14 March 2017

Episode 05 - Supremacist Fashion




Episode 05
"Supremacist Fashion"

I hope you enjoy the latest episode of my podcast, "Supremacist Fashion". In this episode I talk about the Supreme business model, which I think is the fashion system taken to its absurd conclusion. I also talk about the power and role of Instagram in fashion today, and why attention is the most valuable commodity out there. I also decided to explore ideas of branding and authenticity through the lens of the Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration. Please do listen and share with anyone you think might enjoy the podcast. 

Here's to all the hypebeasts. Stay wavy son.

xxxx

10 February 2017

A Black Perfume


What does the colour black smell like? Whenever I read a book, I usually find myself imagining what the wardrobe of each character looks like (past whatever descriptions the author has given). What shoes are they wearing? What is their favourite piece of clothing? What makes up the majority of their wardrobe? A surprising number of actors say that their character development begins with the shoes - once you know what footwear your character would wear, you are able to quite literally stand in their shoes. This gives you a feel for what their physical presence would be, both when standing and when in movement. The body and the mind are connected, so in understanding how your character feels on their feet, how steady they are, how they are able to move, you also gain some insight into their ways of being. Of course in film or theatre the clothes of the character are there for you see, and indeed, costume design is an incredibly important part of film. It situates us within the narrative and imagined period, and also gives us insight into the roles and positions of each character.

In both instances, whether literary or visual, my mind then connects clothing to smell. What would each character smell like? What type of perfume would they wear? What are their favourite smells? If I watch a film, or read a book, I like to imagine what the characters smell like. This is something I also carry across to fashion shows, because each and every season the designer is essentially presenting characters for the runway. I think of it like a theatre performance, with characters for each show, and while I can see what they are wearing, my mind then jumps to imagining what perfume they would wear, if any at all. It is not something I think of straight away, but once I have been looking at a collection for a while, I find myself imagining a backstory for each character and comparing that to what the designer says about the collection. It is actually far easier with some collections than other, depending on the theatricality of the designer in the first place, but I think that it is just a fun way for me to think about things from a different perspective.

How does that apply to my own experiences? Well I also happen to link the clothing I wear to perfumes. While I do not have specific pairing rules, I do find myself drawn more to certain perfumes depending on what I happen to be wearing. I got to thinking whether I could actually find the connective thread running through this habit, which arose quite accidentally, and explore the idea further. I do not think that there is any specific rule of correlation to be found, but I did start thinking more broadly about the link between what I wear in terms of garments and what I wear in terms of perfume. It is always best to start simply, and that is exactly what I did. I am usually dressed in black, with some white outfits slowly creeping into my wardrobe, so I thought to myself - what does black smell like? And if I can find a range of what I consider to be black perfumes, then could I pair them with different black outfits? It would be absolutely impossible for anybody else to decipher the relationship, because it would be entirely built upon my subjective experience, but even so, I liked the idea of it.

So where does one start with finding a black perfume? Most popular designer fragrances usually have a black (evening or extreme) version that is supposedly darker and sold in a darker bottle, but I find that all rather meaningless. Adding a loud note of oud or incense to the composition does not automatically make a perfume black, even if it might make it darker for the most parts. In fact when it comes to a deep, thick, rich oud, I actually find myself picturing a velvety gold or a polished dark carnelian red. And when it comes to incense, I think of either a warm grey-brown mortar (think of a Gothic church), or picture myself standing in shade while looking at afternoon sunlight hitting a sandy desert for as far as the eye can see. Even so, I am fascinated by how perfumers interpret the colour black for perfumes they compose. So I thought I might just explore some of the "black" named perfumes I own.

Brand: Bulgari
Perfume: Black

How it smells: A masterpiece in terms of perfume composition. A solid base of leather, vanilla and amber, with a heavy dose of smoky lapsang souchong and that infamous rubber note. The opening is rather brash with burning rubber and a spicy sandalwood blast. However this quickly mellows with a smoky tea that dances lightly above a warm blend of vanilla and leather. There is some manner of clean musk in there as well that some might happen to be anosmic to, which is probably why the amber and vanilla also feature so heavily, but it helps give a nice powdery warmth.

How I picture it: A blue tinted glass cube with grey smoke inside, displayed in the foyer of some glass and metal skyscraper on a sunny Winter's day.

Colour: Gunmetal grey


Brand: By Kilian
Perfume: Back To Black

How it smells: Smooth, dark, sweet and fruity. A rich honey melts into strong pipe tobacco, with a cherry/raspberry accord that cuts through it all quite nicely. There is also some vanilla there in the background that is livened up with ginger and other spices. You would assume that this would enter gourmand territory with all those berries and spices, but the tobacco means that it steers well clear. A comforting and inviting perfume overall. I do not particularly care for gender divisions in perfume, but this has a definite masculine feel for me. I sometimes think I might be too young to be wearing this, but it just works too well to miss.

How I picture it: A beautifully aged, but neatly polished, brown leather and dark wood chair nestled in a living room filled with a diverse mix of twentieth century art.

Colour: Mahogany brown


Brand: Nasomatto
Perfume: Black Afgano

How it smells: This is apparently based on hashish. I have no experience of hashish, but if this is what it smells like, I guess I can understand why people would try to smoke it. Oddly enough, to me it just smells of lavish mosques. It has a rich earthy smell with lots of smoke and incense. The opening is sharp and in your face, with coffee grounds and an almost green wood, but it smooths out relatively quickly and becomes softer and slightly sweeter. The base is apparently built on oud and incense, but I would say that the oud is drier and more resinous than usual. That almost sickly sweetness you get with a proper oud is not there at all, so it smells dry and dark, rather than warm and sweet. Simultaneously inviting and aloof.

How I picture it: A black velvet hanging with golden embroidery hung inside a newly built mosque.

