London Fashion Week Delivers Elegance and Mathematical Proportions

In continuation of London Fashion Week‘s Films, Fraying and Frizz, the second instalment of my fashion week roundup starts at with Belstaff, in collaboration with (an elusive) Liv Tyler.

The Belstaff presentation could scarcely have been more different from the others I have experienced.  It occurred to me that a show format would have made it easier to see the clothes.  Being a bigger brand with a larger captive audience, it was in a basement sauna of winter woolies and leathers with a biker-lite /polar vibe and a melee of guests enjoying the wares and fizz.  The show notes stated that the collection was inspired by ‘female pioneers venturing into the earth’s most bleak and hard-to-reach locations in the most challenging of conditions’.  Polar pioneer Christina Franco was named as a special guest, which I only discovered after re-reading the show notes for this article.  I can think of at least a dozen questions about protective clothing and design I’d have fired off in her direction.  I bumped into a couple of old friends and had a chat with Jonathan Saunders (whose mate designed the collection) on the way out, so it was suitably fashion-y and fizzy.

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Belstaff AW16 and projected inspiration imagery

Huishan Zhang offered up the most elegant and serene of presentations at The Connaught in what felt like the coming together of two perfect halves – the romantic decadence of the location and the gently elegant and luxuriously refined clothing.  The clothes screamed, or rather elegantly asserted, a grown-up ladylike appeal and I passed Linda Fargo on my way out, further confirming their level on the elegance stakes.  Look out for Huishan Zang in Bergdorf Goodman next season?

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Huishan Zhang AW16 

Production: Rachel Pelly and Pearl Van Den Ende – Stylist: Maya Zepinic @ LGA Management – PR: Saturday Group, Beatrice Savoretti – Music: Leslie Deere – Shoes: Jimmy Choo – Casting: Shelley Durkan – Show Photographer: Piers Cunliffe – Show Videographer: Jacob Fn Photography – Backstage Photographer: Liam Fuller – Hair: Bianca Tuovi @ CLM – Makeup: Mel Arter @ CLM – Head of Nails: Roxanne Campbell

The highlight of the day came in the form of Sid Neigum‘s mathematics-inspired and mostly monochrome collection.  Chatting to Sid I learned that the starting point for silhouette development for the collection was a measurement of a shoulder line, say 30 cm for example, which was then multiplied by Da Vinci’s golden ratio (1.6), applied rigorously by Le Corbusier and a hallmark of his modulor proportions, to determine the opposite shoulder line length, creating a harmonious set of measurements that formed naturally aesthetically pleasing proportions.

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The best way to describe the experience of seeing the collection is to say that it all felt “right”.  It was at ease.  The lengths, the volumes, the textiles.  Not forced, but lovingly calculated and evolved from a series of applied multiplications, which led Sid to his final silhouettes.  Sid is a patter-cutter who designs in 2D by working back from a 3D ‘mental rendering’ of what he’s imagining he will make.  He rarely sketches his designs, but rather sketches pattern piece shapes which he can mentally assemble before doing so physically.  Brilliant.  I plan to talk in more depth with Sid and bring you a more studied summation of his technique, but until then, enjoy the collection images.

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Sid Neigum AW16. Shots of Sid and I by Moin Islam.

Finally, we dashed to the 100 Club on Oxford Street for a slice of Mary Benson magic, only to discover we’d missed the show and caught the party.  Here are the post show leftovers and gif-ified show images thanks to Village PR:

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Mary Benson AW16

Styling: Louby McLoughlin – Hair: Jose Quijano @ D+V Management using Bumble and Bumble – Makeup: Marie Bruce using Urban Decay – Casting: Aamo – Production: Lizzie Cardwell – Press Release: Ione Gamble – Music: Twin//Venus with backing vocals by Kit Brown – Set Design: Dora Miller – Embroidery Collaboration: Aniela Fidler – Millinery Collaboration: Stephen Jones – Crystals: Swarovski – Jewellery: Sarah McCormack – Shoes: Converse – Headphones: Beats by Dre – Film: Trudy Barry – DJs: Emily Rose England, Matthew Johnson, Jon Beagley, Ben Gregory, Joe Skilton, Jamie Shaw.

