Aqua may have been on to something back in 1997. Their song “Barbie Girl” and its cheeky lyrics riled up Mattel so much so that they subsequently tried to sue Aqua’s record label for tarnishing the reputation of their most precious commodity. Fast forward fifteen years and Mattel are perhaps slyly acknowledging that maybe lead singer Lena Nystrøm had a point when she was sarcastically singing, “Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please.” Barbie doesn’t need Ken or any other male equivalent. And he sure as hell isn’t going to “make” her do anything. She is her own woman. Thus sets the scene for Sophia Webster‘s latest collaboration with Barbie, accompanied by a film and a look book starring Colombian singer/songwriter and Kali Uchis and a gang of Rinse FM girls, shot by Sharna Osbourne.

Back in May I went along to follow Webster’s own Barbie World and shoot behind the scenes. As Uchis switched from marabou-trimmed negligee to pleather leopard to Clueless-esque uniform (well done to Louby McLoughlin on her most excellent styling), it was clear that she was in control of all that pink that she was swathed in. The big *gasp* news is that Webster has given Barbie her first pair of flats. Not just flats but Webster’s Riko high-top trainers, doused in pastel and glitter so that her impossibly teetering tip-toe-y feet can get some respite. A self confessed Barbie aficionado, Webster didn’t stray too far off-piste though. There are sky high heels too, adorned with butterlies, bows, Webster’s signature speech bubbles and yes, plenty of that plastic fantastic.

Yet at the same time, Webster is adept at subverting those saccharine surfaces and the very act of indulging in candy-like shoes.  Her house is filled with pastel painted enlarged Barbie-esque house furniture, plenty of tulle tutus and of course, a ton of shoes.  Everything is hyper girly but Webster’s surfaces and aesthetic take on a different tone when worn with the right attitude.  That’s where Uchis and the Rinse FM crew come in giving more sass than sweetness.  Uchis, with her Latino/LA drawl and impossibly blonde beehiveis, was transplanted like a powder pink alien into the heart of the East End in London, as she and her girl gang hung out in Walthamstow institution pie and mash shop L. Manze and psychedelic sweet shop down the road (where you can find every flavour of Nerds in existence!).  The result is a trippy Super 8 meandering short shot by Osborne.  It’s Webster’s London colliding with Uchis’ genuine first time experience of these places.  Even I hadn’t been to a pie and mash shop in…. forever.  I loved that the girl working behind the counter at L. Manze was a veritable customer of Webster’s.  It’s easy to see how her shoes would appeal to a crowd beyond insider fashionistas.  And you can bet that women, whether they’re channelling their inner Barbie Girl or not, will be clamouring for these shoes.

Barbie x Sophia Webster available at Selfridges (London and Manchester) and on SophiaWebster.com now

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>> eBay crawling is a dangerous slippery slope.  eBay crawling at 3am in the morning when you’re awake with jet lag having just landed into New York leads you from looking at things that you actually wanted (search terms “Balenciaga runway”, “Junya Watanabe” and “John Galliano”) to looking at things you never knew you wanted… like these Disney Parks shoe ornaments.  No, Disney haven’t collaborated with a ton of shoe designers to create these bijoux tributes to both well known and obscure characters.  For a few years, their in-house team have been creating little 3 x 3.5 inch ornaments, applying glitter, jewels and princess/villain appropriate embellishments, so much so that you could well be tricked into thinking that were these a real adult shoe, you’d be tempted into spanking more than the $22 that these little trinkets cost (you can buy them exclusively at Disney Parks and resorts).

From an initial eBay search, I then found rabid Disney merch aficionado sites like Disney Fashionista or this crazily detailed Flickr profile, where sentences like “I started singing “Colors of the Wind” as soon as I saw this Pocahontas runway shoe” and “(This) shoe is one that has nuances the non-Disney lover may not notice” are par for course.  Those nuances may well be lost on the majority of non-Disney loving people but the actual aesthetic make-up of these mini shoe-jects are fascinating.  Over the top, garish and almost grotesque, they remind me of over decorated crazily coloured cupcakes that I wouldn’t ever actually want to put in my mouth.  Excepting perhaps the Cruella DeVille  pointy pump and the Mulan flower sandal, were these to be enlarged and made into a wearable reality,  the overwhelming kitschness would probably deter me from wearing them for real.  Then again, the same could be said for many of the OTT shoes that I’ve collected over the years (Giles AW 08 bolted heels?  Meadham Kirchhoff S/S 12 glitter layer cake platforms?) bought for far more than $22, that now languish on my shelves as nothing more than pretty objects.  Perhaps diverting my decorative shoe fixation to these little plastic charms wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.*

*3am crazy cola-fuelled jet lagged brain speaking

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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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>> Having spent the weekend playing imagination-based games with a toddler where expensive toys were duly eschewed in favour of sticks and stones, I suddenly remembered how much fun I had aged six or seven, with my own lo-fi fun when I used to jump into books.  Vaguely inspired by the jumping into chalk drawing scene from Mary Poppins, I thought diving feet first into my illustrated picture books and thus further destroying their spines, was a surefire way of escaping reality.  Today, there are more effective ways of re-imagining and re-configuring your surroundings.  Why not just superimpose your feet with Photoshop on to any image you can glean from Google?  Or looking further down the line into the future, you might virtual reality it up with whatever new Google Glass-esque device so that your surrounding realm is a living fashion editorial?  And yet there’s something pleasingly silly and antiquated about physically standing on a book.  There might be slicker and more efficient ways of jumping into books but I’ll still be encouraging future lil’ ones (either mine or other people’s offpsring) to dream up a different realm when their feet meets paper.

0E5A4580Supersweet x Moumi Purrple Label shoes on issue one of Special Request magazine

0E5A4591Chanel S/S 15 chain sandals on Sol & Luna by Vivianne Sassen

0E5A4627Ashley Williams for Red or Dead shoes on Hans Feurer book

0E5A4633Coach clogs on Locals Only by Hugh Holland

0E5A4698Meadham Kirchhoff S/S 14 shoes on Wallflower by Deborah Turbeville

0E5A4678Dior neoprene boots on Tiwimuta by Andre Walker