Ok, so this is now last month's news, but the collection is still available throughout spring, and I do happen to be a fan of Orla Kiely so I wanted READ MORE...
LONDON HAT WEEK KICKS OFF
I love hats. Proper millinery ones. I don't wear them so much anymore, but they're fun and they break up the visual monotony on the streets. Britain loves hats, too, which anyone READ MORE...
MAISON BLUE HILLS: AT HOME IN NATURE
If I didn't know better, I'd swear this house, a 2300 square foot family home called Maison Blue Hills, could be found somewhere in the Norwegian woods, based on the interior alone READ MORE...
FAVOURITE AW14 COATS FROM NY AND LONDON
There were so many great coats showing in New York and London (and now in Milan), so I decided to focus on favourites from the first two fashion weeks. Most of us can't afford to shop the READ MORE...
ARCHITECT-DESIGNED DOLLHOUSES HELP KIDS
I love an unconventional dollhouse; for some reason miniature versions of every day things have universal appeal, and even better when it goes beyond the scaled replica and offers a unique perspective READ MORE...
FASHION FILM: ERDEM SS14
Erdem has always been a favourite of mine for his ethereal aesthetic and seasonal (or rather season-less) reinterpretations of florals. Trevor Undi has made a film that presents an enchanted look READ MORE...
I live a five-minute walk from the sea, and our stretch of beach is known as one of the UK's best surfing spots, but despite the proximity I think it'll always be a spectator sport for me. I just know I'd wind up in a full body cramp while trying to get up on the board and have to ride to shore stuck in a hunched rigor mortis-like position, or finally get up and wipe out spectacularly, Greg Brady-style. (Remember that Brady Bunch episode where they all go to Hawaii and Greg enters a surfing competition and falls off and hits his head on a rock thanks to the 'tabu'? No, he didn't almost die because he was an inexperienced surfer catching some of the craziest waves on the planet, it was because of the 'cursed' tiki guy he was wearing as a necklace! And who holds a surfing competition at a part of the beach that has rocks anyway?)
I think my spectating might not even be about watching the surfers on my doorstep; it's more about appreciating from afar the particularly beautiful boards from Brooklyn-based surf and skate board makers, Along. Handmade in sustainable materials, their limited edition designs reflect old school techniques while delivering a contemporary aesthetic through those clean, gorgeous woods. And to keep the flow of nature-inspired boards moving, they collaborate with other like-minded talents to create special collections, such as the one with Barcelona-based illustrator Chidy Wayne which has just recently launched. ALONG’s founder and director David Lopez sat with the artist in front of an Alaia surfboard while listening to 60s soul music and speaking about the feeling of riding the pools at Chelsea Piers, or a wave in Nicaragua. Out of this came Beastie Boards (love the NYC tie-in there), "five beautiful acrylic on wood beasts represented with the wildness but precision a rider needs to face both concrete or real waves."
And these guys are as good at image making as they are crafting boards - have a browse of their daydreamy website and watch the video for the Along NYC x Chidy Wayne boards, further down. Most of the images are in black and white, yet all you see and feel is sunshine.
These are painted decks of the Beastie Boards, and one for the waves:
They're just so cool, I'd say they'd make great art pieces for the home. But these awesome boards would be wasted if they didn't see the outdoor action they were made for.
Solifestyle transformed classic Chucks into an edgy pair of kicks by adding screw-back studs bought online. The white laces were later changed up for black for a more streamlined look that lets the studs stand out.
I had a pair of Chuck Taylor hi-tops in high school, as did pretty much every one else. I think they started out as bright turquoise and I bleached them with no particular result in mind; I did it just because me and my friends were bleaching anything and everything at the time, enduring the noxious fumes for the sake of making things different. They came out a really pretty, washed-out aqua, and instead of wrecking my new shoes which was the outcome I feared, I now had a totally unique pair of sneakers that I loved and couldn't wait to wear.
If you already have a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors, you may want to take inspiration from the ways others have customised their own. Stud embellishments seem to be a particularly popular approach at the moment, as seen above (you can also buy them that way if you're not into the DIY thing or you're short on free time), and simply replacing the laces with flouro colours, wide ribbons or patterned designs can give your old favourites a fresh look in seconds. Other techniques I've seen include ombre effects if you're especially skilled with dyes; paint spatters - go all Jackson Pollock on that canvas or use a lighter hand for a more subtle effect; drawing, embellishing or stamping the tongue with a bold pattern - try the inside and fold the tongue down to reveal the detail (teenagers can get away with anything); or you can go rogue and take scissors to the shoe and give it a brand new style. I saw one pair with the top part over the toes removed to create an open-toe shoe; I can't in good conscience recommend that one, it just looked weird.
Last year, an online service was launched to create bespoke Converse Chuck Taylors which allows you to customise the colours of each element of the shoe. However, they only ship within the US. But that's ok, you can always be more creative when you're left to your own devices!
Here are more DIY ideas to get your imagination running:
If you're a talented knitter like Pretty Sneaky, you can create all kinds of textural designs
Girl on a Board shows us how to get the ombre effect, which when done well is really pretty, and if you're handy with an embroidery needle you can achieve something like this:
Or you can take the easy route like I did and throw them in the washing machine with some bleach!
Starting today, Somerset House, in partnership with the Isabella Blow Foundation and Central Saint Martins, presents Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, a major fashion exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and wardrobe of the late British patron of fashion and art. Tickets can be purchased from the Somerset House website.
For more about the exhibiton and Isabella Blow's fascinating life in fashion, visit Not Just a Label and Daphne Guiness' Guide to the exhibition on Vogue.co.uk. (Daphne owns her late friend Isabella Blow's entire fashion collection, purchased after her death to stop it from being sold at auction and dispersed.)
If you've ever wondered why an Hermès handbag, or any of their other goods, come with such a lofty price tag, Festival des Métiers will illustrate the reasons. The exhibition will showcase 10 different Hermès crafts at London’s Saatchi Gallery, 22 May – 28
May 2013. Working just as they would in the Hermès workshops in France, the
craftspeople will be in situ at the exhibition for seven days making a wide
selection of Hermès objects by hand.
public exhibition provides a fascinating insight into the traditions and values
of Hermès in the crafting of fine objects; a presentation that encourages
interaction by giving visitors the opportunity to meet and exchange with the
Hermès’ artisans and experience first-hand their unique savoir-faire.
Métiers unlocks the poetic and unique crafts that are the essence of the house
of Hermès, as their craftspeople reveal the mastery of their métiers. Visitors
will see the famous Hermès silk scarf printed before their eyes and to rhythmic
sounds of the artisans’ tools, handbags, saddles, fine-jewellery and other
iconic objects from Hermès will be brought to life during the course of the
Métiers arrives in London from China where it has been exhibited in Beijing and
Shenyang, and after London it will travel to Dusseldorf. The exhibition is
presented in a contemporary setting designed by acclaimed designer Paola
Admission is free and open to the public from 22 May – 28 May
2013 at the Saatchi Gallery: Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, Chelsea,
London SW3 4RY. Hermès is an Education Patron of the Saatchi Gallery.
A bit of history: Hermès was founded by Thierry Hermès in Paris in 1837,
as a house of master harness-making and later saddle-making. Six generations of
enterprising artisans have explored new markets and new skills. Now
international in scope Hermès has continued to grow while remaining a family
company, with a uniquely creative spirit that blends precision manufacturing
with traditional craftsmanship. At the end of 2012 Hermès had 10 118 employees’
worldwide and 346 exclusive stores, and is active in 16 métiers.
Raf Simons takesDior back to the garden for Haute Couture SS 2013
With Haute Couture, we get to see florals rise up from the 2-D of print and pattern and 'pop' as embroidered and appliquéd blossoms so delicate you need to whisper, or so lush you want to run around in them. Flowers figured heavily at Dior (my favourite collection of the 22 houses, I think, who showed) and Chanel (of course they did, you don't waste the hands of Lemarié) while they texturised a selection of looks at Giambattista Valli and Valentino. The haute couture flower is so exquisite in its craftsmanship that it transcends trend and exists as simply a thing of beauty to admire, forever.
Giambattista Valli appliquéd swelled-bellied and cinched-waist dresses, and accessorised with bronzed bouquets
Valentino Haute Couture SS 2013
Since we're talking about the specialness of haute couture, I can't not mention Valentino without also drawing attention to the dresses detailed in piping. This kind of handwork has featured in many Valentino collections when the man himself was at the helm, and now Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli have taken the technique to extraordinary lengths. According to Tim Blanks as per the notes received at the show, the tulle cage-like cape below - over a dress of layers of organza embroidered with birds and butterflies - is scrolled with crepe piping that took 500 hours of hand-rolling to produce. And that was just one of several piped creations that took the catwalk. Blanks added that one roller apparently developed carpel-tunnel syndrome during the production of the collection. That's not suprising, but what is, is the fact that it was only one person! I'd say it was well worth it, but then it's not my gnarled hand we're talking about, is it?
You can faintly see the embroidered birds and butterflies peaking out from the 500-hours-of-handpiping 'cage' cape
The hand-piping in Valentino red. It's like fancy iron work but in crepe.
Chanel Haute Couture SS13
Chanel is generous with giving us glimpses into how their haute couture is made. Below we see the skilled hands at work at Lemarié, Lesage and Atelier Haute Couture Chanel as they create the collection 'Le Savoir Faire' for the spring-summer season. It's a three-minute video, but I think I could easily watch three hours of tulle ribbon being pulled through metallic threads:
I'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
'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.
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.
The Great Gatsby's release in May is going to unleash a frenzy for 1920s fashion, much like The Artist, Downton Abbey, Boardwalk Empire, and the 1974 film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, starring Mia Farrow, have. (It's hard to believe the 1974 film influenced fashion trends if this is any indication of taste at the time.) The lust for dropped waists, chiffon overlays and delicate beading really is guaranteed to explode this spring: the costumes for the film are a dream collaboration between Miuccia Prada, renowned film and stage costume designer Catherine Martin, and Baz Luhrman who directed the film. (Martin and Luhrman have been married since 1997, first meeting at college in their native Australia, and the couple have worked together ever since. I'll bet their dinner conversation is awesome.)
Fashionistas are going nuts now that Prada have released Miuccia's sketches of designs from the film, which are worn by Carey Mulligan who stars as Daisy Buchanan. Here are glimpses of four out of the 40 cocktail and evening dresses created, all of which are adapted from past Prada and Miu Miu collections:
I'm very curious to see how the orange fishscale dress translates in the flesh!
Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in Baz Luhrman's film adaption of The Great Gatsby
Carey's character poster. Never mind the dress - my eyes are all over the art deco backdrop!
