September 28, 2013

Hats Off to London Fashion Weekend

             London Fashion Week’s little sister, London Fashion Weekend, does not baulk in the face of its mightier predecessor. As we disembark from London Fashion Week, London Fashion Weekend offers something all of its own. Somerset House dedicates a weekend every September and February to host the massive event. Somerset House is worthy of a visit itself, with its guided tours, art exhibitions, and open-air concerts and films. This was my second year attending London Fashion Weekend and its popularity has only grown since then. 

             Whereas the space around me was maneuverable last September, this year I found myself lumped in with hoards of people, attempting to inch my way along clothing racks. I didn’t mind being squashed up against a particularly luxurious crimson fur coat, but almost as soon as my covetous fingers had stroked it, I was swept up in the fashion mob. As they say, if you can’t beat them, join them, and that is exactly what I did.

             There are a variety of ticket options available, so personal preference plays a factor in what you gain from the experience. My friends and I purchased tickets by the name of “Shop & The Lot (Trend),” which granted us shopping access and the opportunity to attend the trend catwalk show. The designer option is also available. We additionally picked up our tote bags. While ours were included in the price of our ticket, the totes were also offered at 10 pounds on site. Compared to Mulberry’s sultry slate gray of last year, the Sister by Sibling design for this year dazzles with highlighter bright lime green, black, white, and gray leopard spots. Their bubblegum pink namesake is emblazoned on the back, sealed with a playful kiss. 

             The goodies inside the tote included Lavazza Qualità Rossa Coffee, Kusmi Imperial Label Tea, Beauty Candy Raspberry Candies in the shape of little bears packed with collagen, vitamin D, B6, and folic acid, tantalizing blue Maybelline Volum’ Express Color Shock mascara, Maybelline Color Show Vintage Leather nail polish in Red Grained, and Sea Salt Spray, which I highly recommend, and Curl Spray, which I am yet to try, from hair care line Label.m. 

             Before the scheduled catwalk, my friends and I decided to browse the designer stalls, where we were inundated with clothes, accessories, jewelry, and shoes. Floor upon floor inside Somerset House offered tempting one-off pieces and fashionable merchandise, usually at reduced prices. As I mentioned earlier, the place was packed, so we had to be hasty in our shopping. Perhaps it was for the best, as I am sure we would have come away with a lot more bags than we did. We spent a substantial amount of time browsing the jewelry section, where a dainty, unusual gold spider bracelet caught my eye.

Trying on Vintage Fur Company fur head wraps
             A piece of work created by Rachel Entwistle, the eight-legged creature is sterling silver with 18ct yellow gold plating. A sapphire gemstone is slotted into the spider’s abdomen and the oxidized sterling silver chain is finely doubled. Onyx beads decorate the clasp for the finishing touch. Whether I allow the arachnid to creep across my wrist or hang from it as if weaving a web, the delicate piece is nothing short of a conversation starter. Entwistle doesn’t stop with spiders though, borrowing inspiration from beetles, crosses, and bones. Another standout item for me would have to be Entwistle’s jawbone bracelet, which is exactly what it sounds like. Deeply seated in the collection is the ability to turn often overlooked aspects of nature, like bugs and human physiology, into beautiful pieces of work.

             If you can’t find something you like whilst shopping during London Fashion Weekend, you simply aren’t looking hard enough. From silk pajamas to jeans patterned with bicycles to rings cast from pigeon feet, the stalls provide for every kind of customer. There’s so much choice, there’s almost too much choice. Before my friends and I could get stuck hemming and hawing over what color silk pajamas we preferred more, we made a dash for the catwalk show…an hour earlier than the designated time on our tickets.

             This actually ended up working in our favor, because we ended up being the first in line and it seemed that others had a similar idea. Not long after we stood obediently at the red velvet rope barrier did others catch on and join the lineup. This secured us a respectable second row seat for the catwalk show. Front row seats are a privilege that can be purchased ahead of time. This year, the catwalk expanded so that more people could fit inside. Press waited hungrily at the end of two aisles instead of just one and the audience’s eyes darted between the two doorways on either side of the room. We wondered expectantly where the models would start their strut and where they would make their exit.

