Tuesday, 27 January 2015

London: A New Hope?



"The real problem I think with fashion now is that creators means less and less. It's bureaucrats and facilitators who make the decisions." 
"The British Fashion Council seems to be growing and growing and growing but the results aren't getting any better." 
"Out of this chaos will come something good. The world came out of chaos."
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A lot of people talk about London fashion at the moment as if it's really standing out and going through this incredible period of creation and growth. Do you not agree?  
No. 
Why is that? 
Why? Because I use my eyes. 

There is a sense of anything being possible here in London. What do you think is extremely hard to achieve in the city? 

Well, it depends. I don’t necessarily find that the London designers here are taking enough risks. When I used to show in London, in the mid 90’s, we took so many risks. We were doing it for creativity, we weren’t really thinking about the consequences. Of course, I really wanted to sell at the same time, because I was really concentrating on tailoring as well. I always thought it was much more modern that everything was wearable, apart from a few show pieces that you’d seen more of, because of the way that the press wanted to see the designs, and not necessarily the way the designer wanted to be represented. I always thought it was really important to have an inspiring show, but also to really have a wearable collection. Even the wearable stuff was experimental. I was always trying to push ideas, let’s say. 
I feel that now a lot of the designers are more on a commercial route, where they can have the businesses. But, I just don’t think they push boundaries enough; or I find their work too similar to other designers’, from the past. I find that they’re not really pushing themselves enough. Of course, there are a few that I think are, but generally I think it’s not as much as the work from my generation. I would definitely like to see more of that happening. I think you can do both, you can have a business and push boundaries at the same time, but people think you have to do one or the other.
London now has a fledgling male fashion scene that could soon lead the world, if handled correctly. 
All I can say is, ‘Thank God, but what took you so long?’



Autumn/Winter 2015


Autumn/Winter 2015


Autumn/Winter 2015


Autumn/Winter 2015

I am a Londoner, born and raised South of the River (I was born just opposite the Houses of Parliament, across the River, in St. Thomas' Hospital and have remained South ever since. Fun fact: officially speaking you can not actually die in Parliament, your body will be carried across to St. Thomas' and pronounced dead there instead). But when it comes to fashion week, London has never really excited me - each and every season I wait patiently for Paris. Let me say right off the bat that if you are truly serious about fashion, Paris is where you take your collection, and I honestly do not see that changing for a long time to come. It is why Yohji and Rei went to Paris, it is why Rick went to Paris, it is why Raf went to Paris, it is where you go if you want to be seen alongside the best (...and of course some of the worst, but there we are, money buys you anything).

London Fashion Week and London Collections: Men has not excited me in years, and I have been quite open about that fact - it has been a visual orgy of costume shows and deafening noise, drowning out the talent and chewing up young designers mercilessly. The British Fashion Council would boast about how many more shows they had this season compared to last, as if determined to prove that quantity beats quality by shoving it down our throats until we spewed it back up and called for a dark room to lie down in. I maintain that most collections that show in London would be better served with a simple showroom presentation, and that most designers who show would be better served by going away, learning to edit, and only showing if they have something actually worth showing. But it's fashion, so I guess I'll get on my flying pig and speed away from the street style fodder come London Fashion Week.  

That probably sounds thoroughly pessimistic, but the truth of the matter is that the more I despair about the state of fashion, the more hopeful and excited I actually become. The worse things get, the stronger the need for a reaction, and when that reaction comes, it is definitely worth the wait. Looking at any of the great moments in fashion history we see time and time again that designers emerge to shock the system because they were reacting against something. Whether this reactionary motivation is conscious or not for the designers who create those landmark moments (although I would argue that it almost always is), it is that sense of rebellion and a yearning for something new that is at the very heart of fashion. So perhaps it goes without saying that certain conditions do help cultivate it, and nothing is more antithetical to the cycle of fashion than stagnation. Stagnation may sell well (Saint Laurent being prime example of that), but it also allows for creativity to emerge. 

