paintmix

I’ve been doing my fair share of watching paint dry with little odd jobs around the house to pad out what has been a restful August.  Just to balance out these lengthy passages of boredom, I’ve also been watching paint mix.  They’re perhaps 2016’s kitten videos as various accounts on Instagram dedicate themselves to one thing only – documenting the mixing action of one blob of paint with another blob of paint.  It’s a satisfying thirty seconds of childish delight paint alchemy is achieved

A video posted by @paintmixes on

This mindless watching of colours mixing with one another, reminded me of Oksana Anilionyte’s work  For a few reasons (namely puking my way through the first trimester) I wasn’t able to attend many of this year’s graduate shows in London but some names have stuck with me.  Her Royal College of Art graduate collection this year was arresting even from a quick glance on social media.  The context of the show was also an interesting one.  With Zowie Broach (formerly of my early 20s obsession – the British label Boudicca – HURRAH FOR BOUDICCA!) succeeding Wendy Dagworthy in helming this course, a different approach was deployed for the 2016 fashion graduate show.  Eschewing the traditional runway format,  and with the choreography of Joe Moran, each graduate presented a “world” concentrated into one look instead.  Some graduates used dance or spoken word to accompany their ensemble.  Others like Anilionyte simply relied on the strength of their innovation found in their core raw materials.

I have to belatedly applaud Broach and the graduates for coming up with this re-energised way of seeing these collections.  Graduate collections are for the most part, dedicated to singular ideas and aren’t meant to be seen in a straight-to-commerce context so why apply that conventional runway format to such collections.  This was an opportunity for graduates to express their collections with an act or a gesture, that would have more impact than simply parading clothes up and down a catwalk.

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Anilionyte’s collection could be grasped from seeing that swirl of lilac merge with orange on the body.  This is no facile paint palette mixing though.  Anilionyte’s fascination with the transformative power of textiles, began when she worked on the “bioLogic” project with MIT Media Lab, where fashion and science came together to create bio-organic sportswear.  Now I have a strong vision on the way material innovation can change fashion and our relationship towards it,” she explained over email.  “I feel a huge responsibility to make a difference and work towards the future of fashion”

Her collection entitled ‘Fluid’Sense’ stemmed from looking at the way the body reacts to certain materials.  To create textiles that appear to be in an in-flux liquid state is certainly a domain that has yet to be explored.  Using polymer-based materials to create these fluid creations, relies on the body temperature and natural perspiration to form these malleable second skins.  Thus they’re almost like reflections of our mood, seeing as a raised body temperature can signal a range of emotions.  This was a material developed in the laboratory rather than an atelier, and paves yet another stone in the collaborative path of fashion and science.  In some of Anilionyte’s imagery, there’s the allusion to the stimulus of a flower dripping onto the body.  Even with these plastic man-made forms, there’s a strangely organic and nature-derived aesthetic.  As with any graduate starting point, what excites of course is what potentially could come out of these liquid textiles.  Will we one day be able to pour a substance onto our bodies that instantly forms a garment?  Whilst far-fetched for the moment, the visual effect of Anilionyte’s collection is undeniable, as one pastel shade mixes into another, resting at that half way stage of a marbled beauty.  It’s the part of those Instagram videos that I like the most before the paints reach their final destination. 

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Credits – Photography: Nhu Xuan Hua, Model: Alena Nurgaleeva, Stylist: Francesca pinna, Set Design: William Farr, Make Up Marie Bruce, Hair: Roger chO

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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Resuscitating blog in action.  Pump.  Pump.  Pump.  The faintest of heartbeats can just about be detected.  It just might make it past this restful summer…

On the subject of life resuscitation, some of you might know that the reason why the blog has gone into a coma-like state for the past month or so.  I now have two heartbeats coursing through my body – my own plodding one, and a much faster pulse drumming away in my lower belly.  Steve, my partner and I were surprised and excited to find out that we’re going to be expecting a young arrival sometime in next January.  To say that it has made me rethink work, home and life in general is an understatement.  As a result, since the haute couture shows in July, I’ve given myself some time off to take my family to California in keeping with my annual love affair with the Golden State, gorge on a combination of Monster Munch, hash browns and Marmite on toast and most importantly give my brain a bit of space to process the fact that there’s a little being growing inside of me.

