Spitalfields’ weekend style market is an amazing place to feel inspired by designers producing fashion you might like to wear. After the OTTness of Isabella Blow’s McQueen, Galliano and Philip Treacy wardrobe earlier this week, it’s quite different to be writing about relatively pedestrian clothes
One in particular – Enienay – is clever, smart and eco-friendly. Nina Davies remakes men’s suits into women’s clothing. This means properly remakes – trouser linings and pockets become skirts, buttoned jacket cuffs are curved into capped sleeves and corsets are composed of men’s business ties.
I just love how second-hand suits are re-thought, rather than just being re-tailored. Nina has a way of bringing out the femininity in the heavy tweeds and wools and wrapping the linings together as skirts so you can see their origin and they’re complete in their new guise. When I visited, Nina was wearing a wonderful waistcoat with three different materials across the back, seams emphasising her female figure.
I’m not sure how her work would fit into my current life, but it’s good to know her details in case I’m wanting a one-off outfit for a winter event.
You can buy or order from Nina at Spitalfields at weekends or from her Etsy store.
PS When shopping on Etsy, If you want to find more items like the one you are looking at, there is an option on the left-hand side to ‘see who favourites this’. You can then see those people’s favourites, unless they have made them private. It’s much the same principle you can use on Pinterest (and lose hours or days of your life).
I’ve found that if I want to find more items like the one I have just favourited, I can look at the favourite items
With what seems like acres of practical clothes from the likes of J.Crew and Isabel Marant for H+M, I booked a ticket for the more dramatic Isabella Blow exhibition at Somerset House today.
While J.Crew’s creative director Jenna Lyons lives in trousers, as, it seems, does Marant, I’m trying to break away from them. Jeans aren’t the be-all and end-all and I’m loving wearing longer skirts and boots, at least some of the time. Anyway, the late Isabella Blow was the antithesis of practical. She was the champion of fashion designer Alexander McQueen and milliner Philip Treacy among others. This exhibition showed rooms and rooms of their work, looking wonderful together and many photographs of Blow wearing it.
On show are many items from the 1992 London College of Fashion MA show of Alexander McQueen which Blow bought. It was fun to see. It would have been even more interesting to see the work of that year’s other graduating students; what was the context in which Blow saw his work? Did it really stand out? What happened to them? She also bought items by Hussein Chalayan’s degree show, which had been buried with iron filings to give them a rusted effect and with magnets in the hem (yes, a rusty dress).
The Treacy work is gobsmackingly exquisite. Each hat is a complete work of art, as fully formed as any Anish Kapoor sculpture. The lines, shapes and balance are SO beautiful, you want to spend the day gazing at them, each one a ‘precious’ for your inner Gollum.
One of the rooms couples Treacy hats with McQueen and John Galliano dresses, each ensemble inside a semicircle of translucent plastic, giving it space to breathe. It is probably worth going just for this. While most of the crowds buzzed around the few videos or tried to sneak photographs of the fashion despite a photography ban, this area was emptier. You can be so very close – to see the stitching and fabric – some of it faded and marked from being worn (quite right too).
Did the dresses inspire the hats? Were they collaborations? Perhaps Blow matched them or it could be the work of the exhibition curators; in any event, they sing together. There is such beauty in their entwining without being matchy-matchy. This is style. And you should go, you really should. To see, six inches away, the dreams of fashion editors.
But my lasting memory of the exhibition is a mannequin with two mis-matched shoes and the story about how Blow met Andy Warhol when she was working in New York. Apparently she would wear odd shoes and he spottGo to ed her in the street and wanted to have dinner with her. Now, that is an original thinker.
- Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore is open until March 2 next year.
J Crew opened its flagship London store in Regent Street on Friday and I had a look around yesterday. As well as being one of London’s most welcome store openings in a long time, the firm attracted some negativity for its pricing being far more expensive than the same items sold in its US home: in many cases, the price in US dollars is virtually the same in pounds, making them about 60% higher. J Crew has responded by explaining that there are higher costs in the UK.
The store is full of very wearable clothes. If money was no object and had to start a wardrobe from scratch, it would be one of the first places I would visit. Clothes are displayed alongside stacks of sculptures, art books and framed photographs, giving a curated feel like Anthropologie across the road. There are some really fun coloured shoes and I fell in love with the a classic blouse in the softest cotton-silk voile. It was in navy with teeny red polka dots. The similarities between J. Crew and the Isabel Marant collection displayed in H+M windows (available from tomorrow) a few blocks away weren’t lost on me either.
I crossed the road to Anthropologie for the two other new finds of this week: a stylish statement of a plum hat and a plum tulle covered skirt. The first is something Lauren Bacall might have worn with a suit, the jacket nonchalantly slung over her shoulders. And the long tulle skirt playfully references children’s ballet outfits but avoids the cliche by offering the skirt in a dark plum or brown. It was styled on a mannequin with a chunky jumper and jacket and it not something everyone would wear, but I was taken by it. I can’t link to either as they don’t seem to be on Anthropologie’s website, at least not today. By the by, Anthropologie has a pop-up shop at the moment in London’s White City Westfield.
