Second Floor Antics


In between missing a flight, buying another one, switching up from LFW to MFW, I somehow managed to drop by Chanel’s new exhibition “Second Floor” at the Saatchi Gallery.  On the second floor of the gallery, is a beautiful series of painterly photographs by Sam Taylor-Johnson, who went up that famous mirrored staircase to the second floor of 31 rue Cambon in Paris to capture treasured objects and furniture in Coco Chanel’s apartment.

In addition to seeing the exhibition, it was quite impossible to turn down an invitation to get made up by the legendary Mary Greenwell, who was make-up artist to Princess Diana and is currently Chanel’s make-up ambassador as well as be dressed up in Chanel’s supermarket sweet AW14 collection.  Make-up tips for a make-up dunce AND the sort of clothes that I’ve only mostly written about rather than physically experience.  You say… “YES!”

So bleary-eyed from show-going and boshing out over 1,000 words everyday, I schlepped into the New Bond Street Chanel mason before it opened up and went about picking out clothes and accessories and then headed to the make-up counter where lovely Mary immediately declared, “Now darling, you have great skin but you need to exfoliate.”  Direct and to the point, I’ll heed her words.  I do need to exfoliate.  She was also incredibly swift in applying all the magical lotions and potions to my face to get what can only be described as a smoky eyed vamp look, which I kind of loved because it was so far and away from what I normally slap on my face.  Face-wise, I discovered the wonders of Le Blanc Sheer Illuminating base that literally made my face looked glowy in an instant.  I’ll be smudging my eyes with some Illusion D’Ombre without the deft skill of Mary, in a bid to do “smoky”, whilst probably ending up with “messy”.  And I’ll smear on Rouge Coco lippie in shade Rivoli thinking I’ll achieve what Mary did in literally half a minute.  Her motto is apparently “Quick and good!” as opposed to laboured and not as good…  I’ll be taking the quick but not so good route.






We then made our way over to the Saatchi Gallery so that I could have a gander at Taylor-Johnson’s photographs of Mademoiselle Chanel’s apartment on rue Cambon, which I vividly remember visiting from way back in 2007 in ye olde Style Bubble days.  They’re certainly impressionistic rather than realistic, which probably deepens the mysterious aura about that beautiful bijoux space.  In stark contrast to those still and chiaroscuro-filled photographs, I came crashing in, decked out in the most exuberant of Chanel’s A/W 14-5 looks like this yellow coat with abstract patterned lining and matching shirt paired with some of the best fitting silver trousers I’ve ever had on (yes I’ve tried several…) and holographic panelled tweed trainers (check out all the awesome  colourways… ).  I also squeezed my way in to one of Chanel’s coat dresses with inbuilt corsets, which immediately changed my posture for the better.  The novelty bags like the milk and eggs carton purses also made an appearance as did the quilted bum bag, which like SS14’s canvas paint-covered backpack, is defo more my speed in terms of not wanting to look too lady-lady.  No chance with this kitsch-tinged collection though as  jewellery wise, I got loaded up with tin can cuffs, giant padlock necklaces and once again, ooohed and aaahed over the candy bracelets and necklaces.  In less than two hours, I had gotten a very intense Chanel fix – which in between shows was actually a fun respite.  Until Paris when the next Chanel extravaganza will play out… in just over a week’s time.  With about 6,000 or so words to bosh out between now and then.  Me thinks I’ll be using that Illusion d’Ombre stuff to add to the panda eye effect.



















SusieB119All photographs by Becky Maynes

All clothes and accessories from Chanel A/W 14-5 Act 2, now available to buy in Chanel boutiques (if you can venture forth and afford it) except for my own scraggy Miuccia band tee that I’m wearing to get my make-up done.

‘Second Floor’ by Sam Taylor-Johnson is open at Saatchi Gallery daily from 10am – 6pm until Saturday 4th October. 

Reject Everything (That Fashion Mainstream Represents)


One look at the invitation (no stickers, no cutesy animals, no Lisa Frank vibes) and its C-U-Next-Tuesday depiction as well as the title of the collection “Reject Everything” and you knew you were in for a rough ride at Meadham Kirchhoff.  Rough, as in it would shake up the system (or at the very least the MK system), get very angry and annihilate any thought that Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff were just about fluff, glitter and pretty pretty things.

Then there was the venue – the back of Phonica Records, which I didn’t dare to enter when I was a teen (only amateur DJ boys went in there…) – a much more intimate space than where the duo normally shows.  They had festooned it with trees, ribbons and… paint dipped tampons.  The focal point of the set was a piece of trash art with bicycle spokes colliding with car doors and radiators.

