Saturday 30 June 2012

Weekend Reading... Port


From the moment Port first hit the shelves with its debut issue back in March of last year, the self-styled "intelligent magazine for men" has filled a long neglected gap in the somewhat confused, unoriginal and uninspiring market. It has since blossomed in to the publication that I long to read each quarter. The sixth issue is a feast for the the eyes, mind, wardrobe and belly. It is not surprising to hear (one of) its accomplished creative director Matt Willey describe it as "the best issue of any magazine I've ever been involved in." Guest edited by Fergus Henderson (founder of the St. John restaurants in London and great exponent of the nose to tail eating philosophy), the issue is a mouth watering banquet of delights. The table almost buckles under the editorial weight of the generous servings. With contributions from Mario Batali and Bloomfield, the beauty found beneath the waves thanks to stunning photography by Giles Revell, Nigella Lawson shot by Juergen Teller, David Chang on fermentation and a light lunch of sartorial table ware thanks to styling by David St. John-James. As my Dad always says when we're sat around the table, 'eat up!"

Wednesday 27 June 2012

A visit to Ian Batten

Ian Batten Feature Button 2

Just like the long and frustrated wait for a bus only to be greeted with a convoy of double deckers, I've posted a series of posts on a man who often operates in the sartorial shadows. I could apologise but Ian Batten deserves such fanfare. Before meeting Batten at his Highgate shop-cum-studio, I google'd him. A tumble weed of information slowly rolled past my wanting eyes. A link to his two stockists and the BBC Four series that followed him and his seven grandchildren on a trip to the seaside a few years ago now is all that mind boggling algorithm could muster. In this world of mass information, such cases are rare. Having long fallen for the charms of his garments and with a few stories ringing in my ears from the lovely folk at b, I hopped on the 43 and chatted with the man himself over a cup of coffee.

As Ian Batten welcomed me to his narrow work space and recounted countless tales from his forty years in the industry, it was impossible not leave mesmerised and inspired. From finding himself accepted to study at Hornsey Art College with a whole host of creative talent in early 60s London to following in the footsteps of Anthony Price at Sterling Cooper, launching his own line in 1992 to forging a business selling clothes to a few considered accounts and a growing number of sartorial devotees, Batten's is a unique and fascinating story. Periodically finding himself on the cusp of something bigger, he has cultivated a business whilst remaining something of a hidden gem. Today, with the unveiling of a look book for AW12 and the relaunch of his website something tells me he won't remain hidden for too much longer.

With over forty years in the business Batten could be forgiven for not evolving, but he does constantly. In fact he thrives on it. "People used to say to me 'Ian, the problem with you is that you get bored very easily, you move on too quickly'  and that is probably true in a way. For me, the whole bag is being creative, pushing it somehow." Despite being a bit cautious of technology, the relaunch of his site will help introduce him to a new audience. "Just last night I was talking to a few of my old art college buddies and we discussed how we were all part of this last generation that have their feet in both camps, once we're gone it will all be the technology generation. I like it (technology) but it is not something that I rely on." Thankfully for us, Batten has opted to edge his feet a bit more confidently in to the digital realm and more can discover his work.

Whilst failing academically at school he was nudged in the direction of art school. Clueless of what it entailed he applied to Hornsey Art College. "At the time that I went to art school, I didn't even know what it was about. My art teacher knew that I wasn't very academic but saw something creative in me and suggested that I apply. I took some drawings with me and got in." This was at a time when the capital was at its swinging best. "there were people there like Charlie Watt's wife, Allen Jones, Ray Davis of the Kinks was there." Now, you often hear about musicians forming groups at art college but rarely careers in fashion design. For Batten it was a slow process of experimentation. "I did my foundation, then a graphics course because I didn't want to be a painter and then I moved towards fashion illustration. At the time, there weren't fashion illustration courses. If you wanted to do that, you had to do the whole lot. So I did. I don't quite know how it evolve but somehow it did, it was a process of discovery really." After his graduation he took the first job that he could in the rag trade and learnt from there. "The big one for me, in the 70s and 80s, was Sterling Cooper. It was a big deal, Anthony Price and Sheila Brown were there and then, I was the next one in. I was there for four years and it was the making of me. I left and then went freelance, travelling around doing bits here and there, I did womenswear at Swanky Modes. In the early 90s I got fed up with womenswear. It was the start of a real big push for menswear. I opened up a shop with a friend of mine in Chelsea and it started from there."