Let's go back to Mia Farrow as Buchanan, who was also in great company having been dressed by the great costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge, whose prolific and honoured career in film, television and stage spanned six decades. Aldredge won an Oscar and British Academy Award for her work in The Great Gatsby, and her designs from the film were adapted for a clothing line at Bloomingdales.
Yes, that is Sam Waterston on the left behind Mia.
More fun facts about The Great Gatsby, 1974 (the third filmed version of the novel):
The rights to the novel were purchased in 1971 by Robert Evans so that his wife Ali MacGraw could play Daisy. She blew that when she left him for Steve McQueen, who was originally considered for the role of Gatsby. Not surprising that he didn't get it.
Mia Farrow was pregnant during shooting and so wore loose, flowing dresses and was shot in tight close-ups to conceal her growing belly.
Truman Capote was the film's original screenwriter but was replaced by Francis Ford Coppola who later claimed the director, Jack Clayton, didn't pay much attention to it: "The film I wrote did not get made."
Critics weren't moved to "stand up and cheer": Vincent Canby made this statement in his review of the film in The New York Times : "The sets and costumes and most of the performances are exceptionally good, but the movie itself is as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool." Owwwch. And gross.
I can't not mention Midnight in Paris, the Woody Allen film in which a nostalgic screenwriter (Owen Wilson) inexplicably finds himself inserted into 1920s Paris, first at a party with The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzergerald and his wife Zelda. The costumes, by Sonia Grande, are scrumptious. It's about as close to time travel to one of the most exciting eras in art, literature, fashion, music and philosophy in Paris as we can get. (They even go briefly back from then to La Belle Epoque!)
What would it be like to live in a house that follows the sun throughout the day? And folds into different configurations to take on up to eight shapes? (And here I thought I was doing well to have deep window sills for my plants.) Actually, no one knows what it's like to live in that house, the Dynamic D*Haus is still in the concept stage. According to Dezeen, The D*Haus Company originally planned this home with Lapland residents in mind, to deal with extreme temperatures - hot in summer, freezing in winter. (Sounds just like Ontario.)
See Dezeen for more views of this house with rooms that would, theoretically, fold out on rails so that interior partitions become exterior walls during warmer seasons. The UK-based designers are still trying to figure out how it will work in reality (that's the tough part).
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 theminimalist.com.au, 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.
I've just come back from a whirlwind three days in London as a blogger guest of 'Le Meridien at Frieze', an art-inspired event of discovery and celebration centred around Frieze Art Fair and the work of the Outset Frieze Art Fund to benefit the Tate collection (OFT). I just have to come out and say it: I love Le Meridien. What they've done for us lucky bloggers at Piccadilly isn't exclusive to us, but rather an opportunity for first-hand insight into what the Starwood chain of luxury hotels offers everyone who stays with them: world class art through partnerships with local galleries (in London we are especially spoiled), and an extraordinary approach to food and comfort, the details of which are so artfully crafted by their handpicked LM100 members, whose muses range from perfume to the coffee bean. Le Meridien's brand of luxury is not about empty indulgence, but rather it's borne of a genuine love of creating and sharing unique and enriching experiences that can transform a stop for the night into an education. A really fun and memorable one.
Let me undercore this thought: because on a daily basis we're bombarded with messages using a "this is so hot right now, people will be into this so let's run with it" way of attracting business, it's a relief to know that there is something out there for those of us wanting more than what the hipster monkeys think we want. That means a lot to me.
I have so much to show and tell from those three incredible days including meeting Duro Olowu who I adore as a designer and found to be the loveliest man (he's getting a post all to himself!), and convince you as to why I'm saying what I'm saying that I think it warrants a series, and this way I get to live it all again! So beginning Monday we'll look at the first installment of the LM Series, and I can tell you it's about afternoon tea, Le Meridien style. I guarantee you'll be surprised!
Food? Homewares? Textiles, fashion, and art? Yes please! If you're in the north east of England it will be well worth a visit to Made in Newcastle's Summer Market where you can indulge in up to 35 lively stalls offering a diverse range of handmade and locally designed products. What to do with the kids? Bring them along without regretting it! A kids' craft corner will have them getting creative with the folks of MiN to make something to take home with them, and a children’s book author will be stopping by to do some readings from her wonderful books. Win-win!
To give you an idea of the gorgeous things you’ll find, here's a sneak preview of the crafts people who will be selling at the event:
Stunning hand woven textiles from a Northumberland-based textile design graduate.
Funds generated from this market will go towards future MiN events to aid their long-term aspiration of having a permanent retail/gallery space, so come along for a tea or coffee and support local creative talent and business!
11th August, from 10am - 4pm in Trinity Centre, Gosforth High Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Visit Made in Newcastle's website and their blog to see more.
A few weeks ago we admired the painterly cakes of Nevie Pie Cakes, and I had saved her wedding designs for a separate post, they were just so charming and sweet, in an understated way. I thought I'd seen it all when it comes to types of wedding cakes, but this is the first I've seen of the cakemaker creating a nostalgic feel by drawing upon the illustration style of children's books of the mid-1900s. My mother-in-law kept every book from my husband's childhood, which are all in near-perfect condition, despite being read often (this was not the way things were in our house, covers looked chewed even after we had to give away our dog), and we now read them every summer with our daughter when we visit. I especially love the Golden books. When I look at the cake above it reminds me of them. I don't think I could eat this cake, it would be like devouring childhood memories!
Nevie-Pie Cakes' display at Selfridges - could you walk by without picking up something?
A vintage blue love-bird budgie wedding cake with 'lace' appliques and handpainted flowers
The reception was hosted by Susie Bubble, seen studying one of the textural sorbet outfits
Last autumn I saw some of Fred Butler's SS12 presentation at London Fashion Week. I had to be quick despite this being the collection I was looking most forward to, because my evening train back to Newcastle was leaving across town in just over an hour. To walk into the Portico Rooms at Somerset House, see this thing of pure joy, and have to rush through it was just cruel. I took photos of the three outfits being modelled, after stopping to take in each one in - you can't not smile when doing this! - then ran off just as more models appeared in high-inducing oufits, but I was already late and I left with a whimper (and I mean literally, people looked at me). So I tried to take a shortcut to Kings Cross which wound up being a longer way, and missed my train by 20 seconds. Swearing and some self-flagellation followed. When I returned home I was so excited about the photos and posted a teaser for the presentation, then my hard drive crashed a few days later, obviously a punishment for not getting onto the main post sooner. After five days in the IT hospital and being told to write a eulogy for my laptop, our local guy saved it and the hard drive was recovered, but there was no guarantee that everything would be there. This drawn-out tale leads me to today, when I finally, and purely by chance, found my lost Fred Butler and Craig Lawrence photos which I thought were gone forever, my record of the best of what I saw for spring at LFW.
And technically it's still summer, eh? Not that it matters, Fred's clothes and accessories aren't bound by seasonal restraints; colour is celebrated simply because it's a new day and one must get dressed in something, so why not make it happy? Her palette takes shape though unusual forms that must be the result of manipulation, playing around with soft textiles and rigid materials like perspex, and whatever she can sculpt to create things that are joyful, sunny, and different, but not simply for the sake of it. Her style is tightly honed and elegant in its own way. I took a pass on the last LFW as it wasn't a good time to be away from my family, and when I saw what I missed, a salon showing of her AW12 collection, it just stung. If you love pastel harmonies, you will melt like blue bubblegum ice cream on a summer day (that is, unless you're in England!!)
This is the video for Fred Butler SS12 followed by the photos, and it's well worth clearing an hour to watch her videos on Vimeo, they are one of my few go-tos for daydreaming and you can see why:
Fred has a knack for making things that leave you desperate to run your fingers over them. But I didn't touch the model's feet or forearms.
She must not have seen what she was wearing, otherwise she'd be smiling.
In terms of fashion, the races tend to conjure images of large hats competing for attention, silk tea dresses, and for some, a pivotal scene from Pretty Woman. But a group of fashion students from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design saw beyond this, and, inspired by a day at the races, have created garments for a one-off exhibition in East London titled 'A Day at the Races'.
The Annexe, part of the renowned Brick Lane Gallery, will host the unique designs from the 13 – 18 June 2012, offering the public the opportunity to see the students’ modern and vibrant take on attire for a day at the races, at this six-day, free-to-view exhibition. Featuring twenty-three designs created by fashion design students specialising in womenswear, the exhibition showcases a range of handmade garments from a futuristic take on a top hat and tails, to traditional tweed, couture dresses, hand-stitched quilting and turf-inspired shoes.
The students on the course - alumni include Stella McCartney, Christopher Kane and Hussein Chalayan - were answering a cut-and-make brief set by Racing for Change, an initiative set up to broaden the appeal of horseracing.
Willie Walters, Course Director of BA (Hons) Fashion at Central Saint Martins describes how the project's designs were developed: “Starting with an exhilarating outing to Newbury Racecourse, students began working on themes which they drew from their experience of the day. They researched equestrian dress, attended a lecture from fashion historian Marie McLoughlin on the development of the riding habit and finally made their decisions on their own particular avenue of research to follow in order to create their fashion silhouette. The results can now be seen at this exhibition.”
I unfortunately am not able to attend, but I do have a few favourites from the exhibition lookbook. Here's a preview, along with the designer's story behind the outfit:
RICHARD MALONE. This design was inspired by Richard’s trip to Newbury Racecourse, when he observed some children who were also at the raceday. They were fully immersed in the day’s activities, and were observed spinning in every direction as they tried to take in all of the excitement. The dress is made of hand-painted panels, each of which represents a scene from the races through a child’s perspective. It has been carefully tailored to flare during movement, based on the children’s original spinning movement.
DAISY COLLINGRIDGE. The inspiration for this garment came from photographs taken at some local riding stables, when Daisy got an insight into the lives of horses and how they are looked after. The horses were all absent from their stables, but their blankets and other gear remained. The quilted numnahs, which sit beneath the saddle, is where the inspiration for this dress has come from; incorporating horse images within a hand-quilted design.
NICOLE WALUGEMBE NABISERE. A trip back to Uganda Kampala reminded Nicole of her home life, which she then compared to the classism of 18th century Britain. This resulting traditional court coat turns into a shower proof jacket – protection against Britain’s rainy weather – and also incorporated Ugandan fabrics to represent the tribes from her home country. The trousers are shaped on the jockey’s breeches.
