New Ribbon
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For spring/summer 2015, PPQ presented clothes to wear to 'the coolest party of the fashion season', finished with high gloss hair taken to a creative extreme READ MORE...
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Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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think we could all use a dose of soft, pretty and innocent right now. Paul Costelloe brought his unabashed femininity to the runway READ MORE...
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Carmen Dell’Orefice...if this is what being in your 80s looks like then I'm looking forward to it! The legendary model, who once declared to Vanity Fair, “If I die, it will be with my high heels on”, is set READ MORE...
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The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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The Design and Craft Fair, MADE LONDON, returns to One Marylebone 24-26 October to present the very best in contemporary craft and design. Showcasing over 120 READ MORE...
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April 01, 2013

Swelle's 5th Anniversary Giveaway: Win a £100 Voucher from Smartbuyglasses!

Congratulatons to Annushka! She has won the £100 voucher and has been notified. Thank you to everyone who entered.

It's hard to believe that The Swelle Life is now five years old! Actually, it does feel every bit that long, in a good way. We've explored so many beautiful and inspiring subjects through words and images - 1400 posts in total! (And still no carpal tunnel syndrome, but I am on my second prescription for reading glasses.) My enthusiasm has never waned thanks to all of these wonderful things out there in the world that keep the momentum going and the curiosity insatiable. I'm looking forward to another five years of sharing it all with you. 


To celebrate, and as a thank you for reading, SmartBuyGlasses UK is giving away a £100 voucher for a free pair of designer sunglasses or glasses to a reader of The Swelle Life.  This giveaway is based on a point system using Rafflecopter, so the more tasks you complete, the greater chance you have of winning.

Here are the tasks:

  • 1 point - Like SmartbuyGlasses on FB
  • 1 point - Visit SmartbuyGlasses, choose your favourite pair of designer eyewear and share it on your FB
  • 1 point - Follow SmartBuyGlasses on Pinterest
  • 1 point - Pin your favourite pair of designer eyewear from SBG on your Pinterest

a Rafflecopter giveaway

With 160 designer brands to browse you're sure to find a covetable pair. If it's eyeglasses you're looking for, some of my favourites are styles from Miu Miu and Prada, and for sunglasses it has to be Tom Ford or Marc by Marc Jacobs - I've got my eye on several pairs of cat eyes. And of course there's the ever-popular Ray Bans, including the Clubmaster style in 11 colours. Having trouble deciding? Use their 3D Try On Service that allows you to take a photo and see how the glasses look on your face!

These are my favourites from the Tom Ford selection:


This giveaway is open to readers worldwide. It will close at midnight GMT on 20th April, 2013. The winner will be announced the next day on The Swelle Life, and a representative from SmartBuyGlasses UK will contact the winner with details for redeeming the prize. Good luck!

Finally, I wanted to mention something special that the site is involved in: SmartBuyGlasses has a Buy One, Give One charity where they give away a free pair of eyeglasses to someone in need, for every pair of eyeglasses purchased. They have donated over $1 million USD worth of eyeglasses to impoverished people in Africa and Asia. 

March 09, 2013

Candy Hearts, Cakes and Elle Fanning by Will Cotton

Headpiece by Will Cotton, based on Alexander McQueen

This was initially supposed to be a Valentines post...obviously that did not happen. It was too soon after my first post of Will Cotton's works anyway, and that is a lot of sugar to consume at once (no complaints here though).  New York magazine's spring fashion issue featured a cover and spread of Elle Fanning as Will Cotton's latest muse, wearing designs from the spring runway accessorised with sweets and icing against candy land backgrounds that are blowups of Cotton's paintings. I haven't actually seen Fanning in any films so I have no opinion of her as an actress (though I hear she's talented), but I do like her as the human embodiment of sweetness in Cotton's paintings; it rings genuine. (Those Fanning girls really buck the child actor stererotype, don't they?)

