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London Fashion Week: Best in Show
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Most Pleasant Surprise: Burberry

I've got a Burberry scarf; I donned a Burberry Harrington jacket on the reg until I got over my indie phase; I would love to own a Burberry trench coat, and that's the extent of my interest in Burberry. While acknowledging that his creative skills far surpass my own, I have never seen Christopher Bailey as a visionary in fashion design; I prefer to pit him as a good businessman with an open attitude towards social media (seriously, if you want a lesson in how to nail social media as a luxury fashion brand, look to Burberry). But for AW17, I take it all back – it turns out that Bailey's talents do actually extend beyond making friends in high places.

I never thought I'd say it, but Burberry's was my second-favourite LFW show this February (Christopher Kane comes first, always, in my eyes). Maybe it was something to do with the fact that it didn't really look like a Burberry show – more like a mash-up of McQueen, Carven, Jacquemus and Stella McCartney – but it was a triumph regardless, with its highlights including heavy wool capes, wispy broderie anglaise dresses and dramatic feather detailing, the latter admittedly teetering into Game of Thrones territory, though without being completely alienating. The curvy silhouettes that Bailey chose to dominate the collection with were inspired by the works of sculptor – and fellow Yorkshireman – Henry Moore. As a Yorkshire-born gal myself, I can only approve.

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Most Impressive/Ugly Shoes: Christopher Kane

Backstage at his AW17 show, Christopher Kane cited oil spills and mechanics – a 'straight-from-the-factory-floor' look, if you like – as his inspirations. It sounds a bit weird but, worry not, the clothes were really wearable (I loathe this word in fashion commentary but, sometimes, the more succinct, the better). By 'wearable,' I mean you could pull on one of Kane's holographic, ribbed midi dresses and not receive funny looks on the street; similarly, you could do worse than slump into one of the brand's oversized camel coats come autumn-time. Tammy and Christopher Kane stated that, for once, they didn't have a particular 'girl' in mind when designing their AW17 wares, but it was clear from the get-go that their chosen themes were the industrial and the futuristic. Amidst the more subtle takes on these concepts – including velcro-fastened coats and 3D sequinned flowers – were some more literal references, like American artist Ionel Talpazan's UFO prints. Kane's made a name for himself harking back to his working-class Glaswegian roots – manifesting in a fascination with the 'underdog' and an appreciation for outsider art – but his adoption of Talpazan's artwork seemed to be one of the few threads in the collection that aligned with his usual values.

Another Kane trademark retained for AW17 were shoes that are equal parts ugly and compelling. Thought SS17's gemstone-encrusted crocs were too much?  Try AW17's fur-trimmed ones for size. Feel like your kitchen sponges aren't fulfilling their true potential? Kane suggests you stick them under the straps of your heels (admittedly, this is a winner if you have bony feet). Because nobody can really understand whether these shoes are legit or just a piss-take, Fashion People will undoubtedly buy them, just in case they become the next big thing.

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Most Covetable Colour Palette: Roksanda

The great sadness that spread across the British fashion set following the loss of Richard Nicoll late last year was palpable. Along with designers like Chris Kane, Jonathan Saunders and Mary Katrantzou, Nicoll played a part in London Fashion Week's revitalisation over the last eight years or so. It was wonderful, then, to see Roksanda Ilincic open her show this week with a model dress head-to-toe in the cloudy blue shade that Nicoll made his trademark; this shade of 'Nicoll blue' is now an official Pantone hue. But, this aside, the rest of Roksanda's show was dominated by richer, arguably more autumn/winter-appropriate colourways. Typically of the brand, the clothes seemed to be made with rich, tall women in mind – you know, the kind of women who can pull off 70s-inspired styling and long, lean silhouettes with aplomb. For this reason, I won't be investing in any of Ilincic's garms any time soon (I say this as if I can actually afford her clothes!), but it's not difficult to admire her thoughtful approach to design, and her business savvy to stick to what she knows – and sells – well.

Best Monday Motivator: Ashish

The best thing about London Fashion Week is that, unlike glossy New York and sexy Milan, the styles its designers chuck at us each season are unpredictable and varied. Chalayan, for example, returned to London this season, serving up the technologically advanced fabrics and crisp tailoring that the brand has become known for. In direct contrast to this are brands like Ashish, which cater for those who take fashion seriously (well, they're willing to spend £75 on slogan tees from the brand, at least), but don't believe that this means having to dress head-to-toe in black.

With a backdrop that resembled a broken heart, Ashish's AW17 army sauntered down a glittery yellow catwalk some wearing Mexican wrestler-style make-up, in the brand's signature sequins. So far, so eccentric and, indeed, so Ashish. But the political undercurrent that ran through all the jazziness was the standout here. 'Love sees no colour,' said one top, while another asked, 'Why be blue when you can be gay?' and another referenced that delightful Trump 'pussy-grabbing' comment. Overall, it was an uplifting celebration of inclusivity in the midst of an uncertain future.

Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 /

This is an extended version of a piece written for Fashion Fix Daily, published 23/02. 

2016: A Look Back at the Year in Trends

Online fashion retailer Lyst has recently published a list (sorry) of the products that have attracted the most interest from consumers this year. At the top of the list were Puma sneakers, which saw a boost in popularity of 183% – proof enough, I think, that trainers are here to stay, as well as a testament to Rihanna’s appeal, as the now-ubiquitous Rihanna x Puma ‘creeper’ sneakers were revealed to be Lyst's most popular seller over the last 12 months.

But what of the other trends that defined 2016? ?

Backless Loafers

Sliders have been having a moment all summer long for the last 3-4 summers, but this year they championed wardrobes all-year-round, whatever the weather, largely because of Gucci’s influence. Gucci’s Princetown backless loafers quickly rose in popularity throughout 2016 until they became the order of the day, every day, on every self-respecting Fashion Person’s Instagram feed.

The Now-Iconic ‘Pierce’ Bag

Considering its price tag of over £1000, it’s surprising how many people actually own JW Anderson’s ‘Pierce’ bag, which, according to Lyst’s end-of-year round-up, was the third most-popular item on its site in 2016. And let’s face it: for many, the Pierce bag – so-named due to its large, bull’s nose-like ‘piercing’ detail – would be their first exposure to JW Anderson’s talent, given that he’s still relatively unknown to the masses. This is testament to the fact that, as a society, we’re slowly leaning away from buying ‘it’ bags just because of the designer. The new ‘it’ bags, if Jonathan Anderson’s is anything to go by, are free from conspicuous branding and peppered with a touch of humour. Still extortionate, though…

The Gvasalia Effect

Nothing has better shown the fashion world’s true colours (and volatility) this year than the rise of Vetements. Whether you love or loathe the brand – sorry, design collective – headed up by brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia, you can’t deny its wider influence on the people who can’t afford to buy its clothes. Vetements’ ‘undone’, streetwear-focused, genderless aesthetic has quietly infiltrated the wardrobes of everyone from Kylie Jenner to your 15-year-old brother whose clothing budget doesn’t stretch much further than Primark-level prices (just call it 'Vetements-lite'). Oh, and we also have Demna to thank for our newfound adoration of puffer jackets, after he put them on the Balenciaga runway back in March. I reiterate: the Gvasalia influence is everywhere.

