Yesterday I had the pleasure to attend a series of talks from some of my favourite working professionals in the fashion industry.
The event was arranged @FashionInLeeds and @LeedsIntFest and has had small catwalks, talks and presentations from a wide variety of fashion and technology based talent which started on the 22nd of April and runs through to the 30th.
The three speakers I had the privilege of listening to were; Lulu Kennedy MBE who is the founder of Fashion East and MAN, bold print designer and collaboration queen Katie Eary and “Remade In England” sustainability designer Christopher Raeburn.
The first of the three speakers I attended was Christopher Raeburn who is best known for recycling military materials such as life rafts, maps and parachutes. He talked us through some of his fashion films and his inspirations behind his collections and materials. The ‘Meridian‘ video from his Spring/Summer 2015 collection was a visual masterpiece using CGI to recreate his garments and showing an artistic story of the materials used in a somewhat Matrix style of dressing.
(Side story… The last time I met Christopher Raeburn, we were locked out of an Agi & Sam after party (with Agi) and had to tell the doorwoman that the person who was left outside with us was actually the person hosting the party.)
Katie Eary spoke heavily about her career building around collaborations and the importance of building an identity and the opportunities others can give you to build a brand. Katie has collaborated with some incredibly diverse brands including; Kanye West, KFC and IKEA. She spoke a lot about her groundbreaking collaboration with IKEA as the first fashion designer to work with this homeware giant and about the long process of designing home furnishings, plates and bedding.
I have been such a fan of Katie Eary’s work. She was one of the first designers I had the pleasure of seeing during my first ever season of London Collections: Men (now known as London Fashion Week Men’s – christ I still hate this re-branding) and I still remember her bright pink flamingo collection to this day.
Lulu Kennedy MBE is a woman I have wanted to meet for quite a long time but never had the chance to. Fashion East and MAN are two incredibly influential and important companies to grace the British fashion scene. I’ve been lucky enough to attend many of the Fashion East and MAN collections and these showcases have been a great source of inspiration to me as I have inspired a lot of my work around some of these designers who have been spotlighted through these companies. Charles Jeffrey, Katie Eary, Bobby Abley and Gareth Pugh are all designers who I have used as inspiration for various photo shoots and visual projects.
With these talks being relatively small in numbers (and the fact they were hosted inside a shipping container in the middle of Briggate high street) meant that as a group we had the opportunity to talk to each of the guests and have quite an intimate Q&A. Though this was a huge bonus for me, it was a shame to see such influential speakers be in the presence of such a small crowd. Events and talks like these in Leeds are definitely infrequent but are highly valued. Leeds College of Art is an incredibly established art school and with many other designers and artists coming from the Northern territories of England I believe it should have more of a direct address in these areas as a lot of focus (naturally) is on London and London art school graduated designers. I always enjoy listening to designers, artists and industry professionals talking about their careers and experiences and I definitely feel that these events would not go amiss in Leeds.Please, please, PLEASE can we get more incredible speakers like these heading to Leeds in the near future, not just for my sake but for the hundreds of fashion students and industry workers Leeds has to offer!
Another menswear season has been completed (though this time it has been rebranded). London Fashion Week Men’s – formerly London Collections: Men as always has delivered a brilliant array of designers and a multitude of styles for the eyes to feast upon. Though before I begin, I think it has to be said that the name change which has aimed to link itself with London Fashion Week has actually managed to make the whole event feel different. We couldn’t quite figure out why as LFWM (formerly LCM) has changed season to season trying to find new hubs and show spaces after the Old Sorting Office was renovated. With LFW also making 180 Strand its new headquarters for fashion week, it seems that the commercialisation has become quite noticeable over the past few seasons and sadly, menswear is starting to feel like regular London Fashion Week and being different and stand-alone was on of the most loved qualities of LCM. Rant over, though the name and vibe is one thing, let me focus upon some of the treats of Autumn Winter 2017.
