Monday 28 February 2011

Sibling AW11 Darn The Boozer

For their sixth collection, the ever bold and progressive knitwear label Sibling take us on a knitted pub crawl around East London as they invite us "darn the boozer". After all moving to the area, the design trio looked to the The Golden Heart, The Bricklayer's Arms, The Red Lion and the George & Dragon to quench their thirst for inspiration. During the presentation in Somerset House's Portico Rooms during Menswear Day, I was soon inebriated by the cocktail of texture, pattern and stitch as I stumbled through the design trio's favourite local drinking holes.

Throughout the collection their favoured drinking dens are referenced both in a literal sense with the use of pub insignia and iconography embroidered in and also in a more abstract way in pieces which reference George and in others which reference the dragon. Like all good pub crawls this is something of a drunken haze but I'm pretty sure pandas featured in it along the way.  I can remember the first intoxicating yarn pint being downed at The Golden Heart, in a crew neck featuring text, embroidered tattooed heart and spider web elbows, with a chaser of a Claddagh fisherman’s sweater in a heady cashmere mix. Moving on to The Bricklayer's Arms in an insignia zip up jacket before roaring through to The Red Lion in an aptly addorned sweater. I think we finished up at the George & Dragon in a fair isle knitted in Scotland featuring Saint George, crossed cigarettes and dragons.

With each collection, the design trio combine the wonderful craft of knitwear with an added sense of humour. In fact, when we interviewed them last year  they conceded that "Sibling is all about humour in a very English way that may come across as being a bit silly at times." Here however, they have struck the perfect balance and created a collection of covetable designs that still produce a wry smile. To supplement my drunken presentation shots, I can happily share the collection look book as shot by Thomas Giddings... 

Red Lion Crew.
35% Viscose, 29% Lambswool, 20% Nylon, 8% Cashmere, 8% Angora

Golden Heart Twinset. 
35% Viscose, 29% Lambswool, 20% Nylon, 8% Cashmere, 8% Angora

Bricklayers Arms Knitted Zip Jacket in 100% wool

George & Dragon Fair Isle Twinset complete with crossed cigarettes, beer bottles and not forgetting either George or the dragon. 100% wool.

Hand Knit Gorget & Army All In One Long. 
35% Viscose, 29% Lambswool, 20% Nylon, 8% Cashmere, 8% Angora

Fox Cable Hooded Scarf, Hauberk Hand Knit Zip Jacket & Army All In One Long. 
35% Viscose, 29% Lambswool, 20% Nylon, 8% Cashmere, 8% Angora

Pauldron Knitted Coat & George Army All In One. 100% Merino Wool.

Hauberk Hand Knit Zip Jacket. 
35% Viscose, 29% Lambswool, 20% Nylon, 8% Cashmere, 8% Angora

Dragon Stitch Crew in 100% Merino Wool.

Pure Evil Pandas Rock! Crew in 100% Merino Wool.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Tim Soar AW11 Him/She

During a day that saw me ricochet from Somerset House to the Royal Opera House and back again multiple times, the opportunity to stand still and admire was greatly appreciated. One such opportunity was afforded by Tim Soar's presentation in the Navy Board Rooms. Here, weary menswear folk gathered with a glass of champagne to gleefully toast the continued rise of the designer whilst admiring his collection of androgyny grounded in menswear.

For the last few seasons Soar has busied himself with examining and reinterpreting the true classics of menswear. Appropriating hits and remixing them to his own tune to much acclaim. He has ultimately produced collections which feel warm and familiar, those which have many overlapping memories and echoes from the past yet, at the same time still feel modern. Thankfully, this is a process that he continues for AW11. However, this time, he offers a carefully crafted concept of a functional wardrobe where many of the styles are available for women. Despite being grounded in menswear, the collection is as much for women as it is for men. Soar has managed to strike a perfect balance between menswear and womenswear or masculine and feminine. Both sexes are happy and well dressed as they nod along to Soar's tune. The focus is on making each piece desirable in its own right, regardless of gender. It was a pleasure to examine them up close as I walked around the presentation of faceless mannequins clad in the designer's signature mix of tailoring and sportswear...

