Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Storytelling

I should have learnt by now to never be shocked by anything Bas Kosters does, but still I was completely blown away by the AW15 collection shown in Amsterdam, and I've been clicking and scrolling and revisiting it throughout the day. The menswear schedule in Amsterdam reads as a pretty comprehensive list of those who aren't necessarily household names, but absolutely should be. You may know Bas Kosters without realising, however, thanks to Noel Fielding who regularly dons the label, appeared in their AW14 show, and recently sported a head to toe look (literallyon Big Fat Quiz of the Year to a diverse UK audience. 

Permanent State of Confusion Phase 2 (SS15 being Phase 1, described as the 'first part in a larger artistic project') is a visual riot. Wearing make-up that sits somewhere between Gajan festival-goer and drag queen, models walked barefoot down the runway, flecked with glitter and topped with curly wigs and out-of-this-world headpieces. There are no 'easy basics', 'day to night staples', or 'relaxed, wearable silhouettes'; this isn't about appealing to buyers or hankering after a spot on the Net-A-Porter designer directory. It's pure creation or, as Kosters puts it himself, 'storytelling with fashion as a language'. 

Volume and texture would undoubtedly be the main descriptors here if I were to simplify it. But why simplify a collection that is anything but? Frills; appliqué; patchwork; shredded, frayed hems and layers; tulle underskirts, quilting; no stone has been left unturned in the quest for the dramatic silhouettes that graced the runway. The creations are costume-like in their extravagance, yet unquestionably fall into the high fashion category where skill and construction is concerned. It seems fitting that this collection comes out during Couture Fashion Week, such is the nature of it. 

Utilising overstock from the archive and leftovers from previous collections, this is a lesson in recycling and reinvention, and a statement against the consumerist lifestyles we have built. Kosters isn't afraid to question the industry that he is a part of and, in fact, uses his unique position within it as a platform from which to highlight social issues. Dedicated to telling stories through his work, he's about more than selling clothes. This isn't to say, though, that there is no commercial scope or vision from the studio. Collaborations with the likes of Bugaboo and Heineken show that the wildly creative and the commercial needn't be two separate entities.

Not restricted to fashion, the Bas Kosters studio is many things under one umbrella; a multidisciplinary artistic outfit where each facet, such as doll making, illustration, embroidery, and graphic design, play into each other and add strength to the label as a whole. This collection really feels like a culmination of his body of work up to this point, and a springboard from which to push the boundaries further with each passing season.








All images here are credited to the Fucking Young! website, who have provided amazing coverage of all menswear shows.





Sunday, 11 January 2015

Wear Your Hair Long, Babe You Can't Go Wrong

I shared the a photo from a 1977 episode of The Brady Bunch Hour on my Instagram a few days ago and subsequently fell down the rabbit hole of 70s style nostalgia. I'm very excited about this decade making a reappearance, all flares, feathers and fun; the antithesis to the resurgence of 90s minimalism which has taken a stronghold over the past few seasons.
My first real awareness of the 70s and all of its charms was when I was around 10. I discovered T-Rex thanks to the Billy Elliot soundtrack and also asked for 'Abba Gold: Greatest Hits' for Christmas around the same age. (I absolutely cannot recall why I decided I was an Abba kind of girl but I played 'Voulez-Vous' and 'Does Your Mother Know' a lot). While I don't mind a bit of Abba from time to time, my love for T-Rex has never wavered and they are a regular feature on my Spotify playlists.

There's something about the extravagance and showmanship of 70s dressing that is so different to today's definition of 'cool'. Cool is now synonymous with being understated, and looking effortless. "Oh, yeah, I just threw this shit together and it turned out perfect". It's a perfectly acceptable way of dressing but I'm more drawn to a style that calls for a feather boa or a sequin embellishment. Marc Bolan is my ultimate in 'laid back style'. Laid back enough not to look out of place lounging on a tour bus but dressed up enough to be able to step on stage at any moment.






1976 Formula One World Champion James Hunt

Of course, in the 70s, male pop and rock stars dressed somewhat more extravagantly than our modern day straight-out-of-the-manual heart throbs, so I do wonder how this trend will translate over to the male general public. Teeny topknots, Huaraches, and t-shirts with the sleeves rolled up just.won't.go.away. and I can't see your average guy in satin patchwork trousers or a one legged catsuit but LC:M is in full swing and the runway is a good place to start in terms of seeing how a trend will be relayed to the buying public. It's doubtful it will embraced head to toe but separate elements will be. Checks, wider lapels, turtle necks, and tank tops could all make their way into a wardobe without too much fuss, so I've taken a look at how the 1970s have been embraced for AW15...

Topman Design is, clearly, the collection that stands out as the ultimate throwback collection; not using the decade as an inspiration point so much as designing a pretty accurate reproduction. It has everything: flares, wide lapels, fur, shearling, denim, big coats, slimline shirts, turtle necks, tank tops, psychedelic prints, Formula One style overalls (the 70s was a fast, dangerous golden era for the sport), patches, and Bay City Rollers-esque tartan check.

While Topman paid full homage to the decade, Todd Lynn took a hybrid approach with a punk meets grunge collection. Black bob-topped models walked to the sounds of punk band Slaves playing live at the start of the runway. Subtly flared hems, fur coats and bare chests suggested a glam rock influence whereas long line knits and extra long sleeves were they key to adding a little grunge into the mix.

