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Monday, February 23, 2009

London Fashion Week: Richard Nicoll

Soon after Christopher Kane packed up his subdued fare and braved the London streets, that other man-of-the-moment, Richard Nicoll, bounded into the same space with racks of dazzling rock-star frocks. The front row was so A-list that you wondered if they’d gotten confused on this, the day of the Oscars, and attended the wrong red carpet. But no. “The ideal Richard Nicoll customer is Linder Sterling because she is strong, empathetic, creative, unique and intelligent,” Nicoll said backstage, his chiselled looks all but cracking paparazzi lenses.

Turns out flattery will get you everywhere, because Sterling—Morissey's BFF and a herself an artist—was another of those front-rowers, wearing a billowy tunic brazenly screen-printed with one of her own images. This Charming Man played and models stomped the yard on cue, decked in Sterling's works—digital shots of bare skin, faces awash in reds and pinks, lips and hair lost in the folds—vaguely reminiscent of her Buzzcocks album covers.

Sterling proudly cooed from the sidelines like a first-time mum. In fact she literally beamed as her body-inspired prints splayed across Nicoll's impeccably stitched corsetry and suspenders, while form-fitting dresses were slashed at the thigh to reveal white skinnies and lamé leggings—all of which was greeted by rapturous applause. Nicoll, equally proud, made his way to the finale and wrung his hands to the camera flashes. He is the usurper of a new generation—and a very charming man.

—Hynam Kendall

Richard Nicoll

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

London Fashion Week: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood's oft-rambled mantra, “Women are always trying to be men—they are not men, they are women,” rang out from every spackled pore at her Red Label's fall '09 collection tonight at the Olympia in Hammersmith. You couldn't get more womanly; her naughty schoolgirl ensembles were the living embodiment of the male fantasy female.

Ex-Rolling Stone wife Jo Wood swaggered down the runway as a domineering headmistress in a three-piece trouser suit, her womanly shape guiding a gaggle of young, lithe models. Aptly dressed as her abiding students, they were split into a kind of school caste system. The paler of the waifs had gothy kohl eyes and hair dyed black, while goody-goody Swots practiced their pony steps in smart blazers, old-school tie-stripes and hiked-up minis (these are, of course, Westwood schoolgirls). The sporty set wore striped school scarves and unruly hair that said they smoke cigarettes in the girl's bathroom and send inappropriate notes to boys in math class.

Though a little costumey at times, the collection earned high marks by casting women not as lingerie-clad kittens, but self-assured, self-made types, with strong shapes, blood reds, leather and lots of structure, the buzzword of the week. One journalist, spying stiff, starched collars and exaggerated shoulders, turned to fellow front-rowers and purred, “Architectural, I knew it."

Part of the success lies in the fact that these sartorial nymphs were not necessarily women as they actually are, but women as we want them to be, much like Pamela Anderson, Westwood’s new muse and the face of her spring campaign—apparently because she digs her “irony." Backstage, Anderson bounced around in the same sheer blouse that made her nipples seem like saucers in Juergen Teller's print ads, billing and cooing with the orange-haired dame, saying, “Yesterday I was pornography, now I'm considered art.” Isn't it ironic?

—Hynam Kendall

Vivienne Westwood

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Getting Busy

By Hynam Kendall...

Humble beginnings scrawling spray-can silhouettes on Paris walls are a distant memory for Fafi, who's basking in the glow of a successful foray into mainstream media by creating the lithe, strutting version of Lily Allen in Mark Ronson's video for Oh My God. She's also helming fashion and beauty campaigns for Adidas, MAC cosmetics and Luella, and sits assuredly at number ten on The Observer’s Who’s Cool Now Hot 50, above media-savvy contemporaries Lovefoxx, Santogold and Adam Neate. Not bad for a girl who does her day job "for fun."

“Yes, sex is a signifier. But not sex sex. It's not pornography,” Fafi pointedly urges in what can only be described as a sexy accent, dulcet and melodic. She then laughs a laugh that summons her assistants, who escort her and her guest—in the guise of Dictaphone-wielding journalist—to a meeting room, the same room that serves as her home-away-from-home when work is heavy, as it is today. “Sexy, funny and sometimes aggressive. That’s how I describe my style,” she continues in short breaths, as though the five-minute interval between her responses never happened.

Time is of the essence for an up-and-comer like Fafi (“Am I still an up-and-comer? Surely I’ve up and come by now.”). Her every waking moment is spent between interviews, phone calls, emails, photo shoots and listless appointments, all noted and accounted for in her hand-held calendar, with its color-coded post-its and cellotape strands. So busy is she that she alerts her international curator Melina to help answer to my questions. Fafi, it seems, is going to be late for a cover shoot accompanying an in-depth piece about her new sneaker range for Adidas, which "will be amazing,” she assures me in a seductive Lolita twang that leaves vowels suspended in mid-air. On top of that, one of her assistants says, she has a MAC collection to launch in the Middle East and subsequently bring to America. Moreover, she must explore her collaboration with New York-based brand M.O.B. and concentrate on pieces for her solo gallery show in Paris come December.

