>> Seeing as I’ve been away for so long, I’m now hell bent on colouring in this homepage to the max.  If Port Eliot was the weekend-length dose of a creative ideas haven, then God’s Own Junkyard in Walthamstow is the convenient neighbourhood (well, within a ten mile vicinity of my house) happy place, where you can’t help but reverberate off of good vibes in amongst the neon light installations of artist Chris Bracey.  Where else to take the similarly bright neon components of Swatch’s latest POP collection as I was tasked to create a set of imagery to match up with a “watch that POPS!” with a pop-out watch face.  Alongside a group of talented digi creators, we all attempted our own spin on our favoured POP watch.  Naturally I veered towards the hues that dominate a segment in my wardrobe.   

Neon watch, neon outfit components, neon lights… it’s almost like a not-so-clever lightbulb has switched on inside my nugget-sized noggin.  Still, any excuse to head up to Bracey’s lit-up land is fine by me, especially as we arrived for the shoot saw the lights get switched on in the morning.  If you’re in London, do go and bask away. 

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0E5A0972Wearing DI$COUNT studded biker jacket, Molly Goddard dress, Christopher Kane trainers and my own shoes designed with Six London with Swatch Popover neon Watch and Beads

Resuscitating blog in action.  Pump.  Pump.  Pump.  The faintest of heartbeats can just about be detected.  It just might make it past this restful summer…

On the subject of life resuscitation, some of you might know that the reason why the blog has gone into a coma-like state for the past month or so.  I now have two heartbeats coursing through my body – my own plodding one, and a much faster pulse drumming away in my lower belly.  Steve, my partner and I were surprised and excited to find out that we’re going to be expecting a young arrival sometime in next January.  To say that it has made me rethink work, home and life in general is an understatement.  As a result, since the haute couture shows in July, I’ve given myself some time off to take my family to California in keeping with my annual love affair with the Golden State, gorge on a combination of Monster Munch, hash browns and Marmite on toast and most importantly give my brain a bit of space to process the fact that there’s a little being growing inside of me.

August has of course brought about its own inevitable slowdown but it’s also time to ease back into things.  And ease, is exactly what comes to mind when Port Eliot comes around.  This year marks my fourth time at the festival in Cornwall.  It felt like the “biggest” in terms of attendance and the “star” power of speakers.  Gloria Steinem!  Noel Fielding!  Kim Gordon!  Dawn French!  They were the buzz talks of the festival that had the tents all packed out.  It was a little surreal to see for instance Steinem, speak about how wonderful it felt to be a Port Eliot.  She too was probably seduced by the idealised bubble that the festival has come to be known as.

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And fortunately, you lost none of that free-spirited intimacy that has come to define this annual gathering of ideas.  Especially where the Wardrobe Department was concerned.  This has come to be the domain of Sarah Mower, contributing editor of American Vogue and all-round champion of British fashion, tucked away in the Walled Garden of the Port Eliot house.  The number of talks and ‘happenings’ here have slowly been on the increase since my first time at the fest, and although it’s still dedicate to the best of London’s grassroots fashion, this year French house Chloé ended up being this year’s official fashion sponsor at Port Eliot.

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Port-Eliot-35Feminist icon Gloria Steinem speaking with Cathy St Germans

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IMG_8066Inside Piers Atkinson’s flower headgear workshop

Hashtag Chloé Girls in their wafting white dresses and flowing tresses of course fit right into the festival’s lush surroundings of woods, riverbanks and rolling hills.  The house’s signature ease-led white dresses, spanning over four decades of the house’s history, sat pretty in the duck egg blue Drawing Room of the house, remodelled by Sir John Soane, next to vitrines of antique lace.

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My own attempt to channel the spirit of a Chloé Girl was aided by this floaty number from their S/S 16 collection complete with daintily dyed tassels, as well as my abode for the weekend, the tried-and-tested Yurtel yurt.  On the day that creative director of Chloé Claire Waight Keller came to do her talk in the Wardrobe Department, the house’s oversized Carlina sunglasses could be seen dotted everywhere.  All the better to go all hazy eyed as we lay around on hay bales, sipping gin (or a delicious frozen Rocktail in my case) and listen to Waight Keller talk creative freedom, the fluidity of a house like Chloé and festival antics with Mower.  Their talk was brought to life of course by the faces of Port Eliot – Bea, Imogen, Aggie, Lulu and Octavia Warren wearing the festival-inspired S/S 16 collection where 90s hoodies collide with ditzy florals and vibrantly dyed chiffon.  Musician Flo Morrissey was Chloé’s choice of artist, who gave both a poetry reading a musical performance.  A mega brand zooming in on a festival can often feel like an overly orchestrated endeavour.  Chloé’s involvement felt… natural… precisely because their clothes fit the meandering-in-the-meadow bill.  At least that’s what I thought as I tumbled about in a Chloé peasant tunic.