Cotton reworked the clothes into "something even more perfect for the environment", adorning them with all kinds of dainty designs made from icing, and 'Cottonised' a brand new Reed Krakoff bag by shoving a couple of big squishy cakes into it!

You can watch the behind-the-scenes video featuring Will Cotton and Elle on The Cut:


Elle pipes the icing corset Will Cotton created to be worn over a Dolce & Gabbana bodysuit. Cotton made the earrings and headpiece, too. 

Elle_will_1Elle Fanning wears a Marchesa gown in front of Will Cotton's Pastoral, 2009

Will Cotton hand piped this Erdem dress with icing to create sugar appliques

Elle_will_4Eyes by Will Cotton, based on Dior

Elle_will_11Will Cotton based this dot candy detailed bag on a Fendi design

Elle_will_13This Thom Browne skirt reminded Will Cotton of a tea tray, so he decorated it with petits fours "because what a nice thing would that be?"


Elle wears a Marc Jacobs dress in front of a version of Will Cotton's Insatiable, 2008

And you thought your purse was messy. Will Cotton stuffed cakes into this Reed Krakoff bag!

Elle wears Reem Acra in front of one of Will Cotton's gingerbread house paintings

An ink on paper rendering of Elle in a Louis Vuitton romper by Will Cotton

Elle lounges on sugar crystals wearing Valentino's 'glass slippers'

Photos: NY magazine/The Cut

March 05, 2013

Bil Donovan: Seminar, Masterclass at L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival

BilDonovan_TandCADAs part of the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival programme, revered fashion illustrator Bil Donovan will be presenting a business seminar and teaching a two-day masterclass. In his presentation Bil will talk about the role of fashion illustration in the contemporary marketplace and provide advice on fostering successful collaborations between artists and brands. His presentation will include a live demonstration of his work.

 “The role of fashion illustration in the contemporary marketplace continues to evolve beyond the scope of a single figure gracing a page in a magazine and is visible in markets as diverse as Branding, Package and Website Design, Animation, Merchandise, as well as in a thriving market called Lifestyle.”

The fashion illustration masterclass is an extraordinary opportunity to learn from one of the world's leading fashion illustrators, drawing from a live model. Lecturer in Fashion Illustration at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and Artist-In-Residence for Christian Dior Beauty, Bil creates artworks for clients worldwide.  He is the author of Advanced Fashion Drawing/ Lifestyle Illustration, and the illustrator of books including Edith Head’s The Dress Doctor, Prescriptions For Style From A to Z and Birds of a Feather Shop Together, Aesop's Fables for the Fashionable Set

The masterclass takes place March 22 and 23 and tickets are available to order through the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival website

To see more of Bil's work you can visit his website (you'll be glad you did!)




February 25, 2013

The British Library to Host Celebration of Film, Design and Fashion

A section from Julie Verhoeven's new artwork for the British Library's Spring Festival © Julie Verhoeven

Following the success of last year’s Spring Festival, the British Library will again host a star-studded five day celebration of the creative industries from March 1st - 5th. Aiming to inspire creative practitioners from all over the country, this year’s Festival invites industry experts, from Dylan Jones, editor-in-chief of GQ magazine, to leading fashion illustrator and artist Julie Verhoeven, whose portfolio includes Louis Vuitton, Versace and Mulberry, to speak about their sources of inspiration. 

International Vogue PosterFrom Russian propaganda to rainforest recordings, the treasures from the British Library’s archives have inspired up-and-coming creatives as well as established artists. This year the Library will reveal a brand new piece of art from Verhoeven to celebrate the Festival and, as a tribute to the Library's incredible collections, a series of postcards from some of the most influential figures in the fashion world, including Gareth Pugh, Alex Fury, Adam Selman and Christopher Kane, telling of their favourite item in the Library will be on display as part of a one-night pop-up exhibition. Also featuring that night will be the Library’s historic issues of fashion magazines, from Vogue to I-D, all part of Late at the Library: Fashion Flashback, an evening of music and fashion co-curated by the Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory degree students. The evening will also see GQ's Jones and fashion illustrator Tanya Ling give a special ‘In conversation with…’ talk, an exclusive ‘paper fashion show’ of specially commissioned designs by the Central Saint Martins Print Design course, a styling area where guests can receive makeovers with Chantecaille inspired by iconic looks taken from the Library’s Cecil Beaton archives, live costume drawing and sets by iconic British DJs, Princess Julia and Jeffrey Hinton.  

