Wednesday, 29 September 2010

London Fashion Week: Aminaka Wilmont

One of my favourite collections at the Designers Exhibition at London Fashion Week was Aminaka Wilmont's.

Cropped boleros were encrusted in spiked pearls giving the effect of luxurious body armour.  Slinky jersey in detailed digital prints was fashioned into jumpsuits and very feminine, body conscious, draped and twisted dresses.  Asymmetry was a recurring theme with one shoulder necklines and asymmetric hemlines on dresses.  The sublime prints featured dainty pastel florals, pale pastel rainbow colours that bled into each other or a mix of printed fur, reptile skins and feathers.

I loved the pieces covered in butterflies.  Each butterfly was hand cut from a print and hundreds of them stitched on in dense clusters on bolero jackets, tops and sheer leggings, creating the effect of a cloud of butterflies having alighted en masse on the wearer.

There were some stunning leather pieces too.  One of the draped and belted leather jackets actually zipped apart into two distinctly wearable pieces, a bolero and a halter neck draped vest.

I would have liked to have photographed more than just the few details of this collection I managed to get.  However a video of the catwalk video can be found on the London Fashion Week website.

Monday, 27 September 2010

London Fashion Week Interview: Jewellery Designer Merle O'Grady

Merle O'Grady and her SS 2010 range at London Fashion Week

I recently came across Merle O'Grady's stunning jewellery designs when one of my favourite online retailers My-Wardrobe began stocking the label this season.  Fierce yet also feminine, her pieces fuse retro and modern influences.  Spiked pearls, vintage chains, steel rods, swarvoski crystals, semi precious stones and punched perspex shapes are worked into luxurious and covetable statement pieces.

As a testimony to her talent, Merle's work has been featured in British & Italian Vogue, Elle, InStyle and Grazia.  She also has a growing celebrity fan list including the likes of Beyonce, Rihanna and Cheryl Cole. 

On my scouting trip for accessories at London Fashion Week I was very fortunate to meet Merle at her stand in the Designers Exhibition and she kindly agreed to do an interview about what inspires her highly original design work.

Merle O'Grady is sold online at her own website and at My-Wardrobe.  If you live in the South West of England the line will soon be available at Image Bath.  The Autumn Winter range will be in store at Image just in time for the run up to Christmas, so start dropping those Christmas gifts hints now ladies! (Not sure I can wait until then myself!)

1. You've previously worked in creating bespoke leather accessory design.  What made you move into designing jewellery?

I was always utterly determined to work for myself so after finishing studying Fashion Design and then specialising in accessory design at Cordwainers I worked part-time assisting stylists or teaching jewellery-making while still focusing on doing my own thing - making bespoke leather goods and selling my bags and first jewellery designs on Spitalfields.  Having a stall there for a year was a great trial run to see how my product was received, even though it was a far cry from what I design now.  It was during that time at Spitalfields that I got really into designing jewellery, and it proved popular so I ran with it!

It all started with discovering a bucket of the most amazing 19th Century Chandelier components in an architectural salvage yard and while I still use some original vintage elements in my pieces , moving into designing my own Perspex components was when my designs really came together.

My style has always been about graphic shapes and surface pattern, whether designing clothes or bags previously.  My jewellery is a way of creating that same geometric silhouette in a different product that's more transferable, luxurious and it was always important to me that my pieces could be hand-finished here in studio.

 2. The use of chains, spikes and punched latex gives your jewellery quite an industrial, almost punky feel yet there is also a 30's art deco aesthetic in some of the geometric perspex designs too.  What is the inspiration behind your designs?

My inspiration comes from a variety of sources, for Autumn Winter it was the angularity of Russian Constructivism and for SS11 it's Pylons and Palm Springs!  But I'm consistently drawn to and influenced by styles from the past, from Art Deco to the 80s.

The past's vision of the future, especially in dystopian films like 'Metropolis','Logan's run' and' Blade Runner' is something I've always been and continue to be enthralled by.

3. Could you tell us about the materials you make your pieces from and why you choose to use them? I found it really fascinating you work vintage metal chain from the 1960's into your pieces. What was the idea behind this?

