There’s something grossly uncomfortable about this interview that Ed Meadham did with Anders Christian Madsen for i-D.  Over tea, Meadham opens up about the demise of the almost-cult label Meadham Kirchhoff, one of the saddest and in my mind, completely preventable losses of the fashion world.  The interview touches on the label’s insolvency, Meadham winding up in a coma, an unsanctioned sample sale of the brand’s precious archive as a result of a cruel case of profiteering and a personal isolation that left Meadham practically jobless for two years.  It makes for a tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion industry.  How genuine talent isn’t always necessarily rewarded.  How waves of press hype often malign the designers that deserve it.  How retailers are often restrained in their financial and sales-driven ability to buy as creatively as one might hope.

Certainly in the case of Meadham Kirchhoff, it was never the case that the public didn’t want what they were serving (which is the stark and plain truth behind many labels’ downfall).  The love was strong.  It was a rainbow outpouring of unicorn, heart and sparkle emojis from all over the world, reblogged and liked on Tumblr and championed by maverick-minded figures such as Tavi Gevinson and Ione Gable of Polyester Zine.  The mainstream press of course chimed in and celebrated the label’s high points as well when it suited them, but as Meadham recalls being blanked by certain people in the industry at a recent RCA show, it exposes the cruel fickleness of the industry.  Meadham ponders this volte-face: “It was like, ‘Are you not allowed to speak to failures?'”

There is of course no point in praising talent to the high hills if there’s no work to show for it.  So in an act of cathartic defiance and to trial a new way of channelling Meadham’s ideas, energy and yes, talent, Ronnie Newhouse of fashion agency House + Holme and Adrian Joffe of Dover Street Market invited Meadham to create a new brand for the store.  That warms the heart.  Two people with means, power and influence creating alternative paths for a designer that was always destined for alternative ways of working.

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br2The Blue Roses space at Dover Street Market replete with Meadham’s collages and scribblings

And so on Thursday on the ground floor of Dover Street Market London, a heart-shaped chocolate box opens up to the debut of Blue Roses, named in reference to the famous line in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie.  With the support of DSM, Meadham has created a line of affordable tees, hoods, stockings and pretty pieces of frippery such as a Victorian velvet collar and matching sleeves.  Glitter encrusted sweatshirts are perhaps the only direct flashbacks to Meadham Kirchhoff’s early past but it’s an idea that still stands solid (literally) today.  The texture makes for a nice onomatopoeia and leaves its sparkly fairy dust all over my coffee table when I try it on at home.  It’s not really a regurgitation of greatest hits but rather essences of Meadham’s oeuvre and aesthetic that come with pleasingly and comparatively purse-friendly prices (starting at £58 for a tee and rising up to the £200s for the velvet and glitter stuff).  Former MK-heads were already enthusiastically rifling through the rails when I popped in to delve into the Blue Roses corner on Friday morning.  Some of the pieces are available on the DSM site but the best selection remains in-store.

Where does this leave Meadham then today?  It’s not quite a full on resurrection, nor would you expect a shouty comeback from Meadham.  The i-D interview ends with “I always wanted to put some beauty into the world. I tried very hard.”  The past tense tinged with sadness, in that last sentence seemingly comes with a hardened sigh of despondency over his output and achievements.  No, Ed.  You DID create beauty and it DID spread far and wide in the world.  With Blue Roses, there are signs of a beginning that could indeed flourish with the correct modifications that such a floral genus requires.  I, along with countless others will be sitting here willing it to happen.

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img_3033Blue Roses velvet frilly collar and sleeves worn with vintage dress

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img_3075Blue Roses long-sleeved tee worn with Sacai shirt, navy tulle skirt and Marques Almeida furry trainers

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img_3082Blue Roses pink glitter top worn with Minki Cheng skirt

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As you can see from this visibly straining shirt (unbuttoned for comfort, not for styling prowess) and my poor attempt at doubling up menswear trousers as maternity wear, the bump is now fully out there.  Bearing in mind, this was two weeks ago during London Fashion Week and now obviously, it has grown to even more grand proportions.  The one saving grace in this bit of I-don’t-do-maternity-wear experimentation is the diverting antics of a beautiful jacket by British duo Teatum Jones from their Woolmark Prize-winning collection, that has now dropped into stores worldwide, with its primary panels of wool lace and a waxed coated finishing over the embroidered checkered wool that makes it hard to believe it’s 80% Merino wool.