Chokers

It was clear that we’d reached Peak Choker when, earlier this month, someone posted a tweet about a belt, calling it a ‘waist choker’, and it blew up. While, yes, we’re 99% certain it was a deliberate joke and not actual youthful ignorance, it was still a hilarious indicator of today’s stylish times. Anyway, what would an article on 2016 trends be without mentioning chokers? A crime against fashion, essentially, if the hordes of people who class them as the ultimate accessory are to be believed. Like Vetements-lite, chokers are another ageless trend, not just the reserve of the many teens who love them and wear them everywhere apart from in the shower and, possibly, school. The obsession is understandable: chokers are cute and they can definitely elevate the most basic of looks into something a bit more interesting. It’s just a shame that most of them stop you from breathing properly.

This article is an extension of a piece originally published by British Style Society on 31/12. Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Fashion in DepthGrace Howard
Christopher Kane: A Full-On, Nerdy Case Study

NB: I'm in the process of detoxing my files, sifting through five years' worth of writing and pictures and memories, deciding what to cull and what to keep. Today I came across a huge folder of work from my days of being a Fashion Journalism student and found this assignment that my friends hated writing but I genuinely loved. I chose to write a case study on Christopher Kane. It's a few years old so, obviously, it isn't as up-to-date as I'd like (note that Kane has since celebrated his 10th anniversary as a designer, created some dreamy ad campaigns and finally, gloriously ventured into e-commerce) but could possibly be an interesting read if you're a fellow Kane aficionado, or indeed if you're considering studying Fashion Journalism at uni but don't know what to expect.

Nick Knight describes Central Saint Martins as a “prestigious boot camps for fashion innovators of the future.” (in Davies, 2009:11) In the case of Christopher Kane, many would agree with Knight. In September 2006, six months after graduating from Central Saint Martins, Kane made his London Fashion Week debut. Nine years later, the Glasgow-born designer is one of British fashion's key figures; according to Ruth Chapman, joint CEO of luxury boutique chain Matches, Kane is “set to become an iconic British brand.” (in Knowles, 2013) In this case study, I aim to analyse this brand.

Since his inaugural collection, Kane has collected numerous accolades for his work, including the British Fashion Awards' New Designer of the Year 2007, and Womenswear Designer of the Year 2013. The first Kane collection to be sold by Net-a-Porter sold out within 24 hours (Milligan, 2009). Kane, who works on his label alongside his sister Tammy, grew up in a working-class environment, and his upbringing has influenced his creations greatly. Sarah Mower notes: “The key to Kane lies in [his] vivid teen memories … he talks backstage about twisted sisters, school scrapbooks, liquid-filled pencil cases, cults and horror movies … all vibrating, just beneath the surface, with the things he saw and people he knew while he was in school.” (2012) 

Mark Tungate remarks that celebrity endorsements “give brands a well-defined personality, [bringing] with them a rich fantasy world to which consumers aspire,” adding that people “form an attachment to celebrities, regarding them as friendly faces and reliable arbiters of taste.” (2012:106) Kane has amassed a loyal celebrity fan base, including Alexa Chung, Emma Watson and Carey Mulligan, all of whom are plausible “arbiters of taste.” Kane seems wise to both the benefits and disadvantages of celebrity endorsement, having discussed his wariness to lend clothes to celebrities who do not usually embody 'high fashion': “I've worked too hard for my stuff to be seen on the front of the Sun newspaper … I'm worried that that would affect my credibility,” he says in one early interview (Frankel, 2007).

Such astuteness regarding the power of celebrity means that Kane has also gained publicity for dressing society figures like Samantha Cameron and the Duchess of Cambridge. Kate Middleton wore a custom-made Christopher Kane satin coat dress for 2012's Olympic Opening Ceremony (Carreon, 2012) – this was undoubtedly good PR for the brand, as Middleton's notable style influence has been coined 'the Kate Middleton effect' by the national press. Journalist Megan Gibson explains: “almost any garment [Middleton] appeared in sold out in a matter of days, if not hours.” (2012)

But how much do Kane's non-famous, paying customers have to spend to attain one of his celebrity-endorsed looks? At the time of writing, the cheapest Christopher Kane item available on Net-a-Porter is a £350 jersey bralet (its fabric composition comprises 80% viscose and 20% polyamide – both cheap, synthetic fabrics) while a pair of appliquéd denim shorts costs £1100. It is unsurprising, then, that luxury labels are alienating to anyone other than the super-rich. Diana Crane notes that, “owing to the cost of materials and their labor-intensive production, [designer clothes] are beyond the reach of all but a privileged few.” (2000:136) 

One route luxury designers can take to attract a new, albeit less financially powerful, pool of customers is to team up with high street brands to produce clothing with more accessible prices. According to Dana Thomas, designer collaborations with 'fast fashion' stores like H&M and Topshop have “rattled the luxury industry.” (2007: Chapter 10, Kindle location 4569) The Christopher Kane brand has long associations with Topshop – which Virginia Grose identifies as “one of the first high street retailers to offer designer collaborations and celebrity ranges” (2011:95) – and Kane's third collaboration with the store in 2009 resulted in Topshop's largest designer partnership to date. The 39-piece range comprised designs full of Kane's signature quirks, such as a neon colour palette, and vest tops emblazoned with photographic animal prints, which were similar to his SS09 catwalk offerings. 

Such brand partnerships generate extra income for luxury designers. When the aforementioned Topshop collection was released, Kane's brand was only two years old and undoubtedly generating less capital than it does today, so these financial perks would have been invaluable to the young designer. Julie Bradford points out further benefits of a 'high-low' collaboration, saying: “For the high-street chain, it enhances their fashion credibility … for the customer it allows them a little piece of the designer universe at a price they can afford.” (2014: Chapter 4, Kindle location 2065)

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Kane has also partnered in the past with beauty brand Lancome, creating limited editions of their Juicy Tubes lip glosses in March 2008, and in April 2015 he launched a beauty range in collaboration with Nars cosmetics. Kane says of the latter: “Not everyone can afford my clothes, so this is a great way to buy into the brand.” (in Ings-Chambers, 2015). Kane is clearly business-minded, showing awareness of how the likes of cosmetics allow consumers to buy into a piece of luxury, even if they cannot yet afford designer clothes. However, I believe this strategy would be more more effective if Kane decided to release his own range of entry-level products like fragrance or cosmetics, rather than collaborate with another brand, as a collaboration could be seen as watering down the lofty credentials of luxury fashion; existing Kane customers might even see collaborations as the brand simply 'selling out'. Eugene Rabkin agrees, comparing these collaborations to “reading Cliff's notes rather than the book.” She adds: “'The democratisation of fashion' is really the bastardisation of fashion; that is, taking a designer's ideas and watering them down for mass consumption.” (2012)

In January 2013, a 51% share of the Christopher Kane brand was purchased by Kering (named PPR at the time of the Kane acquisition), a luxury goods conglomerate that houses esteemed brands like Gucci, Saint Laurent and Balenciaga in its portfolio. Drapers reported: “The acquisition has been met with a warm response from Kane's stockists, who are predicting great things for the partnership.” (Knowles, 2013) 

In an interview, the managing director of Kering's luxury division, Alexis Babeau, stated that Kering aimed to retain the label's British heritage, saying: “We are not planning to implement a big change, but it will grow where it needs to.” (in Parry, 2013) Despite Babeau's claims, several changes have taken place, including the establishment of the brand's online presence. However, it took over a year after Kering's intervention for Christopher Kane to make its first tentative step into the world of social media; an Instagram account for the brand (@christopherkaneofficial) was launched in March 2014. While social media reach has been expanding for years, many fashion brands were initially sceptical about online interactions – digital marketer Macala Wright acknowledges: “Fashion has traditionally been aspirational … the thought of going social scares many brands because they're not sure how to translate these feelings into online traction,” (2009) – but Kane's Instagram currently boasts over 60,000 followers, so the numbers alone speak volumes.

