Deborah Bowness
New Ribbon
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'FUR: AN ISSUE OF LIFE AND DEATH' EXHIBIT OPENS

Fur. The mere mention of the word makes many cringe. In western urban culture, it's a contentious topic that divides us into two groups: those who deem fur fashion READ MORE...
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RED HOT: EXHIBIT OF GINGER MEN IS NOW A BOOK

Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily READ MORE...
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A MODERN CHRISTMAS AT THE SLEEPER HOUSE

The Sculptured House, also known as the Sleeper House since 1973 when it featured in Woody Allen's sci-fi comedy, Sleeper, is so cool it's painful. An elliptical curiosity in concrete and glass perched on Colorado's READ MORE...
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FASHION FILMS TO FEATURE AT ASFF

The BAFTA qualifying Aesthetica Short Film Festival (ASFF) has teamed up with London College of Fashion to establish a new fashion film strand at this year’s event, showcasing READ MORE...
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'KNITTING FOR JULIET' COMPETITION LAUNCHES IN ITALY

Knitwear designers studying in Italy are invited to enter the Knitting for Juliet competition launched by Fashion Ground Academy of Italian Design READ MORE...
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NICHOLAS ROSE'S FULL COLOUR LIVING

It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. READ MORE...
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#UNLOCK ART FILM SERIES ENDS ON A HUMOROUS NOTE

The film series, #UnlockArt, produced by Tate and supported by Le Meridien, concluded with the release of the last of eight films, What's So Funny?, decided by an online poll READ MORE...
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November 16, 2014

'Red Hot': Exhibit that Rebranded the Ginger Male is Now a Book

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Earlier this week, I was in the comments section of a blog I frequent, and someone had posted a photo of a shirtless, young guy with red hair sticking his tongue out cheekily. People were asking who he was, but no one knew. Then a press release for a new book lands in my inbox, and there he is on the cover. RED HOT 100 is a coffee table book following on an exhibition of stills and video celebrating red-haired male beauty, with the hopes of rebranding the image of the male ginger, which often comes with negative stereotypes attached. I thought it might be nice for the man behind the concept, Thomas Knights, a natural redhead himself, to know that the posting of his cover model on that blog inspired other readers - men and women - to contribute photos of their own favourite hot, red-haired men. (Hello....Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor? Yes, both natural gingers.) When I left the thread it was about a dozen deep, and all of the comments were positive. 

ThomasknightsKnights (pictured right), a fashion photographer and music video director with an accomplished portfolio featuring work in Vogue Italia, Dazed and Confused and Marie Claire, experienced these negative perceptions growing up, and with no red-haired male public role models to persuade him otherwise, he felt ashamed of his red roots. He devised his video and photography concept to redefine the image of the red-headed male. Knight explains, "We have been conditioned to think ginger men are ugly and weak. I wanted to flip this on its head and present the redheaded male as the ultimate alpha male."

The book's press release refers to Western culture's tendency to put the ginger female on a pedestal (we're all familiar with the fantasy of the foxy redhead), leaving their male counterparts out of the limelight. No other hair colour experiences a gender inequality in the same way. Just a couple of years ago, not a single London agency had a red-haired male model on their books, and red-haired actors were extremely underrepresented in TV and film. However, with the popularity of the RED HOT campaign and celebrity ambassadors like Prince Harry, Damian Lewis and Eddie Redmayne, public opinion does seem to be changing. (Let's hope so. Back in 2008 I wrote a piece in response to a rise in 'gingerism', you can read it here.) 

RED HOT 100 is available to buy in hardback for £49.99 at redhot100.com, as well as Conran Shop and Amazon.

RED HOT is proud to work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance which works to reduce bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can grow, play, and learn; and The Diana Award, a charity set up as a legacy to Princess Diana to encourage, empower and engage young people from all walks of life. 

