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.

IMG_2472Architects Cousins & Cousins’ jewel-like glass installation on St John’s Square

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

Where has the Russian roulette of travel taken me?  India!  Dream of all dreams, the Victoria & Albert Museum have granted my wishes and organised a four day whirlwind trip to New Delhi and Jaipur to explore artisans, designers and ultimately to see what it takes to make up the Fabric of India – the title of their forthcoming exhibition in October as part of their wider V&A India Festival.  I couldn’t have asked for a more ideal introduction to the country which I have long wanted to visit – for its colours, for its appreciation and understanding of superb craftsmanship that is evident in many high fashion brands, and its cultural contribution to aesthetics in general – oh, and its food (Delhi belly?  Bring it on…).   Just to give an example, after landing into Delhi in the morning, we headed straight to the British Council for a press briefing on the exhibition and I spotted a girl who had casually mixed up a fuschia kantha quilted top with a full navy skirt over banana yellow jeans.  Skirt over trousers.  Bright clashing colours.  This is my kind of country.

Yesterday was spent easing out of jet laggy state.  In the evening though, we managed to do a little walk around Hauz Khas, one of many “urban villages” in Delhi with higglety pigglety lanes of shops, bars and restaurants.  In Ogaan, one of India’s most established multi-brand boutiques selling Indian fashion with over 25 years behind it, we were awestruck by the dreamily ornate items that would fill a fantasy Indian trousseau – saris, dupattas and anarkalis – heavily embroidered, vibrant with coloud and draped like standalone feats of craftsmanship.  Whilst tempted but not quite brave enough to handle these traditional garments (some given a twist especially with textile choices), I spotted a more “contemporary” section and fell hard for a denim jacket by the label Péro.  Bandana Tewari, fashion features director of Vogue India had told me about this label’s charm and its pieces spoke for itself.

‘Péro’ means ‘to wear’ in Marwari, the local language of Rajasthan.  Designer Aneeth Arora has created its own pared back, craft-ridden aesthetic by taking local Indian materials, skills and traditions and applying them with love to pieces we’ll recognise.  It takes a lot to convince me of a… denim jacket.  Cue gratuitous picture taking.  Every time I picked it up off the rail as I uumed and aahed over whether to buy it or not, I’d notice a different detail.  A patchworks buttonhole – with different fabrics used on each one.  Tiny drops of crochet circles clinging on to the hem like sweet little limpets.  A glorious lining of patchworked handwoven, natural-dyed fabrics, that resembles an Indian take on Japanese boro fabric – you would almost want to wear it inside out.  Embroidery on the collar that you might find on a kantha quilt.  And then the denim itself – woven and washed so that it’s incredibly soft and feels like it’s been worn but without the obvious signs, which shout “Look I’m distressed!”.  Signed off with the label “Handmade in India” and the alluring “Ltd Edition No. 1” – I couldn’t really leave without it.  It’s a denim jacket that has an honest and loving type of craft embedded in every stitch and it’s a garment that has passed through many hands – ones that I’m hoping to discover more about on this trip.

Day two is beginning.  Uh-oh… now to check, what is my luggage allowance again…?

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>> “Teenager’s trousers” – this was the sartorial Shangri-La that we were collectively trying to obtain in 1994 aged 10.  We’d rid ourselves of our childish printed leggings or in my case, novelty matching tracksuit ensembles printed with bootleg Sanrio characters and go into Tammy Girl or New Look and get ourselves a pair of black trousers that were wide-legged, sophisticated and make us look like we’re proper teenagers.  There was no way my mum would/could ever afford to take me into Tammy Girl and so I’d make do with adapted black trousers that she found in her stash of 70s/80s relics.  They had the look if not the label.

This pre-teen fixation has returned as in quick succession, I’ve been going back to black with a renewed interest in proper pairs of black trews.  The high-waisted heavy cotton specimens by Christophe Lemaire bought in The Other started me off.  With Lemaire’s recent departure from Hermès, it leaves him better off to concentrate on that “core” wardrobe ideal that makes his eponymous label so interesting.  These trousers are stiff and utilitarian – perfect for pairing up with fussy tops.  Turns out I’m re-interpreting that go-to formula for a messy night out.  Smart black trews with a spangly something-something from Miss Selfridge.  

The trousers that I’m likely to pull on most frequently are J Brand’s black cord flares, endearingly named after Ali McGraw’s turn in Love Story.  They look teensy but the ounce of stretch in them makes these flares workhorse-like.  These are Capital Lettered flares with a dramatically angled flare shape from the knees.  A far cry from the wishy-washy wide-legged shape of teenage trews that we favoured in 1994.

To complete the trio, I bought J W Anderson’s wool trousers, weighted and made structural with exaggerated looped cuffs.  I love that they drag the floor harking back to another teenage fashion flashback – baggy jeans that would be so damaged at the hems with mud-soaked shreds of denim torn off as badges of honour.  Except here, the excess of fabric is gathered up into purposely awkward giant turn-ups.

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0E5A1924Jupe by Jackie embroidered tulle top, Comme des Garcons sleeves, Rochas heels worn with Christophe Lemaire trousers from The Other

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0E5A2000Jenny Fax net cape, Prada sleeveless jumper, Miu Miu shoes worn with J Brand 722 Love Story flares

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0E5A1965Marco de Vincenzo shirt worn with J.W. Anderson trousers