The world just keeps getting smaller as I'm turning ye olde blog posts into real life in-the-flesh encounters. Elaine, the owner of The Olive Shoppe, the former vintage eBay store once based in California, has been bouncing around the world, from Beijing to Bangkok and now to Shanghai for an indefinite period of time. Their website Olive Shoppe is still going, filled with Elaine's quirky eye for vintage but it is her taste in new designers picked up on her travels that has created her pop-up shop that is currently going on in Shanghai (812 Julu Road) until the 31st May. The Olive Shoppe also has a guest pop-up rail in Dong Liang Studio, just around the corner (184 Fumin Lu) just around the corner, extending her physical shop reach. Elaine's nomad ways means that her labels are geographically sprawling – Two Weeks and Proef Tights from the UK, Daniel Palillo from Finland, Fleamadonna from Korea, Chromat from USA and Reality Studio from Germany. They're all names that are hard to find in their very own source countries but have found a home in a furniture store near the somewhat hip-n-burgeoning Fumin Road area in Shanghai as well as on their Taobao shop (more about the wonders of Taobao later…).
My biggest discovery from Olive Shoppe was the London-based Kerhao Yin, a name who I vaguely knew but hadn't seen his collections up close. It's all too little too late alas as this half Taiwanese, half Burmese CSM graduate has now stopped his own label and has taken a job at Marni. Still, we can reminisce a bit over his S/S 12 collection which is a mash-up of unexpected textures and basketball attire and is one of the most interesting examples of warping sportswear that I've seen in a long time. The deliberate light/heavy contradiction is seen in the use of tulle contrasted with heavy quilted wadding or green cut-out felt sports initials. Here's hoping Kerhao brings his aesthetic sensibilities over to Marni.
Seeing as Kerhao is no more and this is the one opportunity I'd be buying a piece of his work, I faltered and ridiculously bought a London-based designer's work all the way in Shanghai. Doh. To rub salt in to wounds, these new pistachio slingback shoes by Alex & Rose are also by a British label based in London. Double Doh. I'm going to maintain that I'd never see either of these items in London so I haven't really broken my "If I can get it in London, it's not worth buying.." rule of travel shopping. The Kerhao mesh jacket reads Sports Day, a day which I loved slacking off from for almost all of my primary and secondary school life. Can you tell I'm really excited for the Olympics *voice dripping with heavy sarcasm* ?
(Kerhao jacket worn with Antipodium shirt, COS dip-dyed sweater, COS neon skirt, Alex & Rose pistachio shoes)
>> This is one to offload to girls who endlessly Tumblr pictures of blooming roses or watch Lana del Rey videos wondering where she got her cut and paste footage from. That's not to deride those girls. I myself, may well fall into that category at times. My point is, it's difficult to look at this debut collection by Lesya Paramonova, an illustrator and designer based in Moscow and not think about how they will end up on endless moodboards and Tumblrs and how Instagram-able it all is (by the by, thanks to Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, I'm now hooked up on it with the new Android app on @susiebubble). I feel like Lesya and I come from a generation of women, who want to look upon a flower and find meaning beyond its surface prettiness. This is probably why I'm eternally attracted to Linder Sterling collages or why I STILL cannot stop watching Solve Sundsbo's The Ever Changing Face of Beauty film for W Magazine. Blooms that grow over body parts clearly get me going. The video above by Karina Eibatova is a video flower anthem soundtracked by Washed Out and it's the perfect summation of why Paramonova's work is emotive for us annoying dreamers who litter the world with images of people's faces being obscured by giant lillies.
Paramonova, like Zimmermann has also been rejecting the onslaught of digital florals and instead goes for printed botanical drawings, that are uplifted by cutting out sections into fabric decoupage or adding layers of sheer silk tulle to dull the patterns. The presentation of the collection at the latest edition of Cycles and Seasons in Moscow back in March had the models wearing their hair as a mask, an extreme version of girls who hide behind their long hair and daisy chains. Her lookbook images, inspirations, presentation and behind the scenes images are all, like I said, terribly easy to fall in love with. Without seeing the clothes up close, it's difficult to say where Paramonova's technical strength lies but I'd buy into this floral haven in a heartbeat. And then Instagram/Tumblr it all up of course.