Waiting for the catwalk show to begin
             The catwalk show featured four different themed trends for Autumn/Winter 2013: Back to Nature, Pretty in Pink, Victoriana, and Shape Up. Stylist and fashion consultant, Pandora Lennard, styled all of the looks and presenter Angela Scanlon introduced them.

             The Back to Nature models paraded down the runway in faux fur and feathers drenched in olive greens and chestnut browns.

             Pretty in Pink took its cue from John Hughes’ classic 80s film of the same name, amplifying the pink with each new outfit reveal.

             Shape Up’s blocky ensembles continued the geometric look from last season, proving its lasting power with zesty shapes and graphic lines.

             Victoriana finished the presentation with my favorite wardrobe staple of all black, leaving me enamored by the chunky heels and glints of gold. Classy creams cascaded over the midnight blacks to make for a timeless combination.

             Almost as soon as we left the catwalk show, we faced a very crucial unit of the fashion army – press photographers and fashion bloggers. We were snapped by both, alluding to the knowledge that we must be doing something right. There is nothing more satisfying than being recognized for fashion in an explicitly fashion-centered environment. As Yves Saint Laurent so eloquently put it, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” With that, I tip my Panama hat to the legendary Saint Laurent and it’s hats off to London Fashion Weekend, until next year.

             If you’re interested in viewing my entire look for the occasion, visit the post on my style blog, A Stitch in Time, here. See what’s on at Somerset House hereRead up on London Fashion Weekend here and browse Rachel Entwistle’s jewelry here.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Lucas, a photographer covering London Fashion Weekend

September 18, 2013

London Fashion Week: A Taster

             Every September and February, the illustrious London Fashion Week spawns a team of elite designers, models, and spectators alike. They maneuver catwalks, showrooms, and events without even so much as a hair out of place. Let us also not dare mention a wardrobe malfunction, especially when outfit choices are seen as marks of distinction to be placed under public scrutiny. Despite how cutthroat it sounds, everyone wants in on the action, myself included. I was invited to the Wolf & Badger Showroom Sunday launch brunch for Spring/Summer 2014, more than ready to face and join the geniuses, critics, and professionals of the fashion world.

             Retailer Wolf & Badger allocates itself to selling various brands and the one I was hunting down is located on Dover Street in the district of Mayfair. I was eager to arrive a little bit more than punctually, desperately hoping my stylistic prowess would pay off when I arrived. A few people were milling around when I approached the store and I instantly noticed steps leading downwards to a space dubbed, “The Gallery,” by electric blue neon cursive.

             Like a moth to a flame, I ventured down towards that neon glow of the sophisticated underground. I turned a corner and a long room emerged, revealing food nibbles and hangers upon hangers of clothing. The room was abuzz with a perfect blend of chatter and fabric. I was overwhelmed and in sensory overload, but in the best possible way. I could wax lyrical about all of the designers’ unique flairs and what I thought of their pieces, but in all honesty, I could not cover them all in a succinct manner and do them justice. Over 20 brands were represented, providing a range of jewelry, clothing, and accessories. This is why I will focus on just two designers and pepper in photos to tell the visual side of the story.

             My first stop was clothing brand MAYKA, formerly known as Love Mayka. Exuberant designer, Maya Finkelstein Amrami, exuded bubbliness, and as we bonded over our similar shoes, she quickly made a living mannequin out of me, dressing me in one of her blazers. She allowed me to wear it around the showroom for well over 20 minutes. I was honored to be sporting the erratic lines and graphic black and white/color infusion so central to her collection.

