Despite having written two young designer round-ups for BOF during the course of the month, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t get much time during fashion month to digest anything truly “new”.  As in, something I’d never discovered or didn’t have a mild inkling of beforehand.  On my last day in Paris though, The Broken Arm came to my rescue.  The much-vaunted, rightfully-respected store, founded by Guillaume Steinmetz, Anaïs Lafarge, and Romain Joste, nestled oin Marais has become something of a destination shop during fashion week.  With just a handful of labels, they seem to be able to capture the here and now of what’s making fashion hardcorers’ pulse race and do so with a limited amount of rail space.  During Paris fashion week though, what took over their windows wasn’t the column inch-garnering Balenciaga or the critic hit of the week Jacquemus (a personal survey around the critics’ quarters say so anyway…) but a young French graduate from the esteemed La Cambre Mode (s) school in Brussels Belgium, whose alumni are littered throughout the fashion houses for good reason.

Joste discovered Marine Serre whilst on the jury for this year’s graduate show at La Cambre and promptly decided to showcase her graduate collection, as well as selling and aiding production of select pieces, during the high-people-traffic period of fashion week.  That’s quite a chance to take on a graduate to sit alongside the likes of Celine, Loewe and Raf Simons in the store but knowing nothing about Serre or her work, I was immediately struck by the mix of fabrics and the fluid silhouettes, tinged with hints of sportswear.

Upon further research, that’s when Serre’s collection really hit a high for me.  Entitled “Radical Call for Love”, the collection was conceived as a way of emphasising ties between the Arab world and the Western one, compounded by the sense of urgency, in light of the atrocities in Paris, Brussels and of course more recently in Nice, within the last year.  Serre used a combination of 19th century Arabic or in Edward Said language, “oriental” fabrics and elements of traditional costume and then worked them into sportswear.  Most potently, the crescent moon, one significant part of the symbol for Islam, is adapted into a repeat logo pattern that you might find in branded sportswear.  On a widened headband (or resembling the under bonnet of a hijab depending on how you look at it), it becomes a subverted take on say a Nike sweatband worn by elite athletes.

Serre says the collections is about “establishing links and connections, or rather about expressing links that are actually already there, already made, in Brussels but equally in the world at large.”  Or to put it in more emotive language, and borrow from the late Jo Cox’s maiden speech in Parliament, “We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.”  That’s a sentiment that emanates from Serre’s collection.  Serre seems to be saying that the evils of putting up metaphysical walls, barriers and divisions between a “them” and an “us” can be mediated through the very fabric of fashion.  The William Morris-esque fabrics that are woven through the collection find their roots in Islamic Art.  The intersections between a kelim tapestry fabric and heavy crepe de chine is a visible to-and-fro dialogue.  You could also draw parallels between the pairing of sportswear traits and silhouettes with the traditional fabrics and the way kids dress, on their way to prayer at mosques in Whitechapel, with their Adidas trackie bottoms and Nikes peeking from underneath their shalwar kameez.  It’s a compelling message from a singular graduate collection, demonstrating that fashion enter the fray of political commentary without a) being self-righteously heavy handed and b) missing the aesthetic point.

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marineserre40Photography: Tanguy Poujol, assistant Axel Korban, Consulting: Benoit Bethume, Make Up: Isabelle Bertrand

Because it was the aesthetics that lured me into buying this particular dress from The Broken Arm.  I hadn’t gone deep into Serre’s work at that point.  Instead, I was drawn to the interesting mix of fabrics and the way the sleeves detached from the halterneck.  My pregnancy bump is of course obscuring the dress from the way it’s supposed to fall on the body (not that it’s going to stop me from wearing it anyway…) but buying a piece of this collection felt like something of a future collectible as a piece of clothing that really says something.

Serre is currently working for Demna Gvsalia at Balenciaga, deciding to gain experience first before launching anything on her own.  That’s a wise move in this climate of a crowding of young designers jostling for attention.  Whilst in employment and figuring out her next move though, it’s great to see retailers like The Broken Arm helping powerful voices like Serre get their point of view out into the world.

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>> A familiar conversation crops up whenever I’m shopping with Phil Oh from Street Peeper, aka my male counterpart, who shares my love of pastel cuteness, cartoonish prints and kawaii themes in our clothes.  With advancement into his thirties and a desire to be taken seriously by society on his mind, he’ll cautiously ask me, “Is this too much?”  I have no idea why he seeks such counsel because he already knows what the answer will be.  I make this face…

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… and then I promptly exclaim, “Nooo of course not!  It’s so cuuuuuuuuute!  Get it.get it.get it!”

