>> During Milan and Paris fashion weeks, Phil Oh from Street Peeper and I were doing a spot of sun-chasing so that we could perform our double act as photographer and photographee for & Other Stories. Those scant sunny days seem an age away but the pictures have finally gone live. What’s the premise? & Other Stories have print print print, colour colour colour going on for their high summer collections, which have just dropped online – a spot of marbling, some fruity florals, a pixelated landscape and folksy applique - and let me play around with it all, whilst goofballing it up with Phil. The clothes may not have been weather appropriate when they were shot but you can almost smell good weather now. Spring slash summer is well on its way here in Tokyo (I *gasp* wiped a bead of perspiration today off my forehead). I gather it’s sort of the same in London. Here’s hoping bare arms and legs are coming to us soon.
“DI$COUNT is a brand, an idea, an image, a dialogue, a strategy, a transformation, a design, this blog, a motion picture, a label, a personality, a website, a quote, a garment, an emotion and an evolution.”
That’s the kind of brand spiel that would normally have my eyes rolling. Then again, having known Di$count Universe as first and foremost, a blog that I religiously read, which then parlayed itself into fully fledged fashion brand with Nadia Napreychikov and Cami James making up and redefining the rules of how a label should be conceived, this line rings true true true. I know a fair bit about making it up as I go along. Aren’t all fashion bloggers chancers in this weird and wonderful grey area that sprung up in the early millennium?
For Nadia and Cami though, their topsy turvy, chancing dreamer path has taken them to some dizzying heights. They had set a taste level with their blog, which expounded all things gauche, funny, ironic and ultimately circumvented generic trends and mashed things up to create their own genre. It’s difficult to describe Di$count in a nutshell because they had constructed their own nut. With their blog (and with Nadia’s previous blog Foxyman) they were slowly engaging a core readership, participating and exchanging ideas and commentary. They briefly moved to Bangkok and set about working out their ideals and aspirations for Di$count the brand. At the time they were giving interviews stating they were designers (they had met in their final year of fashion design at RMIT in Melbourne) whilst slowly producing their one-off customised pieces sporadically and selling them to their blog readers. Then came the proper legit e-shop, which would routinely sell out of their one-off Arti$anal and Dead$stock pieces prompting the duo to produce a more in-quantity Tra$h line. Then came a surprise collaboration with Hello Kitty, instigated by Sanrio themselves. Then came the endorsements by the likes of Miley Cyrus, Azealia Banks, Britney Spears and now Katy Perry (pieces weren’t gifted to the celebs but paid for, straight-up).
Now we come to first truly offish fashion show in Sydney, shown off-schedule last Thursday, as the unofficial closer of the week. They did a show in Melbourne back in 2012, which was really a big holler-out to their diehard home crowd fans whereas the show in Sydney had a whiff of “industry” about it as it was styled by Aussie creative director supremo Mark Vassallo and had editors and international press in attendance. The beauty of course it that Di$count don’t necessarily need the support of the industry. In fact, the show was an affirmation of exactly why Di$count are exciting to see emerge in the latest wave of renegade larrikinism.
This eloquent post sums up the ins and outs of why Di$count don’t operate within the confines of the fashion world as we know it. They realised they were isolated just by physically being in Australia so their blog became their platform to reach out to the world. They realised that fashion wasn’t merely about putting out clothes seasonally and then tripping up when the fast fashion world churned out copies, so they put out collections whenever, wherever. They realised that fashion today is about being a jack of all trades, multi-tasking to output not just physical clothes, but image, vision and identity. They realised the power of instant gratification social media, not necessarily just by garnering empty numbers (their Instagram/FB/Twitter followings whilst sizeable aren’t huge but the proportion of likes/comments is high) but by really penetrating those platforms and engaging with their audience as they routinely sell out of items with a single post. Their customer is buying into the Di$count Universe not through seasons but through instantenous love of their aesthetic with a glance of their smart phones. They realised they don’t necessarily need boutiques to make a solid business and currently sell only to a select number of stockists. In short, they’re doing it for themselves in every way possible and give credence to fashion interloping, not by becoming industry insiders but by truly operating from outside of the industry.
