Polle and Pompula Up Your Life

>> Longtime Style Bubble readers will know about my Uniqlo fixation, dating back to when the brand first landed on these shores to provide me with the eye-soothing layers that would balance out the cray.  Their design collaborations have always erred on the side of unexpected – from Undercover’s Jun Takahashi to Carine Roitfeld to J.W. Anderson to the latest announcement of Tomas Maier, who will work on Uniqlo’s Life Wear concept.  Marimekko though is the latest collaborator to apply their Finnish flair prints to a special edition Uniqlo Life Wear collection, and is a design house that makes the most immediate on-paper sense.  Employing its arsenal of iconic prints with names such as Tilkkutakki (rainbow triangular quilting), Kukkia Rakkaalle (an arrangement of flowers and butterflies) and Pompula (abstract flower pots), they grace oversized shift dresses, boxy tees and wide-legged cropped trousers.  In other words, for people like me who can’t just leave things alone, it’s a collection ripe for weaving over and under the existing wardrobe.  I got to play around with the collection a little in Hong Kong right when it was on the cusp of getting into its humid season and back in London, I loved mixing up the prints with each other – especially the polle polka dot and my personal print stand-out, the multi-coloured hundreds-and-thousands inspired Nonparelli.  For the print-shy, my summer bet is on the array of drawstring gymsacks, so I get to relive my school days when all the cool kids at school had logo-ed nylon baggies on their back as a badge of sport-ish honour.

Uniqlo x Marimmeko Pompula print dress worn with Marc Jacobs floral dress and Balenciaga boots

Uniqlo x Marimmeko Nonparelli t-shirt and backpack worn with Y/Project hoodie and PWSL trousers

Uniqlo x Marimekko Polle navy dress and slip-ons worn with ShuShu/Tong sweater

Uniqlo x Marimekko Kukkia Rakkaalle print top and trousers worn with Molly Goddard dress and Joshua Sanders trainers

Uniqlo x Marimekko Nonparelli dress, Polle cropped trousers and slip-ons worn with Celine neon yellow top and Nike socks

This post is part of a partnership with Uniqlo UK

Coach Customise 2.0

You’re either are the type of person who is into customising or someone who just wants everything handed to them readily designed.  If you fall into the first category, then the options can sometimes feel limited, particularly for leather goods.  An initial here.  A monogram there.   Stamped on a hand tag or one pre-designated area of a bag or wallet.

Coach’s customisation service began with that standard monogramming service, albeit with an ultra extensive range of emoji motifs (my current very useful card case holder bears a silver unicorn courtesy of Coach).  Then when their New York and London flagship stores opened, a far more complex Made to Order service was introduced for the Rogue bag with over one million possible combinations – a serious customisation affair, aimed at fanatical bag connoisseurs who like to feel up leather swatches and obsess over bag linings.

Now the Coach House craftsmanship bar has begun to offer a more free-handed type of customisation in the form of Coach Create.  With an arsenal of Tea Rose leather appliques, metal souvenir pins and rivets that have featured in Stuart Vevers’ recent collections for Coach, you can basically create your own ornamentation design, using Coach’s Dinky, Saddle or Clutch bag in a myriad of colours as your canvas.

Even the usually swiftly decisive me (shop assistants love to raise their eyebrows at my ten minute shopping strategy of marching straight to rail, choosing something and then hotfooting it to the till without trying it on) was slightly flummoxed by all of these elements at my creative disposal.  Or it could well be that I’m just not very visually creative at all.  My Coach craftsman for the day Alex, who heads up the London flagship’s Customisation Bar, was telling me that people had been coming in creating constellation designs out of rivets and the like.

Oh!  I know!  How’s about a Clown Face on a cornflower blue Saddle bag?  Yes!  That’s my creative genius unleashed.  Not.  I basically honed in on the charming metal pins and thought, SMILEY FACE!  Clever, right?  In all seriousness, my juvenile example of Coach Create’s customisation options isn’t at all representative of the cool possibilities that the service offers, combined with the experience of seeing it all expertly hammered, sealed and delivered with a monogrammed smile.  And on strategic level, spending an hour or two in Coach’s store of course prolongs the shopping “experience” – the all-important word that has come to define a generation that isn’t satisfied with something purely material.  Anyway, I digress.  You go Create.  Make wise choices.

Coach Create now available at Coach House, 206 Regent St, Soho, London W1B 5BN

This post is part of an ongoing partnership with Coach

All Hail Sarah’s List

Fashion month has been and gone and I have plenty to say on the collections (skip to end if you want an explanation on the scant blogging) but first up, a time-sensitive call to go and discover, admire and enthuse in a gathering of fashion talent that is collectively standing for SOMETHING other than just more “stuff”.