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IMG_8286Octavia, Lulu, Imogen, Aggie and Bea Warren

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Their involvement was a contrasting foil to what was going in the rest of the Wardrobe Department, as thematically we were submerged into the eighties.  That’s the !!!Eighties Now!!! collaged in newspaper font and printed on neon poster paper.  The broader umbrella though was London’s youngest generation of riotous creativity.  First of all, roll up, roll up for recent CSM MA graduates Luke Brooks and James Theseus Buck’s new collective project, the Rottingdean Bazaar, launched during LC:M in June.  They were selling temporary tattoos and badges that celebrate the amazingly ordinary.  A Nokia 3210 tattoo?  A balloon badge that looks vaguely like a nipple?  It’s your local high street market coming alive on your body.  By the end of the weekend, I had a Colgate toothpaste, a counterfeit handbag, a broken doll and a pair of false teeth adorning my arms.  Their “bazaar” is definitely a sign of things to come from the duo as they continue to think up ways of elevating the mundane.

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IMG_8073Designer Claire Barrow getting dolphin happy

In the Special Special tent, Mower has gathered up trinkets and lovable clutter from young designers to sell to festival goers, with all sales going to the British Fashion Council Education Foundation (you know, for those ever-spiking uni fees).  Highlights included Ed Marler’s bungee cord handled carpet purses, Sadie Williams’ lurex patches, Claire Barrow’s ghoulish charm bracelets and the most awesome neon jewellery by Matty Bovan and his mum Plum.

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IMG_8030Jewellery made jointly by Matty Bovan and his mum Plum

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Returning to Port Eliot with M.A.C. were drag group DENIM – this time not only to entertain the Port Eliot crowd but also to talk about the act of transformation.  How for instance, Amrou becomes Glamrou or how Tom becomes into Shirley.  Their backstory incites interest primarily because the group formed when they were undergraduates at Cambridge, creating the first drag night at this unlikely institution.  Their act is more than just comic relief but rather a representation of a beacon of inclusivity and open-mindedness.  Seeing them speak about their experiences definitely gave DENIM a more shades of depth.

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The riot of colour carried on into the introduction of Michael Halpern’s Central Saint Martins MA collection at Port Eliot.  Halpern was one of my personal favourites from this year’s crop of MA graduates and it was interesting to discover the backstory behind the asymmetric assemblages of glitz.  I’d never heard of the spectacle of horse-diving, a now illegal spectacle that involved horses diving off of into piers, that was popular in America in the 1880’s.  Halpern’s collection was inspired by the elaborate costumes worn by the female riders that performed these dangerous stunts.   What appeared to be surface-driven disco dollies on the runway were in fact daredevil women in carefully contoured ensembles, involving hours of handworked sequins.  His collection has landed Halpern a gig at Versace, working on the couture Atelier line but he’s also in the process of launching his own line in London.  A new kid on the sequinned block is born.

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In stark contrast to Halpern, was John Alexander Skelton, another standout MA graduate from Central Saint Martins, who was in conversation with Alex Fury to talk about the “Mass Observation” survey of Bolton in the 1930s, which formed the roots of Skelton’s collection and the North/South class divide that is still very much at play today.  Upon discovering that only 3% of so-called British woven wool is actually made out of British fleece, Skelton’s collection also utilised yarns from British sheep.  Skelton is part of the newest wave of sustainable designers that are seeking new methods of working and creating and as he begins to start his own label, I’ll be looking forward to seeing how his trajectory continues.

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It ain’t Port Eliot without something elaborate going on, on top of people’s heads.  This year, we got not one but two milliners displaying their wares.  Piers Atkinson talked us through his iconic pieces, which have graced many a celebrity head.