"Today, there's a growing band out there that really get my stuff and it is absolutely lovely but I would like it to be a bit more solid. For some reason, my main customers are all architects. They seem to love that my clothes are unstructured. It is quite fluid and I guess that is where the energy comes from, driving it forward. At times, I feel like that performer at the circus who spins plates on the end of my pole but I do enjoy it. I'm fortunate that I enjoy what I do, from life drawing to films, it just grows. What I have to do but what I'm hesitant to do, is get back on the fashion loop as it were. In recent years I've been producing capsule collections for the likes of b store and Livingstone Studio. Both have been quite organic and just grow. It's been a nice way of working but I probably should work more to the seasons.

People either call me a tailor or a fashion designer, I'm neither really, I just make clothing. Everything is unstructured so it is not strict tailoring, that is an entirely different bag. Also, I'm not interested in fashion either. I used to work in trends. I don't follow trends anymore. It is just me designing clothes that I hope provoke a reaction like 'ooh, that's a nice detail!' It is all about shape really. I just do what I do. Some people love it and some might not like it all. It is subjective. One of the first things I ask my customers is 'how does it feel?' because if it feels great then that's half the battle." 

I could have listened to Ian Batten talk all day and I'd happily transcribe it all for you but I know you must all be eager to see a few images to help break up the text. So, take my virtual hand and lets explore his shop-cum-studio. Squeezed in to a narrow but long unit, the space allows discovery at every turn...

The retail space is full of Ian Batten treats.


A selection of shots from his studio and workbench

You should have noticed from above that Ian Batten is a great talker, dropping tales, nuggets of wisdom and excitedly bouncing from sentence to sentence with consumate ease. However, when it comes to describing what he does and his clothes, he is succinct and at times stumped. After asking him to describe his AW12 collection he inhaled deeply and looked blank for a few seconds before replying with, "God, I never know what to say...". He took another sip of coffee and recounted another story. "Years ago, Michael Roberts who used to be fashion editor of The Sunday Times, asked me to describe one of my collections and I just said 'Michael, I don't know what to say… they're like a big sack with string through the middle of it.' And he printed it, I could't believe it but I guess it serves me right really." With menswear, its very much a continuation from season to season. You get a good shape, find a great fabric and it follows on. It's a process of evolution. I don't think about it really. It's like when you're running down the stairs and if you think about the movement of your feet, you often trip up but you can do it fine without thinking about. It just happens...That's a great analogy. Right, enough talk... here's a selection of AW12 look book shots by Retts Wood...

AW12 look book shot by Retts Wood.

Having lurked in the sartorial shadows for a number of years, now is the time for Ian Batten to step in to the spotlight.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Details... Panelled Contrasts

Cut from varying weights and textures of nylon fabric, this shirt by Christopher Shannon plays on contrasts. From a dark clean upper to colourful surprises below. Currently on sale at oki-ni.

Monday 25 June 2012


We are repeatedly told that fashion film is the future. As these proclamations echo deep in the recesses my mind, examples that surprise, excite and inspire are most rare. The majority of two to three minutes spent watching the remainder of efforts can at best be written off as wasted. Therefore, we should celebrate and share the ones that work. Ian Batten's collaboration with the jewellery designer and artist Julia Manheim, Seeming, is one such example. Thanks to the designer finally venturing online with a new look website I was able to watch it. And watch it again. For me, the film captures the essence of Batten's approach wonderfully. He's been in the business for over forty years, designing his eponymous line for twenty of them and today sits in his Highgate shop-cum-studio with a beaming smile on his face and loosely tailored legion of sartorial fans. Ian Batten is something of a secret and more than a part of him likes it that way. Having paid the designer a visit over the weekend to talk through the evolution of his label (post to follow), Seeming is a great mode of introduction, so I asked him about it.