‘Manhood by Michel Leiris. Find it, read it, it will change your life’ – Gareth Pugh

Christopher Kane Postcard

My favourite book is Tokyo Lucky Hole, by Araki Nobuyoshi’ – Christopher Kane

Celebrating new work from budding filmmakers in the UK, the Library and IdeasTap launched an exciting debut film competition during London Film Festival. Filmmakers were asked to produce a new short film using sounds from the Library’s unique wildlife recordings, from haddock to bats. The winning film will be shown during the Festival alongside award-winning shorts from the Future Shorts Festival including the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at 2012 Sundance Film Festival ‘Fishing without nets’.

Designers from all over the country have once again been invited to host a stall at this year’s Spring Market on the Library’s piazza, selling products inspired by the Library’s collections and nurtured to market by its Business & IP Centre. The list of designers can be viewed here, and to watch a video of last year’s market on the piazza see here

Spring Festival market
Spring Festival Market, 2012

For more information about attending the festival and for a listing of events, you can visit The British Library website

February 06, 2013

Happy Place: Will Cotton Takes us to Candy Land

WillCotton_taffyforestWill Cotton, TAFFY FOREST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x80"

A few weeks ago we looked at Wayne Thiebaud who often uses food, particularly desserts, to express the nostalgia he feels for his past, and he presents it to us from an unusual and intriguing perspective in his paintings. Now we're exploring Will Cotton who also works with sweets - he builds maquettes of the candies and cakes to create landscapes in his studio which he then paints hyper-real pictures of - as his preferred means to provoke discussion. But the similarities end there, according to Cotton (and probably anyone else who is familiar with both painters): "Thiebaud's cake paintings are in the tradition of still life painting, mine are about landscape." 

However, like Thiebaud's dessert works, his paintings are extremely appealing - who doesn't like the look, the taste, or at least the childhood association with sweets? - yet you sense immediately that there's far more happening on that canvas than simple representation. 

I'd love to go on, but I've been reading about Cotton for three days now and can't quite sum him up in a neat little package after attempting to digest his interviews which each take him at completely different angles. So if you're curious to know more, have a look here, here and here. And do it while eating a giant ice cream sundae with a disgusting amount of whipped cream and a cherry on top. 


 Will Cotton, PASTORAL, 2009. Oil on linen, 60" x 72"

WillCotton_CrownWill Cotton, CROWN, 2012. Oil on linen, 80" x 68"

I never imagined I'd be talking about Katy Perry on The Swelle Life, but the result of her collaboration with Will Cotton  is too good not to get into. If  his paintings elicit an intense longing for a real-life Candy Land where you can wander around and have a nibble off a gingerbread house or a drink from a chocolate stream, then these videos from Perry's album Teenage Dream (2010) - Cotton painted the cover art for the CD and consulted on and built some of the video sets  himself - are the closest you'll get to the real thing. 

Before the video for the California Gurls single (which features Snoop Dogg wearing a suit covered in tiny pastel-coloured cupcakes) here's a look at how the packaging for the Teenage Dream CD was produced. It comes with a cotton candy scent and I love that the burly printing press operators were determined to find a way to get that sweet candy smell into the CD liner. 



