Wednesday, 29 February 2012

PFW A/W2012: Gareth Pugh in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

If you've read my blog before then you might well be aware of my Gareth Pugh fetish. I have been known to refer to him as 'God' and mean it. With no further introduction other than my space-age title, here's his latest offering from Paris Fashion Week.

 [Images from Style.com and collaged by me. Here's some of Pugh's trademark heavy black].

Volume is one of those things that we rave about in haircare and we long for with music. Pugh certainly turned things up a notch with this collection, which included stand-out pieces using multiple tassels, intense laser cutting and thigh-high boots worthy of the love child of Dick Turpin and a dominatrix. In a bad light, some of these pieces might look a bit like lampshades in their bell-like forms, but I really like how they stand out as labours of love in terms of craft. There were also a lot of fur-based pieces, but I preferred these more original and time-consuming outfits that felt more like works of art than fleeting fashion statements.

 Trapeze coats and handkerchief hems went to extreme lengths.

Looking at these examples of outerwear, my lowly grey New Look coat with its hanky hem felt a little outgunned. Still, when I wear it I do like the drama that comes with too many layers of fabric, and that's what Pugh has achieved, along with a sleek dose of space-age minimalism. I'm not sure the face guard/collar will catch on, but it would be bloody useful on a cold day (and probably highly hygienic in terms of keeping you away from the common cold - NHS, you might want to start a campaign with this one).

There's always an element of the unexpected in a Pugh collection. 
This season it was intergalactic quirks - Spock-style pointed collars, Dulux dog coats and Star Trek tops.

What Gareth Pugh does is to take an idea and run with it much further than others would. At the point where mainstream designers would panic about commercial appeal and wearability, he tells them to sod it. The models wore thin headbands in grey or black and their boots were tied up at various stages, rendering them like space goddesses (or maybe just neatly packaged parcels). Proportions were played with and the body became a blank canvas from which he created shapes and statements. 

All along the show also felt very feminist. Pugh does not design for a woman who panics about what a man thinks. He does not design for those who act as wallflowers or doormats. Even if you look like you've walked off the set of Star Trek, you are dressing for yourself, and that's what counts. 

Yet again, there are so many ideas to take away from a Gareth Pugh show. I can't wait to see where he takes us next.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Inside Grazia HQ - The Fashion

 [All images my own - above is a shot of the sub-editing team at work].

Last week I was lucky enough to visit the offices of Grazia Magazine, in Central London, which was basically a dream come true for a self-confessed mag junkie such as myself. Although I've trained as a fashion and lifestyle journalist and that's meant I have met a lot of people within the industry, it doesn't mean I hang out in publishing houses whenever I feel like it - more's the pity. So catching a glimpse of a future issue being put together was like seeing the elves at Santa Claus' workshop, only they were a hell of a lot more stylish.

My opening image shows a sub-editor putting together copy for the shopping pages of the magazine. This position obviously involves being a stickler for accuracy, not just in terms of spelling and grammar, but in getting the prices right. Nobody wants to miss off a crucial digit...


Casually sitting on a rail by the main door was this gorgeous dress from British designer-of-the-moment Mary Katrantzou, who has just taken London Fashion Week by storm with her pillarbox red typewriter print fabric. Above is a snapshot of her Spring/Summer 2012 collection, with its zingy florals that use hyper-real colours. Trying to estimate the cost of this single dress in my head, I didn't dare touch it.


This is - deep breath - the fashion cupboard. The place which is the equivalent of the kitchen at house parties; where everything cool originates from, and where people congregate. As naff as it sounds, this is where the magic happens, kids. I spied some Jonathan Saunders pieces and plenty of neon spring brights. Quite honestly, I could have curled up in the corner and lived here happily ever after.

In order to make the magazine take shape, a visual mock-up is made. Sometimes you just can't see things properly until they're laid out in front of you, especially in terms of repetition, colour contrast and how the images sit against each other. Here you can see an example of a layout being tested, and it will end up full of annotations before the final edition is created.


Here's Grazia's Style Director Paula peeping out from behind her computer. Though we interrupted her, she - like everyone else in the office - was warm and welcoming. Behind her lay hundreds of box files full of important resources for her team, alongside a large whiteboard with a grid structure for the content needed over the course of a few issues.

This is how fashion is constantly monitored on a weekly glossy, requiring a large and dedicated team who are all on the ball.

