Life in Squares

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charleston4Interiors of Charleston

I have a few places on my list to day trip whilst August limps by.  High on this list is Charleston in Sussex, the bucolic getaway of the Bloomsbury set in the 1960s, conjured and nurtured by painter Vanessa Bell, sister of Virginia Woolf and kindred spirited artist Duncan Grant.  I doubt I’ll be the only one as the house is expected to be flooded with tourists following the airing of three part BBC drama about the Bloomsbury group, Life in Squares, which just concluded on Monday.  Like most of the reviews, I found the aesthetics more enthralling than the actual storyline and dialogue.  The series itself is an indulgent escapist pleasure, much like Charleston was for the likes of Woolf, her husband Leonard, authors E.M. Forster, Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey and artist Roger Fry.  Director Simon Kaijser did a fine job at placing all those muted tones of forest green, duck egg blue, dusky pink and burnished yellow into soft focus and painting every surface with the correct post impressionistic brushstroke that Bell and Grant frequently put to canvases, walls, furniture and crockery.  It’s hard not to allow style to win you over, despite the fact that Life in Squares continues to peddle the cliche that the Bloomsbury Group did nothing more but romp, swoon over how “ex-quisitely civilized” everything was and swaddled themselves in an aesthete’s cocoon.  But hey, why bother with substance when that dining room wallpaper is so covetable and the faux-shabby table setting is just so.  

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lis14Screenshots from Life in Squares

And so it is that I’m luxuriating in those bohemian painted surfaces in the series and hopefully in Charleston, when I make it down there.  Unsurprisingly they make for rich fodder for fash-y types to prey upon.  Christopher Bailey has already dedicated an entire collection to the “Bloomsbury girls” with Burberry’s A/W 14-5 collection painted in much the same manner as the interiors of Charleston.  But it’s the subtle resonance of the Bloomsbury aesthetic with younger designers that I find more interesting.  I was instantly reminded of Charleston’s colour palette, rich and varied surfaces and textural eclectica, when I happed upon Sophie Cull-Candy‘s A/W 15 collection.  Lo and behold, her Instagram cites a picture of Charleston’s interior as a direct reference for her upcoming S/S 16 collection.  Cull-Candy graduated from fashion textiles at LCF in 2014 and has carried on forging her own mix of knit, print and embroidery, with a particular focus on British crafted textiles.  Her A/W 15-6 collection “Into the Wild” was inspired by photographs of Scotland, which she and her family had taken, with the colours and light inflecting in the tactile heavy collection.  Apologies if the word grates but I do see a Bloomsbury-tinged type of bohemia in Cull-Candy’s work in the way that the clothes look almost haphazard and well-worn.  Comely tweeds and chunky woolens  jostle with raw silk and crushed velvet, culminating in a mad patchwork hat.  Cull-Candy’s collection almost demands a setting as beautifully ramshackle as Charleston’s.   With Cull-Candy’s photocopied taped up photo background, the collection has license to roam free in a less-than-pastoral setting. 

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I’ve been meaning to talk up Bruta for a while now ever since I saw its debut at Shoreditch boutique Celestine Eleven.  Designer Arthur Yates has no formal fashion background but instead hails from the art world.  Bruta’s customers are “a community of aloof and individualistic people who celebrate the charms and absurdities of art, culture and humanity.”  So far, so very Bloomsbury.  Bruta has begun with a collection of ten unisex shirts printed and painted with patterns found on traditional Tahitian loincloths, inspired by one of Bell and Grant’s post impressionist heroes Paul Gauguin.  These patterns find their way on to pots that could well sit pretty in the sitting room of Charleston.  Go Gauguin go, declares Bruta.  Yates even conducted a life drawing class in the basement of Celestine Eleven using its shirts as canvases, to make its connection with art a more concrete one.   I myself have one of Bruta’s “Jazz” shirt (bought oversized on purpose) and love the softness of the cotton, similar to a much-loved artist’s smock.  I like this small but significant beginning that Bruta has started up.  Its almost childish lack of ambition is precisely what’s charming about it.brutai1