May 2015 marked the launch of an arguably long-overdue website, christopherkane.com, which, although lacking in e-commerce capabilities, includes a visual archive of the label's previous collections, as well as contact details, a list of stockists and photographs of Kane's flagship store, which opened on London's Mount Street in February 2015. 

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Crane notes that, “Designer clothes are generally sold in store whose interior decoration is deliberately created to convey an image of high culture, not unlike an art gallery,” and this certainly seems true of Kane's flagship, which is a two-storey building with a gallery-like minimalistic design. Kane's creations are the focal point, being the only source of colour and vibrancy as they clash against the building's all-white interior. As a result, the store is successful in that it allows the product, rather than the building, to shine – much like an art gallery. Furthermore, opening on Mount Street could be seen as a conscious move to retain some of the brand's youth and quirkiness; many of fashion's legendary labels, such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada, have stores on Bond Street and Sloane Street – London's traditional luxury shopping destinations. Mount Street houses more modern brands like Roksanda Ilincic and Marc Jacobs, thus attracting a more creative, fashion-forward clientele which is more likely to be interested in a younger brand like Christopher Kane. 

An effective way for Christopher Kane to establish itself further could be to focus on its international outreach – perhaps by opening stores in China, with its booming luxury market – or considering an accessories range. The latter is something Kane has already shown interest in, however, having launched his first leather goods range in February 2014. Handbags generally have a much greater profit margin than luxury clothing, and they can attract a wider range of customers. A scan of Net-a-Porter reveals a limited selection of Kane's clothing runs to a size XL (UK size 14); it has been estimated that the average woman is a UK size 16 (Donnelly, 2014), meaning the 'average' British woman can't fit into Kane's clothes. Until this changes they can, at least, buy his bags.

To conclude, I think Kane's decision to work with Kering was smart – as Bradford concedes: “the financial backing of a big company can be a godsend. It means money for advertising … lavish catwalk shows … and it means manufacturing and distribution is taken care of.” (2014, Chapter 4, Kindle location 1771) While the brand has yet to launch an e-commerce function on its website or launch any advertising campaigns, it seems Kering, given their track record so far, will push Kane in those directions in the future. Although precise figures are unavailable, a WWD article reveals that Kane's estimated turnover has increased from £7 million to £11 million since Kering's acquisition of the label (Conti, 2015).

References

Bradford, J. (2014) Fashion Journalism

Carreon, B. (2012) The Kate Middleton Olympic Fashion Parade. [online] Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/bluecarreon/2012/08/12/the-kate-middleton-olympic-fashion-parade-2/

Conti, S. (2015) Christopher Kane: The Stargazer. [online] WWD. Available at: http://wwd.com/fashion-news/designer-luxury/christopher-kane-the-stargazer-wwd6-10117914/ 

Crane, D. (2000) Fashion and its Social Agendas: Class, Gender and Identity in Clothing. 

Davies, H. (2009) British Fashion Designers

Donnelly, L. (2014) Size 16 mannequins make being fat 'normal'. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10726590/Size-16-mannequins-make-being-fat-normal.html 

Frankel, S. (2007) Bright young thing. [online] The Independent. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/brightyoungthing-from-a-front-room-in-dalston-christopher-kane-produces-the-brightest-sexiest-and-you-may-have-noticed-shortest-dresses-that-fashion-has-seen-for-years-on-the-eve-of-just-his-second-show-susannah-frankel-finds-a-young-man-inspired-by-galliano-and-rambo-and-determined-to-prove-hes-no-onetrick-pony-464888.html

Gibson, M. (2012) A Year Later, the Kate Middleton Effect is Still Going Strong. [online] TIME. Available at: http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/04/27/a-year-later-the-kate-middleton-effect-is-still-going-strong/

Grose, V. (2011) Basics Fashion Management 01: Concept to Customer. 

Ings-Chambers, E. (2015) Feminine wilds. [online] The Sunday Times. Available at: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/fashion/Beauty/article1540555.ece [Accessed 14/05/15]

Knowles, J. (2013). Rich Pickings. Drapers (February 9th 2013), pp.21-22.

Milligan, L. (2009). Going Going Kane. [online] Vogue UK. Available at: http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2009/02/13/christopher-kane-sells-out-on-net-a-portercom

Mower, S. (2012) Christopher Kane: Living the Dream. [online] Vogue USA. Available at: http://www.vogue.com/865313/christopher-kane-living-the-dream/ 

Parry, C. (2013) Christopher Kane sets sights on 'next level' after PPR investment. Drapers (January 19th 2013), p.4.

Tungate, M. (2012) Fashion Brands: Branding Style from Armani to Zara (3rd ed). 

Thomas, D. (2007) Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Lustre

Rabkin, E. (2012) Making the Case Against Fast Fashion Collaborations. [online] Business of Fashion. Available at: http://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/opinion/op-ed-making-the-case-against-fast-fashion-collaborations 

Wright, M. (2009) 5 Ways Social Media Changed Fashion in 2009. [online] Mashable. Available at: http://mashable.com/2009/12/21/social-media-fashion/ 

Why Instagram is a Minefield for Young Women's Mental Health

Dolly Alderton published a brilliant piece on growing up and womanhood on Red a few days ago. "There's not just one type of woman you can be," Alderton says, which rings so true in a world of Instagram filters – and filtering in general – that can really skew the average young woman's brain, making her believe she has to fit the same cookie-cutter credentials as the images projected to us by the media. 

I say 'media', but the blame can't be placed solely on the naughty press any more. Other 'regular' women now have the ability to (unintentionally) make us feel bad about ourselves online by presenting exaggerated body and beauty ideals. And doesn't it hit us harder when a 'normal' person, rather than a famous person, posts a ~lit~ selfie on the 'gram? Celebrities have personal trainers and heaps of money – we've read enough exposés on celebrity photoshopping, we're not stupid, we already know they're lying to us – but if the pretty girl you go to uni with has a gaping thigh gap, huge tits and a flawless complexion, why can't you look like her, too? I mean, you breathe the same air as each other and everything! But it's important to keep in mind that nobody looks hot 24/7 and, outside the realms of in-jokes and the phenomenon of the Ugly Snapchat Selfie, nobody in their right mind is going to post a picture of themselves make-up free (NB: actually make-up free, not just sans eye make-up) on the internet in an attempt to receive the most modern form of gratification: likes. 

It's easy to get caught up in the world of Insta-perfection. I like Instagram, but it's enough of a double-edged sword that I consciously avoid getting sucked into it; 5 minutes in, it tends to makes me feel bad about my mediocre life, face and body. One could argue that Instagram can help girls with their insecurities. Thanks to the power of the Internet, girls can connect with other girls that they can relate to. At its best, Instagram has a great community feel. Friendships and girlie love-ins spark up constantly thanks to Instagram, and perhaps the rush of receiving an Instagram notification is 'sober' Generation Z's answer to taking a hit. 