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Then the inimitable Stephen Jones entertained a crowd with his hat-led rundown of the eighties, aided by hair support from Bumble & Bumble.  Jones of course knows a thing or two about the subcultural havens that remain for me, the most interesting facets of the eighties as a stylistic period.  New Romantics.  The Face.  The Blitz kids.  “Boy George” was undoubtedly the star of Jones’ show.  I was chuffed to be a part of this eighties cavalcade, by throwing my best Wuthering Heights moves and attempting to channel Kate Bush, with thanks to a voluminously crimped up mane, conjured up by Sven Bayerbach from Bumble & Bumble, a gothic visage by Terry Barber, director of make-up artistry at M.A.C and a crowning crescent of silver courtesy of Jones.  My Stars in Their Eyes was complete.

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IMG_8319Siouxsie Sioux, is that you?

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IMG_8375Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…

In the Wardrobe Department’s most ambitious show yet, Mower had gathered up a treasure chest of fashionz to bring the Eighties Now theme to life, in a show-and-talk, styled by Matthew Josephs and Ed Marler and explained by Alex Fury, Sandy Powell and Terry Barber.  The theme was prompted by J.W. Anderson’s AW15-6 collection and the sheer chutzpah of those giant leg of mutton sleeves and Sprouse-esque squiggles.  Calling in the latest Kenzo collection, a feathered frock from Gucci, some Sloane-appropriate archive Roksanda as well as a few pieces of vintage Zandra Rhodes and Bodymap, the best of the decade was refracted into the here and now.  Fury and Mower prompted some intriguing questions in the accompanying talk.  What does it mean when fashion is looking back at a decade that saw the rise of excess and wealth, and the political stranglehold of Thatcherism in the UK?  In our post-Brexit state, is it about escapism to a no-holds-barred era of sartorial expression or a darker reflection of the poor-rich wealth gap, with the positive outcome being that from crisis comes a creative upsurge, as evidenced by the participating young designers in this year’s Port Eliot line-up.

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One of them in particular is partying like it’s 1980 in Billy’s nightclub.  Charles Jeffrey‘s work and regular party nights Loverboy, represents the newest gen of London’s out-there club scenes.  On Saturday night, we got ready for weekend revelry by ransacking the M.A.C. tent in an unprecedented fashion.  Pots of glitter and smears of bright pigment went everywhere.  Evidently I went overboard by diving in with with turquoise and orange combo, partly inspired by extreme Japanese ganguro girl make-up.  Jeffrey went one step further by diving into the muddy banks of the on-site estuary to go full on Cornish native.  Sadly he didn’t factor in the freezing state that the mud would leave him in, so he washed it all off and emerged kabuki faced for his DJ set in the Ace of Clubs tent later.

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The next morning, the M.A.C. tent underwent another transformation with Matty Bovan‘s artwork adorning the exterior.  Bovan has just been announced as the newest addition to the Fashion East S/S 17 line-up for London Fashion Week, which comes off the back of Bovan spreading his rambunctious energy through his work on the mannequins at the Miu Miu resort presentation last month in Paris.  A fearless approach towards colour and bold strokes define both his aesthetic and his own personal styling.  We were given the opportunity to strike a Bovan pose with some cleverly drawn perspex sheets and mirrors.

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Before we departed Port Eliot land to head back into the real world, we caught the beginnings of Molly Goddard‘s second life drawing lesson, giving everyone the opportunity to observe and sketch out a selection of her frocks from past and present collections.  It was the final component to Mower’s well-curated snapshot of fashion now in London and for me, perhaps a due reminder that fashion month isn’t far.  From the dreamscape of Port Eliot, it’s back to reality for me, my bump and I.

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When Alessandro Michele presented that first menswear collection under what were tension-filled and uncertain circumstances back in January last year, reportedly it was the British press who were cheering the hardest when it came to the finale.  They were natural cheerleaders for the rejection of Gucci’s conventional gloss and the two fingers up at what was the Gucci status quo.  It’s somehow wired into (let’s say most…) British fashion industry folk to root for the subversive, the ironic and the unabashedly OTT.    Therefore, a year and a half later, after the complete and utter transformation of Gucci, to be able to witness a ninety-four looks stuffed show dedicated to Michele’s spiritual happy place of England, or more specifically London – in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey no less – didn’t feel like a strategically devised market-driven ‘destination’ cruise show.  It felt more like a genuine gesture of gratitude on Michele’s part, as backstage after the show, he paid tribute to British sub cultures or in his words “You can be a punk and drink tea.”