I am the kawaii-facilitator.  Or with alliteration, a cutie conduit.  And I don’t quite know when I’ll stop being forever attracted to clothes that look like could be sized down for babies and toddlers and trying to infect everyone around me to feel the same.  Judging by my squeals when a pair of Minna Parka leopard print trainers with bunny ear tongues and pink pom poms arrived, it’s not likely to be anytime soon.  A year notched into my thirties and I’m still perpetually wondering when an iota of doubt will creep in as it has done for Phil.  I envisioned a post thirty year-old me where I’d gradually begin to waft around in well-judged pieces of Comme des Garçons en noir, the sensible pieces from Prada and the occasional bit of Céline, tempered with a lot of COS.  That chic utopia or chictopia if you will has never manifested. 

Going back to Phil’s original question I’m scratching my head trying to remember when it was ever too much.  It comes down to shopping habits which haven’t changed much since my teens.  I normally shop alone and if I am with somebody, I rarely ask for their opinion.  I zoom into rails.  I don’t venture into changing rooms.  Five minutes later  When Steve shoots me a bemused smile at my latest cute-overload purchase, I give a sheepish shrug.  As if to say, “It is forever ingrained into me that I WILL categorically and compulsively buy things themed around cats/bunnies/pineapples.”

By the by, I’m typing all of this whilst staring down on a keyboard adorned with stickers of cats thanks to Supersweet x Moumi’s kitty catty sticker sets.

The deeper question to Phil’s pondering though is – do cats and cartoon-themed clothes hamper people’s ability to take you seriously?  That’s a question that I’m choosing to flout for now.  At least until the next arbitrary age milestone.

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0E5A5657Coach x Gary Baseman leather bomber jacket, Jonathan Saunders glasses, To be Adored shirt, Tsumori Chisato skirt, , TL-180 bag, Ryan Lo scarf, Pum Pum socks, Minna Parikka trainers

I wasn’t expecting to blog about my visit to Clerkenwell Design Week last week.  I wasn’t even meant to go until badgered by my sister’s tempting pics on WhatsApp.  Blame it on the ongoing obsession with augmenting the house.  When faced with the choice between a new patio door or new season’s whatever, currently I’m swaying towards the door.  I know.  Tough life, eh?

Whilst Clerkenwell Design Week did yield vaguely useful home inspo pointers (polished concrete kitchen top anyone?) and yet more interesting designers that do insanely expensive chairs, I did find a myriad of textures and patterns that bear some relation to the fashion realm.  Isn’t everything a bit multi-disciplinary these days?  In fact, on the day that I went, there was a conversation held in the main venue about the blurring boundaries between fashion, design and architecture that partially explains why I occasionally deviate away from fashion on the blog.  Across the four main exhibition venues as well as the countless showrooms dotted around Clerkenwell, either for personal consumption or just as a visual treat, there was plenty to see and makes you understand why more well established events such as Salone de Mobile, Frieze, Art Basel and London Design Week warrant “fashion” coverage of sorts.

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At the Additions fair, Gemma Kay Waggett‘s patchwork textiles caught my eye, not just in the composition of pattern but in the colour combinations as well.  Her work was hanging up as part of Stroud International Textiles (SIT) Select‘s showcase.  Currently freelancing for Clarks, Waggett will also be putting out a collaboration with the classic shoe brand next year.

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I’m a fan of cray-cray patterned wallpaper and Bologna-based studio All the Fruits with their awesome geometric whimsicality was a good find.  Just need to figure out how to stuff yet another pattern into the house…

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When I was in the markets of Mexico City, deliciously colourful Guatemalan textiles kept on popping up, and London-based interiors brand A Rum Fellow has found a way to match up the best of weavers in Guatemala with quality furniture makers in England.  Unlike many of the cheaper mass-produced prints that are “inspired” by this part of the world, A Rum Fellow’s fabrics feel special and authentic.

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At the Craft Central studio, textiles designer Kate Lewis was selling examples of her work.  Lewis has created textiles for the likes of Chanel, Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton and one peek at beautiful pieces like the rainbow netting or the tightly pleated organza and you can see why.

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Also at Craft Central was Argentinian London-based jewellery designer Francine Oeyen‘s fiesta-themed cardboard pieces.

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From the latest crop of new wave furniture designers from the London College of Furniture, some interesting textures came to the fore in the shape of Matteo Pacella‘s recycled paper pulp chair and Isabel Farchy‘s ceramic tables.

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Icon magazine had their own Clerkenwell Design Week venue at the beautiful and rarely-seen Sessions House.  The peeled and stripped walls are especially Insta-worthy.

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With a similar veined-surface, I loved Ikuko Iwamoto‘s knobbly grainy textured ceramics at Craft Central.

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Depicting dusk until dawn, Whitebeam Studio‘s delicately painted ceramics are also on my radar.

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A wallpaper for my eyes only as all the flora and fauna of this ‘Ecclesiastical Botanica’ print by Kit Miles would give Steve a headache.

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Ok terrariums and neon hanging planters are a bit of an interior ‘trend’ item but Geo Fleur in London has a point of difference with their way of presenting cacti and other hardy plants with their geometric structures.

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You’ll have heard of Quill London if you’re a stationary freak.  It’s hard to resist their meticulous displays of lovely typefaces, copper accents and marble prints.  Pressie options aplenty here.