Little Black Dresser 14”W x 46”H x10” D MDF, Maple Veneer, Aluminum
It took a second, didn't it? Yes, it's a dresser, fashioned like a little black dress and it appears to be suspended from a hanger on a short rail protruding from the wall, though it's firmly secured. LBD is one of many ingenious pieces of furniture by Straight Line Designs - a one of a kind workshop in Vancouver led by Judson Beaumont, a designer who says he is motivated to prove naysayers wrong when he's told "You cannot build that" or "No one would want that". (See, this is the role the crabbyfaces play in the world, brilliant people will come along and shut them up by pulling off something like this.)
No gimmicks: The LBD is exquisitely crafted and finished
We have to look at more of Judson's humourous and gorgeous work, but it is so tough choosing which ones. Each offers something fresh and unusual, and at first glance you've already rearranged a room around it in your mind or kicked a former beloved to the curb to make room. So here's a bunch:
Surely a queue would form to sit on Canned Bench at your next house party:
Canned Bench 60” W x 25”H x 29” D Eastern Maple, Maple Veneer, Birch Plywood, Laminate, Vinyl
Cracked Cabinet 26” W x 56.5”H x 14.5” D Eastern Maple, Maple Veneer
If you act up around Anne she will give you the business:
Anne Armoire 48” W x 6'H x 20” D Western Maple, Maple Veneer
An impressive feat of engineering:
Accordian 52.5” W x 24”H x 17” D Western Maple, Maple Veneer
Bad Table 40” W x 18”H x 20” D Western Maple, Maple Veneer, Aluminium, IKEA Carpet (hee hee!!)
Bird Home 16” W x 60”H x 16” D Mountain Pine Beetle Wood, Fiberglass Resin
...is probably still not enough. I found so many wonderful, unusual pieces when putting together my Fantasy Furniture Ideabook last month for Houzz.com (what, you don't have a throne in your house?), and I've been meaning to go back and revisit some of the more intriguing makers.
Germany's Entwurf-Direkt is behind one of my favourite pieces from the Ideabook, an awkwardly stacked set of drawers - is it a chest? a console? - with brightly coloured highlights. The creation is part of their 1000 Drawers project in which orphaned drawers (who knew?) are refurbished and designed to be attached to the wall. Each drawer is numbered and stamped and comes with a certificate. I would like to adopt one:
This is all part of a bigger project founded in 2001 by Entwurf-Direkt that would bring together a shop/event/art venue in one space. Today there are locations for shopping, exhibitions and lectures in both Hamburg and Berlin where you can also find advice on how to incorporate their unconventional furniture into your own decor. That's a good one because you'll probably need help (the answer is not to pile up your existing furniture so it fits in.)
I can't decide which I love more, the one in the header for its cheerful colour, or this for its pleasingly asymmetrical arrangment of 11 mismatched drawers and pulls, and the corrugated texture of the blue drawer: I won't strain over it, it's a moot point - at well over €2,000 I can't afford them! They're all one-offs, and I do think they're worth it. They're like mid-century modern with a sense of humour.
I love these things, let's look at more!
You can buy a single drawer! What would you do with one?
The man responsible for much of the heartbreakingly exquisite beauty of haute couture has died. Francois Lesage was head of Maison Lesage, the legendary embroidery salon in Paris where rare magic happens. He was 82.
It seems the craft was in his blood. His father, Albert, founded the family firm in 1924 when he bought the atelier of Napoleon III’s embroiderer, Michonet, who had also worked for Charles Frederick Worth. Subsequently Albert married Marie-Louise Favot, an embroidery worker at Vionnet. With that legacy how could he have followed any other path?
Luckily he fell in love with beautifying textiles with threads and beads and has helped keep this highly skilled art alive, through the work of the Maison as seen on the best of haute couture (not without help from Chanel who saved the Maison by buying it), and ensuring new talent is nurtured through his Paris school, Ecole Lesage Atelier de Broderie. What a dream vocation. (A fellow Canadian named Sarah Crowley got her dream and moved to Paris to study at Lesage a few years ago, you can read about her time there and see her own beautiful designs at Glimpse Creations.)
Below is a delight of an interview with Lesage from 1987 from Fashion Television:
Christian Lacroix's exquisiteness was greatly owed to Lesage
This past weekend I went on a girls' trip to visit a friend in Bristol (no one makes toast like you, Sophie) and it included a visit to dreamy Bath, which is a must when in town. We had gorgeous autumn weather and I really wished I had my camera, but I left it at home so I wouldn't be holding up the group or miss everything that was happening. I took lots of pictures in spring of last year which you can see hereherehere and here. (Though I do find my old photos a bit cringe-worthy so if you look, do it quickly, eh?)
While roaming the shops in Bath I popped into Rostra & Rooksmoor Galleries - I couldn't resist a turquoise-painted shop - and saw a collection of works by local ceramicist Janine Roper which immediately attracted me due to their Delftware influences. And then they really intrigued me when I noticed they weren't poured into moulds but had a papery effect in that they were obviously hand-formed. I didn't get her name (must work on that) but the woman at the gallery was really helpful and explained that the artist rolls out the porcelain into sheets, cuts and shapes it and then screenprints it. That is is so neat! She uses mostly traditional cobalt blue oxides and draws her print design from vintage 'Sunday Best' tea sets and other domestic items from her life.
I had to take one home and decided on the jug, a charming little piece that stands about 6" high. I pictured delicate flowers in it but really wanted to actually use it, as a jug. But I wasn't sure if that was a stupid idea (that happens a lot with me). Was it safe? Would I break it? I got all excited when I read the artist's statement the lovely woman gave me and saw the words "pour exquisite drinks from her range of pitchers of all different sizes." Permission! I've been displaying the jug on my aqua French side table in my living room, then last night when I was putting a tray of tea together I took it into the kitchen and filled it with milk. This was exciting to me. Is milk exquisite? No, not unless it comes from an exceptionally beautiful cow. But it made my tea ritual much nicer.
I know what I want to do in my next life. Study ceramics in Bath. That sounds pretty good to me.
You can see where the porcelain is folded, giving it a papery effect
The spout has been applied as a separate piece but it appears seamless from the exterior
It's going to take me a few more days to edit the rest of the shots I took at Fred Butler's mindblowing SS12 presentation at LFW on Sunday, but I couldn't wait to show one of my favourites - a head piece or hat, lilac-pink (one of the best colours ever) hexagonal sunglasses and fabric earrings that follow through on the sorbet softness of the voluminous scarf/top/jacket (in the full shot it's like a longer bolero style). The fact that I can't quite define it exactly is one of the reasons I love Fred Butler.
I received a gift recently, a very special pair of earrings of hand carved jet and sterling silver by artist jeweller Molly Vogel. She calls them Perfect Pair and I'm inclined to agree! There's no black like the saturated midnight hue of jet, and I love that she's finished the perfectly smooth baubles to a subtle, matte shine. They have a nicely substantial weight that still feels comfortable to wear.
Molly is a very talented and thoughtful artist, you can read our interview here and see more of her work, including her stunning flower rings which are my favourites.
You would think the costumes from one of Old Hollywood's most iconic films would be preserved with the kind of care afforded to newborns. Yet the velvety brocade and feather embellished garments from the epic Gone With the Wind were not treated as precious, they were tortured! Well, not intentionally so, but some do look a bit nasty now as a result. Compare the Technicolor emerald green and brilliant gold of Scarlett O'Hara's curtain dress as seen above on the set to the faded mess it is today:
Ack! Was it pulled from a swamp? How did it and other important pieces from film history wind up like this? It's a combination of factors. The dresses endured decades of traveling on display and had been on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They were dry-cleaned multiple times, sprayed with disinfectant - likely Sudol, similar to Lysol (that can't be good) which could have affected the rate and nature of the fading (no kidding) - and displayed in department stores. However, streaks of 'brown mustard' discolouration remain an unsightly, dijon-esque mystery.
Some pieces, such as the burgundy ball gown, have retained the depth of their colour, but Scarlett's veil is unfortunately a lost cause. Brittle, creased and too fragile to be handled, it has booked a one-way plane ticket to Miami and is learning to lawn bowl.
Associated Press was invited to observe the restoration process undertaken by the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas and gave us these photos of the costumes in their current state. It will cost $30,000 to restore five dresses which, according to the Yahoo article, are from the collection of David O. Selznick which was acquired in the 80s. The producer of Gone with the Wind died in 1965, so I'm guessing his family took possession of the collection. All of this is about getting the pieces in good shape for a 2014 exhibit to mark the film's 75th anniversary.
So how does one approach repair on garments that just can't take any more? The Ransom Center has enlisted the help of the University of Texas' textiles and apparel technology lab to analyze the fibers in the faded areas. New technology will allow the fibers to be examined without being destroyed.
Cara Vernell, an independent art conservator who specializes in Hollywood film costumes and is doing the restoration work explains, "We do not add color back. That would be me, this lone individual in the 21st century, deciding what that was going to look like 75 years ago. It's unethical. You just don't do that. We honor the history and we honor the piece."
Now I love our beach, the aptly named Longsands that spans Tynemouth to Cullercoats, and the neighbouring idyllic King Edwards Bay with the Priory Castle overlooking the North Sea from its beautiful, craggy cliff. But last weekend I really fell hard for the beach and seaside community of Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire. We were visiting our lovely friends in their new home in Yarm for the first time and they spoiled us in all kinds of ways, and one of them was taking us to their local beach to share the beauty.
Not only was the beach gorgeous and expansive with an impressive look-out pier, there were all kinds of charming little shops, restaurants and ice cream stands, and of course anything one needed to surf (no, I didn't, that would look ridiculous). It was a clear, sunny day and people from all over had come to pretend it was spring. I have never seen a queue so long for fish and chips, and in England that's saying a lot. (It was worth the wait!)
This post is for this week'sInteriors & Exteriors feature and it's long enough sticking to the theme, so I'll post the beach shots separately. Are you craving fish and chips now? I am.
In the town, just a quick uphill walk from the beach, there were some great shops. I was already lagging behind and we needed to eat lunch so I didn't go in, but I wanted some photos of the wonderful window displays of Northern Lights Interiors
As I was snapping away I saw a woman smiling from inside - you can see her below! and I smiled and waved. As I headed down the road she came out after me and asked if I'd take photos of the storefront, they'd been having trouble getting them without cars in the way and I was happy to oblige. I even had a man ham it up for me!
We passed a random rusted-out door that appeared to lead to nowhere with a keypad right in the middle. I'll bet if you pushed the right numbers it would transport you to another dimension. Prove me wrong!
This photo would have been so much cooler if I'd waited just 10 more seconds...
On display at Arts Bank were lamps and tables in vibrant patchwork by Jane Atkinson and a metal sculpture by Ray Lonsdale. Each contains a 'secret meaning' in the form of an object placed in the head. Now, if I'd read the brief beside this life-size contemplative man instead of taking a photo and reading at home, I would have looked and been able to tell you what was in his head!
