Big Up HK


I make a bit of a mockery of my Hong Kong identity card (in addition to being a British citizen, I also have right of abode in Hong Kong).  It sits in my drawer gathering dust in its plastic cover whilst I barely visit Hong Kong unless it’s for work purposes or I need to go back, to swipe my card through, let the authorities know that I’m still alive and thus carry on this charade of being a Hong Kong citizen.  It remains symbolically important to my parents that I have some sort of tenuous legal link to Hong Kong and so in my drawer it remains, with my barely 18 year old mug shot grimacing back at me.

I’ll be making a very short trip back to Hong Kong tomorrow before we then embark on a family trip to Tokyo together (I’ll regale you all later with the tantrums, the culture gaffes and the LOLz moments when six Lau family members get together).  My own ties to Hong Kong becomes more tenuous as the years go by and it’s exacerbated when people quiz me about what’s going on fashion wise.  In the past I’ve shrugged and my eyebrows furrowed – I don’t normally have a bleeding clue.

Thankfully, I can finally put some names out there and cheerlead my distant motherland as it were.  Strangely they both share similar aesthetics but in a teensy tiny island region where there are only a handful of fashion designers, there’s definitely strength in numbers.  First off is Cynthia Mak.  Her S/S 15 lookbook popped up in my inbox this morning in fact.  She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2010 and spent years since working at the likes of Alexander McQueen, Roksanda Ilincic and Preen before returning to Hong Kong where the obvious fashion routes were at I.T. and Lane Crawford (where else…).  Moving out of the safe zone of fashion buying, she has bravely launched her own label and here’s an early early peek at her S/S 15 collection – all linear lines, negative/positive spaces and strong silhouettes, heavily inspired by Daniel Buren.  It’s a bold start and one that definitely intrigues.  Mak’s savvy as a former fashion buyer puts her in good stead but Hong Kong isn’t the most forgiving of cities when it comes to young designers.  Perhaps a tide of change is on its way.  PMQ, the newly opened a creative hub of studios and shops is certainly one positive step forward.  Having a clutch of designers, who have gained education and experience abroad and riskily starting up back in Hong Kong is another sign that the environment for fashion is becoming less hostile.













I then bring you Jourden.  Anais Mak’s label Jourden was set up in 2012 and has been quickly galvanising its reputation with both international and local tastemakers giving the label lots of love (HK blogger Tina Leung, style icon Hilary Tsui and blogger Denni Elias have worn the brand to name a few).  Balancing masculinity and femininity, Jourden’s starkly dramatic silhouettes are contrasted with a fascination with heavily textured surfaces.  “The Jourden girl is crusty, candid and determined but also introvert at times.  In our times to be proper means very rebellious,” says Mak in her press notes accompanying the AW 14-5 collection.  I don’t know how “crusty” these very exacting clothes are but they definitely crinkle and rustle with a tactile mix of quilted confetti, mohair fun fur and other shimmery synthetics.   Jourden will be going into Opening Ceremony in both New York and Los Angeles for the first time this season, returning to OC’s very first season back in 2002 when Humberto Leon and Carol Lim travelled to Hong Kong to bring wares back to their store.

The reality is there’s a world of difference between the fashion scene in Hong Kong back then and what it is now.  Both Cynthia Mak and Jourden represent something of a new guard in the city and hopefully, with my well preserved ID card, I’ll be able to go back more often to engage with this burgeoning scene as opposed to quietly observing it from afar.


















Louis Vuitton's New Day at Dover Street Market


It’s hard not to draw a poetic parallel between Dover Street Market’s biannual New Beginning process when the store is replenished and redone and Nicolas Ghesquière’s now infamous “Today is a new day. A big day.” statement typed out on a letter, which was given out at his inaugural Louis Vuitton show in Paris.  Dover Street Market’s New Beginning and Ghesquière’s ‘New Day’ go hand in hand together to bring about a special space dedicated to Ghesquiere’s debut collection for Louis Vuittion on the first floor of Dover Street Market London.


