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Monday, August 24, 2009

Headline Trip

Since it'd be too obvious to just go into fashion, Vladimir Restoin-Roitfeld is opting to curate another art show with a New York Fashion Week launch. [NY Observer]

Mystic revelations from Chloe Sevigny and Joe Denardo fuel the hysteria surrounding Opening Ceremony's Tokyo launch. [Daily Beast]

Now you can get your nails did with the likes of Carri Mundane at WAH in East London. Hipsters were bound to show up. [The Moment]

Is Grace Coddington Vogue's secret puppet master? The September Issue is rife with juicy secrets. [Page Six]

The second issue of LOVE hits newsstands today, featuring Miss Piggy in Marc Jacobs and Allegra Versace flirting with the family business. [LOVE]

WAH Nails

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hint Tip: 40 Winks

Shabby chic, understated opulence, Alice in Wonderland on percocet. However you describe it, there's no denying that 40 Winks, the eccentric haute hotel in East London, would make a suitably outré environment to show a collection. Which is exactly what they're offering. On a daily or weekly basis for the duration of London Fashion Week, 40 Winks will stage a pop-up showroom for a maximum of five designers. It isn't free, but how better to butter up a buyer than with a random Beatles drum, a cheeky porcelain greyhound and lots of gold leaf?

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 7/7

A few minutes with Henry Holland, who, ever the tease, is coy about meetings in France, future partnerships and his inspiration for spring, which apparently has something to do with supermodel divorces...

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 6/7

Designer Jo Sykes, who, she says, has recently fallen for someone, champions "voyeuristic peeks of flesh," but shuns traditional sexiness like cleavage...

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 5/7

Sarah Mower, the British Fashion Council's shiny new Ambassador of Emerging Talent, waves the flag for London's fresh crop of designers and reveals a few predictions...

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 4/7

Dominic Jones discusses his eccentric, Alice Dellal-backed jewelry line—weird creatures, throbbing hands, defense systems, oh my!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 3/7

The impossibly adorable girls of LP.BG describe their "art for the body"...

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 2/7

Mark Fast is turned on by underground Egyptian silent movies. Who knew there even was such a thing?...

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Hint Video: NewGen Winners, 1/7

London Fashion Week is all aflutter, as it should be, about its upcoming 25th anniversary and the return of greats Brits—Burberry, Jonathan Saunders, Matthew Williamson, etc.—to its calendar, after years of showing abroad in New York, Milan or Paris.

Just as intriguing is the move from the cramped lawns of the Natural History Museum to the palatial Somerset House. Add to that the recently announced recipients of LFW's NewGen sponsorship, backed by Topshop in support of young design stars (previously won by Alexander McQueen, Giles Deacon and Christopher Kane), and you have nothing short of hysteria.

And so we—or rather, fashion observer Marko Matysik and videographer Bjørn Solarin—caught up with a few of them, as well as with Sarah Mower, journalistic legend and just-appointed Ambassador of Emerging Talent for the British Fashion Council. Without further ado, we present the first of seven videos in as many days...

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Headline Trip

  • Following Burberry last week, today it was announced that Matthew Williamson will return to London Fashion Week in September, celebrating LFW's 25th anniversary, after seven years in New York.
  • John Galliano, too, will show his Christian Dior couture collection at the Dior salon on Avenue Montaigne for the first time in ten years. [WWD]
  • Forgetting who's modeled in her collections, Vivienne Westwood asked "Who is Daisy Lowe?" at her son's art opening. But really, who can keep track? [The Sun]
  • Apparently Forbes can. They've counted down the highest paid models in the last year. Even without Victoria's Secret, Gisele scores an easy win. [Forbes]
  • What better time than retirement (yes, people, it's true) for a monograph on Maison Martin Margiela? Conceived as a work of art—with an embroidered white-linen cover, ribbon markers, twelve booklets and silver ink—it drops in October. [Rizzoli]
  • Giedre Dukauskaite, Lithuanian model and face of Prada, heads to Women agency.

