What would cheer me up in a heartbeat?  Seeing a Meadham Kirchhoff gift-wrapped cab whizz past and then hailing it to have a good chat with an invariably grumpy cab driver (I have a secret love of partaking in London cabbie moans – the traffic, the football, the government… ).  Meadham Kirchhoff delighted us with lovely hand painted jackets for Net a Porter that I'm still eye-balling at the moment, and now they're spreading some early Christmas cheer with an exclusive wrapping paper design for FarFetch.com, which has currently taken over their home page.

I don't think you could have found a duo more enthusiastic about their gift wrapping etiquette than Ed Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff.  Ed gets particularly excited about all things to do with wrapping and if you're lucky enough to be a recipient of a gift, you can expect a mass of ribbon and antique wallpaper.  I share their love although I veer more towards the anal end of the gift-wrapping scale, where every year, there's got to be a certain theme to my wrapping and EVERY gift must stick to said theme – one year it was "French rustic", another it was "Sanrio Mad" and this year I think I might pick up on Ben and Ed's vintage decal route, which partly inspired this wrapping design for FarFetch.  You can see certain elements such as the check and ribbon writing, taken from their ridiculously beautiful S/S 13 collection, where decadence, pomp and haberdashery awesomeness ran wild.  In addition, they took horses from a 1940s fabric decal design, something which Ed obsessively hunts down (there were decals that are so precious to him that he wouldn't even allow them to be photographed) and scattered them along the edges of their wrapping design.  I especially love the jolly instructions on the back of the decal – all exclamation marks and upbeat phrasing – all the better to add to this cheery mood that Meadham Kirchhoff's gift wrap induces.  

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A visit to Meadham Kirchhoff's studio inevitably makes me feel like an intrusive Japanese tourist as I can't help but snap away at every bit of minutae that is going on – in the furnishings, in the scattering of objects on their desks, on the walls.  Courtney Love, Barbies, bras, witches, Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse and other doe-eyed creatures all make up a little bit of Meadham Kirchhoff's world and they feel like constant forces that are on the back of their minds, quietly (or very loudly?) influencing their work and aesthetic.  It's achingly personal which is why I feel like an intruder showing these pictures but ever so telling of why the duo have garnered such a hardcore following.    

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You know that old industry chestnut defending the fashion show experience as something that is still sacred in this digital age; where the general consensus is that seeing the clothes in person, in motion, in situ and soundtracked can't be compared to the plethora of viewing options available to us – live streaming, instant images via Now Fashion and Twitter feed imagery/commentary?  It's a line of defence that I do by and large, agree with, which is why I rarely talk about collections (from the main fashion weeks) that I haven't seen in person or have some background information on.  Yet that belief often comes at odds with my fascination with what the general public think.  I don't think people's opinions should be snuffed out with this attitude of "Well, I was invited to the show and therefore I have a more valid and worthy opinion than you all."  What people say on Twitter, on Facebook, The Fashion Spot and on their blogs does collectively matter in the sense that you can gauge a very different sort of opinion that doesn't come with industry baggage.  They're potential consumers.  They could be diehard fans of the brand or completely indifferent to fashion.  Their views come informed or uninformed at all different levels.  To write off the lot of it is a extremely closeted attitude.  

When Raf Simons debuted his haute couture for Dior in July, I along with the rest of the fashion loving community joined in on the banter as an outsider, not having attending the show.  I was just another person viewing the images on Style.com, applying a very strict and cautiously optimistic viewpoint to looking at the collection.  Even then I felt I was infringing on territory that didn't feel quite right without having seen any of it in person, but at the same time, I couldn't tear my eyes away from all the opinions coming in from all arenas.  I couldn't stop reading all related comment threads, Tweets and followed the The Fashion Spot thread for a good week or so.  It was divided and ranged from love to hate.  It was interesting to see how the "hate" opinions were tinged with nostalgia for John Galliano.  It was also interesting to see the "love" opinions doused with a knowledge and cult-following of Simons' menswear work through to his tenure at Jil Sander.  I think I was sitting somewhere in the middle, with full belief in Simons as an innovative visionary, who needed time to settle into a house like Dior.

Then the ready to wear show came around at Paris Fashion Week and I was there in person, soaking up the blue room (that was where I was seated) with its well placed panes of transparent curtained windows.  That middling opinion instantly veered sharply into "love", just two silhouettes in.  The idea of Detroit House god Carl Craig as a soundtrack for a Christian Dior show was another factor in getting the thumbs up from me.  That already chipped away any balanced opinion of mine.  Every fabric and silhouette moved with a purpose that felt like the codes of Dior were undergoing 21st century shifts before our very eyes. 

