Saturday, February 27, 2010

Portobello Road

One of my favourite places in London to frequent, Portobello Road still excites me to this day. I seem to find something new and inspiring everytime I go- George Orwell must've felt the same! Most recently, I was distracted by a window display as I crossed the road. At first glance I thought it was another antique shop advertising old vintage Singer sewing machines. I then realised it was actually an All Saints store which had 100s of sewing machines semetrically placed all around its window display and indeed the brown brick interior.

The Hummingbird Café is another haunt of mine when I visit West London. Luscious couture cupcakes are their specialty and with such a hefty pricetag (from £1.75 upwards), it is definitely a once off experience- at least that's good news for your hips. I opted for a red velvet cupcake with creamy white icing topped off with a marzipan red rose. The sugar rush that ensued kept me going for the day.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Child of the Jago

“A Child of the Jago is a child of the street” is their motto. Design due Joseph Corre and Simon Armitage’s aesthetic is a mix between the dandy and rock n’ roll, with the strict tailoring influence of Saville Row thrown in for good measure.

The last show of this seasons London Fashion Week is surprisingly located in Shoreditch, in a warehouse behind A Child of the Jago’s quirky store. The graffiti scrawled lane is crowded with people trying to catch a glimpse of Vivienne Westwood as she scurries into the venue to see her son’s showcase. A one man act opened the show with his aggressive singing and homeless-man-like appeal, his lyric “I’m turning into Dad” still ever so haunting in retrospect. At first it was hard to concentrate on the show itself with Vivienne and Andreas in the front row accompanied by Janet Jackson (the new Pamela Anderson perhaps?) but the extravagant outfits soon caught my eye.

Exquisite tailoring permeated the collection, with tweed and woollen suits in a variety of colours on show. There were clearly many inspirations for this collection, with the music swiftly changing as quickly as the models. From punk and rock sounds to sailor-esque outfits with Parisian notes there was never a dull moment. Delicate silk scarves softened the looks and floated down the runway- Viv herself became involved in the show when she picked up a scarf that has slid off one of the models and she then gave it back to the next model who was quite startled. The oldest yet most dapper model I have seen sauntered down the catwalk like a ringmaster with striped trousers and top hat, his silver locks peaking out underneath. The ultimate punk look with fishnets, leather cap and fur had the audience smirking and tartan kilts made an appearance- a nod to his mother no doubt. The only female model in the show acted as an escort to the male models, donning garters and corsets aling with a cheeky grin.

The collection told a complicated story of two men who don't let the tyranny of trends infiltrate their creativity, and this show documented their aesthetic excellenty.

Front Row Snaps

Sunday, February 21, 2010

London Fashion Week- J Maskrey, Victoria House

My first Fashion Week show was certainly one to remember. It was scheduled for 19.15 but, as I now know, shows never start on time and it was after eight before we were shown to our seats (by shown to our seats I mean the crowd stampeded towards to catwalk and plonked themselves on the white benches).

The exciting atmosphere was accentuated by the dimming of the lights and the primitive beats that echoed around Vitoria House. Stormy rainfall sounds were drowned out by the murmur of the crowd. J Maskrey, who trained as a make up artist initially, is known for her body jewellery and embellished clothes. This was her first catwalk show in five years at London fashion Week so expectations were high. Her collection, entitled Pleasure was inspired by a 1930s black and white film called The Mask of Fu Man Chu. It was described on the shows booklet as 'the return of the modern day heroine' and 'Futuristic biker chic. Girls dipped in crystals and diamonds, super luxe criminal with a sexy attitude'.

The lights rose like the morning sun and the first model appeared all in black with a head wrap embellished with Maskrey’s signature sparkle. Black and gold permeated this collection with every model dressed in black wool knit fabrics, some of which were embroidered with a pom pom effect. It was clear that Maskrey was inspired by the animal kingdom with leopard print body tattoos in place of a high neck blouses, and zebra stripes clawed onto the back of the two male models, one of which donned a cave man fur headpiece. Classic tattoo symbols such as crosses, love hearts and skulls were mixed with words and phrases- LOVE and HATE were emblazoned across one model’s knuckles.

