>> I hit many firsts last week and over the weekend as I’ve been reporting on menswear shows for Dazed Digital. Some of the firsts were good, some not so good. Despite my typing abilities being thoroughly spent, it’s hard not give props to some of those firsts that really gave me the chills. Givenchy menswear for A/W 15-6 with the bonus of some specially created womenswear looks was a good first. And it did give me some serious chills. From Riccardo Tisci’s obsessions as a collector of Mexican carpets, skulls and mystical jewellery came a welcome walk on the darkside that steered clear of the heavy sportswear and streetwear influences that have come to define the menswear in most people’s minds. It’s hard not to be swung by a strong narrative and this show had it in spades. Tisci noted after the show that he was at a point where he was currently incredibly happy with what he’s doing and that he felt free enough to just put everything he loved into the collection. So the references were numerous and sprawling, as objects from all over the world fed auras their into the collection. That feeling was echoed in The American Horror Story-esque assembly of objects of old TV’s, furniture and spooky dolls in the set. I’m a sucker for thrift/junk shop vibes and being inspired by objects of significance, especially when in Tisci’s case, inspiration literally came from his own home. As for the clothes – they were the carriers of all the traits that Tiscis has blessed Givenchy with, making it the house with resonance and relevance that it is today – dark and brooding tailoring, eerie romance, eye-baiting prints and yes, a smidge of that sporty streety stuff (although I’m loving the fact that Tisci has shifted ever so slightly away from the use of a mere printed sweatshirt). Pat McGrath’s painstakingly painted and collages masks on a few of the models completed this joyously macabre tale. It’s Givnechy as a haunted house (or should that be maison?) ride – one that you wouldn’t mind going round and round in forever, should you be able to afford its wares.
>> Techno sartorial. That was how Kris van Assche summed up his latest A/W 15-6 collection for Dior Homme as traditional menswear codes greeted the 21st century. The leitmotif of the collection were these badges of dried flowers – shiny and trapped in plastic and clustered in sets of three on the lapels of tuxedo jackets and Prince of Wales check blazers. My first menswear experience in Paris doing the shows has rendered posting a bit on the slow side but having taken these pictures in the showroom today, I thought they’d make for a nice bit of immediate Sunday eye candy. It’s difficult for me to wax lyrical about the cut of a suit, or a tuxedo, not because I don’t appreciate those things but because I lack the vernacular. A dried flower trapped inside a badge as a modern alternative to an old fashioned corsage however is exactly right up my street. The invitation was even more of a treat – it was a set of plastic jelly stickers printed with the flowers and their Latin names alongside them. Viola adroit, delphinium staphisagria, rosa rugosa anyone? They’re a keepsake that now cover my laptop, temporarily hiding its banged up boshed up state. Now, let’s get them clever DIY versions going shall we? Who’s got a handy Bandai Badge It! machine?
>> Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing in fashion. Look back with rose-tinted goggles at your peril as you fall deep into a pit of thinking that thoughts like, “Those were the good old days”, and you might miss what’s passing you by in the present. There’s a trick to looking back into the past in order to go somewhere new. And Raf Simons seems to nail that balance. At Dior, Simons looks to a distant and almost remote past to heave it into the present day. At Simon’s own namesake brand, his own memories – genuine, personal and heartfelt – are accessed, extracted and refined until he can eke out something that speaks to the here and the now. For my first Raf Simons show experience (I’ve never attended Paris menswear…), that memory happened to be a specific one. In Belgium, there is a tradition for 3rd or 4th year university students to “initiate” or in his words “baptise” the 1st years. In the USA, I believe they call it “hazing”, except in Belgium it’s less extreme. In Raf’s case, he was placed in a box and had plaster poured all over him so that he became a sculpture of sorts, having to chip himself free with a hammer and a chisel. He never got to be the “baptiser”. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. Even if it did mean he would get to don a lab coat, scribbled with messages that are then washed and passed on through the years.
