Friday, 22 February 2013

Palmer//Harding AW13

"The menswear is subtle this season," begins Matthew Harding. "It is very focussed," add Levi Palmer without a moment of silence. Just hours away from unveiling their autumn/winter 13 collection in a Thomas Bird crafted world inside Somerset House, the label’s collective voice could not have been more entwined or clear. From their home and studio base in Rickmansworth the design duo work tirelessly on their quest for intricate perfection to that oft neglected and taken for granted garment, the shirt. Since its accomplished debut in September 2011, palmer//harding have created men’s and women’s collections that encompass the combined aesthetic, passion, skill and international experience of the design duo. Ever learning, tweaking, evolving and improving, there's a real sense of masterful ease with this collection. A quiet confidence weaves throughout wonderfully tactile and perfectly sculpted shirting made from the finest cotton from Cotton USA.

"Going against so many young designers where there's an increasing sense of more, more, more, we have reduced and re-evaluated how many pieces we needed to tell the story of the season. There's a nice romance to the menswear," adds Harding. Less really is more. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe would look on, cigar in hand and fall for the considered cotton charms of this collection.

"It all started with the a single drape which reminded Matthew and I of the pages of a journal. From this concept we moved forward by referencing the memories that one keeps in the pages of their journal. In this method we brought forward the memory of the pattern cutting from the pages of one shirt into a top stitching detail on the next shirt where the previous pages had been placed. In this way a single shirt reflects the entire capsule collection in even just a small way, a subtle hint to the details which came before and which occurs after. " Levi Palmer.


The beauty of palmer//harding's menswear narrative is in the details. "With the womenswear it is all about texture and for the menswear it is all about the details," begins Harding, "there's so much to see on closer inspection this season."  Like any much loved and used journal, this collection is full of secrets that you'll long to discover .

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Treasured items... Goodhood

Located just an eyelash flash away from my office, I often find myself drawn to Goodhood's treasures on a lunch break. Always innovative, always exciting, the backstreet boutique has continued to breathe fresh life in to London's retail scene ever since it first opened its doors in 2007. Now housed over two floors and with an additional space on the other side the road, the contemporary concept space showcases an international cocktail of independent and rare brands. With Spring/Summer 13 deliveries from the likes of Junya Watanabe, Wood Wood, Yuketen and Soulland welcoming the sunshine, I found myself drawn to the ever inviting store once more. As I admired the rails, I could not resist asking Goodhood's very own Kyle Stewart and Adam Tickle to partake in a spot of show and tell. Given that their store affords the discovery of future treasures at every turn, it was only fair that they revealed their own cherished items. Here, co-founder and owner Stewart dips in to his pocket for his Grandfather's pocket watch and jack of all trades Tickle turns to his turntable.,,  

Kyle Stewart and the tank driver's pocket watch


"The Services Pocket Watch was my Grandad's and was issued to him when he was in the army during WWII. This one was made in Great Britain by the Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. Ltd in Wales. He drove a tank during the war and never gave anything away about what happened during that time. I think it was quite a shocking experience and he always kept tight lipped about what he has seen. He was a real gentleman and lived a very simple life. This and a book of Robert Burns poetry are my only heir looms, and needless to say are very treasured." Kyle Stewart.


Adam Tickle and the vinyl verification from Slim Gaillard's Tutti Frutti


"I picked this record up from Haggle Vinyl in Angel. I say picked up but it was not that simple. Haggle is amazing store is run by a mega eccentric old raver, he looks like he's lived a  good life. I've been popping in for three or four years now and every time there's this sense of him clocking you but he ignores you, he doesn't give you too much time. On one occasion he was playing this record. I told him that I liked it and asked him what it was but he just replied, 'Oh, you're too young to listen to that and it's not for sale.' I just thought he was being really difficult. However, he did point me in the general direction of something similar and offered a few suggestions of labels. I picked up five records, took them to the till and he told me that he'd do a deal for them, £10 for the lot. It was only when I got home that I realised he added this record. So, for that entire awkward shopping experience he was just playing with me. The record itself is from the 40s and by an improvised Jazz and Blues singer called Slim Gaillard. If I could save just one record from a fire, it would be this one. It's wicked. I've had it three years now and listen to it loads. It's great for a chilled after-party. It's a late night favourite." Adam Tickle