Speaking to Nadia and Cami before the show, they expressed trepidation and anxiety over showing their pieces to some “international” folk, despite having had their clothes broadcasted to millions through Miley and co. They need not have fretted. Anyone can recognise strong voice, in or out of the industry. And so people emerged declaring lil’ ol off-schedule Di$count to be the “show of the week”. They audibly gasped, squealed and applauded the onslaught of bejewelled and bedazzled embellishment touching on punk, glam rock, cyber rave, mermaids, dominatrixes and showgirls – all the best things in life then. Monster eyes, lips, big birds with boobs and inappropriate slogans bring on the LOL factor. It’s love or loathe with nothing in between and that’s exactly how they like it. No guessing which camp I stand in. The majority of the pieces will be sold as one-offs as part of their Arti$anal line but bejewelled basketball shorts and glitter star shirts will thankfully be produced in multiples. Before the naysayer brigade weighs in, I will say that the aesthetic may not be wholly and entirely original but then again, what is these days? And Nadia and Cami would probably be the first ones to say they are active participants in this cut-and-paste-postmodern culture of ours. It’s the entire deliverance of what they do – blog, ideas, exchange, comments, Instagram, e-shop – that makes Di$count a unique entity.
After five or so years of admiring the duo online from well afar, I’ve finally gotten my very own piece of Di$count. It’s quite the stunner and perhaps most representative of the label’s ethos. Hardwork (90 hours of studding), vision (highlighter colour palette and biker jacket – of course) and dreaming big (the lining is a dreamscape spray painted swirl of colours). And guaranteed not to be Di$count-ed.
In my round-up on Business of Fashion about MBFWA, one of the initial run-up thoughts of trepidation surrounding the schedule was that there weren’t enough “big” names to bolster the fashion week. One omission was particularly glaring. Dion Lee – arguably Australia’s biggest designer success story at the moment, already showed his mainline collection in New York, where normally it would be the central headline draw of MBFWA. It’s worth reminiscing about those heady sun-filled shows at Sydney Opera House five/four years ago when Lee was beginning to debut and really caught our attention as a red-hot one-to-watch. He’s well on his way to becoming much more than a one-to-watch with his international ascent, an established second line, a newly launched swimline and a first notch store in Sydney (with Melbourne to come).
Therefore it was high time to give his second line, which makes up around 70% of his business, a decent show. It certainly wasn’t a second-best or second-rate show from Lee and in fact was still a highlight of the week despite the lack of theatrics or stunning venues. That’s because the clothes spoke directly to the audience. It made you want to shop and wear pronto. Simples as that. I’m not a huge fan of immediate pre-order and tend to want instant gratification in purchases but here Lee’s pieces jumped out at your credit card. There’s a reason why Lee doesn’t call Dion Lee II a “diffusion” line. There’s nothing lightweight about them. Twisted shirts, jackets with twisted elbow cut-outs, sports-striped basics and yes, even the little waistcoats done up as belts all felt solid and looked like cornerstone pieces. Sure, it’s down to styling but it’s nonetheless persuasive. There are little nifty design features about every piece that makes you want to wear them over and over again, as demonstrated by a blue sweater with cross-over cut-out straps in the back (currently available in black or white) from his first collection of Dion Lee II. I’ve turned to it time and time again and I have no idea why. That’s the sort of wear you’d want out of a twisted basic.
A peek into his first store in Sydney’s historic Strand Arcade and it was the second line pieces that I immediately made a beeline for. Then of course, saturated colour, sharp prints and pattern cutting detailing took over my attention span as Lee’s mainline pieces constrast starkly against the concrete, mirrored and raw wood interior, designed by Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative. Inside the dressing room, you’ll find yourself looking and getting lost in a lit-up infinity mirror installation, created by artist Jason Sims. If you’re trying on Lee’s architectural lines, trompe l’oeil prints and intricate pleating, then the reflections are bound to be mesmerising. I did fully intend to sensibly stock up on will-wear-all-the-bloody-time line II pieces given that they’re somewhat harder to find in the UK (Lee is looking into ways of expanding the wholesale business of line II abroad) but neon lines got the better of me and I opted for a criss-cross grid wrapover skirt, that looks a little like a deranged printer cartridge colour test.