Judith carries on from Act 1 of last week's Balenciaga Hears the Sound of Music - read it here.
Judith, with her vestal cherubs, says "Call me Old Fashioned but I couldn't resist." Nun's collar and cuffs by Judith Frankland, skirt is vintage from West Germany and the headpiece is from Relate charity shop.
Act 2The Chenil Gallery in Chelsea was the setting for my next show. Steve Strange modelled for me and asked his beautiful friend Francesca Von Thyssen to also do so.This led to the lovely spread in the Italian magazine Donna. Melissa Caplan, talented and extremely inventive, also showed her line. At that time she was dressing Steve, Spandau Ballet and Toyah. Our dressing rooms, like our clothes, could not have been more different. Melissa's was calm, organised, alcohol free. Mine chaotic, unorganised and alcohol friendly! To the sound of Ultravox's Vienna my models made their way, if somewhat wobbly, down the makeshift runway. It was a fun day.
Steve Strange and Francesca Von Thyssen model Judith Frankland
Judith's card from the 80s. She was 'Judi' then
I was next commisioned to make four outfits for Steve, a young boy, a teenage boy and an elderly man for Visage's Mind of a Toy video. It was made by Godley and Creme (10 cc). The four identical suits were in pale blue/ turquoise moire taffeta with antique looking frilly lace shirts. It is a stunning video, beautifully shot. After the day filming, hair stylist extrordinaire Ollie and I went off to check out the Brummie rivals to London's Spandau, Duran Duran. We went in critical mode but after a few drinks left Planet Earth and had a fab time. A few weeks later so did Duran for different reasons - the rest is history.
Judith designed and made four costumes for Visage's Mind of a Toy Video
Steve Strange wore Judith's designs for the Fade to Grey cover
HELL! An ironic name for Steve and Rusty's next club in Covent Garden. Why? Because word had spread about "The Blitz Kids " and how they dressed and acted, and as usual, some mindless buffoons didnt like it. They would come and stand outside heckling and threatening. The window was smashed one night and we were all locked in the club for our own safety. The end was in sight for that small selective scene. Some would acuse the Bowie video for this; however, while this is probably true, it was only part of the demise. It was on the cards as bands and designers took off and became household names, plus with all the magazine coverage and TV it was inevitable. And let's face it, fame was the name of the game for the majority of the patrons.
Judith kept the invite to Hell's opening night
On a lighter, funnier note - Steve had made me cloakroom girl, a job I also took over at The Blitz when (Boy) George got sacked. The cloakroom was next to Steve at the door. One night he had to leave me alone for a few minutes and gave strict instructions that no one was to come in free of charge. As fate would have it, Helmut Newton, Bianca Jagger, David Bailey and friends arrived. They sailed in and just as I was about to stop them to make them pay Steve had spotted them and came like a bat out of Hell to stop me. The visiting Royalty went off and spent the night in the kitchen!
Judith's designs featured in Donna magazine which featured Boy George, before fame, on the cover:
When Steve and Rusty decided to put on the big event "The People's Palace" at the Rainbow everything was changing and growing rapidly. The look we favoured was an Ethnic style, Berman and Nathans sale being a favourite haunt. Our look was a DIY style of long robes, baggy pants, big shirts, beads, shawls, sandals and rags in the hair. Steve started to look like Robinson Crusoe with designer stubble and a "tan". There was to be a fashion show and I was one of the chosen ones, but to my horror everyone pulled out the day before. Steve would not hear of me bailing and picked me up in a taxi to make sure I arrived. It went on not as planned - six outfits does not maketh a show! It was a fiasco with the same models coming on twice to lengthen it. That evening and night bands such as Ultravox , Peter Godwin's Metro and dance troupe Shock performed. However, I have to say if there was one fabulous thing that did come out of this affair it was that a young Depeche Mode played! I can actually say I was on the same bill as them - HA! To this day they are still one of my favourite bands and probably the most consistently successful and innovative to come out of those years .
"New Romantic" hit the High Street and Royalty attempted a watered down version to the delight of the masses and the club scene exploded. The last of the "Dress up" clubs was, I would say, St Moritz, hosted by Chris Sullivan. It had a 1930s Berlin ambiance and everyone made an effort to look impeccable. The music was eclectic, the club ran for a short time and I really liked that night out. Le Beate Route and Le Kilt became the next "in" places and bank holidays in Bournemouth with, for instance, Blue Rondo a la Turk playing. It was all very boozy and wild with lots of fun heaped on top. However, a new theme to my life was about to begin and I took off to Vancouver on a whim. I stayed almost a year. I had started my search for home and this would take me back and forth to more foreign destinations over the years. To this day, every few years I get itchy feet and flee to pastures new.
Well, I have tried to fill you in a little on those early heady days, and next week I will begin the real reason I loved the idea of this opportunity to write this blog. That being to share tales of the things I love, people I admire, and celebrate some of the incredibly talented and interesting folk I have met along my way .
Next week I will start withTim Southall, an incredibly gifted artist who was still at the Royal College of Art when I met him back in the mid 80s. He did me the honour of doing some prints inspired by me and included them in his graduation show. Big question: "What do I wear? " It's just like going to the Blitz again - all I know is it must be bright. However, right now I'll just Fade to Grey 'til the next time. PS. Lots of outrageous events have been left out of this week's blog to protect the not-so-innocent, including myself!
Judith Frankland wears a top, skirt and earrings of her own design. The perfect transition outfit for busting out of the convent.
BALENCIAGA HEARS THE SOUND OF MUSIC, Act 1
That was the description given to my graduation collection by a very generous journalist back in 1980. My name in the same breath as the Spanish genius Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972) and my beloved "I want to be a nun when I grow up" film The Sound of Music - how fabulous! I accepted the comparison and compliment with delight - after all, I'm only human! My graduation show at The Cafe Royale in London was attended by some of the most glamourous faces from the Blitz and the Head honcho himself, Steve Strange. Thanks to them it was received with an enthusiastic cheer! I was told years later that Vivienne Westwood was there, this was before the McClaren-Westwood Worlds End collection had been unleashed on an awestruck London.
My small collection was predominantly black and white taffeta, brocade, velvet and satin.The black and white striped satin had embossed polka dots in turquoise and yellow in two different sizes and widths; it also came with a tale or perhaps a tall story . The delighted salesman who brought the bolts up from the basement of the shop in London "especially for me" proceeded to tell me that this fabric had been created for the Rolling Stones some years back for a tour and this was the last remaining yardage. With glee I didn't hesitate to say "I'll take it all" and the story, to this day I don't know the truth, but then again I still believe in Father Christmas!
THE VEIL AND STEPHEN JONES
On the day of the show, my Mum who had travelled down from the Lake District with her friend was backstage with me while I nervously put the finishing touches to the frocks. Today, at 81 years old, she still recalls seeing a rather unusual looking young man coming towards us. He was wearing a suit complete with knickerbockers and ballet style shoes with bows, carrying what turned out to be the crowning glory of my ultimate piece, the black Wedding Dress. This gracious and polite young man was Stephen Jones who had kindly created this architectural wonder for me. This veil headdress was made of stiffened lace on a metal frame and was simply amazing. Who would have thought at that moment that a few years later he would be hailed as one of the world's greatest milliners? Hmm...actually anyone who came into contact with him or his work knew, it was so obvious. The dress and veil was to be worn by the beautiful statuesque model Sheila Ming, possibly best remembered now for her role in the Duran Duran video for Hungry like the Wolf.
After the show, Steve Strange contacted me and bought the dress and veil along with a couple of other pieces. One was a medieval-style taffeta jacket he later wore on the cover of the Visage single Fade to Grey. One of Steve's friends Vivienne Jagger bought the opera coat with striped polka dot lining and a huge stand up collar.
THE BLITZ, DAVID BOWIE AND ASHES TO ASHES
The icing on the cake however was the night David Bowie came to The Blitz searching for extras for his new single which would be named Ashes to Ashes. In a wonderful twist of fate, Steve was resplendent in the wedding outfit that night and was chosen straight away. He was also asked to select people he felt could be right. I believe designer Stephen Linard had been asked but due to pressing circumstances was unable to partake. I was invited as was Darla Jane Gilroy over to the table where David Bowie and his P.A. Coco were sitting and offered a glass of champagne. Darla and I were both dressed in a similar ecclesiastic style and were also asked to take part for what at that time was a decent sum of money for penniless, decadent students. We were told Coco would call us the following day with the details. I awoke with a jolt, seriously wondering if this had all been a dream. I chose to believe not and sat at the door of the "palatial" bedsit for hours waiting for the communal upstairs phone to ring so that I could sprint up in time to catch it. When the call finally came, I was instructed to be outside The Hilton the next day at some ungodly hour, fully dressed and made up the same way I had been at The Blitz, and to get the coach to a secret location.
That wedding dress from Judith's graduate collection with the veil made by Stephen Jones
Judith performed in David Bowie's iconic Ashes to Ashes video along with three of her Blitz friends, including Steve Strange who wore her wedding dress and veil in some of the scenes. Judith is on the far right in the first screen cap.
When we arrived at the beach near Hastings, the crew was set up and David Bowie greeted us dressed in the Lindsay Kemp outfit he would wear that day. He coached us for a few minutes on the words we were to mime and then the day was spent in sinking sand and mud. We had "done well" we were told at the end of the day and asked to come to the studios in Wandsworth to shoot another scene. May I add that at the studios David Bowie had lunch with us mere mortals in the canteen. Yummy. The scene we were to do at the studio involved an explosion and I was at the back. In fact if you look at the video you can see my crucifix swing in. We were told to duck out and run after we had mimed our piece or we could be hurt. This was difficult in a hobble dress, so I hoisted it up as high as I could and got ready to run. Quite a sight for the superstar sat behind me. It took about three takes and we were done and told we could stay to watch the rest of the filming and that we should tell no one about the details of the video. It was all very hush hush.
The night it aired on Top of the Pops I was working at Hell (another Steve and Rusty club - more about that next week). As I had to get there early I would take the tube alone, a daunting affair. However, this particular Thursday I was wearing the outfit I had worn in the video, totally unintentionally. I was recognised by some people who had seen Top of the Pops and ridiculed by others, as usual. But it was worth it. To this day that video still interests and intrigues lots of folk. It was at the time the most expensive video ever made and the song went to Number 1, perhaps we should have bartered for more money. The mileage I got out of that collection had only just begun and I was an established New Romantic.
Adieu for now from this Old Romantic who will never be a nun.