tj_vogueukPhotograph by Jonathan Daniel Pryce for Vogue.co.uk

tj_londonpaulPhotographed by Paul Gonzales/London Fashion by Paul – Wearing Teatum Jones Woolmark Prize “Quincy” jacket with Toga shirt, Ximon Lee trousers, Prada shoes and J.W. Anderson Pierce bag

Actually, the entire collection comprises a myriad of deceptive textures as Catherine Teatum and Rob Jones went deep into their research into the making of their collection from start to finish.  “We are real believers in education,” said Teatum.  “We immersed ourselves in all things wool and exposed ourselves to the entire supply chain.  We are also inspired by human stories; people who fight for what they believe in.  We research this person and their story in a very primary level way – the places where they lived, if they are still alive we talk to them, read about them or listen to their music.”

That fascination began with an English nun Agnes Moirragh Bernard, who envisioned a Wool Utopia in 1892, and founded the Foxford Woolen Mills in County Mayo in Ireland.  To this day, the mill is still producing throws, scarves and other woolen goods, prompting Teatum and Jones to produce their own backpacker’s blankets there, complete with leather holsters.  The physical integration of that potent starting point into Teatum Jones’ production process gives solid credence to the collection.  It’s a very human story of economic emancipation through cloth and craft that really resonated with me, when I first saw the collection presented back in February.

The geometric foiled borders on those Foxford blankets led them to work with a 130 year old French guipere lace mill in Northern France, which prompted a new textile discovery.  “We absolutely loved the lace they created but they had never really considered working with wool,” said Jones.  “In an almost Disney-like scenario, if you can imagine it, you can create it. In our heads it was a simple transition: swapping nylon or polyester or cotton for Merino wool yarns. There was lots of trial and error with different yarn counts and different suppliers, but in the end we achieved what we set out to do and created a truly innovative and unique Merino wool lace.”  To give the collection extra verve, they then ended up in Italy to develop a stretch wool with elastane, that would then be bonded to the lace to create a more pliable foundation.

The stand-out pieces are of course the ones where the origin of the collection are on full display like the skirts with blanket tassel edging, the primary-hued geometric lace patternation, where coated embroidery and that beautiful Merino lace come together.  In the body conscious skirts, cut-out tops and slimline trousers, that stretch wool bonded with the lace really comes into its own. balancing out with the more traditional thin Merino polonecks and chunky knit jumpers.

The collection is currently available at Harvey Nichols, Saks Fifth Avenue, Leclaireur, Isetan, Boon the Shop and online on MyTheresa.com.  The Quincy jacket from the collection, that I got to wear must have caught someone’s eye as it’s currently sold out on the Saks site.  For Teatum Jones, the wooly journey goes on as their current A/W 16 collection used 80% Merino wool and in the ever trans-seasonal ways of working, 40-50% of wool managed to creep into their S/S 17 collection.  “We are honoured and excited and it’s just the beginning; we have only scratched the surface,” said Teatum.  “This award lets us ignite the magic of wool, so the customer sees the romance in wool.”  It’s this modern day imagining of Sister Agnes’ Wool-Topia that unlocks innovation in this age-old natural fibre.

 

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You could already hear the green/eco/sustainable hardcore semanticists baying for blood when Karl Lagerfeld uttered the words “a high fashion ecology” and made statements such as “sustainability is part of our expression of the times”.  Back off you green washing evil high fashion corporation!  You can’t hood wink us into thinking that Chanel’s haute couture S/S 16 collection was for real sustainable.

It of course wasn’t.  The collection utilised some technically recyclable elements such as paper fibres and wooden components, elevating such materials to the highest of aesthetic levels they could possibly go, as well as some use of organic cotton, most notable in the finale wedding gown ensemble.  The wabi sabi wooden house that was central to the zen-like set, apparently will be recycled in some capacity.  But it’s the media rather than the house that grasped at these vaguely eco straws.  “Chanel goes eco”, said Tim Blanks on Business of Fashion.  SMCP describes the collection as “eco-luxe”. As Chanel have not yet put forth a formalised CSR agenda, it’s wise that the there’s been no preachy communication from the house that sets out any sustainable fashion credentials in regards to the collection.