Having first become friends thanks to sharing a studio together in Peckham, Batten and Manheim collaborated on a project for Chelsea College of Art entitled Struck by Hammers. "People were asked to mime a piece of furniture. Julie wanted to do a piano but felt she needed something more, so I made this conceptual dress for her," explains the ever animated Batten before taking another sip of his coffee. Shortly after this creative coming together, the pair decided to work on a film together which built on the previous project. "I started working on sets that were the sleeves, the trouser and so on. It grew organically really, a little experimentation pushed it forward or changed its direction slightly. My youngest son who was studying at Central Saint Martins at the time came in and filmed it." Batten makes everything sound so simple. "I took it with me to Japan for a show that I did with my partner Rie Taniguchi in 2009. It was really well received, particularly by artists which was a surprise really. When you do something like that, especially art films, they can be a bit 'up their backsides'. Bill Viola is my big hero when it comes to visual art, he's in another league, so much of it is absolutely awful." Like everything Batten crafts in cloth, Seeming is anything but awful. It is delicate yet playful, secretive yet absorbing, inanimate yet alive. Watch it...

Sunday 24 June 2012

Style Stalking (Snapshot).... Ian Batten

Having spent well over an hour talking design and shop with the ever charming and excitable Ian Batten at his Highgate base, I just couldn't resist taking a quick snapshot of the creative talent. In recent weeks I've become fascinated by whether or not designers wear their own creations and if so, how. Much like the designs he has created since the launch of his eponymous line, Batten's everyday wardrobe has a considered, detail rich, ageless quality to it...
Ian Batten wearing a shirt and a parie of jeans from his own label paired with well loved Russell and Bromley brogues, topped off with a pair of tortoiseshell glasses from Anglo American perched on his forehead.

Saturday 23 June 2012

An outfit of combinations


1. The act or an instance of combining; the process of being combined. 
2. Uniting different uses, functions, or ingredients.

From eggs and bacon to Simon and Garfunkel, Walcott and van Persie to gin and tonic, De Niro and Scorsese to absolutely anything and butter, the world is full of individuals and/or components that combine to create something better. For me, the best menswear does just that. Given the perceived confines of menswear design, the real fun can be had following a gulp of a cocktail that mixes the bold and the subdued, the soft and the hard, the formal and the casual and so on. Menswear can always be surprising. As the great beard stroking military strategist Sun Tzu noted, "there are not more than five cardinal tastes, yet combinations of them yield more flavours than can ever be tasted.” With so many options, there should be no excuse for repetition or boredom. 

This morning I noticed that each part of my outfit contained an interesting combination. The mix of grey marl and abstract balloon print of my Christopher Shannon Kidda sweatshirt. The conjoining of plain polyester and herringbone wool in my Comme des Garcons Shirt suit. The smart and casual feel of my trainers by H? Katsukawa from Tokyo...

Sweatshirt by Christopher Shannon Kidda, trousers (as part of a suit) by Comme des Garcons Shirt and shoes by H? Katsukawa from Tokyo.

Do you have a particular favourite combination in menswear?

Weekend Reading... Paszport!


One of the few perks of being ill these past couple of weeks is that I've had Euro 2012 to keep me company. I didn't miss a ball being kicked during the fascinating group stage. From the nervy Poland v Greece game to the Quarter Final prize winning nod from the now fuzzy head of Rooney. Some games have been more entertaining than others but I've enjoyed every minute. Joining me on the sofa has been the tournament fanzine Paszport! The fruits of a delightful one-two (the likes of which Xavi and Iniesta would watch on in admiration) between much celebrated creative agency Mother London and our good friends from The Rig Out.

Launched to commemorate enthusiastic travels throughout Poland and Ukraine, Paszport is a one-off fanzine that pays homage to the classics before it that have been excitedly flicked through on journeys home. It is a smile inducing and thought provoking publication. With contributions from Casuals author Phil Thornton, one of our favourite journalists Jonathan Wilson, Perry Boys author Ian Hough, poet Mike Duff and not forgetting considered additions from a diverse team of writers from far and wide, it is a squad packed packed with talent. It is a publication that will be enjoyed far longer than the trophy lift. Below is just a few pages that caught my eye...