  • Giedre Dukauskaite

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    Monday, March 2, 2009

    Free Love

    Recession or not, Londoners must still be in the mood for love, at least judging from the blow-kisses and heart-hands videographer Zaiba Jabbar got when she hit the fringy shows—House of Holland, Fashion East, MAN, House of Blue Eyes, Ashish, Charlie Le Mindu—at London Fashion Week. Okay, yes, she also encouraged it. Here, a video montage to Crystal Fighters' "I Love London"—because who doesn't?...

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    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    London Fashion Week: Man Day

    When the world imagines British fashion, they think of James Bond, Savile Row, Church's brogues, Dunhill, Burberry, Barbour, Fred Perry, mods, skinheads, Sid Vicious and so on—making London's first Man Day, a day devoted to men's collections, an idea worth exploring. On the last day of the week, it started with Topman and Fashion East's MAN group show, which included J.W. Anderson, James Long and Christopher Shannon, whose matching jersey trousers and jackets might look 90s-inspired, but didn't come off as retro—the more minimalist pieces were the best.

    Christopher Shannon

    Our favorites from the knitwear wunderkinds at Sibling ranged from knitted trench coats and biker jackets to leopard-spotted pieces sweaters with matching scarf and the sort of bow sweater Yves Saint Laurent used to wear.


    New Power Studio's debut show lent credence to the idea that London can actually support a Man day. The all-gray conceptual collection fills the gap between Raf's spacey spring '05 collection and every teenager's Nike dependence. Together, New Power Studio and Christopher Shannon are making a convincing case for that very British love of sportswear as high fashion.

    —Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    London Fashion Week: Last but Not Least

    By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

    You could say London Fashion Week's fortunes follow those of Fashion East, so good has director Lulu Kennedy's track record been. Hilariously, this season the group show was hosted by bearded tranny Johnny Woo. Of the three designers, perhaps Holly Fulton (formerly of Lanvin) stood out the most, showing a mix of armor-like, Swarovski crystal-encrusted, art-deco graphics, using a great color palette of black with mint, orange and mustard.

    Holly Fulton

    Blow, the PR company responsible for off-schedule collections, held a secret show that included the hardcore industrial leathers of Komakino, the Anglo-Japanese husband-and-wife team. Knitwear designer Craig Lawrence also showed. The 24-year-old only graduated last summer, but by then he had already worked for Gareth Pugh, with whom he shares KT Shillingford, the stylist behind Pam Hogg's collection. Lawrence showed his crazy, plastic, shaggy sheep-like knits on boys and girls.

    Craig Lawrence

    The celeb-packed, MisShapes-soundtracked House of Holland show opened with Agyness Deyn, naturally, who walked to RuPaul's campy Supermodel. Holland had crimped the hair to mimic the stripes that ran through the clothes, tights and bags. In a departure from seasons past, there were a lot of smartly tailored suits for both men and women, and overall it looked surprisingly grown-up, in a color-blocking 60's way. The Tibetan lambswool coats were unbelievable.

    House of Holland

    The last show of the day was 26-year-old hat and mask designer Nasir Mazhar, who held a candlelit presentation at the magical St Barnabus chapel. These were pieces spanning a range of historical references, from Italian Opera to Bauhaus. And luckily for us, he likes to show his hats on near naked-models. Yum!

    Nasir Mazhar

    There being no rest for the wicked, it was straight on to a party at the Double Club, where Tilda Swinton, Kate Moss and BF Jamie Hince could be found, as well as Craig Lawrence and singer Patrick Wolf, wearing an enormous bird-like leather top. Oh, and Peaches, the singer (not Geldof!), performed a set that included a cover of Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of the Heart—mental!

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    Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    London Fashion Week: Pam Hogg

    Some shows you report on because it's work and/or you meet shaggable people. Then there's those that excite on every fashion level, like Pam Hogg's fall collection. This is a woman who, while no spring chicken, is still very much rock 'n' roll personified - she's known to argue with her local police on the street (because she thinks they're profiling poor people).

