Wave On

>> The weather is flip-flopping about, undecided between spring and summer.  Enter the non-wooly looking, unexpected placement of Merino wool in spring summer collections, as exemplified by House of Holland’s wave-fuelled pieces.  Their presence is prompted in part by pirate radio waves, the rooted beginnings of Mike Skinner’s breakthrough album Original Pirate Material (which titled Holland’s SS18 collection) and  also by surfer’s waves as seen in the seaside slacker silhouettes.  The primary takeaway though is a wool Prince of Wales check that marks a collaboration with The Woolmark Company that doesn’t actually look much like wool at all.  It’s been plasticised, accented by white patent and plastered with pin-up patches (designed by Elizabeth Ilsley) and gothic buzzwords proclaiming “Dreamy” or “Power”.  Paired with ultra thin peace sign cut-out knits, it’s a Woolmark collab that lightens the load off of the retail buzzword of “trans-seasonal dressing”.  ~~~Bring on the wave~~~

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company hoodie and Prince of Wales checked skirt worn with Vetements trainers

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company “Power” coat and wavy cut-out jumper worn with Rejina Pyo trousers

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company “Dreamy” jacket worn with Paris 99 dress

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company patches trousers worn with Y/Project hoodie and Fila trainers 

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company tracksuit trousers worn with Racil top and Fila trainers

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company “Power” coat

House of Holland x The Woolmark Company hooded jacket and wavy peace cut-out jumper worn with J.W. Anderson dress

This post is part of a partnership with House of Holland

Right Hyères, Right Now

The last time I was at Hyères was exactly a decade ago.  Back then on the blog 1.0 I enthused and gushed about this annual celebration of grassroots fashion and creativity, nestled in the Robert Mallet-Stevens designed Villa Noailles.  It was the novelty of seeing seeds of young graduates in fashion and photography flourish quietly away from fashion’s epicentres in an environment so convivial (the sun! the palm trees! The copious amounts of rose!) that seduced me and yet somehow it’s taken me this long to return.

Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in its 33rd edition in 2018 has of course grown whilst retaining much of its charm.  The people “headlining” the festival as it were, are still an impressive mix of fashion OG’s and luminaries with this year’s fashion jury presided once again by Haider Ackermann, and flanked by likeminded cohorts such as Tilda Swinton, Jefferson Hack, Delfina Delettrez and Ben Gorham of Byredo.  The sponsors though have become more numerous and illustrious and with that, comes bigger crowds and more people from the highest echelons of the industry convening down in Hyères.  Chanel is the grand partenaire but created its presence at the Villa Noailles, with the help of its Métiers d’Arts – this time a public participatory workshop courtesy of Lemarie, where you can try your hand at constructing a feather bee or flower.  Other partnerships such as an award given by Chloé, as well as sums of money from Première Vision, Petit Bateau, Swarovski and more means the cash prizes at stake makes this competition not just prestigious because of the calibre of the jury, but also a much-needed financial boost for any young designer or photographer at the start of their career.

Photographed by Daragh Soden (winner of last year’s Hyères Festival Grand Prix Photography prize) from his “Toulon” series

The cutting table of Maison Lemarié’s workshop at Villa Noailles for the Hyères 33rd Festival of Fashion and Photography

What thankfully hasn’t changed is that South of France relaxedness and the feeling that you’re happing onto fashion moments  rather than being hell bent on seeking it out.  Where you waft from one part of the villa to the other, catching Haider Ackermann’s curated “Vanishing Act” in the piscine and then saunter off to a wall of photographs of local lads in Toulon beautifully captured by last year’s Hyères Grand Photography Prize Daragh Soden.

But the broader takeaway from this year’s edition of the festival is the shift from ten years ago when awe-inspiring techniques and silhouettes were king, to today’s generation of young designers, eager to use fashion as a platform to say something more with their designs and articulate ideas around identity.

These were the designers that ultimately were the winners in the end.  Because sure, we can admire say the beauty of dried pressed flowers trapped in silicone created by German designer Regina Weber or the highly technical and precise woven nylons and coppers of Spanish designer Jef Montes but the question this year seemed to be, how can the youth of fashion go beyond their realm and say something bigger and more impactful about society at large.

Haider Ackermann’s exhibition ” A Vanishing Act” installed in the covered swimming pool of the Villa Noailles.  An assembly of his own work, Rick Owens, Madame Grès, Undercover and more.  