August has of course brought about its own inevitable slowdown but it’s also time to ease back into things.  And ease, is exactly what comes to mind when Port Eliot comes around.  This year marks my fourth time at the festival in Cornwall.  It felt like the “biggest” in terms of attendance and the “star” power of speakers.  Gloria Steinem!  Noel Fielding!  Kim Gordon!  Dawn French!  They were the buzz talks of the festival that had the tents all packed out.  It was a little surreal to see for instance Steinem, speak about how wonderful it felt to be a Port Eliot.  She too was probably seduced by the idealised bubble that the festival has come to be known as.

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And fortunately, you lost none of that free-spirited intimacy that has come to define this annual gathering of ideas.  Especially where the Wardrobe Department was concerned.  This has come to be the domain of Sarah Mower, contributing editor of American Vogue and all-round champion of British fashion, tucked away in the Walled Garden of the Port Eliot house.  The number of talks and ‘happenings’ here have slowly been on the increase since my first time at the fest, and although it’s still dedicate to the best of London’s grassroots fashion, this year French house Chloé ended up being this year’s official fashion sponsor at Port Eliot.

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Port-Eliot-35Feminist icon Gloria Steinem speaking with Cathy St Germans

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IMG_8066Inside Piers Atkinson’s flower headgear workshop

Hashtag Chloé Girls in their wafting white dresses and flowing tresses of course fit right into the festival’s lush surroundings of woods, riverbanks and rolling hills.  The house’s signature ease-led white dresses, spanning over four decades of the house’s history, sat pretty in the duck egg blue Drawing Room of the house, remodelled by Sir John Soane, next to vitrines of antique lace.

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My own attempt to channel the spirit of a Chloé Girl was aided by this floaty number from their S/S 16 collection complete with daintily dyed tassels, as well as my abode for the weekend, the tried-and-tested Yurtel yurt.  On the day that creative director of Chloé Claire Waight Keller came to do her talk in the Wardrobe Department, the house’s oversized Carlina sunglasses could be seen dotted everywhere.  All the better to go all hazy eyed as we lay around on hay bales, sipping gin (or a delicious frozen Rocktail in my case) and listen to Waight Keller talk creative freedom, the fluidity of a house like Chloé and festival antics with Mower.  Their talk was brought to life of course by the faces of Port Eliot – Bea, Imogen, Aggie, Lulu and Octavia Warren wearing the festival-inspired S/S 16 collection where 90s hoodies collide with ditzy florals and vibrantly dyed chiffon.  Musician Flo Morrissey was Chloé’s choice of artist, who gave both a poetry reading a musical performance.  A mega brand zooming in on a festival can often feel like an overly orchestrated endeavour.  Chloé’s involvement felt… natural… precisely because their clothes fit the meandering-in-the-meadow bill.  At least that’s what I thought as I tumbled about in a Chloé peasant tunic.

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IMG_8286Octavia, Lulu, Imogen, Aggie and Bea Warren

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Their involvement was a contrasting foil to what was going in the rest of the Wardrobe Department, as thematically we were submerged into the eighties.  That’s the !!!Eighties Now!!! collaged in newspaper font and printed on neon poster paper.  The broader umbrella though was London’s youngest generation of riotous creativity.  First of all, roll up, roll up for recent CSM MA graduates Luke Brooks and James Theseus Buck’s new collective project, the Rottingdean Bazaar, launched during LC:M in June.  They were selling temporary tattoos and badges that celebrate the amazingly ordinary.  A Nokia 3210 tattoo?  A balloon badge that looks vaguely like a nipple?  It’s your local high street market coming alive on your body.  By the end of the weekend, I had a Colgate toothpaste, a counterfeit handbag, a broken doll and a pair of false teeth adorning my arms.  Their “bazaar” is definitely a sign of things to come from the duo as they continue to think up ways of elevating the mundane.

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IMG_8073Designer Claire Barrow getting dolphin happy

In the Special Special tent, Mower has gathered up trinkets and lovable clutter from young designers to sell to festival goers, with all sales going to the British Fashion Council Education Foundation (you know, for those ever-spiking uni fees).  Highlights included Ed Marler’s bungee cord handled carpet purses, Sadie Williams’ lurex patches, Claire Barrow’s ghoulish charm bracelets and the most awesome neon jewellery by Matty Bovan and his mum Plum.