Judith, who was known as Judi back then, had pieces from her graduated collection featured in Viz magazine where it was described as '"Balenciaga hears the Sound of Music'"
Special thanks from Judith to David Johnson for "reviving the mucky 30-year-old slides and bringing them back to life." The photographer who shot them was Niall McInerney.
Header photo of Judith by Denise Grayson.
Come back next Tuesday for Act. 2 - with more delightful (and some bitchy) surprises!
Can you say your quilt is made by an Intergalactic remnants trader? You can, if you buy one of Jimmy McBride's aka Stellar Quilts hand embroidered creations. I have never, ever seen quilts - or anything else from an independent craftsperson/designer, well he's a textile artist actually - promoted this way. I pity anyone trying to top this film featured on Etsy for ingenuity, it's a tall order. Traditional craftsmanship combined with forward thinking has limitless potential for new concepts that appeal to what lies within so many of us these days - a yearning for that nostalgic feeling, and the wonder of technology. They can co-exist! I love McBride's message that no matter how advanced we as a civilisation become, we will always need comfort and warmth.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and started going over to guys' houses (only when parents were home, Mom and Dad if you're reading this - and they were gay!) and you first saw their bedroom (as you passed the open door on your way to the bathroom) and you saw that they still had a space-themed bedroom? McBride's quilts are the perfect transition piece from space-loving boy to man, so if you're 15 and you're still into your planets and stars and spaceships and beginning to feel a little uncomfortable about it but you aren't ready to pack it all in for the grey or navy striped bedspread, you don't have to leave it all behind - you can still have planets and stars plus nebulas, spacestations and a scene depicting an "attack on the energy collectors surrounding V838 in the 3rd quadrant occupied by the Reni"! Each quilt tells a part of McBride's intricately woven space odyssey so if you really want to indulge in the fantasy, oh boy can you! And you've invested in a piece of art you can really live with.
Pillar in the Carina Nebula
Hey, wait, it's ok Mom and Dad! That's (my brother) John's room I'm remembering! It was like being in Battlestar Galactica. Which reminds me that the only non-girlie thing I ever wore was Battlestar Galactica running shoes when I was 9. I don't know what happened there but they must have been the only pair Buster Brown had in my size at that particular time my feet grew another centimetre. That's the only place my mom would take us because they measured our feet properly and sold proper shoes. In other words, they didn't sell Sparks. I remember one day we had to take off our shoes at school for some reason and I was the last to grab mine from the pile to put back on, and the teacher held them up and said 'Whose are these?' and I sat there looking around thinking some dummy doesn't even recognise his own shoes. The other kids had to remind me they were mine. I tried to pretend that of course I knew they were my shoes, I was just taking my time getting up. Me and those BGs, we just didn't gel.
Lu Flux collections are like illustrations of stories. Enchanting, magical and always colourful stories. Each season is essentially Lu's wearable version of a fairytale. A breath of fresh air amongst the high street clones and safe style, there's really nothing out there quite like Lu Flux. Her latest collection Over the Hills and Far Away is presented in collaboration with illustrator Neil O'Driscoll who clearly gets the spirit of Lu's work and brings it vividly to life in both print and film, above.
I was lucky enough to get one of the limited edition illustrated lookbooks at London Fashion Week, it's a keeper:
The photographic lookbook is special, too. Lu designs a set for each collection to create the illusion that her model, or character, is inside a story, and therefore so are we. How can you not be smitten?
At London Fashion Week in September I saw the pieces in person for the first time and fell in love. A new shoe collaboration, Lu Flux for Green Shoes was also introduced but I was so fixated on the clothes I didn't even realise! Also for the first time, patchwork prints were created as a seamless alternative to the actual patchwork pieces, they were used to make a dress t-shirts and leggings (above, top right and bottom second last on the right).
Front and back of a new patchwork dress, Lu Flux's signature style. Lu had just stepped out so that's her lovely assistant Natasha showing me the pieces.
Ok. I need to ask Lu about this print and am doing so right now. The men's jacket which women could wear - see behind on the rack - was just awesome.
Each collection features a few exceptionally spectacular pieces that take days to make, like the loopy skirt (above) and dress:
Speaking of spectacular pieces, I was stunned when I saw this on display at Fashion Week in February, from the Dame and Knight AW 2010 collection (can you believe my battery has just died and I couldn't get detail shots? I could have cried):
The skirt reminds me of the Princess and the Pea. See? Fairytales you can wear!
Honestly, how do people do this? How long must this have taken? I started to think about it and I was exhausted three seconds in. Here's the big question: If someone handed you a knife and told you to make the first cut, could you? I know what I would do. I'd cut a piece out of the back and make everyone else cut their own so I would not be responsible for the destruction of this beautiful cake! Is that cowardly? I sense some kind of political metaphor lurking within this notion but luckily we're only talking about cake here.
As I write this, Mary Katrantzou is putting the final touches on her lampshade skirt made of hundreds of flowers. Mary is the latest to create a piece live in the SHOWstudio.com LiveStudio, fo their Florist exhibition. She was just discussing the model's look with the makeup artist for the big reveal. The structure for the garment was created yesterday by welder Rob Hall.
What I love about these intimate work sessions, beyond the insight into the designer or artist's creative process is the glimpse it gives us into their personality. You can easily see who is lovely (Mary is), who carries the weight of the world on their shoulders, who likes throwing up on things. (Yes, Millie Brown aka Puking Millie does that. I didn't tune in. I did look at the result, and if I'd seen something really beautiful in her um, 'expression', it would have caused me to contemplate what I know about the process behind creating beauty and there might have been something profound in that analysis, a revelation. However, to me it just looked like someone barfed coloured paint. Which was actually coloured milk. I'll fully admit that I can't get past her method to consider it thoughtfully, and I'm not sure I'm obligated, which to me means don't judge it, then. I just looked again and it actually caused me to gag, seeing her bent over the canvas with the milk spilling Pollock-ly? from her mouth. I tried. To each her own.)
So, flowery skirts! Watch before it's gone, she's been at it since this morning.
Above is the early construction of the Lampshade skirt, and it immediately reminded me of the work of Lola Brooks, my favourite artist jeweller:
Yesterday during Showstudio's latest LivesStudio session, Stephen Jones created a floral centrepiece and a beautiful hat trimmed with fresh flowers as his contribution to their latest exhibition, Florist. When Stephen reappeared after changing outfits - I love that he had a setting up outfit and one for working - he greeted us with 'Welcome to Glamour on a Budget' and I thought he was kidding, but apparently that was the title of this project. Which makes perfect sense considering the centrepiece was made of yogurt pots, wire hangers and toilet paper rolls! It's like the coolest nursery school craft time ever. And you'd think I'd have a photo of the final piece but the feed cut out, then they broke for a bit and there's nothing on the site. Just trust me it didn't look like it was made from the contents of your recycle bin!
The piece will be available for sale in the Showstudio Shop, so I'm a bit confused as to how that is pulled off with fresh flowers! An edited version of the session is currently being prepared.
The next Livestudio happens Monday, 6 December 10:00 GMT and it's with Mary Katrantzou!
The model was wearing an incredible John Galliano trench:
And Stephen loved her shoes:
Photos are screencaps of the livestream, the trench and final shot is from Showstudio
Showstudio has just begun their livestream of Stephen Jones (12:00 GMT) who is creating a unique piece for the SHOWstudio Shop's latest exhibition Florist - what a treat! This is part of their series of live-streamed performances in which eminent industry figures will be joining the LiveStudio, crafting floral-themed works in tandem with the exhibition and celebrating SHOWstudio.com's ten year anniversary.
Showcasing the entire process in a live stream for today only, Jones' floral artefact will then be exhibited and available for sale.
As I write this Stephen is changing his outfit after having laid out his materials. They include a crystal vase that was a wedding gift to his mother in 1947, glass top hat, art deco mat, his baby bowl, something he bought with Janet Jackson, a book of flowers he found in Italy that he 'brought for Nick', that one being Nick Knight obviously. His friend Princess Julia is playing the music to keep viewers entertained while he wait.
Oh, he's back! And he's wearing a three-piece black suit with a Santa hat that has flashing lights on the furry trim, and an equally festive white and red dotty shirt. He's fun, eh?
You can't miss this, he's an amazing story teller and just wonderful to listen to and watch, and he's full of all kinds of flower arranging tips and then some. See him here
Don't arrive at your holiday party going to town on a kebab.
Drink in moderation to later avoid needing and therefore asking your fellow revellers if they can lend you a Tena pad (or is that just me?)
Check that your new exorbitantly priced heels are not dragging half a toilet roll behind you.
No matter how good you think you are at doing The Robot - don't.
And most importantly, make an entrance in a gorgeous dress that is guaranteed to bear no resemblance whatsoever to the latest high street window display, for there's a good chance if you do, you won't be the only one representing. You'll be spending the night hiding behind pillars and portly gents while guests are mentally comparing who styled it better. Who needs that? (And you had to pay for it!)
The charm of being an original amongst the identikit masses is one of the reasons I exclusively offer one-offs and limited edition pieces in Swelle Boutique, and luckily I know some very talented people who specialise in doing just that. The three dresses above, left, are one-offs from Rowanjoy, a long time Swelle favourite who uses new and vintage fabrics to create her enchanting, adorable pieces that make girls look dreamy. The Wrapped Up strapless styles are the perfect party dresses and the Obscura halter can go holiday soiree as well as resort.
On the right: It doesn't come more special than an original print created by an inspired and inspirational artist who is behind many of the prints from the London fashion week catwalks. Rob and Kate Burton are the duo known as embodied.creative, and Swelle Boutique is thrilled to have the opportunity to offer their exquisite, limited edition, made-to-order digital art print dresses to you. Thoroughly contemplated imagery is richly layered on fine silks to produce complexity and beauty in colour and texture, as seen in the stunning Babaji and Moonshadow dresses. A collection of gorgeous scarves in a choice of silks and sizes is also available.
Wholly Cow is an English label of one-off and limited edition pieces that have beautifully handmade touches such as contrasting crocheted collars and sleeves, and hand carved oak toggles specially made for the dresses, all seen above. Fabrics are luxe and include silk crepe and Italian tweed. The lovely tweed in the toggle wrap dress above has pretty turquoise flecks throughout the pattern, complemented by the crocheted collar. The black shift can be made in a variety of lengths with your choice of colour for the mohair silk crochet sleeves. The cobalt version is a one-off that also looks great as a top with skinny jeans.
By buying at Swelle Boutique you are supporting independent designers in the UK, Italy, Canada and the United States who personally create the high quality, original work that bears their name, from conception to final stitch.
At long last, the new Swelle Boutique is here! As mentioned previously, the first version was a temporary look and format to get my first collections launched. The new site allows for more content and ease of navigation, and it's slicker but still embodies that dreamy Swelle aesthetic - of course it does! I can't do anything else!