I am revisiting this collection though on the occasion of Fashion Revolution Week (expanded from being just a day), which commenced yesterday with a special Fashion Question Time at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, hosted and chaired by the MP Mary Creagh and will continue on with people hashtaging #WhoMadeYourClothes as well as up-cycling workshops in London, which I will document.  Because what’s important is that a house like Chanel even mildly touched on a subject that is only gaining pace and momentum within our consciousness – not just high falutin fashion types but consumers at large, who are eager to get involved, even if it’s with the “half-arsed” approach that the likes of me adopt.  The amount of awareness that a Chanel haute couture collection brings to the words “eco” and “recycling” is indicative of the power of the house, even if the technicalities of the collection and the set are cloaked in a wishy-washy standpoint.

Place Chanel’s haute couture in isolation and particularly in tandem with the Paraffection companies, that come under their ownership, and the buzz words “sustainable” and “slow fashion” do apply.  I say this having finally made the pilgrimage to Lesage and Lemarié as well as seeing the Chanel haute couture flou and tailleur ateliers at work.  At all these establishments, you’ll find men and women of all ages in full-time employment, paid decent wages and working in good conditions, creating clothes and working at crafts that are definitely not going to be disposable, given that a singular piece of haute couture costs upwards of hundreds of thousands of euros.  You’ll find people meticulously sorting and filing away threads, scraps of fabrics and loose beads, feathers and sequins because every bit of material is precious.  You’ll see people making every sewn stitch and every cut of a fabric count because what they are making is a source of pride for them.

It’s a luxurious extremity of slow fashion and of course a bit of a lopsided utopia.  Still, the significance of this particular Chanel haute couture collection with its wooden shavings and beads (can you spot some are even covered with newspaper), made-from-scratch naturalistic textiles and the elevation of eco-fashion stylistic “tropes” as it were, should be applauded on an aesthetic level but also for inadvertently sprinkling the vernacular of sustainable fashion on the consciousness of a mainstream fashion and luxury industry, that is still largely ignoring the real movements of tireless campaigners and creatives that are making the likes of Fashion Revolution Week a reality or propelling positive messaging through entirely sound entities such as People Tree or Patagonia.  Chanel haven’t officially taken on the mantle of sustainable fashion through this collection, but when Lagerfeld speaks, evidently the media listens.  You’d hope that his uttering of the words “eco” and “sustainable” ringing around don’t fall on deaf ears.

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0E5A2615Just some stats on this curved-sleeved jacket and skirt –  2,500 hours spent embroidering 435,000 elements comprising oval wooden beads and three colours of glass beads and a trim of wooden baguettes, raffia and crystal beads

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0E5A2592Made-from-scratch wooden sequins created to mimic the two-tone effect of tweed

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0E5A2618A gilet of wooden textures made out of 1,700 square panels

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0E5A2620Granite effect sequins embroidered by the Paraffection umbrella’s lesser-known embroidery house Montex

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0E5A2610Concertina pleated organza created by pleat specialist Lognon

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0E5A2595The most incredible wooden shavings, each individually hand-cut and hand painted on the edges with pastel hues and arranged on the neckline and the hem of the dress in a fish scale formation

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0E5A2576Feathers cut to resemble bees – an animal that Coco Chanel herself related to as exemplified by this quote: “I am a bee, that is part of my sign, the Lion, the Sun. Women of this sign are hard-working, courageous, faithful, undaunted. That is my character. I am a bee born under the sign of the Lion.”

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0E5A2608Floral embroidery contrasted with garlands of wooden disc pailettes

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0E5A2639A dress featuring a lattice of white lace ribbon, cotton and jersey with wood chip embroidery with a hem of ribbon fringe and embroidered tweed strands

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0E5A2633The tones of ecru, ivory, sand, dove, putty, taupe and mocha in the collection echo Coco Chanel’s fixation with beige.  “I go back to beige because it’s natural.”

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This series of photographs were taken in-house by Chanel and focus on the finale wedding gown ensemble of a hooded jacket and strapless dress with a long removeable train, made out of a geometric lace, decorated with crystal rhinestones, leather pieces, pearls, wooden and baguette beads. 

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By now, you will have heard the resoundingly positive and effusive verdict on Dover Street Market London‘s move to Haymarket after it has hosted a friends and family opening last Friday.  Any previous doubts of a moving from Dover Street Market’s original Dover Street location to a stretch of road that is mainly known as a thoroughfare for tourists to shuttle from Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square or Pall Mall were duly dispelled as soon as you entered the store (not from 18-22 Haymarket but on a side entrance on Orange Street).