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Entering Alan Taylor's Fourth Dimension

"I stumbled in to fashion really," confesses Alan Taylor in his soft Dublin drawl as he sits at the cutting table of his Dalston studio. "I didn't even do art at school. I wanted to but somehow my parents convinced me to study business but I completely changed everything for my Leaving Certificate (A-Levels equivalent in Ireland) and went on to do an art portfolio." It was a delightful deviation that ultimately saw him fall in to fashion. The world of business might be at a loss but our wardrobes are rejoicing in the discovery of a rare gem. Having kept an hungry eye on all of the fruits on show at the major fashion markets this season, nothing whet my appetite more than Taylor's autumn/winter 13 offering. The moment my eyes caught sight of the Harry Lambert styled and James White shot look book from across the office, my heart jumped and my body longed to possess the entire collection.  It felt familiar yet was truly captivating. It was like meeting someone for the first time and walking away feeling as though you'd always known them. Is that sappy? I make no excuses other than that I'm in love (and it's my birthday at the time of posting). With its considered construction, sculptural showcases, textural trickery and accomplished juxtaposition of both concept and silhouette throughout, it had everything, and more, that I hope to see in menswear. I had to find out more about the designer behind it. For me, Alan Taylor isn't just one to watch. He is one to stalk. So I duly invited myself to his studio for a cup of tea, a chat and to cop a feel of his tactile designs.

As he takes apart an Oreo and thinks about dipping the pieces in his tea, Taylor elucidates on his stumbling in to the industry. "Growing up in a small town in Ireland, I was utterly naive about fashion. It just wasn't on my radar. It wasn't until I got in to my foundation year that I went in to the fashion department and was blown away. It was around the same time that Gareth Pugh burst on to the scene with his debut collection and my eyes were opened to a new world. It was at this point that I realised you could be so creative, it wasn't just clothes, it was an outlet." Eyes opened and outlet found, he followed in the footsteps of Simone Rocha by studying at the National College of Art and Designin Dublin. "Simone was a couple of years ahead of me. I loved her stuff from the moment I saw it. It was amazing. When she graduated from her MA, I graduated from my BA and she approached me to work with her because she knew I had spent some time interning with the likes of Alexander McQueen, David David and Agi & Sam. I was with her for three amazing seasons." There can be little doubt that the pair are kindred spirits. Both design talents are fascinated with experimental fabric techniques and share a focus on innovative construction. Working in the romantic and tactile world of Simone Rocha, was he tempted to continue designing womenswear? "Having studied both, I actually opted to show womenswear for my BA. I don't think that you're either one or the other. I think if you're a fashion designer, you should be able to design both and just design them in your own way. Menswear interests me at the moment and I'm having fun with it." And the moment of autumn/winter 12 is one to savour.

The collection evolved out of the theory of the fourth dimension. The ever inquisitive and mathematically minded Taylor explored how if we were four dimensional beings looking at a three dimensional object, we wouldn't see the two dimensional view that our eyes perceive in reality but rather we would see every single side of the object simultaneously. "There's loads to the theory and for this collection, I was only interested in this one part of it. It led me to think about what the clothes would be like in this other dimension. It was about pushing it whilst still keeping the classic shapes that we have now. Looking at it now, I think it ended up being a little Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It's  trippy." Mind and garment altering. The trip that Taylor takes us on literally sees the meshing together of individual garments. "I just love juxtaposing textures and fabrics," he succinctly declares as hind fingers wander from tweed and then mesh on one of the real highlight jackets. The evolution of precise outfit details into single garments becomes the focus. Jackets appear to grow naturally out of the back of other jackets. Trousers layered with flattened shorts and jacket vents demand a second, third and even fourth look. Developing this further, he revels in juxtaposing fabrics within the garments themselves - this season, netting and tweeds are intertwined. Following on from his spring/summer 13 collection, his admiration for Donegal Tweed is undeniable.