At its worst, Instagram can be terrible for anyone with insecurities. Young women now feel it's OK to upload pictures in their underwear because it 'empowers' them and pushes their feminist beliefs. It's great that you love your body and you have every right to show it off, but whatever happened to being humble? Before I get jumped on by anyone, let me just state that I am a feminist. I believe that every woman, by nature, is a feminist. Why feminism is seen as a trend nowadays is baffling – it's just a simple matter of equal rights, surely? Why would any woman NOT want to be treated equally to men? But if feminism is all about equality, how is posting practically nude pictures on Instagram helping push these equal values? Last month, Jill Filipovic published an article for Cosmo, titled How Kim Kardashian Killed the Term 'Empowerment', which hit the nail on the head. " Dubbing empowerment an "empty word", Filipovic goes on to say the following (this is a long quote, apologies, but she puts it better than I ever could): "Women and girls receive the persistent message that being beautiful, sexy, and happy with your body depends on other people — men, mostly — thinking you're hot. It means being an object of sexual appeal for the visual gratification of others, not a sexual creature in your own right. It means your body is a stand-in for sex (when we say "sex sells," what we actually mean is "women's mostly naked bodies sell things"). Sexualized images of women are everywhere, but the very things that would actually allow women to have sex for pleasure (easy access to contraception and abortion, sex education in which boys and men were taught that female pleasure and orgasm matter as much as their own) remain politically and socially contentious."

I'd understand over-exposed selfies better if slews of men were posting pictures of their crotches. But that's not a thing. Men don't stick topless, post-gym selfies on Instagram with the hashtag #empowered. If my boyfriend threw it into conversation that he felt 'empowered', I'd be confused. Disagree with me all you want, but let's be frank: most of the time a girl uploads a raunchy selfie, they're definitely doing it for the 'gram. They want the comments. They want the attention. They probably genuinely believe that Kim Kardashian is empowering women. Oh, and I class 'raunchy' as any selfie you wouldn't send to your parents or your grandparents – not because I'm a prude, but because if you're so empowered by that picture of you wearing a triangle bra/side-boob-baring swimsuit, why not share it in the family Whatsapp group? Thought not. 

I'm writing this mini-essay because I recently heard the sad story of a close friend's 17-year-old younger sister, whose perception of 'perfect' girls on social media has led to mental health problems and crippling insecurities. Furthermore, as someone who has the physique of a prepubescent boy along with pale skin, annoyingly thin hair, a Jewish nose and a fun bout of hormonal acne every month, I've personally experienced how negative social media can be on the female psyche, especially during those delicate teenage years.

So this one is for any girls out there who would rather read books, write things, be quiet and blend into the background. And it's one for the girls who want to play with make-up even though they don't look like the girls in the tutorials, and the girls who want to wear the low-cut dress even if they "don't have the boobs" for it. Take heed Dolly's advice, because there really isn't just one type of woman you can be. 

MusingsGrace Howard
London Fashion Week AW16

I'm not one for trends. Dress me in Breton stripes, black jeans and a camel coat every day for the rest of my life and I will die a happy lady. When I was a fashion student, 99% of my peers started the year making an effort with their clothes before slowly sinking back into a wardrobe comprising entirely white and black, with the occasional 'fun' accessory making an appearance every now and then. I like to think that wearing the same nondescript get-up day in, day out is a kneejerk reaction to having trends shoved down your throat every day. 

Fashion Month, then, doesn't really make my heart sing. But covering it is part of my job. There are certainly worse jobs than looking at pretty clothes, and London is my favourite of the four fashion capitals. 

Christopher Kane was my highlight of LFW. There was so much going on that it's difficult to pinpoint the theme at play – if there was one at all. Even in a design landscape as eclectic as London's, most designers end up carving out a 'go-to' look or aiming to please a certain type of woman every season. Thus the joy of a Kane show is its unpredictability.

The only ongoing theme running through Chris and Tammy Kane's work is the slew of rich memories from their council estate upbringing in Glasgow. Every Kane show, then, retains a little bit of that Glaswegian grit and has a slightly unbalanced, gone-off feel to it that forces you to look at the clothes again and again – and then once again for good measure – until you truly realise their brilliance.

Kane's AW16 collection takes us on a trip from staid oversized coats in camel and grey to asymmetric cuts, fluttering ribbon dresses and the kind of smushy florals which, knowing Kane, are deliberately jarring. Simple, clean-cut Céline this is not. While I generally loathe gimmickry and enjoy a good laugh at ridiculous micro-trends, Kane's plastic rain bonnets (designed by Stephen Jones, natch, and tied just-so under the chin) instantly became the latest dumb fashion thing to impress me. The Christopher Kane rain hat falls in the same ilk as the £1100 Louis Vuitton laundry bag and another of Kane's forays into questionable accessories: branded cable ties, which, yes, people are actually wearing on their necks, hair... everywhere. These accessories are so stupid that even people who hate them are going to talk about them. Smart, right? 

Speaking of savvy business moves, Kane once again decided to pepper his collection with things that normal people would actually want to wear (and also have a better chance of being able to afford). This time it was the letter K, emblazoned onto beige and black jumpers in a Ye Olde English-style typeface. Until a Christopher Kane perfume hits the shop floor, accessible, easily recognisable, Instagrammable pieces like slogan knits will do a good job of boosting profits and attracting the yoof. Well, when you're backed by one of fashion's most powerful luxury conglomerates and have exciting things like print ad campaigns and a flagship store to fund, you can't just get by selling weird-sexy cocktail dresses and awkwardly proportioned shoes.


I also enjoyed the following shows...

Xiao Li

JW Anderson

1205

Whistles

Dumb Fashion Things I Like

One of the things I love most about Fashion People is the way they will unabashedly defend some really bad stuff just because it's been sent down a catwalk. The typical go-to lines they like to use include "it's art" (if you don't 'get' it then go off to read Heat Magazine like the uncultured peasant you are!) and "it's so conceptual!" What does conceptual even mean, am I right!?!

I'm not even going to touch on catwalk stunts here because, to be fair to Rick Owens' misfired attempt to glamourise the hell out of 69ing and the humble fireman's carry, fashion shows are all about generating brand awareness. Yes, just to clear that up: contrary to popular opinion, Fashion Week is not about selling clothes. It's about selling dreams. And if you want Fashion People to see your brand as edgy, cool and current, there is no better way to do that than by forcing your models to simulate oral sex on the catwalk. 

So, when I refer to Dumb Fashion Things I Like, I'm talking about all the slightly weird, largely impractical stuff that fashion editors shove onto the shopping pages of magazines, knowing full well that their readers will lap it up and keep the advertisers happy. Despite being openly cynical about fashion and frequently going through phases of declaring I am 'over' shopping (lol), the fashion industry remains a fascination of mine. There are definitely days when I decide I want to go back to school and try to carve out a career in dermatology, but at the end of the day I don't know what I'd do without fashion in my life. For every part of me that likes slagging off Karl Lagerfeld, there's always going to be a part of me that justifies expensive purchases with the 'cost per wear' theory. Lame but true.

Now please enjoy an insight into my mind by perusing my fashion whims.

You know when you have a massive spot on your forehead and you apply loads of red lipstick in an attempt to draw people's attention away from the spot? I feel like Dion Lee's SS16 face jewellery – or any eccentric 'accessory' on the catwalk in general – is a similar distraction technique, but for hiding boring clothes instead of spots. Regardless, I am a big fan of this look, which basically says, "I am too glam to eat, drink or use my facial muscles." So. FASHION.

I was in two minds about posting this because I really don't understand why Phoebe Philo decided to take mink (ew) and then dye it baby blue when she could have just conjured up some fun faux fur to line these sandals with. In principle, however, these babies have the potential to be the comfiest shoes in the land. I have seen cheaper, faux fur alternatives on offer elsewhere – which I would totally buy , along with all the other ugly things I lust after, if I broke up with my boyfriend (sorry Dan!) – and I am just using this picture because it was Céline's SS13 collection, after all, that sparked the trend for weird trans-seasonal footwear.