    The audience included Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, goth chanteuse legend Siouxsie Sioux and dirty self-portrait art stars Tim Noble and Sue Webster—all close friends. Gareth Pugh, who doesn't do other people's shows, was there, as was Terry de Havilland, who'd made some of the shoes, and Michael Kostiff, he of pre-punk green hair and the owner of World, the long-gone but seminal London boutique.

    It-kids Alice Dellal and Daisy Lowe modeled alongside actress Jaime Winstone in multi-colored fur. The first half of the collection showcased Hogg's now signature space-age, rubberized, paneled suiting—as seen on Kylie Minogue and Siouxsie Sioux of late. The way the colors were put together, the quiffed hair, the floor-sweeping culottes, all seemed to mine that now-forgotten seam of rock 'n' roll futurism that the likes of Anthony Price, David Bowie, Roxy Music and even Malcolm McClaren fed off of. Acids and pastels were mixed with silver and gold, while skirt suits ran the 80s' Montana-Mugler spectrum of sharp, insecty tailoring. We even saw that greed-is-good, empowered-woman catwalk standard: exposed breasts. Hogg offers hedonistic alternatives to the party frock - wham bam thank you Pam.

    — Daryoush Haj-Najafi

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    Monday, February 23, 2009

    London Fashion Week: Giles

    Giles' leitmotif for fall '09 was a celebration of New Butch, from the live music set by chunky girl rockers An Experiment on a Bird in the Airpump (currently the London band to namecheck) to the street-cast and tattooed models. Even the slicked-down hair suggested an aggressive new attitude. None of this is surprising when you consider that his best friend and the show's stylist, Katie Grand, has just featured queen dyke Beth Ditto on the cover of her new magazine, Love.

    Reliably, Giles showed off his offbeat side with huge flying saucer-like hats by Stephen Jones (the subject of a V&A exhibit launching right after the show), a blow-up bolero jacket and spiked conical skirts. Then came a surreal interjection with no fanfare: a model dressed as some sort of furry Mohican crossed with a giant dildo.

    Of course, Giles is still part of a wider industry at the mercy of trends. So there were lots of that very fresh blue-gray color that seems to be everywhere, here seen in rubbery silicone tops and patent leather. And lots of abstract prints and big fur, which Giles interestingly started halfway down the sleeves, while his take on the season's obsession with deconstruction saw exposed seams and detailing, bringing us back to that a less-processed woman. All things are relative, of course, as Giles' prices hardly allow for Earth Mother types.

    —Daryoush Haj-Najafi


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    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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    London Fashion Week: Peter Jensen

    By Bethan Cole...

    As charming and oblique as one of Tove Jansson's short stories, Peter Jensen's fall '09 show was based on a nostalgic narrative he created about his Aunt Jytte, who immigrated to Greenland in the 1970s. Whereas Jensen's recent shows have fomented and distilled his brand of naïve, kooky preppy chic, this offering seemed more disparate and eclectic. Jensen watchers noticed a return to his very early collections, which were more random and less pulled together than those of late.

    There were flourishes of Scandinavian chic—folksy embroidery (Jensen had taken research trips to Greenland and the Faroes) and a Nanook of the North teal-hued coat with fur-trimmed hood—but there were also elements of his cute classicism. These included a new-school Chanel-type bouclé jacket and odd touches like saggy hats, à la Durer, and a beaded cape worn over a suit.

    You could have called it outsider fashion, a kind of dressing that didn't channel very obvious trends, instead embracing the innocence of times when women were not so brainwashed by fashion diktats. The artfully embroidered white leather thigh boots were reminiscent of Emily Watson's doomed attire in Breaking the Waves. They spoke of a joyous lack of rationality, cynicism and decorum.

    Peter Jensen

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    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    London Fashion Week: Christopher Kane

    Economic doom and gloom means self-justification is very much in vogue—cue spurious theories linking the shrinking economy with changing cuts and colors. In this spirit, fashion editors have even begun to embrace their role as critics and actually critique. (Although, ironically, the big advertisers seem to have had their best shows in years.) And so the predictable praise for Christopher Kane should be understood to mean a little more this year.