Sarah Mower needs no introduction as an inimitable fashion writer as well but her work as a tireless champion of young fashion designers, and particularly for British talent is something that perhaps goes unnoticed in the public sphere.  Her nurturing of talent through one-to-one mentoring, studio visits and business and media introductions in addition to her work as a journalist has seen countless designers rise through the ranks to LFW’s headlining fashion fore.

Through Instagram though, Mower has found a new outlet for her passion for talent-spotting. Her hashtag #SarahsList was born out of a positive fightback against the post-Trump, post-Brexit political climate.  At a time when you might think creativity could be stifled or impeded, Mower’s discoveries demonstrate a young fashion designer landscape that has all the motivation to find alternative ways of doing things.  “I got really down about the political situation and so I thought, what could I do.  Perhaps the one thing I can personally do is to shine a light on fashion talent that are being threatened by Brexit and by Trump and to hopefully get them hired and commissioned by bigger companies.”  To captivate her audience, the accompanying captions for her #SarahsList discoveries on Instagram are lengthy, opinionated and tell a compelling story.

So much so that they caught the attention of Liberty, who then offered to make #SarahsList a shoppable reality, bringing the wares of these fashion fledglings to the 1st floor of the department store.  They’re names that I incidentally have a lot of love for too and ones that I’ve either written about myself or look forward to discovering more of.  And so in a challenging retail environment, where stores aren’t necessarily going all out to take risks and where budgets for young designers have seen shrinkages, Liberty continues its founder’s tradition of seeking out the idiosyncratic and the beautiful to present a new generation of arts and craftivists in fashion.

Looking beyond the immediate razz-ma-tazz the pieces for sale and cannily, Mower has chosen a group of designers that represent not just a an exuberant and celebratory aesthetic but something conscious (without the weight of labelling oneself as “sustainable”), something that contributes in their own little ways a ray of positivity in and industry dogged by cynical ambitions.  Richard Quinn made his LFW debut in the central atrium of Liberty with a continuation of his magnified floral prints blown up to smother the body and so appropriately a collation of special pieces are available as part of the #SarahsList pop-up.  In addition to running his label, Quinn has also just opened his RQ open-access print studio in Peckham that has already become a valuable resource for students and young designers looking to get garments printed.  It’s an ambitious venture to run on top of his own label and I’ll hopefully be checking it out soon to see the print studio at work first hand.  Craft is also apparent in the work of the Georgian jewellery designer Sopho Gongliashvili – the one non-London exception to this group who uses traditional Georgian artisans to create beautiful enamelled accessories.

Kitty Garrett at #SarahsList

Sopho Gongliashvili at #SarahsList

Marta Jakubowski at #SarahsList

Designers such as the young American Conner Ives, who is still studying for his BA at Central Saint Martins makes his retail debut with a collection of special edition shirts made up of vintage scarves and donated Liberty fabrics.. Similarly newly graduated Kitty Garratt, also from Central Saint Martins, took second hand shoes (peer into the painted shoes and you’ll find high street relics like Faith!) and painted them with Charleston-esque freehand brushstrokes.. Upcyling is nothing new of course but in the hands of Ives and Garratt, the proposition is less about a pragmatic approach towards tackling waste but more of a celebratory repurposing of the old.

#SarahsList also hosts designers that have consciousness of sourcing.  Look at Richard Malone’s beautiful AW17-8 collection that features naturally dyed fabrics woven by a community-supporting organization of women weavers in Tamil Nadu in southern India, with the proceeds earned enabling their children to go to school.  Malone’s work doesn’t need that explanatory tag to entice the eye though.  Likewise, there’s an honesty in Sam McCoach’s Le Kilt, which I’ve long been a fan of, with her collection of kilts and knitwear made by small family-run enterprises in the UK.  Fellow N15 resident, Marta Jakubowski also gets the Mower seal of approval with her leftfield approach towards deconstructed tailoring and clubwear-inspired formalwear.

Richard Malone at #SarahsList

All this bigging up of young designers though made me think of a conversation strand brought up at a panel I was a part of recently, chaired by Jefferson Hack as part of Dazed and Huawei’s Secret Lectures.  Olya Kuryshchuk, founder and editor-in-chief of Granary 1 talked about the responsibility we had as media professionals, who actively promote young talent.  In an increasingly difficult fashion system that can be unforgiving for young fashion designers, how do we balance promoting and writing about their work, whilst being mindful of the precariousness of operating as a start-up business.  To that, Mower has the final say that few could argue with and also gives indication on how #SarahsList could possibly spur the fashion system in new directions.

