To the Ball and Back

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As I entered Koko, three hours or so before the Hermès Silk Ball was about to kick off, I was trying to sift through my foggy brain to remember the last time I was there.  It may have been seven or eight years ago.  It may have been a Foals gig.  I may have licked the gilded and red statues that adorns the interior.  It’s all a bit of a haze.  On this occasion though, Koko was no longer a drunken blue of red and gold but brought up to high definition thanks to Hermès lifting the venue up with illuminated prints of their silk scarves dotted around and a central tunnel of silk leading to the middle level of this cavernous space.  To put this all into context though, a party hosted by Hermès at Koko, with guests that included not just fashion industry peeps and a select group of Hermès clients but also a diverse crowd of competition winners (hosted on this blog and through my Instagram) and bloggers, is an unlikely combination.  With Hermès’ silk offering – their “fun” product – they wanted to stray beyond the polite boundaries of a luxury house like Hermès.  Fun was certainly the operative word.  

It was a memorable night filled with good old fashioned, unpretentious and non-wanky fun.  A fashion PR, who I had invited walked in and said “This doesn’t feel like a fashion party.”  An hour later and she was slurring enthusiastic words in my ear about how much fun she was having.  Not resembling a fashion party is a good thing, if we take typical “fashion party” to mean fashion industry folk dropping in for five minutes to an event, having one begrudged drink, saying “Hi/Bye!” to a PR to ensure that they’ve registered on their radar and looking around to see if there are any opportunistic conversations to be had with somebody better/cooler/higher up on the rungs.  The crowd was hugely diverse and thanks to everyone coming up to me every two minutes to say  “Thank you!  I’m one of the competition winners!” (yay for saying “Hi!” in real life – take that, virtual world), I learned that a mix of fashion/textiles/journalism students, designers, illustrators as well as accountants and lawyers were present with their plus 1’s.  By and large they were people who probably hadn’t experienced aforementioned sad-face fashion party.  They were up for it, enthusiastic and tellingly many of the competition winners who entered the venue bang on at 8pm stayed until the glitter and confetti-strewn end at midnight.

Therefore first and foremost, Hermès have to be commended for even allowing such an event to happen and eschewing luxury fashion etiquette norm.  Then there were the many bonuses because Hermès had thought of every single detail to make the night full of fun nuggets to take away.  The dessert buffet laid out with edible flower-strewn profiteroles, fruit platters and all kinds of fondants/mousses/creams.  In abundance were pulled pork sandwiches, burgers and lobster rolls too.  Route to fun?  Food.  Eating is certainly not cheating.  Upstairs on the upper level, was a Room of Transformation, with a gang of make-up artists ready to adorn your face and hair with flowers, butterflies or both in your chosen colour scheme.  There was a Room of Emotion where the mystical Stefan read your fortune with both silk and tarot cards.  Mine was Phoenix Cheval – some kind of embodiment of fashion’s past and future.  Intense!  There were the creatures – a Princess, a Cheval, a Faune and a Phoenix – parading around in incredible costumes constructed out of Hermès silk.  There were the chameleon photobooths set up by the dancefloor for guests to be draped in silk and pose against matching walls to echo their S/S 14 Soie Folle campaign.  Photos would be sent to guests as a souvenir of the night.  People were astonished by the level of detail and care that had gone into it.  It wouldn’t have surprised the more cynical crowd and in truth there was a deliberate intention to create Insta-friendly fodder, inviting everyone to squeal, snap and  share.  But that generosity was appreciated and happily reciprocated, havine done a quick search on Instagram/Twitter.  Satisfaction from both parties.  

On the subject of dress code, Hermès may have asked us to metamorphose into Beauty or Beast with masks and fantastical make-up.  However it was all open to interpretation.  Nobody was going to be barred if they didn’t arrive in full ball regalia.  Some people dipped their toes into dressing up.  Some people were full on (thumbs up to the two guys who turned up looking like extras from the Amadeus masquerade ball scene).  If you wanted to gussy up your look, Hermès’ handsome hosts and hostesses were handing out paper cut-out masks and wetting temporary tattoos on the skin.  As much as I fantasised about an 18th century mantua dress covered in Hermès silk, that wasn’t going to happen and so even I, lover of all things new-and-shiny, dug out a trusty Rachel Comey print dress and let the Hermès scarves do their knotted and draped thing.  Paired with a some jingle jangle by jewellery designer Lucy Folk, I *think* I was going for a sort of, ish, kind of, not-really, tropicana theme.  Rule of thumb when it comes to good old-fashioned fun – not being overly precious about what you’re wearing.  