Monday, 27 February 2012

MFW A/W2012: Marni and Etro's Power of Print

Both Marni and Etro have given their reliably distinct nod to print for Autumn/Winter 2012, which is reassuring for lovers of the fashion houses who can't imagine them detracting from their vintage flavour and love of all things eye-poppingly good.

Marni A/W2012

 [Images via Style.com]. 
This dress reminded me of long vintage vases with stained glass motifs.

 Ignoring the unnecessary fur collar, this outsize coat looks good enough to eat. 
It's a 60s kooky moment that deserves to be brought back.

There's a nod to Japanese traditional dressing in the shoes and the cut of this outfit.

Whilst Marni's show began with bold block shapes of squares that were pure 1960s cool, later pieces were more Miu Miu-esque in their adoption of repeated floral shapes. Accompanying the dazzling visuals were very 1960s fabrics and shapes, from PVC button-up coats to chiffon shift dresses and bell-sleeved trouser suits. Accessories were not big in this collection and hair was blunt, unfussy and shiny as the clothes took centre stage. There was definitely a refreshing simplicity here that designer Consuelo Castiglioni wanted to get across to the audience for most of the show.

 A thankfully fur-free outfit, in an icy blue. I loved the doll-like white tights as accessories.

The element I didn't enjoy, for two reasons, was the use of fur: firstly, on an animal rights level, because it is completely unnecessary to use the real thing in 2012 (other than to get the financial backing of fur suppliers), and secondly the placing of fur was completely distracting and jarring against the outfits themselves. It looked like a clunky afterthought, strewn across the body or wrestled into submission with a skinny belt and a glacial model stare. The ensembles that were fur-free were a lot less cluttered and completely ruined the clean lines of the main collection.

Etro A/W2012

There is something beautifully fiery about red paisley, and it's finished nicely here with a chunky leather belt.

The cravat might not be the world's most stylish accessory, but it looks quite natural within this look. Masculine tailoring is neatly steered away from 1980s yuppy connotations.

The peplum blouse refuses to die, even with a twist of leather.

Etro is a firm favourite for print lovers and it's easy to see why, with these catwalk looks that take vintage-looking motifs and inject a freshness into them. So many of the pieces could easily have been picked up at a retro boutique rather than from an Italian designer's studio, and I enjoyed the celebration of the old. The use of paisley is something that has been on the fashion radar for buyers and enthusiasts since the Spring/Summer 2012 collections were shown, so Etro's adoption of it will not go unnoticed but may feel a little behind the times. However the red paisley A-line winter coat is sure to be a hit.
Not a top for the faint-hearted, or the ample-chested.

What will also be picked up on is the dividing of different print sections with laser cutting in order to make a new and distorted pattern, and this may divide hardcore Etro devotees and those who enjoy seeing reinvention. One look I can definitely see proving popular is the embellishment of sheer blouses with sculptural motifs in swirls and curves, flattering the body in either multi-colour or matt black designs.

Both of these designers tackled the idea of print in different ways, from simple graphic lines to intricate lasered concoctions. It's fair to say that next season won't be dull for high fashion, and we'll all be taking tips from vintage styling and classic shapes - either the uber-masculine or the uber-feminine.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

MFW A/W2012: Bittersweet Beauty from Raf Simons at Jil Sander

 [All images: Fashion Gone Rogue]. 

As I write this, I'm struggling to describe this collection. For designer Raf Simons this was his swansong at Jil Sander, where he has hung up his scissors and handed over to the lady herself. There are many rumours about Simons being in the frame for John Galliano's job at Dior, and this show proved that he would be more than capable of taking the reins. It was a masterclass in how to take a bolt of fabric and make it work as hard as you possibly can, beautifully framing the models and alternately revealing and concealing certain areas. 

Simons should be incredibly proud of what he has achieved here, which is perhaps most obvious in the drapery of this delicately pink coat. The material has a waterfall finish that is simplistic but really works, and the lack of jewellery means that there are no distractions. This coat does the talking.


The 1940s and 50s feel was evident in sleek pieces such as this combination of nude bodiced top and high-waisted trousers, creating a silhouette that played with proportions. There's a distinct feeling that you don't have to try too hard in this outfit, which is especially strong when the fashion world is so currently obsessed with kookiness and the kaleidoscope dressing of Nicki Minaj. The woman who chooses to wear this over a loud neon ensemble or comedy flares is saying that she can do things differently.
 