"A friend of mine who was on my course recommend Magee Tweed to me and I just loved what they were doing and I liked the idea of working with an Irish company. They are incredible. It is a sixth generation family Mill, so much heritage but they are doing some amazingly innovative things with the tweeds. For my last collection, I used a mix that is woven using the classic tweed techniques but with an added silk yarn, so it is much lighter and much more breathable. I was blown away. It was the same again this season when the Head Designer proudly brought out the latest tweeds. They were amazing. I just had to have them."

Building on this love, Taylor broadens his color and fabric story with a fresh palette of both tone and texture. The tweeds provide the foundations of the collection and Taylor duly builds on them while mirroring Magee’s own heady cocktail of classic techniques and innovation. Now, I’ve teased you long enough.  Enter the fourth dimension with me.

outfit 1
outfit 3
outfit 2
outfit 5
outfit 4
outfit 6
outfit 7
outfit 10
outfit 9
outfit 11
outfit 13
outfit 14
outfit 15
My own detail shots alongside the look book by James White and Harry Lambert.

"Art, especially minimalist sculpture inspires me. I often find myself going back to the work of Dan Flavin, I just love the way that his light installations not only affect how the viewer sees it but it also affects the way the room is. I like to think that I do something similar in my work. I'm not just trying to make clothes, I'm trying to convey an emotion and get people to view things differently. I take a lot from sculpture and film, so much of the mood comes from films. This season, it went a little trippy because I was drawn to the idea of the fourth dimension. One of the other inspirations was Aaaron Sorkin from A few Good Men, West Wing and The Social Network fame. Moneyball is his most recent feature. It's a great movie with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill that tells the story of a manager of a low budget baseball team. Like the Fourth Dimension this, it was all about looking at something in a new light. I love watching films while I work, either shit films or films that I've seen loads of times so I don't have to concentrate on it too much but just have them on in the background and I can dip in and out of it. This season I watched Robert Downey Jnr playing Chaplin. One again it was about reinvention.

"I carry a new notepad with me each season and I sketch ideas or write words whenever they come to me, mostly in the middle of the night. For this season there are a number of sketches where I bring in and merge different garments. It starts from these and then I work on the stand, experimenting with form. I don't use concept drawings and illustrations. I love being hands on with things as early as possible, toiling things up and playing around, developing it and developing it until I have a solid pattern. I have ideas about the overall silhouette but I never know what the details are going to be when I start. For this season, I initially thought that the tailored jackets would have the slits on the arms but that changed during the design stage. I start with a shell and it often becomes something quite different. I always try and design the inside at the same time as the outside. I love designing every part of an item. For me, the details have to be as interesting on the inside as they are on the outside." 
Alan Taylor on his in inspiration and design process

In just a few short seasons, an inviting design signature is forming with threads of continuity clearly visible as the designer's confidence grows. "I see it as developing every season,” he explains, head firmly screwed on. I take patterns and tweak them. Small changes can make a huge different. For example, we used the same jacket pattern as last season but added darts to make it more fitted, we changed the hem and added interior details to create something quite different. For me, It's important to have a voice and to be recognisable, both for retailers and consumers. Especially now when there are so many designers."

