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 17, 2014

'Fur - An Issue of Life and Death' Exhibition Opens in Denmark

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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 to be gratuitous and cruel, and fur consumers who don't care how their luxury items are procured, or just don't want to know. Now, the National Museum of Denmark puts the ethical debate on the agenda with its special exhibition, ‘Fur – An Issue of Life and Death’. For the first time, the Museum is displaying 60 of its 2,000 unique fur garments from the indigenous people of the Artic, alongside contemporary fur designs, drawing historical links from the garments of the past to those of the present, and addressing industrial fur farming and modern hunting in the Arctic. The historical use of fur is thus located in a contemporary context, where people still wear fur and when wearing fur is about much more than simply keeping warm. The exhibition runs until February 22nd, 2015.

In the program section ‘Voices in the Debate’, visitors meet around 50 supporters and opponents of fur farming and hunting. They are invited to try on real, fake and even ‘blood spattered’ furs. Together with designers, politicians, public figures, experts and people on the street, they are given the opportunity to present their opinions on fur farming, hunting and sustainability in both statements and videos, as well as through selfies and text messages, all of which are incorporated into the exhibition itself.

Fur as a Social Symbol

The historic fur garments were collected from around 1850 to 1950 in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, Siberia and the Sami areas of Scandinavia. There was a time when fur was essential for survival. But fur also served functions beyond protecting against the cold. Fur garments signalled their owners’ gender and status in society, as well as identifying which ethnic group people belonged to.

In the exhibition, visitors to the museum can also experience around 30 modern creations made of fur, sealskin and artificial fur, which The National Museum has on loan from a range of designers including Bendikte Utzon and Nikoline Liv Andersen from Denmark, as well as Greenlandic designs like those by Nicki Isaksen, and the creations of international designers and fashion houses like Yves Saint Laurent, Sonia Rykiel, Oscar de la Renta, and Jean Paul Gaultier. The contemporary garments give visitors the opportunity to see the design of historical fur garments reflected in modern designs, forging links between the past and the present.

I'm very curious what the designers have to say in the 'Voices in the Debate' section, and whether their views are influenced by the culture they come from, and how they justify using fur as a textile, creating demand for furs through their collections. And I'm also very interested in the overall tone of the program and the content of the Museum's guides and printed materials, and ultimately, what comes of this ethical debate. I'm guessing that 'FUR - HARMLESS FUN FOR EVERYONE!' won't be the overriding message. 

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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 

March 26, 2014

DIY a Fab New Chair at Ministry of Upholstery

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I have spent more than a few moments giving the side-eye to an armchair we have. It has good bones but there's a part on one of the arms where the fabric is kind of slouchy and it bothers me to no end. Apparently staring at it with a menacing glare doesn't fix it, so it needs to be reupholstered. If I lived closer to Manchester I'd be loading up that chair and heading over to the Ministry of Upholstery to get it back into shape. Yes, there is actually a place where you can learn to do your own upholstery, in fact it's dedicated to teaching even complete novices how to make a perfect piece of furniture. If you live in or near the area and you're interested in seeing what it's all about, they're having an open day on Sunday 6th April 11.00-3.00 at Ministry of Upholstery, 122 Water Street, Manchester, M4 2JJ.

It’s free to attend and they will be offering the opportunity to meet the team, find out about their courses, check out their facilities, watch demonstrations of various upholstery and furniture renovation techniques, and you can talk to and watch existing students at work. 

Ministry of Upholstery is led by upholsterer Anthony Devine. Anthony has been passionate about interiors since an early age and has worked in the furniture and upholstery industry for the past seventeen years. Beginning his career as an apprentice, he then went on to produce and install hand-made furniture for Rocco Forte, The QE2, Forte Hotels, Harvey Nichols and Crowne Plaza Hotels. Anthony’s passion and experience has been the catalyst for opening up his workshop to those looking to gain practical, hands-on experience while learning about the craftsmanship of upholstery in a workshop environment.

