A Blush of Rose
Late Autumn round-up in London
It's an exciting time of year with lots of great reports coming on events I've been to.
Death Becomes Her : A Century of Mourning Attire from the Met Museum in New York
We all know that New York has a great fashion history and over two hundred years ago the ladies of the 'Knickerbocker' families (look this phrase up if you don't know it, you'll learn a lot about NY society & fashion patron history) where ordering in the best of European fashion's to be sent across the ocean, eventually creating the genesis of the healthy thriving NY fashion hub we know and love today.
This exhibition takes a look at the late Victorian and Edwardian era take on funerary fashions. Some fantastic dresses are included from British Queen Alexandra's collection amongst others. Known as the wife of King Edward VII she was a major fashion figure for several decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and her style and even mannerisms where copied on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
Fashion in Motion at the V&A - catwalk reports from Ralph & Russo and Sister by Sibling.
This celebrated series returns to the V&A this autumn and I was lucky enough to photograph at both shows. I have used the V&A official images for Ralph & Russo on this shoot but SIBLING is all shot by me.
Ralph & Russo
I thought it was a seminal moment for a women's Haute Couture House to show on a London catwalk. Even at an exhibition of one of our most renown museum's it felt like a great privilege and in hindsight this has made me feel even more strongly that we should have our own home grown Haute Couture industry up and running again in London as it once was in the past. Perhaps never quite as grand as Paris but we had it. OK, there I've said it, and on with the show. Ralph & Russo in 2013 where granted an invitation to show on the official Paris schedule by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and show twice a year in Paris. It's a fantastic achievement and great recognition of their work.
It was an amazing moment sitting down under the Raphael Cartoons in one of the Museum's main galleries and watching
the show begin.
Fashion in Motion - SIBLING at the V&A.
Matthew Williamson Autumn - Winter 2014-15 collection - perfect party girl dresses.
All images below with kind permission of Matthew Williamson's studio.
WOOL AND THE GANG - a collaboration with John Lewis for a knitting spectacular.
This year in late autumn many people fell in love with a Penguin called Monty in the Christmas campaign and I was delighted to hear that the designers I'd met during London Fashion Week in September for the first time had formed this great partnership.
Knitting has very much been back in spotlight in the last few years and it's no passing rend as WOOL AND THE GANG happily prove. I love the ethos of this collective with many knitters joining the Gang and selling their knitwear through the site. Here are some of my shots from the windows of Peter Jones in central London where you can see whole families of penguins knitting up great scarf's scoods and hats to keep out the chill. The collective spirit was very much alive here.
Bespoke Jewellery by Tessa Packard - Jewellery showcase at Royal Bank of Canada.
Dress by Henriette Favre from 1902. Worn by Queen Alexandra.
I'm not sure if 'genre' is the right word here but this part of fashion, mourning attire, represented a particular part of the fashion industry over several generations and wearing the right clothes during this time would actually have been a major consideration for men and women in the past as part of the ordeal of losing someone in their lives.
The wardrobe had to be carefully planned and organised for the days, weeks and even months stretching ahead into the future. The exhibition spans a hundred year period from 1815 to 1915 essentially across 4 generations and includes a dress worn by Queen Victoria, whom many people feel elaborated the tradition of mourning attire through her years of widowhood.
My main interest was the detail of the fabrics and the looking and appreciating at the craftsmanship and care and work that went into putting the garments together. The exhibition is thoughtfully divided into two rooms, the first The Anna Wintour Costume Center's Carl and Iris Barrel Apfel Gallery contains accessories and jewellery. Jewellery was also a very important part of funerary and mourning time and there is plenty to look at here. The larger Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch Gallery covers fashion and contains mourning attire spanning the hundred year period.
For all of us death a personal thing with many private feelings involved but we may forget now that in past generations women, and men, where accustomed to wear mourning attire for a period of time much longer than today following the death of someone that they where close to.