For the first time in a long time I saw the London shows (London Collections: Men A/W '15) and was actually excited by what I saw. Suddenly it seems as if something genuinely exciting could emerge, and maybe there is hope yet for the flourishing London fashion scene that the British Fashion Council has been raving about for the past few years. The shows this season actually made me stop and look twice, and although there is a lot of work still to be done, the seeds have been sown, and nowhere was that more obvious than in the work of Craig Green. His current season collection is for sale in Dover Street Market as we speak, and without meaning to generalize, that in itself is a promising sign. This Autumn/Winter 2015 collection built solidly upon the framework he built with his debut, with a clarity of voice that is remarkable for such a young designer. If one will allow a rather cheeky comparison, the energy and creativity of his work reminds me of early '00s Raf or, as McDowell points out, early Galliano. 

For me the improvements at Casely-Hayford have been welcome and steady, and indeed this collection was one of the better ones in recent memory. How do we advertise and export the idea of London fashion? Yes there is the quirky nod of Paul Smith's tailoring that probably outsells everything else London has to offer, but I think the two main stays will always been youth subcultures and tailoring. We have the two extremes - from punks to dandies, and this provides a goldmine of resources and creativity. Casely-Hayford have the craftsmanship on lock, so to see the cool streetwear vibe executed so neatly, and in a far more alluring manner than the kitsch insanity of KTZ and the like, was a really nice moment. Indeed I wish most of the brasher brands that seem to need to scream youth culture and rebellion would simply stop for a minute and think about actually designing clothes rather than just Instagram and Tumblr friendly prints and images. 

Alongside these two collections were two, somewhat more conservative ones, that really stood out to me - Patrick Grant's E. Tautz and Margaret Howell (who McDowell affectionately calls the "Mother Teresa of London fashion"). With E. Tautz I think Grant manages to do what Ozwald never could - bring a sense of Savile Row to the catwalk in a translatable and fashion-oriented manner. What I mean to say is that Ozwald's shows never got the balance quite right. Even though the technical skill and creativity was there, the direction was never really suited to a fashion collection. It is the same issue I have with the likes of Gieves & Hawkes or Richard James; their catwalk shows do not really fit into the fashion framework - they are showroom collections at best. E. Tautz also managed to do what Dunhill failed to. Although both collections were tinged with nostalgia, E. Tautz channeled that nostalgia to create a contemporary image, whereas Dunhill's efforts simply came off as costume (albeit costume well styled).  

When it comes to collections by London tailors I would suggest two possible routes. The first option is that you create a brand profile away from bespoke and oriented towards a younger fashion consumer like E. Tautz does. Or you go budget (and balls) to the wall with the technical brilliance and theatricality of Thom Browne in order to bring more bespoke clients in and also to help sell some of the more creative off-the-peg pieces. London has some of the best tailors in the world, and for that brilliance not to be center stage come LC:M is a crime. They should be able to amaze us with their skill and craftsmanship and get all the menswear bro's away from mid-market Italian tailoring and double monk shoes, and into the best of the best that London has to offer. Oh, and while we're at it - kick Abercrombie the heck out of Savile Row and protect the area by instating it as a heritage site, after all it is where modern menswear began.

Getting back to the quieter side of things, Margaret Howell is one of those designers who I think of in the same space as Christophe Lemaire - a whispered elegance that you want to surround yourself in. Like most of my favourite designers her story is a continuation each season rather than an abrupt change, and that constant refinement really shows in the quality and finish of each look. I would rather see ten looks from Howell than ten of the "blockbuster" London shows that fill the newspapers. Parallels to the earlier work of Jil Sander are dangerous, because Jil had a far more artistic (for want of a better word) direction, but I think there is something there - I wish Jil could have stayed and kept refining her collections like Howell. Keep your head down, work hard, share what you love with the world - she gets it, and boy does it look good. 


xxxx

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

That Junya










"Quadratur der Kreise"
Vogue Germany (Feb 2015)
Photographer: Sarah Moon
Stylist: Patti Wilson
Make Up: Alice Ghendrih
[images via TFS]

Most people assume my favourite colour is black.
It's actually red.