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October 23, 2014

Chanel Revue Film a Stunning Mini-Epic Retrospective

(Email subscribers: click the post title to view the film)

Trevor Undi has outdone himself in the fashion film genre. Sure, Chanel offers the most dazzling and copious fashion subjects, but what to do with so much history, so much detail (the details!), so much artistry? Well, you pack in as much amazingness (normally I hate that word but here it actually fits) as you can in each second of a four-and-a-half-minute film. And you set it against an orchestral score composed by Gabriel Yared. This exuberant retrospective showcases intimate behind-the-scenes footage, detailed artistry, revisits memorable campaigns, international events and spectacular archival footage from the House of Chanel.

Chanel is a brand I will probably never be able to afford (fate is nodding its head in agreement somewhere). Normally I begrudge a brand a little bit for that and reserve my gushing for something more accessible as I don't like to go all nuts over something I can never have. But Chanel is the exception; what their artisans create in their ateliers is magical, it keeps the tradition of couture craftsmanship alive and thriving, and therefore I see the house's shows and imagery as records of this exquisite legacy. (Sure beats seeing it as a giant tease?)

This rapid and rich film is bursting with so much beauty and fascinating closeups that beg for further investigation, so I went a little mental and looked at each frame of the film and captured the stills. There are so many that are worthy of a longer look that I had to create a second page. You can view the rest here

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And here's the rest 

October 06, 2014

Nicholas Rose's Full Colour Living

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It was not possible to walk past Nicholas Rose's luminous, contoured lamp shades at 100% Design the other week, I felt like a moth drawn to a flame. The Leeds-based designer has an affinity for colour, and combined with a knack for inventing unique, pleasing forms, creates interior pieces that make homes happy. 

Here's a look at Nicholas Rose's latest product launch, his Albino and Tulip lampshades which are constructed from flourescent coloured acrylic brackets, tinting the Lycra fabric covering when the light is on and transforming an opaque shade into one of vibrant translucency. 

The collection is available to buy at www.nicholasrosedesign.co.uk

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September 07, 2014

Fred Butler Mentors Young Designers at Somewhereto_ Festival

If I had to nominate an inspirational creative to motivate aspiring British fashion designers, Fred Butler would be at the top of my list. Somewhereto_  saw the magic, too, and chose the colour-loving designer and consultant, who has had pieces commissioned by Lady Gaga, Nike, Swatch and Selfridges, to act as mentor  for the Summer of somewhereto_ Festival. Fred donated her time to do workshops and provide one-to-one mentoring to young designers Kay Davis and Shireeka Devlin. Watch the film above to see the exciting things they got up to this summer. (Email subscribers please click the title to view the film on the blog.)

The UK-wide project is delivered by Livity and funded by a £7m grant from the Big Lottery Fund to support its expansion to 2016. somewhereto_ is a free nationwide location finding service which helps 16-25 year olds access free spaces in their communities. 

Whether young people are interested in music, fashion, art, tech, starting an enterprise or participating in urban sport, somewhereto_ offers an incredible opportunity for young people to realise their potential, kick start ideas, sell their products or services, showcase creative concepts and boost their skills.

You can learn more about the initiative at the somewhereto_ website and explore Fred Butler's wonderful world here

August 09, 2014

Toronto Sea Life: Ripley's Aquarium

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It's called Ripley's Aquarium of Canada (as opposed to Ripley's Aquarium of Toronto which would follow the format for their US locations), which is not helping the general notion down south that there's nothing in Canada but a few things. (Hey you're from Canada? Do you know Dave from Canada?) I guess they don't plan to open any other locations in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal.... 

Odd naming choices aside, Ripley's Aquarium - as in Ripley's Believe it or Not That's the Ticket Price (ok rant is really over now, my holiday from blogging has made me come back with some pent-up feistiness) is a pretty cool place. Located in the CN Tower complex, it's a very busy attraction, especially at the height of summer for tourists and locals alike, so plan for that if you go. What impressed me were some particularly beautiful displays, such as the stunning anemones whose tank was so pretty and serene in its colourful and varied arrangement it appeared to have been styled, as well as the jellyfish which pulsated and plunged to a succession of changing lights in bright hues which coloured their translucent bodies. And I saw some things I didn't know existed, such as a bright blue lobster (which unfortunately just would not photograph clearly for some reason), and one of the coolest things I've ever seen, a Sea Dragon, part of the Syngnathidae family which also includes seahorses.  They float as if in a state of suspended animation. I wonder what they're thinking. If anything. 