Dover Street Market London, being the original instigator back in 2004, was always the idiosyncratic big sister, leading and paving the way for the Ginza and New York locations to spawn and grow.  At Haymarket, Adrian Joffe and Rei Kawakubo take back ownership of that identity because thet now have three times the space (31, 384 sq ft. to be precise) to play with as well as a rooted Grade II listed building, that has its own innately beautiful and original features to both maintain and disrupt.  Originally erected in 1912 by Thomas Burberry (up until 2007 this was Burberry’s headquarters), Kawakubo has left the exterior unchanged, as well as retaining the original ceilings, windows and central staircase.  In that respect, it already marks itself apart from the other DSM locations.  When you have elements such as Kawakubo’s black metal skeleton, giant lamp posts by Daniel Young and Christian Giroux and huge white spheres, engulfing the windows and coursing through the high ceilings and original woodwork, you have yourself an appropriate architectural representation of what Dover Street Market’s ethos is all about.

“I want to create a kind of market where various creators from various fields gather together and encounter each other in an ongoing atmosphere of beautiful chaos; the mixing up and coming together of different kindred souls who all share a strong personal vision.”  This is how Kawakubo sums up the raison d’être of Dover Street Market.  Old/new, established/undiscovered, luxury/street, expensive/affordable – these contrasts roll around all four floors like never before.  The notable new additions at Haymarket such as an installation of Burberry’s original trenches pays homage to the past in a way that feels new.  They somehow sit nicely next to Simone Rocha’s perspex and cornice filled space, which becomes the focal point of the ground floor, as soon as you enter the store.  With its higher ceilings and vaulted skylight, the playful elements such as a stack of chairs built up by Stephen Jones to showcase his millinery or the newspaper stand for new culture and style publication Luncheon, become more pronounced.

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0E5A8514Lighting design on ground floor ‘Alexithymia’ by Dan Young and Christian Giroux

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0E5A8770Simone Rocha space featuring flower moulded cornicing encased in perspex

0E5A8503Junya Watanabe space

0E5A8517Comme des Garçons Homme Plus space

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0E5A8523Burberry’s installation of original trench coats restored exclusively for Dover Street Market 

0E5A8507An installation of interlocking chairs, from which Stephen Jones’ hats hang off

0E5A8513Exclusive debut for the newly-launched Luncheon magazine

The central staircase as well as the wooden-fronted lift form a defined route of discovery as you clamber up the stairs and take in the grand arched windows. They provide portholes into external atriums as well as artwork by Georgian self taught artist Niko Pirosmani. I prefer to go up floor by floor, ascending from first to second to third and then finally going back down into the basement.  Most will go straight to the top, enjoy the bigger and more extensive offerings of Rose Bakery, and then work their way down.

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0E5A8722The central lift linking all five floors

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0E5A8526Original windows that back onto Niko Pirosmani artwork

The way each floor is laid out in a sort of circular formation that bends round that central staircase means it feels like there are more nooks and crannies to explore.  Looking at the press notes, I had to face palm a few times because I realised there were whole sections I had completely missed.  With more floor space though, the mega maisons like Dior and Celine can flourish in their designated areas and then anchor brands like Comme des Garçons also have room to spread out.  With thte enlarged scale of Kawakubo’s sculptural pieces for her main womenswear, it deserves the extra floor space.  On the first floor, perhaps the most surprising section is the three changing rooms devoted to Vetements.  It looks like an area in flux and true to form, Vetements hoodies and jeans were flying out of the changing room curtains and into people’s shopping bags, making it one of the top selling brands at DSM.

0E5A8528White Pillar Space on first floor with ‘Frozen Waterfall’ chandeliers by Rei Kawakubo that feature LED lighting in clusters of ten suspended from the ceiling

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0E5A8574Dior space based around the haute couture 2016 set

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0E5A8568Comme des Garçons space with gold panelling by Rei Kawakubo, contrasting beautifully with that lush blue velvet from the SS16 collection

0E5A8553J.W. Anderson climbing frame space inspired by playgrounds from his hometown in Northern Ireland

0E5A8547Alaiä space designed by artist Kris Ruhs

0E5A8559A drawn out Delvaux

0E5A8557A Roberts Wood top to add to a newer roster of designers that include Shushu Tong, Zu Xhi and Helen Lawrence

0E5A8563Rick Owens

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0E5A8772Vetements space intended to be installed in a dressing room area 

Up into the second floor and the furniture installations become more apparent with hybrid wardrobes housing a much bigger Sacai area as well as a new section for The Row held in what looks like a giant version of those tray cupboards you’d have at primary school.  Kawakubo’s metal skeleton skulking over the doorway suggests a structural heft, that marries up with the heavyweight creators of this floor such as Raf Simons and Alessandro Michele for Gucci.  They form a contrasting foil for one another as Simoms’ concrete blocks come up against Gucci’s green velvet.  Tucked away in a corner is Paul Harnden’s nook, left deliberately derelict with building materials and in-progress plastic sheeting.  This is perhaps one of my favourite parts of the store as you get to hide away with Harnden’s roughed up textures and weathered garments.