Prior to last year, I would never have classed massive costume earrings as a 'dumb fashion thing'. I like wearing them with the most basic of outfits and pretending I'm Edie Sedgwick loafing about her New York apartment on a Sunday. To me, excessive earrings are the epitome of tacky glamour. However, today they make the list because one of my pairs of super-sized ASOS earrings once tore my earlobes a bit and I got some sort of infection from the cheapo metal. I will continue to wear them, though, because what is style without pain?

The Charlotte Simone 'Huggy' is beautiful, a bit daft and pretty impractical, so I fell in love with it immediately. The Huggy is described online as a "versatile snood", so you can obviously wear it around your neck like any other snood, but this one is superbly stretchy and seems to be best worn over the shoulders. This sort of fluffy upper-arm constriction automatically makes the Huggy very chic – like all of the best fashion pieces, it looks cute, makes women feel slightly inhibited and costs £350! ***Adds to mental wishlist***

Fluffy Dreams: A Chat With TDS' Lettie Pattinson
lettie.jpg

Confession time: I wasn’t one of the cool girls who got on board with faux-furriers TDS when they first set up shop. In fact I hadn’t discovered the brand until around two months ago, but I’m already very much in love. Like all good love affairs, my relationship with TDS has certainly kept me on my toes. Instead of dangling their wares in front of us 24/7 like most other fashion brands in our ever-connected age, TDS drops a new, limited edition collection on their website every few weeks. And by ‘limited edition’, I mean that each fluffy bomber jacket is a complete one-off. As you might have guessed, these jackets sell out very quickly – think Balmain x H&M, but on a smaller scale, with nicer clothes – which means that, if you are lucky enough to grab one online, your TDS jacket feels very much like your baby (well, you basically fought for it after all) and you want to take it everywhere.

I receive compliments whenever I wear my TDS ‘Toya‘ bomber (see above for pics. Please excuse my use of my phone’s grainy selfie cam – I have laryngitis at the moment so am doing a lot of hanging out in the house on my own as I physically cannot speak). As someone whose style is very minimal, putting on my layer of faux fur cosiness every morning makes me feel like the Cool Fashion Girl I’ll never be. 

I spoke to Lettie Pattinson – one half of TDS’ mother-daughter design duo – about fun fur, social media strategies and the enduring appeal of bomber jackets. 

First and foremost, what’s the story behind TDS? How do you and your mum split the workload? 

My mum, Sally, lectured in fashion and textiles for over 20 years! I have always been surrounded by fabrics, textures and design since a young age. Despite being exposed to sewing and actual clothing construction, I never took it up as a hobby or career. I studied Media Production at university and have always loved taking photos, styling images, editing and social media, so that’s how the workload is split. We both design the garments whilst my mum actually makes the jackets from her home studio. I then do all the marketing, social media, photography and styling – which is how and why TDS has become what it has, through the power of social media. Around university I would always wear clothing which was made by my mum and people used to stop and ask where various pieces were from. They couldn’t believe it when I said my mum had made it, so that’s when I decided to create an Instagram, taking photos of the design process and the making of clothing. 

Why do you think ‘fun’ faux fur is so hot at the moment? It was all over the high street last winter (and looks like it will be this year), and brands like TDS, Shrimps and Charlotte Simone are all killing it. What’s going on?!

I think faux fur is timeless – especially the fun, bright bold prints that you can get with faux fur – it really mixes up the traditional colour palettes and makes more of a fashion statement. Most importantly, it’s ethical and against animal cruelty. With the bright colours, anyone of any age can jazz up their wardrobe and still be warm during the autumn/winter seasons! 

What challenges (if any) have you had when working with your mum? I know I couldn’t do it as we’d drive each other mad!

I am definitely the more laid-back half of the business! I tend to have quite a relaxed approach to certain situations, whereas Mum is very organised and likes targets to be completed for set times and dates… I have a very different attitude! Apart from that, there are no challenges! We are both very similar and appreciate and understand each others’ workloads and are very supportive of that. We are there for one another and try to advise each other in the best possible way. [There are times when] I try to help with a sewing problem or Mum tries to help with a camera issue – we have no real idea, but definitely aim to help and solve the problem for one another. 

You’re going to be at The Clothes Show this December discussing social media and fashion. Why do you think social media is important today for fashion brands? Do you think TDS would be where it is today without your social media presence? 

We can’t wait for that! [Social media] is so important. Without the power of social media, TDS would not be what it is. We live in a society where most people – if not everyone – are part of the social media community, be that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever. It’s the 21st century, where everyone has instant access to the latest trends, news, celebrity updates, photographs etc. Social media is especially important for fashion brands, and up-and-coming brands too. Social media is free, which is great. You have that power to work hard and build up a strong brand just by having an online presence! For anyone thinking about turning to social media to start a brand, definitely go for it. Don’t worry about not standing out or gaining the following you so wish for – all of that will come as long as you’re an active user. Use and take good, intriguing photographs and engage with people around the world to build up a following that believes in your brand! It’s now so easy to communicate with a range of people and subjects even just by hashtagging. Through social media, you start meeting people and build up a friendship with them – we now have friends and clients around the world – another great aspect of social media. 

Who are your own personal style icons? Are there any particular girls you have in mind when you’re designing? 

I have always looked up to my mum for fashion inspiration! When I was very young, she would pick me up from school and be wearing the most amazing outfit – wedges with flares or a dress with a chunky belt. My mum still has the best eye for colour co-ordination and accessories! Mum loves Vivienne Westwood for her use of the history of costume within her designs and the construction of clothing. I don’t tend to follow fashion trends myself. I just wear what I think looks good. Sometimes it works; sometimes I come downstairs to be asked by Mum: “what on earth are you wearing!?” 

What’s next for TDS? Do you have any plans to venture into the realm of accessories, like Shrimps has done? 

While the faux fur trend is still hot we will continue following it! We are definitely looking into accessories, and also introducing the TDS Stroller, which is a longer version of the bomber jacket – I have seen it and tried it on and don’t want to part with it! It is beautiful, so we are very excited about showcasing that. The beauty with our products, which makes us different to most big fashion houses, is that every TDS garment has been not only handmade to a high standard, but is an exclusive, one-off, bespoke design. There is something very special about owning a TDS jacket and knowing that no-one else has the same piece of clothing as you! In today’s society, I find it hard to own and wear something that is totally unique. With TDS you know you have something that’s truly yours!

NB: This article was originally published by The Closet.

Céline pre-fall 2015

Today I spent my lunch break looking at Céline's pre-fall 2015 offerings, trying to cleanse my soul after seeing the monstrosities that were last night's Met Ball dresses. A few months ago I agreed to write an article about the red carpet trend for sheer, 'illusion'-style dresses, but I still don't understand why celebrities still continue to wear them despite the fact that their vibe is basically prom queen meets Strictly Come Dancing. Which – I imagine we all agree – is pretty weird. 

Although it may not fit in on the red carpet, Céline's pre-fall 2015 collection is welcome to hang out in my wardrobe any day. My favourite look is obviously the striped one (which could easily be copied right now if you pop into Zara), but there is so much goodness going on here. While I don't think fringed (read: frayed) trouser hems would translate well on anyone other than a model in a showroom, I've got a lot of time for the fringing elsewhere; even the dress with an all-over fringe skirt doesn't look too OTT thanks to its navy, knitted top half. 

Overall, another triumph from Phoebe Philo. The only misstep was a massive fur coat that looked outdated and vulgar in comparison to the rest of the collection's stripped-back modernity. Not a good look when it's 2015 and there are so many amazing fake furriers out there, like Shrimps and Helen Moore.