When the nut house inevitably calls to confirm my reservation, I hope it's this one:

WillCotton_nuthouse Will Cotton, NUT HOUSE, 2007. Oil on linen, 36" x 40"


 Will Cotton, ALPINE RUIN, 2008. Oil on linen, 60" x 84"


 Will Cotton, CROQUEMBOUCHE, 2010. Oil on linen, 54" x 39"


Will Cotton's sculpture, clockwise from left: CAKE TOWER, 2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 48" x 16" x 16"; AGAINST NATURE, 2012, plaster, wood and pigment, 74" x 48" x 75"; SWEET, 2009-2010, polystyrene, acrylic polymer, pigment, gypsum, 46" x 38" x 38"
  WillCotton_custardcascadeWill Cotton, CUSTARD CASCADE, 2001. Oil on linen, 108" x 144"


Will Cotton, CHALET, 2003. Oil on linen, 70" x 80"


 Will Cotton, DEVIL'S FUDGE FALLS, 1999. Oil on linen, 96" x 144"


Will Cotton, FOREST, 2003. Oil on linen, 60" x 70"


Will Cotton, GHOST, 2007. Oil on linen, 72" x48"


Will Cotton, ICE CREAM CAVERN, 2003, Oil on linen, 70" x 80"


Will Cotton, SPUMONI RIVER, 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 80"


 Will Cotton, PEPPERMINT HIDEAWAY, 2001. Oil on linen, 68" x 80"


 Will Cotton, MONUMENT, 2009. Oil on linen, 72" x 84"


 Will Cotton, SWEPT AWAY, 2000. Oil on linen, 68 x 80 inches


Will Cotton, "UNTITLED" 2003. Oil on linen, 80" x 120"

Big thanks to Julia!

January 30, 2013

'Shoe as Art' Series: Jan Jansen

Jan-Jansen-Orchid1I've begun to make my way through this mostly hidden world of shoes that defy the conventional notion of what a shoe is, and I'm taking you along with me on this new 'Shoe is Art' series. We've already seen the make-you-smile designs from Japanese shoemaker Tetsuya Uenobe - who can resist a stuffed leather bear hugging your ankle as you walk? - and we're going to look at other shoe artisans whose footwear creations are so wonderfully unorthodox that they essentially turn your foot into a walking exhibition. They range from the unique-but-not-a-massive-stretch-from-what-we're-used-to-seeing-these-days designs, to some that are just so out there they stop you in your tracks and cause your face to contort just a bit. (That happened to me today when I saw shoes made of dead animals. I guess when we wear leather we're doing the same, but this pair went well beyond the socially acceptable use of animals in footwear - would you be willing to walk on an actual hoof?) Whether you would wear these mind-bending designs or not doesn't matter; but if you're open to the concept, you can catch an intriguing statement from the designer/artist. And if you do wear them, you get to deliver that statement to the world.

Today we're looking at Dutch shoemaker and designer Jan Jansen whose work I was introduced to by Tetsuya when he mentioned Jansen as an influence on his own designs. Not suprising, considering 'the master of shoe design' is one of the most revered figures in the world of shoes, having created some of the most iconic and innovative styles to date. Jansen has been designing unconventional - though still largely wearable - shoes since the 1960s, the styles of which are still as relevant and current as ever, owing to his obliviousness to outside inflences: "Im not a trendsetter. I'm years ahead of the trendsetters." Jansen is probably the most prolific shoemaker when it comes to rethinking the design of the shoe; he is constantly developing new constructions, though he will use the the same ones for years and create variations of some. 

Jansen has received numerous awards for his work, including the Kho Liang Ie Prize (1985), the Grand Seigneur (1996), The BKVB Oeuvre Prize (2002) and the Max Heijmans Ring (2006). Many of his works are displayed in museums and galleries in Europe, and still Jansen prefers to refer to himself as a craftsmen, rather than 'artist' which has been attributed to him by peers and fans. In 2007, Christie's auctioned the collection 'Jan Jansen, In His Shoes' - everything sold and all of the estimated selling prices were realised. And significantly, many of the lots were a single shoe. 

With the exception of those gorgeous Orchid shoes above which are a current design on the market, this is a retrospective view of selected styles from the past five decades.


