Sabinna Experiments With Mixed Reality Shopping for Fashion

For Sabinna Rachimova, her ‘brand DNA’ is, actually, familial.  It transcends ethos and aesthetics and runs deep into the past, through two generations of her family.  Her grandmother, a maths and physics professor in her native Russia, who during communist times made clothing on the side for neighbours and friends for extra income, inspired her to pursue a career in art and craft.

Sabinna’s parents were professional athletes, her mother a field hockey player and her father a footballer, which meant the family travelled regularly and she grew up in Russia, Spain and Austria, where her family finally settled.  Describing this experience as unsettling, she created her own fictional world of play to distract herself from being the new kid and not speaking the local language, at least initially.  Craft became Sabinna’s passion, so where communication with others lacked, she filled her time with what interested her – art, craft and languages.

Family photos, Sabinna’s studio, East London

Sabinna’s parents insisted she attend a languages and maths-focused high school, so unable to pursue creative subjects, she completed her studies under duress and then went on to enrol in a Slavic languages degree after a rejection from the University of Applied Arts Vienna, where she had hoped to study fashion design.  Struggling to find a route into a design degree, she sent her CV to every fashion designer in Vienna, asking for a part-time job and hoping to step inside what she described at the time as the ‘secret world of fashion’.

Schella Kann took her on and with a tough love approach, telling her to forget about the rejection from the University of Applied Arts Vienna and to look further afield to pursue her dreams.  By putting together a portfolio based on the way her maths and physics professor grandmother had taught her to present ideas, she applied and was accepted onto a foundation course at Central Saint Martins in London.  Not bad for someone who pulled together a portfolio in twenty four hours, assisted by her boyfriend and now long term partner, David, and sent it simply addressed to the ‘fashion’ department with a request to join a fashion course, of no particular specification.

Following completion of her foundation course, Sabinna went on to study Fashion Marketing and Design at CSM and interned in the knitwear department at Dior, which she describes as ‘the best and worst’ (experience).  She describes spending up to two days pondering yarn colours alongside the knitwear team, and working with Italian factories who would bring cases full of ideas into the ready-to-wear team’s studio for the knitwear team to use as inspiration from which to develop the seasonal designs.  Sabinna describes gaining an insight into the technical aspects of knitwear development and production with the scale of a luxury fashion house and this knowledge has clearly stood her in good stead for developing her own fashion business.

Describing herself as “terrible at maths but very good with numbers”, she explains to me how her business, which she launched eighteen months ago, works on a day-to-day basis, with the SABINNA team, consisting of herself and her partner David, co-founders and leading the design and IT and e-commerce respectively; Zula, Sabinna’s mum, who is head of knitwear, which is made in Vienna, Austria;  Scarlett, a long-term friend of Sabinna and pattern cutter, who develops the designs alongside Sabinna and is based in Hastings;  David’s sister Simone, who is in charge of taxes; Julia, who is based in Vienna and does research and marketing; and Asya, who creates the crochet pieces and assists Sabinna in London.

Sabinna’s studio 

All of Sabinna’s fabrics are from Europe and all the ready-to-wear, custom made pieces for private clients, crochet pieces and bags are made in the UK.  All of the knitwear is made in Austria.

Zula’s knitwear design notes, inspiration and hand-knitted jumper at Sabinna’s studio, East London

Having seen behind the scenes at Sabinna’s studio, I am eager to delve a little deeper into this season’s collection, show and mixed-reality presentation.  Having attended Sabinna’s catwalk show and seen the collection up close, I’m curious to know what prompted Sabinna to delve into using the Hololens and working with a mixed reality platform to present her collection virtually after having just presented it in catwalk reality.  When I ask how the fashion-tech collaboration came about, we spent some time talking about notions of innovation in fashion and the idea of ‘newness’.

Sabinna’s studio 

Fashion is highly resistant to change.  I have mentioned this paradox a number of times in my articles.  Sabinna puts it clearly, “the main problem with fashion is that it doesn’t communicate well with the outside world… Social media has divided fashion along commercial lines”.  She feels there is too much made of creative/experimental fashion versus commercial fashion, especially in London, and that designers are often placed in one box or the other.  Describing her collections as very wearable and leaning towards the commercial side, she sees the opportunity for innovation and creativity in presentation and storytelling, with Microsoft Hololens and collaborator Pictofit being the perfect collaborators for this, facilitated by the FIA and Fashion Scout.