 

Lust list
xmas wishlist

High-neck striped top from Topshop

Stripes are essential. My boyfriend has observed that I "have so many stripey things it's hard to differentiate between them" – impressive, given the amount of time the average heterosexual man pays attention to what women are wearing. I have about 15 striped tops on rotation (as well as various striped dresses, skirts and accessories) but that won't stop me from buying another one. Like, this one has a different neckline and everything! Such a contrast to anything I've ever worn!

Coat from Topshop

As soon as autumn weather arrives, my sartorial fancies disappear and I spend a good half of the year wearing black jeans and mouldy jumpers from my mum. As a skint student, acrylic high-street jumpers are the only alternative to Mummy's wool and cashmere... so, for the sake of avoiding hypothermia, stylish high-street styles are ditched in favour of 'vintage' (i.e. outdated 80s) pieces from Hobbs and M&S. To cover up my lack of style, I rely on nice boots and coats to make me feel better about myself. As long as they're not bright pink or whatever, coats are timeless pieces that should be worn year after year. So it's worth investing in one that won't fall apart. I love this one from Topshop – it's expensive, yes, but oh-so beautiful. And textured!

Burberry scarf

Yesterday, the Sunday Times' Style claimed that the Burberry check "is back again after years in the wilderness". Well, either Londoners are a strange breed or the Sunday Times's writers are completely out of touch with street style. I constantly see people donning Burberry scarves and looking glam, and by 'people' I'm not talking about 15-year-olds sinking white cider after school. The 'chav' scene is over (or perhaps not, but it's at least graduated from Burberry). I happily wear massive gold hoop earrings now – something which would've had me castigated five years ago – so why not a Burberry scarf?

Shrimps coat

Reasons to love faux-fur brand Shrimps: 

1) One of Shrimps' ad campaigns last year featured a model wearing the Pallas coat and holding a fluffy dog

2) The designer, Hannah Weiland, once told Vogue that she came up with the brand name because, being a "small and pink" child, she was given the nickname 'Shrimps'. Cute.

There's something about faux fur that I love – the luxury, the infinitely flexible colour options and, of course, the cosiness – I wanted a Charlotte Simone Popsicle for ages, but real fur is gross.

Black cossack hat from Next

I love these hats. Last year I was unsatisfied with the Matalan cossack I'd been wearing – it just wasn't big or fluffy enough – so I went to Topshop and spent £25 on one from its SNO collection. I wore it to death and adored it. In December I went on my last 'uni' night out in Manchester, lost one of my shoes, came back to my flat, didn't sleep all night, hopped on a train to Leeds in the afternoon, had too much mulled wine at the Christmas Markets, got on a train home for the Christmas holidays... and left my cossack on the train. The shoe I lost on my night out didn't upset me, but losing the hat still upsets me. I want/need to get another one. 

Mondaine watch

It's 99% certain when you open your Instagram account on Christmas Day you'll be inundated with pictures of #my #new #Michael #Kors #watch. Could everyone ask Santa for an understated Mondaine watch instead, please, to make Instagram a chicer experience for everyone?

Thoughts on Hedi Slimane

Hedi Slimane is that arsey, apathetic guy in your secondary school maths class who slouched at the back of the classroom and took the piss out of anyone whose cheekbones weren't as sharp as his (read: everyone). In short, Slimane's not really a likeable guy – lest I come across as biased, there are hundreds of articles online that corroborate this. Since taking the reins at YSL in 2011, Slimane has completely rebranded the iconic fashion house. Although this news still doesn't sit well with the more obstinate of the brand's die-hards, the rebranding has been a commercial success for the brand we now know as Saint Laurent (or, depending on context, Saint Laurent Paris or Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane).

It wasn't just the logo that changed, though, as the YSL woman was transformed too – in fact, she became much less of a woman and more of a teenage girl. The thing is, most luxury fashion brands, although gawped at by women under 40 on computer screens worldwide, thrive on designing clothes for an older clientele. It sort of makes sense, because the average 25-year-old's salary couldn't dream of accommodating the cost of a Chanel dress, but it consequently alienates a good chunk of young fashion fans who source most of their labelled goods from eBay et al. Designer diffusion lines aren't the perfect solution, but they're a reasonable middle-ground, providing a high fashion fix – usually with a younger aesthetic as well as a lower price – for rich kids and 20-somethings who are beginning to find their feet financially. Since Slimane started ripping Saint Laurent's 'exclusive' nature to shreds, you would be forgiven for thinking that these mainline, £1000+ clothes are diffusion line product. Saint Laurent's SS13 collection was little more than an artful culmination of bargain bin scraps from Lipsy, River Island and a fancy dress shop. A lot of the clothes resembled things you might see misguided drunk girls wearing in Tiger Tiger and, overall, it was very poor form from Slimane.

A lot of people booted off about Raf Simons when he started out at Dior. Being a massive fan of Simons' work, I never understood it. When fashion critics bashed Simons for 'ruining Dior', all he was really doing was stepping back from Galliano's garishness (which, personally, I always hated, but I'm in the minority). When people bash Slimane, however, for 'ruining YSL', that is logical. Before the big rebrand, YSL catered for moneyed and elegant women, so it was difficult to see how these sophisticated ladies would be able to digest these tacky new pieces, draped over doe-eyed, skeletal girls. YSL's existing clientele aren't the only demographic Hedi seems to at pains to alienate – journalists are blacklisted from Saint Laurent's runway shows if they dare show any reluctance to bow down at Slimane's throne. And the select few runway critics who are on the guestlist (albeit no longer allowed to write anything critical) have been pushed off their front row seats to make room for the Slimane's motley crew of celebrity fans.  

So, there's a lot to drag about Hedi Slimane, his pretentiousness alone holding up its own red flag. There's also the question of how long he can peddle his distinctly grungy, 'I'm with the band look' before the concept becomes even more tired than it already is. However, even in the creative industries, it's the turnover that really counts. And, unfortunately for the haters, Saint Laurent sells well. The thing is, although a lot of Slimane's stuff looks like it belongs in Topshop, about 50% of my wardrobe is from Topshop. The fact that one can imagine someone wearing one of his dresses to a Koosday event, even though they're more likely to be worn to a black tie gala, isn't exactly a bad thing; although he seems like the most arrogant personality in an industry full of arrogance, you could never accuse Slimane's designs of being pretentious. Perhaps he's just trying to be the good guy after all, finding his success through making our existing wardrobes look covetable. Or perhaps he's just trying to fuck with us. Either way, he's the one laughing all the way to the bank.

For further reading, I'd highly recommend this article by Cathy Horyn, in which she considers why Slimane, by offering clothes that are commercial rather than conceptual, might have had the right idea all along.

On magazines/Leith Clark etc

Girls and fashion magazines go hand in hand, right? So there's probably nothing too unusual, then, about the hundreds of glossies that I have diligently stacked, in chronological order, on my bookshelves and all over my bedroom floor. The first issue of Vogue I bought was the February 2007 issue; I vividly remember devouring it on a long car journey home from a dental appointment. Fendi pieces in fluro-pink mesh and Jil Sander's sunshine yellow shirts and sequinned skirts served a welcome distraction after the pain of having my first-ever filling — it was a day of firsts, I suppose — and I was transported to a world a million miles away from my nondescript life in the Yorkshire Dales, from which the only fashion knowledge I'd gained was brand awareness, i.e. I knew about Hunter, Barbour, Burberry, Aquascutum and Mulberry, and, well, that's about it.