On our insulation foam seats was a zine first confronting you with all the slurs that both women and men might encounter (slag, slut, fag, batty boy etc) based on what you look like or how you dress – i.e. the way Meadham Kirchhoff have been dressing their women (and men for a while) and themselves for the duration of their careers.  It then opened up to a list of MK Like and Hates…

Likes: Viv Albertine, Quentin Crisp, RuPaul, Girly Clothes, Arvida Bystrom (who incidentally closed the show)

Hate: Conformity, Putin, Paul Hollywood, High Street Shit, Tony Abbott

Even more telling was the thanks/shout-out notes page.  “This is dedicated (if it works), to two women who have revolutionised my pitiful existence – Ms Viv Albertine – I am in LOVE – and Little Ms Trojan. (E’s pet dog)  I am revived.”

“It would be retarded of me to not acknowledge the obvious and undeniable influence that Dame Westwood has had on this collection.  Forever indebted to your genius.”

“Fuk LVMH corporate fashion.”

These are just some of the choice lines that tell you of the inspiration roots of this joyfully disruptive collection and the subject of anger that both Ben and Ed are channelling their hate towards.  Maybe they are biting the hand that feeds them but the hand that fed them hasn’t treated them with the just respect they deserve either.  Their work is merely a commodity or a novelty for the fashion industry to mine, take and exploit as “product” when they’re not necessarily product-focused designers (they create beautiful things that anybody with a sense of aesthetic appreciation would want to wear – that’s different from “product” for the sheeple).  It’s like jamming a square peg into a round hole.  They have every right to be angry.

It’s hard not to think about what in my opinion was a gross injustice, that they did not progress into the finalists stage of the inaugural LVMH prize, when they reference the conglomerate in their zine.  They’re probably not angry about the fact that they didn’t progress but that they were entered into that competitive environment in the first place.  Fighting the system is a naive mission in fashion.  It usually just elicits sneers of “Well, if you don’t play the game, you’re never going to be a game-changer.”  Ben and Ed have on their part played the game.  They’ve been propelled to great heights.  And now they want to tear all of that asunder and write their own system.

They’ve got nothing to prove by pandering to conventional notions of beauty.  They’ve done all of that before.  So now they can venture forth and wade into new territory for them, paying homage to the Westwoods, the Bodymaps, the Leigh Bowerys of the past but also carving out a statement for the future in amidst fashion’s current state of middling mediocrity and “We must sell things!” remit.  The results?  Panelled knitwear – deliberately lumpy and bumpy.  Smocked white dresses with red toggles resembling bloody tampon strings.  Cut-up pink latex as if it were cut chiffon.  Swiss dot lace dresses, ripped and worn over “man-repelling” yellow wooly long johns and slogan knickers.  Blue asymmetric shirting, cut-up, voluminous, an echo of Westwood’s pirate shirts.  Jackets frayed at the edges made out of laundry bag material.  Bulky bomber jackets made out of automotive foam.  The MK-isms were still there in the shirred chiffon dresses, stitched with extra TLC, in the flutters of black feathers hanging off of gowns and just in the general method of “Don’t-give-a-fuck” layering that has always captured this layerist’s heart.

In a week of politeness, niceties and all things Net-a-Porter ready, Meadham Kirchhoff unofficially closed LFW by reminding us all what British fashion has been in the past and should always try to be in the future – disruptive, probing and uncompromising.  Lose those qualities and you’re just like everyone else.

































Scans from Meadham Kirchhoff fanzine SS15 from Dazed Digital

Molly's Party


Yesterday at Christopher Kane’s show, for the first time ever (I think) he had written a lengthy press release.  The reason being is that it was dedicated to his former mentor at Central Saint Martins Louise Wilson.  He talked about looking back to the past to get to the future.  Many designers have paid homage to Wilson in the wake of her death in May.  Kane’s was the most prominent as one of Wilson’s starriest proteges.  Spare a thought though for the current crop of MA students at CSM, who lost a key tutor and at a crucial time in their design education.  It’s not just the loss of the tour de force that was Louise but it’s the loss of a guiding educator which will have possible ramifcations on their final year collections, to be presented in February next year.

Molly Goddard won’t be a stranger to some of you.  She was a star graduate of the Central Saint Martins BA course in 2012 and that led to a collaboration with ASOS where her shamelessly whimsical tulle shell dresses were paired with embroidered slip dresses.  After deferring for one year, Goddard embarked on the CSM MA course and was on course to show her final MA collection next February.   After Wilson’s death in May, everything changed.  Goddard decided that she wouldn’t stay on to complete her MA.  And in a matter of months, she left CSM and decided to pull together a collection to show quite casually this season at London Fashion Week.