 A pure shot of 1950s glamour, this is like the grown up older sister to Prada's S/S12 sherbet-obsessed girl. The cut-out panel sounds tacky in theory but is actually quite sophisticated. Perhaps on a woman with the average British figure, this would be verging on cleavage overkill, but I don't think that was the look that Simons intended. I am secretly hoping that a celeb will get their hands on it and make it slutty, just to watch the Daily Mail go up in arms about it.


Another dose of sheer panel action, but this time on a looser cut dress with blocks of fabric. Again, the people at Jil Sander are certainly not aiming at women with real and often uncontrollable breasts (it's certainly not designed for running for a bus), but this is a sedate take on eveningwear. Although it's a polished look, you don't have to try too hard with this shape or colour - just a slash of red lipstick and heels is all it takes.
 

This dress reminded me of those 1950s science fiction books that used to imagine what life would be like in the 21st century, when we'd all have robot friends and flying cars. It's an idealised version of the future, where everything is smooth and minimalist and incredibly efficient. The accompanying cocoon coat is equally impressive and gives a nod to all things space-age.
 

A lesson in how to do the fetish/dominatrix look without getting propositioned by strangers on the street, this dress is cut for curves. I can see it working on Kate Winslet, who would enjoy the failsafe black but has shown her daring side in pieces such as Stella McCartney's infamous sheer spot dress.
 

 Yes, I know this one could look slightly dodgy if you imagine it was made with bin bags and not expensive synthetic material, but there's something playful about the trashiness of the look. Rightfully this should look cheap and the model should appear slightly hungover, possibly with remnants of kebab stuck to her heels, but in Jil Sander mode then she is silent, poised and deadly. The fussiness of the cut is in contrast to the clean lines that much of the collection promotes, and yet this somehow works.


Full-length coats are often sneered at, and I am one of the sneerers, but in the depths of winter they can be incredibly useful. When they're cut like this pink number with the pale yellow lining and wide collar, you can't help but be tempted by the idea. There's also the potential of hiding a garish outfit underneath, which you later reveal when you're in less respectable company.

In conclusion, this was an amazing final show by Raf Simons for Jil Sander, and it's no wonder that the crowds provided a standing ovation at the end. I look forward to seeing these pieces make their way into high street imitations, heralding a return to minimalism and expensive-looking cuts.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Postcard from the frontline of LFW

[One of my London Fashion Week photos - more to come soon].

Whether you're very new to this blog or you've been with me since the days of imaginary re-styles on strangers and old photos of my relatives from the 1960s, it would mean so much if you would vote for me to be Grazia's Fashion Blogger of the Year, as I am a semi-finalist. Voting closes tomorrow (24/02) at 12pm, so get in there quick!

If you want to read the post I submitted as a guest of Grazia at LFW, then here it is: Holly Fulton, A/W12.

Even if I don't win then it has been an amazing experience to even make the shortlist and get to meet Holly Fulton in person, as well as my fellow semi-finalists. 

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, 22 February 2012

LFW Snapshot: Reporting Duty for Grazia

 [Please click to enlarge all photos and ask before reproducing]. 
Holly Fulton's sleek fuschia trousers on the catwalk.

 With a smattering of butterflies, this dress was subtle enough to please even the least daring Fulton fan.

 It's all in the detail.

 Palm prints on Fulton knitwear, which apparently arrived the night before the show!

 Juxtaposition of patterns and black/turquoise balance.

 Last looks.

Backstage, waiting to interview Holly, we got a sneak peek of Ashish's collection before it was shown. 
The yellow top (second from front of rail) says 'Hare Krishna'. 

 In the buzz surrouding Holly, I couldn't help noticing one fellow interviewer's bag. Leopard lust has struck...

 Another look at Ashish. You can just see the blue tie-dye dress and the grey tie-dye knit.

 I love the motivational words scribbled on the backing boards of the BFC Show Space.

 L-R: Angela Buttolph, Editor-at-Large of Grazia; a representative of Talk PR; Holly Fulton herself.

 Blogger and semi-finalist Aelrid Turner (love her name) of Olive Collar, with Angela Buttolph.
Aelrid had just returned from a trip to Stockholm.

 Angela with blogger and semi-finalist Sheree Milli of Glitz 'n' Grime. 
Sheree and I went for a cup of tea afterwards - not quite a cocktail, but much-needed!

 Angela Buttolph and me outside the BFC Show Space. Excuse my creepy smile but the light was bright so I was semi-squinting - nope, haven't got the knack of fashionable posing. 
My t-shirt is Gareth Pugh for Topshop NEWGEN, the skirt and boots are vintage and the lipstick is Revlon 8 Hour Colour Stay Ultimate Lipstick Liquid (dear God, what a mouthful) in Top Tomato.