    Kane's show started just fifteen minutes late, which in fashionland is waaaay early (ergo, the world's most nouveau fashionista, Kanye West, was left standing). The dedication to punctuality by one of London's biggest names indicates the level of professionalism at which Kane feels he needs to be operating. And while his status as yesterday's Next Big Thing is dangerous, his fall collection succeeded in elevating the designer beyond all that. He's even starting to grow out of his over-reliance on the party dress.

    With the key trends already mapped out at the New York shows—most notably "classic" pieces in dark and neutral colors that supposedly everyone is going to want—Kane managed to work in his greatest strengths: cut, proportion and complexity. The result was a mixture of jackets, knitwear, tweed and lots of texture. Now there's a wardrobe change you can believe in.

    Which isn't to say Kane's market doesn't have cravings. An abundance of cashmere, velvet, vinyl, geometric black detailing and a mix-and-match of metallics will quench any sartorial fixes that may crop up.

    By Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

    Christopher Kane

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    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    London Fashion Week: MAN

    Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

    London Fashion Week concluded Friday with one of its biggest draws, MAN. In its seventh season, the Topman-backed group show spread its international wings, joining forces with Parisian store Colette, which brought French design collective Andrea Crews to the party and its conceptual Parisian take on the recycled-fashion/performance-art axis.

    Cause for celebration—but also concern about the state of menswear—was Topman Design's easy dominance. Shouldn't someone underground be changing the game? If only more designers would follow Topman's lead. Not that there wasn't plenty of English street in Topman designer Gordon Richardson's collection, which was easily the most desirable, most wearable of the show. Proper and dandy, yet youthful and affordable—like Paris seen through a British prism—is exactly what the market demands. Just one objection: where do you buy Topman Design, a common and much repeated objection. Please, Topman, make it easier.

    Best of the rest was James Long's second collection for MAN, though too many noted that, while it was great, they wouldn't wear it. Then who would? Probably someone in Primal Scream circa early 90s, and that's a compliment. James has something going on, something extraordinary, underscored by his dark-rock soundtrack, and something involving and leather shorts—always a good look but also transparent harem pants less so.

    Christopher Shannon's collection was a tale of two halves, one which looked like a Kim Jones for Umbro rework (Christopher is a former assistant, after all). The other half elevated sporty suits to a minimalist luxury level, an enticing proposition. Men spend massively on coats and jackets, and the gap between their street phase and their suit phase is seriously under-served. Shannon would do well to keep his nerve.

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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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    Wednesday, September 17, 2008

    London Fashion Week: Christopher Kane

    Daryoush Haj-Najafi...

    Time to fess up. I've never worn a dress. As such, womenswear has always been a bit too abstract for me. It reads more like art, hence my love of Gareth Pugh and Balenciaga. (Some have even suggested I take fashion too seriously. Could this be why?) I also dig the celebrity aspect of fashion designers. Who hasn't asked, What would Raf do? Or argued when arranging the furniture, insisting that, no, the sofas are not too far apart because Karl Lagerfeld would have them like that?

    The point is, I could well not know what I'm talking about. But I have noticed that, after Kane's first show, when he wowed the fashion world with his mix of Azzedine Alaïa references and the genuinely new, he's embraced, of all things, the circle—or scallops, according to the fashion crowd. Sometimes they're big circles, sometimes small, sometimes in leather and sometimes in cut-out paper chain style. It's his thing. And can we have moment for the gorilla face prints, with their dental close-ups? Okay, so they're not gladiator sandals, but they might just be the new skull motif.

    For this reason, Kane is excellent at branding—branding recognizable from twenty paces, and that's worth big bucks in the women's game. After all, Prada's output often looks shocking six months before it becomes the norm. Kane also does not bore; each show is more of a departure than the last. But who is the Kane woman? His are clever party dresses, even envy dresses, but are they become-more-you dresses? Such questions didn't seem to matter at the show, at least judging from the oohs and aahs garnered by a layered op-art circle dress in black and nude, or the marabou-trimmed dresses, particularly firemen trousers in intense hazard orange. These were Kane at his best: girly yet sharp.