I say casual.  The clothes were anything but.  Eschewing formal presentation style, Goddard got together a group of her personal friends to wear her collection of beautifully smocked frocks and basically have a fun fun fun party.  No silly posing.  No models looking awkward as they meander around a set.  Just a gang of girls necking beers (for real), chatting,  having a laugh and dancing. Some wore the dresses in shades of coral, duck egg blue and deep yellow on their own.  Some had band t-shirts and jeans underneath.  Like Goddard’s pieces for ASOS, these dresses showed versatility, despite the fact that they are dramatically constructed out of multiple layers of tulle.  Tegan Wlliams, one of Molly’s friends, who I had met on an Elle Collections shoot, is a tomboy in real life but she looked totally at ease all trussed up in voluminous pink.  If you’re not into frou frou, tulle or pink then Goddard has also introduced some really beautiful dark indigo taffeta smocked dresses which were a bit shorter too.

Goddard isn’t quite sure where Molly Goddard – “the brand” – will go next.  She’s sure to have interest from buyers but it’s whether she’s ready for the challenge of setting up her own label, so soon after she’s left education.  In any case I’m grateful for Goddard’s off-off-schedule presence at London.  I loved that it wasn’t entirely serious and that Goddard was kind of winging it.  That’s often when creative expression is at its freeest.  Planning every step meticulously has become the modus operandi for designers everywhere as they’re coached to become brands very quickly.  Less planning and more doing would suffice for me.  In a flurry of two months, Goddard just wanted to create.  And create she did.



























Hey Presto Preso!


In New York you often have to skip through presentations in two minute slots, especially in the Milk Studios set up where you have multiple rooms to get through in oh, 10 minutes.  It feels rude to flit through designers work in this quickfire manner but that’s also a result of the convenience of a presentation.  Back in London, I’ve been lingering longer.  Thus far, the presentations are where the most interesting (although not necessarily the best – there’s a difference) work has been coming through.  In the newly configured BFC presentation space in the South Wing of Somerset House and also off-site,London’s new-NEW gen has been blossoming.  The BFC have really made an effort to try and accomnodate everyone that has something to say on-schedule with more presentations than ever – sometimes just with static models, sometimes with rotating mini-shows, sometimes with fashion film and elaborate sets.

One New York editor declared after the J.W. Anderson show yesterday that in one day of LFW, he had seen more inspiring things than he had seen in the whole week of Ne York.  High praise indeed.  I can’t help but think that has something to do with the fact that everything from the exhibition space to the presentations to the shows themselves, there’s a broad range of things to see – a diverse landscape, dictated not by trends but by designers’ own personalities and desires.  Presentations doesn’t automatically mean inconsequential small fry and likewise shows don’t necessarily guarantee power player winning collections.

I may have been bleary eyed from getting back from New York but Faustine Steinmetz woke me up with her debut presentation at LFW.  Here’s a designer who really used a presentation opportunity well to capture people’s imagination.  In the ICA, in addition to models standing static in clothes, Steinmetz had set up pillars dedicated to various branding objects that a big Parisian house might have.  Steinmetz is cheekily poking fun at the system where a clothing brand is big enough to package their own bottles of water, but also seriously questioning what would go into the making of her own brand, should she advance far enough.  So we have Faustine Steinmetz pens and sweets next to a model lounging around in a hand woven Faustine Steinmetz swimsuit.  Shop signage and logos read “Faustine Steinmetz – Paris, London, New York… Birmingham, Roubaix, Detroit.”  Of course…


But in between these hilarious stabs at branding were some very serious clothes.  Steinmetz’ enthusiasm for handcrafted garments that embody a true spirit of luxury hasn’t waned.  Riffs off of denim is still Steinmetz’s thing and she explores techniques like laminated thread, hand pleated Japanese shibori as well as repurposing second hand denim and reweaving into a new dishevelled state.  From yarn to weave to cut – Steinmetz emphasises the UK-grown small scale production of her garments.  Those are important take away points but she need not ram it down your throat.  The clothes sell themselves because they look…. so cool!  Sometimes, clothes don’t need eloquent descriptions.

