Blame Rothko.


xxxx

Monday, 12 January 2015

Taking A Step Back

New Year. New Wardrobe? No thanks, I'd rather just make this one even better. 

The first few days of January are usually accompanied by grand plans to change our lives for the better, to work out more (or simply just start a few days a week), to eat more healthily (or maybe just one less slice of cake a week), to learn something new and exciting (or possibly improving a skill we already have), but that energy never seems to last. Taking time for reflection, whenever or wherever, is vital though. I guess the best way to approach these things is with a more structured approach, otherwise you risk simply talking into the wind (...which always struck me as an odd phrase, because screaming your hopes and desires into the wind seems quite fun).

Anyway, I thought it would be good to take a step back and assess the current state of my wardrobe and the direction in which I would like to develop it in the coming year and beyond. I have decided to write a basic overview of where I am at now and how I think I would like to focus my future efforts. As you will see the basic framework of my wardrobe is slowly getting there, and although it may seem simple and small (both of which it is), it has taken about four years to get to this stage. Overall I would say I am happy with my wardrobe, and although certain areas need work, it is slowly but surely taking on a shape that I feel is coherent and balanced. Whether or not I feel it expresses some sense of "me" is besides the point, but what I do know is that wearing these clothes just feels right for now. Quiet luxury. Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean.

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Outerwear: I currently own three pieces of outerwear - a black wool Chesterfield coat from Muji, a black single breasted cotton long coat from Yohji, and a black cotton moleskin Le Laboureur work jacket (the newer cotton/polyester versions might wear softer to begin with, but I far prefer breaking the jacket in myself). Spring and Summer are therefore well covered, but it is Autumn and Winter that really need some work because the Muji coat is now a bit too misshapen and ragged looking. I would actually like to replace it with two different coats - a long wool Yohji coat (basically a Winter version of my cotton coat) and a waterproof (or at least water resistant) black parka coat. One works for smarter occasions, while the other is better suited to those days when you just want to go out into the rain or snow wrapped up tight in a blanket. 


Shirts: It took me two years of searching, feeling fabrics, trying on shirts and moving around in them before I bought a single white shirt. Within the period of six months following that purchase I had two more shirts from the same designer - one black, one collarless white with subtle grey pinstriping. Measure twice, cut once. In exploring all the available options for a single white shirt, I unconsciously found myself evaluating multiple shirts from various designers, expanding the intended research merely because it was usually right there on the rail next to what I was specifically there to study.

I tried on shirt after shirt and found almost consistently that those by Ann Demeulemeester felt right. I have relatively narrow shoulders, a long slim torso and long slim arms. I have tended to struggle with sleeve length, with most shirts stopping short of my wrists. The slim cut and long arms of the Ann shirts I tried on felt right from the get go, but I made sure to explore as many other options as I possibly could before returning to them, just to make sure it was not simply love for the designer clouding my judgement.

Indeed many will probably wonder why I do not own Yohji shirts, and the simple truth is that I have not actually had enough experience with trying on that many Yohji shirts in a size 3. The majority I have handled have been a size 2, and although technically translating to my 46 size, given my height, the proportions do not work out and everything comes up short. Going forward I will definitely explore the option of larger size Yohji shirts than I have previously handled, because whilst the fit has been off, the garments themselves are undeniably beautiful, in terms of fabric and construction, as well as the actual design.

Two options that I had considered were Comme des Garçons and Issey Miyake. The issue I had with the majority of Comme shirts I tried on was that the sleeves were a touch too short, however I have only really had experience with the Shirt line and older Homme Plus collections. I think I may have to explore more recent Homme Plus collections to see how sizing is, as well as potentially trying to size up on Black line pieces to see how they feel. With respects to the Issey, again the issue is sizing - size 2 or 3 look comically shrunk, despite the neckline and body width actually being spot on. I feel I may have to venture into larger sizes to find the balance I require - I do not particularly care for a "fitting" collar given the aesthetic direction of my wardrobe and the oversize quality of many of the garments.  