A loud gong admits an oriental inspired look with an extravagant headpiece made of a black fan with gold roses and chains dripping from the centre. Reminiscent of Grace Kelly in Mata Hari, another donned a similar headpiece and gown dangling with chandelier crystals- a look costume designer Gilbert Adrian would’ve been proud of.

A range of fabrics and accessories didn’t distract attention away from the extraordinary body art. The sheer blouses, black fur and wool knits were perfect canvases for Maskrey’s intricate glistening designs. Studded and sparkling leggings, plastic circular handbags and leather armlets gave a grungy feel to the overall dark collection. The attention to detail, such as black gems trickling down from the fingertips, elevated this entire collection. The final look was almost bat like with a double fanned headpiece similar to the previous oriental inspired piece but much more delicate. This was juxtaposed against the panelled leopard print dress with the gaps in between bearing the models glowing skin. She exits the catwalk with a smirk- a mischievous end to a sexy criminal collection.

The after-show party was awash with fashion industry elite. Everyone sipped on ‘Bespoke Cocktails’ whilst discussing their day filled of catwalk shows and planned their busy few days ahead. J herself introduced the act of the night and there was a slightly disappointing gasp heard around the room when the Sugarbabes strutted onto the stage. They didn’t let this bother them and belted ‘About you Now’ (the only song I knew) oozing confidence and sex appeal. Jodie Harsh bopped beside me along with another drag queen dressed hair to toe in PVC, almost like a blow-up doll- only at London Fashion Week!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rodarte Crush

It's a wonder how Kate and Laura Mulleavy have made such an impact in the fashion industry in five short years. Haling from Pasadena, California, the two sisters had no official fashion training when they decided to start their own fashion label, using their drive and love of fashion as a sole basis. The built a strong relationship with fashion through film and music and were exposed to it through their mother as an artist and their grandmother as an opera singer.

The hightailed it to New York with ten pieces stuffed into a box and were lucky enough to get a few appointments with some fashion buyers. Women's Wear Daily became interested in their designs and somehow one of their pieces made it onto the front cover of the prestigous magazine. They then won runner up in the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund award in 2006 and collaborated with GAP; this propelled them into the limelight. They've gathered a celebrity fanbase with actors such as Natalie Portman (a close friend), Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Chloe Sevigny all keen admirers of the label.

Their innovative take on mixing fabrics, such as mohair and Swarovski crystals for their A/W 08 collection set them apart from the rest. Their new collection has lept up their high standards and is set to produce some trends od their own as they have insisted before that they tend to steer clear of trend forcasting.

The Mulleavy sisters built their A/W 10 collection on the idea of sleepwalking which carried a dream like quality around the room. They said that their collection had been influenced by a recent drive through Mexico and the boarder town of Ciudad Juárez disturbed them.

"The Mexican maquilladora workers, walking to the Juarez factories in the middle of the night in a sort of sleep state, had a profound impact on us."

The models walked in a haze floating down the catwalk in crisp whites and creams mixed with colourful print work.

"The idea of a dream state guided the development of the collection in that we imagined a half-sleeping girl, dressing herself in the dark of night and focused on building garments that are neither long or short, made of varying layers. The collection interlaces florals, plaids, embroidery, and prints. We played with transparency and opaqueness in this collection, using a palette with Mexican-American references but without the usual tropes."

Their take on the wool jumper added a fresh feel to the worn out designs that have come before them- wrapping the fabric from around the neck to under the arm. The Mexican ethnicity was visible in tasselled skirts and patchwork, and their lace leggings are sure to reverberate in collections to come. Nicholas Kirkwood’s heels set off the collection perfectly and the dark washed hair of the models slicked back added the Rodarte edge to a more feminine collection. The show ended with a white lace gown, resembling a distressed wedding dress- A perfect day for a Rodarte wedding.

I couldn't get anough of their latest collection. Even if I could get my hands on a pair of those gloves for next Autumn I'll be happy.