SABINNA SS17, I Still Love You  – Photos and Styling:  Toni Caroline

Sabinna follows what’s widely termed as the ‘see now, buy now’ business model, which means her collections are produced in advance of her show and ready to buy immediately after they are presented, allowing her to capitalise on the buzz of London Fashion Week and engage her clients in a complete presentation and shopping experience.

SABINNA SS17 show, Fashion Scout, London Fashion Week

Setting the tone for seasons to come, where Sabinna plans to continue experimenting with technology to create new experiences rather than attempting to constantly re-invent her products, Sabinna chose to create the world’s first mixed-reality shopping event at the Freemason’s Hall as part of Fashion scout during London Fashion Week, following her catwalk show.


Behind the scenes at SABINNA SS17 show, Fashion Scout, London Fashion Week

Why mixed reality shopping?  With her collection available, she thought it would make sense to give the customer a creative tool to explore styling different pieces of the collection virtually before purchasing.

Top: Image capture by Pictofit in Austria, Bottom:  Sabinna’s mixed-reality shopping experience at Fashion Scout, LFW – Photos by Emmi Hyyppä and Sabinna

There was also an app available to download, allowing shoppers to use the Pictofit virtual fitting room and, instead of looking at virtual mannequins, try on the SABINNA collection, entitled I Still Love You, on images of themselves.  The clothes adapt to the user’s body shape in real time.

With a huge ambition for trying new technologies and exploring the potential of virtual and augmented reality, Sabinna passionately emphasises that designers need to experiment with new technologies in order to discover newness.  Sometimes something new is right in front of you, but you don’t see it because you are striving to re-invent something that may not need re-inventing, she says.  Newness can come in the form of simply working with a new piece of technology, while sticking to the same core aesthetics, materials and designs in terms of product.  For her, technology is the catalyst and an exciting tool for telling new stories in fashion, she states, mentioning the huge leaps in the technology’s image capture and render quality in just the six months since Martine Jarlgaard’s mixed reality fashion presentation at London Fashion Week in September 2016. Let’s see what next season brings.

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Sadie Williams and Marta Jakubowsi Wield A Sucker Punch Of Colour at London Fashion Week

The ‘insta-fashion’ of today lends a kind of high impact then fast fade to fashion imagery – blink and you’ll miss it.  It occurred to me today that the presentations I have seen at fashion week so far on day one are highly condensed, stringently edited and high impact.  Jammed with colour and unwavering in focus, they are a visual sucker punch that makes for great images ripe for social media – saturated colours, bold sets, texture, drape and exaggeration.  They are a distillation of concentrated strong visual ideas rather than a gently rambling or winding journey.  Kind of like the meat of the story, without the preamble or rounding-off.

Sadie Williams presented a glimmering gang in a folk art disco, mixing old and new on the textile front – 70’s glitter vibes set against retro-reflective ‘high viz’ trousers and corduroy accented with crystals by Swarovski – a pioneer in new technologies with an eye on robotic manufacturing, according to a recent interview with Nadja Swarovski for the McKinsey report on the State of fashion report,2017.  The collection was styled with Converse Chuck Taylors and elastic layered tights and socks smattered with holes by Wolford.  This collection was a fun textile and colour mash-up underpinned by textile mastery.

Marta Jakubowski‘s collection was understated and seriously focussed on turning childhood nostalgia into grown-up elegant tailoring.  The colours were rich and deeply attractive.  On the tube on the way home I considered researching the psychological effects of the deep, warm shades of purple and red in the collection to understand how they somehow ‘fill out’ the aesthetics visually – making the sum of the parts (tailoring and colour) so much greater than either individually.  I bet there’s enlightenment to be found, alas the scope of this piece is short given the gazillion words I want to write about all I have seen so far at London Fashion Week.  Suffice to say, it was beautifully elegant and desirable, not unlike Sade, who not doubt provided aesthetic inspiration for the cutaway polo necks and much of the soundtrack in the form of Sweetest Taboo, Chaka Khan and Tina Turner.  Sometimes simple is best.

Below is a list of the people involved in creating and presenting these collections.  I include these credits, which are on the designer’s printed show notes along with the back story of the collection, because the teams and talent required to realise these collections is huge and diverse.  I type these names to recognise their input (we’ve all been there, working behind the scenes and during the months of preparation) and to show the diversity of backgrounds of London’s fashion creatives.   Long may this diversity continue.