What a cool skill to have, don't you think?  

January 24, 2014

Habitat Presents: Colour into Liquid Air

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We could all use more colour in our lives, couldn't we? Especially during the gloom of the last months of winter. Just in time to get us into a sunnier headspace, Habitat’s Platform space on the Kings Road sees the exciting addition of an oasis of colour and vibrancy to its west London gallery this February and March. Recent graduate of the Slade School of Fine Art, Gracjana Rejmer- Canovas, has been invited by Habitat to transform its white gallery space on the King’s Road ‘Platform’ into a riot of colour through a painting installation entitled ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’.

Attracted by the American Abstract Expressionists and the Colour Field Painters, Rejmer-Canovas will present canvases of bold, abstract colours of various shapes and sizes. The dozens of canvases sit together and make a large, cohesive whole but each individual piece will also have its own individual integrity.

Rejmer-Canovas soaks up London’s colours and the vast cultural richness of the capital in her home turf of Hampstead and around her Southwark studio. In this project, she will dye her canvases of linen and cotton with natural pigments and then layer acrylics and oil paints. The result will be walls and floors awash with paintings, and a complete interior world of colour. 

The curator of Platform, Holly Wood, says, “Habitat is the perfect place for Gracjana to create her first solo show in London. Her palette of materials and references take you on a journey and remind you of brighter days and faraway trips. I am so excited that we are working with Gracjana on this original and inspiring project. Take a day-trip and be surrounded by the vibrancy of this exhibition.”

Rejmer-Canovas’ ‘Colour Into Liquid Air’ at Platform will run from 7th February to 23rd March 2014 and is generously supported by the Polish Cultural Institute, London. A video of the making process in the space will be shown in the space on loop.  All work is available for sale through the artist prices start from £800, and commissions are available. 

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Photo credit: Susan Bell

January 21, 2014

Spring Couture 2014: Cutwork at Christian Dior

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According to the review at WWD, Raf Simons described this show as "honoring the connection between the women artisans of the Dior atelier who make the clothes, and the women for whom they work, the clients, seeing that connection as one of intimacy, expressed in a mood of graceful calm." Head over to Style.com and Tim Blanks elaborates on the theme, citing Simon's cutwork techniques, overlays, veils, the delicate chain bows on the neck and fingers, and  the sexual element of "concealment infused with peekaboos"as ways of "communicating the charged intimacy of couture."

An abundance of exquisite textural details have been seen at Christian Dior since Raf Simons took the helm, and whether or not the ultra-sweet forms of this couture strikes your fancy, you'd have to have a hard heart if you can't fall in love with everything that's happening on these clothes:

 

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Raf Simons helped out the audience who couldn't make out his illustration: "It's a woman on top of the world":

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May 02, 2013

WOWW...That's More Than a Tea Towel

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Mae Engelgeer, you have made me covet a tea towel. Or two, or three. The Dutch textile designer has created the Woww, Fest and Bow collections of graphic fabrics, developed in small quantities at the Textile Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. The fabrics are a mixture of mohair, cashmere, cotton and acrylic yarns for the blankets, shawls and scarves, and the tea towels are just slightly less precious yet still fine for such a utilitarian item, in cotton, linen and acrylic. I'm probably going to buy one - my favourite is  Woww (above and below) and I won't lie, I will try to wear it as a scarf.

You can buy Mae Engelgeer textiles at her online shop or at The Minimalist which is based in Australia, where I found out about her.

But there's nothing worse than buying something pretty that's meant for practical purposes and then being afraid to use it and dirty it up. I once bought cloth napkins that had a print on a white background and I loved them. The first time I used them was when we had friends over for lunch for the first time ever. I guess the importance of a first impression was lost on me, because when I realised that any mouth wiping would result in an instant stain, I collected them up and replaced them with paper towels which happened to have The Muppets characters on them. Yes, I did that. I was a little embarrassed but would I have done it differently if I could go back? Um, no! Later, I had to figure out how to make them practical and not stress about it. I decided they would not be table napkins but would look nice on my serving trays when I was bringing out tea or desserts. And this is exactly what I would do with these awesome tea towels which are far too good for wiping stuff. 

