There’s something grossly uncomfortable about this interview that Ed Meadham did with Anders Christian Madsen for i-D.  Over tea, Meadham opens up about the demise of the almost-cult label Meadham Kirchhoff, one of the saddest and in my mind, completely preventable losses of the fashion world.  The interview touches on the label’s insolvency, Meadham winding up in a coma, an unsanctioned sample sale of the brand’s precious archive as a result of a cruel case of profiteering and a personal isolation that left Meadham practically jobless for two years.  It makes for a tortured and bittersweet read because it brought up the waves of anger that I’ve touched upon time and time again about the fit-in-or-die mentality of the most cut throat parts of the fashion industry.  How genuine talent isn’t always necessarily rewarded.  How waves of press hype often malign the designers that deserve it.  How retailers are often restrained in their financial and sales-driven ability to buy as creatively as one might hope.

Certainly in the case of Meadham Kirchhoff, it was never the case that the public didn’t want what they were serving (which is the stark and plain truth behind many labels’ downfall).  The love was strong.  It was a rainbow outpouring of unicorn, heart and sparkle emojis from all over the world, reblogged and liked on Tumblr and championed by maverick-minded figures such as Tavi Gevinson and Ione Gable of Polyester Zine.  The mainstream press of course chimed in and celebrated the label’s high points as well when it suited them, but as Meadham recalls being blanked by certain people in the industry at a recent RCA show, it exposes the cruel fickleness of the industry.  Meadham ponders this volte-face: “It was like, ‘Are you not allowed to speak to failures?'”

There is of course no point in praising talent to the high hills if there’s no work to show for it.  So in an act of cathartic defiance and to trial a new way of channelling Meadham’s ideas, energy and yes, talent, Ronnie Newhouse of fashion agency House + Holme and Adrian Joffe of Dover Street Market invited Meadham to create a new brand for the store.  That warms the heart.  Two people with means, power and influence creating alternative paths for a designer that was always destined for alternative ways of working.

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br2The Blue Roses space at Dover Street Market replete with Meadham’s collages and scribblings

And so on Thursday on the ground floor of Dover Street Market London, a heart-shaped chocolate box opens up to the debut of Blue Roses, named in reference to the famous line in Tennessee Williams’ play The Glass Menagerie.  With the support of DSM, Meadham has created a line of affordable tees, hoods, stockings and pretty pieces of frippery such as a Victorian velvet collar and matching sleeves.  Glitter encrusted sweatshirts are perhaps the only direct flashbacks to Meadham Kirchhoff’s early past but it’s an idea that still stands solid (literally) today.  The texture makes for a nice onomatopoeia and leaves its sparkly fairy dust all over my coffee table when I try it on at home.  It’s not really a regurgitation of greatest hits but rather essences of Meadham’s oeuvre and aesthetic that come with pleasingly and comparatively purse-friendly prices (starting at £58 for a tee and rising up to the £200s for the velvet and glitter stuff).  Former MK-heads were already enthusiastically rifling through the rails when I popped in to delve into the Blue Roses corner on Friday morning.  Some of the pieces are available on the DSM site but the best selection remains in-store.

Where does this leave Meadham then today?  It’s not quite a full on resurrection, nor would you expect a shouty comeback from Meadham.  The i-D interview ends with “I always wanted to put some beauty into the world. I tried very hard.”  The past tense tinged with sadness, in that last sentence seemingly comes with a hardened sigh of despondency over his output and achievements.  No, Ed.  You DID create beauty and it DID spread far and wide in the world.  With Blue Roses, there are signs of a beginning that could indeed flourish with the correct modifications that such a floral genus requires.  I, along with countless others will be sitting here willing it to happen.

