fashion

IS ANYONE ELSE FED UP OF BUYING SHOES?

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Today I bought ANOTHER pair of shoes, and I was totally NOT feeling very Blair Waldorf about it.

I always expect a bit of maintenance, heel and sole repairs, etc. but my beloved oxblood loafers just burst at the right toe, ugh. So I bought some more shoes today. But I feel like, as someone who walks a lot, I spend a lot of my time either going to the cobblers, or buying MORE shoes to replace broken ones. Even the expensive ones don’t last with my lifestyle.

What can a girl do? Where sells near-indestructible holy grail shoes which will be able to endure the my daily habits? What’s the point of shoes if they can’t survive being walked in? ARE FUNCTIONAL ITEMS THAT FULFILL THEIR PURPOSE SO MUCH TO ASK?

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Copying: Fashion’s Lifeblood

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Business of Fashion’s topic this Monday was the question of copying in the fashion industry. Some valid points are raised, such as the difficulty that smaller brands face when trying to gain recognition as fast fashion companies produce replicas at a fraction of the time and cost, but I’m not convinced that we should be clamping down on these copyists, be that to protect designers or save consumers from themselves.

Copying is what keeps the fashion industry moving, and it’s also what allows people to create the persona that they present to the world, regardless of their budget. As Miranda Priestly has already explained to us, trends start on the runways*, and trickles down into lower priced stores, until everyone’s sick of that trend and we start looking for the next one. Do we really want to take that away from people? Shall we leave fashion for only the super rich while the rest of us peasants save our Sunday best to church? Brown linen tunics for the plebs… I like knowing that even though I can only afford real Dolce & Gabbana once in a while, they’ll inspire next season’s high street collections and I can get the look at my own budget.

Secondly, I don’t really have much respect for intellectual property, and I don’t think you can claim ideas so that nobody else can use them, in the same way you can claim physical objects. As far as I’m concerned, if you pay a factory to churn out 10,000 dresses that look almost exactly like a Valentino one, then sell them at a twentieth of the original price, you’re well within your rights to do so. You can’t own that kind of thing, and it’s (IMHO) morally wrong to prevent the consensual exchange of goods and services in this way, just because you want to be recognised for your good idea. Bad things happen when we mess with the free market.

Of course, this brings up the problem of counterfeit products. Selling a pair of fake Louboutins at a three digit price to an unsuspecting is simply dishonest and there’s no place for that, but knowingly buying a fake Louis Vuitton bag? Tom Ford dicusses this (around 28:00, but the whole video’s worth watching). Counterfeit buyers are not lost customers, they would have never bought the authentic piece in the first place, and the customer who can afford the real LV values the quality and exclusivity enough to justify the pricetag. Sure, there can be the issue of damaging a brand image, as we saw with the proliferation of fake Burberry around 10-15 years ago, but  with enough creativity and innovation, a fashion house can survive this and retain (or regain) their prestigious reputation. Besides, nobody who bought a monogrammed purse from a guy who bundles his wares up in a sheet whenever a police officer approaches ever thought they were buyng genuine goods, if someone so desperately wants a crappy fake handbag to keep up appearances, it’s their problem when it falls apart after three uses.

High-end fashion occupies a special place in the market, and big high street brands need them to survive. Although it might feel like emerging designers are stuggling to gain recognition for their creative efforts, there will always be demand for the innovators, and this competition should be seen as the opportunity to remain relevant and cutting edge. Carving out one’s own little niche in the market, and then staying there, is simply a case of survival of the fittest.

-Niko

 

*kind of, fashion designers don’t exist in a cultural vaccuum.

Do we need critical fashion journalism?

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Last week, I was pretty surprised to come across Business of Fashion’s article, Take Me To Church, which describes some of Alexander Wang’s choices as ‘obvious’ and ‘self-conscious’. It was totally right, and something I think every time I see that totally overdone punks-in-church trope. But what struck me was that for all the blogs I follow, I very rarely see anything that openly critcises designers.

I suppose most of this is down the fact that a lot of media is really advertising dressed up as journalism, so there’s a lot of tip-toeing going on. I guess anything truly horrible would just be ignored.

In a way that’s good; why dwell on things you don’t like when you can celebrate the things that you do? There’s a time and a place for criticism, though, and the lack of it is probably what sets the fashion world apart from other commercial industries like cinema and fine art. It’s a given that films need to pull in audiences to create profit, but it isn’t dismissed as vapid the way fashion is, and this is in part due to the fact that most media outlets do little more than praise whatever they’re being paid to promote.