And they’re the items that I absolutely couldn’t get enough of in the show. Every one was obviously unique. And as opposed to the faux scribbles, slogans and scrawlings that you might find on mass produced “personalised” items, these looked and felt real. Even if we didn’t have this tradition at university, it was easy enough to connect them to the leaver’s shirts that we all scribbled over when we left secondary school. Simons tapped into that feeling of relief, achievement and a hope for the an unknown future with this particular section. It was also hard not to think about another memory of Simons – his primary influences like Martin Margiela and his lab coated world. Or as we looked up from our standing positions onto the raised catwalk (standing is awesome when you have a clear upwards view), you thought of fashion shows of an other era, especially as we were transported to a far out suburb of Paris for the show. Going somewhere far to see something you really want to see. Without the standard white light that floods most fashion shows. Simons said it best: “The way things are visually travelling - it’s all very samey.” As in the fashion imagery we see – front-on, flash photography, stony gazes – can all look the same. It was about putting in a bit of effort to really SEE a show. And to see something in the show that we can all immerse ourselves into, despite the specific memory.
>>I never “got” the allure of the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles until I had been given the time last weekend to properly roam its rooms, its vaguely haunted corridors and the outside cottages and bungalows. And thanks to Mulberry, I styled up their S/S 15 pieces with my own clothes and also got to poke my nose around the premises to find little nooks to do this impromptu shoot (yes that is wet brickwork you see there – evidence that it does rain in LA from time to time…). It’s hard not to be seduced by all the restored details of this Hollywood haunt. The chipped away tile work and the old-fashioned 1920s ventilation in the bathrooms, the personalised stationery with that endearingly faux-Medieval font of a logo, the restored O’Keefe and Merritt hob in the kitchenette, the mirrored dressing table and the curiously high number of closets (Hollywood starlets and their unusually large trousseaus?). And then beyond its walls, the seclusion provided by the folliage even though you’re technically located on Sunset Boulevard, the lemon tree (I took one – sorry – they are very juicy) and the the old logo-ed lifebuoy by the pool and all the Spanish tile details to go with the accompanying bungalows. Consider me charmed by the Chateau.
Florence, it’s been too long. Two seasons away from Pitti Uomo and I’ve relished roaming the maze-like tradeshow finding significant bits and bobs that don’t necessarily fall into the fast and furious pace of FASH-ON during say ready to wear womenswear weeks. I know I know. I’m sounding like a broken record harping on about longevity and craft and heritage. Those are loaded words that along with “timeless” and “luxury” can be used and abused in fashion vernacular. And on the grounds of Pitti Uomo, every stand is shouting out about their heritage/timeless/luxury credentials. It can feel tiresome. Therefore I’ve sought to find little nuggets at Pitti that balance out a joyful and witty aesthetic with admirable values of craftsmanship and increasingly social responsibility. It was satisfying to go around Pitti and find out about a handful of stories and endeavours to either keep a craft alive or try and do a bit of a good. And the ultimate end game? To create great product.
Geometric patterns! Lush colours! Kele Clothing’s rail was always going to catch the eye. Designed by Ildikó Kele, this Budapest-based knitwear label has been bringing Hungarian fashion to the forefront. Their A/W 15-6 collection on show at Pitti attempts to capture winter sun, storing it up in the form of cheerful knits. You could say the same for their S/S 15 collection too as they steer clear of trends as they get back to nature with traditional Hungarian csango patterns subtly worked into the knits. I know I misuse the word but “organic” is the feeling you get from Kele. They’ve also admirably launched a charity campaign #SharingIsMultiplying, working with autistic artists to create a collection of sweatshirts, where all proceeds will go to the Autistic Arts foundation. And the designs hold up. They’re things you’d want to wear, whether they’re associated with autism or not.
Any new hat discoveries are welcome by me and although Parisian hat brand Larose isn’t exactly new-new, it’s nice to see how they’re starting to come into their own with an increasing number of collaborations. Founders Isaac Larose-Farmer & Marc Beaugé work with a specialist factory in the south of France to make their hats and caps. They try and keep things minimal and clean with their design as to not detract from their sole offering. But choice fabrics such as collegiate stripes and nubbly wool as seen in their new A/W 15-6 collection makes all the difference with their well made caps. With their fashion collaborations such as with Japanese label Pine (past ones include Ami and Jacquemus), they get to play around a bit more with experimental materials. When people often need a bit of a push towards even donning a hat, Larose definitely fills a niche.
Westage & Co
My eyes zoomed in on the unique colourways at Korean menswear brand Westage & Co‘s stand. Waxed country jackets and jersey blazers are all very well and nice but Wastage & Co’s designer Don Kim has been experimenting with ombre dip dyed effects that make these menswear staples stand out. In smaller sizes, women would be seduced too. Kim ensures his Korean mark is made with red paper cut tigers in the linings and Wastage & Co in Korean embroidered on to the collars and establishing the Made in Korea label to denote quality is also a high priority for the designer. With these unique colour treatments though, Wastage & Co is certainly shaking up those tried-and-tested menswear traits.
