Sunday 29 April 2012

Visiting the House of Billiam

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Having taught himself to sew and pattern cut, Nottingham born Thomas Bird moved to London in January 2009. With only a sewing machine and a pile of fabric for company, House of Billiam was born. Since its inception, the East London based label has quietly gone about its business of reimagining iconic streetwear shapes through the use of classic British and high quality fabrics. From gentrifying the hoodie through cut, fabric and method of sale to perfecting their own Perfecto, it has amassed an ever growing devoted following through specialising in customisation. The excited whispers have recently intensified in a chorus of appreciation with collaborations with stores including Liberty of London, 10 Corso Como, United Arrows, Soulland and  the recent success of its creative coming together with Dover Street Market Ginza. Having encountered a rail of samples (and nabbing myself one in the process) last month, I invited myself round to the Haggerston studio yesterday to learn more about the House.

Working with classic shapes and quality fabrics, Bird along with designer Rav Matharu, continue to refine and rework classic outerwear garments to create distinctive and well crafted silhouettes that allow stores and individuals alike, to apply their own personality through choices of colour, fabric and detail. Each interested individual can pick and choose every element to create a made to measure garment that marries the label's principles and approach to fashion with the personal whims and fancies of each client who can either input virtually or pop to the studio, view all the fabrics, piece it together, get measured. Either way, each garment has provenance and the client is left with a closer relationship with it because they can play a part in the shaping of every facet. So, a House of Billiam piece is a collaboration between the fashion house and client. It is utterly custom and appealingly made in Britain Given my almost perverted craving to feel textures and surfaces, I could not resist immersing myself in the myriad of options. From well organised books of swatches to leaning piles of fabric rolls, curated cuttings and heaving cardboard boxes of possibilities, I happily explored the studio, camera in hand...

A mere handful of the options available

The above is just an edited Smörgåsbord of potential options available to each customer. House of Billiam is a label centred around fabric. It has always aimed to create clothing that allows the quality of the fabric choice and cut to speak rather then obvious forms of 'branding'. The fabrics themselves are individually sourced from all over the UK. From British wools sourced in Yorkshire, wax cotton from British Millerain, Harris Tweed and Liberty print, Bird and his informants scour this island of ours to offer countless options. As I snapped away and chatted to Bird, it was clear that almost anything is possible. However, that doesn't stop the most popular order disappointingly being an all black affair. With an ever growing list of clients and celebrity wearers, I could't resist asking what the maddest design has been to date. After a little thought he answered, "I remember one that had a green body with metallic pink sleeves but one of the craziest ones was one that we made ourselves, just to show what could be done really. Each panel was a different colour and it had two loud linings, we thought it would be horrifically garish but it almost works. To be honest, all white varsities freak me out." Having shot just a selection of the almost dizzying options scattered throughout the studio, I couldn't resist taking a closer look at a few of the realised pieces.



Over the coming seasons, House of Billiam intend to introduce a full range of classic jacket shapes onto the website so that people can pick and choose from there. Currently only the varsity is online but the biker goes up soon and the Mac and casual blazer will hopefully follow shortly after. For those of you who are fortunate enough to be local, all are available via appointment at the studio. I'm already dreaming up my dream biker that is currently an homage to Arsenal and will be lined with old shirts.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Bon Anniversary

Although conceived in a dark basement over ten years ago, Bon soon established itself as a publication to covet. With each passing season our coffee table longs for the latest issue to grace the pile of fashion magazines that bit more. It is a fashion and arts magazine that is all too easy to fall for thanks to its own simple, elegant, direct, insouciant aesthetic. Its in-depth articles and interviews on the state of fashion and creativity that truly captivate and excite the mind, whilst the fashion editorials have the ability to titillate, challenge and seduce.

To celebrate their ten year anniversary, Bon have created a special edition magazine featuring a selection of images including a robot like Justin Timberlake shot by Rankin right through to Ben Weller's exploration of modern retro tendencies in the latest issue for Spring 2012. The special edition magazine is available in selected outlets but below are a selection of shots that caught my eye...

Charlie Timms shot by Andreas Larsson with styling by Stevie Westgarth for Bon 58 (September 2011)

Robin Van Der Krogt shot by Anueshka Blommers and Nick Schumm with styling by Haidee Findlay-Levin for Bon 50 (September 2009)

Sam shot by Sandra Freij with styling by Bryan McMahon and art by Kim Jones for Bon 18 (May 2004)

Gabriel Gronvik shot by Andreas Larsson with styling by David St John James fr Bon 54 (September 2012)

Justin Timberlake shot by Rankin with styling by Alex Akiu and Annie Psaltiras for Bon 33 (September 2006)

Chris Tanner shot by Roger Deckker with styling by Haidee Findlay-Levin for Bon 48 (February 2009)

Saturday 21 April 2012

Details... Peeking Florals

In the midst of this season of sporadic downpours and blossom, the sight of this Karmakula Hawain shirt from Topman peeping out from a frame of black wool and cotton was particularly pertinent. Warmer and dryer days will come.