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IMG_8030Jewellery made jointly by Matty Bovan and his mum Plum

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Returning to Port Eliot with M.A.C. were drag group DENIM – this time not only to entertain the Port Eliot crowd but also to talk about the act of transformation.  How for instance, Amrou becomes Glamrou or how Tom becomes into Shirley.  Their backstory incites interest primarily because the group formed when they were undergraduates at Cambridge, creating the first drag night at this unlikely institution.  Their act is more than just comic relief but rather a representation of a beacon of inclusivity and open-mindedness.  Seeing them speak about their experiences definitely gave DENIM a more shades of depth.

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The riot of colour carried on into the introduction of Michael Halpern’s Central Saint Martins MA collection at Port Eliot.  Halpern was one of my personal favourites from this year’s crop of MA graduates and it was interesting to discover the backstory behind the asymmetric assemblages of glitz.  I’d never heard of the spectacle of horse-diving, a now illegal spectacle that involved horses diving off of into piers, that was popular in America in the 1880’s.  Halpern’s collection was inspired by the elaborate costumes worn by the female riders that performed these dangerous stunts.   What appeared to be surface-driven disco dollies on the runway were in fact daredevil women in carefully contoured ensembles, involving hours of handworked sequins.  His collection has landed Halpern a gig at Versace, working on the couture Atelier line but he’s also in the process of launching his own line in London.  A new kid on the sequinned block is born.

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In stark contrast to Halpern, was John Alexander Skelton, another standout MA graduate from Central Saint Martins, who was in conversation with Alex Fury to talk about the “Mass Observation” survey of Bolton in the 1930s, which formed the roots of Skelton’s collection and the North/South class divide that is still very much at play today.  Upon discovering that only 3% of so-called British woven wool is actually made out of British fleece, Skelton’s collection also utilised yarns from British sheep.  Skelton is part of the newest wave of sustainable designers that are seeking new methods of working and creating and as he begins to start his own label, I’ll be looking forward to seeing how his trajectory continues.

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It ain’t Port Eliot without something elaborate going on, on top of people’s heads.  This year, we got not one but two milliners displaying their wares.  Piers Atkinson talked us through his iconic pieces, which have graced many a celebrity head.

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Then the inimitable Stephen Jones entertained a crowd with his hat-led rundown of the eighties, aided by hair support from Bumble & Bumble.  Jones of course knows a thing or two about the subcultural havens that remain for me, the most interesting facets of the eighties as a stylistic period.  New Romantics.  The Face.  The Blitz kids.  “Boy George” was undoubtedly the star of Jones’ show.  I was chuffed to be a part of this eighties cavalcade, by throwing my best Wuthering Heights moves and attempting to channel Kate Bush, with thanks to a voluminously crimped up mane, conjured up by Sven Bayerbach from Bumble & Bumble, a gothic visage by Terry Barber, director of make-up artistry at M.A.C and a crowning crescent of silver courtesy of Jones.  My Stars in Their Eyes was complete.

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IMG_8319Siouxsie Sioux, is that you?

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IMG_8365The Lady Di demure smile

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IMG_8375Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…

In the Wardrobe Department’s most ambitious show yet, Mower had gathered up a treasure chest of fashionz to bring the Eighties Now theme to life, in a show-and-talk, styled by Matthew Josephs and Ed Marler and explained by Alex Fury, Sandy Powell and Terry Barber.  The theme was prompted by J.W. Anderson’s AW15-6 collection and the sheer chutzpah of those giant leg of mutton sleeves and Sprouse-esque squiggles.  Calling in the latest Kenzo collection, a feathered frock from Gucci, some Sloane-appropriate archive Roksanda as well as a few pieces of vintage Zandra Rhodes and Bodymap, the best of the decade was refracted into the here and now.  Fury and Mower prompted some intriguing questions in the accompanying talk.  What does it mean when fashion is looking back at a decade that saw the rise of excess and wealth, and the political stranglehold of Thatcherism in the UK?  In our post-Brexit state, is it about escapism to a no-holds-barred era of sartorial expression or a darker reflection of the poor-rich wealth gap, with the positive outcome being that from crisis comes a creative upsurge, as evidenced by the participating young designers in this year’s Port Eliot line-up.