The is fine to an extent- magazines don’t really exist to ask these questions, which is why we need sources like Business of Fashion, where writers can take a step back and look at collections more objectively. This benefits all of us; the industry’s legitimacy is reinforced, a forum for discussion is created, and sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade, especially when it’s a sweatshirt tucked into sweatpants, because what the fuck even is that?

-Niko

 

Fashion notes #1

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I started typing ‘blogspot’ into the search bar, blogging so sporadically I forgot which platform I use.

Remember Miranda Priestly’s *cerulean* rant in The Devil Wears Prada? I totally get it now. Like, I got it before, but now I extra get it.

Cast your mind back to around a year ago. Valentino’s pre-fall 15 collection was released, memorable for its Primavera-inspired prints and embroidery, designed by Celia Birtwell. I spent a lot of time stood outside the boutique in Florence, lusting over a pair of boots. I could have stared at them for days. Not long afterwards, Zara, in all its fast-fashion glory, had clear rip-offs on its shop floors. Props to you, Zara. Always on the beat.

I’d more or less forgotten about this until a couple of weeks ago, when I saw this dress in H&M:

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Then this bag last week, in the window of Accessorize:

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I’m sure if I ever deign to step foot in Primark, there’ll be something similar printed onto some shapeless piece of viscose. Anyway, my point isn’t to make fun of that shop. Mostly, I just want to explore the fascinating way in which catwalk trends filter their way down into the mass markets, until we’re all so completely sick of them that we have to fall in love with something else (but I will love you forever, Sandro.)

I propose we all choose one key catwalk motif, and keep an eye on it as we watch it go through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin, then compare notes in a year’s time, yes?

-Niko

‘SPREZZY’: a recent history of menswear

If you read my Sunday Links regularly, you’ve probably noticed quite a few posts from Four Pins up on there. Last Friday, editor-in-chief, Lawrence Schlossman, resigned to move onto new projects. Four Pins has published his history in personal style and it’s quite funny to realise how long I’ve been following him on social media… that first picture of him in the sportcoat? I remember when that was posted on his Tumblr blog years ago, How to Talk to Girls at Parties. I’m not going to talk about Lawrence much here, because it feels stalkerish, but I’m going to use that gallery as a mini exploration of the past few years in menswear.

We first see Schlossman during his university years, dressing just like anyone else c.2004 would. This was before men’s clothing was really a ‘thing’ like it is now, high fashion was still seen as ‘metrosexual’ and not for the regular guy.

Notice how suddenly his style changes after that? There was definitely a massive revolution at the 2008-09 mark, when suddenly menswear blogs were everywhere, sharing outdated rules on how to dress, harking back to better days when men wore suits all the time, and there was a strong emphasis on Ivy League prep looks and heritage clothing. That then moved into a brief dip into heritage workwear. I mainly followed American bloggers, so my feeds were full of Bean Boots and lumberjack shirts. Probably handcrafted by people with pretentious beards in California or something.

It wasn’t long before people got bored of the stuffy and outdated rules that they were previously clamouring to fit into. Of course it was only natural, after a huge trend towards extremely casual fashion, starting from the 1980s, to yearn for some kind of formality and structure as a reflexive backlash, but there was a reason that we don’t dress with so many rules anymore, they simply don’t fit in with our modern lifestyles. Soon, we were enamoured with the Italians, ‘sprezzatura’ was the buzzword of the year, and Pitti Uomo was all anyone talked about. The relaxed tailoring that we see in pic. 14 of the article marked the beginning of the departure (or redeparture) of the strict rules that the menswear world had briefly revived.

Schlossman then embraces much more casual style, but in a for more flattering and grown-up manner. This has been the general trend in men’s clothing and as you can see, it’s he’s clearly approaching a comfort zone that is equal parts classic and modern, and he doesn’t at all look like he’s wearing a costume.

The final images in various all-black getups are absolutely great; you can see someone who’s totally in their element, and while it was great that there was a brief revival of ‘the rules’, it’s even better that they’ve been broken and played with to bring us to what we have today on the menswear scene. Elements of classic tailoring are still there, but there’s far more room to inject some personality without being sneered at for wearing the wrong type of tweed at the wrong time of year, and we’re really moving to a point where fashoin isn’t just for women or camp men, it’s for everyone.

Any observations to add?

– Niko

DETAILS: pompon

pomponThat’s French for ‘pompom’.

You know when you keep seeing something everywhere, then you can’t stop thinking about it? That’s heppening for my with pompoms. A little bit theatrical, a little bit retro, and the perfect way to add a bit of fun to an outfit, they’re like polka dots that came to life. I’ve got pompoms on the brain! Here’s a mini edit if you’re looking to add something to your own collection – I’ve already bought the bag charms to satisfy my craving…

  1. Grey rabbit fur bag charm, £1 /// 2. Peach rabbit fur bag charm, £2 /// 3. Claire’s black plush pom pom ears headband, £5 /// 4. Next black pom pom point shoes, £28 /// 5. Boohoo glitter pom pom clutch bag, £14 /// 6. River Island black pom pom heeled sandals, £70.