It’s no ball without dance.  And this was the part that Hermès really aced, considering that so many fashion parties consist of people standing cooly on the dance floor, drink in one hand, business card in the other.  They called upon an amazing group of Vogue-ing dancers, who performed at regular intervals during the night and then urged the audience to “Silk It Up” with easy-to-learn routines.  And yes, loads of people participated.  At one point, I looked down from the top tier balcony to the dance floor and stage and thought, “OMgeeeeeeee, it’s like a She’s All That co-ordinated prom scene!” with people dancing routines in sync and in line.  My hands were clicking on a camera as opposed to Vogue-ing but it was awesome to watch.  I chose to break out with cheesy moves in the last hour instead.

The results of the evening? A barefooted walk home, a cracking headache the next morning and a tasty bacon sarnie as a hangover cure.  That’s the sort of fun I remember having the first time round when I used to frequent Koko.  Some things don’t change.

P.S. I forgot to take a picture of the lovely MC Orla who led the proceedings of the night.  I have to apologise for subjecting her to half an hour of the most haphazard, improvised styling session as I tried to fashion an outfit out of scarves for her.  There is a reason why I’m not a proper, legit stylist.

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0E5A1503Rachel Comey dress, Comme des Garcons sequinned sleeve, Minju Kim x Acrobat shoes, Lucy Folk jewellery, Peaches and Cream earrings and a ton of Hermès scarves…

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The Room of Emotion with Stefan…

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The Room of Transformation…

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Creatures of the night…

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0E5A1680Lou and Joe all wrapped up

0E5A1596One of my favourite outfits of the night to the right.

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0E5A1825Princess Julia in Meadham Kirchhoff and her friend in vintage Mugler

0E5A1975Grrrrr…. Ryan Lo

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0E5A1812Bethan Laura Wood looking awesome as usual

0E5A1651Strike a pose…

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0E5A1780Lisa King twirling around in her silk prints…

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0E5A1836Sister Lau’s unite!

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0E5A1996Love that illustrator Clara Gomez came and decided to draw some of the guests and creatures

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Ball Moves

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>> I’m in a GIF-y kind of a mood.  Why?  Tonight is the night when I peel myself off couch/chair and head down to Koko to dance the night away (or at least embarrassingly shuffle around with a drink in hand) at the Hermès Silk Ball!  As we speak, I’m still surrounded by a mound of scarves wondering how to fashion it all into something resembling ball attire.  The GIF is definitely still a work in progress but a little help from Comme des Garcons and a beloved Rachel Comey dress will hopefully help me in my scarf puzzle quandry.  Oh, and I seem to be outfit-procrastinating since I’m waving around a tennis-themed scarf, and somewhat distracted by Wimbledon on telly.  With five hours to go, I’ll be just fine *she whistles and wonders*… 

There’s still quite a few surprises to be sprung upon guests tonight but for those of you there in spirit and not physically, the Hermès Instagram will be your best bet as well as post-event vicarious reel of pics here.  Koko is quite a cavernous space so there’ll be plenty going on in all its nooks and crannies.  Looking forward to seeing all the winners attending, who were chosen via the blog and my Instagram (thank you to everyone who submitted entries) and also please say “Hi!”  I don’t bite à la Luis Suarez (sorry, couldn’t resist… I’m quite fascinated with the whole sordid saga).  Oh, and whilst I’m still figuring out how 140×140, 90×90 squares and maxi-twillys all come together  in a coherent ensemble, here’s some pre-amble tracks to get the ball rolling…

A Room Full of Yokos

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And so it begins.  The possibility that resort/cruise/spring collections could come together and sprout another fashion week in London.  What were collections previously presented as cookbooks have now begun to emerge as shows and presentations.  Roland Mouret showed his resort salon-style yesterday inside his store, and Peter Jensen followed up with a static presentation in the light-filled Elms Lester Rooms.  This potentially is a preliminary state of pre-collection week in the making.  Tom Ford’s interview with Tim Blanks for Style.com has provided a lot of quotable nuggets.  His comment about cruise presentations throws up a lot of food for thought.  “Cruise is now shown with these giant productions means it’s no longer what it was supposed to be, which was clothes that were maybe not strong enough to show but were your real bread and butter, the clothes that women wanted to wear.  But now that they’re being shown, they’ll have to be amped up, and women won’t want to wear them anymore.”  Or in other words, as told to Alex Fury by a fashion editor, that the two main ready to wear collections have become like haute couture and pre-collections were like the ready to wear.