PS: These hair clips would go excellently with the gloves.

Beach House, Bush Hall. They were sleeping 'til I came along.

The drum machine sounds and provides a steady beat for Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally to enter the small intimate stage. For such a unique and particular sound, Alex had been on the stage a few minutes beforehand to tune his guitar, but the element of excitement is still there when they step out on stage together as Beach House.

‘Walk in the Park’, which boasts a powerful chorus kicks off the sold-out gig and has the crowd swaying from side to side from the get-go. Victoria’s voice echoes around the tiny Bush Hall venue and sends tingles down my spine. She is captivating- wearing an oversized blazer and uncombed hair, her natural beauty shines through. What was once a shy and timid voice builds up into a note perfect ensemble of both their new songs and old favourites such as ‘Master of None’ and ‘Gila’- both make the crowd lust after her. The chandeliers that provided dim lighting before the band surfaced sparkle in the darkness and create an alluring atmosphere that is the perfect backdrop for their phantasmagoria outlook and dream pop collective sound.

The gig itself turns into a showcase for their latest album with ‘Zebra’, ‘Mile Stereo’ and ‘Used to Be’ all getting a chance to prove how much their sound has developed since their debut album. New single ‘Norway’ which was available on 7” on the night sped up the dream-like set and certainly awakened the dreary crowd. The lyric ‘We were sleeping ‘til you came along’ never seemed more apt.

An encore rendition of Teen Dream’s finale ‘Take Care’ is teamed with sparkling lights that illuminate the disco ball and shows how much they care themselves about their music and their fans. It was a far cry from the moody set of last summer when I saw them at one o’clock in the morning. Victoria lends her vocals to the folk inspired sounds of Grizzly Bear and Beach House will be supporting them on their own European tour- a definite must see.

The support of this gig however came for the highly recommended Lawrence Arabia who is tipped for success in 2010. Not one to make it on time to catch the support act, this was a pleasant surprise. The harmonies that gelled the Lawrence and his band in opening song ‘Apple Pie Bed’ were enough to grab my attention and give Fleet Foxes a run for their money. The humble singer/songwriter barely spoke to the crowd in his New Zealand accent, but when he did it validated the stunning songs he sang. My personal favourite on the night was ‘The Undesirables’ but the lyrics of ‘The Beautiful Young Crew’ got a chuckle from the crowd- ‘They hate each other, but they really love each other, because they wanna screw each other’- So true. His pop/folk rock/psychedelic sound will fit in perfectly at Green Man festival this summer, and he and the band embark on a warm up tour ‘Over the Green Hills’ this Spring with Cate LeBon and Marques Tolivier.

Here's a taster of the encore- definitely already a highlight of 2010 for me!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Alexander Wang, A/W 2010

Imagine wandering aimlessly through Time Square as a tourist, distracted by the bright lights of the advertising campaign and the Charmin jingle penetrating from the home of the 'Cleanest Toilets in the Country' and all of a sudden, Alexander Wang's A/W10 collection is being streamed onto the big screens. Watching fashion shows live are becoming an internet wonder as SHOWstudio have cleverly demonstrated for a few seasons. But to be able to witness such a thing in New York's bustling advertising emporium must have been such a sight to behold.

Straight from Pier54, the models stormed down the catwalk in Wang's latest collection, one that I am still drooling over. The Wall St banker aesthetic juxtaposed against the mantra of the gyspies is a statement to the tough economic times we are living in but also a rebellion against the banks restraints on creativity. Certainly no restraints were visible from any of the New York Fashion Week shows.

Wang had a strong vision for this collection:

"I wanted this season to have this buttoned up, strict pristine feeling in the suiting. It's well-tailored men's jacket but taking that idea and not make it boring, dated and conservative. It's the silhouette of kind of making the shoulders really tight and then longer in the sleeves so that it goes past the hands and taking off all the buttons off the jacket so that it almost becomes like a layering piece like a cardigan. Then taking the jacket from the top and using it as a skirt, the lapel and using it as a bra top."

