Monday 30 July 2012

Baartmans & Siegel 'Cuban Crab Catchers' SS13

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"We wanted the SS13 collection to feel romantic, effortless and to take you on a journey," purrs Amber Siegel as she stands in the label's PR showroom and reflects on Baartmans and Siegel's on schedule debut. From the moment we excitedly showcased the degree collections of the Dutch/English design halves that make up the label we knew we had discovered a couple of gems. 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. In a few short seasons the talented pair have developed a signature of innovative, refined menswear that balances wearability with a heightened luxury and irresistible tactility. Their designs are made to be worn, stroked and loved. Building on this success and in front of the eager audience of London Collections: Men, the duo delivered a sumptuous presentation that had us all daydreaming of beach holiday. Rather than merely reminisce about my summers spent on the golden sands of Margate aimlessly searching in vain for the smallest of crabs as they lurked in the pool, Baartmans and Siegel take my outstretched hand and whisk me off across the Atlantic to watch the (tongue twist worthy) Cuban Crab Catchers in action. Here Siegel introduces the collection as we reach out to play with the crustaceans and revel in the subtle beauty of faded glory...

"We really enjoyed the recent Autumn/Winter collection because it was dark and textural but we wanted to completely change for this Spring/Summer and to have fun with new fabrics, we really pushed it. We were watching a documentary on Cuban crabs who cross from one side of the island to the other and we were inspired by this blanket of movement captured on the show. A journey of thousands of crustaceans shelled in blue, pink and coral and just so tropical. We were then drawn in to Cuban marine culture, their fishing styles and then on to the nostalgic faded Miami feel of Cuba and the countries links with the work of Hemingway. We were keen on marrying the relaxed atmosphere of the island with the nostalgic hues and colours, mixed cultural influences and retro styles. Working away in our studio on Mare Street we daydreamed of being transported to the Deco Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach or room 511 of Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana where Hemingway stayed in the 1930s. 

We really like the idea of faded glory whilst still creating something that is playful and vibrant. Along with the palette, this is probably best seen in our use of the reverse side of skins which creates a softer effect. There's a lot of texture with snake, crocodile, jacquard, abstract leopard print. Elsewhere, we stayed true to theme throughout for example we have scalloped knitwear, coral and ocean scene prints and the buttons are Bakelite to keep that 50s feel. Looking at the collection again now, it's clear that ultimately we want a holiday but unfortunately the closest we got to Cuba was the documentary."

My own shots from the presentation and a few detail shots alongside the official look book by Simon Armstrong.

"This season we wanted it to feel frivolous, playful and to express a sense of freedom in every sense," Siegel states as she bounces from piece to piece on the collection rail. "Given that we were part of the new platform of London Collections: Men we were keen on showing something that was equally as fresh." Fresh it most certainly is. Subtle yet complex, muted yet full of colour and life, boundary pushing yet wearable. Just looking over the above array of shots my nostrils are filled with sea air and my limbs are longing to jump in to a beachside pool in Miami. Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one who fell for the charms of this season as Siegel explains; "Obviously this was our first time on schedule and we were unsure how we'd be received but we were blown away. The format worked really well because you could see the texture, from the knitwear to the broderie anglaise. On a quick flash of a catwalk some of the details may have been lost but the presentation enabled people to take a long and close look." I love a considered presentation format that allows time to really digest the designs and Baartmans and Siegel delivered a collection that had me reaching for my net and dreaming about a holiday.

Friday 27 July 2012

Inspired... 1205 SS13

Having recently spent a balmy Friday afternoon catching up with Paula Gerbase on the continued rise of 1205 and discussing AW12, I couldn't resist looking in to the near future by snatching up the opportunity to take a long look at her mood boards for SS13 and hear how she turned her design attentions to her native Brazil. 