I'm always drawn to the 60s and 70s for inspiration, so to use actual chain from those periods, adds that bit of original styling to my modern pieces. I love that juxtaposition of old and new, just as I love using natural semi-precious stones with man-made laser-cut Perspex.

Vintage chains have a great chunky appearance too which I love, and often have unusual textures and pattern or mixed metals. I source bulk or original factory packs of vintage chain from the US - I've found some brilliant suppliers who I first found through hours trawling Ebay or Etsy!

AW 2010 Bombshell Necklace and Bracelet

4. This is real statement jewellery!  Do you have a specific kind of woman in mind when you design?

I don't really design with a specific woman in mind though I imagine the women who like my jewellery aren't afraid to be pretty bold and decisive with their look.  The beauty of designing accessories is that the wearer can really interpret my designs in hundreds of different ways.

In terms of women in the public eye whose look I admire it would have to be Daphne Guinness for her interpretation of directional luxury and I love Roisin Murphy and Mary-Kate Olsen's style too.

5. We'd love some style tips!  Talk us through how you would wear a couple of your favourite pieces from the Autumn Winter collection. 

The Spiked pearl pieces, especially the Bombshell bracelet and Bombshell necklace are my go to items for this season for day or evening- the mix of ladylike pearls for glamour and metallic spikes for edge seems to work with a multitude of outfits.

The draped chain Darkwing necklace looks amazing with a great blazer or leather jacket, longline white shirt and skinny trousers (with supersized wedges of course!).

For statement earrings like the pendular earrings I don't wear any other jewellery at all and team them with a plain colour dress with draping or interesting detailing - I especially love Preen Line and Acne's dresses this season.

AW 2010 Pendular earrings by Merle O'Grady
AW 2010 Darkwing Necklace by Merle O'Grady
6. What can we look forward to in Spring/Summer 2011?

The inspiration for SS11 started with Slim Aaron's photographs from the 60s - his images really capture the pristine, perfectly manicured surface of the jet-set lifestyle at the time, which especially inspired the more opulent retro-styled white, turquoise and gold pieces in my collection. My aim was to create pieces that could work equally well with swimwear in the in the brightest daytime sunshine and when upping the glamour for balmy evenings.

I've also been inspired by pylons of all things this season! I've used a type of transparent pastel Perspex usually used for shop fittings to create 3D beads inspired by the ceramic insulators on pylons and used 'meccano-esque 'connectors in gold and silver to create silhouettes.

I've also introduced industrial brass tubing,cut for me by a model steam engine-maker which I've then finished and plated with gold and silver. A mixture of pylons and Palm Springs is bit of an unusual combination but I think it works!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

London Fashion Week: Little Glass Clementine

Fellow magpies, feast your eyes on these creations!  To the bower birds amongst us these fabulous pieces by Little Glass Clementine are simultaneously intricate works of art and a metaphor for our predilection to collect objects of beauty and adorn ourselves with them.

Amidst clusters of vintage chains and semi precious stones, designer Clementine James works an astounding amount of other recycled fayre into her elaborate necklaces including vintage jewellery and timepieces, shells, buttons, bath fittings and bath plugs, vintage lace, feathers, a gilded birds skull, coral, old pottery and even a walnut shell.

The stall assistant was the designer's sister and told me that Clementine had no formal training and studied Anthropology at university where she developed an interest in the human tendency to adorn themselves as a form of expression.  These pieces make me think of a post apocalyptic world where humans strive to continue to create things of beauty they can wear out of any found objects at their disposal.

Prince Charles apparently loved the necklace with the bath fittings (second last image)!

Miembro urracas, deleitar sus ojos con estas creaciones! Para los pájaros glorieta entre nosotros estas piezas fabulosas de Little Glass Clementine son al mismo tiempo trabaja intrincada de arte y una metáfora de nuestra predilección para recoger objetos de belleza y adornan nosotros con ellos. 