Presentation credits Marta Jakubowski:

Set Design: Gary Card; Styling: Tati Cotliar; Casting: Emilie Astrom; Make-up: Lucy Bridge @ Streeters; Hair: Mari @LGA Management usiing Bumble and Bumble; Nails: Imarni Ashman using Elegant Touch; Music, Elton Gron; Press release: Daryoush Haj-Najafi; Shoes: Jimmy Choo.  Special thanks:  NEWGEN Panel, British Fashion Council, Sarah Mower, Ash Smith, Ella Dror, Jade Willson, Laura Fairfax, Gillian Horsup, Vintage Models, Butler & Wilson.   The Marta Jakubowski team is: Zuzanna Szarlata, Alexandra Sipa, Ines Vilas Boas, Ashley Lee, Ellie Carless, Ash Chari and Audra Kreivyte-Krajewska

Marta Jakubowski showroom:  1-7th March, 3Rue Portefoin, Marais, PARIS, 75003

Presentation credits Sadie Williams:

Styling: Poppy Kain at Intrepid; Casting: Frances Odim-Loughlin; Set Design: Sean Thomson assisted by Warwick Turner-Noakes; Hair: Syd Hayes using Babyliss Pro assisted by Paula McCash and Josh Goodwin; Make-up:  Lucy Bridge using Mac Cosmetics; Nails: Pebbles Aikens at the Wall Group using Nailberry assisted by Brigita Backtye and Lyubomira Koukoutar; Soundtrack: Jackson Holmes.  Special thanks:  NEWGEN team, Topship, the BFC, Nadja Swarovski and team, Sarah Mower, Nora Wong, Arabella Williams, Eden Loweth, Francis Williams, Frida Agren, Jackie Lyall, David Lyall, Jess Kerntiff, Joe Williams, Joseph Horton, Justin Mansfield, Rachel Pelly, The team at IPR and all my family and friends, Stephanie Achonwa, Flavia Abbud, Emily Collier, Emily Coveney, Maddie Denman, Jennifer Drouguett, Florence Hutchings, Nadria Khan, Danielle Kidd, Lola Odumosu, Natalia Niclau, Clara Ormieres, Esther Richardson, Justin Rivera, Christina Ryu, Raiesa Salum, Aasia D’Vaz-Sterling, Nick De Vine, Sophia Messina, Dave Olu Ogunnaike, Hetty Mahlich and Eloise Andrews.

Marta Jakubowski and Sadie Williams are recipients of the Topshop NEWGEN award.

Header:  Marta Jakubowski AW17

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London Fashion Week Mens Gets Political – Designers Create Fashion Antidotes to Brexit and Trump

I’ve made the claim previously that fashion is most powerful when it has something to say, and London Fashion Week Mens shouted angrily to this end.  

Brexit and the election of Donald Trump as the US president have resonated with a swathe of London-based mens fashion designers, including Liam Hodges and Christopher Shannon, resulting in their angry bid to assert their voices of creativity, diversity and civil rights via fashion.  They channelled the UK’s (and perhaps the world’s) bleak political canvas into a colourful, textural backlash, with Liam Hodges asking where to find a “vocation in the decline of civilisation” (in this sector, fashion tech and materials science?) and an emblazoned sweatshirt with the parental warning “Our following EVENTS have been approved for ALL AUDIENCES by the International campaign for fear and Hysteria… PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned” via his Dystopia Lives! collection.  

The opening pastel-tinged denim of Christopher Shannon’s AW17 show lulled me into a false sense of security (in the form of appreciation of the neat jean) before the flag-laden faces in collaboration with Rottingdean Bazaar and the slogan sweats transforming benign fashion branding into statements on the current political state of affairs – Boss became “Loss” and Timberland became “Tumbleweed” – showed Shannon’s serious and stinging intent, ramping the show up to an outspoken and bold level.

Defiant slogans they might be, but that wasn’t at the expense of wearability and seriously well made clothes.  I won’t venture into critic territory about garment structure, textiles and details, not because I didn’t think they were extremely well constructed, but because fashion is subjective and this is simply commentary and reflection, I’m not a critic, rather a designer, writer and appreciator, and I’d wear the lot.   