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April 16, 2013

Chanel Film: Bicolor, The Making of the Cardigan

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Click the image to watch the Chanel film Bicolor, The Making of the Cardigan at Chanel News

Leave it to Chanel to turn the making of a cardigan into something magical. From choosing the colour of the finest cashmere threads to the finishing of the piece with those intertwined C buttons - measured for exactness with a wooden ruler - we get a glimpse into the highest level of craftsmanship that goes into making the French fashion house's two-tone cardigans.

Chanel's cashmere is produced in Hawick, Scotland. In fall 2012, Chanel purchased the Barrie Knitwear cashmere mill after its owner company collapsed, saving 176 local jobs and keeping yet another artisan manufacturer from going the way of the Dodo. To date, Chanel has ensured the quality and that unique exquisiteness of their garments by acquiring the struggling couture ateliers Lemarie, the last remaining Paris plumassier, Michel for millinery, Desrues for costume jewellery, Massaro for shoemaking, and Lesage for embroidery. Most of us may never be able to afford a Chanel garment (lottery tickets), but it's nice knowing they're still out there in the world. 

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March 15, 2013

Fashion Week Favourites: Paris

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In the end, Paris gave the colour and texture lovers what we wanted, and for those who can never get enough black, there was of course a ton of that as well; Rick Owens, Gareth Pugh, Ann Demeulemeester and Comme Des Garçons will always have options for you. Miuccia Prada has guaranteed a polka dot revival for fall thanks to the unabashedly vibrant, Lichtenstein-esque Ben-Day dot patterns at Miu Miu which she clashed with tight horizontal stripes on tights, bags and fantastic, fitted long coats with off-centre plackets with big buttons (is it still considered clashing when it works so well?). And I'll bet we'll be seeing a lot of necks tied up in scarves which is good because I've got a box of neckerchiefs that are desperate to be relevant again. 

Here's what else jumped out at me from Paris: 

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Tsumori Chisato presented a chic version of her fun, vibrant, and surreal approach to clothes - this time a marine theme that looked handpainted ran through the collection

Valentino

Valentino drew upon Dutch influences for their laser cut and beaded collars, Delft-like prints and tulip embroidery that adorned somewhat austere dresses and capes

Celine

The clean and elegant cuts, tactile fabrics and soft tones of Céline make for a great palette cleanser. Add a bit of appliqued texture and slightly exaggerated shapes and you get a luxe classic that never feels old. 

Cacharel

Cacharel is a personal favourite of mine; regardless of who's designing the Paris house is always about youthful, feminine clothes that are chic, and I have a feeling that combination will be endlessly appealing to me no matter how many calendar pages flip by. Prints are a big part of the brand's DNA and for fall we have tapestry-inspired florals and a hummingbird motif that brought a classic anorak to life; hopefully others will take note and wake up this winter staple with options beyond the drab, plain tones we're usually offered (whenever khaki is a trend I die a little). 

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Happy coats at Issey Miyake! And happy models, too (those who were capable of accommodating the 'True Smiles' request, anyway). A colour-blocked rethinking of plaid in tonal shades energised with fine diagonal stripes made for coats that would brighten any damp and gloomy day - get them to the UK stat!

Chanel

While not a colour fiesta at Chanel, with 80 outfits to choose from we're guaranteed to fall in love with at least a few tweed or boucle creations. Will we be seeing second-skin thigh-hig leather 'socks' come September? How about winter wig hats? Karl Lagerfeld always brings a bit of fantasy beyond the daydreams he prompts of winning the lottery to afford the clothes. 