En medio de grupos de la vendimia cadenas y piedras semi preciosas, diseñador Clementine James se pone una asombrosa cantidad de objetos reciclado en sus collares elaborados como joyas y relojes, conchas, botones, accesorios de baño y tapones de baño, encajes antiguos, plumas, unas calaveras doradas de aves, corales, antiguidades cerámicas e incluso una casca de noz.  

El assistente en la caseta era la hermana del diseñador y me dijo que Clementine no tenía entrenamiento formal y estudió Antropología en la universidad donde desarrolló un interés en la tendencia humana de adornarse como una forma de expresión. Estas piezas me hacen pensar en un mundo post-apocalíptico donde los humanos se esfuerzan por seguir creando cosas de la belleza que puede llevar a cabo de los objetos que se encuentran en su disposal.

El principe del Rieno Unido, Charles aparentemente amado el collar con los accesorios del baño (la última imagen segundo)!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friend Friday: Fashion Do's and Don'ts

Friend Friday is a weekly survey for fashion bloggers run by ModlyChic. This week is about Fashion Do's and Don'ts. To participate email

1. What do you think are some of the top fashion don’ts? (Things you would never be caught dead in and cringe when other people wear them.)

For me personally it is Ugg Boots. As a young girl in Australia I owned a pair of Ugg boots. They were what I wore around the house as bedroom slippers to keep warm in winter. I never wore them out in public.

In fact we were conditioned to run away from people who habitually wore them out of the house as real footwear for fear of being thumped. They were the sort who also wore skinny black jeans, checked shirts, had lots of ear piercings and shaved their hair into mullets (that was both the men and women and even their young kids).

Now in the suburban wastelands of Australia during the eighties they were just a scary social tribe. Ironically in modern day London they are actually fashion icons. In our day they were called bogans and they were never very nice to people who were not bogans.  Given their vocabulary didn’t stretch far beyond “ugg!” before they threw an empty beer can at you it's no wonder they so proudly embraced the hideous Ugg Boot as part of their winter uniform.

If you lack the cultural context of what a bogan was I understand that they seem like comfy winter boots and what is good enough for Kate Moss to wear in public is going to be adopted lemming-like by the fashionable.

However for me the Ugg Boot is forever tarnished with the bogan brush. I'm not going to sully my blog with a photo to illustrate but if you google bogan you can appreciate the sartorial horror yourselves.

2. What previous fashion don’t do you now wear with pride?

Double denim. I don’t wear with pride per se, I just end up wearing it because sometimes I'm wearing jeans to run around in and will wear my favourite denim jacket as well because it’s a practical cover-up.

I guess I had never considered it off limits prior to it becoming a trend. It is actually easy to avoid looking like a builder in double denim if you put some thought into it. But then the fashionable got all excited about it this Spring and suddenly my double denim outfits were le dernier cri.

I also decided some time ago that I was going to ignore all those ageist fashion don’ts. You know the ones: anyone over the age of twenty-five shouldn’t wear shorts, mini-skirts, feathers, body-con, strapless, spaghetti straps, backless, sheer, biker chic, the latest trends, blah blah blah....

You name it, it has been declared off limits for us by snooty style guides, nosy relatives, even girlfriends who think they're doing you a favour. (Boy what a dull decade I would've had if I'd taken heed!)

Why don’t you just ask women to bury themselves when they hit twenty six? Or take up wearing the burkha? And you know who the worst perpetrators of this kind of advice are? Other women. Don’t see the men complaining. Nobody tells men to put their crepey arms and legs away at any age.

I’m not advising anyone to dress like a stripper or in anything they aren't comfortable with. Everyone has to know themselves and what their best features are, but that applies at any age. I do think the whole mutton dressed as lamb thing gets taken to a demeaning, intimidating and catty extreme. It pits women against each other and doesn’t contribute to a healthy body image for women as they get older.

How many women do you know who could otherwise rock something they feel they're too old for but resort to looking dowdy because of these fashion don’ts or because, to quote one distressingly young blogger I came across, they fear being given looks of pity? Think about who is giving out those looks of pity. I bet they’re mostly female. Let’s stop being our own worst enemies shall we?