Colour: Black marble


Do you associate certain colours with smells or certain smells with colours?

xxxx

30 January 2017

Talking To Myself Podcast - Episode 04




[Warning: This episode contains mention of anxiety, depression and suicide]

Dear All,

I hope you are well. This podcast was a difficult one for me to record, but I think that it was important for me to share. In this episode I discuss how mental and physical health issues have impacted my experience of fashion and dress. I explore how I believe that my wardrobe and the clothes I have worn can be used as markers to explore the state of my mind at the time. I also talk about lifting the stigma of mental health issues and how I have myself experienced shame and guilt over being unwell, and how I am slowly learning to overcome those negative feelings and truly find myself in a happier and more healthy frame of mind. Wherever you are in your journey right now, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen. It means more than you can imagine. 

Love you all,

Syed

xxxx

13 January 2017

Dressing For The World


Autumn/Winter 2017













Why do we wear clothes? The simplest answer is that we wear clothing for protection from the outside world. More people live in areas of the world without a climate temperate enough to live fully nude throughout the year than those that do. But even in those areas where it is warm enough to dispense with clothing altogether, we still find a rich and varied history of dress and adornment. No matter how far back we go into human history we find evidence of adornment. Indeed we could say that it is human nature to dress ourselves, in whichever form that may happen to take - piercing, scarification, painting, jewellery, tattooing, coverings, clothing. And, as far back as we go to find evidence of this adornment, we actually find that these pieces have, from the very beginning, been invested with psychological meaning. At a basic level, clothing has protected us from the elements, but in truth it has meant so much more.

Clothing has been imbued with spiritual, religious, social and, of course, personal significance. It has been used to honour our ancestors or attract a mate or mark our place in society or, as is often the case today, ostensibly reflect some sense of our personal identity. Indeed there has always been more to it than meets the eye lurking right there beneath the surface, often close enough to be rippling if one cares to look. To varying extents we still have clothing that marks religious affiliation (head coverings are found in a number of religions) and social affiliation (everything from a suit and tie for an office worker to a goth uniform for a subculture), alongside a number of other affiliations, but I think that what is championed most in society today is the idea of personal expression. Advertising suggests that we buy things that will accurately express our sense of self and lifestyle, whether that be through clothing, cars, sofas, breakfast bowls or toothbrushes. Everything you buy and use and consume and wear would seem to be fraught with the question - what does this object say about me?

Personal identity and lifestyle are supposedly packaged into neat little segments for us to purchase and experience. We are told that dress is an avenue for expressing our authentic selves, but who is this self that I dress for? Surely I am me no matter what I wear? What if I am dressing for who I want to be, rather than who I am, and how would I even know the difference? Can anybody tell who I am without actually getting to know me? Are the sweats I wear at home on the weekend the real me, or the shirt and trousers I wear to dinner the real me? If there is a real me deep down somewhere, does that mean that the rest of me is fake? Why can't I just follow the philosophy of choosing to wear what I think look fly as f***? If we have to buy something to tell us who we are, or tell others who we think we are, then perhaps we might want to rethink that concept of self we are holding onto and be more mindful of how we actually feel in the moment.

A helpful analogy I have heard for identity is that of the watch. We call a watch a watch. If I show you a cog from that watch, it is a cog. If I show you the strap from that watch, it is a strap. If I show you the dial from that watch, it is a dial. It is not until we put all the pieces together that we have the watch. In much the same way, there is no singular fixed sense of self to dress for, because our sense of self is made up of all those pieces. All the pieces go together to create my identity, but unlike the watch, they are constantly evolving and developing. I can choose to dress for whichever of those parts of my identity I wish to, or I can dress for none at all. Clothes make the social identity of the man, not the man himself. If I wear a police uniform, then chances are people on the street will assume I am a policeman. But that is a very specific set of clothes that have a long vested history of social meaning and significance. In some places that uniform might be welcomed, in others I might find myself faced with abuse. The clothes we wear for ourselves, for the most parts, do not have such an entrenched set of meanings and codes. We are free to dress as we wish, although we will invariably follow some basic social codes and laws.

So why do we wear the clothes that we wear? Of course there is no simple answer, but I think that one could be found in exploring what we prioritise in the moment when we are dressing ourselves. I am fascinated by that moment because I think, ultimately, that it provides an insight into our perception of self. To speak of my own experience, and to go back to the original question, I would say that these days that I do mostly dress to protect myself from the outside world. I mean that literally and metaphorically, because while clothing obviously serves that functional purpose, I tend to prioritise a sense of psychological and physical comfort. Yohji talks about clothing that protects you like an armour from unwanted eyes, and I would say that is something that I can most certainly recognise. It is not about pushing the world away, but rather, dressing with a confidence that you can tackle anything that comes your way.

For me this encompasses dressing in a way that makes me feel comfortable in myself mentally and physically. While dressing is technically a bodily activity (in that we clothe ourselves to protect our physical well-being), I would say that above all it is a cerebral process enacted through a bodily activity. Just the act of choosing what to wear is proof of that, because we are actively making choices beyond function, and always have. For me that means looking for clothing that makes me feel comfortable, and in that I think that I find beauty through function. If my self is made up of a million different parts, then I would rather dress in such a way as to support those parts rather than single any one out. That is perhaps why I am so attracted to the idea of uniform, because it allows me to express myself through word and action, and enjoy the clothes on a personal level. Anyhow, I suppose that is why I found this collection by Mihara Yasuhiro so interesting, because he sought an answer to how we dress in a time where there is so much uncertainty. How do we feel confident and comfortable? His is but one interpretation, but it is one that I really enjoy, and ultimately that is what I am drawn to with fashion.

Why did you choose to wear what you are wearing today?

xxxx