Christopher Shannon’s AW17 collection in conjunction with Village, Hi-Tec, Revlon and Topman

Shannon’s show notes cite photographer Oliviero Toscani and art director Tibor Kalman, “founding editor of the pioneering COLORS magazine, which was at the forefront of embracing diversity in fashion” as sources of inspiration.  Judith Joy Ross’s Living with War also influenced the collection. 

          Photography: Oliviero Toscani Studio


Colours Magazine, Editor Tibor Kalman and United Colors of Benetton campaign, featured in Colors

Photograph: Judith Joy Ross. Living With War

I’m thinking back to Ashish’s brave and passionate political show at LFW for Spring Summer 2017 and hoping that this resonates through womens fashion week this coming season, as it has mens.  I contemplate the upcoming New York Fashion Week and wonder whether there will be any similar sentiment shared by designers there facing an era of challenging, nasty politics under the new Trump administration.  Will Putin get a (not so honourable) mention?

It’s brave for a designer to be so gobby, especially with the pressure of commercial sales targets and constant burden of turning a profit and keeping the wheels turning, but Shannon’s line of thoughtful and clever sloganeering is somewhat proven, with his current and previous collections bearing a corruption of Sports Direct as “Lovers Direct” and “Haters Direct”, currently in store at Selfridges.  

Fashion that provokes questioning and contemplation and contributes to social and political discourse gets my vote.  Slogan up! 

Christopher Shannon show credits:

Styling: Max Clark assisted by Julie Velut and Louis Prier
Hair: John Vial at UNIT 30 for Revlon at SALON SLOANE
Makeup: Andrew Gallimore and team at CLM Hair & Makeup
Face: Rottingdean Bazaar
Footwear: Christopher Shannon for Hi-Tec
Soundtrack: Maxwell Sterling
Models: Select
Special Thanks: Laura Davidson at Marks & Spencer

Dedicated to Richard Nicoll

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Edda’s Illustrative Fancies Make for Fashion Week Fun

I wrote about the work of fashion designer Edda Gimnes on Techstyler back in February and was curious to see where her penchant for large, sweeping illustrated textiles had taken her for this season.  Edda is an emerging designer beginning to navigate her way into the fashion industry, grabbing onto opportunities arising from winning the bronze award at Designer’s Remix in Milan in March and Germany’s ‘Designer of Tomorrow‘ award in July, following the launch of her label EDDA at Fashion Scout  seven months ago during London Fashion Week.

Edda’s speciality is her celebration of ‘naive’ illustration (she draws with her non-dominant hand) and her willingness to be led into creative territory by mistakes and asymmetry in pattern cutting.  Most western-trained fashion graduates are schooled to strive for balance in pattern cutting, with a focus on fit and silhouette.  Edda’s patterns are a canvas – at times literally – for her fun and figurative broad-brush stroke designs which are digitally printed onto textiles.  The result is graphic, bold and a whole lot of fun.

screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-08-54 screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-07-18 screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-07-10screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-11-43screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-12-36screen-shot-2016-10-09-at-15-17-34Edda’s SS16 Illustrations, research and development

Winning the ‘Designer of Tomorrow’ award following her SS16 collection launch has earned Edda the tutelage of Alber Elbaz, commencing in 2017.  She will create collections in Germany and expand her practice and understanding of commerciality and manufacturing during the year-long award, supported by Peek and Cloppenburg.  I joined Edda to view her SS17 collection in East London, following her presentation at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week.  She talked me through her ambitions to develop more wearable pieces in this collection and create structured dresses with softer prints to balance her signature graphics whilst maintaining the fun and naive construction and idiosyncratic details.  She peppered the new collection with colour and also introduced cute illustrated canvas handbags.

s02_0798s07_1115 s12_1998s06_0926s11_1669Edda SS17  Photos: Yoo Sun

I was especially drawn to the graphic prints in this collection.  Trying on Edda’s clothes transports me into a Quentin Blake-illustrated Roald Dahl-esque world, exciting my imagination and wrapping me in fantastical childhood memories.  Who wants to be a grown up anyway?

Edda SS17 London Fashion Week presentation

Edda and I discuss fashion magic and she wholeheartedly believes in keeping the spirit and fun in her designs from concept through to the final product.  Arguably, fashion is most successful when it offers familiarity and fantasy at the same time – there is something that feels right (nostalgic or familiar) and something new about it.  Edda’s creations deliver that.  They are so authentic – like a child’s frank honesty – and carry with them the designer’s charm, making the clothes highly personal for both her and the wearer.