The publication is available in the usual suspects of Oi Polloi, Present and Mother London.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Details... Frayed Collar

As the sunshine lights up Florence for Pitti Uomo street style photographers focus their sights on the dapper. Angelo Flaccavento frequently and deservedly finds himself in the spotlight and Susie couldn't help herself from taking a closer look at the frayed collar of his shirt from Mosca

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Fashion East Menswear Installations SS13

Nothing quite represents the diversity of London menswear design talent quite like the Fashion East Menswear Installations. Ever since they were introduced to the London fashion week schedule back in 2009, I've excitedly bounced from room to room inside its various incarnations uncovering the beautiful alongside the wonderful and even the unusual at every opportunity. The platform provides discovery at every turn for us whilst offering invaluable exposure for the designers themselves and often acts as a springboard for them. The likes of Matthew Miller, Martine Rose and Agi&Sam have all gone onto MAN, NEWGEN and the solo catwalk schedule. Each season the next generation of menswear heavyweights present their collections using a combination of static exhibits, live models and multimedia. This season's were the biggest ever. Set in a luxurious Georgian townhouse overlooking The Mall, this melting pot of emerging design talent had the pulse of my eyeballs racing as I excitedly buzzed my way from each designer's vision of the new season.

Over the course of two full afternoons the grandiose setting of Carlton Gardens were a true celebration of London menswear. From the debut menswear collection of Maarten Van Der Horst and return of Meadham Kirchoff to the mouth watering lineup of Kit Neale, T.Lipop, Craig Green, William Richard Green, Duffy and Lee Roach (to name but a few), those fortunate enough to wander the space were left dizzy, drunk on design.  Having been under the weather this season I was unable to go to both days but enjoyed the Saturday lineup immensely. Here's a closer look at a few of my favourites...

William Richard Green

My first stop was William Richard Green's 'anti-postcard' view of Britain with his military inspired exploration of utilitarian attire. Given that we've already discussed the designer's inspirations for this season, we won't go in to too much detail again but rather take your hand and lead you on a visual journey of 'Home Is Where The Heart Is' whilst introducing you to the Veriform figures donning the collection. This is my kind of flag waving...

Highlights include  the transformable bomber jacket come coat, the storm flapped waterproof and the fruits of Green's collaboration with Brady Bags.

Building on the success of his Central Saint Martins MA collection, Craig Green continues his fascination with the delicate interplay of light and dark but approaches it with a renewed subtlety. Playing with the balance of tones within a palette of white and cream the design talent creates a collection that longs to be softly stroked. A self proclaimed DIY enthusiast, Green has carefully treated each one of the fifteen garments as an individual project whilst celebrating British tradition. From crinkle washed calico, cotton knitting yarn, mohair, screen printed suede and muslin cheesecloth and the application of unusual finishing, the physical potential of each fabric is vigorously explored to create considered and exciting clothing... 

Soft and delicate, Craig Green has created a collection that longs for your touch.

Following a successful debut presentation back in February, Kit Neale returned to the Fashion East talent roster with his vision and portrayal of suburban and multicultural Britian. Soundtracked by Chas&Dave, his 'One Fing 'N' Annuver' collection pays homage to his hometown of Peckham and the ever eccentric British seaside whilst peppered with Acid House reference. The result is a heady cocktail of dazzling and smile inducing prints amongst icons of home. Having grown up in Margate I instantly spotted the symbols of my hometown. Reebok classics and giant Argos bought sovereign rings were my youth after all. I recommend listening to Chas&Dave's hit 'Margate' as you pore over the below...

"Down to Margate, you can keep the Costa Brava, I'm telling ya mate I'd rather have a day down Margate with all me family..."

Home sweet home.

Showing for the second time as part of the Fashion East Menswear installations, T. Lipop took our outstretched hand and took us on a sartorial journey of Mexico with his 'Day Of The Dead' inspired installation. As Susie was exploring Mexico City and buying all manner of cultural artefacts, we explored Lipop's floral and cultural explosion....

Highlights included floral trousers, fine embroidery work and the fruits of the collaboration with Del Toro.

These picks only account for one third of the design talent on show over the course of two afternoons of Fashion East Menswear Installations. It truly is a melting pot of excitement and wonder.


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