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img_3033Blue Roses velvet frilly collar and sleeves worn with vintage dress

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img_3075Blue Roses long-sleeved tee worn with Sacai shirt, navy tulle skirt and Marques Almeida furry trainers

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img_3082Blue Roses pink glitter top worn with Minki Cheng skirt

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We’re finally experiencing some semblance of a scorching summer in London.  Which means in my current child-carrying state, I’m approximately ten degrees hotter than everyone else.  On the tube, whilst I’m desperate to spread my legs wide and fan my nether regions with a giant palm frond, I’m refraining because of this little thing called modesty loitering in the back of my mind. 

childmeFavouring all things buttoned-up right from the get-go

Incidentally the word modesty has been making headlines, primarily instigated by the furore that has erupted in France over the regional banning of “ostentatiously religious dress” to avoid “trouble to public order”.  The wording in the original bylaw is not in reference to a Catholic nun’s habit or an Orthodox Jewish woman’s four piece swimsuit (who else think this is kind of chic?).  There goes the French principle of supposed laïcité (secularism).  It’s pointedly targeted at the burqini, created in 2004 by Aheda Zanetti to enable her niece to play netball.  In an opinion piece for the Guardian, she has responded to the bans vehemently.  You’ve taken a product that symbolised happiness and joyfulness and fitness, and turned it into a product of hatred.”

IMG_8241In We are Handsome in Yosemite

It’s an ideological battleground that has piqued my interest because pregnancy-induced sweaty spells aside, I’m personally an advocate of keeping public flesh exposure to the minimum.  Not because of religion.  Not because of a stern patriarchal overlord policing my attire.  Simply because of choice.  Ever since I could remember, I’ve been TeamSwimsuit vs. TeamBikini.  What began as a teenage embarrassment over what I perceived to be a soft rice pillow, non-worked out belly, eventually developed into a present day acceptance that I generally feel more comfortable and jollier in a garment that isn’t precariously held together with spaghetti straps.  Burqini critics have pointed out the practicality of a garment that physically makes you hot in the sun, and adds drag in the sea.  Speaking as someone who regularly dons, leggings and long sleeved swim tops on the beach, mental comfort easily overrides this argument.  FEELing comfortable often has nothing to do with body temperatures or physical coverage of the skin. 

usopensurfIn amongst the beach bods back in 2011 on Huntington Beach

Early Style Bubble readers might remember this one hilarious shot of me descending into California for the first time, clothed in not one but three layers, looking decidedly out of place at the US Open of Surf on Huntington Beach.  A few stares came my way from the bronzed young things in their tie- dye bikinis, denim cut-offs and body painted booty calls.  Sure,  I was a few degrees hotter but also felt free to wander without the feeling that eyes are prying into my prickly-heat-rashed skin.   

bigsurMinus the hood, this Lesia Paramonova printed leggings and bodysuit plus Nike x Sacai skirt could be an elaborate burqini ensemble

What I’m trying to say is that modesty, isn’t a concept purely restricted to a single religion, or sex for that matter.  And it’s not necessarily invoked by the need to subjugate to a male cleric either.  It’s a sunburn prone man feeling like he doesn’t want to end up lobster red, with a long sleeved tee over his swim trunks.  It’s women like my mother, who after her mastectomy, didn’t have the confidence to wear a regular swimsuit and actually investigated the option of buying a burqini (in the end on our Californian trip, she wore a long-sleeved swim top and a DIY swim suit, padded out on one side of the chest).  It’s people like me who can’t shake the feeling that a bikini immediately puts your body centre stage in an appearance-conscious world in a way that I’m personally not comfortable with.  This summer, a banned campaign demanding women to be “beach-ready” is just one example of the flip side to this coin, where women routinely face societal pressures to look a certain way, and the volume of fabric worn somehow determines whether you’re “beach-ready” in the eyes of others.  And it goes without saying that I have much love for the bikini in all its forms worn by others.  To each their own, that’s the question at hand here.  

palmspringsTried and tested vintage Vivienne Westwood swimsuit

That’s perhaps an internalised demon that points to my own body-related insecurities, but to witness the asserted removal of something as innocent as a long sleeved top, is to needlessly eliminate an alternative approach towards beach attire that mentally enables more women to enjoy the beach at their leisure.  It’s the loss of autonomy over what we wear that irks me. 