T-shirts: I have written about these two Issey Miyake t-shirts previously (click here), but to summarise, I found the size that felt right and bought them. The white longsleeve is a size 4 (L) and the black longsleeve is a size 6 (XXL). Both are made from a pure cotton that feels even more fantastic after a number of washes. Just a word of caution - the white versions shrink slightly on first wash, which none of the other colours seem to do (I actually had a discussion with an SA at the London store about this). Although this has not really changed the oversize fit I went for, it is definitely something to be aware of. My plan is purchase two more, one white, one black, and that will be my longsleeve t-shirts complete.

When it comes to short sleeve t-shirts however, the jury is still out. I would like two in black and two in white. The process is not necessarily as easy as getting the short sleeve version of the longsleeves, because the entire shape and fit is different, and there is a specific cut I require. I like a relatively wide neckline, and one that scoops gently without looking too rounded or stretched. In terms of sleeves, I like them on the longer side, but they have to fall gracefully rather than sticking out stiffly at an angle as heavier cottons and more traditional cuts are wont to do on my body. The primary consideration at this point in time is Comme, however I am still investigating.


Knitwear: Yohji. Simple. I like my jumpers with a nice relaxed neckline, a wide body and loose sleeves (none of my Yohji jumpers have tight elasticated wrists). I have however been considering some black additions from John Smedley for more formal occasions, because it is always nice to have a smarter option. I have also been looking at the lambswool crew neck jumpers from Gloverall, mainly because of the fold back sleeves, which remind me of the jumpers I used to wear as a child (there is something comforting in that detail of a folded back sleeve that is indescribable).  


Trousers: Yohji again. The size 2 trousers actually have a 38 inch waist with a drawstring and the length is perfect for a thin single or double cuff. The ones I was wearing when taking these photographs are a size LL (XL/5), again with a 38 inch waist that I cinch in with a belt, and with enough length to roll a few times to balance the width of the trousers and allow for the wool to fall nicely. For days where the cold is just a little too much I have some thick wool Umit Benan black flannels, which are built like a tank and can take just about anything you throw at them without looking any worse for wear. I do actually wish Umit was stocked more widely, just to be able to try more pieces on, because from the work I have seen, the fit and finish is immaculate (I also think he ought to take over at Armani when the time comes, provided Pilati has not been offered a couture house by then).   


Innerwear: The vests that I currently wear are from Muji, and although the fit of the body is nice, as with most things Muji, they come up a touch too short for my liking. I far prefer something with a decent length to be able to tuck into my trousers, although given that the majority of my Yohji trousers are worn around my natural waistline (no doubt a shock to jeans wearers out there), the shorter vests do not pose a functional problem at present. I do however own a Comme undershirt that has a beautiful fit, and alongside purchasing another in white, I think I may slowly replace the Muji vests with Comme offerings. I had thought of buying some Ann vests, but the pricing is a bit too steep to justify unless I wear them like tanktops or with my shirts unbuttoned (and where the latter is concerned in Summer, I tend to prefer wearing the Comme undershirt). I am also on the lookout for black long johns manufactured under ethical conditions and preferably made using natural fibres.  


Underwear: I had two people ask me whether I include underwear and socks in my archive, to which the answer is a resounding yes. Small changes in the design of underwear over the years seem to fly under the radar, but they can actually be thoroughly drastic (a pair of Calvins today are just as different to those made over a decade ago as a pair of Levis 501 in the same time period, even though most people consider both an unchanging icon). When it comes to underwear I dislike branded waistbands, so these organic cotton trunks from John Lewis fit the bill nicely. In the space of a year the fabric composition of the waistband has already changed slightly so that the interior of the band has a more pronounced pile, whilst the exterior of the band is more densely woven - a small change that actually makes them far more comfortable to wear. 

I used to wear Muji trunks but I find the leg a touch too loose in comparison to these, and I definitely prefer the slightly more streamline fit of these. As far as socks go, I usually wear Muji cotton blend socks, either in black or charcoal grey (albeit with the odd red sock thrown in for good measure). I used to purchase underwear and socks from Uniqlo, but reports of poor labour conditions and major ethical concerns have had me looking elsewhere. Indeed I used to own quite a few different pieces from Uniqlo, but I have made the decision going ahead not to buy anything from them anymore.  