'Interchangeable 2', 1967. Metal frame mule with removeable patterned sock

'Stir my Blue Blood', 1991

Jan-jansen-serpents-kiss-1'Serpent's Kiss', 1994,  is constructed of a python upper that looks as if it could bite, mounted on a platform and heel which Jansen has reinvented in wavy, ribbon-like stainless steel.

For Snoecks', 2000. Suede, goat leather, patent goat leather, vulcanised sole. 



Velazquez boots, 1979. These quilted satin platforms were made in collaboration with Fong-Leng to be worn with her red evening cloak, 'Velazquez'.

'Build Me Up', 1972. Extreme platform slippers!
Metallic green heels with silver piping and exaggerated back, 1996; the rattan sandal in nubuck, 1973.

One variation of Jansen's iconic sandals with rattan frame, 1975. The original prototype in ochre was copied by Prada in 2006 without credit to Jansen, right down to the colour. 


'High Tea', from Meubelcouture, meaning furniture couture. You're right, you can't wear it. It's not a shoe but a chaise longue, the structure of which Jansen based on his famous rattan frame sandal. If you tilt your head you can see that the seat features a face-to-face design in the leather. 

And another art work of Jansen's based on his shoe design is 'Cindy's Dance at Midnight', part of the permanent collection of the National Glass Museum in Leerdam, Netherlands. Using glass to translate his style from the traditional materials, the extreme yet elegant curves of this 'shoe' show off and mix the spectrum of the pinks and greens beautifully. (It reminds me of Cinderella, when the one wicked stepsister's attempted to scrunch her huge foot into the dainty glass slipper.)
What's better than watching and hearing the man himself? This video profile below is just wonderful, taking us into Jansen's Amsterdam shop and studio to see and hear firsthand how he approaches the process of making his shoes: "We don't have a budget for the amount of leather we can buy or what the collection may cost. We just go by what we think is nice and beautiful." This approach is extremely unusual these days, but then Jansen has remained independent, passionate as ever, and answers only to himself. And his wife Tonny who double as as his muse, style tester and colour advisor. Jansen also shows us how a hand made shoe is constructed, and watch for the table in the window of his shop which stands on women's legs outfitted in his shoes, of course. Also part of his Meublecouture collection, titled Hommage to Rubens. 

January 15, 2013

The Delicious World of Wayne Thiebaud

Cakes. Wayne Thiebaud, 1963.

I can't believe Wayne Thiebaud hasn't featured on The Swelle Life before now. I remember seeing the American painter's work - he shuns the title of artist, looking down on "art" as "an abstract term that's still developing" - in art class in high school, it was one of his iconic dessert paintings and my eyes lingered on it for half a second before I turned the page in my survey text book. I didn't get it, I was too wrapped up in the fascinating, salacious and just plain weird lives and works of the Surrealists. At a time where adolescence is transitioning awkwardly into adulthood, the perpetual child-like curiosity and dreamstate exploration of the Surrealists just fit the teenage brain so well. 

We're looking at Wayne Thiebaud now because I became reacquainted with his cakes the other day, playing Go Fish with my daughter, of all things. We were using a deck of Modern Art cards I bought her that are made for the game  - a great way for children to learn the names of Modern artists and their works, and it comes in a set for Contemporary as well - and when it was her turn she asked me if I had any Wayne Thiebauds. A bell rung and I said Go Fish, and then later when I picked one up myself I looked at it with fresh eyes and realised I'd wasted so much time not appreciating what he did in 1960s, and what he is still doing. Yes, he is still with us at 92 years of age and incredibly, he still paints and does it as well as he ever did. In 2010 he created the google 12th birthday logo; it was of course, a birthday cake:


Like a Cezanne bowl of fruit, there's much more happening in Thiebaud's still lifes beyond his simple subject, whether it be a sundae, lipsticks, or a toilet. My initial response is noticing the presence of the subject; these are dramatic little pastries with their heavy, punctuating shadows that could not be reproduced in reality, and colours in acid hues that really stick. What I love is how each individual object, when conveyed as part of a group, has its own set of qualities and occupies its own space apart from what surrounds it. (This is the point where my dad is reading this, leans forward, squints and asks "Really?") What's been noted about Thiebaud's earliest work is its obvious 'pop' qualities derived from its focus on objects of mass culture, yet they predate Pop Art, suggesting that he may have influenced the movement. I'll take Thiebaud over Warhol any day. I can feel Thiebaud. 