Sarah Bruylant (Belgium) who won the Public Prize of this year’s Hyères Festival with her collection “Meet me in another world”

Regina Weber (Germany) ‘s collection “Fleur Invader” which utilised real dried pressed flowers captured in silicone


And so to the grand prize winner, who people will already be familiar with as a finalist of this year’s LVMH Prize.  Rushemy Botter with the help of his partner Lisi Herrebrugh’s presented his MA collection “Fish or Fight” at Royal Academy of Antwerp in 2017 but has since launched their collective brand Botter with this powerful starting point.  It’s a love letter to Carribbean style but also articulates something deeper about the uprooting of one’s culture as an immigrant.  Botter’s roots in Curacao and Herrebrugh’s in the Dominican Republic (her mother is from there), and their travels to these islands meant they were able to observe a mingling of styles from these former Dutch colonies.  The resulting collection is a cultural to-and-fro conversation that both celebrates and probes.

“Whether I am at home or traveling, I can often pick out of the crowd who’s from Curaçao or the Dominican Republic. They just dress differently.  I specifically wanted to focus on the cultural clash they experience. A lot of young people come to Europe for what they think and hope will be a better life, but adapting or fitting in is very difficult and oftentimes they end up in trouble.  Clothing and appearance become sort of an armour to look like you’re better-off than you actually are,” said Botter in an interview with Another Something.  

The stacking of caps and layering of jackets represents an indecisive Sunday Best attire worn all at once, accented by table cloth lurid florals and a tangle of fisherman’s nets, inflateables and knitted plastic bags.  Those accoutrements  comment on the harm of plastics on the shores of his home island with a more pertinent remark on corporates like Shell (with the “S” omitted) on the eco-system of the coral reefs and the impact they have on the fishing livelihoods of the islands.  Recycled materials turn up in the form of Nike’s own plastic bottle-recycled Vapor Max shoes stacked on to leather shoes, as fresh kicks melding with old school elegance.

But beyond the war on plastics, Botter really represents a strand of conversation in fashion that I’m particularly interested in – what happens when culture is displaced, transported and returns to its roots?  The work of Botter and Herrebrugh is the product of migration, from their island lives on Curaçao and the Dominican Republic to Amsterdam and then subsequently to Antwerp, where their label is based.  There’s no explicit criticism in Botter and Herrebrugh’s collection but rather an open-ended question of what happens when people want to use dress to communicate their heritage in lands far from their homes.  More impressively, the actual clothes stand up to scrutiny,  Botter will getto present a collection at next year’s festival made in partnership with one of Chanel’s Metiers d’Art, as last year’s winner Vanessa Schindler did, and will also be going on to present this collection at the final of the LVMH Prize later in May.  No doubt, we’ll be hearing more of Botter in the future.

Vanessa Schindler’s collection made with the employment of Maison Lesage embroidery and jewels from Maison Goosens


Ester Manas was my other definite pick to win the Grand Prize but instead, like fellow La Cambre graduate Marine Serre in last year’s edition of the festival (and we all know what SHE has gone on to do…),she won the Galeries Lafayette award to design a capsule collection that will be sold next year.  I hesitate to use the word “ size” and so does Manas but evidently, her collection “Big Again” presented on a carefully casted group of atypical models of all sizes will be framed within that problematic terminology.  In fact, Manas wants to design for the breadth of FR34 all the way to 50.  And she can do so with her contrasting layers of tailoring, shirting and tulle flou that exposes the body, amplifies the bust/hips and deliberately exaggerates the waist and thighs.  There’s nothing more self-explanatory and powerful than the statement on Manas’ website.

“My collection is a testimony. It’s the result of a discussion I had with 12 girls. I was touched because everybody should have the right to dream and see oneself in a look that defines them. A piece of clothing can change a person’s behaviour. When you buy clothes, you want to give a message about yourself, to be part of a group but also to feel good. Every type of body should be allowed to expect this feeling from clothes.  All the fabrics are related with the skin and body, showing elasticity, brilliance, cracks and flaws. Sometimes the outfit is skin only, sometimes the skin expands, creates new volumes in interaction with the rigidity of what’s left of the armor. For me, this collection is for everybody.  Women’s skin and body exist more than ever.”

In this portfolio of images, Manas’ group of women tower over you, in an imposing combo of flesh and fabric.  Within the folds of a woman’s elastic skin, jewels shine.  What are perceived and deemed by society to be flaws are made beautiful in the hands of Manas and overall her designs open up a whole can of worms of questioning where larger sizes in fashion are concerned – why are there still oversized tents and tunics that persist as the limited options, why is the default strategy to cover, obscure and flatter so that slimness is the primary objective?  Here, flesh in all shapes and forms is as much a part of the collection as the clothes are and I cannot wait to see what Manas does to take her work further.