I did not get any Russian vibes from Trager Delaney’s debut presentation (more like a showtation) but Lowell Delaney and Kim Trager were looking at the modern constructivist Russia – stripped down, bare and almost uncompromising in its nature.  There were moments of whimsy that crept in like the fruit print and the running men (spot the sports giant logos) but the duo were keen to pare it back, just like the space where the show was.  I love that in one black taped-up sign reading “No Way”, that summed up Trager Delaney’s cool irreverence.









I was so excited about Shrimps’ first presentation that I kept on squealing “Shriiiiiiiiiiiiiiimpssssss!” to anybody that would listen to why I think Shrimps is so great.  Designer Hannah Weiland has cornered all things fun faux fur in just a couple of short seasons but she’s ready to venture beyond her furry cage.  She’s also keen not to be known as a theme-driven princess of kawaii – she deliberately created a modernist set inspired by the architect Gio Ponti, which then contrast with the whimsically illustrated silk pyjamas made with Poplin, which in turn also contrasted with the jackets – sleek and chic in leopard print, animal hair and of course, pops of candy coloured faux fur.  Weiland also went a bit “lady” by designing her own line of stingray finished handbags to go with the pearl-encrusted manicure and pearl-edged clutches.  It was good to see Weiland not fall into the trap of being known purely as a kitsch kookster (she said she could have had models dressed up as bunny rabbits and had crustaceans scampering around) and instead she went for a well rounded and mature take on the Shrimps girl and that paid off.












Orla Kiely has its audience and aesthetic down.  Her world is already well-defined but getting LA artist Alia Penner to live paint flowers onto perspex at the presentation added a real stroke of difference.  The clothes were still sweet as pie but Penner’s participation certainly spiced things up.






More yelping the when I learned that Louise Gray had done all the prints for the new Lulu & Co collection.  Yay, any Louise Gray in a season is better than none at all.  Space rave meets Sun Ra in what was a rambunctious outing for Lulu Kennedy’s brand.  You can tell Louise was involved just with one look at the prints.  It also had other Louise-isms like tinsel-covered hoops.  It’s also great that Lulu & Co. gives Gray a more commercially-minded vehicle to channel her distinctive prints.  One of everything please.  Including the hoops, despite not having pierced ears.







I didn’t quite understand what happened with Antipodium and the departure of creative director Geoffrey Finch (he went to Topshop) but the changes don’t seem to have dented the brand.  With Daniel Mcilwraith as head of design, who had worked with Finch for a long time, Antipodium’s quirks are very much still present.  You can’t get more odd than having televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker as a central muse.  That doesn’t translate into errr… loud 80s suits and you’ve been Tango-ed make-up.  Instead, Mcilwraith looks at the world of cult to extract what are wearable but not boring clothes.  Neon jacquard denim, embellished biker jackets and zip-up gingham tops anchor the prim meets sex vibes.  Best print I’ve seen so far at LFW goes to artist Victoria Sin’s “Healing Hand” rendition of mascara, jewels and lips with braces, seen on dresses and bomber jackets.








I’ll be revisiting Danielle Romeril again when I get a chance to sit down with her properly but she came up with an all mightily impressive first presentation that took us until her world.  Inspired by Romeril’s own camping experiences, these girl scouts were set up to be self sufficient – foraging for their own food and looking awesome in different riffs off of khaki, incidentally chiming in with Marc Jacobs’ take on military garb.  Romeril’s penchant for beautifully developed fabrics shine through though in the French lace overlaid with camouflage applique and the mix of crochet over leather.  You could see these clothes in either a country or an urban setting.









Phoebe English has just taken over the window at Dover Street Market London with her S/S 15 collection.  She follows Nicolas Ghesquière’s AW14 collection for Louis Vuitton.  That’s a huge leap of faith on the part of Dover Street Market and English showed exactly why with what I think is one of her best collections yet.  White muslin dabbed with paint like an artist’ test, black and white acrylic paint swirled on geneously on to mesh, what looked like basketball court netting trapped in between organza and cotton strips  knotted and configured into a grid-like structure – these are the sort of ingenious use of unexpected materials that first brought English to prominence.  What I love most is that through the seasons, English has never really compromised or gone “commercial” and that people like DSM love her for that.  











And finally Claire Barrow also got a say on the preso schedule, late one evening.  Down a dark alleyway off Marylebone High Street in a dark basement, she presented her take on her imaginary super nurse characters, out to save the world from a lethal virus.  Actually does the tale really matter when all we’re loving is Barrow’s beautiful handwork as seen in the pussy cats leaping across patchwork skirts and painted leather pieces.  Barrow finds it difficult to fully explain the narrative that is going on in her drawings but actually, the fact that they’re ambiguous leaves a lot to the imagination.