For more about Wayne Thiebaud and to further understand (and fall in love with ) his work, watch the Smithsonian's video 


Wayne Thiebaud with one of his wonderful streetscapes. Like his still lifes, they also prompt us to look beneath the surface. 


















December 03, 2012

LM Series: "Does Size Matter? Growth and Sustainability in Contemporary Art"

This is the fourth installment of the LM Series, documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London.

The starting point of Le Méridien at Frieze was an intriguing panel discussion amongst influential art world leaders, part of the Outset Le Méridien Talk Series which took place in the ballroom at Le Méridien Piccadilly. The question of the day was articulated by Outset co-founder Candida Gertler who asked, "Does size matter? Is it right to keep going? And how do we resist the next big step? Will we be able to sustain it or will we self-destruct in a spiral of ambition? And so the debate began. Le Méridien's Global Cultural Curator Jérôme Sans moderated Frieze co-founder Amanda Sharp, Tate Modern's Curator of International Art, Mark Godfrey, Serpentine director Julia Peyton-Jones and Gagosian managing director of Europe Gary Waterston. In response, each panelist drew upon their own unique circumstances they face in moving their respective gallery or event forward, sometimes at odds with another's view, illustrating how subjective and contextual the topic of whether size matters really is. And that's what made it fascinating. The video above shows highlights from the discussion. (And beyond the compelling topic the film is very well done so I definitely recommend taking a look!)

I wanted to add, that at the dinner that evening at Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill (a five-course masterpiece by chef Michael Dutnall with inventive cocktail matchings by master mixologist Boris Ivan - and yes, I kept up, it would be a sin not to), I had the pleasure of sitting across from Jérôme Sans. We had a chat about the topic of the day, and I was so delighted to see right there in front of me how fired up (still) M. Sans felt about the very point of art becoming lost in the quest for growth simply for the sake of it, that someone as accomplished in the art world as he, had not lost sight of what really matters. Art is meant to move people in some way, and if it succeeds, why send it out the door a minute later to make room for something else? And why are we pushing for so much art to be produced? Which made me gush with admiration, even moreso, for what Le Méridien is doing for art, not as a commodity but as an enrichment of culture and ultimately, the individual. It's not all about what happens at Sotheby's.

Just one of the great views within Le Méridien Piccadilly Terrace Bar and Grill

November 27, 2012

Make Mine Multi-Faceted


I know what I want for Christmas. Forget diamonds, I'll take my facets in the form of water-based blue resin, please. (I wasn't going to get diamonds anyway but it's still a compliment.) I've been looking for decor pieces that are different from anything I have. My living room is in need of a minor transformation, and I like to buy things that aren't just space fillers but unique and beautiful and the kind of piece I won't be looking at in a year saying 'I am glad I am no longer the person who thought this was a good idea.' But these things of enduring significance tend not to come cheap, so it's a slow process building that collection. (If bookmarked web pages and blogs count as a collection, I'm already there!)

These Faceture vases, which I think are better without flowers - the way the light catches the facets is beautiful enough - are made by Phil Cuttance, a New Zealander who manipulates each object's form with a turn of the hand before casting, making every piece genuinely unique (you can see how he does this in the video above). Phil says:

“I like the idea of people knowing where products come from, and what goes into making them. I think a lot of products are now seen as ‘throw – away’ as they are made on a mass scale, in places far away from where they end up, and out of sight. There was time when people commissioned a local maker or craftsman to make an object, which gave it an inherent value. I like that model.”