There were a few shows that tickled my fancy this year for a number of different reasons. I’ll start with Liam Hodges‘ Dystopian Lives collection and his beautiful use of glitch motifs with urban streetwear. Shades of jungle green and neon yellow blitzed down the runway like the symbols in the Matrix loading screen. There was an overwhelming blast of textures and pattern reminiscent of old computer software and VHS quality visuals creating a military camouflage feel. Photo prints featured on the garments were taken by Liam during his recent trip to China. – Side note, he lectured at the same University (DeTao Masters Academy) that I worked at a couple of years ago. This collection tickled all of my glitch-based taste buds and I thoroughly approved!
Oliver Spencer never fails to deliver an excellent collection. There were a lot of pieces this season that I would love to own and normally I find his collections to be a little tame to my tastes but this season I feel as though he had gone in a more playful direction but still maintaining the distinguished Oliver Spencer aesthetic. The ushanka style hats were a must-have accessory for winter. But the piece that stood out to me the most was the olive green velvet bomber jacket and baggy pants to match. I think I may have to start browsing the shops for my sizes now as he may well have found himself a new customer.
One designer this year was celebrating his birthday this season and had a runway show to celebrate. Bobby Abley brought his usual flair of childhood memories to life with sweaters emblazoned with Power Rangers designs, helmets and dinosaurs. We also got a nod to his previous Rio inspired collection with green, yellow and blue shorts and sweaters and of course a his token teddy bear logo made numerous features including a white leather chest harness, because nothing fuses together better than bondage and childhood comforts. The music was blasting out and the colours were a-plenty. It truly felt like we were all part of Bobby’s big birthday bash… The only thing lacking was the candles, cakes and alcohol.
And of course, the menswear collections wouldn’t be what they are without an array of presentations and parties. There were plenty of highlights in this field including Fashion East‘s Art School collection which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The presentation featured a rabble of budding young thespians all in the rehearsal stages and theatre workshops that will be incredibly memorable to all who ever took part in a drama class in high school. There was a charming ‘New Romantic meets Club Kid’ feel to the collection and nostalgia kicked in when performers all started doing a two-step jive to “Give A Little Love” from Bugsy Malone.
Wan Hung delivered all of the Asian aesthetic that I could possibly ask for. Beautifully minimalist and boxy shapes with glorious oriental fabrics and textures. Also, its hard not to enjoy looking at men in 70’s style platform boots. It was a modern take on vintage stylings and with the glorious colours and shapes of the clothing bursting forward, it truly made me want to have this collection sitting in my wardrobe as we speak. Bravo Wan Hung and thank you for the Asian sweets we were given on the way out.
There was one presentation surprisingly had me stunned. Kent & Curwen was the epitome of a showcase. David Beckham’s collaboration with the brand was something I wasn’t expecting but it made for a pleasant treat. This was his second collection with the heritage sporting outfitter (designed by Daniel Kearns). Located at the Oxo Tower Wharf, we scurried into a large warehouse through big (and heavily guarded) barn doors. We then travelled through a maze of derelict rooms, the only lighting was that of a series of projections of videos and clips from the look books. Once we finally located ourselves into the main room, we were greeted by a cocktail bar filled with mulled whiskey and traditional pub snacks like pork scratchings and fried chicken skins. Christ on a bike! The chicken skins were beyond amazing. But i’m not blogging about food today so back to business… Giant glass boxes filled with flowers proved to be a beautiful way to display the garments. Vintage look bombers, shearling jackets, sheepskin coats, rugby sweaters and boating blazers filled the room with a cheeky Peaky Blinders nod in the cap department. “What more could you ask for?” I hear you ask. My inner fan-boy then burst out as we were greeted by David, Victoria and Brooklyn Beckham. Vicky B?! Posh Spice. Without going into too much of a fan-girl mode, it was excellent, the whole presentation was stunning and to be rubbing shoulders with the Beckham’s is one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that you don’t often get to have.