>> I didn't plan for an Olympics-related post to pop up on the day of the London 2012 opening ceremony but this one is merely a passing comment rather than anything that's actually relevant to the feverish fervour for the extravaganza that is supposedly going to be unveiled tonight.  I couldn't resist the way Nike has referenced an old-fashioned etiquette book in this hardback bound lookbook showcasing their designs for the USA team's medal stand looks and attire for lounging around in the Olympics Village.  It covers the dos and donts of how to wear your kit when on that sacred medal podium such as tucking in untidy t-shirt hems, turning up tracksuit bottom cuffs up once to prevent unsightly bunching-up and perfecting the perfect tuck n' roll on a long racerback vest.  The book is the work of New York-based creative agency ceft and company and was photographed by Max Farago and for me, is one of the more impressive bits of printed paraphernalia to have come out of all things Olympics-related that have started flooding into my snail mail cubby hole.  It's suitably light-hearted and laden with tongue-in-cheek wording.  Still whilst  I chortle at sentences such as "From the stand-up collar to the satin finish, this medal stand look takes a minimalistic approach to eleganc.  And yet when flashbulbs pop, subtle bands of reflection will be revealed, adding accents of silver light to the classic navy base and a dash of shine to the victors," real athletes out there will be dreaming of their medal stand moment over the next few weeks.  I'll be witnessing some of those moments as I've luckily scored tickets to see all the events including the 100m womens final on 4th August and yes, I am actually genuinely excited.  To think I was bah humbuging all of this Olympics stuff a year ago. 









After looking through the Nike athlete etiquette book, I had to reread this Manners for Women book, first published in 1897 and written by a certain Mrs Humphry.  It's part truthful and part ridiculous in its advice for us women.  Telling us to have brocade silks running down the centre of our dining tables for dinner parties may be outdated but some of the style advice actually isn't that antiquated.    


"The object of a fashionable woman in dressing, is to make herself distinctive without becoming conspicuous – to excel by her union of graceful outline and fidelity to the fashion of the moment (no easy task), and while offering no striking contrast to those around her, so to individualise herself that she is one of the few who remain in the memory, when the crowd of well-dressed women is recalled only as an indistinguishable mass."

"There is intense vulgarity in dressing in loud colours and glaring styles in order to attract attention to oneself.  There is an immense difference between this sort of thing and the desire to look one's best, and to be as becomingly and suitably attired as one's means allow."

"A widow when marrying again, wears grey, mauve, heliogrope, lavender, biscuit or deep cream-colour, or any tint not mournful or lugubrious."

"Travelling costumes consist of tweed, serge, Irish frieze, homespun, and other all-wool materials, and are of the class of tailor-mades.  In hot weather, white muslins, piques and flowered or pale muslins are worn by the sea, with open worked white stockings and white shoes.  Glittering bead trimmings and elaborate embroideries are quite out of place."

"Women dress irrationally.  The only time that we don't grumble about modern dress is when we see a sister-woman attired in 'rational' costume.  it is then that we hug our faults and follies to our breasts, and delight in our delinquencies.  We compare those heel-less prunella shoes with our own neat patents – wicked things they are with their pointed toes and narrow soles.  We contrast their shapeless figures with our own smart outlines, and we are so lost to a sense of our sartorial sins as to congratulate ourselves on our sumptuary superiority."

There are some brands that you take for granted because you know you can rely on them and they'll always be there for you through the good times and the bad.  When I first walked into Folk's store on Lamb's Conduit Street maybe six or seven years ago, that's how I felt about their then-solely menswear offering and their solid shoe range for both men and women.  Their clothes are quiet but absolutely not sterile.  They come and give you a gentle hug as you reach out and touch their knitwear, their lovely shirts or a well-formed pair of camel ankle boots.  There are also quirks that they've built up over the years thanks to their obsession with crafty elements.  In addition to caring about the fabrications and the quality of their clothes, they don't short change you on aesthetic treats for the eye – a detailing on the pockets, a tiny pair of people embroidered on a shirt (one of Folk's little emblems), the inside of a jacket being just as nice as the outside – all things that have contributed to a hardcore group of Folksters who appreciate Folk's blend of quirkiness and functionality.    