I did tactfully hint that this year's MBFWA in Sydney was more eventful off-site than it was on-site, with the real action taking place in showrooms and at off-site shows. Ok, that wasn't so tactful. But dems the rules of any centralised and systematic fashion week venue, where ambiance and atmosphere are often sacrified in favour of sponsor messages and heavy branding. I'm therefore glad I made it out to Emma Mulholland's off-schedule event at The Grand Social where she presented her "As Bad As I Guana Be" S/S 12-3 collection, where flaming tequila drinks were the order of the night, alongside a screening of the film that accompanies this collection, directed by Alex Goddard. That's the sort of wordplay that would endear me to any collection, let alone one that makes Mulholland stand out in the Sydney fashion scene as someone, who has a knack for synthesising streetwear, heightened consideration for fabric and textures and an unlikely cocktail of references together into something she can call her own.
Mulholland first caught my eye with her take on all things hot n' tropical and rainbow sea-dregged long before before S/S 12's onslaught of sea creature and mermaid themed collections, a theme she had explored in her graduation collection too. I know people like to talk about colours "popping" at you (what does that actually mean) but in all honesty, Mulholland's colour combos and her eye for detailing really do come alive before your very eyes. In one way, like so many Australian designers, she is fully attuned with with that extraordinary light that Sydney gets, making the sea look bluer and lush plants look greener. Mulholland takes that bit of sensitivity though and ramps it up by tenfold and for this collection, she goes looking in the desert for cacti and iguanas and drops them into a basketball court, complete with cropped tees, caps and varsity satin jackets. Mulholland has tweaked her collection so that it covers all wardrobe bases – leathers, knitwear, a ton of separates and accessories – a natural progression from her last shark-infested "Tropical Rebel" collection that is currently on The Grand Social. It's this wearability coupled with solid development of brain-searingly memorable motifs that means Mulholland is more than equipped to battle any homogenisation going on in her hometown, to ride her own wave. Judging by the rapturous Facebook love, I'm definitely not the only one who would want some iguanas on their back come summertime.
>> After extending our stay in Bangkok three more days (we were supposed to leave on Sunday), I'm now pretty much all Thai-ed out. That doesn't mean I'm fatigued in any way of what has been an awesome week (note: awesome week generally means I neglect Typepad for a while) but I've now gotten my full share of all things Bangkok and fully ready to move on. The inevitable thing of course is that I will return later in the year as I've caught the bug for this city. I'm shipping out of Bangkok tonight on to Shanghai and Beijing, laden with Bangkok's finest wares – a beautiful navy lace and satin A/W 12-3 Disaya dress that features teacups, rabbits, cats and pearls and some Sretsis floral power from their imaginary S/S 12 deer-infested woodlands. The only downpoint I'd say about Bangkok is the number of underfed cats skulking about with bald patches, so it's good to see a few cuter and healthier ones illustrated on the Disaya dress. I also haven't worn a princess dress in a while. One that needs nothing else but some decent shoes but still, I resisted my inner Disney princess and bunged a shirt over it just to feel like I can go out and schlep around 7-11 in it. Like I said in my previous sugar Thai post, I'd also like to re-enact a soap opera scenario where I rip off the pearls in ultra dramatic fashion and throw them in the face of a character who has besmirched me. The Sretsis double power of floral print and floral applique was a no-brainer, especially when they're the sort of flowers that originate from an uncomplicated time when we only knew how to draw them with six simplistic petals and an emphatic circle in the middle. I also haven't worn a loud "Dad" jacket in a while. You know, when "Dad" decides to get fancy and puts on his party jacket to look "funky". Oh and yes, I'm reclaiming the word "funky". It's underused and misunderstood.