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I’m placing a personal order and look forward to experiencing this feeling every time I wear one of Edda’s designs.  I also look forward to seeing the response it elicits from others.  After all, fashion is a language best celebrated in dialogue and Edda’s graphic stories are the perfect conversation starter.

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Fyodor Golan’s 3D Simulated Fashion Presentation Heralds The Symbiosis of Fashion Design and Tech

These are some of the words I frantically tapped into my iPhone notes during Fyodor Golan’s stunning London Fashion Week presentation: ‘tender, ferocious, glitchy, primal, diverse’.  The words hit me in digital waves, a helpful metaphor for a presentation that opened with a CGI film in collaboration with Miximaliste that cast avatar models hovering above water and interacting with each other in a tender and glitchy way, creating a warm and poetic narrative about nature, technology and design.  

This piece of CGI fashion film art, entitled ‘Change of Paradigm’ portrays a fantasy world described in the show notes as “an artificial FG paradise”, and is the first step in Fyodor Golan’s journey to fully digital design and specification of garments pre-sampling, removing the need to toile.  Ultimately, they would no longer sketch the designs and make a paper pattern and mock up a the garment in fabric – this would be done digitally – streamlining and speeding up their design and development process and allowing their creativity to run wild.  This new digital process will also enable Fyodor Golan to create seasonal experiences, testing the relationship between fashion, fantasy and reality.

Fyodor Golan X Miximaliste ‘Change of Paradigm’

The multicoloured avatars gave way to a live presentation of the SS17 collection on models packing a serious punch that left the marks primal, attitude and fearlessness in their wake.  This was an expression of the beauty of diversity as much as it was about fashion, technology and new presentation formats.  Fyodor Golan are pushing all sorts of boundaries – I viewed their presentation twice to take it all in.  A fashion journalist from the Czech Republic was enjoying his third viewing when we struck up a conversation.

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Amongst my aforementioned frantically typed notes I also wrote ‘so much direction here’, which, simplistic as it is, serves to remind me that the strength of vision in the film-making, use of colour, styling, casting, set design and sound made this presentation a force of fashion, technology and nature.  The collection is an extension of pre-SS17, which I wrote about previously on Techstyler, with its inspiration rooted in holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, making their avatar model concept a ‘natural’ extension of their pre-season inspiration.

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The hybrid hiking trainers by Salomon led me to imagine a place where these models might scale epic heights, conquering the next frontier of fashion tech and leading an intrepid journey forward into digital fashion’s future.  I can’t wait to see how Fyodor Golan bend tech to their will to present the next installation on their fashion tech journey.


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Golan Frydman, Fyodor Podgorny and a presentation guest, backstage

Show Credits

Stylist: Tati Cotliar

Collection Manager: Billie McKenna

Video Direction: Fyodor Golan

Video Animation: Thomas Makryniotis for Miximaliste

Show Production: NP+CO

Video Production: Miximaliste

Hair: Syd Hayes for Babyliss Pro

Makeup: Andrew Gallimore and Team @ CLM using Maybelline NY

Nails: Sabrina Gayle using Orly

Shoes: Salomon

Music Director: Rohan Budd

PR: Village

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Makers House: What Point Is Burberry Trying to Make?

It’s all Greek to me as I enter the Burberry Makers House venue via a heavily scented and clay sculpture-adorned corridor (reminiscent of Aesop – the fragrances, and the Greek story teller) by Thomas Merrett, scholar of the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust.  Thomas is one of a number of craftspeople and artists under The New Craftsmen collective, lending their talent and artistic practice in the form of live installations – they work in Makers House as members of the public look on and learn about the art of craft.


dsc03004Thomas Merrett’s sculptures at Makers House

I spoke with Rose de Borman about her hand-painted silk screen prints as she worked away, blending paints inspired by a nearby pots of flowers she had collected from her garden and brought in as colour inspiration for her prints.  When I asked her about the designs she said she freestyles them, and hanging behind her are examples of pieces drying before being sold in the Makers House shop.  I thought perhaps Rose designed prints for Burberry, but she explains to me that she has not and that much of her work is for interiors.