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brutalifeBruta shirts used as canvases in a life drawing class held in Celestine Eleven

Myth Maker’s Paradise

I’m going to be frank. I haven’t done a great deal since I got back from California.  Call it a freelance funk.  Every time I try and muster up some energy to plan a day of worthwhile activities, my mind wanders back to the meeting of sea, vertical cliffs and redwood trees in Big Sur, soundtracked by Yumi Zouma and You’ll Never Get to Heaven.  And then I go into a Sur-induced slump.  The slowdown does of course coincide with the quiet August before fashion weeks brew up again in September.  But hush… who wants to think about that just yet, when I can sit around Googling images that relate to sulphur baths at the Esalen Institute, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell at the Big Sur Folk Festival and read and re-read Big Sur literary aficionados Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller and Hunter S. Thompson and what they have to say about this place, this “myth-make’s paradise, so vast and so varied and so beautiful that the imagination of the visitor is tempted to run wild at the sight of it.”

Back in July during couture week in Paris, I went to see the recently opened David Yurman boutique in Galeries Lafayette.  A brief history of David Yurman and wife Sybil reveals that a young Yurman once incidentally hitchhiked his way to Big Sur in the early 60s, to revel in the beatnik wave that wound up here in Miller’s wake.  David and Sybil’s sculptural and freehand artistic approach towards jewellery makes David Yurman as a brand, an unusual entity in the world of fine jewellery as DY calls for bracelets, rings and necklaces to be stacked, clang about and worn with a lack of preciousness that belies the actual gemstones and metals.  DY’s signature cable bracelets and pavé rings are here to temporarily bring some sparkle to my Big Sur-ified solitude, before the the real toil of the day begins.

0E5A2861Wearing Molly Goddard dress and David Yurman jewellery

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20150708_172915Selection of David Yurman cable bracelets taken at Galeries Lafayette boutique

Big Sur at Esalen

0E5A2931David Yurman Petit Pavé rings

Esalen_1Esalen Institute, Big Sur

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Woman roaring w. laughter as she undergoes a  head-tapping session, part of a sensory awareness class in an encounter group at the Esalen Institute.Woman undergoing a head-tapping session, as part of a sensory awareness class in an encounter group at the Esalen Institute

0E5A2935David Yurman gold cable bracelets

Big-Sur-Glass-Roof-Yurt-Built-in-1976-4 by Mickey MuennigGlass roof yurt in Big Sur in 1976 built by Mickey Muennig

20150708_173916David Yurman pinkie ring and Willow ring

American actor Steve McQueen (1930 - 1980) and his wife, Philippine-born actress Neile Adams, sit together in a sulphur bath, Big Sur, California, June 1963 by John DominisSteve McQueen and his wife Neile Adams in a sulphur bath, Big Sur in 1963 photographed by John Dominis

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Sandy and Agar, Big Sur, 1961, by Hunter S. ThompsonSandy and Agar in Big Sur 1961 photographed by Hunter S. Thompson

0E5A2943David Yurman Labyrinth and Confetti ring

Man_Ray_Juliet_at_Big_Sur 1940Juliet at Big Sur 1940 photographed by Man Ray 

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A woman sitting on a rock, playing a wooden flute, on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif., on April 1, 1987 by Matthew NaythonsWoman sitting on a rock playing a wooden flute at Esalen Institute in Big Sur 1987 photographed by Matthew Naythons

20150708_174020David Yurman Midnight Melange ring taken at the Galeries Lafayette boutique

adarsha_benjamin_big_sur_fool_of_illusion_2-777x765Photograph by Adarsha Benjamin

0E5A2965Close up of David Yurman Renaissance bracelets

huntersthompsongonzo2Rogue magazine, October 1961 – Big Sur: The Tropic of Henry Miller by Hunter S. Thompson 

0E5A2918David Yurman Hampton gold chain necklace, oval large link necklace and silver buckle chain necklace

