>> I’ve been sweating it out during the summer months to talk up all things furry and fraggle-esque (faux of course).  First I was honoured to be a part of Hannah Weiland aka creator of faux furry fun label Shrimpsgang in the new issue of Elle Collections.  Weiland’s nickname may have been Shrimps (hence the name of her label) because of her diminutive size but she’s definitely influenced a big wave of unusually coloured furry fraggle seen everywhere from high end to the high street.  Hence, why I self-styled a story along with a write-up in the current September issue of Teen Vogue, which featured AW14 pieces of furry specimens.  You can read and laugh as I attempt to give ‘tips’ (no seriously… isn’t that just one big LOL?) on how to handle these Muppet-inspired outer shells.  But the truth of the matter is that it’s a material that doesn’t want to be taken seriously anyway so you may as well just go along with the silliness and happy-happy vibes of it all.

Here are some extra shots from my furry Teen Vogue feature… they are supposed to be three distinct ways of wearing fun fur but in the end, I basically went for the pile-it-on, pile-it-high and hope-for-the-best approach.  It may or may not have worked out but who cares when you’re masquerading as a soft toy?  Someone will at least want to give you a giant hug when the months get colder, even if they’re not quite ready to channel the furriest of Muppets.

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0E5A9434ASOS patchwork fur coat, Topshop Unique inner gilet, vintage jumpsuit, Meadham Kirchhoff x Nicholas Kirkwood shoes, Prada earrings, Christopher Kane belt

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0E5A9363Guess jacket, RTH poloneck, Comme des Garcons skirt, J Brand jeans, Purified loafers, Chloe bag

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0E5A9495House of Holland cap, scarf and clutch bag, Body Editions top, Kenzo skirt, Pollini shoes

Last week, when the Guardian wrote about vintage selling Facebook site Wavey Garms and talked it up as “the most influential fashion site in the UK”, I had to chortle a little at the hyperbole.  I had never heard of Wavey Garms and had a peek to see that it had 972 likes.  Describing it as “most influential” is a bit of a stretch. *EDIT* As pointed out by a helpful commenter Wavey Garms in fact has 30,000 members in its very active Facebook group.  That said, my point still stands.  To call it the “most influential fashion site in the UK” when held up to the likes of Net a Porter for instance is still a bit of a stretch.  Click bait headline objective achieved.  It did however make me think about the little corners of “influence” that can spring up from anywhere and the fact that we now procure our clothes in ways that are are more sprawling than ever.   Whilst these niche corners might never become household names, they can amass their own cult following and be “big” by their own yard stick.  The media would have you believe that numbers are the be all and end all but quality interaction that involve hardcore loyalty on the part of a few rather than scattered likes from millions, do ultimately matter.

I haphazardly stumbled upon Somewhere Nowhere whilst on an internet link-to-link, fumblin’ around, Google-powered browsing session.  Their e-commerce site hosted on My Supa Dupa isn’t entirely profesh.  It doesn’t need to be.  Instead designers Elly Cheng and Rex Lo are DIY-ing their own world of rainbows, unicorns and magic and sprinkling it all on super affordable garments that have something to say and speak to an eager group of fans (as evidenced by their following in Instagram).  Turns out I had written about Cheng’s BA collections from when she graduated LCF in 2012 –  the year she started Somewhere Nowhere with Lo, also a fellow LCF graduate.  Pressed by a two year restricted visa to make some dosh, they started making hologram clutches and key rings to flog online.  “It’s a mixture of Spice Girls, Back to the Future, some Pokemon and Hello Kitty,” said Lo over email.  “Basically SomewhereNowhere is a mixture of fancy stuff from what we see and experience through our daily lives.  Our intention to make and share things we love.”  

They’re things that I, along with Somewhere Nowhere’s followers love too.  Their SS14 collection (they drop collections and pieces as and when they have things ready) features heavy doses of candy floss pink, teddy bears (both as a motif and a texture) and interesting contrasts of intense fraggle furriness (faux of course) and sheer awesomeness.  All of this stuffed into prices that rarely go over £50.  They’re having a sale at the moment so the prices are even more pocket friendly.  Why so low, I asked Rex.  “One reason is that we think it is not appropriate to put a huge price tag on a good design as this is against our intention to share our loves with everyone.  Another reason is that we do everything ourselves, from design, production, social media to photography…  every single order from our collection is made by both of us.”