My favourite stylist is the UK based reality TV fashion stylist Gok Wan. Gok always styles up women of all ages in less fabric, not more, and in fashion forward, figure hugging, downright sexy designs. They always come off looking fabulous, they make their husbands cry with joy and even my boyfriend always comments they look about ten years younger.

3. Do you think there is a universal fashion do?

From a philosophical point of view: be yourself and wear your choices with confidence! Nothing looks worse than someone feeling uncomfortable in and with what they are wearing.

From a wardrobe point of view: the little black dress, beautiful shoes and choice accessories never fail, either altogether or as starting pieces for an outfit.

4. What items lately, either recently in style or coming in now, do you think should never make it off the retail shelves?

Crocs. So. Phenomenally. Ugly. Who invented these monstrosities? Why do so many people insist buying these?? I read recently that the company share price is going up and that they’ve extended their range of designs and colours!! Just say no people!

I also take issue with cheap, super thin, clinging leggings that manage to show what colour underwear you’ve got on. Unfortunately I often see leggings that border on transparent combined with a short top that doesn’t cover the wearer’s behind and yes, I can see their knickers and not in an intended Dolce and Gabbana way. Never mind VPL, sporting camel toe is never a good look. This is a major fashion crime I see being committed far too often and more often by younger girls.

I love leggings but ones as thin as I've seen being sported in London need much more coverage than crop tops. If your leggings do not come in at least a good, thick, single ply jersey, then girls, they are technically hosiery. Sheer needs to be sophisticated if it is not to look trashy. If you must indulge wear with a dress or long tunic. Please.

5. In your opinion, is there any blogger, fashion icon, celebrity who somehow manages to pull off some fashion don’ts and still look good?

Carrie Bradshaw. Patricia Field exploited just about every Fashion don’t in the book and made the Sex in The City character a style icon. Take the first photo's fashion don'ts: crop tops and long hair on the over thirties, combining dark on top and light on the bottom, horizontal large stripes on the hips, wearing a bum bag years before they came back into fashion, and yet we probably all swooned.

And I think Anna Della Russo is awesome.  Always fearless in her fashion choices she looks amazing, confident and happy in her own skin.  Don’t wear designer head to toe, don’t wear short, sheer or feathers if you aren’t young, the list of don’ts tossed by the wayside is endless.  She ignores it all.

Images of Anna Della Russo from The Sartorialist

Thursday, 23 September 2010

London Fashion Week: NewGen - Felicity Brown

I first heard about the work of Royal College of Art graduate Felicity Brown at Kingdom of Style where a photo shoot of these pieces in all their glory can be seen on a model leaping around to show off just how beautifully they move.  They could almost be costumes for a contemporary dance piece or a modern ballet.  So I was very pleased to be able to see her collection up close.

These are dresses I would love to see hanging in my wardrobe.  Fantasy frills in ombre dip dyed pleats. I especially love the first dress on the left with the orange, aubergine and pale mint hues and the apricot and navy dress on the far right in the first photo.

The designer was not around when I took these shots but her influences were described in a quote on her designer postcard which were available at the entrance to the exhibit.
"For SS11 I was also inspired by historical textiles and archives, old kimonos, Victorian crinoline dresses, old theatre costumes and any piece of clothing with a life story.  I am always imagining that I have found an old wardrobe in a theatre and opened it up..."

Now that is my kind of designer!

London Fashion Week: NewGen - Peter Pilotto

Burnt orange, paint stippling techniques, molten liquid metal splashes and ghostly paisley combine to form strange galaxies in these digital print dresses from Peter Pilotto's Autumn Winter 2010 collection on display at London Fashion Week's NEWGEN tent.

The Spring Summer 2011 collection shown on the catwalk (hence no photos but I've linked to the show video) were pieces in a more austere and simple palette of white, blues, greys, navy and beige.  The show notes indicate that the designers starting point for the collection was a scarf flying through the air.  When I see a scarf flying through the air I see erm... a scarf flying through the air.  Apparently these guys see this.