After a period of seclusion women went back into the world about their daily business and there where even varying dress codes depending on the length of the mourning period. This dress to the left was worn by queen Alexandra in the year after Queen Victoria's death. Still within the time frame for mourning a former monarch these soft muted shades show how colour could be brought back into the wardrobe gradually over a period of time. I think it's enchanting and I love the feathered fan too.
I was intrigued by the exhibitions calendar of mourning showing the different materials and colours that it was appropriate to wear at different stages of the mourning period. For us today thankfully things aren't so complicated but it's a rare cultural insight into a part of our fashion heritage that is not often explored but touched the lives of so many in the past.
Evening dress c.1861 of black moire silk, black jet, black lace. Lent by Roy Langford.
Mourning dress 1902-1904. Black silk crepe, black chiffon, black taffeta.
Evening dress worn by Queen Alexandra, From 1902. As with the dress above it was a gift of Miss Irene Lewisohn in 1937.
All below images from the MET with a credit to the excellent Karin L. Willis (C)
When I first heard that this show was coming to the Met in the Autumn back in Summer 2014, to be honest I thought it did seem a little macabre and Halloweeny. I take it all back, while death may not be something we dwell on much in our busy lives on either side of the pond it is important to understand how in another time the cultural values around this part of our lives where different and death in itself palyed a larger part in many peoples lives than it does today. In all honesty I couldn't wear black for many months after the passing of a relative or even grey's. I would find it too depressing but I think it's important to consider the viewpoints of the past to understand how we've arrived where we are today.
Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo have established a very beautiful London based Haute Couture brand in the last few years that has grown into a brand with a very discerning type of follower. Middle Eastern Princesses and Queens, Hollywood Actresses such as Angelina Jolie and Chinese and East Asian superstars all flock to this brand. Plus behind the scenes their a large number of private unknown ladies in the US, UK and Europe who's Haute Couture needs are met by Ralph and Russo. It's a classic brand of elegance and style that is very much still in demand the world over and Tamara Ralph as a fourth generation couturier, producing clothes for clients from her teenage years, has defined her own style.
The focus for Ralph & Russo's designs is largely evening wear. Tamara Ralph chose pieces to show for Fashion in Motion that synthesise with her interest in photography and she works with the traditional themes of Haute Couture with modern influences. Among her greatest Fashion Photography influences are Henry Clarke, Willy Maywald, Irving Penn and Lillian Bassman. Massimo Listri, a photographer of architecture is also cited as an influence and his perspectives influence the collections attention to detail helping to shape silhouttes and embroideries.
Tamara and Michael have been fastidious about hiring experienced seamstresses and embroiderers and it was a delight to be amongst some of them after the show in the group gathering to congratulate the designers. Many of Tamara's embroiderers trained at the House of Lesage in Paris. The wedding dress that closed the show has received a lot of media attention and quite rightly. It is comprised of over 3,900 hours of work and aligns itself directly with the tradition of craftsmanship that is celebrated in Haute Couture.
As I mentioned earlier it was stunning to see a Haute Couture show in London and to see these elaborate creation move, often with a life of their own seemingly before your eyes, along the catwalk, and under beautiful High Renaissance Art as well.
You can see more catwalk images and backstage pictures of my meeting with Tamara, Michael and their bride here at my Instagram account.
There was a great Buzz around this show at the V&A with the venerable Museum once again show-casing the best that British design has to offer in the great space of the Raphael Gallery. The art set was pretty funky and the design, as you can see below made a great play on the traditional mixed with the modern with the sewing needles set against a backdrop of bright coloured textile and form.
SIBLING showcased their collection for Autumn-Winter 2014. With plenty of knit and vibrant bursts of colour this was a collection. Texture varied through the collection giving plenty of scope for play and fun with the designs. Carefully crafted and looked sharp and modern. SIBLING's brand of urban casual strode out boldly under the lights to greet a delighted audience. The first look shown above to the left was one of my favourites from the show, bold and bright it set the tone for the show in many ways and brought technically advanced knitwear to the catwalk. The close fitting trousers, vest top and jacket where warm and also light in their structure on the figure. The Mo-Hawk pom pom hat covering the head masks the man inside and also gives a great texture contrast in full colour.