The texture most visible was 'velour du jour', velvet pieces for every occasion that could be carried from day into night. Decontructed suits, capes reminicient of hippies and his classic chiffon mixed dresses made this collection an enviable one. For such a young and new designer, the others should be shaking in the Prada boots.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alexander the Great

I have only just been informed of the death of Alexander Mc Queen, who was found dead in his London home this morning. I am in shock at the news. He was a maverick in the fashion industry, constantly pushing boundaries and testing the limits of fashion. It comes as a complete shock to the industry and he will definitely be missed. With London Fashion week only a week away, and Paris around the corner, undoubtedly there will be homage payed to one of the greatest designers of our time. His legacy will forever live on and I will be marking the high points in his career over the next week.

May he Rest In Peace.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Don your Denim

Denim is a staple piece in any wardrobe. From the perfect pair of jeans to a denim jacket or shirt, it is interchangeable and infinite. This season, channel your inner Debbie Harry and mix your denim with denim. The key piece in this look is the denim shirt. It is strong, simple and can be understated or sexy depending on the shape and indeed your mood. Indigo, stonewashed and even white denim is making a comeback and the most affordable way to stay on trend is with the trusty denim shirt.

On the cover on this months Vogue, Alexa Chung is slouched on a stool in a pair of ripped denim jeans with black Chanel clogs (another one to watch out for). Inside, she describes her love for all things denim and I couldn’t help but both agree with her and feel overwhelmingly jealous. While us mere mortals scour the high street for that perfect pair of jeans to emulate the comfort of our Levis 501 hand-me-downs, Alexa notes that she found her dream pair at Balenciaga. At that’s all it will be for us, a dream.

The denim shirt has exploded into every store this season (Topshop, Topman, New Look and Primark to name but a few), but it has been present in fashion since it was almost a uniform for hippies in the 70s at Woodstock and has also been filtering down from the catwalks over the past few seasons. SS10 catwalks saw troops of models clad head to toe in denim, but the shirt was the piece that shone through.

There is a range of different ways to wear this ultimate piece. A loose fitted man-sized shirt, such as these shirts from Topman (left), can be left open as a jacket or buttoned and belted, and it can look chic when tucked into the waist. Denim on denim was a favourite at Chloé with a loose fitting denim shirt that had the pockets ripped off to reveal deep indigo patches and dark fitted jeans with lighter denim shins. Take note from this look by wearing the denim on denim with contrasting washes; lighter on top and darker on the bottom for the body conscious fashionista’s among us. With such a denim overload it is important that accessories do not overpower the look and shoe choice is essential to avoid looking like you’ve just come from a rodeo. Pin this image of Britney and Justin to your wardrobe to remind you what happens when denim attacks.

Denim shirts are widely available from designer to high street but all seem very similar- it’s how you wear it that stands out. To revamp the classic 70s look, try adding lace into the mix. By attaching a strip of lace under the collar and across the shoulders, it immediately updates this classic look and adds a modern twist.

The denim shirt will last for seasons to come and is a great item to have in multiple shades and shapes as this will allow you to either look chilled out for a day look. With the right belt and shoes can transform into an evening silhouette-just remember to back away from the cowboy boots.

Teen Dreamer

I first encountered Beach House whilst watching an interview with MGMT back in 2008. They mentioned the Baltimore duo as one of their favourites of the time and they were also good friends (who in that circle is never friends?). However, they were wrongly shunned aside when I saw that they were supporting a fellow dreary folk band now known as the ubiquitous Fleet Foxes. I reverted back to them last year and I am very glad I did so. Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally make up the indie compilation. Victoria's mellowed vocals match the drone of Alex's guitar and the echo of the organ create a unique sound that penetrates your deepest thoughts. Their self titled debut album was listed on Pitchfork's Best of 2006 list, and they were immediately catapulted into the indie arena. They have since released two albums, Devotion and their most recent, Teen Dream has gathered o much momentum over the past month that is enough to sell out most of the dates on their European tour.