My body also bears the marks of Bangkok with my arms sprinkled with glitter and glue thanks to Praewa of Wib Wab Wub and her glitter tattoo skills. Praewa's also in an all-girl band called Yellow Fang, Bangkok's culmination point of Warpaint, Au Revoir Simone, School of Seven Bells and the like. Wib Wab Wub, her sideline gig is only seven weeks in business but already girls all over town have been marked by gradiated glitter tattoos in the shape of rainbows and shooting stars. As someone on Twitter pointed out, it's all a little bit Lisa Frank-ish but who doesn't want a bit of rainbow sticker/stationery power for two temporary weeks on the skin. I've also got some M&M juicy nails on thanks to Hive Salon's gel nail manicure that will stay put for at least three weeks without chipping, which is an exciting prospect. Pampering is everywhere in Bangkok and if I didn't come away with at least two mani/pedi's, a couple of massages and a few hours of dunking in a herbal infused bath, I wouldn't have done this city justice. At least, that's how it goes in my head.
P.S. Before I sign off this Bangkok trip, an Oscar-style thanks goes out to Au of The Only Son and Danai and Disaya of Disaya and all the team there for making our trip that bit easier.
(Disaya dress, bStore x Liberty shirt, navy tights, Nicholas Kirkwood shoes)
(Sretsis jacket and flower applique skirt, Jonathan Saunders t-shirt, Christopher Kane sandals, Theyskens Theory bag)
I always think of ladies with double barrelled names with yachts in the South of France whenever you mention the word "cruise". "Resort" is much the same. For a long time, cruise/resort collections felt far-removed, blocked by a mega ray of sunshine that would melt me in an instant (I've permanently looked like an overused wax candle whilst I've been in Bangkok). The word pre-collection somewhat diminishes the image of that well-to-do woman in a wide-brimmed sun hat, wafting around in a caftan and of course, in broader retail terms, pre-collections now hang around the rails for a lot longer than mainline collections.
When I look back on these light-flooded images from the Zimmermann cruise collection, shown during MBFWA a few weeks ago, I had a sudden urge to rethink cruise. To take back that word and positively embrace all things cruise-associated in my head. Yes, why shouldn't I be sipping pina coladas with paper umbrellas on a stripy sun lounger by the pool with a myriad of florals, picked out by details of laser-cut holes, biker shapes and twisted ruching. Why can't I lie on a yacht in manner of hot chick in George Michael's Careless Whisper video, wearing a peplum-adorned halterneck swimsuit or a printed tankini. Of course, it could be the copious amount of coconuts that I've consumed in Thailand and the post-massage haze that's bringing on all this cruise talk but if cruise is what Australian designers excel at then you have an exemplary collection here on a platter, courtesy of Zimmemann.
The fact that many of the florals used in this particular Zimmermann collection are reminiscent of my mum's 80s pastel sunday dresses that I used to go through with glee, also helps the cause. They eschewed sleek and exacting digital blooms and instead, went for the sort of bedsheet-type florals that Blossom or Kelly Kapowski would have been more than happy to pile on in abundance. I mean it in the best way when I say that these prints could well have graced a shower curtain, a roll-up window blind or a cushion pad for garden furniture from yesteryear. However, this faded floral image fest was appropriately controlled by the use of biker jacket-inspired shapes, body conscious netting and laser cut detailing, playing around with the opacity of the fabrics and drawing lines and panels on the body to create something more aggressive, beneath the surface of these vaguely daggy florals. It sounds throwaway to say "It's so wrong it's right" but that phrase will keep popping up so long as designers continue to push the levels of taste and dance dangerously around those cheesy borderlines. With this collection, Zimmermann emphasises their forte in creating direcitonal swimwearas well as putting a stamp on their ready to wear that says they mean business – even if that does mean a redux back to a time when cocktails were too sweet and shaggy perms were abound.
Like I said, expect more delayed chronology. I'm of course not in Australia anymore but my Bangkok-melting self would certainly appreciate what these pics have to offer right now…