>> Glitter legend has it that there’s a factory somewhere in the depths of home counties where designer shoes and bags routinely get sprayed and applied with glitter and sparkle with deft skill and supposedly specialist machinery. I’ve yet to track it down exactly but when I do, I will demonstrate my devotion to all things glitter with a naff Powerpoint presentation tracking the various instances where I’ve been glitter-bombed – Meadham Kirchhoff’s SS10 hardened glitter t-shirts, Miu Miu’s glitter brogues and pumps, Estefania Cortes Harker’s glitter flat planes and now, finally after ogling from afar, I’ve ventured down under and returned in glittery triumphant – the P.A.M. (Perks and Mini) x Diemme Bonito boots are finally mine! I remember copping a feel of them when the seemingly unexpected original collaboration between the Aussie cult label and traditional Italian shoe manufacturer debuted around two years ago when the Bonito desert boot came in black, silver and gold. Ever since then, they’ve been spotted on many a pair of knowing feet causing serious glitter envy on my part. It’s a heady combustion between the particles of flighty light refracting glitter and Diemme’s expertise in hunting, mountaineering and trekking footwear, which has resulted in their manufacturing shoes for the likes of Maison Martin Margiela, Chanel and Bottega Veneta. A solid Vibram sole and soft-leather linining mean these boots are seriously made for walking… or hiking, biking, cycling… whatever you wish.
Good things come to those who wait though as two years after the Bonito glitter boot debut, for their current “Tierra Del Fuego” collection, the boot has now expanded to include a blue and pink colourway in addition to the original black and also, there’s the ever prevalent slip-on options too.
“In a land of finite logic where natural anomaly rules, people dance in summer snowfall and become transparent. Smoke and snow impair your vision, but movement and energy convey greater meaning anyway. Orogeny is caused by extremes in motion, against and together – rustling in the undergrowth for millions of years, lifeforms merge and divide. New entities rise from volcanic ash blanketing the shoreline.”
The vague yet evocative chunk of text above accompanying this particular footwear collaboration is dreamer stuff. Not that you’d need it to persuade you to join this glitter-infested light side. I’ve done some bouncing in them already in Tokyo, where I have currently landed. Joy. Happiness. Nuff’ said.
Worn with P.A.M. fuzz sweater and Meadham Kirchhoff x Topshop skirt
In other P.A.M. footwear news, their Rousseau sandals to accompany their new “Power Source collection, with memory foam padding are also tickling my fancy. One half of P.A.M. duo Shauna Toohey was bouncing up and down in them quite comfortably at the P.A.M. party in Sydney last Thursday. That alone was convincing evidence that these shoes are made for serious movement. An apt summation for most of what P.A.M. do actually hence why my suitcase is already dangerously 3/4 full from my jaunt in Sydney.
What’s in a reference? It’s not the be all and end all but when you start with John Hughes films, Saved by the Bell and Working Girl, you know you’re on to to a good thing already. Emma Mulholland has a knack for vibing on things that you instantly get excited about. And by “you”, I mean a generation of people between the ages of 14 (retrogazing the 80s and 90s starts young these days) and 40 (the ones that remember these films from the first time round). Perfect then for a Mulholland’s particular brand of elevated casuals. Strands of surf/skate streetwear run as a constant through Mulholland’s work. These are no-brainer clothes to be worn without the need to overthink or over-complicate. It’s the sort of witty light touch you want from sun-drenched Sydney.
There’s a reason why embellished pieces that characterised Mulholland’s earlier work has been reduced to a few sequinned dresses and instead her 80s inflected spray painted pastel prints take centre stage. A t-shirt proclaiming boredom is sure to tickle any 9 to 5 workers out there. and help Mulholland cement her niche in fun n’ frolic fashion. It’s no wonder fresh newcomer designers such as Hayley Elsaesser and Ciara Nolan, who showed as part of the Innovators show, are also following that path. There’s a sleepover print dotted with sleep masks, cucumbers and Cyndi Lauper and Grace Jones staring back at your with their heavily made-up eyes. The office stationary cupboard is raided as paper clips get turned into a luminous blue print and post-its are scribbled and doodled all over. White shirts a la Joel Goodson Risky Business also come scrawled with #Bored childish etchings. The palette has taken on those pastel Miami-inspired hues that graced many a t-shirt and sweatshirt that are hidden in the 80s corner of my mum’s closets. Turn up Tears for Fears real loud, chill out and just carpe diem guys!
P.S. Oooh looky, product! The sunnies, which Emma did with Pared Eyewear are available for pre-order tout suite. Styles called Risqué Business and The Brat Pack are perfect for wearing very far down on the nose in manner of bad-boy John Bender.