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When you travel around the world, almost a representative of your country’s style, you often get asked to trot out with defined nutshells describing a country’s style.  However eye-wincing it is to fall into generalising guff, there are a few things that you can’t run away from and Michele hit them on the head in this show, by honing in on stereotypes and maximising them until there is no more maximising to be done.  Punk, as gestated on King’s Road by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, and later repeatedly refracted and filtered down in wider culture.  Check.  Almost jingoistic signifiers of royalty – the pearls of Elizabeth I (who Michele cited as the “original rockstar” of her day) to headscarves and appliquéd corgis of the present day Queen.  Check.  Eclecticism as displayed in the clashes between Oxford boaters, glam rock metallics, Buffalo-esque rainbow platforms and debutante gowns.  Check.  LOLz irony in the form of real/fake Gucci hoodies and t-shirts that reclaims ownership of the much counterfeited logo.  Check.  The loudness.  The naffness.  The poshness.  The madness.  All there pulled together into an astonishingly long show that pushed every button of polite taste.

In the styling, there was something deliberately brasher about the collection.  The Siouxsie Soux lace leggings.  The turbans shiner.  The earrings larger and more gem-tastic.  The sunnies zanier with their flip-up double shades.  All the better to contrast with staunchly traditional garments like kilts, trench coats, collegiate-nodding cardigans and Victoriana blouses.

The setting may have been elevated with the tombstones and memorials of Chaucer, Shakespeare and countless English monarchs nearby but the point was to bring Michele’s natural vintage-scouring, magpie maving and history-revering sensibilities to the city, where they were nurtured.  Is there a danger in an intrinsically Italian house like Gucci waving the flag so enthusiastically for the UK (literally the flag was flown in the form of a Union Jack jumper and metallic brothel creeper shoes)?  Those aforementioned Brit-style attributes of course aren’t exclusive to this country alone.  They’ve had a century plus to spread their wings around the globe through various machinations.  Like English punk that has found itself a third life in Japan, thrashed out in an altogether different sub-cultural genre.  Or the Scottish kilt that is less a code of national dress but more a signifier of rebellion-laced preppiness.  The English eccentric has crossed the borders and exported itself as a genre for any would-be fashion mavens to adopt, which is precisely why Michele has unlocked a goldmine for Gucci.  Anything, something, one thing will take your fancy as everything you see below will be produced, made and hang on the racks.

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The afterparty at 106 Piccadilly similarly had 1950s rock ‘n’ roll playing on one floor and Italo disco on another with the modern day equivalent of club kids and posh girls in frocks mixing it up.  No wonder the British press contingent were such early fan girl/boy adoptors of Michele.  They could already see the good times that lay ahead.

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IMG_9629Wearing Gucci dress, Miu Miu shoes and J.W. Anderson bag

London Craft Week was an opportunity for me to get my backpack on, go to parts of London unbeknownst to me and learn about things outside of, but not wholly disconnected from the fashion realm.  Eschewing press days and product launches, where I’m given a well-rehearsed press spiel, I decided to go probe around an array of skilled hands and singular makers instead.  As Guy Salter, founder of LCW put it in his op-ed piece for The Business of Fashion, “Consumers need to experience “craft” not just as static objects or as brand-led ‘fashion,’ ‘luxury design’ or ‘art,’ but must also understand the full context in which they were made, why they are special, and meet the creators and see their remarkable skills up close.”

In its second year of running, LCW is a week of talks, demonstrations, open studios and workshops, where you’re exposed to craftsmen (and women) in both secret nooks and established quarters of London.  The crafts on show, range from bookbinding to ceramics to basket weaving to the more fashion relevant processes such as hand-bag construction, millinery and jewellery making.  LCW also highlights establishments like Angels Costumiers or the Royal Opera House, where skilled hands are essential to their day-to-day running.  Numbers of attendees are limited and you have to pre-book tickets in advance, but I wholeheartedly recommend taking the time out for a dose of LCW, as a slowed-down act of indulgence in listening, observing and ultimately, learning.  Do I learn and explore enough as a fashion blogger/professional?  Or have I become complacent and lazy?  LCW was in effect, my way of atoning.