Folk have clocked in just over ten years of being in business and have six standalone stores under the belt with a ton of stockists but instead of making a loud shout about that achievement, they've plodded on and recently launched their womenswear for A/W 12-3 in the quiet and assured way that I'd expect them to do.  Cathal McAteer, founder of Folk together with designer Folk designer Elbe Lealman always knew that womenswear was on the cards but saw no reason to rush it or lazily rehash their menswear styles in womenswear sizing.  Lealman originally came from a womenswear background but drew influences from the androgynous style of Japanese/Antwerp designers.  That led her to designing the menswear for Folk and now she gets to return to her original field of interest.  "It's hard to describe what we do but it's very instinctive to us and so it's been quite easy to apply that to womenswear." explained Lealman when I met her at the a little Folk shindig that myself and Steve hosted on Tuesday night at the Shepherd Market store.  

For A/W 12, we get a taster for Folk womenswear that incorporates some elements of the menswear but with a freer hand when it comes to  pieces such as the painted silk dress that I'm wearing below  "The first collection was piece together the masculinity of the menswear and adding in what I felt was a good capsule collection for women that still want to look feminine but not ridiculous.  It's a balance between aesthetics and things looking beautiful and the practical element."  Lealman says the word "practical" almost with an apologetic tone.  I'm not sure it's necessary because there is real merit and skill in creating clothes that people fall back on time and time again.  The very fruition of the womenswear came about partly because there was intense customer demand for it.  It will be interesting to see if the women who buy Folk shoes on a regular basis will also buy into the womenswear.  

For a first time Folkster like myself who has always admired the ethos and infrastructure of the menswear business, leaping about in the new A/W 12-3 collection has been a real joy of discovering that I do indeed have a real need for a brownish tweed coat with huuuuuge pockets that can fit two paperbacks in each.  Or a chambray shirt that has a maroon diamond on the elbows (Folk have a real addiction to primary colours and primary shapes, which lends a pleasingly childish undertone to their pieces).  Pieces like this flighty silk dress with exaggerated batwing sleeves, printed with one of Lealman's paintings or a red dress with wooden toggles are Folk's more overtly feminine pieces that will shape up as an exciting prospect for future collections.  I've already spied lovely Indian-influenced embroidery and bright pink fuschia pink in the new S/S 13 collection.  



Folk dress worn with Fleet Ilya visor, Rachel Antonoff x G.H. Bass shoes



Folk red dress worn with Peter Pilotto cardigan underneath, Jaeger bag, Salvatore Ferragamo Vara pumps






Folk tweed coat and polka dot top, Pleats Please trousers, Underground creepers

Despite Folk's foray into womenswear, I still couldn't help stealing a few things from Steve's Folk menswear pile.  For A/W 12 menswear, pieces like the reversible knitted sleeved bombers, fleecy trousers and no-brainer sweatshirts and tees are ripe for picking.  It's easy to see how the two collections are playing off against each other too.  "We made a conscious decision that we just didn't want to be pigeon holed in to doing a women's fit of the menswear.  They've got to appreciate each other.  It's got to stay focused in the same direction."    


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Folk womenswear chambray shirt and trousers, Folk menswear sweatshirt worn with Christopher Kane jewelled sandals



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Folk menswear bomber, Folk womenswear cardigan and white shirt worn with Balenciaga skirt and Tommy Hilfiger x G.H. Bass loafers

>> I'm currently grappling with a mammoth cook off for a friend's birthday party so I can't do much more today other than alternate between this new Versus S/S 13 video and the theme for The Clothes Show (an instrumental version of Pet Shop Boys' In the Night).  Both soundtracks kind of nod to a jubilant time when a fashion-y soundtrack was basically anything with a watered down Chicago house vibe that seems to be fitting into my current state of melting into my chair.  Have a go at having both on at the same time.  It's indoor euphoria when coupled with Versus' campaign archive thread on The Fashion Spot.      






A comment on the Port Eliot post asked "Why dont we have festivals with fashion designers, and floral headwear and knitting gangs in the US?!"  To add to the chagrin of this commentor, I omitted another important component that would fit nicely in this summary and that was a doll tea party.  A fashion designer's tea party no less.  The formidable fashion critic and British Fashion Council ambassador for emerging talent Sarah Mower had the idea to ask designers to send in their childhood dolls after interviewing so many who recalled making clothes for their dolls.  The dolls were arranged by famed set designer Michael Howells inside the Port Eliot house, for festival-goers to see.  Alex Fury of target="_blank">Love Magazine and Sarah Mower also hosted a tea party where they talked about post-war theatre de la mode and the historical connection between dolls and fashion.  The core of it is that most gay designers I know eschewed Action Men for their sisters' Barbie/Sindy dolls and started cutting up scraps of fabric to fashion a wardrobe for their dolls.  That's a general sweep of a statement.  Still there's something in dolls-based childsplay that is easy for writers to map out a connection between present day fashion designers, stylists and journalists within the industry and their childhood past.  