For Him, Soar is interested in the point where tailoring and sportswear meet. The apex of good menswear. Here, he reveals Velcro waistband tuxedo pants, the zip hood duffle coat (a collaboration with noted London tailor, Joe Allen), the neoprene Harrington jacket and the striped, coated cotton dress shirts. Knitwear is either heavy with zips or latex coated. There are tailored ski panes and lacquered wools. However,the real highlight is the topcoat and its mix of heavy melton with bonded cotton sleeves. For She, Soar has kept the masculine mood of the collection. Each piece has started in menswear and delicately evolved. In fact, as I walked through the presentation, many of the style looked almost identical to the equivalent men's garments; the topcoats, jackets, trousers and knits. However, great care has been taken to ensure a fit that is flattering, chic, feminine.

The most obvious thread that tightly bonds this collection is the use of the classic fabrics of menswear which are used throughout. Soar is a long time collector of vintage military and has always loved the density, texture and strength of the wools used in British Army Dress uniforms. When he found out that Hainsworth was the company that produces many of these wold, he just had to work with them. In fact, Hainsworth is a specialist textile company that has been an unrivaled market leader for over two hundred and twenty five years, kitting out the Royal Guards uniform to the plush interiors at Windsor Castle. In choosing a palette of RAF blue-grey, Rifle Green and Khaki, Soar managed to paint a collection that felt simultaneously modern and classic. While, bonded and coated cottons, neoprenes, spun Fuji silk, double crepes and Japanese Plange leather carry on Soar's design signature mix of minimalism, sportswear, tailoring and unusual fabrications.

In light of the packed presentation space I was only able to shoot a few close ups but thankfully, Soar sent through his recently shot look book which I'm pleased to share with you...

Lookbook images supplied by Tim Soar. Styling by Jodie Barnes.

Over the last few seasons, we have come to Tim Soar's collections as offering his take on the greatest hits of menswear. It is not about the exploration of a unique silhouette for the season and then moving on but rather, it concentrates on taking different elements and putting them together in a way that is a coherent whole while exploring a number of different references. In an interview with us last season, he declared that "you don't have to reinvent the wheel, especially not with menswear. The wheel exists, we just have to polish the spokes." Now, women can finally ride Tim Soar's well polished bicycle of menswear.

Friday 25 February 2011

Menswear Installations AW11: Bunney

Bunney's table at the NEWGEN MEN and Fashion East Installations.

As previously discussed, jewellery line Bunney was launched after its creator was drawn to the idea of coming up with something everybody or anybody could wear...even nervous individuals like myself. Andrew Bunney longed to create objects that look like something one may be used to yet recast in a new light with precious metals, becoming new, yet at the same time, familiar. Ultimately, he wanted to make something precious that anybody could use. Over the course of a few seasons, he has been quietly navigating an elegant and refined men's jewellery offering that have grabbed my attention and left me experimenting. Seeking out the last bastions of British craftsmen and learning all about their trade. This season, I have had two opportunities to inspect the latest additions to the lineup including the beautifully crafted series of padlocks, a well defined lucky rabbit's foot and a Gallic makeover given to the studs. The Showroom Next Door provided the first opportunity and this was quickly followed by Bunney's addition to the exciting design talent showcase that made up NEWGEN MEN and Fashion East's Installations. Despite the hectic nature of Menswear Day, the latter afforded an opportunity to speak with the man himself and to learn more about his well crafted additions... 

Bunney's jewels on display

SS: Your offering has evolved from a single item to something of a magpie's haven. Could you talk us through the latest additions?
Andrew Bunney: I started Bunney with the simple idea to make something precious that anybody could use. This season I've investigated padlocks, charms and chains. I want to grow the line steadily, and try to keep coming up with something unique and exciting.