Mimi Farina Wedding to Milan MelvinPhotograph from Mimi Farina’s Big Sur wedding to Milan Melvin in 1969

20150708_174419David Yurman Starburst double ring

Joan Baez at the Big Sur Folk Festival, 1969Joan Baez at Big Sur Folk Festival

0E5A2973David Yurman Renaissance bracelets

Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez perform at Esalen Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell, and Joan Baez performing at Big Sur Folk Festival at Esalen in 1969

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originally uploaded @ http://melisaki..comSulfur bath in Big Sur 1949 photographed by Ellen Auerbach

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Pulling Wool Over the Eyes

>> It is a bit mad to even contemplate putting on a woolen anything over my head right now.  By the mighty power of Photoshop, my head can in fact be a tea cosy in August.  In all seriousness though, I don’t want to pull the wool over your eyes (*chortle chortle*) and instead give you the heads up (*tee hee hee*) that London knitwear designer Brooke Roberts has created a small collection of turban, scarves, beanies, snood and a curious knitted eyepatch.  Roberts either has a fondness for sleep eye masks or she’s been inspired by patients emerging from Moorfield’s Eye Hospital.  It’s most likely the latter given Roberts’ background as a NHS radiographer.  From her inspiration boards below, medical imagery is still a major source of inspiration for Roberts and the results are patterns that from a distance could be perceived as a very abstracted leopard print, giving the knit patterns an odd ambiguity.  When colder climes come calling, they’ll be available to buy on Roberts’ e-store.

If you’re in London this Thursday, Roberts is also having a sample sale at her studio.

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Delaunay Dalliance

>> “Colour is the skin of the world.”  “One who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.”  Sonia Delaunay’s Wiki-ubiquitous quotes make a strong case for letting colour flourish in one’s surrounding aesthetics.  So did my Junya Watanabe S/S 15 skirt, which I wore to catch the EY exhibition dedicated to Delaunay at the Tate Modern yesterday before it came to an end.  One person thought I was a performing part of the exhibition with my walking canvas of a skirt.  It’s just one stellar example of how Delaunay’s brilliant cross-displinary pattern and colour compositions has filtered down into fashion.  Or as Delaunay would have put it, into life, as she saw no difference between her paintings and her “decorative” work, placing equal importance on both oil on canvas and stitched up fabric patchwork.  In part, Delaunay solves the problematic relationship between fashion and art by treating both as a commercial and creative enterprise without sacrificing the one thing that unites both clothes and canvas – their ability to visually stimulate the eye.

No surprise that Delaunay’s imprint on fashion and textiles is frequently evident in my own wardrobe.  If Casa Sonia still existed today, I’d probably be an avid customer.  I picked up Gerard Lo Monaco’s sweet book, which renders Delaunay’s works into imaginative pop-up pages.  It might be a children’s book but like the supposedly “minor arts” that Delaunay immersed herself into, it’s a beautiful book in its own right.  I thought I’d use it to dip into my wardrobe for Delaunay-isms…

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0E5A2705Discs, 1968 (carpet), Abstract Composition, 1940 (lithograph) – Junya Watanabe top and skirt, Tabitha Simmons shoes

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0E5A2739Black Ball, 1965 (gouache on paper) – David David sweater, Comme des Garçons Homme Plus kilt, Jacquemus coat, Y-3 trainers

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0E5A2743Endless Rhythm, Dance, 1964 (oil painting on a canvas) – Alexander McQueen jacket, Yolke pyjama set, Pleats Please top

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0E5A2762Untitled, 1948 (fabric design) – Walter van Beirendonck top, & Other Stories x Sadie Williams skirt, Être Cécile sweatshirt, Sophia Webster boots

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0E5A2784Child’s Play, 1969 (Aubusson tapestry) – Topman shirt, Sibling knit top, vintage print dress, Pollini clogs

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0E5A2838Coloured Rhythm, 1953 (oil painting on canvas) – Missoni knit top, MSGM yellow top, Comme des Garçons skirt, Adieu shoes

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