dsc03010dsc03013Rose de Borman at work

I also met a trio of students from the Royal School of Needlework who were spending the weekend cross-stitching designs provided to them by Burberry.  Items from the RSN Handling Collection were displayed and available to touch via gloved hands, which was an interesting addition to the passive nature of the other displays.  I chatted to one of the students about her craft and asked whether fashion tech or conductive yarns, for example, are on her radar.  They aren’t, as the course at RSN focusses solely on traditional craft – there are no machines, all work is done by hand – and the threads and yarns are all traditional natural materials.

dsc03029dsc03031dsc03032dsc03035Royal School of Needlework students and Handling collection samples

When I first entered Makers House, I assumed there was a connection between the work of The New Craftsmen and the creation of the Burberry September collection.  The collection, shown at London Fashion Week on Monday 19th September, is on display at Maker’s House alongside the craftspeople, but it transpires that these makers are unrelated to the making of the Burberry collection.

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This is where Makers House feels more like an exercise in creating an experience by association rather than telling the story of the Burberry September collection and its relationship with craft.  That’s not to say there isn’t the inclusion of craft in the collection – there is – but the beading, to my eye, could very easily be the work of Indian embroiderers. Burberry’s printed fabrics have historically been made in Italy, so unless there has been a sudden change, this collection is likely to have been printed there too.  This is no bad thing, it just jars with the romanticised and earnest display of English craftsmanship accompanying the collection at Makers House.

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This is also against the backdrop of Burberry recently halting plans to open a factory under the title ‘Project Artisan’ in Leeds to make their iconic trench coats.  Sadly, an aura of faking rather than making is cast over this experience.  Contrived mood boards of highly symbolic and literal inspiration for the collection sit alongside the makers, which adds to the feeling I can’t shake that this is all a bit forced.

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I found the opportunity to get up close, walk around the clothes, feel the fabrics and see the silhouettes and layering in detail far more interesting and engaging.  It is another example of a strong argument for presentation formats that allow buyers/the public to inspect and absorb the details and beauty of the clothes at their own pace, in contrast to a blistering dash on the runway.  This space had a showroom feeling, with buyers replaced by members of the public.  With the “see now, buy now” launch  (the collection is already for sale to the public) this makes perfect sense.  

dsc03040 dsc03048dsc03054dsc03064Burberry September Collection and Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer, Burberry

Burberry has been a digital pioneer, incorporating technology into every facet of the presentation and sale of its collections for years and always leading the fashion pack – that’s why this feels somewhat like reverting to analog.  Put this in the context of a London fashion week that saw the first holographic fashion presentation by Martine Jarlgaard London and Fyodor Golan’s CGI avatar model fashion presentation and it is suddenly feeling like retreat rather than innovation; not withstanding the live streaming on Facebook with chatbots on Facebook messenger to answer questions during the show itself and support online sales.

Pondering the absence of tech, I notice the longest queue in the building leading to The Studio space and after enquiring what the fuss was all about, I learn it’s the queue for the Instagram booth made famous by a number of celebrities in videos messing around amongst the aforementioned clay sculptures.  The urge for social media and sharing the Makers House experience is strong, and Instagram is an extremely powerful marketing tool for Burberry.  The current count of followers is 7.6 million.

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Attendees of Makers House queued for Instagram photos in the same studio as the celebrities above 

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The current Burberry campaign featuring Burberry Artisans alongside the September collection

Whilst compiling this article I discovered via the Burberry online store that the collection is made in Italy.  The mens beaded waistcoat is not for sale, so appears to be a one-off show piece.  This leads me to wonder what the purpose of placing English craft next to Italian manufacturing was, if not to dupe the Makers House audience into thinking English craftsmanship and Burberry go hand in hand. 

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Ashish Responds to Anti-Immigrant Sentiment by Celebrating his Indian Heritage at London Fashion Week

If fashion is a language, Ashish’s Spring Summer 17 collection at London Fashion Week spoke of multi-cultural defiance in reaction to the post-Brexit toxic anti-immigrant sentiment and violence reverberating throughout Britain and more broadly, much of the western world.  In this collection Ashish celebrated his Indian heritage and proudly declared immigrant status in Great Britain.

#LondonIsOpen was the closing mood, following a luscious procession of adorned Hindu-god-like models, men and women, swept along by an elegantly ambiguous sexuality, at least in this western context.

It was a celebration of craft and colour and a reminder that fashion is most powerful when it has something to say.  In the spirit of that, I’ll let Ashish’s SS17 collection do the talking.