– Niko

CUCINELLI: conscience and cashmere

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Today, ladies and gentlemen, I want to talk to you a little bit about Brunello Cucinelli, of Brunello Cucinelli fame. The Business of Fashion published an article about him last week, and I was reminded again why he’s one of my favourite people in the fashion industry right now. So basically this post is going to be a lot of gushing and a little bit of reflecting on what makes him such a great guy. I hope you’re as passionate about knitwear brands as I am.

It’s currently very trendy to criticise businesses; they exploit their workers, destroy the environment, encourage mindless consumption, and overall have no social conscience. Apparently. I’m not saying that this isn’t true of some large companies, because I know it is, but what I love about Cucinelli is that he has cultivated a brand that pulls in healthy profits, whilst being totally unique in the way he goes about things. Through his so-called ‘humanistic capitalism’, he has restored a historic village, his staff have brilliant work hours and are well cared-for, and he only seems to be making the world a better place. If you’re not familiar with him already, I’d really recommend that BoF article just to get an idea.

Cucinelli is a massive inspiration to me, as someone who hopes to run their own business in the future, as he demonstrates just how businesses can keep investors happy whilst creating more than an empire, but a legacy of conscientiousness and good practice. Paying employees above the minimum wage, and making sure they have free time and are otherwise comfortable not only creates good morale, but has the bonus of allowing the company to select only the best workers that truly want to be associated with the brand – I like to think that simply being nice comes back to you, and this is certainly an example. I could cynically say that this is just part of a business plan, but to me it feels like that and more; Cucinelli seems to genuinely care that his name and image isn’t solely associated with fine knitwear and luxury goods, but a more holistic idea of community and mutually beneficial relationships.

While I’m not going to tear down any business that people are happy to buy from, even with massive mark-ups – I’m not one to tell people how to spend their own money or impose my own ideas of worth stuff people want – I really appreciate the fact that his pricing reflects the quality of the products and the production system that maintains a happy workforce. Yeah, Cucinelli is far out of my own budget at the moment, but I really wouldn’t mind parting with my hard-earned cash when I don’t feel like they’re trying to squeeze every last penny from me.

Finally, the fact that he’s doing this whilst gradually restoring the 12th century village in which everything takes place is incredible; travelling via train through Tuscany, I’d always long to buy up all the crumbling historic villages and save them from ruin before it’s too late to do anything. By also using said buildings to house his business, they become useful and relevant – granted a second life, rather than being turned into museum relics of times past, a free market solution to preservation. He’s even built a theatre that sensitively blends in with the traditional architecture.

Sure, if and when I become rich (I’ve decided to be rich one day) I’ll still buy a load of rich people stuff like Valentino gowns and fully-staffed yachts (naturaly), but I’ll also want to feel like my money is doing some perceptible good, and changing the world for the better. Brunello Cucinelli does all of this, and genuinely seems to be striking the perfect balance between work and personal life. If there’s any business I’d want to model after, it’s this one.

– Niko

YVES SAINT LAURENT: STYLE IS ETERNAL

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So I must have been like, the only person on the planet who hadn’t seen the Yves Saint Laurent: Style is Eternal exhibition at the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle. Beth and I popped by a couple of days ago. Finally.

The exhibition is a concise journey through Saint Laurent’s influences and history, from humble beginnings, where he’d make paper dress-up dolls with designs of his own creation, to his international success as a couturier. We see the way historical dress and his Pied Noir heritage manifest themselves in his work, and the way his personal interest in the art world was translated into clothing.

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If I had to criticise the exhibition, I’d say that it was rather small, and somewhat ‘padded out’ which the inclusion of non-YSL clothing from the museum’s own collection. Whilst it is important to show the way that Saint Laurent used elements of period dress in his designs, this could have been done more succinctly, as I feel that these somewhat overshadowed the YSL clothes on display, and it gave the sense that the curators were simply trying to bulk out the display.

Criticisms aside, it was nice to see the way certain periods of his career, or certain things that had become a theme throughout it, were nicely divided into easy-to-digest displays, such as Le Smoking, or the likes of Braque, Mondrian, and other artists. This isn’t V&A level, but it’s great for the North East, especially outside of one of the larger towns or cities. I think my favourite parts were the toiles and embroidery samples.