Another masked 'brawny boy' steps out on the SIBLING Catwalk in restrained black and white stripes running in patchwork at juxtapose angles. To me I could see a synergy with both natural fibers in close up and the fibers of sinew in human tissue running criss cross across the body. Thick socks and long gloves proof this boy against the cold and he's ready for action in any climate. Next the Mo-Hawk morphed into a full pom pom on the head of the next guy to tread the catwalk. All dressed in (Bridal?) white this outfit challenged perceptions of masculinity and strength showing the warrior striding out, and yet his eyes are masked by, not a helmet, but a soft knitted headpiece.
Next above are two shots of the same look from the catwalk and earlier backstage. With the mask removed you can see the boy before he walks the catwalk and I think it's fun to see the man behind the mask, isn't it always? In light baby blue this boyish outfit with a very intricate design recalling the movements of the night sky in places looks like great casual and street wear. A man-skirt appeared in the next look under a bright coloured shirt and a faux fur coat. Leggings and high ankle boots completed the look to give an edgy, yet comfy warm look for the winter. Again men's street style with the funky classic SIBLING twist. Colour popped big time with the next look is another bold colour statement with a scarlet red pom pom sweater and head piece cloaking the model. I think this is a statement of strength and courage. Next to the right statements abounded printed on the light weight jogging suit. Words and phrases capturing the frustration and anger of a young person making their way in anger through the life and noise of the city.
The colour palette for the show was broad and playful with light and delicate tones mixing with the bold. The print designs varied along with the textures and cut. Above to the left are two playful fun outfits using two contrasting design forms, one a use of traditional cut and the other relaxed and modern. The second outfit to the left is very fun and I think that this look could also be worn by a girl as well. Rocking the Crochet theme once more the suit in vibrant orange, cropped to the knee with an African inspired heritage necklace cleverly shows the intricacy of design contouring through the style of the crochet itself.
To my eyes the ribs appear where there may be seams in a piece of another fabric. The jumbo out sized knit in the two looks above is an eye catching knit combination. The outsized knitted hats where two of my favourite looks from the collection and below backstage I saw two of the crew from the Studio with the gloves and hat from this look. The look furthest to the right was the Orange Raffia Monster.
Here are some more shots from backstage of the Models just after the show and a look at the full run through at the close of the show. I really enjoyed seeing this gathering of looks from several seasons both on the catwalk and behind the scenes. It was a great collaboration with the V&A and very well received.
I was lucky enough to catch the SIBLING trio backstage and congratulate them on a great show. They where all smiles greeting friends and seeing that the models where well looked after. The shot to the right is one of my favourites I took of the review of the catwalk show.
As ever it was great to see Fashion in Motion once again at the V&A this autumn.
Seeing the beautiful Rosanna Falconer wearing the spectacular red dress below to the right prompted me to write about Matthews Autumn Winter collection as we drew nearer to Christmas. Rosanna was working 21st century princess chic and looking more broadly at the collection there are many great pieces here that will find a welcome home in your wardrobe.
The play of contrast between the light blue and red was evident early in the collection and the first coat look that I put below is a great outfit to brighten up dull days. The next coat moving right matches the tone of the scarf for a look of subtle elegance. Both looks featured geometric polka dots printed on the scarfs showing modest restraint and decorum in style for Autumn.
The monochrome look center above echoed the catwalk colours that celebrated the optimistic mood of the collection expressed with it's star motif. The rays beaming out across the catwalk made the magic of the star real as they shot light out into the room. The two dresses above to the right also played with the star theme in the tight figure hugging creations that swayed along on the models in front of the audience.