But it is Victoria's style that I wish to impart onto the unassuming Beach House listener. Her cascading uncombed locks with blunt fringe shape her face as she softly sings classics such as 'Apple Orchard' and 'Gila', and a more powerful voice was recently unveiled on their new single 'Norway'.(She also contributed to Grizzly Bear's single 'Two Weeks') Her style is a mismatch of vintage retro pieces and casual items that mirror her on stage persona. She oozes natural style and captures the viewers attention whilst on stage, whether in a denim shirt or a polka dot number.

The often labelled 'dream pop' band slashed the misconception that they are indeed as mellow as their music. I was lucky enough to see them last summer at Electric Picnic in Co. Laois, Ireland in the Body and Soul area where treacherous weather conditions delayed them until 1 am and the feedback of the amps were less than desirable for the weary listener on the last night of a festival. They are playing my hometown of Dublin this Saturday 13th in Whelans which I am very jealous of, and next week in London in the Bush Hall. I booked my tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment (I tend to miss a lot of gigs due to laziness or lack of funds)

I will make sure I take note of both the bands performance and Legrand's ensemble for you all to lust after, just as i will be doing on the night.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Couture Week in Paris

Last week the haute couture shows took Paris by storm. The golden oldies were present; Chanel, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Armani Privé, Valentino and Givenchy. Others that took part in this extraordinary example of fashion at it’s finest were Alexis Mabille, Elle Saab, Thimister and Anne Valérie Hash.

The shows were awash with creative ideas inspired by both ethnicities and pop culture. Jean Paul Gaultier kept his tailoring title this year with clean cuts and a cream day suit with lattice jacket everyone will be pining after. However the rest of the collection left a lot to be desired. Gauchos, sombreros and Spanish shawls were styled with feathers and basket weave detailing that had the audience thinking they were in Mexico. He was just short of handing out burritos at the close of the show with the matador dressed models taming bulls.

Chanel surprised everyone (I think Lagerfeld was quite surprised himself) with a futuristic collection that was a definite change for the fashion house. He admitted that “It took me 54 collections to get there”, perhaps it took that long to create a time travelling mechanism. The sorbet shades were a delightful contrast to the usual monochrome looks and there wasn’t a navy blazer or a gold button in sight. Stockings glistened as much as the models hair- that was mounted in a love-heart shape on top of each models head with a streak of silver to add couture edge. Sarah Mower of noted the rococo heels as a favourite and the ‘ethereal cloud colours’ had the models floating down the runway.

Held in the Dior house, Galliano’s collection was inspired by Charles James and the Gibson Girls. Snug fitted jackets and long draped skirts were not far off creations from Christian Dior himself back in the 50’s. Some of the editors sitting in the front row had to strain their necks to get a glimpse at these looks as Tavi, fashion blogger extraordinaire, donned an elaborate Dior headpiece. People were in awe at how Valentino models were able to walk unscathed down the catwalk as they were blindfolded with matching flowing fabrics. The multi-coloured garments match the kaleidoscope of colour the make-up artists had created and had one confused that perhaps Valentino had hired Avatar extras to model for them this year.

Ricardo Tisci at Givenchy delved into the houses’ archive to produce a 70’s inspired collection. He couldn’t help but admire the powerful, strong, erotic phase of Parisian women back then and he related to them. The tailoring created a masculine exterior to the feminine beauty of the models with tuxedo tailcoats paired with ostrich printed t-shirts. The flamenco influenced layers and the midnight blue column dresses juxtaposed the androgynous aesthetic eloquently and made for an all-round risk taking collection that went down a treat.

One that was certainly a shock to the system was the looks created at Alexis Mabille. The two-tone suit of pink on one side and black on the other really set the mood at couture week which screamed surprise. The two-tone detail was present from the shoes on either foot to the hair and even eyebrows of each model, an attention to detail all of the other houses should make note of and admire. Karlie Kloss stunned the audience in a lilac embellished gown which stole the Armani Privé show.

Couture week in Paris always has high expectations and these were certainly met, but not outshone. All shows had a similar idea-to out do the other, but only a few of them managed to create looks that will certainly inspire other designers and trends to come in 2010.