In another thesis of beauty ideal probing, Eva O’Leary won the Grand Prix in the Photography category, selected by a jury presided by Bettina Rheims.   Her series “Spitting Image” of 15 year old girls reacting to their reflections in a two-way mirror is a compelling one.


One of the overriding themes, particularly in the Accessories prize category, which was only introduced last year at the Hyères Festival, sponsored by Swarovski, was that of course of sustainability and in particular, upcycled and recycled materials.  This made its way into the fashion competition as Marie-Ève Lecavalier utilised sur leather from factories to create interlocking vests and dresses as well as trims on upcycled Levi’s denim that had been unstitched and repurposed.  Other finalists such as bag designer Ludovic Leger, who is currently working for a house, is trying to combat the waste of his field by physically gathering up leather offcuts from his jobs to create a line of bags.

Marie-Ève Lecavalier’s collection “Come Get Trippy With Us”.  Her design was the winner of the Chloé prize made out of interlocking leather that comes from sur scraps. 

Marina Chedel, winner of last year’s inaugural Swarovski Accessories prize presents her latest collection “A Raised Line That Moves Across the Surface”

Inès Bressand’s collection of bags made by artisan weavers from Ghana

Ludovic Leger’s bags made out of off-cuts and materials accumulated from his time working at houses such as Dior and Burberry 

But perhaps the project that captured the zeitgeist of a competition that sees designers more conscious and inclusive than ever was that of Flora Fixy and Julia Dessirer, and their collaborative collection of hearing aid jewellery for their friend photographer Kate Fichard, who is hard of hearing.  Fixy and Dessirer are product designers and thus their approach towards jewellery is less about flights of fancy but more about real needs.  The hearing aid normally disguised in “skin” colours (that are inevitably not actually close to any real skin colour) becomes a sculptural object in itself, accentuated by gold accents and resin pieces.  “The aid is emphasied, extended, thickened, exaggerated.  It shines, and becomes remarkable.”  For Fichard, this collection fulfils a personal desire to make her impairment beautiful and visible.  It was an outstanding project that again, opens up conversations beyond the jewellery itself.

Diversity and inclusivity can feel like throwaway buzzwords when fashion is busy trying to tick every box and cater to a “woke” public but when they come at you in a genuine and heartfelt way, you think about the real impact on the industry that could take place further down the line when this generation becomes, “agents of change” (my own buzzphrase that has stuck with me since Hannah Jones’ wonderful talk at the V&A last week as part of their Fashioned from Nature exhibition).  At Hyères, this year, we saw those young agents of change, making themselves heard, loud and clear.

Into Another Garden with Chanel

There’s talking about Chanel haute couture.   There’s seeing it from afar on Style.com (rest in peace…).  There’s going to the shows, and being swept away by the set, the music and the magic of it up close in the showroom.  Then there’s the ateliers, seeing the custom made forms of the couture clients and the work of the petite mains, who are not just mere hands at work but craftsmen and women characters alive and passionate about their task, be it in the workrooms of flou or tailleur.  Then there’s the on-the-brink of demise, but eventually rescued and revived métiers d’art ateliers where you really feast your eyes at the surfaces of haute couture – the stuff that is bursting with statistics.  The hours a piece of embroidery.  The numbers of pailettes, crystals or feathers.  The weight of a piece of cloth once embellished with sequins and bugle beads.  The volume of a dress once engorged with ostrich fronds.    I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be privy all of the above. 

How to top all of that?  Hmmmm…  oh I don’t know.  A conversation that went something like this.  Or at least that’s how I played it in my head when the idea was first being gestated.

Chanel peeps: Would you like to wear pieces from the collection for some photos?

Me: Errrrrrr…… yes?  By wear, do you mean put on?  Me?  Non-sample sized me and my post partum mini-me?

Chanel peeps: Yes you and your mini-me.  Choose your looks!

Me: Any look with a skirt that juts out sideways and takes up the width of a very wide double salon door with its awesome tulle gorgeness please.

Chanel peeps: Done!

In all seriousness, there’s talking about couture and then there’s wearing it.  And it’s the wearing that takes my interaction with the at once intimate and intimidating world of Chanel haute couture to another level of familiarity.  Of course it has to be said that the pieces I wore were samples.  Prototypes if you will, that will then take on a further-refined, custom-fit and perhaps much-altered state once it reaches the body of a couture client.  But the biggest takeaway from even just a brief encounter (an hour to be precise…) with these pieces was the instant headrush giddiness of being in such close proximity with this level of craft and effort.  Like “Wheeeeeeeee!  There’s THIS many sequins on me?”  Or  “How much volume of fabric am I swathed in right now?!”