When monochrome wasn't in play, the colours came from the jewel box in flashes of brilliance. Another detail I loved from this collection was the tightly laced ankle boots. Opening with Jonquill yellow, Amethyst and pacific opal blue dance through the collection with metallic flashes cutting a dash on the catwalk.
The star appears again in all the above looks forming a beautiful Kaleidoscope of variation with this theme. The first two looks above to the left convert the red and blue starred dresses into beautiful trouser suits completed by contrasting monochrome boots. Next to the right a dress playing with layers of colour, taking it's influence from a Georgian era rug that together with the vibe of the 1970's jet-set was one of Matthew's influences for the collection. This dress with monochrome stars placed across it is one of my favourite pieces from the whole collection. I also love the fur bag that accompanies it. Great fun and something you could work with a number of different looks from the collection.
Next come two wonderful party dresses, short, sweet and sexy they are two perfect dresses for the party season. They are a statement without being overpowering. They hit the nail on the head and these girls strike the perfect balance of attitude and demure beauty. The star comes back again. That timeless symbol of female strength. Above to the right monochrome back and white are cloaked in vibrant colours of Racoon Fur in a foretaste of the autumn and New year's celebratory fireworks. Here there is a double juxtaposition of both colours and texture to play with and explore.
Working in black and red in harmonising contrast the next two looks draw the eyes attention very sharply to the figure. In a powerful alignment the dress. Subtly symbolic, with perfect angles for the female form the be-jewelled bodice of the dress sits on the figure drawing the eye down towards the tailored waist. Peplums flare out from the waist over the hips in a small echo of a skirt. The black outfit comprises of some the sleekest pants that you will find while the red outfit descends into a beautiful short skirt.
The next two dresses caught my eye for several reasons. Like much of the collection there is an easy natural grace and simplicity in the clothes. The first dress from the left captivates with it's long strands of bead-work style embroidery that run the length of the dress down to the floor. Sitting gently over the figure it's an easy wear piece that would suit you for day and evening events. Something a bit special in the flowing goddess dress next to it. I really like this piece and it will show your figure really well. Belted high at the waist to elongate it flows wonderfully with the stride. A sheer skirt to the dress contrasts with the opaque bodice of the dress in light fabric enveloping you utterly. She's floating along with stars literally trailing behind her.
Next to the right two beautifully tailored women's trouser suits with and without a jacket pay tribute to 'le smoking' and cut a very sexy figure on the catwalk and perfect looks for the early evening or night time.
Two more short cut dresses feature below and again there are some great looks and therefore canny choices to make when choosing which looks would suit your outfit needs the best. To close a look at this collection a wonderful dress echoing the catwalk design showing the power of the woman echoing out across the room and Matthew humbly taking his well deserved applause to close the show. Please discover more of the world of Matthew Williamson here.
WOOL AND THE GANG is a global initiative to encourage and grow individual craftsmanship and fashion from the grass roots. It's about supporting the individual to create sustainable fashion - made by hands and not by robots in a factory. It's holistic and down to earth and at the same time packed with positive energy. Please check out their profile here and learn more about their story.
Travelling around London on the tube and sometimes on journey's further afield I'm pleased to see some girls (it doesn't always have to be) picking up the needles and knitting of crocheting. I remember bring a very little girl and seeing this more often, usually elderly ladies would do it to pass the time but aside from myself and a few friends being taught crochet and knitting at home when very young I think I rarely saw it anywhere until the last few years and the more recent push to bring the skills back to life and back into the main stream. In fact it's oftne forgotten that men used to knit, soldiers on campaign and sometimes men in farming communities.
I really enjoyed meeting the lovely Tessa Packard at her showcase at Royal Bank of Canada. Tessa has produced a series of uniquely inspired collections of jewellery since launching her business in 2013. A true artist at heart, Tessa - with her lovely smile to the right - is growing a a very special brand with a growing following. It was a great pleasure to shoot images of these pieces. I'll let the images do most of the talking and urge you to check out her website here. Tip: please do look at her sketch books they're fantastic and wonderful to see her design process in play.