More pretty pieces are on their way including dresses for holiday parties from Rowanjoy and Wholly Cow and gorgeous feather and chain earrings and neckpieces by Noémiah.
A Swelle label is in the works as well for spring with a few preview pieces coming in the next few weeks. I love dresses, coats and jackets so expect a lot of those!
'Does this dress make me look fat?' Yes, and that's kind of the point, at least peripherally.
Usually, unrealistic interpretations of how women should look draw criticism. We should all be tall, skinny and eternally wrinkle-free, etc. But in the case of Kunihiko Morinaga, the Japanese conceptual designer behind the label Anrealage, the impossible manifests in ways that challenge conventional notions about the human body and how we dress it. We're too stunned for harsh words.
Plastic inflatables as a material fly in the opposite direction of a shape that offers that svelt look and feel we endlessly pursue, so at first sight we ask, 'Why?' But Morinaga's designs aren't derived from that myopic ideal of looking long, lean and chic. In fact, in many of his previous collections, he ignored the body altogether. The 'clothes' were structured objects that had absolutely to do with the human form. Morinaga likes shapes. Basic, three-dimensional shapes like the sphere, cube and pyramid. He may be an avant-garde designer whose followers likely include the Kawakubo and Margiella set, but he never intended for anyone to try to wear his pyramind hoodie or trenchcoat cube. It's just not possible, no matter how broad the mind:
When Morinaga does decide to welcome back established patterns and consider his creations as things people might actually wear, he does so beautifully, with couture attention to detail. His SS 11 collection is a hybrid of the two, in that you can actually put these clothes on, but very few would.
As much as I love feminine, figure flattering dresses with pretty details, I always give time to hearing someone's alternate view of our reality. Isn't it more fun and enriching to try to understand something so incongruent with our beliefs than to dimiss it? (But I hope Tom Cruise isn't reading this.)
These angel wing sleeves really are divine. They also come in handy on long flights.
The third one is more practical than it looks - you wouldn't have to wear a bra.
I love the exhibition at London Fashion Week, it's a quick and easy way to discover new designers doing exciting things in one building, while seeing your favourites' new collections in person and have a chat about them. I walked in to Somerset on the Sunday through the Embankment entrance where hat designers were grouped. It's a tough spot to be seen. I saw some very unusual hats, some odd for the sake of it, it seemed.
Then I noticed the Little Shilpa display in the corner by the door. I guess someone has to take that lonely spot? I saw delicate shapes and fabrics in the form of tulle, chiffon and lace in slate blues, taupes, grey and rose, and I floated over to them. I wasn't crazy about some of the presentations on male mannequins that look like Ken dolls, but I was still intrigued. And Ken looked ok with it, really ok with it. I fell in love with the chiffon and lace neckpiece hanging from thick chain. I wanted to touch it but Ken's eyes told me 'Noooo.' (That imaginary detail reminds me of a story. Years ago in Toronto I took a part-time job at a boutique while working at my communications job, thinking it would give me extra money. We all know where that 'extra' money went, and then some. One day the owner was helping a Japanese girl who was trying on jeans. When she came out of the changeroom he knelt down behind her and began adjusting something in the 'seat'. I swear, he wasn't a perv. She said sternly 'That not for feel!' He had no idea what she was saying so he kept doing what he was doing. Then she started swatting his hand away and he still didn't get it so I had to go over and say 'THAT NOT FOR FEEL!' The poor girl was traumatised. But I think she still bought the jeans. He should have given her a discount for the 'feel'.)
Back to Little Shilpa. I didn't see anyone there so I didn't speak to anyone, and the website only offers a teeny bit of biographical information in easily digestible form - we want to know about you, Little Shilpa! There's a comprehensive CV for download, however, if you've got the time. (I had a quick skim and after two seconds I was feeling grossly unaccomplished.) What I did gleen is that Little Shilpa is Shilpa Chavan, a Mumbai-based designer of one-off headpieces, jewellery and accessories for retail and runway. (I kind of already knew that.) You can see examples of her commercial and runway work after my poorly-lit photos.
The pieces above and below were made for Manish Arora at London Fashion Week, 2005
Autumn is soon arriving at Swelle Boutique! I'm happy to announce the first of the new offerings is a smart and femine Victorian-inspired mini collection of one-offs by MITRA, called Victoriana. The young dynamo behind the label is a talented Florida-based artist and designer who likes to give us a little fantasy in our clothes, as she does in her inspired and playful paintings.
The Victoriana collection consists of a taffeta and brocade Soirée strapless dress with black piping on the front and back; Victoriana wool coat with a jacquard yoke on front, back with jacquard-covered puffed cap sleeves and front pockets, with pale yellow lining throughout; and a seriously sexy outfit of the navy Parlor Gathering Top with gorgeous details you must see for yourself (below) paired with a soft grey, light denim pencil skirt with a back slit revealing a hint of black lace peeking out.
As always, garments are available to buy in preview so if you're interested, please contact me for more details. There is only one of each piece. The dress and outfit are small and the coat is very roomy, it's a true large.
Swelle Boutique is being redesigned and rebranded as I write this. A huge thanks to all who loved the look of the debut design and I hope you won't be disappointed that it's going to look much different. I built the first version myself to get Swelle up and running and now need a look and template that's going to accommodate growth, and a wider variety of designer styles. I do plan to continue to infuse a dreamy feel with my photography as that's where my heart lies, and as always the clothes will be beautiful and feminine. Some exciting new designers will be joining Swelle throughout the season - all collections designed exclusively for us - and I can't wait to bring them to you.
Please watch for a late September launch and until then, the last of the summer clothes - all one-offs and limited edition pieces - are on sale.
Carrying on with all things Toronto during my stay that is just about *sniff* up - an event that links my former home with my current one - I introduce you to Toronto artist Shaun Downey. The name may ring a bell, however, as may the painting above. Shaun's portrait Blue Coco was recently selected for exhibition in this year's Portrait Award competition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, England. Out of the 58 chosen from 2,177 entries, Shaun's work was singled out to be the 'face' of the gallery's advertising campaign, including a 9-metre-high banner at the museum's entrance on Trafalgar Square to mark the exhibition's opening in June.
It's an intriguing portrait worth a long stare or two, don't you think?
So who's 'Coco'? She's 20 year-old model Dearbhail Bracken-Roche who goes by the fashionable nickname when working. She sat for Shaun at age 17 when the friend of a friend introduced the two, and the rest is now blue-tinged history. Interestingly, she's now living and working in London and has found fame in the city, often being recognised in the street. I suppose that happens when your giant, unusually beautiful face is plastered over one of London's most famous and popular landmarks, as well as the tube stations. (How would you feel? Honoured and thrilled or completely freaked out?)
The artist and muse at the National Portrait Gallery in London. From Shaun's blog.
As you may have guessed, Shaun prefers to paint portraits. The work featured on his site is exclusively portraiture dating back to 2004, and all of his subjects are women, though they are not always captured in the formal pose. There's a quiet calm about these pictures, as if the seemingly ordinary moment is being held not just within the frame but is occupying a pensive dimension in which we're being granted a peak.The background colours are soft yet often vibrantwhich make his work, in my mind, 'happy' pictures, something I'd like to look at everyday. His paintings are gorgeous.
Imagine my surprise and delight when on Saturday I looked down at the table in my mother-in-law's living room - we're in Toronto now! - and saw Noémiah's gorgeous illustrations by Miss Paule T.B. spanning the entire cover of the National Post's Style section! The gestural renderings of Noémie Vaillancourt's beautiful and unusual feather and chain jewellery were most obviously the highlight of the feature on Montreal's Festival Mode & Design, which practically gushed about the exciting design talent produced by this vibrant and electric Canadian city.
Swelle Boutique currently offers an exclusive mini-collection of one-off necklaces and earrings by Noémiah. There are four pieces left!
The Summer Sale has begun at Swelle Boutique, with up to 40% off one-of-a-kind and limited edition dresses, tops and skirts - plus free shipping worldwide! Cue the fireworks and party streamers, and where's my megaphone? I've also installed a new photo viewer so when you click on the photos on the product pages you get a nice, slick presentation.
The Liana Dress from Neue (top left) has been a popular one to try on with the local girls, its sweet styling in Italian silk with gorgeous pleat detailing is hard to resist, but with its empire waist and button front it's best suited to small busts. If you're petite and have had your eye on the Liana, now's your chance to get this limited edition, tailored, silk dress at a reduced price. The sleeveless Viviana Dress is extremely flattering on, with stunning pleats, and there's just one left in size small.
The Dagger Dress by Rowanjoy (top middle) has been featured around the blogosphere and is one of Swelle's most drooled over pieces. As it's a one-off it comes in only one size, a UK 10 which is true to size. The Dagger Tee is really lovely, hand screenprinted in an art deco design with a neckline of vintage floral cotton and lace appliques on the front. It's long enough to wear with leggings. A one-off in UK size 10.
What can I say about Lu Flux? Her Plume Skirt is a dream with 10 layers of individually cut and sewn plumes or petals (I like to think of them as petals) with a beautifully finished interior of organic cotton with fully finished edges. The two that are left are done in different fabrics, making each a one-off - and they're £100 off! Pair the skirt with the Bow Tie vest or Bow Tie T-shirt (only one left!) of organic cotton with an inlaid 'bow'. The Marsupium Pocket Dress is a very easy fitting and substantial one-off dress of organic cotton that fits small to large sizes. It has a band of pockets in different fabrics all around the waist and looks great cinched with a belt or ribbon. I would have shown it that way had I thought of it before the photo shoot!
I found this wardrobe with the facade of a Georgian dollhouse on the site I bought our sideboard from. It's The Furniture Rooms and they sell antiques as well as reproductions. Our sideboard get lots of compliments when people first come to our house and it's my favourite piece of furniture:
Now, that Georgian dollhouse wardrobe is one cool piece of furniture but it comes at a hefty price, £3250 to be exact. If I were considering spending that kind of money I would like to know more than this:
Georgian style dolls house wardrobe. The wardrobe opens up to a hanging
rail and has a neat mini mahogany door on the front. h213 x w128 x d55 cm
But what's it made of, wood? What kind? Where is it made? Is it grey or white? Can we see inside? Those drawers look like a facade, is that right? Tell us more so we can convince our significant others that we really need this!