Here's a tour from the outside in starting with the CN Tower, the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere at 553.33 metres (which I've never been up because I'm scared crapless of heights and that's never, ever going to change):

  

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(Get your scrolling finger warmed up, there's a ton of fishy photos and they get better as it goes along)

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Lion Fish

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Sea Dragons (so cool)

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Anemones

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This picturesque tank marks the entrance of a sea tunnel which you are taken through on a conveyor (and probably will wander off it to get better pictures of the other side of the tank, but nobody is there to chastise you)

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Inside the Tunnel

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Sharks 

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Jellyfish

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This is the kind of jellyfish (below) I see washed up on the beach where I live by the North Sea, in the hundreds. It's not often but it's a scene I've come across many times, both sad and beautiful. From what I've read, it seems high winds bring in the jellyfish from warmer waters and high tides deliver them to their final resting place.  The biggest I've seen is a little bigger than your head and I've seen them as small as a 10p coin. Poor little things. The seagulls get the little crabs early in the morning and leave their legs scattered all over, but they will not touch these guys. They're not good eatin' I guess, maybe poisonous. Though the aquarium tanks have the coloured lights, the four rings in the centre of these jellyfish's bodies are coloured exactly as they appear - almost a neon purple against a mostly opaque, white, firm gelatenous body when out of the water. These ones don't have tentacles, I've never seen any and even turned one over to investigate; their bodies are very streamlined, like jelly disks. 

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Finally, before being dumped into the gift shop on the way out, we saw the area with the tanks that regulate the delicate balance needed to sustain the various species living in the aquarium. They've made the tanks look pretty cool:

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Goodbye aquarium:

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And CN Tower (which I never realised gives a light show at night)

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Photos © The Swelle Life

June 07, 2014

Miss Kiki Salon Channels Asia with 'Inui'

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Miss Kiki Salon is a collective that creates wearable art inspired by the beauty the find in their every day lives. Their latest designs form the Inui capsule collection of three summer dresses that elegantly reflect the patterns, colours, textures and imagery of Asia and the Orient. Each is made to order in softest cotton voile crafted to a fluid, unstructured shape using draping, folding and wrapping techniques that were inspired by their recent trip to Japan. 

What I love about Miss Kiki Salon is their oblivousness to trends. The designs are timeless, the fabrics naturally luxurious and always vibrant. Happy clothes with sophistication. 

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The Son Dress. The unique textile design is inspired by the hot desert landscape and intricate patterns of Rajasthan. 

Miss-Kiki-Salon_Tai-DressThe Tai dress.

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The Shin Dress is inspired by the florals and brightness of springtime Kyoto. 

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Photos from misskikisalon.com

April 28, 2014

Online Galleries: The New Way to Discover and Buy Art

Wylder-FlettWylder Flett's photographs of midcentury vignettes from every day, family life, using dollhouse furniture and figurines to set the scene. Clockwise from top right: Earl, being a housewife is work too!; Jan awaits her punishment; So Peg says to me... and Francine has something to tell Earl. Prints start at $112.

We can buy every other luxury item online, so why not art? For the past several years, galleries have been curating online collections to extend their brand to a broader audience and make art more accessible. These online art platforms cultivate a new community of collectors and raise profile for artists who may not otherwise be discovered beyond their local galleries. It's also the quickest and easiest way to discover new artists, wherever you are.