For me, it is all too easy to run out of superlatives when discussing Alan Taylor. Sitting down for an afternoon with him only proves to heighten and intensify my excitement. In my eyes, he has it all. Putting on my coat, I ask him what his hopes are for the coming seasons were. "I would love to do a catwalk soon,” he replies without missing a beat. Thus far he has quietly designed and developed his label with his head down, away from the the attentions BFC and London Collections: Men but he was clearly daydreaming about this very thing as he talked me through the rails. He is certainly ready to step in to the spotlight of an on schedule show. I love working on the fashion films but I'd love the chance to show on a catwalk. We'll wait to see what happens in June." With Agi & Sam and Astrid Andersen moving to the next stage in sponsorship, I would love to see Taylor snap up one of the available slots on MAN for next season. Whatever happens next season, I'm sure this talent will continue to excite and enthral for years to come. For now, lets just enjoy and continue to explore his fourth dimension.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Details... Function and destruction

Upon the unveiling of his Spring/Summer 13 collection entitled Citations, Matthew Miller declared that "to create authenticity, beauty has to be destroyed" and invited the wearer to be part of the process. This morning, I grasped my chance. As part of their support of London Collections: Men, Mr. Porter collaborated with four designers who created four exclusive pieces. Drawn instantly to the shiny silver foil of Miller's creations, I could not resist the sweatshirt. I did however resist on pulling apart the pocket for the first couple of wears. That all changed this morning. Here are a few detail shots of before and after... 


Do I miss the red tab? I do a bit. Thankfully, always thinking, Miller provided a carabiner and key ring to utilise the removed strip to create a key fob. Function and destruction.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Studio Sounds: Erïk Bjerkesjö AW13

As smoke plumes drifted, shadows danced, drums pulsed and cymbals crashed, Erïk Bjerkesjö's monochrome masters explored and conquered the opulent stage of Florence's Villa Favard. Returning to the place where it had all began one year ago, Linda Loppa, Patrick de Muynck and Polimoda provided the perfect setting for the design talent to revel in. Weeks might have passed but his is one to savour. Picturing what Marcel Duchamp would have worn if he were alive today and inspired by one of the most accomplished and influential directors of all time in Ingmar Bergman, the young talent casted his own spellbinding theatrical vision.

"This season I wanted to create something that is really close to my heart," explained Bjerkesjö as he travelled across a snow covered Swedish countryside by train on his way to Florence. "It is a collection that takes clear inspiration from Gotland, the island that I grew up in outside Stockholm. It is also the same island Bergman lived on. I opted to name the collection 'L'île' which means the island." It is a sartorial love letter to his native home and the craftsmanship of its inhabitants. This collection is more about the craftsmen of the Island. Building on the Florentine shoemakers that first inspired and continue to drive his handmade footwear confidently forward, he built a wardrobe by looking at writers, painters and even explores how Bergman himself lived and looked on the island. A cacophony of craft. With tailoring in wool from Lanificio Cerruti and cotton from Cotonificio Albini, produced in Italy by the same tailors as Martin Margiela used and Valentino still do and knitwear in organic lovikka yarn, made by his mother and himself on the island.

Bergman's masterpiece 'The Silence' might have inspired the set design but I was keen to share the playlist of the sounds that filled Bjerkesjö's studio alongside Magnus Klackenstam's atmospheric snapshots from the presentation at Pitti Uomo. Hit play and enter his world...

Erïk Bjerkesjö AW13. Images by Magnus Klackenstam 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Treasured Items... Fraser Laing

Located in the labyrinth of curiosity that is Stables Market, General Eyewear is an independent opticians with a difference. Selling a curated selection of frames and sunglasses from 1750 to 1990 whilst designing and producing its own limited edition collection of frames and sunglasses, it affords discovery at every turn. I've gladly lost countless hours in the absorbing space, admiring all manner of frames and chatting with its ever inspirational and knowledgeable proprietor, Fraser Laing. For him, frames are far more than commodities, they are exciting and at times mysterious artifacts. Given his enthusiasm for craftsmanship and diverse design, I just had to ask him to show and tell his most treasured possessions. Here, he tells the tale of two seemingly unrelated flea market finds.

Fraser Laing and the essential market kit...