In between a DSM signature ramshackle corrugated iron hut and a glass vitrine filled with animal skulls sits a Louis Vuitton spaceship of sorts – a self-contained unit lit-up with warm neon tubes landed in, to house a special edit of the key directional pieces from Ghesquière’s AW14 collection for the house.  “We like to give the chance to brands like Vuittion to be free to express themselves in a completely different way than they normally do, with a view to exactly that: allow the customer to see the product in a different way,” explained Adrian Joffe over email.  As you walk in and out of this Louis Vuitton space (to be recreated in the Dover Street Market Ginza and New York stores as as well), it’s certainly a radically different browsing experience to that of Vuitton’s many many flagships.


As Dover Street Market London approaches its ten year birthday, it bears remembering how unusual it was and still is, as a retail concept.  Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons inviting the likes of Dior, Prada and Louis Vuitton to have their own carte blanche spaces, that then sit alongside rails of CdG’s own lines, would have had people scratching their heads at the time when Dover Street Market London opened.    “From the very beginning we worked with luxury brands and small designers and streetwear and classic and everything else in between.  We opened with the largest spaces for Lanvin, Alaia, Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane (for Dior Homme)” said Joffe.  What’s intriguing is how Kawakubo and Joffe see the relationship between Comme des Garçons and a big houses like Vuitton and how they interact with each other in the store.  Turns out Joffe sees one strong common value that overrides any perceived differences.   “The great synergy that arises is the result of the dichotomy, and is possible because there are many values in common such as the highest value placed on creation all the while respecting tradition and authenticity.  With so called mainstream houses like Prada and Vuitton, it all feels very natural because they have great visions and implicitly understand what we are trying to do.”


I wanted to explore this special union with a shoot which sees Ghesquière’s living and breathing beyond the catwalk and the campaign images.  Together with photographer Martin Zähringer (editor of Is in Town) and model and artist Phoebe Collings James (who incidentally used to work at Dover Street Market), we shot key pieces from the collection catching stray rays of daylight, coming into the many nooks and crannies in Dover Street Market London, before it opened its doors.  As we were shooting, Collings James’ enthusiasm for the pieces was palpable.  “I’m not sure which piece I love more… they’re all so brilliant!,” she said as she changed from one outfit to the next.  On Phoebe, memorable pieces like the printed ski zip-up, the gradiated matte sequinned skirt, the cut-out floral and leather dress and the hefty mono-earring all took on a different attitude.  “I knew he’d do something brilliant but the understated genius of it was a wonderful surprise,” said Joffe, when asked about his thoughts on Ghesquière’s debut collection.  That understated quality is highlighted by Phoebe, who wafted in and out of DSM’s hidden corners, whilst being captured with quiet strength by Zähringer.    



Louis Vuitton landing into Dover Street Market is the big bang beginning to what will be an eventful September for Dover Street Market as celebrations of its ten year anniversary really kick in, which I will delve into later on.  Kawakubo is already looking forward to DSM’s future as an installation themed around “The Next Ten Years” will take over the store and the whole façade of the building.  “We hope to make every DSM distinct and independent but true to our core values, Dover Street Market London is dear to our heart because it was the first,” said Joffe.  “It’s always changing and evolving along its path and getting fuller… the walls are bulging.”  Those ‘bulging’ walls are dear to many all over the world, far beyond the CdG nucleus family – to designers, to customers, to creatives and to anyone who is even a remote enthusiast of aesthetics.  Why?  It’s that powerful common thread that ties everything and everyone within the store.  “That every one has something to say, that they have a strong vision of who they are, that they are the best they can be, that they are open to breaking the rules and are unafraid of freedom.”