When something is so obviously special and comes with a weighty price tag it only makes sense to tell us everything you possibly can. I wrote about that in a previous post, how perplexing it is that the seller wouldn't tell us just how cool their thing is and take the chance that one or two images are enough to convince us to hit the 'buy' button. I describe every detail of the pieces in my shop, Swelle Boutique, otherwise, how will you know just how great they are? And there's a certain lack of trust that I feel when I see very brief descriptions that leave you asking questions, even when the item is a £30 dress or something even cheaper. It's our money and we want to know what we're getting, we can't see it or touch it and your words are all we have.
Luckily, The Furniture Rooms is a reputable company that delivered on a great piece of furniture (and a neat 70s vase) and I would buy from them again. I took a chance buying our sideboard based on only two exterior views and a very brief description. I just think they should do their pieces justice with more elaborate descriptions. It only takes another minute!
Here's an Art Deco Fan Lamp I passed on when I bought the others because it wasn't an essential, and it's now sold and oh boy does it sting:
And if you're into dollhouses you might like this
Fans of flowers will be enchanted by Dior's F/W Haute Couture collection which celebrated the vivid colours and sensual textures of flora. And as we expect from high fashion there were some wonderful oddities to take things out of this world. Steven Jones created head pieces resembling florist's cellophane, which the models bee-like hairstyles - not 'beehive' like, they actually resembled the cinched abdomen shape of the little stingers - were wrapped up in, like a bouquet. The dresses were the usual Galliano ultra-feminine opulence, this time with some voluminous tulle skirts.
This is amazing hair:
And the prettiest flower of them all, the grandest of couturier/beekeepers:
Photos have been collaged using original runway shots by Monica Feudi/GoRunway.com
Lovely, romantic and soft is the look and feel that Toronto-based
accessories designer Erin Summer conveys with her one-off Coco
Boudoir accessories. And since many of us are into that kind of thing I'm offering several exclusive designs, created especially for Swelle Boutique. Made from
vintage trims and
findings with surfaces generously adorned with faux pearls and chiffon
rosettes, each piece is painstakingly handsewn to create a beautiful
one-off creation with its own little treasures worked in.
They make look delicate but they feel nice and weighty in the hand
due to their solid construction. Each piece is lined with felt for
comfortable wear. Someone else likes Coco Boudoir, too - look for her in the Summer 2010
edition of Martha Stewart
Fancy one of these delish pieces? Click the images for details and to purchase:
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens has quickly become one of my favourite places in England, or anywhere else for that matter. My first visit in April resulted in some fantastic photographs thanks to Belsay's various photogenic, magical muses, both permanent and ephemeral. English Heritage began using the historical site's attractions to host full-scale art exhibitions in 1996 such as Fashion at Belsay - which included Stella McCartney's crystal horse housed in the medieval castle, fortunately back for a reunion when I visited - as well as 2007's stunning Picture House project featuring an installation by Viktor & Rolf.
Belsay's latest art exhibition, Extraordinary Measures, showcases the work of some of England's most ingenious and curious creative talents. Each handpicked artist visited the site to gain inspiration, then set to work with the central idea of scale in mind. The exhibition as a whole has a kind of shrinking and growing effect, something like an Alice in Wonderland experience with malevolent insect fairies and fish-bashing babies in place of the murderous Queen of Hearts. While much of the exhibition will bring a smile to the observer's face, equal parts will strike a nerve in their own peculiar ways.
I was lucky as Stella's Spot to be invited to their press which included an introduction by curator Judith King, a short film, and tour of each of the installations which were most times explained by the artists themselves as nearly all were present.
Extraordinary Measures runs at Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens until September 26th in Northumberland. There's a warning about nudity (the same goes for this post!) and strobes which accompany Mat Collishaw's zoetrope in the castle. Pity for anyone who can't watch as it's the most impressive piece of the exhibition, in my opinion.
Here are my photos from the day, beginning with one of my feel-good favourites, Slinkachu's miniature reproductions of rather normal events made curious by the incongruency of their settings. The actual installations were set up last year throughout the gardens and grounds and Slinkachu photographed them to preserve what was the most fleeting part of the exhibition - they were left to be snatched up by the hawk-eyed or carried away by animals or the wind. So in the place of the figures are the photographs.
Tessa Farmer's A Darker Shade of Grey was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. I felt sick looking at it, yet it was the installation I took the most pictures of. What I'm showing here is the most palatable of the work; it was actually the crispy insect carcasses and not so much the taxidermied rodents that elicited the visceral response. There is something morbidly fascinating about dead animals, especially ones arranged in battle scenes and adorned with crab shell armour with scorpion artillery fighting malevolent insect fairies.
Come again? Fair enough. Farmer's narrative centres on the war between the Northumberland native red squirrel and the outsider, the grey squirrel who is apparently kicking red's fluffy tail. With the help of the skeletal insect fairies who think their grey foreign counterpart shouldn't be penalised for being successful. There's a metaphor in there somewhere but after hearing Farmer speak about her work I don't believe there's a hidden message, it's simply a dramatised version of conflict between two species.
This reminds me that I saw a skinned whole squirrel at the food market last weekend, marked with a stuffed toy version so you'd know what it was. I would rather eat the stuffed animal.
There was a bit of condensation in some of the glass cases from the rain - the hazy effect is not me trying to impart a dreaminess on this scene, especially as it was more of a nightmare! This mouse is being attacked by a militia of the bug-riding malevolent fairies made from insect parts - it looks like they're holding bayonets!
No animals were sacrificed for the sake of art. Farmer purchased the taxidermied squirrels and rodents from Ebay, the red squirrels being of Victorian origin. You really can get anything on there. A journalist asked after taking in the full spectrum of the painstakingly fashioned scene,'Why go to all this trouble, wouldn't it be easier to just paint?' And then the artist ordered the evil fairies to descend upon him and poke his flesh relentlessly with their tiny, crude weapons. At least that's what I feared might happen when I heard the question. Oh, Dude.
Scalesdale is an interactive, evolving model village located in the castle kitchen created by Newcastle architects Jenny Gillat and Tim Mosedale. Visitors will decide how the community develops.
Mat Collishaw's The Garden of Earthly Delights is just the coolest thing. It's a zoetrope or spinning wheel that runs for 90 seconds at a time (I think), and in that short span you are mesmerised and disturbed by the scene that appears to be unfolding in front of you. I say 'appears' because those babies whacking fish with clubs to a soundtrack of layered, unnerving noises that is giving me shivers as I recall it now (I'm serious, real shivers which is odd because it's more creepy to me in memory than it was in person) aren't really moving at all. It's like an animation. Me and the journalist next to me didn't realise that they weren't moving until he asked a question and was told so. I don't know how Collishaw configured and callibrated the zoetrope to create such a compelling effect, but he's done a few of these so the man has certainly mastered the task.
Woodland Unhappy Families by Freddie Robins is an homage in yarn to the classical Greek architecture that inspired Belsay Hall. Set behind a window nestled in the quarry gardens, two knitted birds play the characters in a sorrowful tale of love and loss from Greek mythology.
Wild Horses by Ciaran Treanor was made possible thanks to his award of the Belsay Fellowship in 2009 that enables a young, emerging artist to participate in the major contemporary art exhibitions at Belsay. The Newcastle University architecture student referenced Belsay's stables outside the castle for his installation of gestural figures that, from specific vantage points, appear as running, jumping horses.
Ron Mueck is a master at creating utterly convincing sculptures of the human figure. Here he has placed his various 'people' (and one giant chicken) within the rooms of Belsay Hall to play with scale. Standing next to Spooning Couple was a fascinating experience. Observations of how real the two look and how sweet they are juxtaposes with the fact that they are obviously not real as they are less than half the size of adult humans. But you want to believe they are. And you can't help but want to put some pants on the guy.
This was certainly disconcerting. I first felt as if I should just let the poor guy be naked in privacy, he looked so uncomfortable (yes, I was aware he wasn't real, he's nearly 10 feet tall sitting - those are some high ceilings in that house). But the emptiness of the room was actually quite inviting, the contrast to the feeling one would get sharing a small, low-ceilinged room with the giant Wild Man. Now that would be uncomfortable.
(Sorry for pointing that thing at you.)
Youth, Ron Mueck.
A giant panel of windows in the Quarry Garden is an awesome sight to behold. Mariele Neudecker's From Here to There is Not That Far is an ambitious undertaking that was well worth the effort. It was a bit surreal, walking through its doorway felt as if I was passing over into another dimension which is what the artist intended; in developing the idea she was drawn to the moment in Alice in Wonderland where Alice passes through one reality to another, entering a rich and luscious garden.
Judy Blame is the latest resident at Showstudio to spend a day being filmed and livestreamed while making original, one-off creations. An absolute treat of a feature, I think. It's a wonderful thing to see the creative process in action and it's fascinating to watch the individual's face as they do their thing, all the subtleties of expression that can range from satisfaction to frustration (Gareth Pugh was giving his sewing machine the business at one point) and everything in between. Which makes it a real burn that I forgot to watch today! (Been just a little busy).
The legendary London-based stylist, jeweller and accessory designer who has it bad for buttons and badges contributed two pieces to Showstudio's Blackwhite exhibition. Viewers watched him "stitch and adorn a pearly king's titfer" - that's not something you hear every day - and rework and develop a rather
extreme neckpiece that would require a great deal of inspection to fully take in everything happening within the black and white curiosity. (My silly tendency to identify things as offspring of incongruent parents has me thinking the necklace could be the result of a collaboration between Mr. T and Karl Lagerfeld.)
Now that's a cool looking man. The neckpiece and adorned cap will be soon be available in the Showstudio SHOP. And if you're into Gaga you might want to head over to the site, she's practically lived there for the past month.
I wrote this article last week for Models and Moguls and I'm quite surprised it's taken me this long to do so. I was a full-on freak for Surrealism when I discovered it in high school, the idea of this collective of European adults doing things that seemed juvenile but were actually challenging conventional notions of what is art, what is good taste, what is reality, how long and stiff can one guy's moustache get before it pokes another's eye out, validated me as the 16 year-old who fit in but never felt like it. There was something more to things than meets the eye, I knew and they knew it. But no around me seemed to care about that and they wondered why I did. The synaesthesia must have played a major role in this but at the end of the day we all need to connect with something. I don't know exactly why strange juxtapositions are so intriguing, maybe some of us want to live in a perpetual dream state, but if university dorm room walls are any indication, people love a melting clock.
