December 27, 2013

One Night Stands in Farringdon

             Pop-up shops: they come, they go, but they never fail to make a lasting impression during their short-lived timespan. One such pop-up shop at the Clerkenwell Gallery in Farringdon left me dreaming of gold, gems, and jewels. I was invited to a clandestine viewing of 12 designers and one artist that occupied a slot for a mere few hours on a Thursday evening. With complimentary beer from Peroni and coconut water in flavors various, a seamless evening appeared to be on the cards.

             Out of the assembled, while clothing was also on show, the brands that really caught my eye were of the jewelry variation: SMITH/GREY, Tessa Metcalfe, Pearl & Queenie, Kasun London, and Gogo Philip Vintage Bijoux. As an added bonus, I was introduced to artistic talent, Domenico Cordua, and was able to catch up with Laura Smith of the LAURASMITH line, whom I met for the first time during this year’s London Fashion Week.

             The Clerkenwell Gallery seemed at first glance a rather odd venue to show off bespoke pieces due to its cramped interior, but it is that same interior that also made every designer stand stand out. Although jostling other patrons became commonplace, the up-and-downstairs areas were inviting, with the collections taking center stage. The stalls were overseen by most of the designers themselves, offering a unique opportunity to interact directly with the creative minds behind the products laid out in front of us.

             As I headed to the bottom floor, Smith, as ever the delightful and unassuming designer of the room, greeted me at the bottom of the stairs. As we chatted, I fawned over her coral sheers and tried-and-true blacks just as I had fawned over her golds and lilacs at London Fashion Week. Smith wore the X Dress - Silk and Jersey from her Autumn/Winter 2013 collection, epitomizing what it means to keep things simple, but still standout. To avoid repeating myself, have a read here of my interview with Smith during London Fashion Week for more on her inspirations, what she has in store for next season, and an overview of her line, its trademark being Nottingham lace.

The two Lauras; pictured with Laura Smith and her Autumn/Winter 2013 collection
             I was immediately awestruck by Kasun London, the jewelry range consisting of what could be considered dark fantasies, or guilty pleasures. I couldn’t resist trying on the Black Vampire Bite Ring, a gilded and fanged showstopper encasing synthetic onyx. It originally reminded me of a shark’s powerful grip, but considering the stake cross, vampire heart, and silver bullet pendants, it soon became evident that the blood-sucking creatures were the intended focus. I later learned that the collection was called “God Loves Fangs,” featuring skulls, claws, and jaws aplenty, treasures that would act as the perfect conversation starters. My infatuation was running dangerously deep and I had to admit that I had been bitten by the brand, placing that dazzling ring high up on my wish list.

             Still sticking with the theme of skulls, except of animal rather than human origin, Pearl & Queenie’s delicately quirky Longhorn Herding Necklaces were next on my fixation radar. Taken from the Equestrian Treasures collection, expect to also see hunting coins and horseshoes. All of the jewelry is handmade and paired with engraving and symbols of love, luck, and fortune, with credit owed to best friend duo Becca Hulbert and Kathy Dyton. Romance and sentiment dominate the rest of the jewelry in bridal, gypsy, and love story collections. Stamps of “Sweetheart” and “My Heart is Yours,” pearls, cameos, fortune teller hands, charms: this is the stuff of nostalgia. Pearl & Queenie captures the no frills, unapologetic personal meaning of jewelry and how that meaning translates from person to person.

             Back upstairs, more designers were bound to draw me in, and through familiarity, I immediately recognized Tessa Metcalfe’s pieces, which I had first encountered during this year’s London Fashion Weekend. It would actually have been harder not to take notice with a dead pigeon as the focal point of the table’s layout. Speaking to Metcalfe, she revealed that taxidermy was responsible for her designing direction. Indicative of this is the recurring pigeon claw that appears in her rings, necklaces, and earrings. I guess that would explain the bird on the table then, which actually was a wearable hat. Metcalfe’s goal was “finding beauty in the gutter” and she certainly did that by creating her own distinct kind of jewelry, formulated from perhaps an unusual, but nonetheless inspired, idea.

             The running theme of the night actually leant towards that unusualness, that atypical quality. Birgit Marie Schmidt and Sofus Graae, the masterminds behind SMITH/GREY, weave together rugged utilitarian pieces that are chunky and bold (especially for the men) with whimsical horses, bulls, and roses, reminiscent of a fantastical merry-go-round that is just a little “off” upon closer inspection. The roses still protrude with thorns, giving the collection an edgy prettiness, and the horses meld together in succession, but their faces are not always on view, replaced instead by torsos and suspended, dangling legs. The Fighter Ring, a gold plated bronze knuckleduster, is my devilish pick, with tusks that thrust upwards. The SMITH/GREY website says that their jewelry is used as a “narrative medium to unlock the imagination and awaken curiosity.” Mission accomplished.

SMITH/GREY designer, Birgit Marie Schmidt, reflected amongst her roses (top)

             To wrap up on the jewelry front, we have Gogo Philip, founded by Georgi “Gogo” Philip Pecenikov in 2007. Think chains, chains, chains. A chain is a go-to, never out of style accessory, and there is always one swinging from my wrist and most likely my neck in this classic design. Gogo Philip is a surefire “forget-me-not” brand, drumming in the mantra that bigger truly is better. During the night of the pop-up shop, I actually was wearing a heavyweight chain-link necklace and I caught the Gogo Philip vendor taking a look at it as if to nod in accordance with the choice. The clasps are also less discreet than those seen on regular necklaces, projected as part of the whole ensemble. The half gold, half rhodium chain would be my choker of choice, but Gogo Philip makes it difficult to choose just one. Like a magpie attracted to all things shiny, I lingered over the stand, silently desiring.

             Last, but definitely not least, the walls of the Clerkenwell Gallery were filled with limited edition illustrations from Cordua, each representing a darker rendition of someone famous. His psychedelic colors and elegant caricatures are eerie yet very fashion forward. Cordua’s website shows just a handful of what he is capable of, including, to my surprise, an illustration of Madison Montgomery (played by Emma Roberts), a character taken from American Horror Story: Coven, one of my favorite television shows. This is just further evidence of Cordua’s all-inclusive scope. If you have a favorite celebrity, it is highly likely that Cordua has depicted said celebrity in his work, so that he or she may become pride of place in your own household. The streaky results are one-offs fresh from the paintbrush of Cordua, the kind of art we all wish we were making when we blindly tampered with watercolors.

             Well, there you have it; the naughty inside gossip of my one night stands in Farringdon taken straight from my little black book. They were every bit as risqué, gorgeous, and pleasurable as you could imagine. It would seem that I have been a very busy girl, so next time some one night stands come knocking, don’t you be afraid to “get busy” either.

             Discover SMITH/GREY here, Tessa Metcalfe here, Pearl & Queenie here, Kasun London here, Gogo Philip here, Laura Smith here, and Domenico Cordua here. You’ll thank me later!

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