None of these semantics really matter to the end customer though.  And is Ford’s prognosis correct when he says women won’t like it when the clothes are being amped up.  Or furthermore, are the clothes actually being amped up to suit their more dramatic show environment?

Away from the grand masons and big wig brands, where this may be the case, Peter Jensen is a designer who long ago reconciled himself with making clothes that women want to wear.  Having ceased showing on-schedule at London Fashion Week, he has opted for strong look books and presentations that still convey the spirit of his contrarians of his female muses, who inspire every collection.  Every collection be it pre-fall, resort, spring/summer or autumn/winter have equal weighting for Jensen.

And so we were presented with resort 2014, dedicated to Yoko. As in Ono. Doesn’t really get bigger than Yoko, in comparison to some of the muses, which Jensen have focused on in the past.  Stylist Shirley Kurata street casted a room full of Yokos, to stand still in clothes that bear references to Ono’s work and persona.  John Lennon taking a bite out of her £200 apple at the Indica Gallery in 1966 manifests itself as a cornerstone print in the collection.  Lennon also climbed up a ladder to see the word “Yes” projected on to the ceiling and decided Ono was worth staying for because of its positivity.   Hence why  Yes Yes Yes appears on a sweatshirt.   Jensen simplifies Ono’s book Grapfruit, with instructions for performance art, into a cute knit.  Ono’s famous Cut Piece creates slashes at the back of sweatshirts and scissors printed across a skirt.  Even Ono’s face is interpreted as an abstract repeat print of centre-parted wavy hair.

There’s almost something naively direct about the way Jensen has been inspired by Ono.  That’s the appeal of Jensen’s clothing though.  There are no lofty pretensions just a direct call to wear.  Apparently Ono is fully aware of the collection. I hope she’s chuffed.

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Ottopi Has Landed!

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Meet Ottopi. He has moon shaped eyes and is a playful little thing. He’s from planet MJ and has landed on planet earth to go run away with a circus, wrecking imaginative havoc wherever he goes. Ottopi has been conjured up by Korean designer Minju Kim, who successfully collaborated with H&M when she won their Design Award last year and produced what I thought was one of their most interesting designer collabs to date, with her signature manga-inspired illustrations and surreal storytelling through clothes. You may recall there was a pair of intricate wedge shoes with studded and fringed leather tongues. They were developed with the help of young Korean shoe company Acrobat, who specialise in pursuing comfort and practicality in footwear with interesting design details.

Before Minju Kim, who splits her time between Seoul and Antwerp, presents another formal collection next year, she wanted to engage in some fun projects with her friends. “I want to work with young designers who has a strong belief and philosophy in their work and the goals that they are trying to achieve,” says Kim. As I discovered last year when I went to Seoul, there’s a frisson of fashion energy there that is quite exciting – lots of local labels, boutiques, cafes and fervour bubbling up together to form an enthusiasm about fashion, that goes beyond the shiny surface of K-pop and celebrities.

So we have Minju Kim x Acrobat and their newborn creature Ottopi, who is a symbol thinked up and illustrated by Kim to represent their fusion of ideas and free thinking imagination. Ottopi has invaded Acrobat’s shoes in a collection of mary-janes with pleasingly chunky heels, flatforms and loafers so that they all essentially make funny faces at you as toy look down on your feet. Cut out leather pieces, studs, crosses, fringed tongues and allusions to faces of creatures. They launched on Friday in Seoul across some in-store events and are currently available in Korea only, but the plan is the sell them on the Acrobat website from July and possibly internationally when they go into a showroom in Paris in September, so this is an early early heads up.

It’s hard to resist the charm of an imaginative collaboration that is as well conceived as this. I especially like the video that Minju Kim and Acrobat have made in collaboration with Seoul-based VJ Parpunk and design agency Viewzic, with music created by Yukari. Kim’s original illustrations are animated mapped out and emerge thumping with energy. It’s a coming together of Seoul creativity with clever and tangible product at the horizon.

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As a side note, Minju Kim also took part in a small installation at Antwerp’s MOMU where she and four other young Belgian designers designed an ensemble inspired by Minnie Mouse and I have to say this is one of the best “fashion” Minnie’s I’ve seen yet.

Maison Minnie Mouse

Maison Minnie Mousse