SIBLING was established by Joe Bates, Sidney Bryan and Cozette McCreery in 2008 and has won a loyal and growing following the world over as a collaborative, responsive collective dedicated to creating high fashion knitwear with a challenging edge. The light blue piece above to the left to me playfully echoed the colour patterning of Dutch china, here remade in the modern age for a Man's street-casual look. Next a classic 'brawny boy' piece with the staple SIBLING boiler jacket worked with layers of Raffia style detail and open almost to the waist. Knee length lose fitting sports trousers complete the look and this is an action outfit ready for sports or hanging out any time or anywhere. In the next two shots you can see some fantastic knitwear detail that really caught my attention - hence inclusion of the looks from the front and behind. The combination of the scarf, sweater and cardigan into one piece offers extra warmth and has the strong sense of SIBLING originality. Crochet features again in the look above to the right with a look that reminded me a little of 'Sailor Boy' outfits with varsity stripes and a modern street twist.
Bringing wool in fashion bang up to date I loved this window above showing a parent penguin perhaps setting up a fashion shoot with the little penguins hopping around. Teaching skills from one generation to the next, we have to do this in every industry and it also fitted well with the family-centered ethos of John Lewis. You have to have fun with your fashion, there's so much to love and enjoy in the industry and I think that this picture really captures that.
To the right some more playful penguins are having fun amongst the yarns and wrapped up against the winter chill. They're waving you goodbye and wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.
Here above is the Conquistador's bracelet priced at £25,500.00 from the Mexicana Collection. It's a dazzling piece beautifully modeled here by Tessa herself. This is an 18ct Gold and aquamarine cluster bracelet. What is wonderful to appreciate is that every stone is individually cut and slightly different size. This echos the building techniques of the ancient Maya and Aztec people of central America. It's composed of 79 carats of untreated aquamarine stones and is the only piece of it's kind ever created. You will be the only person to wear this unless you are generous enough to lend it to friends to borrow.
More from the Mexicana collection above clockwise from the left. The very pretty temple earring replicate the silhouette of the temple architecture found on ancient sites in Mexico. These earrings are in 18ct gold and vermeil silver with square cut red cubic zerconia. Any stone you chose can be used. Next are the Montezuma earrings. I think this is such a special and unique design capturing the spirit of Mexico and it's culture. The stones used are white topaz baguettes and octagon-cut aquamarines. It shows how good Tessa is at taking an idea and extracting the real heart of it.
Below it is the Carmen ring a unique piece in 3 aquamarine stones. A very special gift to give.
The 19th century opium dens of the far east where the source of inspiration for the next collection, No Smoke Without Flowers.
Below is the Shanghai Fire ring. This delicate knuckle ring can be made to order in any ring size and is made from 18ct gold, garnet, citrine and smokey quartz. A warm glowing combination. Below right the Madam Pistl ring is again in 18ct gold set with square cut Amethysts, garnets and black sapphires.
In terms of working with gemstones the Calligraphy Ring also from the No Smoke Without Flowers collection shows the high level of craftsmanship and detail created in Tessa's studio. This is an 18ct gold carved Lemon cabochon piece featuring channel-set black sapphire detail. A unique piece as with some of the other here it would be another very intimate gift for a special friend.
The third collection of jewellery that Tessa showed was the Predator/Prey collection. There where many fine pieces to chose from here and my two favourites that would be on my wishlist, aside from the spectacular Conquistador's bracelet, of course, are here above. I loved the use of the use of the Honeycomb design above in the simple chic necklace. The Amethyst earring with the little fiery wasps sit delicately suspended. I love this piece as you can really sense a fiery energy from the Amber that the wasps are carved from. True to her belief in craftsmanship these wasps are hand-carved in amazing detail.
I was delighted to meet Tessa and look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.