Show credits:

Makeup: Isamaya Ffrench at Streeters with Maybelline

Hair:  Ali Pirzadeh and team at CLM Hair & Makeup (hair products by Toni and Guy)

Manicurist:  Michelle Humphrey and team at LMC for Nailsinc London

Set Design:  Thomas Petherick at CLM

Music:  Baluji Shrivastav OBE

Casting:  Troy Fearn and Mischa Notcutt at TM Casting

Animal Handler:  Andrew Stephenson at Zoolab

Press:  Village

“Special Thanks to my mum”

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From Delivering Louboutins to Devising an Injury Detection Suit – This is Fashion Tech

It’s a refreshing start to the day to chat to an entrepreneur with two startups on the go just six months after graduating from an MA in Global Innovation Design at the Royal College of Art.  Dan Garrett is a do-er – and a resolutely practical one at that.  His recent collaboration with fashion designer Mary Benson is testament to his dynamic and collaborative approach to design.  ‘Fashion design is magical’ he says, reminiscing about his job as a bike courier ferrying Louboutins to devotees in London.  He recalls seeing women trying on the shoes in the store and paying handsome sums for what he describes as an uncomfortable and impractical object that paradoxically is utterly desirable.  Yep, that’s fashion!  Magical, sometimes confusing and utterly spellbinding.

We talk a little more about the magic of fashion and why Dan and his collaborators Elena Dieckmann, Ming Kong and Lucy Jong worked with Mary on their fascinating piece of wearable tech – the Bruise Suit. 

static1.squarespaceMary Benson’s graduate collection, University of Westminster, 2014

The bruise suit was borne out of a collaborative project at the RCA which saw Dan and his team find a problem that needed to be solved and then design and make the solution.  The project, supported by Rio Tinto, had an open brief.  The team decided to design a piece for use at the Sochi winter olympics and interviewed disabled athletes with the hope of devising a solution to a problem.  Paralympic sit-skiier Talan Skeels-Piggins complained of being injured but unaware of his injuries due to his disability and that’s when (after rejection of a number of wearables related concepts) the ‘bruise suit’ concept was borne.  The concept was that on sufficient impact likely to result in an injury, the suit would respond with a visual notification for the athlete.  Weeks of R & D in conjunction with a specialist research team at Imperial College London and collaboration with pattern cutter Raj Mistry resulted in a suit with removable sections of a polyurethane coated textile containing microcapsules of dye that shattered on sufficient impact, therefore signalling a chance of injury.  It’s best demonstrated by the video and images below.

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Bruise suit 1

The design won additional funding from Rio Tinto and the James Dyson Foundation, leading to a second phase which saw the team collaborate with fashion designer Mary Benson whose work incorporates vinyl applications on a multitude of textiles.  Dan explained to me that having researched (and launched a startup in product manufacturing for the healthcare market) he remains frustrated by the ugliness and lack of design in healthcare equipment.  There is little if any consideration for aesthetics in the creation of products for those with disabilities and the complicated process of procurement for such devices (usually by councils on behalf of those with disabilities and without their direct input) means those using the products aren’t choosing them.  The cold, beige hallmarks of medical devices and institutions carry through, he says.  Why? He asks.  Having worked in the NHS for over a decade and being a designer myself I have asked this question (in my own head and audibly) countless times.  Dan is determined to do something about it.  I sense this comes from a fascination for design, in particular fashion, having completed a stint at the Pratt Institute alongside studying at the RCA, however Dan confirms that his practical problem-solving brain’s hard wiring prevents him from moments of Mary Benson-like magic.  He delights in seeing designers, like Mary, create imaginative aesthetics but remains focussed on primarily solving problems with his design and engineering projects.    

output_xAfuF9Mary Benson’s AW14 Cruise collection

Mary, Dan and I live a stone’s throw from each other in Bethnal Green, East London, but it proved impossible to get together due to scheduling conflicts, s0 Dan explains to me that Mary devised the surface design for the Bruise suit by exploiting her much used technique of vinyl applications, which takes the suit into a different (multi-coloured) realm.  Mary’s surface design turns the suit into a fashion object in addition to a piece of technical clothing with a serious purpose.  The process of creating the microcapsule filled polyurethane strips that slide into discrete pockets strategically placed on the most at risk areas of the body (the long bones and knees, for example) was complex.  It utilised newspaper print press roller technology to ensure the two layers of film with the microcapsules were correctly structured to function on sufficient (injury causing) impact.  What Dan worked on specifically with Mary was creating pockets with teflon in between the vinyl and the film which could then be filled with the microcapsules.  Dan explains the satisfaction in developing design that serves the body and cites biomimicry as a motivator for his particular approach to such design projects.  Mirroring the structure of the body and supporting human anatomy is at the core of another of Dan’s projects, for which currently has an advisory role – Aergo, the pioneering modular disability support system. 