"Given the logo I think it is Swiss. It's not that old, from only 1975. I've googled the markings but can't find out anything more about it. So I can't tell you who used it or where it came from for sure but i has been suggested that it is either Swiss Army or from one of the other military services. It has got a metal base that makes it quite heavy but it's so sturdy, I can't imagine anything going wrong with it. I picked it up in a flea market in London. For me and a flea market, it was quite expensive at fifty pounds, even the guy selling it knew that it was an extraordinary thing. It's been well worth it. Despite its weight, I use it all the time. When I go to markets it is essential that I have my hands free to look at things and with some bags there's a chance that you could leave it behind but I wouldn't forget about this one."

... and the surprising fellow flea market find


"My second choice is quite different on first sight but I actually picked it up in the same place, just at a different time. I go to this market in Wimbledon religiously on a Saturday morning. It always manages to throw up the totally unexpected, it's not edited or anything so it is always surprising. Basically, this item is a case for a sugar bowl and a spoon. It manages to feel menacing yet is made from papier mache, is cheap in terms of materials yet would have required a great deal of labour.  It is the essence of what design should be. Functionality is never enough. If it were just a matter of functionality then the world would be a dull place. 

It is the dichotomy between the outside and the inside that fascinates me.  It is very conscious of itself, the designer wanted to make this hard black shell. Both choices are designed object. That's what interesting to me. It got me thinking fashion going back to industrial design. For me, fashion is industrial design. It's just that the objects desire level has to be greater in fashion, that's the only difference. There's always going to be more razzmatazz around a handbag than a train." Fraser Lang.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Treasured items... Erïk Bjerkesjö

When I encountered the assortment of exquisite handmade treasures, quintessentially beautiful with an added dash of unmistakable traditional mastery in the splendour of Villa Favard just over a year ago, it was impossible not to fall for the charms of Erïk Bjerkesjö's debut. Considered yet exciting, classic yet modern, the remarkably accomplished collection told the personal and professional story that began in Sweden and grew up amidst the great craft traditions of Italy and Tuscany. It is a tale that continues to fascinate me. Bjerkesjö's hunger to develop, hone and further traditions appears insatiable and each time that we've spoken, his enthusiasm, interest and love for the individuals that combine to realise his handmade shoes and their complimentary wardrobe, is both obvious and contagious while his longing to learn, develop and evolve in inspiring. Given that his products are items to truly treasure, I couldn't resist asking the talent to share the personal narrative behind his most cherished possessions... 

Erïk Bjerkesjö and the ever willing and versatile leather companion


"I made this bag more then fifteen years ago. It was the first and only bag that I have made for my own collection. The construction of it still interests me, it only has three parts, so it feels modern. However, it turned out like that because during the production process I had no more thread for the machine. I grew to like it just the way it is.

Magnus Klackenstam really liked my bag, and when we where making my ss13 photo shoot, he snaped the bag for me! I still love it today and I always take it with me every day and I always have. When I used to skateboard more I brought the bag along because it was perfect to do trick over, at school it was perfect to transport my books, and sawing tools. Now when I am travelling or working in the studio, the bag is always fully packed with books, papers, tools, shoe hammers, a laptop and everything else."

.... and the lucky driving gloves


"I appreciate that not many people select to treasured items but I had to include another favourite, my grandfather's driving gloves. I wanted them ever since I was a little boy and used to wear them when we played basketball together. He remembered and gave them to me on the same day that he passed away. I always keep them close to me so if they're not on my hands they are in my bag. They are my lucky gloves and I put them on whenever I feel like my self confidence or belief requires a little push." Erïk Bjerkesjö

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Details... Damier Delight

Anna LV-1
Inspired by a Massaï that he wrapped himself up in as a child, Kim Jones reinvented Louis Vuitton's classic Damier in his dazzling debut menswear collection for the House back in June 2011 - oh, where does the time go and why didn't I buy anything from this collection?! Given that travel was the thread that bound the accomplished collection together, I'm sure Jones would approve of how the luxe cashmere knit has been teamed up with a well loved Ludwig Reiter jacket for an explorative stroll around Venice last weekend.


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