Louis Vuitton at Dover Street Market London until the 14th October with a takeover of the DSM corner window from the 1st until the 15th September

Phoebe_StyleBubble_MartinZähringer-4Credits: Photographer: Martin Zähringer, Hair: Magda Tucholsk, Make Up: Katy Nixon, Model: Phoebe Collings James 

A Thread and a Will


When I wrote about Copenhagen-based designer Wali Mohammed Barrech’s latest SS15 collection shown under terse and rousing circumstances, I wrote about the diminishing strand of fashion that seeks to comment, provoke and perhaps even disturb.  That conversation has shifted to editorials (often crossing the boundary from contemplative to crass) and at present only a handful of designers at the top of their game, dare to put out a creative statement that actually rocks the boat politically and socially.  Ok, perhaps clothes on a runway don’t actually incite political/social change.  But even merely passing comment on what is going on in the world around us (as opposed to an obscure abstract artist, 1960s swinging London or Game of Thrones-esque fantasy – nothing wrong with those inspiration points of course…) can seem too like too onerous a task for the majority.  Weirdly, another fellow Dane, menswear designer Trine Lindegaard, who happened to be at CIFF in Copenhagen has slowly but surely been ticking the social conscious box, without shouting it out loud from a morally-aloft soapbox.  Let’s call it “social design” to put it in a category.   And her collections are all the better aesthetically because they happen to be meaningful in a social context.

Doubly weird that, Lindegaard’s most recent collections – S/S 15 and A/W 14-5 reminded me of two exhibits in London, which I saw a fortnight ago.  I came away from a fruitful Saturday, having seen artist Lucy Sparrow‘s impossibly kitsch The Cornershop installation near Columbia Road, Lorenzo Vitturi’s Dalston Anatomy exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery and I also dropped by Alex Noble’s EMG (Everything Must Go) initiative where remnants of Kit Neale, Giles Deacon, Louise Gray, Agi & Sam and more were made up into “Salvage T-shirts” with proceeds going to TRAID and Childhope.  Conscience.  Community.  Social awareness.  An appreciation for tradition.  These were my main takeaway points from the day.  They’re the things that increasingly whir around my fashion brain, despite the fact that fashion at large tries to wriggle its way out of these “responsibilities”.

One artist that doesn’t look upon being socially aware as a responsibility but a motivation is Lorenzo Vitturi.  Through photographs fused with prop installation, Ridley Road Market in Dalston, where Vitturi lives, is brought to life.  I don’t mean the trendy bars, concept shops and designer studios but the ethnically diverse community, who come together to buy everything from tupperware to plantain to super cheap joints of meat.  It’s the Dalston that I remember from my youth, when my mum would come here to get real deal boiling chickens (essential for Chinese soup).  Vitturi makes comment on the process of gentrification that isn’t just applicable to East London (love that he encountered people in Dalston asking him where the nearest Prada was.)  He freeze-frames a colourful moment in Dalston, which will soon become extinct – for better or for worse.  As someone living in an area of London, which has yet to undergo gentrification, it seemed particularly relevant.  The exhibition is on at The Photographer’s Gallery until October 19th.  Go if you can.  And then take the 243 to Ridley Road – the market, as opposed to the fashion-y bits.









Behind Columbia Road, artist Lucy Sparrow has found a gentler way of passing comment on the spirit of community.  Sparrow believes in “sewing for the soul” and so devoted hours to create 4,000 corner shop products entirely made out of felt – a material often associated with childish primary school craft.  Everything from a pack of Rich Tea biccies to a copy of The Guardian to the frozen peas in the freezer were lovingly sewn and stuffed.  When we went, there were also two “chav” girls hanging outside, asking us to buy cans of squishy Stella for them.  It’s a complete experience-based installation that will send waves of nostalgia crashing over you as well as instilling you with a new found appreciation for hand sewing.  Sparrow maintains that she created it for the pure fact that it’s so bonkers as an idea, but on a serious level, The Corner Shop is a “fluffy shopping experience” that is a quintessentially British slice of life and perhaps one that requires preservation and appreciation on some level.  It’s on until the end of August if you want to get tactile with these wooly treats.