Yes, us too! The vessels and the rest of his Faceture series, which includes lamps and sidetables, are sold at Australia-based shop, my new obsession. The lamp is just awesome, but I like the slender design of the vessels so much that, for me, the the sidetable's chunky approach can't compare. (It's still cool though!)

This small vase is a limited edition colour called Summer Mint. That totally has my name on it.


The vases in two sizes, lamp and side table. I want to touch them for a long time.

November 13, 2012

LM Series: Duro Olowu's Umbrellas for Outset

This is the second installment of the LM Series, documenting the discovery of new and wonderful, world class, art and food during 'Le Méridien at Frieze' at which I was a guest in October, hosted by Le Méridien Piccadilly in London. Watch for the Duro Olowu for Outset umbrella giveaway tomorrow!

Duro Olowu introduces his umbrella installation for OFT at Frieze Art Fair, with Candida Gertler, co-founder of Outset

It was a thrilling surprise to see Duro Olowu's name on the itinerary for my three art-packed days in London with Le Méridien at Frieze. In this case, the beloved fashion designer was seen as more of an artist due to his collaboration with Outset, a philanthropic organisaton dedicated to supporting new art. With the aim of bringing attention to and raising funds for the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund to Benefit the Tate Collection (OFT), this special commission was introduced as an installation on the special preview day at Frieze to celebrate the 10th anniversary of OFT this autumn. It was enthusiastically received and that was as much due to the affable charm of the designer as it was the beautiful umbrellas. (I had heard Duro was genuinely lovely and it's true!)

Two exclusive, limited edition designs in Duro's signature fabrics - one in vibrant multi-colour (edition of 500) and the other a bold black and white graphic (edition of 1000) - are available to buy in the shops at Tate Britain and Tate Modern for £85 and £65, respectively (not online at this time). And I have one in the multi-colour to give away to a Swelle reader - watch for details tomorrow, 14 November. Thanks to the generosity of Le Méridien, I have the black and white version for myself and I absolutely love it, it's a very high quality umbrella (of course!) and the fabric is just gorgeous, it makes rainy days instantly cheery. (And it gets lots of compliments whenever I go out with it.)

Duro's Limited Edition umbrellas displayed at Frieze in a large tree installation

I became besotted with Duro's original and vibrant clothes - those magnificent textures! - when I first laid eyes on them a few years ago. An irresistible blend of his Jamaican-Nigerian heritage and chic cuts, how can you not fall in love:


Duro Olowu AW12

Duro Olowu SS13

I was lucky enough to speak with Duro for a few minutes; he was full of smiles and happy to talk about what he does, and he's just so pure and genuine about it it's easy to see how his clothes have their specialness. There's no doubt they are all Duro. He told me that when he designs it's very spontaneous, it comes to him and he's off. 

More formally,  Duro explains his creative process behind the final umbrella designs in his artist statement:

"My original design for Outset's 10 year anniversary was inspired by the range and breadth of artists and projects that Outset has supported since its inception. Once I fully digested this diversity of media, geography and aesthetic points of view, my aim was to represent this broad spectrum with abstract shapes and patterns. The design evokes in a contemporary way the decorated umbrella which has for centuries been a fixture in parades, coronations and other celebratory occasions around the world."

Duro's designs elicit an excitement, a glorious energy that is right in line with what one would be feeling at a celebration. In that sense, Frieze, with its endless aisles of world class art and colourful characters roaming the floor and taking it all in, was an especially fitting event for the launch.

1-Duro_notebookThe leftover umbrella fabric was used to make vibrant notebooks , available at Tate shops for £12

We loved Duro's shoes! (And I forgot to ask who did them)

Duro and Candida (wearing a Duro Olowu jacket) with Jérôme Sans, Cultural Curator for Le Méridien

Photos #1, 5 and 6: Dave Watts Photography ©


PORTER Magazine issue 5 now available at NET-A-PORTER.COM

Cupcake Monday!

Interiors & Exteriors

Floral Friday

London Fashion Week

Fashion Illustrator Series

Artist Series

Paris & Cities

Painted Houses Project

Colour Colour 



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