Then, of course, she must travel the world, for no other reason than she wants to see it. "I always travel around the world. It punctuates the end of a project and it keeps me sane,” she enthuses, flicking her hair the way the boys like. She is undeniably a wanted woman. “It's just my job,” she casually coos before dashing to her next appointment, another meeting of minds indeterminate from her sea of exchanges that make up her every day.

Before she's gone, I manage to ask whether or not she is deigned to fight the cause for street art and risk suffering the same de-evolution of art critique as graffiti artists like Banksy before her. "This art is a way to express myself,” she says. “I will go on to multiply the mediums of my art: canvas, walls, bags, stationery, clothes, make-up—as long as they are quality mediums. Graffiti is such a base term. People put it in a box and think it can only go so far. It doesn't need to remain on walls. I’m graffiti and not. Yes and no. I'm giving life to a new medium that is just X.” And with that, she is gone, her words lingering.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

London Fashion Week: Danielle Scutt

Hynam Kendall...

What's all the fuss about Danielle Scutt? The press was biting at our ankles like flies to fresh meat before we'd even walked through the door, shouting, “Who's that? Is that Aggy? Is that Agyness Deyn?” to all and sundry, flashing their bulbs, with visions of scoring the front page of the Evening Standard. Ms. Deyn, you see, has been touted as a fan. But sadly, one hour and much MAC gift-bagging into it, it wasn’t Aggy, but that doesn’t stop the brouhaha surrounding Danielle's spring collection.

Unlike other mid-sized names on the London Fashion Week bill, Danielle has accumulated the same sort of hurrah usually saved for bigger names: Kane, Luella, Temperley. Breath-bated queues of overdressed art-school luvvies in vintage knits, celebrated art journalists and, gasp, fellow designers like Henry Holland, who held his budding photographer boyfriend’s well-manicured hands throughout, Fuji bottle at the ready.

“The Topshop denim line certainly put me out there and created a buzz that was not necessarily missing before, but one that wasn’t so mainstream,” Danielle acknowledged to me backstage, with a flick of her trademark wispy hair that told of nights on the lash, late bedtimes and too many cigarette breaks. She described the horror of New York Fashion Week, in which she took no spare clothes and spent the entire time in denim hotpants. Her love of denim will later become apparent with the debut of a denim catsuit. She is then on her way to assess the finishing touches to her already 45-minutes late show, presented in the grand baroque salons of the Royal College of Art.

Now for the clothes. Well, unlike some would have us believe, it's not all hype. Danielle's actually got the balls to back up the furor. Among an abundance of sheer, jackets with button detailing and open zips that draped across the shoulder dominated, as well as tapered blouses, body stockings and shawl-camisoles in transparent cobalt and peacock blue. Sunnies, rag-tied hair and orange complexion are accessible to all, but the show's pièce de résistance—an abstract orange lycra unitard—is not for the faint-of-fashion-heart. A nearby woman, seemingly a buyer with her Maybelline finger on the pulse, leaned to model-partier Pelayo and rapturously sighed, “This confirms exactly what I’ve been saying the whole of London Fashion Week, that the nipple is the new accessory.”

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London Fashion Week: Vivienne Westwood

Hynam Kendall...

When Vivienne Westwood—all five foot nothing of her—attended the London premiere of Sex and The City, made it to the 20-minute mark, then stormed out scoffing, “I thought this was supposed to be a movie about fashion,” she raised many an eyebrow in the business. Sure, her credence and reputation in the industry are as solid as the mannequins that wear her ruffled vintage-inspired pieces so well, but it gave her detractors the ammunition they needed should the London showing of her Red Label not measure up.

So was the most anticipated show of London Fashion Week the disappointment Sarah Jessica Parker and SATC's producers likely hoped for? Of course not. This is the Grande Dame of British fashion. Grays, blues and pinks blended beautifully, gold—lots of gold, just like Gucci predicted—was tempered by light-colored accessories, hats and visors were worn off the face and, yes, florals sprouted everywhere, though thankfully not in the form of Marks & Spencer picnicwear for the office midlifer. There were also suits tailored with the season’s favored boyfriend-pegged pant legs. The audacious, didactic and theatrical show got every trend right, even as the pieces fell off the lithe frames of Deyn, Chung et al.

But who cares about the clothes? Back in the world of tabloid journalism, it's the celeb quota that gets the column inches, and much like the sartorial savvy on show, Vivienne didn’t disappoint. That skinny little teenager from Harry Potter who'll soon wear Chanel with the best of them sat beside scenesters and Bob Geldoff offspring Pixie and Peaches. Erin O'Connor pulled mid-market model Mylene Class away from autograph hunters. And—in the most crucial of celeb sightings this season—a well-manned Dita Von Teese got her people to ask a journalist to move so that she may take his seat. Vivienne seems to have created the very thing she wanted all those months ago: a dramatic show about fashion.

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