It was hard not to draw parallels between the two exhibitions and what Trine Lindegaard has been doing over the past few seasons.  The appreciation of the African community in Vitturi’s work and the use of African textiles within his installations chimes in nicely with Lindegaard’s ongoing work with Venusmerc, run by the Kuevi family in Akkra, Ghana, who hand weave beautiful kente fabrics, native to the Akan ethnic group .  She’s gone to the primary and authentic source of these oft-referenced designs as opposed to reproducing them elsewhere on the cheap.  It’s also the repeat commission on Lindegaard’s part that is admirable – that she’s not just going a bit “Africana” one season but instead she has worked with this family repeatedly to create evolving designs so that their business can be sustained.  Her latest A/W 14 collection combines kente fabric weaving with Scandinavian patterns – a cultural dialogue that carries this craft on and exposes it to new audiences.  Lindegaard mixes up her specially commissioned kente with sportswear fabrics too that propels the aesthetic and ensures Africana isn’t just a flash-in-the-pan seasonal trend.














trineaw14_2Trine Lindegaard A/W 14-5 collection

Sparrow’s tagline “Sew Your Soul” comes to mind when we then turn to Lindegaard’s second socially conscious mode of production.  She has once again worked with Fine Cell Work, a UK social enterprise that trains a network of prisoners across the country in paid, skilled and creative needlework undertaken whilst they’re in prison to help foster hope, discipline and self-esteem.  The headline quote says it all.  “I am learning a new skill, which I did not think possible.  I now believe what others think about me makes a real difference to how I conduct myself,” says one prisoner in Wandsworth.  So far so idealistic.  The picture of burly prisoners deftly cross-stitching might be a stretch but the work is for everyone to see and purchase – finely stitched cushions, bags and quilts.  Initially Lindegaard worked with the prisoners of Fine Cell Work on producing designs that she had come up with but seeing some of the inmates’ artwork was also an inspiring process.  She learned that some of the prisoners were former tattoo artists that could apply their illustration skills to embroidery.  For S/S 15, which I got a sneak peek of at CIFF, Lindegaard asked the prisoners to create embroideries depicting their idea of happiness.  They’re mostly quite naive and childlike but those are the qualities, which appealed to Lindegaard and so she transferred some of them to neoprene patchwork sweatshirts.  Lindegaard has also slowly segued into womenswear as her brand of #SocialDesign is hardly gender specific.  These pictures are touching when you realise they convey their desires, hopes and dreams when they’re released.  Without questioning what prisoners have done in the past, Lindegaard together with Fine Cell Work, instead focus on the future and eventual rehabilitation into society.

What Lindegaard is doing is commendable on all fronts and the resulting clothes?  Joyful, uplifting and yes, still fun – despite having ticked that social responsibility box.

Fine Cell Work - prisoner at work 2




finecellwork5Photographs from Confessions of a Design Geek

finecellwork2Original artwork by an inmate who works for Fine Cell Works, used in Trine Lindegaard’s AW13 collection








TL_SS15_1Trine Lindegaard S/S 15 collection

Pink Fight


>> Another day, another onslaught of pink in to the wardrobe.  Search for “Pink Style Bubble” and your eyes might need a mild bout of adjustment from the blinding myriad of shades of fuschia, rose and cerise.  From my recent trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, what came home in the suitcase?  Why, another pink ensemble, that came together without intention or purpose.  A Nasir Mazhar cropped jacket from the Opening Ceremony sale (still one of my favourite OC spaces as it’s housed in Charlie Chaplin’s old dance studio), a vintage Ralph Lauren loud men’s shirt from Fruition Las Vegas that looks very un-Ralph Lauren and a clear neon pink skirt from downtown LA’s quirky answer to Cyber Dog, Round 2 LA.  Together, they conjure up all kinds of things that take pink out of its comfort zone of gender-tied connotations.  There’s nothing “baby” about these pinks.  Especially when you take into account all of the following: Antonio Lopez’s exuberant illustrations, TLC’s matchy-matchy-but-badbass outfits, Japanese cyber candy style (specifically derived from the brand Takuya Angel), Ukiyo-e woodblock print and paintings mixed with Miami Vice graphics as seen on my crazy Ralph Lauren shirt and five coloured-hair Sooz from that early millennial series As If – basically the more awesome predecessor to Skins.  Not sure if N15 is quite ready for this hyper strength dosage of pink…











0E5A6062 Vintage Ralph Lauren shirt from Fruition LV, pink plastic skirt from Round 2 LA, Nasir Mazhar jacket, Dior trainers –