Crying at the office is just tragic on all kinds of levels.  You can’t weep openly like you would in the privacy of your own home.  You can escape to the toilets for a while and sob silently and not for too long as people will suspect that you’ve gone off to cry.  It’s embarrassing when people do you know you have cried and then start asking condescendingly ‘What’s wrong?’ and nudging Kleenex your way.  Overall, it’s just not all that pro to be bubblering at work. 

But when you’re hassled by people needlessly, spoken to in a derogatory way and basically made to feel about 5cm tall, those tears to start rolling.  I’ll say that in my line of work (digital advertising), unhappy clients aren’t a pretty sight.  Today was particularly stressful. 

A lot of my colleagues turn to the post-work pub ritual or a cigarette or two to relieve the stress.  I rely on my fashion pick-me-ups.  Today, the pick-me-ups were very rightly timed.  At about 11:00am when I could feel my blood boiling, my Etsy purchase arrived.  The personal packaging, the handwritten thank-you note instantly calmed me right down.  From the UK-based KissCurl who sell ‘millinery for the femme fatale’ came a femme fatale piece that I had been meaning to buy for yonks but never got round to it.  It’s the feather fascinator which was instantly imprinted into my mind when I saw the film Brick.  I will be further exploring Kiss Curl’s beautiful head creations but for now, I’ll slip in the feather fascinator as and when I can, without even creating an up-do as to not make it look too ‘done’.

Then to get me through the whole day, I had the Rupert Sanderson factory sale to look forward to as the end of day pick-me-up as opposed to drowning my sorrows in a vodka and cranberry.  I dragged the bf down to a quaint room at the back of a church in Mayfair where women were literally ravagaing piles and piles of shoeboxes.  Not finding anything of interest in my size in the boxed shoes, I started rummaging through the press boxes and found these metallic dark blue sandals with padded straps.  I want to wear them with thick ribbed grey ankle socks and tights to wintri-fy the sandals.

Now, I’ve just also had a heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs cooked by the boyf and with one eye on the fascinator and the other on the shoes, my day has been excellently picked-up. 

With the high level of organisation behind Graduate Fashion Week, more and more opportunities are being presented to fashion graduates in the UK to get their work out there faster and their name stamped into the industry.  I spoke of Selfridges graduate pop-up shop which will be up from 1st-7th October and Nina & Lola’s online grad shop.

We talk of the ‘next new thing’ constantly and it is rare that immediately post-graduation, designers get retail backing straight away.  They’ll toil away for a few years, maybe start their own label, present their collection and buyers may or may not come their way immediately.  Two See, in Covent Garden have the foresight to see the potential within fresh grads and will be stocking David Bradley and Karin Gardkvist’ graduate collections.  It does help though that both Middlesex-grad designers have faint reminders of London fashion heavyweights.

David Bradley’s printed collection was beautiful at the show but positively STUNS in these pictures.  His faint reminder is of course London’s printmaster Jonathan Saunders.  Now that Saunders has edged away from print to colour blocking, Bradley could be the perfect new gen print designer to watch out for.  He also already has the added ‘eye’ for colour composition that works so effectively in these geometric patterns and ombre-shaded pieces, as well as an appreciation for the balance of fitted and loose forms.  The patterns remind me of the doodles that I used to do on graph paper with my coloured gel pens at school, except 100 times more advanced and skilled in structure and arrangement.

Me thinks Karin Gardvist won’t mind having carrying the tag ‘the next Preen’ as she works/worked as an assistant studio manager for Preen.  Her graduate collection also shows some Preen-esque traits, whilst maybe being a touch sexier.  Gardvist’s dresses heavily lean towards the body-con whilst having quite deceptively simple cuts.  I’m really loving the off-shoulder straps that a few years ago would have got me thinking ’90′s sexpot’ but now look fresh again, as the fashion cycle dictates.       

I’ll be popping in to get my eyeful and maybe even a taste for Two See’s latest acquisitions by trying something on…  question is, how do graduates price their garments seeing as they are selling their skills/design and not their name….   

Cathy Horyn made a comment on the overall mood of the collections at London Fashion Week being decadent, over-the-top and dramatic.  Is it the spirit of the current ‘Age of Couture’ exhibition at the V&A (I’ve yet to go but will report laden with pics!)?  Is it paying a respect to fashion originals like Isabella Blow that fashion excess was seen at designers like Giles and Christopher (quite literally, there was an excess of ruffles at the latter’s show)? 

These factors may all play a part but how does this impact upon London’s streetstyle then?  I noticed that the overall level of effort put into outfits was seriously notched up this season at fashion week.  Dressing-UP was out in force and there was a distinct penchant for the dramatics.  Pale blue Cinderella gowns with mini-white top hats.  Heels of the most vertiginous proportions worn with luxurious hoisery.  Edwardian dandy looks on guys complete with breeches, brogues and even walking sticks.  My eyes were feasting…preying even!   