If I had a penny for every printed silk scarf label that I get emailed about… well, I’d be mega rich. I thought the silk scarf label bank on this blog had well and truly been filled but then Istanbul-based brand Rumisu came and gave me a big hug. Literally. Their character Mr Hugs-a-Lot dominated their stand as well as their beautiful scarves. Sisters Pinar and Deniz Yegin are illustrators with a distinct style. ‘Whimsical’ is too facile a description for their silk and cotton scarves. Every design tells a real tale. It might depict something random like a dinner party with monsters doing a selfie. Or it might be an environmental issue that Pinar and Deniz feel strongly about like tiger hunting or killing snakes for their skins, depicted in humourous fashion. The addition of unique crocheted creatures to the corners of the scarves add a social responsibility dimension as they’re hand-made in South Eastern Turkey in co-operation with UNDP, a project to give employment to women in that region. Touches like the tales told on their tags and sweet embroidered canvas packaging all add to the charm of Rumisu.
Their e-shop has a fine selection of their current collections:
Here’s a label with a true Florentine flavour. Jimi Roos is originally from Denmark but learnt his craft from the small traditional shops of Florence’s back alleys. Anywhere you stumble in Florence, you’re likely to find craft in abundance. Roos’s hands might be rooted in tradition but his particular type of machine embroidery was developed accidentally as the machine trips up to create a sort of error-strewn stitching. With these mistakes, he has been putting smiley faces, toothy grins and drawing out union jacks and collars on t-shirts, shirts and sweatshirts. For A/W 15-6, Roos has also applied his embroidery to some awesome bomber jackets as well as collaborating with tailoring brand Harris Wharf for a more formal look.
This was one of the loveliest discoveries of my Pitti trip. In all my numerous trips to Sweden, not once have I been made aware of Böle, the last standing spruce bark tannery on Earth (to their knowledge…) right up in the north of Sweden near the Arctic Circle! This is a family business in its 4th generation, currently headed up by Anders Sandlund. Since 1899, Böle has been tanning Swedish cattle hides with spruce bark. The tanning process is 100% natural – simply bark and unheated water from the nearby Pite river – without any chemicals. It can take up to twelve months to tan a single hide and as a result you have a beautiful tanned leather that needs no further treatment or dyeing and is highly durable. Once made into bags and leather goods, the leather continues to take on a life of its own with a rich deepening of the colour. Böle would describe themselves as a tannery first and a saddlery second but their foray into commercial leather bags and briefcases in the 1960s means they’ve navigated their brand into the 21st century, picking up retailers like Harrods as well as becoming Royal Purveyor to members of the Swedish royal family. Their giant rucksacks, tote bags and doctor’s bags uniform in a deep shade of caramel make me think of Böle as a sort of Swedish Delvaux or Hermès - only far more minimal and stripped down (so very Scandi…). I was very impressed with their extensive website, which goes into great detail about the cows their sustainability and green credentials as well as being entirely transparent about their manufacturing processes. I’m so glad that I got to discover Böle’s debut at Pitti, as part of their recent restructuring to bring the brand into greater prominence worldwide.
For a bit of “fun”, in Pitti W, a few Ukranian designers were showing their collections. I’ve written about Anna K‘s fash-oh t-shirts that read with slogans such as “I’m not a fashion blogger” and “Fashion Circus”. That collection has expanded greatly but it’s her mainline collection that I’m more interested in. She was swishing around Pitti looking pretty fantastic in a trapeze navy number adorned with colourful patches from her brand new pre-fall A/W 15 collection. Her graphic S/S 15 and resort collections filled with stripes and funny fashion-themed stop signs are also a welcome break from Pitti’s sartorial finery.
Anna K wearing coat from her pre-fall 2015 collection at Pitti photographed by Tommy Ton for Style.com
And finally… my favourite moment captured at Pitti were these stacked-up bracelets originating from the Ndebele people in South Africa. They are worn by Jerri Mokgufe a fashion blogger and consultant from South Africa. Again, something of a break from the shades of navy and khaki that flood the people of Pitti.