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    London Fashion Week: Giles

    Daryoush Haj-Najafi reports...

    While Gareth Pugh is set to show in Paris this season, that hardly means London's talent pool has run dry. In fact, I'd venture to say that Giles Deacon has never, ever had a duff show—and not just because his former girlfriend, Pop editor and fashion colossus Katie Grand, works alongside him. It has to do with taste, a quality not mentioned enough in show reports. Only yesterday, Fantastic Man's Charlie Porter and I were discussing the surprising lack of taste in so many young collections, but this has never been Giles' problem. He has the stuff in spades: color, cut, everything.

    Giles' spring collection yesterday reflected a shift from his modernist baroque aesthetic to his hard-edged and graphic roots, when he worked at Bottega Veneta and Dazed & Confused in the 90s. Back then, his own appearance was not dissimilar to the Pet Shop Boys' Chris Lowe at his most iconic—in fact, their videos were cited as an early influence. At one time, Giles was even a Bang & Olufsen model. Now his collections have gone from angular sophistication to the embodiment of the moneyed life you imagine his dresses dancing off to, but married with a cheery English charm, hence the happy Pac Man hats.

    So that's were the show came from, then mixed with a multitude of ideas, enough to sustain some designers' entire careers. There were the new season's bright colors (not primary, not pop, maybe plastic), the full spectrum of skirt lengths, a few patent materials, clean lines and, with Prada-like contrariness, gray camouflage prints—a collection both pro and anti-commercial.

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    Monday, September 15, 2008

    In Technicolor

    When London calls, you hear it. At the start of London Fashion Week, we take a look back at the loudest and most colorful of recent happenings, courtesy of prop stylist and color freak Fred Butler...

    Stylist & set designer Alex Cunningham's birthday party

    Designer and Chloé consultant Alistair Carr
    Men's designer Chris Shannon's inspiration for his MAN show

    Sigur Rós drummer Orri Páll Dýrason at their London concert, in a crown I made for him

    Bishi in concert at the Viktor & Rolf exhibition at Barbican Gallery
    Maki Lou Lou in the studio making lantern props for a shoot

    Stylist Kim Howells & photographer Fumi Nagasaka in my studio

    Uniqlo flagship store installation by Andy MacGregor
    Stylist & designer Nova Dando at the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac store launch

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    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    London Fashion Week: MAN

    Daryoush Haj-Najafi reports...

    First, a disclosure. This correspondent is on MAN's panel, which also includes i-D editor Ben Reardon, Dazed & Confused fashion director Nicola Formichetti and, for the first time, the mega-talented fashion writer and party animal Tim Blanks. As you may know, Tim is a menswear authority and pens the men's reports for Style.com. His brainstorm with the rest of the MAN panel was as energetic as any previous MAN meeting, but as you just can't argue with Tim (he's too knowledgeable!), this season saw three fresh names—James Long, Kesh, Hans Christian Madsen—in the line-up with Topman.

    Of James Long, a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and his incredibly complicated leathers and sheepskins, British GQ's Charlie Porter (another panelist) says, "The commitment and effort put into James' collection was just extraordinary, which makes it even worse that his whole collection was stolen later that night. Hopefully the industry can rally around him, because he deserves the support." Kesh's aesthetic, meanwhile, could be described as Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club designed by Bernhard Willhelm—the difference being that Kesh is a women, who, by the way, is the subject of a BBC documentary currently in the works.

    Lulu Kennedy, director of Fashion East and MAN, was also enthusiastic, saying (while trying on James' designs backstage), "I'm in love with this show. And most of the models." Yes, let's not forget the models. Her favorite? Ryan (of D1 agency), a platinum-haired boxer on the English team and—you knew this was coming—a total knock-out.

    James Long (images 1 & 2), Kesh (3 & 4)...

    Hans Christian Madsen (1 & 2), Topman (3 & 4)...

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    Sunday, February 17, 2008

    Haidee Findlay-Levin makes a surprise stop in London...