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Colour seeker or not, Alber Elbaz made the darkest of palettes light and beautiful for Lanvin with flower and insect appliques, easy yet sophisticated cuts and wordy necklaces and medallions that (mostly) expressed nice things like 'Happy' and 'Love'. I'd feel both of these if I were wearing Lanvin. 

Photos: Style.com

February 27, 2013

DIY Your Own Runway Tie Dye

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As soon as the first model hit the runway for London Fashion Week, retailers began scrabbling away, replicating the patterns and styles of top designers. As Laura and Kate Mulleavy of Rodarte gave a nod to the ‘90s by bringing back tie dye at New York Fashion Week, are we likely to see the same on this side of the pond?

If so, you can avoid wearing high street reproductions by tie dying your clothes yourself. And no longer do you need to stick to dying a white tee as you did when you were younger. This year’s trend sees Rodartetie dye a blanket shawl, a silk dress and a satin body suit. So this is your chance to be adventurous! Pick any white item you like – cotton, linen and silk tend to work best – and we can go from there.

You can buy fabric dye from any good haberdashery or fabric shop – and you can choose hand dye or machine dye in which you put the dye, together with your garment, in your washing machine. For tie dying purposes, you want to buy hand dye, as you’ll only be dying parts of your material or immersing it for a short amount of time in a washing up bowl or bucket.

When you’re ready to get started you want to soak your garment, as wet fabric is easier to dye. Spin out the excess water in your washing machine or squeeze out what you can by hand. You’ll then need either elastic bands or string to create your desired look.

There are a number of different designs you can create easily just by folding and tying your item in different ways. Some of the most popular ways to tie dye clothes include creating spirals, circles, stripes and knot tying:

  • Spirals: Lay the fabric on a flat surface and put the handle end of a wooden spoon in a position where you’d like the centre of a spiral. Holding the fabric in place around the handle, start twisting the fabric around it. When you’ve got the material into a circular, spiral shape, tie multiple (around four) rubber bands or pieces of string over the fabric so that they crossover in the centre. Make sure the fabric retains its circular shape.
  • Circles: Pick up a small area to be the centre of a circle and hold it between your fingers. With your other hand, tie string or elastic bands at one-inch intervals – go as far down as you’d like the circle to be wide. 
  • Stripes: Roll the fabric up to form a loose tube shape. Tie string or elastic bands tightly at regular intervals.
  • Knot tying: Hold the garment at each end and twist it tightly to create a long rope. Tie it together to form a large knot.

Wearing rubber gloves, dissolve the dye in water as instructed by the packaging – the amount you need will also vary depending on the material you’re using and the size of the garment.Some patterns such as creating spirals will ask that you completely immerse the clothing in the dye, while other styles, and those where you want different colours will need you to apply the dye from squeezy bottles directly on to the individual areas. If you’re immersing the whole garment, leave it in the dye solution for around a minute before taking it out, squeezing out some of the excess water, sealing it in a plastic bag and leaving for 24 hours. If you’re applying the dye directly to the fabric with a bottle, you can pop it straight into the sealed bag.

After the 24 hours, without untying the item, rinse it in cold water until it runs clear. Then you can untie the string or elastic bands and wash it in hot water using washing detergent.Once you’ve dried your tie dye masterpiece, it’ll be extremely wrinkled so you need to use a steam washing machine or iron to remove the creases. Now you’re good to go!

If you want to get more involved in London Fashion Week’s trends, designer Holly Fulton has teamed up with event sponsor LG and will be creating a bespoke Pinterest board showing the inspiration behind her unique fabric prints and embellishment in her latest collection. You can share your own fabric inspirations on Pinterest –enter using @LGUK and #LGLFW on Twitter for the chance to win an LG 6 Motion Direct Drive washing machine, also available to buy on LG’s website.