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0E5A8583Metal Dinosaur by Rei Kawakubo wrapping the doorway of the second floor

0E5A8584A vintage double wardrobe by Charlotte Perriand housing The Row with Pedro Cabrita Reis’s lighting installation ‘The Sky Above” 

0E5A8597A hybrid furniture installation by Tokyo based art collective GELCHOP for Sacai

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0E5A8638Raf Simons space featuring his AW16 collection exclusively for Dover Street Market

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0E5A8614Michael Costiff World Archive

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0E5A9066Inside a nook too the side of the second floor is Paul Harnden’s space, designed by Nicolai Schmetna with materials found in Haymarket

0E5A8628Noir by Kei Ninomiya

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Arriving at third floor and that extra floor space feels even more apparent as you find yourself at a much bigger Rose Bakery and more designated sections that make stable brands like Egg, Comme Comme and Comme Girl more spread out.  The Egg space in particular is a delight with its closet of pastoral striped jackets and oversized straw shoes.  On this floor, maverick female creators are celebrated as Elena Dawson gets a more fleshed out Victoriana-inflected space, Sara Lanzi’s clothes are strung up along paper garments and Molly Goddard has her own candy-hued corner.  This new DSM also sees the debut of Frances von Hofmannsthal’s installation of her father Lord Snowden’s photography studio, alongside a rail of painter’s smocks made out of the dyed backdrops that Snowden used in his famous portraits.  It’s a special visual treat that gets due diligence up here.

0E5A8639Peering up into the third floor

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0E5A8715Elena Dawson’s space featuring a Victorian carriage box and a window of gold shoes

0E5A8712Sara Lanzi space entitled “Black Carousel”

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0E5A8706‘Frances’ by Frances von Hofmannsthal. The installation is almost an exact replica of Frances’ father, Photographer Lord Snowden’s original studio and will host a series of special handmade coats

0E5A8648Labour and Wait

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0E5A8667Molly Goddard’s patchwork space featuring sculptures made by her father

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0E5A9096Vintage radiator rails housing labels like Toogood, Atlantique Ascoli and Casey Casey

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0E5A8698Egg space created by Jonathan Tuckey

Descending back down into the basement and Paul Smith’s reinterpretation of his first store in Nottingham instantly snares you in, with its array of Japanese toys, old issues of the Face and other collectibles, with a smattering of his men’s tailoring.  As with the Burberry installation, Paul Smith’s presence within DSM is unexpected but it works because of the singular concept.  Round the corner, you have your usual DSM basement residents – Good Design Shop, Undercover, IDEA – with larger spaces now alotted for Nike Lab, Craig Green and Gosha Rubchinsky.  A Child of Jago and Palace are the newcomers down in what is already a streetwear aficionado’s haven.

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0E5A8934Down in the basement, and new to DSM is the Paul Smith Space is built to resemble Paul’s first ever shop in opened in 1970 in Nottingham.  It features Japanese toys, magazines and vintage pieces. 

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0E5A8982Craig Green’s black tarpaulin monster fish

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0E5A9005IDEA’s excellent printed matter and selection of rare books

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I went in on the Saturday after the friends and family launch, to take the rest of my photos and the word “market” had literally sprung into life.  The place was heaving.  From the queues for Gosha Rubchinsky’s limited edition Reeboks and Palace gear in the morning to curious peeps passing by throughout the day, the tills at DSM’s new location were constantly ringing, with even the press team having to help out serve customers.  The “beautiful chaos” of DSM, became even more beautiful when you saw life being breathed into the pieces on the rails – people browsing, trying and ultimately buying.  You want to hope that the initial buzz of the new location doesn’t dim and that being wedged in between the tourist hotspots of London will actually expose DSM to a whole new audience as well as retaining its core and devoted customer base.  Joffe and Kawakubo’s clarion call is clear.  To Haymarket we go!  Come (or should that be comme?), play and be curious!

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