The counter argument goes that it’s rich to talk of autonomy where Islam women are concerned, given that modesty is foisted and forced upon them.  To that I would say that it is simply impossible to assume that EVERY woman that dons a burqini is wearing one under duress.  If anything, a ban pushes women previously unable to enjoy pools and the beach, back under the shade of a male-dominated umbrella.  By the same logic, you could question the bikini as a symbol of female oppression.   Can we 100% guarantee that every single woman wearing a bikini isn’t under some sort of pressure to do so to gain the material approval of their peers or the opposite sex.  Both are implausible assumptions to immediately deduce on first appearances. 

vantagenewsFrom VantageNews.com

The language employed by French politicians is also disconcerting.  The burkini has the same logic as the burqa: hide women’s bodies in order to control them, “ said Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for women’s rights.  “The burkina is not compatible with the values of the French republic,” says prime minister Manuel Valls.  “We don’t imprison women behind fabric,” says president hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.  There’s a narrative emerging that to uphold Western, or specifically French notions of freedom is to place the female body on show – forcibly, in the case of the woman who was photographed on the beach removing her top (not a burqini) to prove she was wearing a swimsuit underneath.  That’s a dodgy line pursue once you peer into the wormhole of the murky world of female sexploitation. 

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By the French politicians’ black-and-white assertions, both my mother and I should be freeing our flesh, shaking off those fabric-based shackles.  But of course, down in Nice, Cannes or any number of those towns, no police officer would bother us.  I could well have purchased a burqini for my mum and she’d be free to bathe away, in her lycra-covered limbs.  And I too can wear my Marc by Marc Jacobs long sleeved swim top with a pair of Nike skirted leggings with a floppy sunhat.  Our ethnicity frees us from suspicions.  And so the garment in question is merely a smokescreen for latent Islamaphobia.  It’s not the actual fabric that is the problem, but the visual signals that a headscarf + long-sleeved garments and covered legs on a visibly Muslim person sends out to the casual onlooker.  We can’t prevent extremists from ploughing through promenades with trucks, but we can keep any visible signifiers of Islam out of the public eye, lest they provoke their ire in what is a tension-filled atmosphere.  The Conseil D’Etat has overturned the ban on Friday but Sarkozy and the rightwing like continue to campaign for a nationwide ban and no doubt as France’s presidential campaign picks up pace, it’s an issue that won’t die down just yet.  Funny how it’s fallen upon an innocuous seamed wetsuit – a garment that in itself is fit for purpose across all religions and ethnicities –  to hash out the weight of this political tumult. 

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Hello, is that summer on the line?  Are you on your way or just taking your good sweet time, hidden behind foreboding clouds and laughing skies?

I know it’s somehow ingrained within British DNA to mandatorily talk about the weather come rain or shine but we’re nearing July and our patience is really beginning to wear thin now.  My patently overgrown (and therefore soon to be overhauled) garden has been loving the showers but sad face me below has clearly not.  This compounded with Brexit blues, which I won’t dwell on until something… nay, anything concrete emerges (apparently that will take some years so don’t hold me to that thought).  Rain-drenched Union jacks and England footie flags up and down the country are blowing limply in the wind.

There’s a silver lining somewhere.  If I find it in amongst the political rubble, I’ll be sure to let you know.  In the meantime, I’m keeping things simple.  Or simple in my head.  I’m chucking a vaguely wintry/early spring coat or jacket over a summer dress.  Two layers, no more and definitely no less if I’m to keep warm and some sort of no-nonsense sanity.  The top layers come courtesy of Coach pre-fall, which is beginning to drip into stores and somehow making seasonal sense in this confused climate.  The bottom layers are light airy things I’ve been accumulating in the hope that days of bare arms and hot hair are just around the corner.  This is me keeping warm just after the summer solstice.  This is England 2016.

IMG_3589Coach Rogue bag hanging with ‘Rexy’ bag charms and fall 2016 dress worn with Celine slip-ons

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0E5A9341Coach faux leopard coat worn with xxx dress 

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0E5A9372Coach souvenir jacket and prairie patchwork minidress worn with Maison Michel hat

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0E5A9445Coach shearling hoodie worn with Molly Goddard tartan dress

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0E5A9475Coach patchwork shearling vest worn with Mame dress

Coach turnlock creeper slides worn throughout

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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.