Great shot of Sheree as she posed for a street style photographer opposite us. 

I had an incredible day at London Fashion Week, and this is such a small percentage of my photos. Stay tuned for a sneak peek behind the scenes at Grazia HQ, as well as my own street style snaps at Somerset House. Aelrid, Sheree and Angela were all lovely and it was a pleasure to meet them and see the show together.

Lastly, you might be interested to hear that I'm nominated for Grazia's Fashion Blogger of the Year. You can vote by clicking on the link and choosing between Aelrid Turner, Sheree Milli and me.

Fashion Thoughts: The FROW Controversy - Pixie Lott's PR Machine

You may or may not have heard the news that irritatingly bland popstar Pixie Lott threw a strop when she couldn't sit on the front row at Mulberry's London Fashion Week show just days ago. Yes, it's not exactly a scoop to discover that not everyone can have a prime spot on the benches when they're viewing the catwalk, but what was perhaps more shocking was the lack of genuine fashion interest from either Ms. Lott or her PR team. 

The Daily Telegraph reported that Lott's PR spokesperson said, "The whole point of Pixie being there is to be in the front row," which is a valid comment as she is a marketable commodity, but surely the whole purpose of attending a show is to see what the designer has created - in this case, to marvel at Emma Hill's genius. In both Pixie Lott's actions and her PR's comment there has been no disguising the fact that a genuine fashion lover would not behave in this way. If you are lucky enough to attend a show, regardless of your level of fame, you should feel privileged to have this access - either that, or politely decline and let someone who has a valid interest take your place. 


 [What Pixie Lott missed at Mulberry: image by Vladimir Potop, via The Daily Telegraph]. 

I would quite happily be sat up in the lighting rigs of the BFC Showspace at Somerset House if it meant that I got a glimpse of the catwalk first hand. As it's not often that I get to see a catwalk show in person (you can say that again - my first trip inside the BFC Showspace was yesterday), I will happily make do with the brilliant coverage on sites like Style.com, Fashionising and Grazia Daily or Elle, if not the official coverage from London Fashion Week. For some strange reason, and not just because her music is not to my taste, I cannot imagine Pixie Lott eagerly logging onto her computer to get her fashion fix in time, though she has put her name to two clothing lines for British brand Lipsy and she will wax lyrical about her fashion obsession if she's being interviewed. This is where Lott differs from enthusiastic bloggers like Tavi Gevinson and stylish celebrities such as Victoria Beckham or Nicola Roberts, who carefully cultivate their own looks without a stylist and read magazines like they're bibles. They are hard grafters who are not afraid to take risks and have established themselves within the fashion industry for good reason.

I am not saying that a popstar should have an ingrained love of fashion, or even a tolerance of it, but they shouldn't create a 'fashion designer' persona if they don't give a damn about a show unless they can use it to self-publicise. A celebrity who has their own clothing line and builds up an image of creativity should be very careful not to shatter the illusion by revealing that they are only attending catwalk shows for attention. I'm sure that Mulberry will not lose sleep over Lott's walkout, but she may have just lost herself a few invites next season.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

LFW A/W2012: Holly Fulton is Botanical, Bold and Blue

[Please click to enlarge: collage of my own photos from the show. iPad courtesy of Grazia and Apple, as part of the Grazia Fashion Blogger of the Year competition]. 

 There aren’t many designers who would base a collection around their mum, but after seeing Holly Fulton’s Autumn/Winter 2012 offering from the front row, no less, I can safely say that Mrs. Fulton has great taste. “She works at the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, which was a main inspiration for this collection. She also wears a lot of all-blue outfits,” said Holly after the show, which was a riot of turquoise, teal, and mid-blue contrasted with cerise pink.

[All images my own, except for Botanical Gardens from gardenvisit.com].
  
As ever, Holly’s signature graphic style took hold, with bold black prints of greenhouses, butterflies and palms being accented with diluted shots of colour on satin dresses, tailored trousers, knitwear and long jackets, often using a 1960s slim-line silhouette. A surprise element came from lappet panels on skirts (think Roman Centurion’s costume but cooler), which broke up the form and patterns. 

 

 Attention was particularly drawn to the models’ backs, where designs often culminated in Pop Art-style details of jagged lines like lightning bolts or blue waves. This was where Holly’s love of art really came across; she told me that “fashion and art are paired together for me – they’re inextricably linked, particularly with [artist and fellow Scot] Edward Paolozzi, whose images end up in my collages.” Holly’s pieces can often feel like collages themselves, with mixed materials such as Perspex and PVC. 