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Their AW14 collection has just started dropping on to the site and whilst the colour has been dialled down to shades of grey and white, they’re loudly saying “woo” with their little ghosts on furry dresses and mesh t-shirts.

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Unsurprisingly I enthusiastically ordered a bunch of things.  It was the thrill of discovering something new and feeling like it wasn’t a heavily tapped corner.  It may not be “big” in the wider scheme of things but it sure feels big in terms of persona and aesthetic.  Somewhere Nowhere has a defined point of view and it’s very plainly and democratically putting it out there.  They will be putting up a collaborative collection again before the year is out and will soon be moving back to Hong Kong where they’ll make Somewhere Nowhere more offish.  Physical stockists, wholesaling, formal collections… in other words the conventional route.  Their pastel-hued and Barbie raver-esque online realm will be a reminder though that winging your way through the internet has its benefit when it looks like this much fun.

When I tell people that I’ve bought my first house in Seven Sisters up in N15, you often get a sort of blank slash “Ewwww…” expression.  They either don’t know the area or they don’t find the place “on-point”, to borrow an annoying fashion cliche.  If I’m 100% honest, it wasn’t our first choice location in London, but I listened to the pearls of wisdom extolled on programmes like Location Location Location and got on that dreaded property ladder with an open and pragmatic mind.  It’s a whole house.  It’s mine.  I’m happy.  End of.

susie-lau1Wearing Bernstock Speirs cap, Miu Miu anorak, Dior coat, J Brand jeans

The Independent newspaper and its fashion editor Alex Fury gave me the opportunity to confront N15 head on in extreme fashion (literally…) by asking me to read test some of this season’s trends in the harsh reality of what is an impoverished and also decidedly un-chi-chi area in London.  It’s not a wholly new experience as I’ve never really lived in London postcodes that were were particularly FASH-ON and in fact the contrast suits me most of the time.  So what, if the local newsagent raises his eyebrows at the amount of layers/neon/marabou/sequins I have on or if the dry cleaner gets exasperated with the complexity of the fabrics and silhouettes of my clothes.

That said lest we forget, down the road from where I live, were where the riots happened in the summer of 2011, that some people can draw parallels with what is currently going on in Ferguson in the States.  I can talk about existing in a bubble all I want but being mindful and respectful of my local community is also paramount.  Case in point, it felt awkward to tell a lady down my road that the shoes I was wearing were by Dolce & Gabanna and that she could buy them on Old Bond Street, knowing full well that she didn’t understand the concept of shopping on that street (actually she didn’t know where it was full stop).  It’s never going to feel all that right to stand by the bus stop in over £5,000 worth of clobber on my back, with Romanian and Bulgarian men nearby, waiting to get low paid day labour jobs from builders driving by Wickes.

Social awareness aside, there was also the matter of personal comfort to take into consideration.   These outfits were extremes in most cases.  The most “me” of outfits made me feel at ease such as Christopher Kane’s sporty nylon and neon and my take on “normcore” facilitated by Dior’s lace-up coat and Miu Miu brocade anorak.  Dolce & Gabanna took me a little out of my comfort zone as I donned a pristine total look that was very “lady”.  Although a jet black stone encrusted medieval snood is definitely one piece of armour I’d like to take on.