Friday 20 April 2012

Massey explores Lyle & Scott's archive

Over the course of writing this blog one of the real highlights has been watching design promise blossom in to success first hand. Now, as we approach our fifth birthday we've featured the work of Carolyn Massey countless times. In a weird way it feels as though we've grow up together in this strange digital landscape. Massey completed her MA at the Royal College of Art in June 2005 and due to 'frustation, boredom, and demand', the designer launched her own label the following year. Continuing to evolve apace over several seasons, Massey helped pave the way for for London menswear as we know it. Recognised and rewarded by the British Fashion Council with its inaugural NEWGEN MEN, Massey's indisputable talent forged the way, not just for her own talent to blossom but for the hopefuls following close behind her. Our sartorial love affair with her is well documented on these pages but it was her SS11 collection that saw our obsessive love just got deeper. Every once in a while you encounter a collection that you wish hanged in your closet and for me this is my dream Spring/Summer wardrobe. I wanted it all. Sadly it was the last for her eponymous label but thankfully due to a few considered collaborations and consulting roles, Massey didn't stray too far from her minds. Building on this success we were thrilled by the recent announcement that she had taken the creative reigns for Lyle & Scott.

"There is so much untapped here. Lyle and Scott was started in 1870, we have a massive rich history to work with. Anyone who knows my work will know that’s massively exciting for me."
 Massey on the attraction of Lyle & Scott. 

 Founded in 1847, Lyle & Scott and its Hawick-based factories (located on the Scottish border), will provide the designer with the knowledge, craftsmanship, tradition, heritage and opportunity to explore and ultimately develop. Throughout Massey's eponymous label and various collaborative projects, we have marvelled at the designer's ability to revive items from the past, bringing them in to a more contemporary light. As Head Designer at Lyle & Scott, the designer now has one hundred and thirty years worth of history to tap in to. "I knew it from the iconic yellow eagle. And as a brand that has links to golf, it has been appropriated by casuals in the 90s and indie kids in the 00s," the designer remarks over a flurry of emails sparked from our message of congratulations. Now that she has had a few official weeks there and the opportunity to explore its archive it now "means craftsmanship. I spent a week in Hawick chatting to people who were third generation working for Lyle & Scott and the pride they have in the brand. There's a lot of warmth and soul up there, something I want to refocus on." 

During one of our many interviews, Massey lit up at the thought of having a huge archive to immerse herself in. We are so pleased that she has the opportunity to do so with Lyle & Scott. Following the excitement of the official announcement the designer offered to record her first trips to the factory and archive with an exclusive visual diary. We of course jumped at the chance to feature them...

"The archive is stunning. The soul and warmth that emanates from the stories within it are heartening. I went there to discover what we ‘owned’ visually. And there is a lot to draw from. It's really exciting. I have to be careful not to give too much away!" 
Massey introduces her visual diary
"Taken at the factory in Hawick, in the Boarders. You can see a chap working the industrial embroidery machine. We work a lot with Golf clubs on special commissions on their jumpers."

  "The jumpers are set into frames before embroidery"

  "Ribs are knitted seperately on finer guage machines"

"The instarsia machine. Lyle & Scott is well known for its iconic intarsia."

  "The rib is then linked on to the body"

  "Bundles and footy scores"

  "The inside out jumpers are then turned to the right way with this machine, believe it or not"

  "Packed and good to go. Complete with Royal warrant"


"Inside the Boarders Textile Towerhouse, which celebrates local knitwear. Knitting needles of old."

  "The Lyle & Scott football team in the 60s"

"A photograph of the Lyle & Scott factory in the 1900s."

"A wooden frame, used to shape the knitwear"

"A case featuring Craftsmanship, the Lyle & Scott magazine"

"Iconic Lyle &  Scott as it was in the 90s "

"Labels. Lyle & Scott produced for Bergdorf Goodman, as well as others"

"Lyle & Scott has such an interesting history, including our own fire brigade!"

"Celebrated members of the L&S home guard"

"And the L&S nursing section"
"I had wonderful discussions with many people who had many tales to regale about the brand. A clear sense of pride shone through."

"A really beautiful design of the newsletter."

"And up to Shetland for to the Museum of Shetland Life – fair isle is still very much alive and celebrated here with local makers Jaimesons, and Andersons as well as Spiders Web and Shetland Designer Knitwear Workshop. Really exciting to see the craft in the flesh."

  "The archive also has a library, I loved this cover."

"The museum also had other items exploring the history of making knitwear on Shetland. Some beautiful artifacts."

It should be quite clear from this series of images that Carolyn Massey is falling for the charms of Lyle & Scott and relishing her design challenge ahead. Her awe of the personality and history of the label is infectious and we cannot wait to see what comes next. We will feature this feature with a little tease of a quote from Massey; "There’s gentle evolution in the air. My aim for the collection is to emanate the love and pride that people have had for the brand historically."


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