SS: The Padlocks were inspired by the practice of Love Padlocking in Paris and beyond. Where did you first encounter this practice? What was it about them that resonated with you?
Andrew Bunney: It was Paris where I first saw this idea. Talking to people these past few days at the showroom, I realise a lot of people that have seen these locks were excited to encounter it for the first time too. Instantly I was drawn by the spectacle - a huge array of padlocks, most bearing some kind of inscription, attached for the length of the bridge. Thinking about it later, the idea is really very special. Someone took this common, ordinary item, and by appropriation gives it a different purpose and meaning. I like how it has become a new kind of symbol for a lot of people. I also like personalisation, and the idea that someone would engrave the silver-lock with a message in a similar way to those attached to the bridge is very appealing to me. It speaks of a time when people used to personalise more of their possessions.

A closer look at the studs

SS: Now, I know that these items were a long time in the making. Could you tell us the story?
Andrew Bunney: For me, there are a few things which make jewellery quite different to clothing. Firstly it is the value in the materials used, secondly the longevity of the pieces - it isn't unusual for things to last for generations! Thirdly, the idea of the gift is very important.

I decided that it would be very special to create padlocks in precious metals, and I looked to see if anyone was making anything like that. It's quite common to find small charms, but never anything that really works as a lock with a key and mechanism. As I researched more about locks, I realised how important an object it was to the UK. Once upon a time, when Britain was growing an Empire, a small town outside of Wolverhampton called Willenhall was charged by Elizabeth the 1st to make locks. Yale, Squire, Chubb, all these companies that you see on your front door all came from this one town.

I started talking with a Museum to see if anyone was still handmaking locks, and I became really fascinated when I saw how traditional hand-made padlocks were put together. In some ways it looks very simple, which really added to the charm. Through a very long process I found what I believe to be the final locksmiths working, a father and son team, that can create an object like this although they had never tried anything as small or in these kind of metals.

A closer look at the Old English Padlocks

SS: These certainly aren't your average padlock. Could you talk us through some of the processes?
Andrew Bunney: Once the sizes were decided, I had locks made to the specifications that I wanted. The locksmiths had to develop the internal workings, and when that was ready it went to one of the workshops that I use to work out how best to construct it in silver. The mechanism cannot be silver because of durability, but everything else is. The style is known as the 'Old English Padlock', and this is very much the traditional English shape.

SS: What has been the locksmiths reaction to your pieces?
Andrew Bunney: The Locksmith isn't a trade that receives a lot of attention, and they aren't normally making something known for beauty, so possibly bemusement at first! But as the work progressed they understood more and the attention was really appreciated. It's actually very remarkable to see what they can do on a day to day basis - opening locks that have long lost their keys and making replacements, restoration work for Buckingham Palace, very unique problem solving. Converting it to silver isn't straightforward, so again it took a lot of patience.

The beautifully carved paw. Yes, you've seen this image before but I love it so.

SS: Onto the lucky rabbit's foot. The detailing is remarkable. Firstly, what inspired this piece? Secondly, how did it evolve in to the stunning piece we see today?
Andrew Bunney: The Rabbit's foot is seen as lucky in many cultures, and for many years. Today I think it is known as a popular symbol or charm used by bikers - you can often see them with white ones, or sometimes dyed bright colours too. I see it as a natural fit or emblem for Bunney, something that anyone can wear.

I had wanted to make a chain with no clasp at the back of the neck so it could fit anybody, and I wanted to have charms that people could wear with it. I designed a chain that has clasps to hang items from, rather than to attach together. This time I have a small padlock and the Rabbit's Foot.

The paw or foot itself has been carved by an artist in London that specialises in making sculptures of animals, and so he worked from his studies and an original biker-style rabbits foot. The foot is cast silver, and a polished cap is added.

The Tricolor Flag studs

SS: This season the studs receive a decidedly French makeover...
Andrew Bunney: Because this season the theme came from the Paris Love Locks, I thought it would be nice to make studs to reflect the Tricolor Flag. These are made with stones and then set in a silver mount - it's an update from the styles I made for Soph/Uniform Experiment last year.