OK, I'm lying slightly - I'd developed an interest in fashion prior to picking up Vogue, but I'm not exactly sure how or why. I faintly remember my granny giving me old copies of of Tatler to flip through and cut pictures out of. To me the ladies in Tatler were so elegant, and their pretty outfits looked even better once accessorised with glitter-glue and stuck next to pictures of puppies and cupcakes. Eventually I clocked on to the whole fashion thing, started 'borrowing' Nanna's Vivienne Westwood scarves and bought my first copy of Vogue.

Seven years later, I'm an underweight, chain-smoking, Diet Coke-drinking, flatform-wearing girl with body image issues, constant blisters and a pair of oversized glasses constantly weighing my nose down. Take from that what you will – all I'll say is that although there are as many pros as there are cons with women's magazines, when your brain hasn't formed properly, the cons often outweigh the pros.

I'm not necessarily saying that reading fashion magazines makes you hate yourself – for me, depression and anxiety issues already have those bases covered – but they definitely don't do any favours for your self esteem. Or to your bank balance, for that matter; who hasn't flicked through Elle's pages and suddenly needed a pair of shoes that, 5 minutes previously, they didn't know existed? By 'needed' I mean 'wanted', as in the classic fickle fashion-lover's quandary of having overdrawn your overdraft but yet feeling that you must buy the new 'must have' (read: fad) item lest you lose your cool factor overnight and spend the rest of your life wearing sweatpants and Uggs.

Most fashion magazines are like a bad boyfriend; they make you feel insecure, but at the same time you love them and, even if you do have to shut yourself away from them for a while, you always come crawling back in the end, wanting more. But then you meet a nice guy who doesn't treat you half as badly, and you question why you ever stuck around with that selfish prick for so long. And it's like that with magazines: once you find something smart, funny and aesthetically pleasing amongst a sea of shit, you don't look back.

Et voici, Violet: my latest magazine obsession.

Violet is the new brainchild of the incredible Leith Clark (my love for whom has no bounds so, yes, what I am writing is totally biased, but whatevs). It is a magazine for girls, made by girls, celebrating girls. And it is everything a fashion magazine should be, with minimal advertisements, intelligent writing by intelligent women, thought-provoking features and, of course, dreamy editorials.

Although I love the clothes and the styling in Violet, it was really all the writing that captured my attention. Until reading the magazine, I had no idea who Meghan Kelly was, but now I can safely say that she is brilliant; she contributed a few short stories to the magazine which I found really touching, as well as relatable, with their often painful realness. The best of these stories is the longest, How Far to Go, a story of a fading romance and the confused sort of love that most of us are probably familiar with. Clark seems to have a knack for scoring the most bizarrely brilliant artists, tastemakers and creative legends to feature in her magazines; because they weren't with 'the usual suspects' found in other fashion magazines, the interviews in Lula (Clark's last magazine baby, which she left to give birth to Violet) were always something I loved and, thankfully, Violet also provides an abundance of lengthy question-and-answer sessions with the sort of people who make you want to live your life more riskily and freely: Brit Marling, So Yong Kim and Molly Parkin are just some of the subjects interrogated within this debut issue's pages. Another reason to buy the magazine would be the extract from Hadley Freeman's latest work, Be Awesome: Modern Life for Modern Ladies – this made me howl and I loved it so much that I downloaded the book on my Kindle as soon as I'd finished reading.

I could write a million more words about how A+++ beaut this magazines is, but I don't want to spoil it for you, so, yeah, go and buy it basically. I got mine from Magazine Shack. Kind of missing the days when R D Franks (R.I.P) was still alive and well, but I guess it's good that I can order obscure titles online now as I hardly go down to London any more.

Favourite collections: Christopher Kane

I haven't had much chance to write anything detailed on this blog for a while, so as my writing comeback of sorts I thought that it would make sense to write about Christopher Kane, as his designs (and Raf Simons’) were what sparked my interest in fashion in the first place. 

If I had more time, I’d write an article on all 23 of Kane’s womenswear collections (maybe just 22, actually, because SS08 didn’t do anything for me), but instead I’ve had to go through the painful process of creating a really tight edit. The collections below are those which speak to me the most, evoking happy memories as well as general awe. It’s no great coincidence that I’ve warmed to the spring collections more; while for my own wardrobe I favour monochromatic safeness, I love looking at beautiful clothes in the kind of colours I’d never be able to get away with wearing. 

SPRING/SUMMER 2012

I wrote heaps about this collection ages ago, but it deserves another mention. SS12 had triumphs aplenty, but Kane’s offerings were definitely the greatest. Artists in any field shouldn’t ever have to rein in their creativity, but, these days, fashion designers (particularly those heading up smaller, less financially-stable brands) are under pressure to create clothes with mass-market appeal. If you’re a fresh-faced designer whose income barely covers the rent of your dingy London studio, let alone the materials for your craft, you need your clothes to sell if you want your brand to expand. It’s not rocket science; producing clothes for esoteric interests doesn’t cut it unless you are Hedi Slimane, i.e. rolling in it (in which case you’re absolutely fine — continue to make clothes for your friends in bands that everyone else got over years ago — if it makes you happy then that’s all that matters). So, what made this collection stand out to me was Kane’s ability to pull off what very few designers can: the perfect balance of the commercial and the conceptual. The white shirts, cricket jumpers, boxy schoolgirl skirts and denim pieces are all accessible pieces — women all over can emulate Kane SS12 looks with ease simply by reaching to the back of their wardrobes — and yet there are some elements that just scream ‘expensive’ and ‘creative’ in the way that only runway looks can. The killer cuts, the aluminum-infused organza, the exquisitely detailed embellishment and sequin-lined appliqué… you can’t buy this sort of design complexity in Topshop (not even in the Boutique section, no, even though the brains behind it strive to emulate this sort of class). 

SPRING/SUMMER 2007

I like this collection for sentimental reasons. SS07 was the season when I first became infatuated with fashion, particularly the young British fashion scene, so please don't think I have an affinity for highlighter-coloured frocks. When you see some perma-tanned party girl spewing up over her fluro pink bandage dress on the Diamond Strip, sticky-soled Office platforms in hand, do you ever wonder if her bold sartorial choices are some sort of working class homage to Kane’s debut collection? Me neither — when she picked up said dress in Quiz that morning, the thought probably never crossed her mind — but it does make you consider this collection’s influence on evening dressing. I loved the Swarvoski detailing on the pieces — a burst of crystals on plain fabric is something of a favourite of mine, having seen it implemented perfectly on a Marios Schwab dress that took centre stage on the cover of Dazed and Confused a few years back. Oh, and that Kane and Versus collaboration? Just look to this collection to see why Donatella picked him to bring new life to her diffusion line.

SPRING/SUMMER 2010

Like most British girls, my first encounter with gingham was the classic John Lewis easy-iron dress that was a welcome alternative, in the warmer months at primary school, to a black skirt or trousers. In my early teens I would make my own simple 60s-style shift dresses, cutting up gingham cloth in red and blue; it was fine to wear gingham even at that awkward age as, with bundles of innocence coupled with stick-thin limbs and doe eyes, I was deemed 'cute' and 'adorable'.

If I wear gingham now, even though my chest is still as flat as the school desks I associate with the fabric, it can feel a bit Lolita-esque. Kane's tackling of  girlie checks was perfect, as he managed to brush away any smutty connotations, instead leaving us with the perfect balance of the pretty and the peverse – a 'good girl gone bad' look, if you like (or bad girl gone good?).