    I arrived toward the end of London Fashion Week with no plans of being here for the occasion. Hint Blog readers will know of my longstanding visa woes, and so a summons by U.S. immigration to attend my green card interview in London on the 19th of February—my birthday—was an event not to be missed. It was an invitation harder to get than any Fashion Week show, in fact one that transcends fashion altogether and was almost four years in the making. I was informed to arrive four days in advance, not for some welcoming cocktail party or a dinner to apologize for the long wait, but in time to attend a medical exam, after which an assortment of vaccinations would be all I could expect to find in a goody bag.

    I left New York during a blizzard that resulted in a three-hour delay at the airport—not something one wants to add to a red-eye flight. A few more hours on the tarmac meant I would get into London dangerously late for my appointment with the embassy-designated doctors. I literally had three minutes to drop off my bags and change into serious attire. I chose a baggy pantsuit, which I hoped would give me an air of, well, suitability to own a green card. It was almost balmy in London. In the eight years I lived here, I don’t remember too many days like this, so much so it was making me nostalgic. I fantasized about throwing in the towel, refusing the green card and moving straight back here.

    Once I was done with the tests and vaccinations, I pulled myself together and rushed eastward to Gareth Pugh's show. It was running almost as fashionably late as my American Airlines flight, but I made it in time, so I wasn’t complaining. In addition to every London club kid and club kid wannabe, I saw my New York next-door neighbor, artist Terence Koh, and his entourage of pretty young boys, a host of international fashion-show regulars and Michele Lamy, wife and muse of Rick Owens, both ardent Gareth supporters.

    The show was not entirely surprising, and a very visible continuation of his previous collections. That said, I had to admire the craftsmanship: origami-like patent leather dresses and coats, plus some garments constructed entirely out of industrial zippers, creating a samurai effect. A couple of pieces were made completely from safety pins, and although neither concept is new, Gareth managed to make it his own. Remember Junya Watanabe's beautiful spring collection full of mostly gold zippers? And we all know the safety pin extends further back than Versace and Elizabeth Hurley. I was, however, mesmerized by the emerald green Swarovski-crystal tights on model Anouck Lepère's fantastic legs, only to be told by Seven's Joseph Quartana that they would retail at more than $6000. And that was just for the stockings, not the fantastic legs. At that, I turned my attention to the gravity-defying shoes that the girls wore down the seemingly endless warehouse runway, strutting to the sounds of original glam-rocker Gary Glitter (now locked away in prison—no, not by the fashion police, but for his bad behavior with young boys).

    The audience was filled with heavily made-up faces—and it wasn’t the girls I'm referring to. Boys with pan-stick and raccoon eyes might just signal London's move from New Rave to Goth. Please, not so soon! While Gareth’s clothes were entirely black (except for the silver of pins and zippers), the model's faces were white with blue-shaded eyes and lips. The show make-up, by the fantastically talented Alex Box, must have sent those boys running to the powder room for a touch-up.

    Only a few weeks ago I was in London to work with Alex and Eugene Souleman (one of London’s finest hair stylists) on a couple shoots for i-D, Showstudio and MUSE. Alex turned out the make-up, shot after shot, each face its own new canvas. One of my favorites was a girl with duck-egg blue hair, a completely blue face and a blue and pink floral Dries Van Noten dress. A modern “Blue Lady” like that of the master of kitsch, painter Vladimir Tretchikoff. I guess its effect was still resonating with Alex by the time of Gareth's collection.

    I left the show with Anouck and her boyfriend Jefferson Hack, editor-in-chief of Another, to celebrate her 29th birthday. After a brief detour home for a remarkably quick make-up and costume change (into a fantastic peekaboo vintage velvet dress), we set off for an opulent private club in the West End where Jefferson planned a dinner party for Anouck and some of her friends. Though apparently only organized the day before, it was wonderfully decadent, especially considering it fell between a bunch of Fashion Week parties and the famous “tea party” he was hosting the next day. Jefferson is a wonderful host, who managed to take special care of Anouck while still making the rounds to each of his guests.