susie4Wearing whole outfit by Dolce & Gabanna

The combination of Tom Ford’s sequinned American football jersey dress, his velvet stiletto cowboy boots and Jeremy Scott’s Moschino McD’s drinks bag with McDonald’s Green Lanes in the background however was just terrifying.  The honking horns, the wolf whistles and the LOLs at the fact that I looked like I was some crazy fan of McDonald’s as I had a drink in one hand and the bag in the other were all vaguely do-able.  What was mortifying though was when a woman walked by me as I was walking back to the car and very loudly said to her friend “What a slut!  What is she wearing?!”  I was initially perplexed.  Long sleeved sequinned dress and boots with just my knees showing.  What exactly was slutty about it?  Then I thought she had probably sensed my unease.  Like I was a nervous prostitute turning tricks at McDonald’s.  Then I got indignant.  Slut-shaming on any level is never right.  In theory, I should be able to walk out in a lacy bra and super short shorts and not invite that kind of language.  The reality though is that she knew I was frontin’.  I was teetering in the spindly heels and yanking the dress down constantly.  Not to justify her comment but I wasn’t “working it” as it were.  If I did, perhaps I would have earned a bit more respect.  Tom Ford, it ain’t your dress, it’s the girl.  And the fact that this garment won’t really ever be seen round this part of town.

susie3Wearing Tom Ford dress and boots, Moschino bag.  All photographs by Teri Pengilley.

Read the full feature here on the Independent.  N15 has now officially become the litmus test of hardcore fashion trends.   Also apologies if this feels like a rehash of a post.  I’m on the go in Tokyo with my family, trying desperately to please my hyper critical parents and keep a gaggle of sisters entertained.  Normal service to resume soon when… fashion week starts…

…OH…

True to my Twitter profile description, I really do love a chunky heel (and chunky cheese really is my nemesis because of its stench).  Even better when it’s one that keeps you on the ground in sturdy fashion so for a while I’ve been meaning to write about two relative shoebies (like errr.. newbies and shoes mixed together), to extol the virtues of their distinctive visions of walk-friendly footwear.

Strictly speaking Purified isn’t really a “shoebie” as such, even though they’ve only been going for a handful of seasons. They’ve rapidly they have build up an impressive list of stockists such as Dover Street Market, Net-a-Porter and Opening Ceremony.  Shoe designer, Dominic Webster, who was formerly a creative director of Six London and art director Simone See came together over a mutual interest of wanting to create a shoe brand that connected with their passions, namely art, film and interiors.  They have the backing of parent company Hudson Shoes, which gave them the freedom to create, as sourcing and production was taken care of (which incidentally makes for contemporary level pricing despite the quality being on par with higher marked-up shoe brands).  As it stands Purified as a brand feels like it’s been around much longer than it has precisely because both Webster and See have a precise vision of what they do. “It’s how we’d want to dress our house,” explained Webster in a nutshell as the two apply their aesthetic tastes in other fields, to footwear so that Purified, with everything from its logo to the packaging to their in-store installations to in-house Tumblr blog feel like they are building a world around their shoes.  Every shoe is stamped with their emblem of a magpie – an intelligent bird.  As in exactly the sort of women (and men) that would buy into Purified.  Webster and See single out customer “types” such as the Comme des Garcons-wearing “goth grannies” and the Scandi-leaning “rock chicks”.  Unsurprisingly black features heavily but in ways that will convince even rainbow ravers like myself.

Purified’s core “Patti” boot, for instance features hiking boot lace-up hooks and metal details slotted in at the back of the heel and at the toe cap and the heel itself slants at an angle.  These details collectively make Purified’s dose of black feel like it’s got oomph and substance.  Their ongoing collaboration with the legendary Northampton-based George Cox, creator of the original brothel creeper in 1949, is my natural Purified shoe of choice and for AW14, they come in styles of brown snakeskin and perforated white leather.  My Purified-feet are currently living in their Polly tasseled loafer on in navy patent.  They always manage to garner remarks from feet onlookers despite their less-than-ostentatious appearance.  Sturdy definitely doesn’t mean boring in the case of Purified.

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Entering the chunky and sturdy footwear market is Kult Domini, designed by Kate Deeley, whose signature 70s-inspired round toed brogue is taking a surefooted step towards dispelling the idea that high end shoes need to have a three inch and above stiletto heel attached to it.  “Some people were a bit hesitant and didn’t know how to take it.  It’s in the luxury price bracket of a cocktail shoe but it’s a flat,” said Deely.  There have been early adopters though such as LN-CC.  The way I see it, surely the shoes that get extra miles pounded on the pavement, need to be well made to withstand all that walking.  Kult Domini’s shoes developed in brogue-specific factories in Italy have been meticulously well crafted and rendered in unusual textures that Deely selects from the premium Italian leather fairs.  Deely previously worked in accessories for Victoria Beckham and Vivienne Westwood but her own shoe venture underwent an indepth research process so that the unique round toe that you see below could be made.  There’s something endearingly childlike about Kult Domini’s shoes.  They’re friendly looking because of the roundness.  And of course they’re kind to the feet because of their shape.  Chunky heel aficionados can rejoice collectively.