Wearing a MAYKA Spring/Summer 2014 collection blazer with the designer herself, Maya Finkelstein Amrami
             MAYKA’s aesthetic revolves around sheer, flowing material and slick tailoring that is flattering to the human form and inspired by Royal Ballet dancers. Later on, one of Amrami’s models even sported pointe shoes with MAYKA ensembles, just like the model in the MAYKA look book for Spring/Summer 2014. Amrami was very much an artist at heart and even brought along some of her prints, making the brand’s tagline, “art to wear,” more than apropos. The rest of Amrami’s team was friendly and inviting and we enjoyed Buck’s Fizz and salmon mini bagels together before I caught up with designer, Laura Smith.

A MAYKA model wowing in Amrami’s creations
             Hailing from Nottingham, England, Laura Smith has done very well for herself with her women’s line, LAURASMITH. She graduated from Liverpool John Moores University in 2007, and by 2012, she already had her own label. She didn’t stray far from her roots; one of her signatures is incorporating Nottingham lace into her designs. Her levelheadedness and calm put me at ease and Smith was truly charming to speak with. Her responses to my questions just reflected her talent for her trade.

              I would like to give a big thank you to Rosie Burn and Laura Smith for making this interview possible.

Laura Smith posing with her LAURASMITH line

Laura Rutkowski: Your clothes are very feminine, but with an edge. Did you always envision your line to look a certain way?

Laura Smith: Yeah, I think when you start designing and pulling things together, it always has that element of “you” in it and I think that’s that feminine edge. Whatever I do always has that understated femininity, just a little detail, and I think that also comes from the Nottingham lace that I use, so even if it’s just a really plain, simple, maybe boyish silhouette, a touch of the lace adds that understated femininity. 

LR: How does London Fashion Week compare to Amsterdam Fashion Week?

LS: Well, they’re very different. Amsterdam was great, because it launched the label and it’s obviously a completely different environment because of the language and also the way people dress and see fashion is quite different over there. They have a different sort of street style, but it was really cool to get involved with it. I think it’s nice to be back in the United Kingdom and be part of London and I think it’s just got a certain buzz about it that you don’t get anywhere else.

LR: What can we expect from your Spring/Summer 2014 collection?

LS: Well, I think it’s quite different to Autumn/Winter in the fact that it’s just a bigger collection and I’ve expanded it into knitwear ranges and brought the Nottingham lace into the knitwear. I’ve just really tried to make it a collection that you can pull really key pieces out and the color palette’s very simple and easy for buyers to pick out key pieces.

LR: My favorite piece of yours is the coral Rangers shirt.

LS: Oh yeah! That’s from Autumn/Winter. I wear that all the time, because it’s got the see-through bits with the lace coming through which really shows that off to the best. 

LR: How would you describe your own personal style and its influence on your line?

LS: I think it has had a big influence. I think moving to the Netherlands, being part of that quite laidback sense of style which the Europeans have, that really suits the way I dress. I do really love luxury pieces and I obviously look at the way things are made and I can be quite picky in that respect, but I like to feel relaxed in something. I tried to put that laidback luxury into the collection, so the fabrics feel luxurious, the quality’s there, but you don’t feel like the garments are wearing you almost.

 LR: What advice would you give to up-and-coming designers who want to break into the industry?

LS: I mean, it is very tough, but I think you’ve just got to have perseverance and keep going with it and you’ve really got to make sure you’ve got a handle on all the different elements that are going on, but just keep sticking at it. Once you get your signature, just run with that and know what you’re about and stick at it.

LR: What is your ultimate dream to achieve with your brand? When would you say, “I’ve made it?”

LS: Ooh, I think that would be really difficult, because I think with fashion it’s such a never-ending cycle. As soon as you finish one season, you’re on with the next, but I just really want to see the brand in small boutiques supporting an independent level of retail and still supporting British manufacturing and suppliers, so I think as long as it’s out there in the shops, especially in the U.K., I think that will be a big achievement for me. 

LR: What would your go-to piece be from the new collection?

LS: Well, I think it has to be pieces like the white dress here [shows me dress], just really summery and relaxed, but I also think it’s great with some of the knitwear. I’m really pleased with the knitwear this season. It just adds a different element and, as well as in the woven garments, I’ve tried to put lace patterns into the knits. 