    As the birthday evening rolled into Valentine's Day, the party moved to Sophisticats, a misleading name for a stripper bar where even pasties and G-strings seemed excessive. Besides the obvious things one observes when presented with a lap dance, I couldn’t help but notice how flexible the girls were and completely comfortable in their own skin. I vowed to return to my regime of yoga and pilates when this endless traveling was over, but I won't be trading in my YSL platforms for those plexi-heel stripper shoes anytime soon.

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    A selection of snapshots by Fred Butler and K A B I R, capturing the energy of London Fashion Week...

    Noki and Lulu Kennedy of Fashion East (in Louise Gray) at Norton & Sons' Savile Row preview
    Model backstage at Gareth Pugh, with makeup transformation by Alex Box
    K A B I R and model Tallulah at the Mulberry launch party for Hadley Freeman's new book

    Skin closing the Noki/NHS show wearing a crochet creation
    K A B I R, fashion editor, and yours truly
    Alexis Knox, fashion editor of Notion magazine and door-whore extraordinaire at Circus

    Maki Lou Lou hiding in Andy Hillman's tent set for Peter Jensen's "Nuts in May"-inspired show

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    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    London Fashion Week: The Block

    Racing to House of Holland, it became clear that the day was going to be an intense one. Why? Two words: The Block, a track of the East End where each of the designers in publicist Mandi Lennard's stable would show within trotting distance of each other. Even more convenient, a bar-equipped contraption called the Moet Tour Bus would be available to zip people from venue to venue should their stiletto-shod feet give out. It was going to be a bubbly ride.

    With last season's Axl & Stephanie leather à gogo collection, Henry Holland deftly moved from slogan tees to tailored clothing, but without forsaking the unique irreverence that has made the House of Holland a home for many of his bright young fans. Literally. For fall, Henry took the tartan kilt, stuck a pin through its nose and put a tab on its tongue in a retina-burning show that, as one onlooker observed, launched Henry as Britain's Jeremy Scott.

    I then hotfooted it from Great Eastern Street to Brick Lane’s Old Truman Brewery for Lulu Kennedy's Fashion East show, featuring Noki, David David (staging his first catwalk show) and my favorite young Londoner, Louise Gray. Noki punched us in the face with a serious bass soundtrack and heaps of fuck-off attitude in another warrior take on recycling (his line, NHS, is short for Noki House of Sustainability). But here, the ethical on parade wasn't Bono's wife "designing" organic yet boring, overpriced day dresses; it was a slow swagger, killer stares and menacing fashion-art hybrids. It was “f-i-e-r-c-e,” as Wonderland magazine's Kit kept telling me, especially when Skin walked out in a crochet and leather pouffy white floor-length wonder. Erin O’Connor, beaming from the front row, looked like she was having as great a time as we were.

    Turning sportswear on its head, artist-turned-designer David Saunders of David David distilled his familiar op-art patterns into a collection revolving around outerwear. Highlights included a three-piece look (T-shirt, padded jacket and pants) in his signature triangular dark-cherry print, an Yves Klein-reminiscent blue rubber mackintosh and hiking bags with a sports bottle and coordinated David David blanket.

    Lancôme Colour and Texture Award winner Louise Gray continued her soulful journey, in this, her second consecutive Fashion East season. Clever though naïve appliquéd shift dresses, suspenders and her brilliant eye for color were here, as was, for the first time, a selection of all-black looks and tailoring in the form of ankle-length pants. A black coat with colored pockets will surely get her on the backs of new clients. Needless to say I loved it all, yet again.

    After a quick chat in the lobby of ANdAZ hotel with Caryn Franklin (i-D alumna and a legend from the BBC's The Clothes Show), it was time for Roksanda Ilincic. Known for her clean, crisp femininity and precious dresses, Roksanda said she was inspired this season by a recent trip to Brazil. Thus her colors were richer and even tastier, and their application was acute in a collection with a breadth of sculptural, sometimes voluminous shapes. Like so many designers this season, she also included fantastic fur.