- Creative director Jenna Lyons gives her top 10 style rules to The Guardian’s Jess Cartner-Morley
It only dawned on me this week that chic is just another word for slim.
I had been reading an article in H+M’s magazine by Kiki Georgiou about the French editor look, illustrated by slim groups of women in skinny jeans, loose shirts and black stilettos. It was headed “Chic mystique” and gave ideas on how you could get this look: a limited palette, skinny jeans or leather skirts and untucked shirts. All the women were about a size 6-8. So I instantly sorted through my brain for a size 14-16 example of this kind of chic – and I was stuck. She doesn’t exist. The look relies on the unspoken rule of women being slim.
In fact, every image of a ‘chic’ woman is slim – Audrey Hepburn, Emmanuelle Alt, Eva Green, Olivia Palermo, Anna Wintour. And I half remembered something India Knight said in her Sunday Times column some weeks (or months) ago – words to the effect that a size eight woman could look good in a bin bag but anyone larger needed a little more help.
Times columnist Janice Turner wrote on Saturday about her time devising a new women’s magazine, where they planned to have photographs of a size 10 alongside a size 16 modelling fashion. Except everyone hated it (quite apart from the practicalities of finding larger sample clothes) including readers. Because of this, she is skeptical about Debenhams’ move this week to introduce size 16 mannequins into its stores over the next few months.
Why is this? When we buy clothes, are we trying to buy a dream? And if we are, why is that dream that we’re a size 10? There is a logic – albeit flawed – that if we work out and are fit, then perhaps we are disciplined/successful in other areas of our lives. Therefore, let’s model ourselves on those who are fit and successful. But what if a woman does work out, eat healthily and her fit body is just not a size 10 or less? Somehow she is forever barred from being chic.
It seems a bit rubbish really to be forever excluded from the chic club (I would have to be ill to be less than a size 12) so my plans are to evolve into a member of the style club instead. I’m writing this in the warm glow of a gathering of about 20 female bloggers yesterday, who had done or are doing Holly Becker’s Blogging Your Way courses. There was a mixture of sizes, shapes, lifestyles and ages and I loved the way everyone dressed. They all seemed comfortable in their skin and were keen to share stories of their own blogs and find out about others. That is, they dressed well, but who they are and what they do are way more important.
Saturday’s Londonist website beckoned with news of The Stylist’s Rail sale – a curated collection of independent designers and vintage fashion at The Hoxton Hotel, Shoreditch. It also offered complimentary Bloom gin and tonics the size of goldfish bowls – not what I always have in one hand while browsing rails of clothing, but definitely a nice change.
The event had been previewed by Red magazine and Stylist’s Rail founder Plum (aka Victoria Bell) interviewed by StyloNylon. The point of her events is that they are a curated collection of designers and stylists selling careful selections.
Designers included clothing and sunglasses firm Spangled with the kooky and wild (a pair of green dinosaurs on your sunnies? Just ask!) One Night Only men and women’s wear, Sugar + Style (I especially liked their suede clutches), Ingo Kraftchenko, Komana, Paper Dress Vintage, Bohemian Rose Vintage, Retrouvé and Still Waters kimonos. I ADORED the kimonos – they look current and could be worn anywhere – from Aldi to Claridges.
The atmosphere was fabulous. Lots of interesting corners and rails to look through, clear pricing, some great looking vintage shoes I really wanted to try on (I’ve spent virtually all my wardrobe budget this month, so it wasn’t going to happen) and a wonderful tartan cape I coveted, so I could be Miss Marple and ride a bicycle through a small village with thatched cottages and lupins.
A central table had postcards and business cards from stallholders and Hoxton Radio DJs provided music. It really made the afternoon buzz, with quirky touches such as the Casualty theme mixed over the top of another track – a fab Shoreditch fashion event.
Afterwards, I took a wander through Spitalfields – a great place for independent makers. I liked the t-shirts and tops of Wind-up Bird, although would prefer the 100% cotton t-shirts to be in more than one size. Another designer-maker – For the Love of Law – had a fascinating range of tops and shorts in SML sizing. The clothes are feminine, with draping and cut-outs and unexpected touches such as a small piece of ‘jewellery’ hung from a chain on the back. Some are made of leather, silk and jersey and the shorts are really fun. Its website is under construction, but its Facebook page gives more of an idea of what’s on offer.
As I made my way home, I thought that it is a real luxury having access to alternatives to the high street so close. The Stylist’s Rail runs events every month or so and Spitalfields Market traders are there most Saturdays and Sundays – one bus ride away from home.