jumper or scarf.  It’s hard to explain this process properly unless you have a play with it yourself.  No wonder peeps on Instagram were blown away by this bit of coding jiggery…

Once you’ve committed to buy, Unmade’s Stoll machines get to work and within as little as an hour, your design in fine Australian Merino wool or high-grade Italian cashmere, can be made with the utmost precision and quality.  An in-house team then finishes off these fully fashioned knits and along with a personalised garment label, you end up with something that you can call your own.  A two week waiting time for all of that seems like nothing.  The important thing is the fact that everything is made to order and so you don’t have stock that sits there gathering dust, that might eventually contribute to landfill.

A smaller version of Unmade’s Stoll knitting machines as well as a full display of their designs and website interface, have currently taken over a chunk of Selfridges’ third floor.  Go get to grips with Unmade’s pattern-warped knits and be a part of the making process.  I in turn definitely want to visit their Somerset House setup to find out more, given that I’m trying to be more curious and all.

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>> Did everyone get good hefty tomes for Christmas?  I hope so.  When I was doing the last bits of convenient Amazon gift shopping, I put a few cheeky additions for myself into the basket.  One of them was Dangerous Women, a collation of found imagery, gathered by Peter J. Cohen, a New York-based investment banker slash antique photography enthusiast.  Cohen became obsessed by photographs in the early half of the 20th century of “dangerous” women, behaving badly in a corseted and stiff society.  That image of women still persists today through stuffy period dramas and traditional portraiture.  Through Cohen’s brilliant finds though, these anonymous women are basically havin’ a laugh openly – drinking, shooting and being candid in front of the camera lens.

It’s basically the equivalent of images you’d see on Facebook of gals living it large, had the social media platform existed back in 1920s onwards.  The book was exactly the visual reminder I needed for 2016. “Dangerous” is a misleading title considering the joy and positivity expressed in Cohen’s collection of photographs.  Risk-taking perhaps is a more appropriate adjective, although it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as smoothly.  But risking it is what I’m fixated on as a loose resolution for the new year.  I say “loose” because I don’t tend to make concrete promises to do things, lest I break them one month in (no ‘dry’ or ‘get-fit’ Januaries for me).  The cheeky winks, broad smiles and mischievous expressions on the faces of these women though are prompting me to perhaps broaden my own horizons.  In what way, I’m yet to know.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why you’re reading a Susie Livejournal entry, style-wise, don’t these women just look supremely cool and cavalier?

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