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I love my Falcon enamelware (yet another interior cliche…) for baking but love these Dyke & Dean splatterware enamel plates and serving platters even more.  They have a comprehensive online store with a brilliant pick ‘n’ mix lighting fixture shop too.

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UK studio Dorothy combine wit and nostalgia in their prints and objects.  Their series of ‘Lost Destination’ prints are well-observed as is the nan clock with the endearing expletive, which caused a mini-debate on my Instagram.  Love the knowledgeable peeps that piped up to say that the C word in fact has a hefty history behind it.

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Learnt that a ‘Lekk’ is the Wolof word for a tiny gardens  tended mainly by women all over Senegal.  In collaboration with Italian furniture maker Moroso and landscaping firm Uncommon, a wonderful ‘lekk’ was created inside Sessions House, draped with African Queen Fabrics.

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I had to shuffle very quickly past all the lush furniture but at Stellar Works‘ stand, this series of ‘Blink’ furniture designed by Yabu Pushelberg was hard to resist.  It was refreshing to see a touch of the cute pared with minimal lines.

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Away from the architects, flooring and office furniture showrooms, bag label M.Hulot and shoe brand Ops&Ops joined forces to present a group of independent product designers that could be classified as fashion but also sit just as well in amongst the design scene.  David David for instance with his geometric prints has managed that crossover well over the years with his foray both into fashion and interiors.

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M. Hulot‘s made-in-UK leather goods designed by Anna Kreeger:

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The simple and graphic forms of Karin Andreasson‘s jewellery:

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Eleanor Bolton‘s coiled and handstitched rope jewellery:

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I know I talked about plumping for homewares when making the choice between buying things for the wardrobe or the house but as a flats aficionado, I had to get a pair of these Ops & Ops 60s-tinged patent flats in sky blue.  A newish shoe label created  by Teri Olins and Steph Jones, the duo were inspired by a vintage shoe from the 1960s and set about remaking it with quality and comfort in mind.  Thus their No. 10 shoe shape with its mould-to-feet feel and lightly cushioned sole was born.  It’s only the beginning for Ops & Ops but they’ve happed upon a shape that can be rendered in a variety of materials, prints and patterns.  I’ve been wearing mine all weekend and they’re pretty hard to part your feet from.  An investment flat for the future.

 

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Yelp isn’t generally a reliable indication of Top Shopping destinations but when you’re in the middle of a desert where good quality vintage clothes (not consignment furniture or design wares…PLENTY of those if you can afford the shipping costs) are generally slim pickings, then this mega-LOLs social-review site can come in handy.  Whilst I was in Palm Springs for the Louis Vuitton Cruise show, trying to make the most of my free time, Yelp yielded The Fine Art of Design in Palm Desert, about half an hour away from Palm Springs proper.  It sits rather pretty on the highway in a striking white late-50s building.

Coachella Valley native Nicolas Delgado opened The Fine Art of Design back in 2011, having just completed a fashion degree at Parson’s in New York.  In an area filled with thrift stores and furniture shops, Delgado knew there was a gap in properly curated vintage shopping and so returned to his hometown, where he could take advantage of the wealthy (and ageing) residents, who could unleash their closets on to the world by consigning through Delgado.  Upon entering, it’s immediately apparent that Delgado takes great care in what he sells and how he sells it.  Colour-coded, arranged beautifully with eclectic interiors, The Fine Art of Design is a joy to browse.  Especially when you immediately hap upon anything from Saint Laurent (from 70s Rive Gauche to 00’s Pilati era pieces) to Thierry Mugler to pristine Chanel to modern Jil Sander and Miu Miu.  All at prices that for me are akin to Tokyo’s Rag Tag – i.e. not that expensive.  Then there’s the non-labelled vintage which is just as well selected and even more reasonably priced.

Just as we were there browsing, one particularly amusing lady (who said my pants were too long – she was right – they were) was in there selling up her stuff.  You could tell she loved the regular repartee of being there, chatting away with Delgado and his right hand woman Luisa Marielli.  I’d imagine that around this part of town, you get some oddball characters dropping in with their dusty couture.  No wonder many of the vintage stores in Europe come over to this part of the world to buy their wares at the estate sales and vintage fairs.  Clothes are most definitely storied here.

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Whilst I said that most of the pieces at The Fine Art of Design were reasonably priced considering their provenance (as in under $500), I had to choose the most expensive thing there was.  Blame it on my obsession with a) blue velvet and b) vintage Courrèges (interested to see what Parisian duo Coperni do at the house) and c) the fact that I had never come across this ensemble of deep blue velvet dungarees and a matching jacket before.  I’d guess they were late 60s early 70s, past Courrèges’ space age beginnings but nonetheless distinctive in its mod-esque tomboyish ness.  I bought it, ergo it was worth it.  That’s all I’m saying.

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0E5A2727Worn with Opening Ceremony top, Illesteva sunglasses and Coach clogs