LR: I love this color. [referring to a radiant gold top]

LS: Yeah, the golds and the lilacs work really well together. For spring, it’s just a really nice mix with the whites as well. The color palette came from looking around stately homes and the gold gilding on some of the panels and the ceilings and everything, so that’s where the gold came from. It’s really worked well as that sort of special touch in the collection.

LR: Do you think you’ll always incorporate lace into your clothes or do you think you’ll branch away from it?

LS: I think I’m going to try and keep it in. I think obviously each season lace can be more in fashion than other seasons, but as a detail, I think you can use it really well. Some seasons it might be all over a dress, and then other seasons, for instance with the trousers, just have a tiny little bit or as an internal detail on the inside of the hems so you don’t always have to see it, but I think I’d like to keep it there as a memory of my hometown.

LR: What prompted your move to the Netherlands? That’s quite a drastic change.
LS: Yeah, it was great really. I’ve been working in fashion and my boyfriend has been working really hard in his job. He got the offer of a year contract in Holland and I just decided that instead of just doing my fashion part-time when I get the chance, I was just going to go for it and try and market myself over there. I knew about their fashion week, so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to just put myself in at the deep end and give it a go. 

LR: Has that been a bit of a learning curve?

LS: Yeah, completely. I mean, everything’s different, obviously the language and the connections that you have. It’s sort of starting from scratch, but I think it really helped me put myself out there and get talking to the right people and there’s a really big fashion scene over there that’s quite a network to know and get into. It’s fantastic, so I’m really pleased I did it, but it’s also nice to be back.

             After conversing with Smith, I slinked my way over to one of the tables serving brunch for the occasion, all catering provided by Quail London. I couldn’t stay away from the mango and strawberry sticks and gave in to temptation in the form of a pain au chocolat. The table at the front of the room served Bloody Marys, coffee and tea, Buck’s Fizz, and champagne. The table at the back, on the other hand, included a spread of quail eggs, croissants, fruit sticks, and grapefruit juice. Sounds like the right way to kick start any late morning if you ask me!

             As I munched on a mango chunk, I was able to survey the rest of the room and observe the dynamics taking place, which was fun in itself. Immense passion existed in the room and I enjoyed being among people who embodied that passion. As the afternoon rolled around, the atmosphere only intensified and, often times, I had to press myself up against clothing rails to allow others to pass. Photographers with their swinging London Fashion Week passes scoped out their perfect shot while the models pouted and posed their way to that perfect shot. Designers gesticulated and motioned to their clothes to enthusiasts nodding emphatically. Overall, there was a creative dominance that empowered everyone attending. 

             When it came time for me to leave, I looked down the line of clothes and noted just how different everyone’s personal styles and contributions were. There would be no mistaking one brand for another and that’s what makes fashion one of my greatest loves. It can be radically different to anything else ever done and it can be visionary and it can be fresh every season with the emergence of new trends and designers. I slowly walked back up the stairs and stole one last glimpse into the showroom through a murky window. 

             I proceeded to visit the very sleek Wolf & Badger shop, which I had just been directly below. I recognized many of the products from downstairs and came across more luxury items. I bid my farewells to some of the familiar faces from earlier, and after a few more snapshots on my Nikon, I tore myself away. I was feeling full and satisfied, and not from the food, but from my first very yummy taste of London Fashion Week.

Umbrellas from Archer Adams in Wolf & Badger
             Monday the 16th and Tuesday the 17th were dedicated to appointments, where potential clients visited the showroom to view the designers’ gear. London Fashion Week wrapped up on Tuesday. This weekend, in its place we welcome London Fashion Weekend, which is open to the general public with a purchased ticket, whereas London Fashion Week is invite-only. Details on London Fashion Week can be found here. Browse Laura Smith’s collection here and the MAYKA brand here.

A Krystof Strozyna mannequin

Begum Berdan of the mother-daughter brand, DB Berdan 
Taeseok Kang and his array of “notice me” bags
Golnaz Ashtiani with her Ashtiani collection