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Azure-DX-SmarterFasterTougher-15The Bruise Suit in collaboration with Mary Benson

Dan’s other projects have included TasteWorks, a VR sensory study focussing on appetite and dementia at Keio University and his most current undertaking, Farewill, which launches in earnest soon.  For now, I leave Dan with a buzz and heightened curiosity over what problems he might propose to solve through design next and hope they incorporate the magic of fashion.

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Edda Gimnes Makes Fantastical Fashion

“I wasn’t exactly top of my class, my techniques were a bit out there.”  Edda Gimnes confirmed what I feared when lecturing recently – that in some institutions, students were being moulded, polished and judged according to a narrow set of guidelines where a certain ‘aesthetic’ prevails and is thought of as ‘good design’ and all else is less than acceptable.  Want to design shiny ballgowns?  Tacky!  Want to scribble on blank canvases then slash and top-stitch them together a la’ paper doll dress?  No way!  Fashion design is almost entirely subjective, but you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you listen to some schools of thought in fashion education (no pun intended).


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Edda Gimes AW16 collection and inspiration

What makes a good design?  What makes a great designer?  Does it have anything to do with taste?  Does it matter?  The question I prefer to ask is how does the designer’s work make me feel?  What does it inspire in me?  If the answer is nothing, then subjectively, it’s not for me.  In the case of Edda Gimnes collection it filled me with happiness, excitement and wonder.  I think fashion is largely about magic… and clothes.  Edda’s clothes are sprinkled with a childlike fun that came from her abandon and wit in scrawling across vast sections of cloth with her non-dominant hand in an effort to return to a time when she was learning to draw – to return to being a kid.  The charming naivety leaps off the fabrics which are stiff cotton ‘canvases’ that showcase her monochrome illustrations to great effect.  The jagged seams and raw edges suggest an immediacy of design realisation – it’s like she created the pieces with fervour before their essence could be lost.  She admits to struggling with pattern cutting and finding a way around that limitation by creating cutouts roughly in the shape of a dress sketched flat on a piece of paper.  Rather than being held back by her limitation, it fed into the quick, naive mood of the illustrations and brought them to life in an honest and ‘fitting’ way.

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The slow and at times laborious nature of refinement and re-working in clothing design and creation can mean that all that is human about the design is smoothed away, leaving a perfect but impersonal result.  The ‘hand’ in the creation – the personality – is lost.  Edda’s clothes are theatrical and honest – not unlike her.  Edda’s personality shines boldly throughout the collection and I want to wear it all.  I was in and out of tops and skirts and shoes and lived for a little while in her world.  It was fun, personal and compelling.

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To hear Edda talk about receiving a warm and positive response to her work was a joy.   She was still beaming from meeting Jimmy Choo earlier that day.  He took a huge shine to her and her collection.  He adored her mis-matched and customised high street shoes.  I can’t help but think of Quentin Blake‘s illustrations when I look at her black scribbles atop the pointy toed shoes.  She beams with the recollection of reading Roald Dahl‘s books as a child and initially couldn’t remember where her inspiration for this illustration style came from, until she dug deep into her memories and saw the connection.


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I’m delighted to bring the passion and energy of Edda’s designs to the ‘pages’ of Techstyler.  Her garments are digitally printed and cut and sewn in London and when I spoke to her at Fashion Scout during London Fashion Week she was taking private orders.  Sara Maino from Vogue Italia stopped by and Edda had interest from boutiques in Japan while I was chatting to her, so get your orders in fast, before everyone’s chasing a piece of Edda Gimnes magic.

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Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

When rounding off this post I read a completely unrelated (but brilliant) article and realised that the success of Edda’s collection lies in its authenticity.  It offered this:

“When you’re not trying to hide away the real version of yourself, people will respond’.  When you’re demonstrating authenticity, not some contrived personality, that’s when you find a way to reach out and connect with other human beings”

Onwards and upwards, authentically.

Header Image: Edda Gimnes AW16 Lookbook

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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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