Venturing to Patey Hats for instance, hidden on an anonymous industrial estate near Peckham, was perhaps the week’s biggest revelation.  You might know their sister company Hand and Lock (which I visited a while back), famed for their fine embroidery, but Patey’s history goes back even further to the 17th century when the French Huguenot came to England and bought their skills of Parisian hat making.  The most important thing I learn at Patey, was the difference between a hatter and a milliner.  Patey’s studio director Ian Harding, was brutally honest in his assessment of milliners, whose skills he considered to be inferior to that of a hatter, who essentially makes hats that are heavily structured and built-up.  Patey specialises in making goss-bodied hats like top hats, riding hats and ceremonial tricornes and bycorne, that you might see in mayoral ceremonies as well as hats for the military, Beefeater guards and the Queen’s guard.  Basically, hats that you associate with events like Trooping of the Guard or official Royal Family ceremonies, have probably passed through Patey.  Top hats – which you might think of as obsolete – are in demand because of the riding season in the UK as well as worn as part of uniform at establishments like banks and hotels.  They undergo a process where the shape of the hat is built up with strips of calico dipped in a shellac-based paste called “coodle”, that are ironed on in layers.  It’s an intense working environment where the smell of this pungent paste and the heat of the irons, are much the same as the processes dating back centuries.  “Why change a process that worked 400 years ago,” said Harding, who is also a stickler for making sure all the fabrics, trimmings and embroideries that grace Patey’s hats are also made in Britain.

It’s a made-to-measure and specific-for-wearer business that doesn’t stray from tradition.  It’s also a business and craft that thrives on rank and file, pomp and ceremony and the constructs of hunting, military and Palace seasons – facets of which might seem outdated and unnecessary to some.  And yet you have the humblest of craftsmen and women, honing away on these supremely made objects, in this South East London enclave.  “If we didn’t have these establishments and strands of British culture, we wouldn’t be able to support ourselves,” said Harding.  There’s also an emphasis on sustainability and fixing and repair, especially when it comes to Buckingham Palace bearskins, which Harding categorically doesn’t make from scratch, preferring to recycle and restore, because of the unethical nature of the skins.  “Our whole principle is about retaining the integrity of the hat, so we’re as much about restoring the hat as well as making new ones.  If somebody has a hat, I would rather restore and repair it despite the fact that it takes three times as long.”  Patey’s hats are the opposite of disposable garments and instead live on with wearers’ experiences embedded in the inside of these hardwearing shells.  You left, hoping that traditions are somehow retained and maintained, just so that businesses like Patey could thrive.

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0E5A7813A curious device used to measure the size of your head

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0E5A7887Patey also makes the heavily ornate epaulettes that will adorn military uniforms


I got to discover the hidden beauty of the Chelsea Physic Garden, where the excellent textiles publication Selvedge, had organised an immersive Indigo Day, that was probably the most in-depth LCW event on the programme.  It began with an entertaining presentation by indigo expert and writer Jenny Balfour-Paul, who happed upon the diaries and drawings of 19th century intrepid explorer Thomas Machell, who at one point was also an indigo planter in Bengal.  This led Balfour-Paul to take a journey that mirrored Machell’s travels, documenting every step in her book Deeper Than Indigo.  Then shibori textiles artist Jane Callender spoke about the science behind indigo during and led a workshop for people to create a deep blue tote bag, adorned with those distinctive resist patterns,.  I have been obsessed with shibori since discovering the work of Hiroyuki Murase of Suzuman and even in its simplest form, achieved by a line of running stitches and knotted beads, the effects are quite stunning, especially when paired with the deep shades of indigo blue.  Looking at Callender’s complex geometry-based shibori patterns, you can see why it’s so exciting to see what end result emerges, when the dye dries and you unravel the stitches.  Both the emotive and technical facets of indigo dyeing were revealed on the day.  Even my blue jeans dyeing disaster from when I was 14 (the blue-stained bath at my mum and dad’s house never quite recovered) isn’t going to deter me from giving indigo dyeing a go at home.

