>> I had been meaning to post this small collation of “unnatural flora” which I had partially picked up from some extraordinary sets during the SS17 shows.  The main culprits being Rodarte’s arrangement of neon light tubes, yellow-hued wild flowers trapped in steel frames, looking like industrial wreaths on the ground.  And then there was Dries van Noten ‘s twenty-three floral arrangements encased in rectangular blocks of ice, created by the Japanese flower artist Azuma Makoto.  Then I thought back to Simone Rocha‘s 2015 collaboration with photographer Jacob Lillis, culminating in a series of photographs “Flowers and Cars” where humble gatherings of English blooms sprout from the seats and bonnets of rusty old vehicles.

Two days after the US Elections, for some reason I mulled over these images of unnaturally trapped flora.  Their unexpected beauty took on a different meaning.  They’ve become flowers that mourn something of a heavy loss – the full consequences of which are yet to play out.  Whether embedded into steel, frozen into ice or crashing into chassis and engines, there’s a swell of meaning in these poignant bouquets, that go beyond surface-level prettiness.  Time to reflect and rethink.


Rodarte S/S 17 set of neon, steel and wild flowers created by Bureau Betak

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Dries van Noten x Azuma Makoto floral arrangements encased in ice at S/S 17 show

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“Flowers and Cars” photographed by Jacob Lillis for Simone Rocha 

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simone-rocha-amuseInstallation inspired by Lillis’ photographs in Simone Rocha’s Mount Street store at the beginning of this year (from Amuse)

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>> The title of the post sounds ludicrously simple. Just… say something nice!

It apparently doesn’t happen enough according to the stats above.  I’ve experienced a decade of having my style judged through the lens of the internet.  Actually, “judged” would be the wrong world when talking about fashion blogging 1.0 or even 0.5.  Back in those mid 2000 years, we’d go on sites like Style Diary or on the What Are You Wearing thread on The Fashion Spot and we’d post our outfits  and words of encouragement and compliments would ensue.  The old adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all…” was well observed and adhered to.

Then somewhere down the fashion blogger 2.0/3.0 line, something happened.  Audiences got bigger.  Blog comments got vicious.  Then came social media.  First Twitter, then Instagram and now SnapChat where seemingly your life is out there 24/7, warts and all.  That’s opened up a vastly different can of worms, where profiles are icon-less and Instagram accounts can be private/bots, giving license to well, say whatever you feel like.  When it comes to style critique, I’ve had it dished out to me in spades over the years.  “You dress like a clown.”  “You’d benefit more from wearing less.”  “You’re too fat for that outfit.”  Clown or pig seem to be recurring insults, especially when you count the comments expressed through Emojis.

On the flip side, whilst I’ve never been guilty of leaving a similar comment on other people’s blogs/social media accounts that hasn’t stopped me from airing judgement in my head.  It’s a dichotomy you grapple with because as you rail against judgement of your own style, you have to be careful to check your own judgement of others.  Even innocuous things like Grazia’s Fashion Jury is something I feel uncomfortable about taking part in because it can feel a bit like, a pot calling the kettle black.

Therefore I applaud Amazon Fashion for launching their #SaySomethingNice campaign.  With myself and other fashion bloggers/influencers Camille Charrière, Gala Gonzalez, Hana Tajima, Freddie Harrel, Clementine Desseau, Samar Seraqui de Butafoco and Masha Sedgwick, we have collectively fessed up about how our style has been judged in the past and also how we judge others.  The point is to encourage unique and personal style and the first step towards that is to try and eliminate quickfire judgement, particularly on social media.  And so we’re urging people to say something nice – which I should add, does happen frequently on my largely positive social channels – but even stray barbed comments can still do their damage.  For those that receive negative judgement on a regular basis have to learn to tune them out like white noise or grow a skin so thick because we just accept that “this is the internet and this is how it is.”

My feeling has and always been thus: if you saw said about-to-be-judged person in real life, would you go up to them face to face and voice your opinion about their their outfit?  And whilst it’s easy to dismiss, negative judgements as part of being on “the internetz”, how can we ascertain the exact effect of what these sort of comments have on the confidence of a person’s personal style?  And so we come back to the simple title of this campaign. Just #SaySomethingNice – and I, along with the other peeps featured in the Amazon Fashion video will be pledging to do the same.

And this is the longer version where I get to ramble even more about being judged, judging people and promising to #SaySomethingNice on social media….

P.S. I realise that this post goes live on the day that the UK has chosen to leave the EU. I’m naturally bereft and disappointed but onwards and upwards – my views are being strongly expressed on my Twitter should you wish to continue the EU chat there.