By my own doll history, sadly I wouldn't have much to show for it.  So poor were we that I never had a single Barbie, Sindy or barely any soft toys for that matter (my friend bought me a Barbie when I was 14 to somehow make up for that loss).  We'd play a lot of imaginary games instead pretending we were various characters and constructed our sets out of cardboard boxes, cushions and bedsheets.  Or later, I got a bit more skilled with paper and scissors to make paper dolls where you can clip on clothes with tabs.  Or I'd make figurines out of blu-tak, which I see as a connection to my love of powder blue today. 

Alber Elbaz of Lanvin could perhaps relate to my lack of resources.  As a child, his parents also couldn't afford any toys but they had one chessboard.  Elbaz took the whole set and made dresses for the pieces out of cigarette papers, sticking hair on them with chewing gum.  He created his own little harem of female chess pieces until one day, he was playing with them in his room with a candle and it caught fire.  Elbaz relived his childhood for this exhibition to recreate the chess set with his team at Lanvin.  It's a classic rags to riches story that in fashion seems scarce nowadays when getting into fashion in the first place requires a lot of family financial support.  

Other notable contributions include Sarah Burton's paper marquettes constructed for the practical purposes of mapping out how the pattern should be placed in miniature so that when it is upsized, there is no fabric wastage.  Christopher Kane has instilled a tradition of making up his favourite outfit from every collection into an outfit for a Barbie doll.  Every single collection right from the neon bandage S/S 07 to current resort 2013 has a Barbie.  Christopher's sister Tammy Kane also donated her Cabbage Patch doll called Toni Bonnie Bella, which sits proudly in the middle of the table having a convo with Sarah Mower's doll called Baby, wearing an outfit made by Mower's grandmother.  I loved the bizarre similarity between Simone Rocha's two dolls, one dressed in a Victorian lacy outfit and one in a current Simone Rocha A/W 12-3 ensemble.  Lulu Kennedy and I would have a lot to talk about as she also used to play very orchestrated imaginary games for her two rabbits Paul and Amanda – her "gang of little people".  She'd host parties for them very early on, not disimilar from what Kennedy does now, organising the Fashion East show every season.  Viktor & Rolf's more recognisable 'I Love You' doll takes centre stage from the 'Bedtime Story' collection of 2005.  These are the kind of dolls that are eerie in appearance with their white bisque faces and human hair.

This exhibition neatly ties in with the rediscovering of childhood pleasures that this festival fosters.  Not only do you see many, MANY children getting creative and being allowed to roam around in a place free of 21st century modern trappings but your own imagination goes into overdrive by simply being in a place where you're exposed to ideas (through the talks and events) and an almost dream-like environment (the boathouse, the fairy lights in the woods, the views of the viaducts, the surreal murals inside the house…I could go on).  To see the connection between these dolls and what their owners have achieved at present, is something of an inspiration, even to doll-less folk such as myself.  

Viktor & Rolf 'I Love You' Doll – "Fifty-five dolls were shown in a six-metre high dolls' house, which itself referred to three seventeeth-century Amsterdam dolls' houses in the Rijksmuseum.  They were commissioned by extremely wealthy Dutch burgher's wives – not as playthings, but as exact replicas of their own homes and rich possessions.

Alber Elbaz' doll's chess-set based on the set he made when he was five: "I have made this set with my assistants in the studio at Lanvin.  It brought back all my memories of being five years old again.  It made me think: maybe the best creativity comes out of lacking resources.  If you only have potatoes and olive oil, you ahve to be a damn good cook to make a great meal out of it."



Sarah Burton's paper maquettes for Alexander McQueen: "Growing up, I remember Sindys, Barbies – all kinds of dolls.  It wasn't the dolls I was interested in – it was the clothes.  We used to play dress-up everyday.  Once I made a feather skirt and a metallic top, I remember. Plus ca change!



Christopher Kane's complete doll size show of all his collections to date: "My Barbies have become a tradition in the office.  Every time I design a collection, there are scraps of the fabric left over, so the girls in the studio started making a Barbie outfit each season.  It was never an intention to do a Barbie project or anything – it was just the girs making them for me."