The following article is a superficial rundown of Salvador Dalí's contribution to fashion. Dalí is a favourite of mine (though the teenage thrill is now gone), as he is a favourite of many for his incredible technical ability with painting and his intriguing dreamscapes. And undoubtedly he is loved for his larger-than-life personality and his other ventures - artistic and commercial pursuits for which the scope became increasingly broad, as hilariously illustrated by his appearance on What's My Line? in the 1950s:
The most notorious, prolific and ultimately commercial of the Surrealists – that revolutionary group of artists, poets and provocateurs that grew out of Dadaism in 1920s Paris – was undoubtedly Salvador Dalí. The Spanish Catalan best known for his masterly technical skill as a painter and perversely sexualized subjects had his hand in just about anything he could put his name on, due in part to the push from his wife Gala who was keen to collect a paycheck and not so bothered by the virtue of integrity. However, the signed blank lithographs and commercials for Alka Seltzer aside, most of Dalí’s forays into ventures outside of his main discipline were inspired, original, and hugely influential.
Case in point: anything we see with lips these days could be considered a direct reference to Dali’s iconic Mae West Lips Sofa from 1937 and his Ruby Lips brooch, created in 1949, also based on the sexy actress’ famous bouche. British designer Lulu Guinness is one who owes him her trademark padded lips clutch.
The wildly eccentric artist brought his most famous, Freudian-inspired and dreamlike motifs to life as three dimensional objects through sculpture, furniture, jewellery and fashion. Dali loved fashion and displayed his flamboyant style in his dress and the way he wore his moustache – long, black, waxed straight out to the sides and curled at the ends. He was friends with two of fashion’s most legendary designers, Paris-based rivals Coco Chanel, who inspired him to design clothes, and the avant-garde Elsa Schiaparelli. It was even rumoured that Chanel had an affair with the young Dali, in the days when his facial hair was still neat and understated (one couldn’t imagine the fuss-free designer dealing with the impractical thing that moustache was to become).
The Italian Schiaparelli was hugely influenced by Dada and Surrealism and incorporated the bizarre juxtapositions that were characteristic of these movements into her designs. One can see why Chanel referred to her as ‘that Italian artist who makes clothes’, though this was likely not meant to be a complement from the outspoken and fiercely competitive designer. Dali’s influence has been identified in Schiaparelli designs such as the lamb-cutlet hat and a 1936 day suit with pockets simulating a chest of drawers, based on his painting The Anthropomorphic Chest of Drawers, which was later referenced in a dress he created with Christian Dior in 1950.
Skeleton dress. Elsa Schiaparelli collaboration with Salvador Dalí, 1938.
Collaborations between Schiaparelli and Dali produced four iconic pieces that were clearly influenced by the artist:
Lobster Dress, 1937. This simple white silk evening dress with a crimson waistband featured a large lobster painted by Dali onto the skirt. The lobster is one of Dali’s best known motifs which he began incorporating into works from 1934, most notably New York Dream-Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone, 1935, and the mixed-media Lobster Telephone, 1936. His design for Schiaparelli was interpreted into a fabric print by the leading silk designer Sache. It was famously worn by Wallis Simpson in series of photographs by Cecil Beaton before her marriage to Edward VIII.
Tears Dress, 1938. A slender pale blue evening gown printed with a Dali design of trompe l’oeil rips and tears was worn with a thigh-length veil with real tears carefully cut out and lined in pink and magenta. The print was intended to give the illusion of torn animal flesh, the tears printed to represent fur on the reverse of the fabric and suggest that the dress was made of animal pelts turned inside out. Figures in ripped, skin-tight clothing suggesting flayed flesh appeared in three of Dali’s 1936 paintings. This puts to rest any notion that the ‘ripped' trend is a relatively recent innovation.
Skeleton Dress, 1938. Designed for the Circus Collection, this stark black crepe dress used trapunto quilting to create padded ribs, spine and leg bones. Many designers today have referenced this dress in their designs.
Shoe Hat, 1937. In 1933, Dali was photographed by his wife Gala with one of her slippers balanced on his head. In 1937 he sketched designs for a shoe hat for Schiaparelli which she featured in her Fall-Winter 1937-38 collection. The hat, shaped like a woman’s high heeled shoe, had the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead. This hat was worn by Gala, Schiaparelli herself, and by the Franco-American editor of the French Harpers Bazaar, heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli’s best clients.
Dali also designed the Aphrodisiac Jacket of 1936 and several pieces of jewellery for women. In 1981 he drew upon his painting Apparition of the Face of the Aphrodite of Knidos in a Landscape to create bottles for the perfume Salvador Dali Homme et Femme. Dali had evolved (for lack of a better word) from artist to one of the most intriguing and influential brands of the 20th century, and the reverberations of his work will likely continue indefinitely – if our endless fascination with melting clocks is any indication.
I'm busy working away finishing the shop but wanted to share a little quickie I saw on Etsy, this sofa made from a cast iron retro tub from Ruff House Art. I'm particular to the turquoise painted shell and the psychedelic cushion makes it look inviting. I imagine you'd want plenty of throw pillows behind you while actually using it, but the bare white porcelain against the bold colour is quite striking. Custom orders take four weeks to make from the U.S. Rubber duckie not included. Sitting on it naked is optional.
Carrying on from Tuesday's post on the enchanting dollhouses of Wallington, here are more rooms with unbelievable detail, like the little buckets under the shelf in the pantry on which several plates of food are waiting, as if the family is about to sit down and eat at any minute. Or how each of the mirrors and picture frames are completely different and highly ornate as was the style at the time.
If you enjoy these, well good! There are lots more from the Wallington house to come...
I'm working like a mad woman to launch Swelle Boutique (it's nearly there!) but I wanted to leave you with something special should it be a couple days before I'm able to post again. I visited Wallington a few weeks ago, a National Trust property in Morpeth, Northumberland (that's in the north east of England) with a grand mansion and gorgeous lawns, lakes, parkland and woodland. There's also a beautiful walled garden which we didn't have time to see, but it was cold and gloomy so we'll save that for a lovely day.
I'll tell you more about Wallington in future posts (there is quite a bit to show) but for now here is the first part of the dollhouses from the 17th century mansion's dollhouse room which contains one huge house - like an apartment block - and several smaller ones, the interiors of which are magnificent and shabby all at once. The detail of the period furniture and decor (early 1900s) is breathtaking and some of it is in quite a state of disrepair - evident in the wear on the fabrics and wallpapers and headboards askew - and it creates the feeling that these rooms have actually been lived in by the heavy chested tenants (see below, they are heaving!) for the past century. The effect is utterly charming.
The photos are a bit blurred, the rooms in the dollhouses were very dim and I was shooting through their tiny windows. But it kind of lends to the ghostly feeling and apparently I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to take the photos, it's only been a year since they've allowed cameras.
Amneris jacket of fine summer wool and Liana silk pleated dress, by Neue
By now you have likely thought that the teaser under my banner was just that, but I promise that Swelle Boutique is actually on its way! Thank you to all who have been asking about it. I did the final photo shoot on Sunday - I'm thrilled with the results! - and it will be ready to launch in two weeks.
Like The Swelle Life, Swelle Boutique is a collection of beautiful and original things, and I'm so excited to present the dresses and accessories that, for the most part, have been made exclusively for Swelle. I've invited my favourite designers to create pieces that follow the boutique's concept of lovely, romantic and soft things that are of high quality materials and workmanship. All of the pieces are either one-offs or limited edition and are made by the designers - no factories involved here - and each one has special details that are unique to their vision and technique. Offering exceptional, 'happy' things is the whole point in launching this project, which I hope to be a lasting one.
If you are interested in any of the pieces you see here you can reserve them or get more information by emailing me - click the 'email me' link in the top left sidebar under that goofy profile photo.
Admiral dress of vintage lace, mixed silks and cottons by Rowanjoy - one of a kind
Photos by Denise Grayson (Yours Truly) and Paul Marr, respectively
Geraldine Pilgrim (corridor productions)
Dreams of a winter night
In some recent posts we saw Stella McCartney's stunning Lucky Spot installation at Belsay Castle, a horse made of 8,000 crystals assembled on wires in a hauntingly beautiful medieval room. The horse was a revival of sorts from a project that began a few years ago when English Heritage invited 15 of the most original and experimental
film directors, artists, actresses and designers from Britain and around
the world to bring Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens (oh, those gardens! More to come on those) to life with a series of cutting edge art
Picture House opened in spring of 2007 and transformed the neo-classical mansion in
Northumberland, its 14th century castle and Grade I Listed gardens with electrifying works of fashion,
sculpture, music, design, poetry, music and video.
The next art exhibition to take place on the glorious grounds at Belsay is Extraordinary Measures and I'm thrilled to say I've been invited to their press day to tour the works, hear from the curator and take pictures. It's about a place "where size is off the scale. Where the miniscule is made massive and
huge surroundings hide surprises. Where ancient buildings always hold
something new" - it sounds like Alice in Wonderland meets the coolest treasure hunt there ever was.
Here's a preview:
Hey, it's the miniature old couple from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive!
And back to Picture House at Belsay, beginning with Viktor & Rolf's centrepiece of silver ballgowns, from their latest collection at the time, drenched in dripping silver in Pillar Hall. Their piece referenced the Dutch tradition of dipping a
child's shoe in silver to preserve it as a keepsake. "We were
inspired by that same desire to preserve a memory," said Viktor Horsting. "To
treasure the past. To freeze time."
Geraldine Pilgrim (corridor productions)
Dreams of a winter night
Coffin of a servant's journey
A collaboration between Boudicca and Mike Figgis
Tilda Swinton created this piece called Belsayland for Arthur Middleton's bedroom,
working alongside her husband, playwright and visual artist John Byrne,
and their children. It was realised by Neil Murray
in association with Northern Stage.
Corollarium. Northumbria University graduate, Francesca Steele, was awarded the
Belsay FellowshipGeraldine Pilgrim (corridor productions) which provided her with the opportunity to exhibit alongside the
more well known names.
Imogen Cloët and Jacob Polley
The Recollection Rooms
Peepshow. Costume designer Sandy Powell created a 'peephole' into Lady
Middleton's bedroom, where viewers could spy on the inhabitant.
One of my favourite designers and contributor to the soon to be launched Swelle Boutique, Rowanjoy, will be selling her gorgeous dresses, skirts and new line of handprinted art deco t-shirts - all one-offs! - at London's Alternative Fashion Week, April 19 -23 at Spitalfields market from 11 am - 5 pm. If you're in town, treat yourself to a visit to her lovely stall!
The beautiful image above is from a past collection but gives insight into the dreamy and romantic aesthetic that Rowanjoy consistently delivers each season, using the loveliest vintage fabrics and trims. For Swelle Boutique she's created two dresses with soft peachy silks mixed with contrasting cotton prints and lace panels, and an outfit of a skirt with a polka dot tulle ruched overlay and a grey marl t-shirt handprinted with a green art deco design, printed fabric inserts, with lace and tiny rhinestone embellishments - each piece one of a kind and handmade by the designer. Lookbook photos are imminent and I can't wait to give you a preview!