I finally got a chance to watch the sequel that was always going to be car-crash, strictly-for-plane-viewing, fodder of ridicule – Zoolander 2.  Not even the number of A-list cameos could save it.  But one line did stick out as the sort of truth, that made the original film so spot on in its spoofing.  Just as Mugatu is about to launch his explosive device to kill the upper echelons of the fashion industry, he yells, “Fashion has killed itself already.”  It’s a sentiment that has been ricocheting around the industry, but it is through the lens of sustainability, where you can see concrete evidence of this self-destruction.

Last month saw Fashion Revolution roll out from just being a singular day into a week, with more brands being taken to task over who made their clothes, and last week, Copenhagen played host to  what has been described as the “Davos of sustainability” as the fourth Copenhagen Fashion Summit took place, preceded by the gatherings of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Planet Textiles.  For the first time, Copenhagen Fashion Summit managed to pre-sell out their tickets for attendance.  “For the first time, I sense that people are here to get ‘shit’ done”, said Hannah Jones, Chief Sustainability Officer and VP, Innovation Accelerator of Nike, who is finally making action happen. 

Over the last few weeks, I have myself, been thinking about the alternatives, the altruistic and the fundamental changes that the fashion industry can action, to not only… and I’m throwing a reference to the HBO show Silicon Valley here… “make the world a better place” but to really SHIFT an industry that in my mind has been resting on its creative laurels for far too long, and yes, to some extent slowly killing its core values.  

At Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the framing of the conversation has changed.  The call to action is stronger, even if there’s still huge swathes of the industry that haven’t efficiently dealt with the problems at hand or even acknowledge that transparency is an issue (in Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index, the average score for 40 brands surveyed was just 42% on their scale of transparency).   I’m glad that throughout Copenhagen Fashion Summit, there seemed to be a shirking away from the word “sustainable”.  Livia Firth, in her speech said that the word was in danger of becoming “meaningless”.  On the panel about the media’s role in communicating to consumers about sustainable fashion, Imran Amed of Business of Fashion said, “Our responsibility in the media to educate people that good design is sustainable design.”  Last year, Orsola de Castro also gave an interview with 1Granary, where she implored people to stop tagging what is essentially the true essence of fashion with the onerous and heavy-handed label of “sustainable”: “‘New fashion’? ‘Alternative fashion’? Anything but sustainable fashion.  Call it ‘Anything-but-sustainable fashion’.”

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De Castro further hits nail on the head with her delineation of sustainable fashion from what should be fashion at large.  The reality is that the industry completely lost touch with its main values ever since it’s only been about rapid growth, mass production, fast fashion, and disposable luxury. It so detached from its origin that it then had to go and create a shit name so that people could be stigmatised. The reality is that sustainable fashion really is fashion. It’s everything else that isn’t sustainable that should be called as such.” 

As such, the beginning of the summit had speakers that laid out more tangible ways of combating the status quo – or “everything else that isn’t sustainable”.  Statements such as outdoor wear company Patagonia’s attention-grabbing advert placed in The New York Times on Black Friday in 2013 that read “Don’t Buy This Jacket” got rousing applause.  According to vice president of public engagement Rick Ridgeway, it’s not enough just to repair, resell and recycle, but to also encourage customers to ultimately reduce consumption.  This was a strand of conversation that I would loved to have seen more of at the summit.  Fixing the processes and product in order to retain or grow existing levels of consumption is one way of looking at what we’re facing, but is there a deeper-rooted issue within our culture that can somehow be tackled?  

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At Nike, the word “sustainable” has been put aside in favour of innovation.  Jones was applauded throughout her speech because her words got to the heart of the matter, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the thinking behind the need for growth as Nike aims to halve their environmental/human impact, whilst doubling their business.  Whichever way you do the math, incrementalism and efficiency measures won’t get you there,” said Jones in her speech.  “Less bad is not good enough.  The difference between what we can do and what we must do is innovation on an unprecedented scale.”  For Jones, the innovation starts in the materials as 60% of the environmental impact of a pair of shoes is found in the materials and so Nike now currently have a palette of more than twenty materials made of recycled waste such as the plastic bottle polyester used in their football kits.  This shift from sustainable to innovating is an exciting one, and something that can be adopted by fashion brands at all levels to really kick this industry’s arse into finally seeing significant change in the 21st century – something that will be remembered as monumentally as Mary Quant’s mini skirt or Coco Chanel’s use of black jersey.