SS: Finally, what's next for Bunney?
Andrew Bunney: To make new things and expand gradually. There are a few things I'm thinking about, but you'll have to wait and see!

Menswear Installations AW11: Baartmans and Siegel

For me, nothing represents the diversity of menswear design talent quite like the NEWGEN MEN and Fashion East Menswear installations. I excitedly bounced from room to room in the wings of Somerset House uncovering the beautiful alongside the wonderful and even the unusual, it was discovery at every turn. I did however encounter a few familiar faces and designs. One of the most welcome sights was Baartmans & Siegel's strong presence in a room of much design delight.

Last month I was treated to a full preview of Baartmans & Siegel's AW11 collection, Deckard. Here, the design duo evolved their offering by developing these signatures even further and have introduced new covetable threads such as the interspersion of draped, soft, rounded tailoring amongst the sharp cuts and have experimented with even more tactile fabrications that provoke endless stroking and much luxurious comfort. Functional items that effortlessly combine luxury with a sense of protection throughout. This is performance lux and it was great to see it alongside the likes of Agi & Sam, Marwood and company.

Self described as modern-traditionalists, Wouter Baartmans and Amber Siegel’s work focuses on beautiful fabrics that seduce, and shapes that are accessible yet distinctive. Once again, fabric is key for AW11. Here the collection predominantly uses a variety of silks, wools, linens and mohairs and I didn't need an excuse to stroke them once again. I certainly won't grow tired of seeing this collection and long to have the odd item hanging in my wardrobe. As previously discussed,  Deckard takes its inspiration from the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner and the futuristic noir-scape it details. However, rather than an obvious homage to the dystopian urban characters and scenes created by Ridley Scott, the pair looked deeper and picked out key themes to create pieces that are wonderfully subtle yet highly wearable and detail rich.  I was however, struck by the latest look book which sees the pieces take a more editorial edge, echoing the iconic film in the process. With this in mind, I just had to share them with you...

Lookbook Credits
Photography by Amarpaul Kalirai. Styling by Justine Josephs. 
Grooming by Mira Parmar. Model James Cox at AMCK Models.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Menswear Day AW11: A Few Highlights

Exactly twenty four hours ago I was curled up on the sofa in a foetal position slowly rocking and talking gibberish to myself about designers, collections and future post features. This blogger was overcome by the menswear sights seen and indeed unseen during an extremely hectic and action packed Menswear Day. It was a fitting culmination of an eventful fashion week. The entire schedule helped cause a sartorial stir or two whilst collectively flying the flag of menswear and tiring me out in the process. Now...where do I begin?

Over the last few seasons Menswear Day has continued to grow and in all honesty, it is close to outgrowing itself. Once again presentations, catwalk shows and film screenings all celebrated the exciting diversity of menswear design talent which uniquely exists in this capital of ours. As always it has been hugely exciting to see stalwarts of Savile Row sit so comfortably alongside high street regulars, established designers and enthralling new talent alike. However, as the talent grows the schedule gets that bit tighter and more frantic. Yesterday was a crazy day. But it was also a great day. 

There were so many highlights and there just is far too much to say in one post.  From JW Anderson carving out a more luxurious aesthetic and somehow still managing to pull of sherbet leather trousers  to E. Tautz elegant sportswear and James Long's mayhem of texture to Matthew Miller's functional wardrobe for the contemporary man to Omar Kashoura's toy solider inspired tailoring. The day had it all and more. So, over the course of the coming weeks, the blog will periodically shine the informed spotlight on the deserved many who brought a gasp, a swoon and even the odd smile. To get the blogging ball rolling I would like to treat you to a plethora of captured moments that left the greatest impression... 

I hope my imagery helps demonstrate the diversity of menswear talent that we are treated to in the capital during this special day. The day might have flashed right by my excited eyes but these moments (in addition to many not photographed) confirmed how far Menswear Day has come. If this has whet your appetite for more detail about the day, prepare for more meatier posts in the coming week.


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