I was fortunate enough to watch the models turn twice so that I could see different angles of each outfit from my vantage point and so it was that every outfit felt powerful to me.  Every waft of organza bubble, pleat and lightly sequinned chiffon looked masterful.  The other simplistic thing that I though about during the show was of course that I wanted to wear the lot of it.  When that selfish point of view comes into play, you can wave goodbye to unbiased perspective.

I wasn't even thinking about the significance of the bar jacket and A/H-lines.  Or even the significance of Simons exploring this notion of "anti-sex".  Deepened analysis of the motives and historical/cultural significance of the collection came much later, maybe up to five minutes after the show when you're in a throng of people backstage waiting to speak to Mr Simons.  

I'm talking about the instant visceral thoughts that go through your head during the show.  It was a pleasurable crescendo build up to see from the subtlety of tuxedo jackets and dresses to bubbling organzas cocooning the body to more jackets embedded with pleats and then finally to a whole passage of well-judged fabric experimentation.  I predictably got very excited by the technical lace, the layering of iridescent organza over satin and the embellishments that looked like sea creatures swimming in an inky black jacket sea.  These are personal likes that I hold and are in tune with my own taste – yet another sign of my lack of objectivity slipping away.

Of course, in my giddy excitement I logged onto all the sites, comment threads and Twitter searches expecting unanimous positivity.  Again, the opinions were as divided as they were for the haute couture show.  In a strange insecurity of my own opinion, I questioned where being present at the show, listening to that Detroit house thump at that volume and seeing the girls walk twice before my eyes and seeing a very emotional Raf in his endearing Helmut Lang denim jacket had flooded my perspective of wanting to root for its success.

Then upon visiting the showroom to see everything up close and a thorough inspection of the photos that you see here and rigorous editing of over 500 shots (always a handy indication of whether I got really excited at a show‚Ķ), it all came flooding back.  The movement.  The feeling of something renewed and refreshing happening before our eyes.  The seeds of a new epoch at a fabled house.   A new chapter to recall years later when hopefully, I'm considered to be part of the "old guard".  A feeling of vindication in my own opinion.  

Still, I'm mindful that seeing it in person had indeed altered my objectivity.  Mine is but one opinion out of potentially millions and those millions will ultimately count.  Once I have acknowledged my own inevitable bias of having seen something in person, it makes it even more interesting to delve into those comment strands and countless Tweets to get that bit of perspective.  I'm fully satisfied in knowing that whatever I see comes with personal judgement, opinion and taste.  Perhaps that will help us get over the ever-boring, ever-tedious "Are bloggers fashion critics?" bollocks.  I'm not.  And I don't think I want to be.  Instead I want to love what I love, in the way that I love things.  Which is why I'm happy, safe with the knowledge that my minute expression of adoration for this collection is part of a much bigger picture.

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>> I realise the title is not exactly going to win any awards for intellect but there are times when over-analysing, deep chat and profound thoughts need to be put aside and they often coincide with press days.  Press days are officially speaking for stylists, editors and writers to review the collections in person as you get to see things you might not have seen during fashion weeks (or they weren't ready then) and plan out stories, shoots and call-ins for the upcoming season.  In reality they become a girly gasp fest of "I want that!" because when faced with product on tables and rails, it's a little like doing a spot of pre-season preview shopping.  Discerning journalists and stylists can tut tut at that all they like but hey, I'm a unabashed shopper first and foremost.  

Therefore here are some tasty treats that all together in one post look and feel tasty and they come courtesy of Delfina Delettrez's S/S 13 Infinity collection and Kenzo's S/S 13 jungle mania.  It's quite clear that Delettrez has moved away from her own defined language of eyeballs and animalia in this collection, perhaps wary of overstating her own aesthetic.  She uses rubber for the first time and mixes them up with precious stones and pearls to form cuffs and chokers that have a spot of kitsch.  What was even more surprising were the cartoonish pop-art inspired rings from the collection, spelling out "Gulp!" and "Yeah!", which feel like Delettrez is wading into more playful territory.  Her sense of the surreal still pervades though when you look at a piece like the infinity ring where a pearl has been placed inside a pyramid of mirrors only to be reflected over and over again.  

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Then we go over to Kenzo's fun exotica for S/S 13, which plays out in these tri-coloured snakeskin bags.  Skins don't feel so "animal" once they've been rendered in sherbet orange, mint green and lemon yellow

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They shoes were also a multitude of fun mixing up brights and pastels, animal prints and metallic embroidery in both chunky heel-ed and flat sandal form.  As you know, I'm a fan of a sturdy shoe and better yet that sturdiness can also be combined with flamboyant embellishment.  