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For AW14, Kult Domini has teamed up with Leutton Postle so they could go really go wild with printed ponyskins and iridescent leathers.

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I make a bit of a mockery of my Hong Kong identity card (in addition to being a British citizen, I also have right of abode in Hong Kong).  It sits in my drawer gathering dust in its plastic cover whilst I barely visit Hong Kong unless it’s for work purposes or I need to go back, to swipe my card through, let the authorities know that I’m still alive and thus carry on this charade of being a Hong Kong citizen.  It remains symbolically important to my parents that I have some sort of tenuous legal link to Hong Kong and so in my drawer it remains, with my barely 18 year old mug shot grimacing back at me.

I’ll be making a very short trip back to Hong Kong tomorrow before we then embark on a family trip to Tokyo together (I’ll regale you all later with the tantrums, the culture gaffes and the LOLz moments when six Lau family members get together).  My own ties to Hong Kong becomes more tenuous as the years go by and it’s exacerbated when people quiz me about what’s going on fashion wise.  In the past I’ve shrugged and my eyebrows furrowed – I don’t normally have a bleeding clue.

Thankfully, I can finally put some names out there and cheerlead my distant motherland as it were.  Strangely they both share similar aesthetics but in a teensy tiny island region where there are only a handful of fashion designers, there’s definitely strength in numbers.  First off is Cynthia Mak.  Her S/S 15 lookbook popped up in my inbox this morning in fact.  She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2010 and spent years since working at the likes of Alexander McQueen, Roksanda Ilincic and Preen before returning to Hong Kong where the obvious fashion routes were at I.T. and Lane Crawford (where else…).  Moving out of the safe zone of fashion buying, she has bravely launched her own label and here’s an early early peek at her S/S 15 collection – all linear lines, negative/positive spaces and strong silhouettes, heavily inspired by Daniel Buren.  It’s a bold start and one that definitely intrigues.  Mak’s savvy as a former fashion buyer puts her in good stead but Hong Kong isn’t the most forgiving of cities when it comes to young designers.  Perhaps a tide of change is on its way.  PMQ, the newly opened a creative hub of studios and shops is certainly one positive step forward.  Having a clutch of designers, who have gained education and experience abroad and riskily starting up back in Hong Kong is another sign that the environment for fashion is becoming less hostile.

 

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I then bring you Jourden.  Anais Mak’s label Jourden was set up in 2012 and has been quickly galvanising its reputation with both international and local tastemakers giving the label lots of love (HK blogger Tina Leung, style icon Hilary Tsui and blogger Denni Elias have worn the brand to name a few).  Balancing masculinity and femininity, Jourden’s starkly dramatic silhouettes are contrasted with a fascination with heavily textured surfaces.  “The Jourden girl is crusty, candid and determined but also introvert at times.  In our times to be proper means very rebellious,” says Mak in her press notes accompanying the AW 14-5 collection.  I don’t know how “crusty” these very exacting clothes are but they definitely crinkle and rustle with a tactile mix of quilted confetti, mohair fun fur and other shimmery synthetics.   Jourden will be going into Opening Ceremony in both New York and Los Angeles for the first time this season, returning to OC’s very first season back in 2002 when Humberto Leon and Carol Lim travelled to Hong Kong to bring wares back to their store.

The reality is there’s a world of difference between the fashion scene in Hong Kong back then and what it is now.  Both Cynthia Mak and Jourden represent something of a new guard in the city and hopefully, with my well preserved ID card, I’ll be able to go back more often to engage with this burgeoning scene as opposed to quietly observing it from afar.

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