But also the complete switch of context, from simply viewing an haute couture piece be it in a show or on a mannequin in a museum to seeing it as a living and breathing piece.  For this specific Chanel Haute Couture S/S 18 collection, which originally promenaded in a very very French jardin, with its perpendicular hedges, ornate fountains and well-manicured lawns, I was keen on taking it into a very different sort of garden.  A free-flowing one that’s a little on the wild side and overgrown in areas.  Step in the wonderful Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanical garden with its 5,000 species of medicinal plants and an accompanying English drizzle as our backdrop to roughen up that French polish.

And whilst the original garden setting might have been a formal one, the weight of the dresses were own fact light.  Even the seemingly “big” dropped waisted tiered tulle skirt number with its beaded elongated bodice and pannier-esque sideways skirt.  It didn’t weigh heavy on the body and in fact, it had an aerated bounce to it – an whiff of 18th century court dress lightened for the present day.  The flou of the collection had a lot of frou, exemplified by the ostrich feathered lace dress.  This is surely the casual number to throw on when trudging through the muddy plant banks of a February day in London.  There’s a reverse perception too of pieces that seem simple on the surface.  The easier “day look” off-shoulder poppy printed chiffon in fact comprises of a lot of intricate Maison Lognon pleating (on my Métiers d’Art hit list fo sho) and layering of patterns o achieve an almost kaleidoscopic floral effect.  And then how do you resist a bijoux minidress, wrapped and tied with a gathering of empire line tulle and pink satin bow.  This is chocolate box Chanel, complete with a matching pair of embroidered Massaro ankle boots.  They all traipsed and trailed through the Chelsea Physic Garden.

The next step of course is ,if I ever suddenly come into an enooooormous amount of wealth, a phone call to a Chanel vendeuse and lo, my very own Susie-shaped dress form in the atelier, would complete this slightly implausible haute couture journey.  Of course that won’t be happening anytime soon.  This little garden adventure with the smell of wet grass in the air might well be the zenith.  Well, that’s just super fine by me.  The fleeting encounter only emphasises the sheer height of all that haute.

Photographs by Roisin Murphy

Films by Joseph Wilson

Make-up by Victoria Bond

All dresses and shoes Chanel Haute Couture spring summer 2018 except for the lonesome pair of Shrimps x Converse.  Because Chanel couture and Cons go together liiiiiiike…

Spring Snow Sprung

>> The cherry blossoms are trying to pop out but snow still fell.  Perfect opportunity then to break out with one of the key “long-life” pieces from Coach’s SS18 show, which was the weirdly weather appropriate shearling jacket inlaid with that iconic square face on the back as part of the wider Keith Haring collaboration that landed in stores a month ago.  I say “long-life” because as per the cannon of Coach’s outerwear in the Stuart Vevers era, they stand the test of time.  And not for the dull reason of “oh it’s a classic” but rather because the balance between quirk and quality makes the piece feel like it’s “worth-it”.

The collection of course runs the gamut from these weighty pieces like the jacket and the heavily sequinned dress where you can just about make out Haring’s livewire dog being beamed up by a spaceship, but also segues nicely into pleated skirts and dresses featuring the recognisable dancing man and of course the all important tees and sweatshirts.  On the double-ended – Mailbox bag, reissued based on a Bonnie Cashin 1970s design, Haring’s artwork is used more sparingly, befitting of the utilitarian onus on Coach as an American leather goods house.

After the SS18 show, Vevers spoke of the respect required in a collaboration with a figure like Haring.  “I spend a lot of time talking to people who knew [Haring] – people who knew him socially or who worked with him—so that I could try and understand how I could do a true homage to his legacy.”  Haring’s own hand painted and customised leather jackets was one particular jump-off point for Vevers to ensure that the artwork doesn’t look overly precious or high-falutin, when placed in the context of the collection.  Moreover it’s a collab that is similar in vein to Coach’s tie-ups with Disney or Gary Baseman – it’s all a dosage of poptastic Americana.

Coach x Keith Haring sequinned dress and Coach x Keith Haring Mailbox bag

Coach x Keith Haring shearling jacket and slip dress with Coach x Keith Haring Mailbox bag

Coach x Keith Moto Bootie

Coach x Keith Haring t-shirt and pleated skirt worn with Coach x Keith Haring Moto booties

Coach x Keith Haring sweatshirt, layered crochet skirt and Coach x Keith Haring Rogue bag

This post is part of an ongoing partnership with Coach