Photo: Style.com

February 26, 2013

Fashion Week Favourites: London

DuroOlowu

Duro Olowu returned to London this season to show his scrumptiously chic A/W collection (he's been showing in New York for the past two years). One of my most favourite designers and a very warm-hearted man to boot, through his clothes he shows us seemingly endless ways to wear texture, colour and print at its most joyful, and those ways are becoming more and more refined and sophisticated without stifling one bit of his infectious exuberance. I can only imagine how special you would feel wearing one of his garments. (When I met Duro last autumn his lovely wife was with him and looked fantastic wearing one of his exquisite jackets.)

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Look beyond the no-pants, high top trainer, face-eating-muff styling by Katie Grand and you'll see some very gorgeous knits from this sister line of the knitwear house Sibling, appropriately named Sister by Sibling. (Sometimes I feel the need to explain why catwalk presentation can be odd, for the non-fashion readers. Like my Dad. "Why isn't she wearing pants? Who goes out without pants?" "No one, dad. But you notice the sweater, right? And the hat?" "No, I'm wondering why she's not wearing pants." "Never mind, Dad.") Anyway, massive scarves in a gorgeous slubby texture are appealing in a primal way - don't we all seek that kind of assured comfort in the cold? The short sleeves of the fair isle and rosette sweaters balance their chunkiness and make for a cute shape. And they may even look good with pants. 

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I love the sporty look of  Clements Riberio's striped cashmere sweater with the floral mini, and the slightly punky hair that keeps it from looking too preppy. These outfits stood out from the earthier muted tones that dominated the second half of the line up. 

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Michael van der Ham's usual choppy asymmetry was only to be found in the zig zag of the models' hairstyle this season. The patchwork mashups were (mostly) gone, with the outfits more finished and refined. And if the models look to be even more miserable than usual (actually, with the exception of one, these were the least sour looking of the bunch) it's because van der Ham's inspiration was a 'tough girl - moody and dark.' Ok. But some actually looked like they were in pain. 

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Pringle of Scotland has pared down their knitwear range to focus on their signature styles, the loveliest of the bunch being the pure white gilet and skirt in an ottoman rib knit that makes you want to run your fingers over and over just as much as wear.

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I always look forward to the Orla Kiely presentation in what has been her fashion week home away from home for the past several seasons, the Portico Rooms at Somerset House which she would transform into her preferred fantasyland at the time, and always on the Friday. Sometimes there would be live models (which of course I loved, they pose for you), sometimes there would be cardboard cutouts, and other times it was superimposed paper girls on the walls. I've skipped the past two seasons because fashion week takes a heck of a lot of energy, and I just haven't had it for the past year. So I was surprised to find out that Orla moved out of Somerset House and instead set up office, literally, for her fashionable, anachronistic secretaries to show off their new knit dresses, embroidered cardigans and smart handbags between typing and taking phone calls. 

Photo source

Click the image to watch the video of the girls at work (at fashion156.com):

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Another reason I love the presentation format:

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Sophia Webster showed her new range of shoes in pastel birdhouses in a pastel forest

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I so look forward to inspecting the intricate details of Bora Aksu's clothes up close in the exhibition hall, post-show. The Turkish designer's signature approach involves techniques with the textiles to create all kinds of interesting textures, and mixing knitted elements with both delicate and rigid materials, like chiffons and lace, and hard leather. You can see some details from a past season here.

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Photos: fredbutler.blogspot.co.uk

And undoubtedly the most joyful of presentations come from Fred Butler where you instantly feel validated for your enduring childhood attachment to colour and your desire to celebrate it now in a big way. Which Fred does every day. This season Fred took a more commercial approach and set up a pop-up shop (complete with Fred Butler-esque cupcakes by Pomp de Franc) to allow guests to interact with the goods.

Fred does a film each season and I use them for a little daydreamy escape whenever things are too gloomy in this world of ours:

 

Photos from Style.com unless otherwise credited

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