London Fashion Week: NewGen - Mary Katrantzou

Mary Katrantzou first came to my attention when she sent elaborate baroque style prints down the catwalk for Autumn Winter 2010 in the last London Fashion Week.  A collection of trompe l'oeil printed tee shirts for Topshop released shortly afterward sold out probably before anyone knew they went on sale, snapped up no doubt by that mysterious bunch of fashion conscious people who always seem to be in the know about collaborations like these ahead of the rest of us.

Her collection for Spring Summer 2011 is inspired by interior decoration - literally.  Interestingly Katrantzou was formerly an interiors textile designer.  Trompe l'oeil prints, garment shapes, trims and accessories played with the theme of how we adorn the interiors of our living spaces, contrasted with the views through our windows.

The elaborate prints depict flowers in vases of which the petals sometimes protrude from the garment.  Beading is used to outline the patterns of tiles on a floor or forms the crystals of a chandelier.

Upholstery is alluded to not just in the prints but in the garment's construction.  Side panels sewn into the skirts of dresses are cut to drape like curtains waiting to be drawn, or, as seen in the third image, pleated folds of the top part of a curtain adorning a bodice melt into a print of its bottom half.  Shoulder lines of dresses stand stiff like curtain pelmets.  And then there are the elaborately embellished lampshade skirts with ornate bead and tassel fringing.

Even the accessories run with the interiors theme including this amazing and very large statement chandelier necklace!

London Fashion Week: NewGen - Christopher Raeburn

Rather than writing one long post featuring everything I saw at London Fashion Week I am going to split my posts by designer as I think this gives each one the attention they deserve.  My next few posts will cover the NewGen tent in which emerging British design talent that is supported by Topshop was on display.

First up is the charming Christopher Raeburn who was on hand at his stand to talk about his work.  Inspired by the great outdoors the collection offers jaunty cover ups that will have a great outdoors phobic like me clamouring to go camping in the soggy Lake District in style.

Raeburn constructs his garments from reappropriated army fabric.  Basically this means any ends of rolls or any fabric that hasn't met the army's strict quality control requirements for the production of soldiers' garments and would otherwise be disposed of.

Once Raeburn works his magic by cutting the fabric into utilitarian macs and anoraks, adding fabulous prints and interesting trims, you have pieces ready to be worn by the ordinary civilian as protection against the Great British weather.  I especially loved the polka dot prints worked into army camouflage.  Some of the features of the original material such as punched out patterning are maintained in the final designs to add interest and texture.

Not only is this ethically intelligent in that this material is saved from landfill but it is a very business savvy and innovative approach by a new designer in an industry where the start up costs to fledgling businesses can be prohibitive.

Continuing this philosophy of recycling check out his darling stuffed rabbits which he makes with the offcuts of his production line and cannily sells for £40 a pop in major fashion retailers to further help out with the cash flow of his label.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

London Fashion Week Teaser

Boy am I tired.  I have had a hectic last few days culminating in two days of trawling the Design Exhibition at London Fashion Week where I saw some amazing and beautiful work on display.  Over the next few days I intend to share what I saw of the work of some very talented designers I particularly loved.

I saw quite a lot of jewellery as we were buying possible gift ideas to keep in stock in the run up to Christmas (yes people are thinking about this already!) and you already know what a big fan I am of jewellery so I was in seventh heaven.  I got to meet the designer of a collection I have been drooling over at My-Wardrobe, Merle O'Grady, whose designs have been worn by Cheryl Cole and who has also sweetly agreed to let me interview her for the blog!

But first I have to prepare for not one but two interviews tomorrow!  So to give you a sneak preview of what is to come I've posted a few shots from today of some of the designers I'll be posting in more detail about in the next few days when my brain is focused to give them my full and well deserved attention.  I was amazed at how lovely and friendly people at all the stalls I approached were in patiently dealing with a random blogger asking questions about their collections and letting me take photos.  Thank you every one of you.

Louise Amstrup
The anti-stiletto staircase in Somerset House
Klavers Van Engelen
Aminaka Wilmont
Aminaka Wilmont
Merle O'Grady
Renaissance Life
Renaissance Life
Christopher Raeburn's recycled rabbits
Little Glass Clementine
Mary Katrantzou


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