AUTUMN/WINTER 2010

Another fusion of sweet and seedy – seemingly a combination the designer thrives on playing about with – Kane's AW10 offering was a triumph. Admittedly the formula was pretty simple: take some black leather, some black lace, some vampy patent leather lace-up heels and you get, er, something that Rihanna might wear. Throw in some floral embroidery, though, and suddenly 'good' girls like Emma Watson want in too. Not to say that this was any sort of slapdash appliqué job; Kane gave the dying art form of hand-embroidery a new lease of life and, with his daisies, roses, poppies and wildflowers trickling just-so over otherwise sexually-charged PVC, lace and leather, it just looked so right. However, my favourite bits in this collection were the closing pieces, which were embroidered, equally as delicately, with crystals.

SPRING/SUMMER 2014

I could happily wax lyrical about all of Kane's collections, and you can find my thoughts on his other shows elsewhere on this blog. I was meaning to write about the SS14 collection as soon as I saw it, as it made me swoon in a big way, but I was so busy with work and other real world stuff and never found the time. 

Not that I really need to draw your attention to this collection, anyway, as it went down a storm with the fashion press and certain pieces (read: the logo sweats and flower motifs) have been rehashed to death by the high street. Fair play, I say, it is so dreamy after all. I hate to quoteThe Devil Wears Prada but, "Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking" – though one does imagine Miranda Priestley would eat her words if she saw Kane's take on this ever-enduring spring theme. Elsewhere in London, Mary Katrantzou made her florals embellished and Eudon Choi's were wallpaper-esque, smattered over biker jackets. Christopher Kane, meanwhile, went back to school, taking his botanical imagery straight out of biology textbooks (well, at least someone found them useful...). This resulted in beautiful floral embellishments, complete with blackboard-style pointers and annotations. There was something subtly sexual about the whole affair, too, thanks to the obvious parallels between the dissected flowers and a woman's anatomy. Besides the standout pieces, there were some fluffed-up, spray-painted dresses with holographic tinsel trims, which I really liked. Further evidence of PPR's investment in Kane's brand shined through subtly, too; the now ubiquitous statement sweaters were highly commercial, lower-priced items that were snapped up straight away by young fashion bloggers everywhere, and the slinky evening gowns in silk satin showed a new, more polished side to the London-based designer – dresses like that would look more at home at the shows in Paris and Milan. But, then again, Kane is now no longer 'one to watch' and is up there amongst the big-name designers, so it's not uncomfortable to see him produce such exquisite, sophisticated clothes. 

Balenciaga AW13

This morning Alexander Wang claimed that, for Balenciaga AW13, he was going back to the brand’s roots. Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane did this last season with their gentle invocations to the Dior/Saint Laurent archives — playing it safe, perhaps, but the general consensus was that it worked — and maybe that’s why Wang chose to tread a similar path with his own debut for an esteemed fashion house. Did the designer come out of it as well as Simons and Slimane? Nicholas Ghesqière’s shoes are difficult to fill, especially when his successor is a 29-year-old whose eponymous American label is known for its youthful spirit and sporty styles. Upon discovering that he was going to be replaced by someone who wouldn’t be averse to sending blinged-up sweatpants down the catwalk, the fashion industry collectively wept. Fine, I’m exaggerating, but it’s true that lots of people were pretty confused by Wang being hired to head up a brand that didn’t seem at all in tune with his own.

If today’s show was anything, it was a big ‘fuck you’ to all the cynics. Wang was on good form, proving his seriousness about this new gig. Cristobal Balenciaga’s work is something I’m no expert on, but I know enough to be able to say that Wang really did his research: the petal skirts and the cocoon coats say it all. The collection was definitely not an exercise in groundbreaking design, but it was beautiful. Everything looks better close up, of course, because then you can really appreciate the glorious fabrics and textures. The marbled pieces were interesting in their uniqueness, and they translated really well on the white knitwear; black paint made otherwise dull pieces look structural and edgy. The construction of the white tops, with those origami-like folds, was perfect. In terms of accessories, the simple silver cuffs complemented the looks well (especially the all-black ensembles with silver detailing in the bodice area) and the bags were small, structured, sensible. The shoes looked a little uncomfortable but they were unlike anything I’ve seen before and, providing I don’t ever have to wear them, I like them a lot.

It will be nice to see where Alexander (and, indeed, Raf and Hedi) will go next. Being the newcomer is never easy, whether you’ve been hired at McDonalds or at one of the biggest names in fashion, and everyone needs time to settle in. Thankfully, all three designers are experienced — Wang, less so, but he still knows what he’s doing — and it’s only a matter of time before they all come into their own and carve out their own signature aesthetic for the massive brands they’re now responsible for. And that’s when things will really get interesting.

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Balenciaga: the Ghesquière years

What with all the designers playing musical chairs, the various dramas during Fashion Month and the newfound love for open letters, 2012 has been a pretty crazy year for the fashion world. Now that Sandy has done its damage and people are starting to re-establish their lives, the powers that be felt it was only right to drop another bombshell on the unassuming public. It was revealed yesterday that Nicholas Ghesquière's dazzling SS13 Balenciaga show would be his last for the house.

Many people have been pretty blindsided by the news. Whether you love or loathe Ghesquière, you can't deny that his contribution to fashion has been massive since he took the reins as Balenciaga's creative director in 1993. He gave Balenciaga a complete overhaul, carved out a distinct brand aesthetic, produced collections that were both critically and commercially successful and expanded into previously untouched areas, such as parfumerie.

We all can hope and pray that next year Ghesquière will go solo and everyone else will stay where they are and stop causing fashion people to have minor emotional breakdowns every few weeks. Change is not always a good thing. Having said that, I couldn't think of anything better than seeing the back of Karl... but those thoughts are for another blog post.

Here are my personal highlights of Ghesquière's time at Balenciaga...

Autumn/Winter 2006

Autumn/Winter 2010

Spring/Summer 2004

Spring/Summer 2007

Spring/Summer 2013

Notes on French style

I’m so tired and ill but I was talking about French style with some friends today and I keep thinking about it. Really, though, ‘French style’? What French style? Not all Frenchies dress in the same way. I do know what people mean when they talk about ‘French style’, though; they’re thinking of insouciance, slim fit troos, Isabel Marant, Breton stripes and trophy jackets (worn with skinny jeans, kitten heels and a plain slouchy tee, naturellement). But that’s just a scratch-on-the-surface take on French style. Actually, no, that’s just Emmanuelle Alt’s style.

I’m friends with one of those intimidating gals who always exude class and elegance — even when wearing jeans, of all things — and I often wonder whether this is because she’s half French and has, perhaps, inherited the innate sense of style that French girls supposedly have and that the English are perennially trying to emulate. But what do they have that we don’t? It’s that certain je ne sais quoi, of course. If you don’t get me, turn to Godard’s Nouvelle Vague films. My best girl Hannah made me watch some of them when I was hungover and losing my mind and, well, they made me really happy (and pretentious). They taught me lots of things — namely, how to be cool and how it’s OK to be depressed as long as you’re underweight and well dressed and show no exterior signs of your interior struggle — and they showed me exactly why we all love French girls. In A bout de souffle, Jean Seberg isn’t wearing anything fancy but she just seems so chic. Why? Because she has such a great attitude. She’s confident. She’s cool. Quickly, it all becomes clear that, peut-être, the key element of French style is less about the clothes, more about the woman beneath them.

If anything, when you think of all of the French women who stick to their relatively safe BCBG wardrobes, we Brits are much better dressers. And yeah, sure, Alexa Chung obviously references Jane Birkin and the like quite a lot when she’s getting dressed, but it’s the way she puts the clothes together that counts. Oh, and as much as I want to be Emmanuelle Alt (or the archetypal Isabel Marant woman) when I’m 40, the words ‘white denim’ currently only pass my lips when I’m referring to that cool band that I like quite a lot. Yep.