“Does everything have to be large-scale, and everywhere to be valid? I think the opposite values – small-scale, hand-made, consciously produced and NOT everywhere are exactly the ones which people are instinctively drawn to now.  The system at large is dysfunctional, as is widely admitted. I agree it is irresponsible to stand by and wave on more and more people to face exactly the same problems – and the education system is a fault too, in not arming their students with the facts.  The people I mentally put on #SarahsList are the ones I see who have the seeds of new ways of doing things. I think they have a hell of a lot to teach the corporate world – not the other way around. That’s why I have this vision that#SarahsList could become a vehicle for discussing and magnifying the strengths which are already there – and for spreading information and exchanges which are both idealistic and concrete.”

Word.  Preach.  Hurrah.

#SarahsList on the 1st floor of Liberty in London for the forthcoming month

Obviously I couldn’t help but get in on the #SarahsList action…

Richard Quinn “toe” velvet socks from #SarahsList worn with old Jil Sander shirt and H&M’s Design Award Richard Quinn dress (the collection launched last week and pleasingly sold out immediately!)

Conner Ives shirt from #SarahsList worn with Ambush jeans and Nike trainers

On a side note, I too have to spur myself on in an announcement about the blog…

I realise blogging frequency has slowed to a trickle here because I’m in the process of a relaunch (she says with a booming voice).  Actually that word sounds too offish.  It’s more of a rejig – one which means I’ll hopefully still be rambling on about fash-un in that long super-forever-scrollin’ way I favour.  I’m loathe hauling Nico out as an excuse but if truth be told, juggling baby, with jobs that pay the bills and writing for the luff luff luff of it here has been nigh on impossible.  There’s light in sight though.  Nico will be starting nursery soon.  That’s precisely thirty hours extra in the week not spent Dettol wiping after Nico.  Here’s hoping they will be spent productively.

Hanging out with Rexy

>> How to alleviate the tiresome feeling of waddling around town with what feels like a 3 kilo bag of rice strapped to your belly?  By doing the conga with a human sized dinosaur mascot and Bryan Boy, which got the bump jiggling along too.  And as I hit my final days of being quite uncomfortably pregnant, I thought I’d look back to more jovial times when me, bump and Rexy were havin’ it large at the Coach House flagship store opening in London’s Regent Street back in November.

As this belatedly posted set of photographs attest, touring new stores – more often than not a solemn activity, peppered with facts about marble finishings and architecture waffle – can indeed be fun.  That is the key word of course that has underpinned Stuart Vevers’ turnaround of the brand, particularly in the runway Coach 1941 collections.  But even as T-rexes and stegosauruses waggle their leather puzzle piece tails about and kitschy Brit-themed badges that peppered a special capsule collection of accessories and varsity jackets (scoured from eBay by Vevers’ team apparently), there’s heft to back up the frivolity.  At the Craftsmanship Bar, there’s a wall of emojis to choose from to monogram Coach classics, in addition to the normal initial stamping.  Downstairs, there’s now a Made-to-Order service where a bespoke Rogue bag can be created in over one million possible colour combinations.  And throughout the store, Coach’s hometown of New York is evident in black steel fixtures, mahogany wood and a central mechanised conveyor belt that actually moves – a symbol of the chugging along of Coach’s upward trajectory.  Even Bryan and I play acting with a baseball glove and ball bears some significance, as they’re pertinent reminders of the glove-tanned leather that the founder of Coach was inspired to create because of the well-worn patina and buttery feel of a pitcher’s glove.

For Vevers, London is a chance to come home and officiate Regent Street with a proper retail incarnation of what he has achieved at Coach.  It’s a concept that has rolled out in New York and is likely to do so in the future in other cities.  The word “House” as opposed to “Maison” is fitting for a store that sits on what a street that straddles between contemporary, high street and designer.

A giant Rexy near the entrance is there to invite gawkers in for a gander and a feel of what are in essence, comparatively accessible products.  Incidentally, did you know Rexy’s a “she”?  According to Vevers, “she’s” not strictly speaking part of Coach’s 75 year history but has become an apt character and mascot, representing the sort of japes that now goes down in Coach design team.  Nope it’s not that dignified or necessarily “luxurious” to be hugging a lycra-clad female dressed up as a T-Rex.  But it is a laugh – and nestled in amongst all that leather and shearling – it’s providing a formula that’s working for Coach’s newfound customer base.

 

This post is part of an on-going social media partnership with Coach