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Kenzo accessories continue on a high with these sunnies where "Kenzo" has been spelt out in a font that kind of reminds me of those novelty straws from the eighties (you know the ones where you couldn't actually drink anything out of because of the complicated bends…).  Along side parkas with tigers on the back and more of those sweatshirts, I predict these sunglasses will be a hit with the streetstyle pap crowd.  

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EOS_M_Default_tcm14-945146Note of Disclosure: Pictures above taken with Canon EOS M, my new camera that has fast usurped the bulky 60D.  Still trying to work out what are my camera allegiances.  In any case, I can't sing its praises enough when it comes to taking stills in a press day situation.  The real test will come at runway shows though.     

>> If young London designers come from a tradition of never fearing the subversive, the questionable and the downright perverse, then young Paris-based designers (who aren't two a penny like they are here…) have mostly played by the rules.  When I last wrote about the young French label Jacquemus, I remarked that whilst French houses flourished, young talent doesn't necessarily do the same in Paris.  The tides are changing what with New York's MADE making its debut in Paris and designers like Julien David, Anthony Vaccarello and Olympia Le Tan doing much to inject new face vitality into Paris Fashion Week.  And now we have Jacquemus, a label designed by a very young Simon Porte, a veritable outsider who hails from a small town in the South of France, daring to explore something a little subversive through his collections that come complete with film and ambiant lookbook to set the scene.  From deranged female factory workers to crazed dog lovers, Porte is tapping into parts of the female psyche and coming up with clothes that have few contemporaries to compare to.  They're naive, a little bit slap dash even but at the least, they're saying something that feels personal to Porte.    

Watch the film for his current A/W 12-3 collection Le Sport 90 (available at Opening Ceremony) and you're immersed into this suburban girl listening to her walkman, snogging her boyfriend, experiencing teen angst and all the while looking seductive in the unlikely combinations of oversized pinstripe and silver/neon vinyl.  I'm looking at her running through that street and wondering how the awkwardness of her outfit is looking so damn appealing.  To put it bluntly (and to look at it through my British eyes), she looks like a hot chav.  You may wince at that word and no, it's not very politically correct to be throwing it around but like so many young British designers (particularly in menswear) who have explored the aesthetic upsides of "chav" culture, it's interesting that on the other side of the channel, you have a young designer doing the same thing through his own distinctly French filter.  We all know about the perceptions of glamour and elegance of Paris but the hidden layers of French suburbia feel like unexplored territory, something that Porte seems to be good at articulating in his work at Jacquemus.  

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The first silhouette seen in the picture below tells you all the essential information without me even typing a word.  This is all about Low Classic, a label from Seoul who just recently showed their collection on October 23rd 2012 precisely, which means it's a S/S 13 collection.  I discovered the brand a while ago and couldn't stop singing its praises – design, branding, styling and more importantly, competitive pricing – all so utterly spot on, it almost makes me want to buy a plane ticket to Seoul straight away.

Scroll down at your peril as most of you might get frustrated by the final punchline.  Low Classic is STILL damn difficult to get hold of outside of its native South Korea but fingers crossed that their international online store will be launching sometime next year because what's on their current Korean webstore is mostly smashing.  Smashing as in "I'd do a smash and grab on all those pieces" with no editing or selection required.

Their S/S 13 lookbook is preceded by the famous letter to his "Immortal Beloved" from the composer Ludwig Beethoven, which explains the postmark prints, airmail envelope edging and of course the various cut-out lettering that displaces and distorts the sentence "Though still in bed my thoughts go out to you my Immortal Beloved" taken from the final part of Beethoven's letter.  I'm hoping that the designers Lee Myeong Sin, Hwang Hyun Ji and Park Jin Sun didn't obtain their inspiration source by watching the first Sex and the City film one too many times (the character Carrie Bradshaw croons quotes this letter to Big in bed) but that they actually have a fixation with the mysterious recipient of these letters.  This "Immortal Beloved" could do a lot worse than being dressed up in Low Classic's cleanly whites and streetsmart pinstripes and sheer checks.  All in all, this is a startingly directional collection for a brand whose price points range from Celine-esque burgandy leather trousers at around ¬£50 to c. 2002 Balenciaga-alike destroyed denim shearling jackets at ¬£115.  The innate bargain hunter can't quite believe that this much design can be whittled down to high street prices and having inspected some of Low Classic's pieces in person, the quality is as good as the likes of COS – a comparable brand to Low Classic.  I'm waiting to discover some grave misgiving that would ruin this equation but I've yet to find it.  In short, Low Classic, you need to give your e-commerce/web team a good push and give us a worldwide online store sharpish.   

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