I’ve generally always prescribed to the adage “All dressed up with nowhere to go”.  Post Nico though, that phrase has become a “fun” game of sorts.  I say fun of course, taken with a huge pinch of Epsom salt, given the limitations of what one can do with a two month old baby in tow.  But when you snatch one or two hours from the day, whilst tethered to the house for fear of carting a screaming baby around town, putting together elaborate outfits at home is sadly about as good as it gets.

All of this fanciful dress-up that’s been confined to the home happens to fall in line with both current season Prada’s marabou frou frou fancies and Miu Miu’s well-tred territory of retro geometrics.  Miuccia Prada has long held fascinations with bygone notions of femininity, reflecting, reproducing and subverting them in a myriad of ways.  For S/S 17, Prada was quite literally dusted down with the help of a 1950s Stepford homemaker’s feather duster.  For Miu Miu, Miuccia imagined frolicking around on a beach in simpler and more innocent times.  So it stands to reason that my homebound state should be accompanied by the most ornate of idealised haus frau attire.  From these collections, specifically a Prada peach feathered geometric wrap skirt and a Miu Miu jacket rendered in a print fit for a mid-century chaise lounge become integral puzzle pieces to this love-in with retro-tinted domesticity.  Abigail’s Party esque entertaining, ridiculously over trimmed peignoirs and negligees (those very words invite cynical chortles) and Western-lensed chinoiserie best expressed in Vladimir Tretchikoff’s kitschy The Green Lady painting all come to mind.  These are the sort of clothes that are made for lounging artfully at home amidst pieces of Danish furniture and strategically placed plants. 

Alas, I’m only make-believing such antics in my N15 hovel.  You can’t see the brushed aside piles of Pampers 2, Water Wipes and milk-drenched muslin cloths.  Brow-raising feminists out there will be glad to know that this temporary fascination with  airbrushed visions of housewives of that mid-century era is fortunately only an aesthetic one.  I am slowly easing myself back into the land of the working, having snuck in a business Skype call and a casual writing deadline here and there.  Still, if I can’t get to ze fashions, ze fashions will come to me.  Even if they’re destined for breast milk stains and poop smears.

(Top: Vogue Mar 1969 photographed by David Bailey, Bottom: Vogue Jan 1968 photographed by Gianni Penati)

(Top: Vogue 1953 photographed by John Rawlings, Bottom L: Vogue Dec 1966 photographed by Henry Clarke, Bottom R: Twiggy in YSL tunic pyjamas)

Prada SS 17 skirt worn with vintage peach bed jacket from Fat Faced Cat, vintage quilted housecoat, Ayame tights and Prada SS17 flower sandals

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Oriental Fashions 1960 photographed by Stan Wayman

Miu Miu SS17 geometric jacket worn with Jenny Fax smocked top and matching flares, Miu Miu slippers

Miu Miu SS17 geometric jacket worn with Miu Miu knit floral top, Jenny Fax smocked flares, Malone Souliers slippers and Prada plex ribbon bag

Raquel Welch in Geoffrey Beene’s ostrich-trimmed pyjamas Vogue Mar 1967

I’m just about emerging out of a hallucinatory haze, comprising the tail end of what seemed like a never ending pregnancy, a shockingly speedy labour that then segued into a shocking amount of blood loss and then two solid months (feeling like two years) of falling in love with this new being in my life and having my heart stabbed every time she cries.  And then all the while, the fashions have been going on in New York, London, Milan and Paris and I wasn’t there for the first time in about seven years.  Colleagues and cohorts have said I haven’t missed much but I think they’re just trying to make me feel better.

It’s not however necessarily the fashion that I have missed but the feeling of doing something with my brain, unclouded by feeding times, nap times, more feeding times and the occasional time when her eyes are awake, looking at you in that way that makes you feel like an awful human being for even thinking about wanting to do anything BUT look after her.  I’ve barely written a thing.  I’ve not read anything longer than a five hundred word online article (or more precisely a few panicked sentences in a baby forum that never seems to answer the question that I’m asking at 4am in the morning).  Venturing outside and breathing physical fresh air has mostly ended with my rushing back inside the house, clutching an Amazon Prime parcel or a bouquet of flowers (thanks friends, family and fashion peeps for filling our house with all that flora).

That haze is slowly clearing up though and with Nico Hiu Nei (pronounced Lei if you speak Cantonese) Salter-Lau registered and writ real into the world, I’m also beginning to think about integrating my daughter (I’m still trying that word on for size… ) into life, rather than making life revolve around her.  That could also be fighting talk that decrescendos into me staying in a nursing bra and bobbly overwashed leggings for the next week.

Still, the haze did produce something to kickstart the blog with, after the looooong hiatus.  Namely, a variety of shades of a colour that automatically accompanies and heralds the birth of a baby girl.  Thankfully, the range of pinks I’ve been receiving have been of the nuanced kind.  And they’re also things that don’t just revolve around saccharine baby gifts.  I’ve also been feeding my sleep addled brain  – online and in person – with images that are incidentally along that colour register.  On film Natalie Portman standing in the White House in a blood-splattered pink Chanel suit in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie, Naomie Harris staring down the camera with a menacing neon pink light behind her and Matty Bovan’s pink hued fashion film Girlness have been on my mind.  Wolfgang Tillmans’ skyscapes and crustacea and Ren Hang’s visceral poeticism and Maisie Cousins’ sexually charged fruits and flowers are also floating around in the noggin somewhere.  There’s little coherence below other than the shared colour palette but that’s par for course when you’re going through the postpartum pink haze.

Molly Goddard S/S 17 dress worn with Chanel t-shirt, Waven jeans and Shrimps x Converse hi-tops

Maisie Cousins

Lina Scheynius image from “09”

Sandy Liang dress with Yolke sleep mask and J.W. Anderson pink Pierce bag

Patty Carroll “Anonymous Women” series

Nico in Stella McCartney bunny knitted romper and bonnet, Soft Gallery onesie from Scandi Mini, La Coqueta booties, Studio Arhoj moneybanks and Loewe blanket

Wolfgang Tillmans, Astro Crusto, 2012 

Wolfgang Tillmans, From the Skies, 2015

Nico in Fendi Baby romper and pram blanket with Melanie Johnsson prints

Anna Barlow ceramic ice-cream tiles

Holly Hendry installation at “Wrot” Baltic Mill, 2017

Mold Magazine

Karen Walker “Transformers” sunglasses and Sophie Hulme S/S 17 Albion tote worn with Prada jumper

Ren Hang photography

Repetto “Anna” ballerinas  with Luncheon magazine issue 1

Naomie Harris in Moonlight

Natalie Portman in Jackie

Still from Matty Bovan’s film Girlness for Barbie’s 58th Birthday

Fiorucci bomber jacket 

India Mahdavi interior for Red Valentino store in London

Milo Baughman sofa from Coming Soon NY

Plys knitwear and Christopher Kane safety buckle Devine bag 

James Springall collage

Jo Brocklehurst drawing from Nobodies and Somebodies at House of Illustration

Fendi S/S 17 “Rokoko” trainer boots and Prada lace-up socks

Christian Lacroix homage editorial photographed by Roe Ethridge and styled by Katie Shillingford from AnOther Magazine S/S 17

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, 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 aid production of select pieces from her final collection and showcase them during the high-people-traffic period of fashion week.  That’s quite a chance to take on a young 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 eclectic 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 a 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 can enter the fray of political commentary without being self-righteously heavy handed, or 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