Shoes: I own a pair of modern Dr Martens boots that were made in Thailand, and beyond the poorer quality in comparison to my deadstock 1980s Dr Martens (the extent of which was actually a surprise to me), the toebox feels a touch too inelegant for my build. I think I would rather invest in something along the lines of a pair of Red Wing Beckmans in black, a pair of Marsell boots with a decent commando sole, or some George Cox black monkey boots with a wedge sole and low key stitching. The 1980s Dr Martens shoes are however fantastic, and I plan on wearing them for years to come.

The Clarks Desert London shoes are comfortable and look great, but alongside the Converses, I think they are merely a stop gap as it currently stands. The quality of both leaves me wanting and I would rather wear something a little more interesting. Once both are irreparable I will probably replace both with a single pair of low cut black suede Ann Demeulemeester trainers (none of that shiny leather banding or weird dip dye, I want the classic all black suede). 

I love my Yohji Superstars, and the Birkenstock Bostons are my slippers of choice.

Additions: At this point there are two major pieces missing from my wardrobe, the two extremes if you will - a suit and some sweats. As far as the suit goes I think I may end up buying one from Comme des Garçons Homme Deux, which tend to be more conservatively designed, just so that I have something a little more understated than a full black Yohji suit (although that is definitely on the list as a future purchase).

Where the sweats are concerned, I have been looking for around three years now for the heavyweight black cotton drop crotch sweatpants with the poplin skirted overlay from Rick Owens, but all I seem to find are the thin jersey versions. I may just buy a pair of all black drop crotch Y-3 sweatpants or something similar. I am still considering all my options for the sweatshirt but I do know that I want a plain black sweatshirt with a slim fit and slightly longer sleeve and body length than usual. I had considered trying to find a black sweatshirt from the first Silent by Damir Doma collection (when he was still using organic cotton...and the designs were actually good), but finding one in unworn condition at this point in time will be close to impossible.

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My wardrobe still needs work and it is a constantly evolving project, but I am happy with where it is right now and the direction in which it is heading. Hopefully this year will see even more improvements, not just in terms of my wardrobe, but overall in life, and I really do wish you all the same.  


xxxx

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

by Sarah Moon (2010)

Merry Christmas to you all.

Hope you and your families have a beautiful time this holiday season.

All my love,

Syed

xxxx

Monday, 15 December 2014

Rebooting The Archive




I managed to save some of the archive.

"They're only clothes".

I would like to say something that is blindingly obvious, but important to say nevertheless: clothes are there to be worn. I love fashion and dress. I love feeling fabrics, inspecting seams, getting an idea of the garment and some understanding of the construction (my knowledge of pattern cutting is relatively basic, but I have been attempting to learn more). I love trying on everything I can get my hands on - heck, I've tried on a corset, six inch heels and a ballgown...although, oddly, now that I think back at it, not all at the same time. I love wearing beautiful garments each and every day.

I often get asked what I wear when I am having a lazy day at home, or running out to the supermarket on a Sunday morning, to which the answer is the exact same clothes I normally wear. My wardrobe is too small for that not to be the case, and besides, there is a certain luxury to wearing full Yohji when doing the gardening or being prodded and poked (or worse, although admittedly those instances usually involve those rather breezy-back, bobbled cotton, faded blue gowns) in a hospital. Of course I try to take extremely good care of my clothes, but ultimately, you can't baby clothes, you have to wear them. I dislike the idea of owning a garment that only gets worn once or twice year - my wardrobe is built around the realities of my daily life, so it is formed entirely of pieces I wear regularly.

Omnia mea mecum porto - everything I have, I carry with me. I love every single garment I own, but if I was to lose them all tomorrow, it would not be the end of the world. I have actually been toying with the idea of donating my favourite Yohji sweater to charity just to see if I could. I am by nature a collector, but I dislike the idea of actually collecting - emotions mixed with rampant consumerism seems far too dangerous a combination for me personally. I like to live with less because it makes me constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the necessity of what I really need to be happy and content. That is not to say that I am against surrounding yourself with as many beautiful things as your heart desires, but for me you have to truly love those things, not just fill your life with clutter.