Recently, we looked at Scream Editions which sells affordable prints online and caters to new collectors on a budget. For a broader offering, one of my favourite online galleries to browse - and hopefully one day buy from - is Saatchi Art. You can consider traditional art such as paintings, drawings, photography, collage and sculpture, as well as more innovative forms such as installation and video. I'm drawn to abstraction in paintings, especially when it's textural, contrasted and coloured, but I also have a thing for lines, and the amount of art that fits the bill on this site is almost overwhelming; it's such a treat. One of my favourite subjects is midcentury iconography, so I searched the term and my favourite find of the Saatchi Art site thus far came up; Wylder Flett's vignettes of family life from the era, modelled with vintage dollhouse furniture and plastic figurines (as seen above). His focussed use of light highlights the figurines with an almost translucent effect, and when contrasted with shadow creates a rather dramatic, poignant scene which pings our own childhood memories and makes this plastic family feel very real. 

If you're wondering how to determine whether a particular piece might work in your home, there's a feature that shows you what the work looks like in a room, such as a painting or drawing over a sofa, so you can get a sense of scale and shape. 

Here are some other works I like from artists I didn't know before visiting the site. I noticed when taking the names that all but one are women artists (we talked about the lack of recognition of women in art as part of the Unlock Art film series not too long ago, but there is no shortage here):

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The midcentury modern series of 7 - number 1, Marén Wirths. Photograph.

Saatchi-Melinda-MatyasThe Barricade. Melinda Matyas. Oil painting. 

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Cloud 9, Jiyen Lee. Photograph.

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A6 Wandering Line 1, Tom Henderson. Plexiglass, aluminium, paint. 

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Windy Day, Ieva Baklane. Acrylic. 

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Abstract Landscape #20. Yangyang Pan. Oil painting. 

Saatchi-Jennis Cheng Tien LiJennis Cheng Tien Li. Paintings (four separate works shown here) and an installation of mixed media called Counterforce:

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Have a browse and see what great new artists you discover!

April 13, 2014

Me.By Me.: Celebrating Our Unique, Individual Style

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Last month I was treated to a preview of the new Me. By Me. campaign for TK Maxx in their Covent Garden store in London. It was a really colourful, upbeat party with smiling faces everywhere, the vibe reflecting the positive, sunny energy of the campaign. Have you seen the TV adverts? They feature real people, actual TK Maxx customers who are not professional models. An endearing self-consciousness is detectable and the message promoting unique personal style rings true. It's a refreshing concept as it's just so rare. Models act like models, they're never meant to come off as real people, and the Me.by.Me. campaign shows that some genuine character over the copycat, aspirational approach to selling fashion can be very motivating. Rather than seeing a model who has impossible legs, and impossible skin, and impossible hair and buying the clothes or bag she's wearing as a means of trying to get closer to that image, Me. By Me. gives us people of all ages whose personalities shine through the outfits and make us feel that we can look great as we are, that we've already got the whole package and hey, a few new bits will help us express ourselves and make us feel really good. 

This is the full advert for the TK Maxx Me. By Me. campaign: 

It holds your attention all the way through, doesn't it? I love it. 

So who are these real people? TK Maxx chose eight UK shoppers to help represent the brand and inspire others to celebrate the wonderful things that make them unique. They joined a diverse group of 12 TK Maxx real-life customers plucked from obscurity whilst browsing in stores spanning the UK, Ireland, Poland and Germany. They were taken on a trip of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa, where for 10 days they were encouraged to experiment with style and take part in a series of fun and experimental activities to help unlock their Me. By Me. mind-set. With no scripts or storyboards, the cast were given free rein to shape the direction of the campaign and experiment with a wide choice of clothing and accessories from stores to create their defining looks. 

Below are some of the TK Maxx customers from the advert, all from the UK. From top left is 82-year-old photographer Martin Gordon from London who doesn’t plan to ever retire; Pia Sarkar, a 25-year-old student and lover of 50s music and bright lipstick from Brixton; 62-year-old Olga spotted in London, who fabulously models TK Maxx’s swimwear; and Justina Bailey, a 28-year-old a graphic designer and self-confessed creative nerd with a quirky dress sense from London: 

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In the spirit of uniqueness, some of the great food and drink we were treated to at the Me. By Me. party at the Covent Garden TK Maxx:

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You might be wondering why I have such a rabid enthusiasm for the project. Yes, the advert is a joy to watch and puts a feeling of summer in my head. But I'm so excited about it all because it's not empty marketing smoke and mirrors; the concept of celebrating individual style follows through into real life in my own city of Newcastle. At the event for the opening of the campaign, we were given gift cards so we could pick out some clothes and put together outfits we like for ourselves. I had to run off for my train so I didn't have time to look through the Covent Garden store and would have to do my shopping locally when I got back. I'll be honest, I was a bit deflated not being able to do it in London, assuming that the selection at home would pale in comparison. Little did I know that the TK Maxx in Newcastle had moved amidst renovations to the mall where it was originally located, to a massive new space on Northumberland Street which now had a whole new look and a serious commitment to fashion. I found the new store and when I came off the escalator I noticed on my right a section marked 'Gold Label', and I was hoping this was what I thought it was. And yes, it was a high-end designer section and I couldn't believe what was there. I'm not going to name names because each store varies in what they receive - and therefore worth checking regularly - but I'm talking 'fashion week' brands. Big ones. You know them and you want them, and here were those otherwise unattainable items - at massive discounts!  The pile on my arm started to grow higher and higher, and then on my way to the fitting rooms I found a ton of really cool plaid flannels - I love how they were grouped together and required no rummaging - and I barely made it on in without my arms collapsing.

Most importantly, the shopping experience at TK Maxx is one that really does leave your choices up to you. As you walk into the store you may notice, or not, that there are no styled mannequins in the window or on the floor. No signage showing willowy young models in dreamy fashionland to unwittingly emulate. No dictating how you should look this season, no obvious trends packaged up to lead you into buy something that's not really you. The racks are quite electic yet cohesive as they are grouped by type of garment while representing a vast array of brands and - current - styles, and what stands out and comes into the fitting room with you will be something you already know you like. I looked through the racks for all the 'me' clothes and found tons. See - Me. By Me. It works!

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At the Me. By Me. launch we were treated to a chat with Carolyn Mair (right), a renowned cognitive psychologist in the UK. With a keen interest in fashion psychology, she is developing the first MA Psychology in the Fashion Industries and MSc Psychology in the Fashion Industries programmes which will run at The London College of Fashion from September 2014. Carolyn will focus on the importance of psychology in fashion and help students to gain an understanding of human behaviour in a fashion context. We had a fascinating discussion about the impact our clothes have on how we feel about ourselves and I would have loved to talk to her all night, she's so lovely and insightful. 

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I found success with most of the clothes I took into the fitting room (we had to separate my bounty into two groupings) but decided to take home a pair of jeans from one of today's most popular jean brands, they're skinny and a turquoisy teal (I cannot have enough blue skinny jeans); I'm wearing them as I write this, they're so comfortable and fit perfectly. I also got two 'going out' tops because although I'm not out constantly I do find I'm lacking in clothes that are suitable for a night on the 'toon' (that's Geordie speak). But as I'm Canadian and not a Geordie I'm much more casual (ok that's not fair, there are casual Geordies, my friends don't even own sparkly tops and dresses); however, you don't want to be so casual that you look like you're not out for fun. These two tops are perfect for my subtle going out style. I was just under the amout of the gift card when I made my way to the cash with my three items, and then I saw some high-end designer activewear and my eyes fixated on a really great jacket in shades of grey and a mix of fabrics, it was right in line with the activewear I've been oggling from New York Fashion Week. I scooped one up and tried it on in the queue and added it to the pile. (I'm also wearing that right now, it's so comfy and will come in handy for a lot more than going to the gym.)

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In the end, my four items totalled £128. The RRP was several times that so I was totally thrilled, a big bonus on top of having new clothes that I really loved and work for me. 