One of the other themes of the summit was collaboration.  Together, this movement is stronger when companies work together, co-operate with each other and share information.  Jones also pointed to the possibility of an industry uniting in their code of conduct and pooling resources to assess and audit supply chains.  This to me felt like sound, but idealistic, targets to combat the issue of transparency, which currently companies get involved in, as much, or as little as they wish.  We need to get to a place where we have one code, common assessment tools and common protocols on monitoring and we all disclose our supply chain locations to enable us to work together more effectively.  Some of these factories have 200 audits, to comply with so many different buyers and we could all be sharing audits and help the factories move forward.  Right now, it’s too fragmented.  At the end of the day, we’re all sharing the same suppliers so it makes sense.”

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Perhaps the most powerful call to action came, not from established companies or people with fancy titles.  Led by Dilys Williams, director of Centre for Sustainable Fashion, 100 fashion students from 40 countries gathered at the Youth Fashion Summit, to set out a vision for the future that comes from their position as the “first generation of people who really understand climate change, and the last ones who can really do anything about it.”  The full manifesto can be read here.  One of the points that really resonated with me was the one that I think sets the industry back from truly innovating and creating as it should be in a responsible way.  “We demand you all to collaborate as active investors in a fashion industry where capital, profit and success are redefined and measured in more than monetary value.”

In other words, success should not be measured purely by financial gain.  Success should be to judge the wellbeing of their workers and the ability to implement circular systems (another buzz word of the summit meaning, resources and energy being recycled/reused in the process of production).  Making this full manifesto come true, is a “moonshot” target, to borrow vocabulary from Jones’ Nike speech, but still achievable.  Especially if these young minds somehow come to the fore of the industry.  

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The role of the media is something that I was also interested in probing into and Vanessa Friedman of the New York Times gave a short and sharp speech on the power of sex in communicating about “responsible” fashion.  Factories, supply chains and the overuse of water in the making of garments, aren’t “sexy” subjects.  Well, at least for most people.  Me?  I love a good laser cutting jigsaw mechanism.  Or a CAD programme that does pattern piece placement efficiency.  Friedman’s point is a salient one though.  Using Michael Burry’s film The Big Short as a reference, Friedman suggests that sustainability needs the equivalent of Margot Robbie in a bath tub explaining about sub-prime mortgages.  Is that the equivalent of dumbing things down, in order to reach the masses?  Perhaps, but for mainstream media, the need for culturally-relevant hooks and potential traffic-drivers, means that what has been discussed at the summit is in danger of slipping into a niche ravine.  It will be interesting to see how that conversation swerves for instance, when hopefully the tables start to flip and it’s the advertisers that make responsible fashion their main agenda.

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A video posted by Susie Lau (@susiebubble) on

Those positives aside, there was still a lot of needless self-congratulating going around at the summit.  Brands trumpeting their mini victories of doing “less bad” and using philanthropy to detract attention away from their other less savoury practises.  H&M, who have been involved with the summit from the very beginning, had Anna Gedda, their head of sustainability, come and speak about their own ways of closing the loop with schemes such as their garment collecting programme, but perhaps failed to address the fundamental problem with the basic model of fast fashion, that impacts on labour and resources.  Is there a way of slowing down the drops of collections and still be a source of affordable fashion for consumers?  Are we exploring alternative ways of on-demand production with the help of smarter use of technology?  And are the changes really dramatic or innovative enough as opposed to just being small ‘make-good’ gestures?

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I had meant to post these images earlier to time in with Fashion Revolution Week but they’re pertinent all the same.  These photos were taken at a workshop at Edmonton’s Building Bloqs, conducted by de Castro to encourage fashion students to partake in upcycling, with the expertise of Dr Noki and Alex Noble, who know what to do with a surplus of clothing labels and old t-shirts.  I’ve been thinking about the words: “Get Angry”, “High Cost, Low Price”.  On this scale, perhaps these appliqued forms of protest, are certainly more vocal than the resulting actions.  If my biggest takeaway from the summit was that the overall vision was still perhaps grander than the actual actions, then it’s also because the protest from the public isn’t really loud or pressured enough.  And whilst I’m not the right person to galvanise people to “get angry”, I will carry on being curious and finding out the why’s and the how’s.  Sustainable, alternative, responsible… call it what you want.  What I’m after is what’s good.  I mean, really good.  The people, their hands and their clothes, that got me excited about this industry in the first place.

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Fashion-Revolution12771DONEImage courtesy of Fashion Revolution and Novel Beings

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Fashion-Revolution12832DONEImage courtesy of Fashion Revolution and Novel Beings

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Credits for the workshop photos – Photographer: Montana Lowery, Photo Assistant: Anna Michell 
Stylist: Alice Wilby, Hair: Khandiz Joni, Make-Up: Lauren Kay, Models: Sienna and Nancy at Profile

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.