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One of them in particular is partying like it’s 1980 in Billy’s nightclub.  Charles Jeffrey‘s work and regular party nights Loverboy, represents the newest gen of London’s out-there club scenes.  On Saturday night, we got ready for weekend revelry by ransacking the M.A.C. tent in an unprecedented fashion.  Pots of glitter and smears of bright pigment went everywhere.  Evidently I went overboard by diving in with with turquoise and orange combo, partly inspired by extreme Japanese ganguro girl make-up.  Jeffrey went one step further by diving into the muddy banks of the on-site estuary to go full on Cornish native.  Sadly he didn’t factor in the freezing state that the mud would leave him in, so he washed it all off and emerged kabuki faced for his DJ set in the Ace of Clubs tent later.

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The next morning, the M.A.C. tent underwent another transformation with Matty Bovan‘s artwork adorning the exterior.  Bovan has just been announced as the newest addition to the Fashion East S/S 17 line-up for London Fashion Week, which comes off the back of Bovan spreading his rambunctious energy through his work on the mannequins at the Miu Miu resort presentation last month in Paris.  A fearless approach towards colour and bold strokes define both his aesthetic and his own personal styling.  We were given the opportunity to strike a Bovan pose with some cleverly drawn perspex sheets and mirrors.

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Before we departed Port Eliot land to head back into the real world, we caught the beginnings of Molly Goddard‘s second life drawing lesson, giving everyone the opportunity to observe and sketch out a selection of her frocks from past and present collections.  It was the final component to Mower’s well-curated snapshot of fashion now in London and for me, perhaps a due reminder that fashion month isn’t far.  From the dreamscape of Port Eliot, it’s back to reality for me, my bump and I.

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The excitement in the run-up to this particular edition of Pitti Uomo was palpable.  The line-up of designer projects at Pitti have always been impressive but perhaps it was the combination of a) one of the most significant menswear designers to have emerged in the last twenty years and b) potentially one that will follow in the former’s path to become significant in the next twenty years, both announcing that they would reveal their S/S17 collections in Florence, which caused a somewhat feverish enthusiasm.  The crowd was certainly beefed up and the mood more giddy.  Gosha Rubchinskiy on one day?  Raf Simons the next?  Fashion ‘fuccbois’ the world over were most definitely salivating.

Ok, I jest.  Gosha Rubchinskiy and Raf Simons are of course on higher planes than the normal fucc’boi streetwear staples like Supreme or Palace, but the sort of geeky anticipation for their product often feels like it’s borne out of the same place, especially when you look at how men specifically buy clothes.  I’ve seen young lads – maybe 15, or 16 years old – emerge out of Soho multi-brand store Machine-A, excitedly asking each other “Did you get the Raf?” “Nah, I got the Gosha instead… might save up and get the Raf next month.”  (this is a verbatim convo I might add).  They talk about Raf and Gosha t-shirts like they’re collecting Premiere League football stickers or new editions of trainers.  Their design and referencing spheres are of course worlds apart but it’s testament to the way progressive and forward-thinking menswear has been embraced, that people buy both these labels in similar ways.

Gosha and Raf’s shows also formed a contrasting foil to what Pitti Uomo is generally about on first appearances – dandy suits, traditional tailoring and a contentious attitude towards what is “proper” menswear attire.  That’s precisely what makes these special projects at Pitti feel… well, special.  They’re given ample space and time for both the designer and the on-looking audience to create and see something memorable.

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Rubchinskiy rebuffed the platter of palazzos on offer in Florence and instead took us to a Fascist-era tobacco factory.  So very Russian, you might say but what actually ensued was perhaps Rubchinskiy’s most outward looking collection yet.  I have sometimes found it troubling that the fascination with his work often stems from the exoticising of his Russian roots and that his clothes are constantly seen through this lens of “post Soviet youth”, precisely because the West have never experienced communism.  That can feel like a narrow sphere to frame Rubchinskiy’s work.  Therefore, it was pleasing to see him take a leap from Russia to Italy, beginning with the ‘Gosha’ take on tailoring (slouchy, relaxed and incredibly appealing) and ending with a heartfelt resurrection of much-loved, slightly-forgotten Italian sportswear brands like Fila, Kappa and Sergio Tacchini.  Rubchinskiy has of course dabbled with logo plays before but here, these garments were official collaborations pitted with his logo in Russian.  This was Gosha in Italy, marking a more internationally minded stylistic shift for the brand that steps outside of the underground skate parks and nightclubs of Moscow.  And yet, his nods to Italian culture didn’t feel parochial.  Fila and Kappa in particular resonated everywhere and will regale

It’s odd that as the tragically killed Labour MP Jo Cox’s words from her maiden speech have been ringing around my head (“We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”), that Rubchinskiy, a Russian, should come to Europe and echo those thoughts.  “This is the time when people need to collaborate and connect with each other, because we have the internet – everyone knows what’s happening around the world so it’s stupid to be isolated. Let’s try to find words and ways to speak and live with each other.”