Gerbase is a designer inspired by individuals and for the upcoming season she was inspired by the photographic work of Marcel Gautherot and the many that came together to build the modern Brasilia that the documentary photographer focussed his lens on. Gautherot, the ideal architectural photographer, made an epic undertaking in the late 1950s – photographing every step of the construction of the city of Brasilia, from untouched grassland to modern capital. he photographed not only every stage of construction, but also the faces and homes of the workers. Inspired by this detailed document, Gerbase was drawn to the interplay between both physical structures and human input alongside that of man made and nature. The resulting mood boards are littered with modernist architectural delights, snapshots of workers, people using buildings and the evolution of the designer's own prints in to intricate jacquard fabrics. Here Gerbase talks us through her inspiration... 

"For Spring/Summer 13, I've not only embraced my Savile Row side but for the first time I've looked at the country in which I was born, Brazil. It's the first time ever that I've been inspired by Brazil. Normally I look at architecture a great deal and it tends to be German but for this season I looked at Brazilian modernism of the 50s and how it included a natural element, both the build itself and the natural environment are considered. I was interested in the fact that they always have an architect and an urban planner on all builds who looks after the planting and green credentials. There is a lot of green in this collection. Up to this point, I've been so controlled with my palette and this time green was the big accent. In terms of research, as I'm not looking at it from a foreigners perspective, I knew where I was going, where to look and of course my family helped. Some of the shots are of my home town. From prints that I designed based on insulated walls and wall paneling that are so common in Brazil and these evolved in to jacquards. When I think about my past these things feel normal but given that I've been gone for so long I realise how special it was.

The real starting point was finding a book called Building Brasilia by this French photographer Marcel Gautherot and it depicts the times in which Oscar Niemeyer was chief architect of the new capital. Gautherot documented the entire process, from desert to the completed city. From untouched grassland to skeletal structures to ultimately the realisation of a modern capital and touching on the works who played their part in shaping it. It's an amazing book. The building of an icon. I was drawn to the human side of architecture, obviously these building are quite imposing but the fact that they are built by people and lived in. In terms of the collection, I wanted to balance technical aspects with a return to cottons - a tale of contrasts. I built on the contrasts of the buildings and the people building them by contrasting cotton jerseys with with a more technical finish and introduced more casual wear almost work wear inspired pieces. I was keen on bringing the inside outside and marrying subtle contrasts of something traditional with something undeniably modern. I worked with English mills to develop truly innovative fabric, for example wool and nylon. In addition to this marriage, the book also ties in with my own fascination with the manufacturing process - I love being involved in this part of the building of a collection so Gautherot's images really struck a chord.

A look at Gerbase's mood board for 1205 SS13

In Gerbase's work we are treated to a cocktail of of tailoring, technical sportswear and an unexpected softness. Here, despite being inspired by the modernist architecture in her native Brazil she looks deeper than just the physical structures and is drawn in to both the personal and natural worlds that so often go unnoticed. She is a designer with a penetrative creative eye and it was a delight to hear her talk through everything that combined for SS13.

Thursday 26 July 2012

Rediscovering Folk

Given the fanfare of fashion, the cacophony of collections and the seemingly incessant stack of stories it can be all too easy to neglect the labels and designers that do things quietly. Folk is one of the finest examples of a label that has successfully grown whilst existing on the periphery of it all. Ignoring everything that doesn't quite fit in its focused gaze and only doing things at the right time and in the right space, Cathal McAteer and his like minded team have carved out a well designed niche in the menswear market. After working in the coolest independent shop in Glasgow as a youth and acknowledging his own retail aspirations, McAteer set out to create a label that his friends would like to wear. A decade on and this humble ambition has been sartorially realised, with meticulously designed everyday, detail rich casual clothes and footwear created from the simple design manifesto that still sits at the heart of the brand today. Everything is considered. McAteer and his like minded team deliberately disregard seasonal fashion trends. Instead the focus is on the subtle, innovative and playful details that are hallmarks of the label, including splashes of colour, contrasting patchworks and corozo nut buttons to name just a few. It is all too easy to fall for its charms.