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The exhibition has been extended due to popularity, and is now open until 8th November. Definitely make your way there while you can! It’s a worthwhile trip for anyone interested in fashion and clothing. Tickets can be booked online.

– Niko

GOLDEN DRESS OF DREAMS

GOLDEN DRESS OF DREAMS

CRYSTAL BALL: future fashion regrets

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I actually think girls look great in mom jeans. Keep going!

It’s a well known fact that fashion is cyclical; trends that we’d left behind in the nineties are now back in full force on our high streets, but there’s also a tonne of stuff that we’ve all agreed never to revisit (see: mullets). We arrogantly assume that modern fashion is free from these embarrassing moments, but I’m sure that’s exactly what our older family members though in the 1970s. And look at those photos now. Giant flares? Giant shirt collars? Eyebrows plucked almost into disappearance? I’ll happily leave those in the past, thanks.

So, what current trends will we be cringing over in the future? Here are my predictions:

1. ‘Instagram brows’. I think the name says it all, you know what I’m talking about; brows that look like they’ve been airbrushed on, with no discernible hairs, often very rectangular on the inner end. TOO neat with a weird gradient. I love a strong brow, and I haven’t plucked minefor years, but when I see girls with this heavily ‘done up’ look, all I am seeing is a bunch of people who don’t know that their technique originated in the drag community.

2. Heavy contouring. I know, I’ve recently written about my own makeup routine, which includes contouring, but what I’m talking about is essentially painting features in, rather than emphasising what’s there. Contouring isn’t a new technique, it’s been used in theatre and photography for years, where faces tend to look ‘washed out’ under heavy lighting, but for everyday wear, I prefer to see healthy skin that’s been allowed to breathe. I predict that in a few years’ time we’ll be looking at it the same way we look at the heavily powdered faces of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – not inherently ugly, but really ‘of its time’, and very dated. You know when you see grandmas with that caked-on powder and too-pink rouge? That’s you in 60 years.

3. Health goth. That monochrome, basketball-shorts-over-leggings thing that people are doing? Your future kids will not think that look is as cool as you do right now. I’m sorry.

4. Trainers with everything. I really like this trend, actually, but I feel like we’re at the tail end of a kind of ‘casual revolution’ that started in the 1980s? We’ve come a long way from neon shell suits but one of the things that has stayed strong is casual footwear. We’re now seeing guys wearing tailored suits with trainers, mixing dressing up and dressing down. I think it looks great, but I’m not sure how long it’s going to be before this turns into a blip in the constantly changing face of fashion, or if it’ll turn into a wardrobe classic. I’m praying for the latter – comfy but tailored? I’m all for it.

5. Normcore. Already for me this just feels like a tacky appropriation or mocking of regular people who just aren’t hugely into fashion. If you’re going out of your way to make yourself understated and indistinguishable, you’re going to fail. Like, just stop trying so hard. If you like grey jumpers and straight-cut jeans, power to you, but it becomes really unpalatable to me when it turns into a kind of comment on what other people are doing with their lives. I think people are going to look back on this and regret not wearing things that they loved, because they were more interested in being ironic or commenting on the state of fashion or whatever. There’s a real attractive quality in being earnest, that’ll never go out of style. Irony and saltiness don’t look good on anyone.

I’m not the fashion police. Like I said in my last point, wear what you want, and if you want to be a contoured, power-browed health goth, you do you. It’s fun to think of the way things we once loved totally repulse us once we’ve moved onto the next trend, though, isn’t it? What trends do you see yourself cringing over in the future?

– Niko

STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: 8 twinkly necklaces for layering

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I’m a big fan of layering up pendants, I love subtle flashes of gold rather than oversized statement pieces, and I think it’s a great way to give an insight into one’s personality without revealing too much. This is my current setup.

If you’re thinking about making a few dainty additions to your own collection, I’ve compiled together some of the prettiest pieces around, in a celestiallly-themed list, inspired by nights spent at sea, gazing at constellations. Everything here is either gold or gold-plated, because it doesn’t go gross like base metal or tarnish like silver. You’re welcome.

1. Eclectic Eccentricity Lunar Locket Necklace, £22.50 /// 2. Alex Monroe Big Sailing Ship Necklace, £150 /// 3. Alex Monroe Enchanted Twig Number 3 Necklace, £375 /// 4. Chupi Sagittarius Necklace, £119 (other star signs available) /// 5. JulenJewel Mini Star Necklace, £8 /// 6. J&S Gemstone Triangle Pendant Necklace, £25 /// 7. JulenJewel Small Crescent Moon Necklace, £8 /// 8. Z for Accessorize Shooting Star Pendant Necklace, £12 ///

– Niko

PS: You see more of what inspires me on my pinterest board ‘2’, here.