Lady Amanda Harlech and daughter Tallulah Harlech's dolls: "My dolls inhabited a parallel world just out of the corner of my eye.  I spent hours with them – I would build them houses out of my brothers' wooden bricks, they had shoe boxes stuffed with clothes.  Jasper Conran who lived two doors down from our house had a bevy of princsesses and we would act out dramas together or make jewellery out of broken tail lights and headlights."  Amanda Harlech
 "I was a Barbie-crazed freak as a child.  I often stole the outfits off my brother's action Man and made tomboy Barbie or Pop Star Barbei with a bikini top and baggy Action Man trousers.  The hair never lasted long." Tallulah Harlech

Tammy Kane's cabbage patch doll: "I remember she had a wee Aran sweater and that our granny was abolustely horrified when she saw me pretending to breastfeed her one day."

Sarah Mower's doll 'Baby': "Baby is wearing a paisley-print dress and a pair of knitted knickers, which were made for me, amongst many other things, by my grandmother, maisie Defriez, who was a huge lover of fashion.  She made all her own clothes – which I now realise she had adapted herself from looking at Cristobal Balenciaga, like coats with swing backs and three-quarter sleeves."

Erdem's two Barbies wearing an original dress he made when he was five and a dress from his A/W 12 collection: "I got hold of this cheap-y blue polyester, and fashioned a circle skirt from it and put it over her head.  And then my mother helped me sew a strapless bustier with a low back.  It's very spring-summer."

Lulu Kennedy's two rabbits Paul and Amanda: "I started organising 'events' from an early age.  I took them deadly seriously and had to have absolute control of art directing all the elements or I'd get very fed up.  I'd dress up all my toys up in their very best outfits and place them in a very specific order, a bit like a seating plan at a catwalk show.  I'd hand-make invitations and snacks, and charge guests 2p to get in."


Simone Rocha's two childhood dolls: "My doll had a full Victorian lacy outfit with matching shoes, dress and hat.  I used to send her flying down the stair banister which resulted in cracked porcelain faces and bones.  She's wearing her original lace outfit, with her broken leg accessorised with a band-aid from a previous banister injury."


Giles Deacon's dolls: "I get my work placement students to help make them – I've found it's a good test of how skilled they are.  You can tell who's going to have it, and who not, from how well they can work at doll-size."

Jason Wu's dolls for Integrity Toys: "At the age of sixteen, while at boarding school in Connecticut I decided to call the president of Integrity Toys.  Offering them my sketches, asotnishingly they offered me a job designing dresses for their fashion dolls.  A year later i was named creative direct, then partner.  Both positions I still hold today and extremely proud of."

Virgina Bates (of Virginia vintage in London) and her rag doll: "Dorothy is a rag doll with a hand-painted face, I thinks he dates from the late 1920s.  But she is a very naughty girl and she loves ot party.  DOrothy strictly dirnks Margaritas, no tea please!  She is very patriotic too so I dressed her up for the Jubilee."

>> It's become something of a ritual to come up with a Chanel x … title every time the brand does an interesting pop-up concept.  Chanel really is no stranger to exorbitantly extravagant temporary and fleeting spaces given that they've now done pop-up stores with colette and Harrods as well as going mobile with their gigantic art installations and of course ensuring they blow everyone else out of the water with every catwalk show set build they do.  As I mentioned before, the tourist-flooded Covent Garden is getting a summer high fashion boost courtesy of Chanel's Beauty pop-up store, just a stone's throw away from Opening Ceremony's pop-up, and a first for the UK.  Chanel's fine roster of make-up artists, nail technicians, theatrical artists and stylists will be coming together to do special in-store events over the next five months.        

Parking four Chanel vernis coated London black cabs in this summer's shades of Blue Boy, Holiday, Chance and Rebelle outside the store ensured that the passing crowd would be snapping away with excitement, even if they don't know exactly what it is they're snapping (isn't that the way with crowd drawing attractions in tourist spots?).  There was also a Chanel street performer preening and peering into a mirror on a podium outside, paying homage to Covent Garden's tradition for creepy slash hilarious street performers (there's even an association for this theatrical group).  I jostled around for about five minutes inside the pop-up and the thing to take away from the store is London's first dedicated Chanel nail bar that will be downstairs.  I am a simpleton when it comes to beauty products, and specifically nail polish.  I can't profess to have found some sort of zany avant garde alternative to Chanel's Le Vernis.  A sheeny shiny bottle of Chanel nail polish is my guilty pick me up at airports when something has gone inevitably gone wrong (lost luggage, delayed flight, no copies of Guardian left at WHSmith etc).  I'm wearing several poorly applied coats of Chanel's Holiday shade right now.  I'll definitely be popping in for more expertly applied polish, especially if the likes of Marian Newman and Sophy Robson will be there.  The street performer outside may have specified that there be no donations but rest assured, the till at Chanel's pop-up will be going ker-ching-ker-ching.