With an ever growing band of followers, an enviable stockist list alongside its own stores scattered throughout the capital and beyond, Folk is ever evolving. Following the success of the last ten years, AW12 welcomes their launch in to womenswear. "The ethos has always been the same and since Elbe (Lealman) has joined, almost eight years ago now, she has picked up that baton and run with it. We've wanted to do women's for a while but we don't rush things, we started with women's footwear and AW12 felt like the right time, we had the right team in place," explained McAteer inside the label's showroom in Holborn. One gets the impression that everything is meticulously planned yet the label is anything but sterile or dull. "Since we opened our first store about six years ago, things have moved pretty fast for us - the men's grew really quickly. Seeing our customers firsthand in the shop was a real learning curve for us, seeing what they like and how they bought. It grew tremendously after that," adds McAteer before taking another sip of his coffee and he looks back on the remarkable (quiet) rise of Folk. "We've grown from offering just two shirts in men's and we've worked with just ten retailers and grown naturally."

"Between Elbe and myself, we both know what we like and what we like to design and she has a strong vision of where she'd like both the men's and women's line to go and we continuously discuss it. We know what we want to do and if we get lucky, it will have a good response and it will grow gradually and flower."

There are similar fabrics to an extent but we were conscious of not using the same factories and being forced in to using the same fabrics. I think that's a common problem, potentially at least, when someone designs both menswear and womenswear. It's a simpler route but the results are rarely as strong. We consciously went ahead and made a women's collection for the women we had in our head. Part of the learning curve was opening our women's shop without a full women's collection. We wanted to see the women who bought our shoes. The shoes sell so well in the standalone store but trying to sell them in to boutiques is really difficult. It was nice to see who were buying them, it gave us a chance to see who we would want to design for. The womenswear was introduced to the store a couple of weeks ago and the first lady who came in bought a jumper and a cagoule - it was really exciting. It's the beginning."
Cathal McAteer on the womenswear.

To mark the launch and snatching up the opportunity to have a good nose around Folk's latest offering, myself and Susie hosted an event at their Shepherd Market store and played dress up in the AW12 collection. Time for a Folk off (it's not a fair fight given the depth and breadth of Susie's wardrobe)...

Folk dress worn with Fleet Ilya visor, Rachel Antonoff x G.H. Bass shoes

Jacket, shirt, t shirt and trousers all by Folk worn with shoes by Mr. Hare.

Susie wears the same Folk menswear sweatshirt as I above but with Christopher Kane jewelled sandals as opposed to a white shirt by Folk and a stud by Bunney.

Reversible bomber, shirt and knitted sweatpants all by Folk worn with shoes by Mr. Hare.

Susie wears a menswear bomber and a womenswear cardigan and white shirt by Folk with a Balenciaga skirt. I've teamed up the same reversible bomber with a shirt by Folk, trousers by Comme des Garcons and shoes by H? Katsukawa from Tokyo. 

After we recovered from our Folk off we ventured to have a good nose around the latest retail acquisition, a beautiful little space on Shepherd Market...

"The Shepherd Market store is Georgina Goodman's old store. For me, it was the best space on the market by far. There were quite a few people in for it and fortunately we got it. I love the area, I used to have an office nearby and I've long enjoyed the cinema and pubs and I just really fell for the charms of the store. Things come up. We opened a shop in Munich because we met the right person at the right time. My girlfriend is from there and I know the city well. A good friend has a store there and he's been buying us for years. We often went on holiday and then the store came up. American Apparel had the space before and it's a beautiful area of Munich. So things come up and if we can, we take advantage of them. Hopefully there will be a few more but it has to feel right. We are not actively searching for stores in specific places..."

A selection of in store curiosities that caught my roving eye.

Folk might go about their business away from the glare of the fashion spotlight but everything it does, from store openings to new lines, it does so with thought and plenty of character. It is a quiet brand that needs to be heard. 


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