I absolutely love clothes, but I only own a few. Then again, I love books, but I own many (my dress library is finally reaching a respectably comprehensive state). I have a relatively small wardrobe, but I have owned many, many clothes and made just as many mistakes along the way. I am firm believer in the idea of never settling for less - go for what you love and go for the best. It does not matter how expensive, rare or beautiful a garment is, if it does not fit quite right, does not feel quite right, or is not being worn regularly enough to warrant keeping, I sell or donate it. That is not to even mention the fact that I will buy garments going cheap second hand purely in order to get my hands on them, inspect them in person, try them on and move around in them, before selling them again (and no, I do not flip for profit, I usually just sell to recoup the price I spent). Retail stores are a brilliant place to try on current and recently past season clothing, but there are so many garments out there to explore, I find it far too limiting to rely on that alone. Of course the dream is to be able to rummage through a museum archive, but I am working on that.

Like I said, I am collector, but I do not collect. Not in a way that is immediately apparent anyway - I collect information. When my laptop drive failed earlier this year, I lost a ton of information that I had spent years compiling - my archive. I managed to recover some of the archive (although sadly I did lose a massive amount), and having learnt the lesson that you should always back everything up the hard way, now that I have built my own computer I have a dedicated fashion hard drive (labelled the Rei drive, to my Yohji solid state boot drive, with an additional Issey drive to come...yes I know, terribly corny of me, but whatever). With the opportunity to start afresh I have decided to reboot the archive project in an incredibly ambitious way. I have implemented a five year plan to cover the period 2015-20, with additional features to help improve not only my collection of sensory and somatic information, but also a far more detailed archiving system to make sure I have as wide a spectrum of information as possible.

The original archive:

  • Front and back photographs of garment
  • Tagged size
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition

The rebooted archive:

  • Front, back and detail photographs of garment
  • Tagged size, measurements, and description of actual fit
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition
  • Date added - date sold/donated/worn-into-smithereens
  • Price and place bought - price and place sold/donated
  • Short description of sensory experience to be updated biannually
  • Short description of emotional experience to be updated biannually
  • Alterations and mending to be noted and photographed
  • Photographs of garment if remarkable wear patterns emerge

I will be photographing and documenting every single article of clothing I currently own, as well as every single piece I own for the next five years in similar (if not increasing) detail. The ultimate plan is to compile a detailed archive of my clothing for the next few decades in order to extrapolate trends and better understand my changing relationship with clothing over time. Our relationship with clothing is a constantly shifting dynamic, and one that fascinates me to no end, so where better to start than with my own experiences?

"Why?"

Simple. How can I possibly begin to understand why people wear what they wear if I don't even understand why I wear what I wear? It is also the most immediate source of information I have, and although it is not an objective project, having those sensory and emotional entries, it is not meant to be - I am interested in the experience of the individual wearer. I am also toying with the idea of adding a smaller side project - photographing and documenting the wardrobes of friends and family (who are happy to let me do so) on a yearly basis. The information, whilst not as detailed, will still show shifts in habits, and I plan to ask them to point out their favourite garment each time and explain why. Also the fact that this could include some people who are interested in fashion and others who are not, could also make it all the more fun. I plan on backing up all photographs and information in multiple locations so as to avoid losing information, and also to ensure that in the future I do actually have a solid and comprehensive archive to study. 

Alongside the archive I also plan to take a photograph of what I wear each and every day for the entirety of 2015, continuing either each year or at frequent intervals. The idea behind this is to have visual documentation of how the clothes are actually being worn, but also to better see shifting trends and habits in my dressing.

I may have lost the majority of several years worth of (admittedly basic) work, but going ahead I plan to have an even more detailed and impressive archive. Never give up, just aim higher.

Let the fun begin.


xxxx

151214


Photograph posts have now been retired.

Please follow my Instagram for daily photographs.

BOOM.


xxxx