 [Eduardo Paolozzi's work].

Accessories-wise, things were definitely shaken up here, with a move towards clusters of sparkly jewels, oversized bow clutches and fur bags that collectively had a 1980s feel, which reminded me of a previous collection (S/S2011) where she cited Joan Collins as an influence. I could just see Joan, big sunglasses and sharp shoulders รก la Dynasty, loving Holly’s designs. 

 I sometimes think that Holly Fulton’s clothing reminds me of armour, as it projects an image of a strong and confident woman, whatever decade she’s channelling. This collection certainly didn’t disappoint in terms of battle-ready clothing, especially with the embellished metal top that closed the show, but even in her feminine dresses you could feel all-powerful. I’ve definitely got the Fulton blues for next season.


[The view from the front row...]

[A brilliant show from Holly Fulton].

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Bethnal Green Social - the Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair

 [All photos my own - click to enlarge. Please ask before reproducing].
I spent this afternoon in Bethnal Green's York Hall, which had stepped back in time for the latest evolution of the Affordable Vintage Fashion Fair: the Bethnal Green Social. This was an event which combined vintage shopping with music and refreshments from the past - cue rockabilly and very covetable mismatched crockery. I've been to previous vintage fairs in Brighton, but today was about making it a whole experience and not seeing things so much as pre-loved, but more 'of their time'.

 Rails of clothing were ripe for rummaging. Bargains ranged from 50p charms and jewellery to £80 flapper dresses, £100 British Rail luggage racks and £200 fur coats, with something for everyone.

 The view from the hall's stage.

 If only they weren't in a size 8 - these shorts caught my eye. 1988 Olympics, anyone?

 New Cut Gang performed a brilliant acoustic set.

 Blogger and vintage fashion boutique owner Demelza Toy Toy had a brilliant outfit. I particularly love the way she blended her Moschino belt with shorts and pirate ankle boots. 
Check out her blog, Harper and Eye - it comes with recommendations by Vivienne Westwood and Grazia!

 I'm partial to a bit of menswear and this stall didn't disappoint. It blended casual knits and shirts with the kind of jackets and Panama hats that you'd (well, at least I'd) associate with upper class retro style.

 The yellow dress and blue shirt both reminded me of House of Holland's new A/W 2012 collection in the way that they add bold stripes to great effect, creating contours.

 I absolutely love this shopper's hair - the aqua streak is amazing! The orange tights are bold, jazzy and fun.

 This is a brilliant example of layering. I love how this stallholder has combined different elements of 1970s cool (tan belt, autumnal colours, chiffon, maxi-dresses and loose, wavy hair) but not managed to look like a slave to the trends. She's just enjoying her own style and wearing it in her way - in this case, with Converse.

Lastly, another touch of aqua, but this time not in hair. I wish I could have bought this dress but it was the kind of piece that only a 6ft model lookalike could have pulled off. 

So, what did I buy at the Bethnal Green Social? Well, as there's been a glut of photos in this post, I'm saving the shopping for a later instalment, but I can promise you that I didn't come away empty-handed. Amongst my finds were some amazing Dr. Martens-esque white boots, a hilarious 50p ring with an evil-looking cat on it, and a gorgeous teal crimped dress that I may well be wearing to London Fashion Week on Tuesday. 

Three reasons to go vintage, if the photos didn't convince you:

1. It allows you to be more individual and you don't end up wearing what everyone else has. Although I love fashion and seeing what's going to be big, I really don't want to look like a clone. If you want to know how to dress less like a shop mannequin, go to a vintage fair for inspiration.
2. It's ethical. What some people see as dated or uncool is another person's retro, and it doesn't need to be thrown away just because it's slightly faded or torn. One bugbear of working in a charity shop was that we had to reject anything that was looking vaguely tatty or tired, which was a shame because it was still perfectly good to wear. Vintage fashion stops this needless waste.
3. If you really love a certain style or piece of clothing, why not go back to its roots? Being able to get your hands on a Victorian blouse or a 1960s miniskirt means you get to hold a piece of history in your hands (sounds naff, I know, but it's true). In my case, I don't know the origins of rings with evil-looking cats on, but I'm holding out hope that mine is one of the earlier ones...

For more information on vintage fairs around the country, please see Kate Mulloy's very comprehensive Vintage Fair Directory
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