    A quick swig of water and it was back to Brick Lane for Gareth Pugh, where the queue was already building. I bumped into Seven’s Joseph Quartana and his glamorous wife Sophie Na. To say I was slightly jealous of Joe's Raf Simons coat would be an understatement, not only for its gorgeously lacquered black sheen, but because in my oh-the-weather-will-be-great-today haste, I had on only a T-shirt and a neon green hoodie from Hedi Slimane's "Luster" Dior Homme collection.

    Oh right, Gareth Pugh. Like Noki, the vibe was fierce and warrior-like, but that's where the similarity ended. This was a different world, a world where The Wizard of Oz meets Predator. Coco Rocha opened, robotic in white facepaint and blue lipstick, wearing a highly structured silver dress that was actually made from zippers. Yes, zippers. It was stunningly executed, as was the second zipper look, this time cut as a jacket with a kick-away waist and the same huge, capped shoulders. The later looks managed to wow as much as the first, with hundreds of black leather triangles sewn into squares and contorted into cubist-like volumes. The Block, indeed!

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    London Fashion Week: Richard Nicoll

    Showing in a church in London's Spitalfields, Richard Nicoll expanded on the neo-Puritan tailored aesthetic he started last season with architectural dresses in contrasting fabrics and a color palette of black, cream, aubergine, navy and royal blue. Eccentric professionalism and the decadence of disco were talked about, and the romance was noticeably heightened, yet it was only at the final walk-through the sheer diversity became clear. There were even black Swarovski crystal-embellished pants—that would be the decadent disco part.

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    Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    London Fashion Week: Todd Lynn

    Todd Lynn is London’s most underrated designer. Fact. His tailoring is kick-ass, the quality is sublime, the detailing is exquisite and it's all so androgynously sexalicious (apart from the Louboutins: flat lace-ups for boys and sky-high heels for girls). What's not to love?

    Todd started off making clothes for rock stars and is now kindly giving everyone else a chance to live a well-cut dream. Previous customers include PJ Harvey, the Rolling Stones and Courtney Love (whom I sat opposite last season, in a little dream of my own—I seriously love the Love). For fall 08, his fourth season, Todd injected a little glam darkness into his modern classicism. Picture goatskin, shearlings (which looked divine as the models stomped down the runway), pony skin and alpaca layering over razor-sharp tailoring (I know razor-sharp is an overused cliché, but he's as talented a tailor as Lang, Simons and Slimane, thus deserving of the adjective). And the shoes were intense. I'm still thinking about a five-inch Louboutin in lizard skin with human hair sticking out at the heel.

    "I started off by thinking of hybrids and mixing things together and it lead to the idea of the Chimera, a mythical beast of contrasts,” Todd told me after the show. “It's about a mix of elements—structured and unstructured, shine and matte and textures and such. Plus, of course, there's the masculine-feminine thing." Playing with androgyny has always been Todd's trademark. In fact, some pieces in the show are identical, just scaled bigger or smaller for guys or girls. The whole collection rocked; Courtney won't have it easy when she makes her selection.

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    London Fashion Week: Marios Schwab

    Anticipation was thick for Marios Schwab's fall collection at Topshop’s University of Westminster show space, where I was squeezed into a banquette with the Daily Rubbish’s Piers Atkinson and ex-BoomBox don Richard Mortimer (whose Ponystep.com project is under construction).

    And Marios didn’t disappoint, inspired by The Yellow Wallpaper, a feminist short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in which a woman goes mad after being confined to a small room by her husband. (Marios also had a little help from the Swiss Textile Federation, whose prize of 100,000 euros he won last November). Out came models in double-layer stretch dresses (which were cut out at the hipbone to reveal fleshy patterns or skinny stonewashed jeans underneath), cropped deep-blue furs (with dramatically high funnel necklines), Swarovski beads, and even giant circular bags and variations on the peacoat (yes, Marios does bags and peacoats). Designed by Tom Gallant, the busy wallpaper-like prints were stunning, particularly on a black shredded dress.

    This was Marios' strongest, most complete, most cohesive collection to date, one where his graphic leanings met soul (if tortured). London Fashion Week might have been up and running for two days, but now it feels like it's started.

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