I’ll be popping in to see Mary and chat about a very special collaboration she did on a Bruise suit  – cue geek-out technical textiles session.  More Techstyling soon.  Stay tuned.

Header Image: Sid Neigum AW16

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Faye Toogood’s “The Cloakroom” at LDF: an Icebreaker and a Furnace

London Design Festival serves up a huge array of exciting and unexpected treats every year. Faye Toogood’s “The Cloakroom” is a perfect example.  Faye is a designer of a strongly academic and artisan persuasion who collaborated with a number of British-based makers and craftspeople to create a wonderfully immersive installation and tour through the V&A museum as temporary custodians of one of her 150 “Oilrigger” coats.

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The experience goes beyond that of a viewer. It starts with entering the cloakroom and being met with a circular continuum of coats – each the same but different. The invitation is to select a coat, each with a different hand-painted motif on the back, that appeals to you. I choose one that strikes me as akin to the Quentin Blake drawings in the Witches – a profile painting of a pointy-nosed character – very angular. I sign for my coat, number 97, and set off on a journey throughout the museum to locate ten coats installed amongst the permanent museum collections.

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The “imposters” are sometimes obvious, other times not. There’s effort required and coated in Faye’s foam and silicon garment it gets warm, intensifying my desire to find them all! The sculpted coats showcase British craftsmanship and take on a number of forms in materials ranging from wood to fibreglass and metal.

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They sometimes sit comfortably within the surrounding works, at other times they jar, like the earthy kiln-like coat against a shifting LED light backdrop. The beauty of this experience (it’s more than an exhibition or installation) is that it takes you to parts of the museum you may never venture to. It reveals quiet corners and oddities, which become just as striking and important as the ones you’re actually looking for. I took snaps along the way of rooms and objects that captured my imagination as much as the coats.

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I managed to locate 8 of the ten coats using the hand-drawn and printed fabric map that fastened back into my coat at the end of the experience. There’s a sense of achievement in finishing the tour and I feel I have been on a journey. The coats are a definite bonding tool and I chat to others on the same journey as we head towards the common goal of finding the next coat sculpture. I also had some enquiries from other museum-goers wondering if there was a new coat trend sweeping London. It struck me that the coat was at once an ice-breaker and furnace (I was wearing a boiler suit underneath it, so partly my fault). It was definitely worth the heat.

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The final coat is a ghostly construction of English embroidery woven from a delicate mesh, then stitched with thousands of pins.

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Meeting Faye at the end of the experience and receiving a pat on the back for finding nine of the ten sculptures was a delight. She explained the process of cutting, sewing and hand painting each coat with silicone. Toogood’s work spans clothing, furniture, textile art and sculpture. Her work is rooted in materials. The exploration and hybridisation of materials underpins her work and the garments she creates in collaboration with her sister Erica are manufactured from a broad range of textiles including primed canvas, baked latex, rot-resistant canvas and hand-painted rubberised oil. The coats were made from Highfield, an organic compressed-foam upholstery textile by the manufacturer Kvadrat, constructed using Tevira CS fibres and technology to achieve high durability, low pilling and fireproofing. At 620 grams per square metre I now know why I’m feeling the heat. The coats were then hand-treated by Toogood and her team to render each one unique.

Kvadrat is Europe’s leading manufacturer of design textiles, pushing the aesthetic, technological and artistic boundaries of textiles for private and public spaces.

As I leave The Cloakroom it continues to become a shrine to previous custodians of the coats – full of photographs of visitors in their coats, some of whom elected to buy their coats for cost price at the end of the exhibition. It’s great to be part of an installation that invites the viewer to take part and then take a piece of it home.

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Oilrigger header image from Toogood Outerwear

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