I'm so glad I was asked to be a part of this with TK Maxx. I do almost 100% of my clothes shopping online because of convenience and selection, but after this experience I knew I'd be checking back in regularly to see what gems have arrived before I do any clicking - a typical store has over 50,000 in stock and receives 10,000 new pieces every week. That's another thing - TK Maxx has brought in brands we wouldn't otherwise have in Newcastle. We only have a few high end shops, I think you could actually count them all on one hand (and maybe even have a thumb left over), and they only carry certain brands. But it's not just about finding high-end gems; the entire floor is stocked with desirable clothes from all price points. I love the surprise of finding which designers will appear next, and discovering new labels in other areas of the store. And not forgetting the cherry on top - saving money! And I have to mention that the racks were very neat (no mess like you tend to find on the high street) and the fitting rooms were very clean as well, not strewn with discarded clothes and hangers. And the selection was simply fantastic. Newcastle needed this. Did I mention I'm impressed and I can't wait to get back? (Well since originally writing this draft I have been back. Last weekend I took a friend who was visiting and needed jeans, and she found the perfect pair plus some tops. And I found the perfect replacement to a raincoat I no longer like because my style has changed - my old one has a bow in the back and I don't do those anymore. My new find is more utilitarian and just so cool that I actually don't mind if it rains now. Almost.) 

You know what? I've yet to make my way to the second level to browse the housewares. This adventure is just beginning....

March 17, 2014

Lula Magazine Goes to Japan

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Lula is about to pretty up Japan even further this October with its unique mix of memoir, philosophy and fantasy, as interpreted by editor Kazuo Sazuki. Sazuki has launched several highly acclaimed culture and fashion magazines in Japan, including RUSSH JAPAN. His company, Selek Limited, will be publishing Lula Japan.

Brit girls love Lula - still an independently published fashion title here - and now its youthful, dreamy and bold style will be a perfect fit for the Japanese market. I can't wait to see that first issue - will Sazuki use Japanse models?

And this is a good excuse to show some covers. I noticed that the more recent looks show an adventurous hand when it comes to makeup: 

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March 08, 2014

Orla Kiely's First Shoe Range is for...Clarks!

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Ok, so this is now last month's news because that's when it launched, but I am a fan of Orla Kiely so I wanted to talk about her shoe range with Clarks. I'm surprised this collaboration with the British heritage retailer - they've been around since 1825! - is the Irish print designer's first venture into shoes, mainly because I thought she'd have launched under her own label long ago if only to supply the shoes for her presentations at London Fashion Week. One season in the Portico Rooms at Somerset House - until three collections ago this was her LFW home which she transformed into a 1970s-tinged Orla Kiely world - I was admiring the wooden platforms on the models and then realised they were from Topshop, and thought how tough it must be to find the perfect pair to finish off her retro-inspired looks each season and complement her bags just so. 

Orla Kiely's collaboration with Clarks would have been slightly more eyebrow-raising if the modest high street retailer hadn't already done a collection with another homegrown label known for prints, hipster fave Eley Kishimoto, two brands you would never think of simultaneously, which made it kind of cool. And Clarks didn't order a watered down approach for the masses, or at least that wasn't what was delivered in the end; the electric zig-zag and cubic prints in bold colours were true to the duo's 'pay attention to me!' aesthetic of the time. 

Eley-Kishimoto-x-Clarks-belmodo.tv-10Past shocker collaboration, Clarks x Eley Kishimoto

Clarks is known as a shoe retailer of modest styling and modest pricing which has positioned itself as the trustworthy place to buy quality shoes for your kids (and have them fitted properly), and for adults to buy a nice, sensible pair, leaving a wide gap in the middle. These designer collaborations get the teens and fashion-savvies excited and in the door, or clicking. And maybe it's not so surprising to see Clarks stretching so far outside of their comfort zone with these crazy graphics and sky-high platforms; United Nude's Rem D Koolhaus co-founded the forward-thinking, edgy shoe brand with British shoemaker Galahad Clark - yes, of that Clark family. Nice to see they're not afraid to play around and have some fun. 

Here's the Orla Kiely collection for Clarks, in all its chunky-heeled, platformed, Mary-Jane and T-barred glory:

Orla-kiely-clarks

And look how she's incorporated her famous double stem print into the sole of the shoe:

Orla_stemprint

If you happen to be a Canadian fan of Orla Kiely, you're in luck - the collection launched today at Gravitypope and it appears to include everything seen here. 

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