J.W. Anderson is no stranger to throwing a little (or a lot of) femininity into his designs - I can picture David Bowie rocking up on stage in any number of J.W. Anderson get ups - so this is an era that sits comfortably within his vision. 70s men (well, some...) weren't afraid of a stacked heel, a silk scarf, or a dab of glitter, just as the J.W. Anderson man doesn't fear a strapless top or a frilled hemline. 

Split seam flares, wide, spread collars, extra wide cuffs and high necks make up a lot of his AW15 offering at a first glance or a quick scroll through, but upon revisiting you notice the scooped necklines of the velvet jackets, the knit bodices layered over shirts, even the deep hemlines. Fur and shearling make another appearance, but here it sits against red and purple leather, colour blocked chenille, pastel corduroy and exquisite, sculptural buttons, zips, and buckles. 

Newcomer and oft proclaimed one to watch, Grace Wales Bonner further diversified and developed the theme in her Fashion East presentation. Exploring black history, heritage and culture, her reference points are solid and her dedication to exploring and expanding upon the subject is clear in her thoughtful design and her eloquent responses when questioned about her influences. 


1970s radical black poetry was one such solid reference point so, yes, the 70s shine through here in the flared leg lines, high waists and the styling of the tuxes, but this collection is anything but one dimensional. Based largely around the history of "how black people were represented in paintings in the 19th century, and how that manifests itself today", there is also the exploration of homosexuality and the gentleness of a relationship between two men, a look at the 20s and the renaissance, and a clear nod to opulence and excess. Referencing a certain era needn't simply be a lesson in costume design. The ability to reinvent rather than just re-do is absolutely necessary if you're going to take something old and make it new again.











Topman Design AW15 (Images - Fucking Young)

Todd Lynn AW15 (Images - Fucking Young)


J.W. Anderson AW15 (Images - Fucking Young)




(Image - i-D)


Grace Wales Bonner AW15 (Images - Showstudio)

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Joanna Pybus (plus cats)

I love cats. Cut me and I bleed whiskers. So when Joanna Pybus' latest lookbook dropped into my inbox there was no question I was going to be an instant fan. Firstly, because I follow and love Joanna's work anyhow, but secondly, and crucially, because this latest collection features none other than internet sensation Lil BUB

I asked Joanna to tell me a little more about the collection, and how it came to feature a famous feline...

"The concept for the collection came about rather haphazardly! I had designed a started producing a collection with a completely different concept, but the more I worked on it, the more I felt like it was dragging the energy out of me!  I loved the concept but I wasn't going anywhere, so I put it on the shelf for future reference. I decided that I needed to do something completely different and a bit more organic to get my brain going, so I bought a roll of white cotton, acrylic paints and textile medium, and just started painting! I painted whatever I felt like and whatever came to mind, a lot of it was mark making, quotes from one of my favourite TV shows, 'Rich Kids of Beverly Hills', and a lot of lil BUB the cat!

"In terms of the collection itself, it's made from the painted fabric anchored with a stark contrast of solid black. I wanted to introduce some new silhouettes, included more full length and volume, and played around with evening wear made in sports fabrics, which is quite a change from my previous boxy 60s silhouettes!".


As Joanna says, the silhouettes here are a step away from the boxier shapes of previous seasons, however with all designs rooted in fun and never shying away from being bold or offbeat, a sense of humour runs throughout each collection, threading them all together and making for a cohesive body of work that sticks to a theme without being repetitive.The best example of this is Joanna's 'Monster' bags. The striking eye motif first came about in her AW12 graduate collection and found its way onto faux fur clutches not long after. These have since become a Joanna Pybus staple; ever evolving, with new incarnations being released alongside, and independently of, each collection. With seasonal limited editions, mini versions, the addition of chain straps, and new colours and textures available periodically, they've become a must have (such a must have, in fact, I've seen some rather poor imitations floating around) and you can't scroll past many blogs without seeing one. If this isn't testament to the fact that people like a little fun injected into their wardrobe, then the addition of seriously high profile stockist, Liberty, last November certainly is.



When I first met Joanna to collect garments from her AW13 collection for a shoot, it was cold and dark, and I'd just lost two of the four wheels from the bottom of my very full suitcase (and was on my way to losing the third thanks to the stairs at Cambridge Heath), so perhaps not quite the time to discuss influences and life goals... BUT I have been sure to follow her work since (and have recently heard whispers of a new project that sounds very.good.indeed). I love to see the transition from 'graduate collection' to 'label'. So often, graduates work with the intention of starting on their next collection straight away, but day jobs and the stark reality of life after university can inevitably get in the way. Of course, this is understandable and, of course, not all graduates do come out of university chomping at the bit to get going on another collection, but Joanna managed to maintain the momentum and has released a collection for each subsequent season. Rather than getting hung up on shows and sponsors, she has self published, proving that running a successful label isn't reliant on being part of the fashion week schedule.
Whether it's painting Lil BUB on her fabric because she feels like it, or releasing collections on her own terms, Joanna Pybus is a designer on her own path. Now, I just need to try and decide which Monster bag I want. So far I've narrowed it down to all of them...