We single things out as ‘dressed-up’ quite instinctively – hats, the way a person is made-up (yes, guys and girls BOTH get in on the cosmetics action), shiny magpie things, exaggerated shapes, historical period features.  The list goes on as they all fall under the cateogory of being ‘ostentatious’.  The traditional glossies and probably many amongst you, revere the ‘effortless’, the front row editors dressed immaculately in expensive, on-trend but not overly-so, tasteful outfits and the people who don’t look like they’re ‘trying.’.  I’ve always had a bit of a problem with these oft-used statements of ‘effortless’ and ‘people who try too hard’.  Is it a crime putting effort into an outfit?  Is it wrong to give some sort of calculated though to an outfit?  Are people like myself to be burnt on the fashion stake for scouring vintage stores for the perfect veiled hat, for painstakingly sewing an extra veil on it and then co-ordinating it with a two-toned dress, matching the fabric colours of the two veils (fuschia pink and navy if you must know…).  So that is effort.  When worn, it can have attention-grabbing effects.  It did take thought behind it.  Is that all wrong then?   

Unluckily, whilst sitting down at a show (in my Day 5 outfit aka ‘Circus Extra’), behind me I heard two Taiwanese girls (could tell by the accent) who, thinking I couldn’t understand Mandarin, said ‘She’s just wearing those tights to get attention and get photographed.’  I’ll be honest, the words did sting a little and grate the ears.  I wore those stockings (why is my hoisery always getting stick I wonder…) because I wanted to add a ‘funny’ element to my black dress, something off-kilter.  It certainly wasn’t to get snapped in and if you see the constipated expressions on my face when I do get photographed, you’ll see that I have no love for the camera. 

What I’m really griping at here is that the people I’ve been seeing who have upped the level of ‘dressing-up’ and get inadvertedly snapped for doing so, may be misunderstood by others and seen as ‘try-hards’ or ‘posers’ when they could have been dressing to their tastes, their heart’s content. 

Perhaps what we need is acceptance that what qualifies as ‘dressed-up’ to most is normality to others.  Perhaps our eyes need to be readjusted/retrained into seeing a hat for instance for what it is; a hat and not ‘that crazy accessory that eccentric woman is wearing.’  You might say this is all subjective and dependent on who we are talking about but I know that a certain ‘decorum of dress’ exists and I know people use it to heap judgement upon others.  It is no wonder that fashion is feared when the industry have people that people take pleasure in uttering ‘WHAT is she wearing?’ in disgusted tones, yet those same people will happily declare a John Galliano collection as genius.   

As usual, my rant has become convoluted, but faced with so many points to make, it can’t be anything but confusing.  I guess in my head, I’m thinking that we have nearly reached the point whereby we are ushering in this new mood of ‘dressing-up’ but perhaps we don’t have to call it that anymore when for most, it’s just ‘getting dressed’.

I know it’s a little too early to say but I’m thinking Jil Sander is ranking high up there in the chart of top 10 collections of SS08 for me.  Raf Simons is taking the label outside of the boxed-in attitude and there’s a definite intent to expand the Sander clientale as well as trying to keep them happy.  The sillhouettes are still sharp with the ultra short boleros and skinny skinny trousers but there’s an overall softening up of the ‘strict and restrained’ qualities that Jil Sander is known for. 

Who knew all that chiffon and sheerness could look that sleek as opposed to ‘pretty’ and ‘goddess-like’?  Stiff voiles, organzas and sheer chiffon are all materials that I’m looking at with a twinkle in the eye for the new season.  I guess the sheer A-line skirt at Miu Miu AW07-8 started that curiosity within me.  The contrast between heavily opaque and delicately sheer is balanced skillfully by Simons.   

I’m also impressed with Raf Simons’ choice of palette.  Style.com claims the colours are ‘unlikely to hit the spot at retail’ but in my books, his colours of the sky would be hard to resist in person.  The combination of the pastels and vibrant, light and dark all works because he sticks to a few base colours and because he has paired sherbet orange with pale blue, I’m re-assessing the former colour even though I never would have considered it before.  In short though, who wouldn’t want to be wearing a bit of sky?

Etsy used to be THE place to find a cheap thrill or two that has that ‘This is home-made’ quality, but the bar has been significantly raised of late and you’re getting incredible things surface that are of course, that touch pricier.  The thing I love about Etsy is the one-on-one communication between buyer and seller that is a a lot more personal than buying from online merchants of even eBay.  Just the general nature of sellers aiming to please makes Etsy a lot more pleasurable.  The banter between buyer and seller has extended to doing custom made pieces such as this ‘Hepburn’ dress that is made-to-measure by Seed Clothing who are based in LA.  On a separate note, this is running in the opposite direction of fast in-and-out fashion, and I predict the market for bespoke, tailored and made-to-fit will creep up slowly and perhaps soon we shall all be making weekly trips to the ‘dressmakers’ just as we did 100 years ago (or even 50 depending on how staunchly traditional you were…).

After YSL’s launch of Edition 24 (the 50-style line of YSL essentials), I’ve been motivated on working on putting together my own collection of essentials and have in fact ticked off most boxes (susprisingly seeing as I’ve never been one to accumulate ‘essentials’).  However, the perfect all-occasions, dress-up, dress-down dress hasn’t found it’s way over to me and the Hepburn is well on its way to getting that box ticked.  It’s made out of a gray slate fabric (a colour that would get more wears than others… well at least for me…) that apparently looks better the more wrinkled it gets.  All the better to shove it in my tote for latter-day changing.  I love how the Hepburn name points to the dress’ classic qualities rather than actually emulating Audrey Hepburn’s style with the hard to date slight A-line shape and centre tuck.  Finding an essential on Etsy was not something I expected at all….