That spirit of collaboration extended to the film and accompanying book and exhibition entitled “The Day of My Death” directed by cult Russian director Renata Litvinova.  This odd surreal neo-nbir, filmed in the same tobacco factory where the show took place is dedicated to the famed Italian author, poet and director Pier Paolo Pasolini and the strange circumstances around his death.  Rubchinskiy has always shown more strings to his bow than just designing clothes.  In fact, arguably, his clothes are anchored to a spirit expressed through exhibitions, films and imagery that means taking it all in makes the end product more meaningful.

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I never saw Simons’ collaborative exhibition with Francesco Bonami or his 10 year anniversary show in 2005, both staged as part of past editions of Pitti Uomo.  I did get to see his Jil Sander show up in the Tuscan Hills in 2010, where rain dramatically fell as the last model took his exit.  That was a shiver-inducing moment in my years of show-going.  I highly doubt anyone who did experience of all four of Simons’ shows in Florence, would have felt deja vu on Thursday, as we stood outside the Stazione Leopolda, excited to see what lay inside.  Mannequins perched on the roof of the building loomed over us.  Like Greek statues communicating power, they set the tone for what would be an all-encompassing celebration of Simons’ work – past, current and future.  At 8.30pm, the doors were flung open and we were plunged into red-tinged darkness.  A throbbing maze of mannequins, scaffolding bars, sound equipment, where Soft Cell and New Order would soundtrack our feasting of Simons’ vast body of work.  Curiously, his seminal menswear were displayed on mostly female mannequins (reportedly from his own personal collection), painted and customised in some way or another.  That seemed to reflect the fluidity of Simons’ work appreciated and worn by both men and women.  The mark of a strong designer is when you can do away with museum-standard labels and captions.  You could easily point out the Sterling Ruby’s.  The Peter Saville’s.  The Manic Street Preacher patches.  Or the period in time when his non-conventional tailoring and repurposing of bomber jackets and wide legged combat trousers came to fruition. 0E5A00630E5A0072

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Once again, the audience were asked to stand or sit where they like, choosing their own view of Simons S/S 17 collection.  The choice of view would be crucial in this instance as Simons unveiled a fully fleshed out collaboration with the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, choosing, placing and recontextualising a vast array of the photographer’s images.  Both familiar and unfamiliar squares of Mapplethorpe’s work hit you as they emerged printed on the chest, hems and backs of oversized shirts.  They were like billowing vehicles to Mapplethorpe’s portraits, still lives and graphic work.  Faces both famous and otherwise, bored their eyes into you.  Flower still lives made their impression.  Photographs of erect phallus peeked from beneath layers of slouchy sweaters and outerwear.

It was a fully fleshed out collaboration instigated by the foundation and so it was that Simons ensured the collection wasn’t going to just slap-dash place a few images here and there on some lazy tees.  Simons turned his garments into a gallery, positioning each one with precision and also printing the images with care.  The nods Mapplethorpe’s own personal style gave the collection more credence as skinny leather belts around the neck, skinny trousers and leather bar hats gave a newfound sensuality to this collection.  Still, what struck me about the collection was Simons’ ability to interact with the art.  There’s no shortage of examples where artwork has been placed cynically into a fashion context.  Simons’ collection felt like it was borne out of a genuine fascination and respect.  And beyond the fashion show, Simons has created a clever conduit to further disseminate these images that might well be unknown to a younger generation.

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What ties the two collections together is the panache of recognisability – Rubchinskiy with his revival of old-school Italian sportswear and Simons with his reframing of Mapplethorpe’s most famous imagery. Once again, I’m thinking of those lads going into stores like Machine-A six months down the line, eager to snap things up. Good for them. They deserve snapping up. Despite, the generation gap between the two, both have managed to tap into that intangible quality of collectible permanence in their work that resonates with an audience of all ages.  Pitti Uomo bagged themselves a triumphant edition that is unlikely to diminish quickly in people’s minds.