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0E5A7974Callender demonstrating how to start off a shibori pattern

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I got tiny glimpses in the world of ceramics and weaving thanks to a demonstration by a Wedgwood maker at the V&A and a weaving demo by apprentice weaver Ben Hymers of Dovecot Studios at the Ace Hotel.  They were more like little tasters that definitely make me want to go up to see the real thing, therefore visits to the World of Wedgwood in Staffordshire and the leading international tapestry studio Dovecot up in Edinburgh are definitely in order.

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In addition to physical craft on show, LCW also gave me another excuse to visit the wonderful William Morris Gallery, where the exhibition Social Fabric, exposes the politicised nature of African textiles like kanga fabric from Kenya and Tanzania.  Using fabric to communicate news and political statements of course chimes in with Morris’ own stance on social betterment through craft.  I loved the examples on show such as the kangas printed with figures like President Obama and Michael Jackson as well as South African artist Lawrence Lemaoana’s powerful hanging pieces.

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It was also an opportunity to rediscover names like shoe designer Georgina Goodman, who specifically chose LFW to showcase her first project in the basement of Black’s club in Soho, after her label shuttered two years ago.  Goodman is rebooting her label, albeit at a slower pace, and as such is concentrating on more freeing and creative ways of working, such as this series of sketches, artwork and ornate shoes that were originally intended for a film by Steven Shainberg (director of cult classic Secretary).  The film is still in-progress but some of the shoes for the main character, who is a shoe designer that falls obsessively in love, have been made – with love – by Goodman.  They feature remnants of delicate lace, gatherings of rare feathers and iridescent clusters of beetle wings.  They’re the ornate counterpart to an accessible line of slippers dubbed “GG’s” that are streaked with Goodman’s trademark brushstroke stripes and copper splatters.

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I was on surer ground with Chanel’s umbrella group of LCW events at Burlington Arcade, including learning about lace making at swimwear and lingerie brand Eres (which has been owned by Chanel since 1996), a glimpse at how Barrie knitwear and Maison Michel operate as well as an olfactory journey of Chanel No. 5.  There’s something reassuring about going to hear about Calais leaver’s lace, seeing Maison Michel’s wooden hat moulds and going over the main components of Chanel’s best-selling perfume (citrus, ylang ylang, jasmine, sandalwood and vanilla) because these talks were inflected with the ethos and narrative of Coco Chanel.  There’s a magical familiarity when it comes to the story of No. 5’s creation and there were also echoes in these intimate presentations of the way I previously experienced Chanel’s Paraffection houses.

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0E5A7664Stretchability applied to the lace used at Eres, echoing the ethos of their swimwear

0E5A8093Barrie’s S/S 16 collection

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0E5A8080Maison Michel’s blocks and felt hoods

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0E5A8104Sophie, Chanel’s fragrance expert explaining the scent make-up of No.5


Finally, perhaps the luxury brand that was the most genuinely invested in craft was Loewe, who had a significant presence at LCW this year, thanks to Jonathan Anderson’s initiation of the Loewe Craft Prize, awarded by the Loewe Foundation.  In the Loewe store on Mount Street, the work of Spanish artist/jeweller Ramón Puig Cuyás is being showcases, with a series of special brooches displayed next to his abstract sketches.  Cuyás aims to make jewellery that would “appeal to people who do not like jewellery” by deliberately using non precious materials.  As an infrequent jewellery wearer, Cuyás has certainly achieved his mission.

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For two days of LCW, a Loewe craftsman was also present in store to show how the 40-piece Puzzle bag, Anderson’s veritable bag ‘hit’ for the Spanish house, is put together.  I remember my visit to the Loewe factory in Madrid, before Anderson had taken on the creative reins and I’ve often wondered how the leather craftspeople there have reacted to his left field approach towards accessories design.  Once the unusual jigsaw pieces are cut and sewn together though, the construction of the bag follows the same principles that have applied at Loewe for decades.  In-store, the process was simplified and sped up for the sake of demonstrating to customers, but even then, the video that I posted on Instagram was by far the most popular of all my LCW posts.  Such is the lure of the Puzzle.

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“As a house, we are about craft in the purest sense of the word.  This is where our modernity lies, and it will always be relevant.”  In one quote, Anderson sums up why for-consumer participatory events like LCW matter.  Showing hands, revealing processes and engaging people with production processes give meaning to the accumulation of “stuff”, that shows no signs of slowing down.