Friday, May 29, 2009

Nicholas Kirkwood and other goodies

I'm going to do something slightly unconventional and not post about a store, or not directly at least. This has mainly two reasons: the designer I'm profiling doesn't have a standalone boutique... yet. I hope this will change one day. But I adore his work so much I just want to dedicate one post to his current collection. Another reason is that I have just sighted a relatively large selection of his shoes in a store I'm going to post about tomorrow. I took way too many pictures there - 70 to be precise (not all will be posted of course). I guess I got a little carried away and I'm still working away on them, so here's just a quick preview of the Kirkwood selection (and a few from Alaia, Sanderson etc. in the background). Some might know which boutique I'm referring to when they see the pictures below.

Kirkwood who's currently also the design director for Italian footwear brand Pollini and has created runway shoes for Rodarte, Chloe, Zac Posen and Gareth Pugh is touted to be the next shoe designer for Lanvin (fingers crossed). His highly architectural and stunning range of footwear is comparable to works of art and none of the images do the actual shoes justice. They're surprisingly comfortable, not that cheap but therefore so much more unique than your average Louboutin or Manolo (pricing is similar). His next big project for FW09 will be to release his first collection of flats. I for one can't wait to see these creations.

(individual images: Nicholas Kirkwood homepage)

For more pictures of the current season Nicholas Kirkwood range and worldwide stockists, please refer to the official homepage.

And to kick off a wonderful weekend, I was given two awards by two fantastic bloggers. Thank you so much! It really means a lot to me and I'm glad that blogging has introduced me to so many great websites and bloggers out there!

The first one comes from Janetteria, a fabulous blogger with a great eye for everything that's coveted and beautiful in fashion.

I pass this award on to:
The Little Fashion Treasury - I truly envy her amazing collection of clothing and accessories!
Modediktat - for her great posts, terrific fashion finds and lovely collages.
Geisha Rock - for her very helpful London advice. Good luck with your exams!

The second one comes from The Little Fashion Treasury, who's blog is indeed a treasure trove of the most desirable drool-worthy items.

I pass this award on to:
b-chic b-simple - a very talented lady with impeccable style.
Heights of Fashion - because Gisela and Maurenice inspire me with their rocking outfits.
Style Porn - for the terrific style shots and fashion inspirations.

Wish everyone a lovely weekend!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

David LaChapelle Retrospective (Paris, France)

I'm just briefly interrupting my London posting with a quick review on the David LaChapelle retrospective I decided to go to, before I left Paris for this trip. Like most people, I was relatively familiar with LaChapelle's work and had heard from some, that this exhibit was rather disappointing, while others raved about it. Then again, most people either hate or love his work... some think his outrageous photographs are only there to provoke, while others believe his take on today's society, consumerism and obsession with celebrity is brilliant. Curious as always, I decided to plonk down 10 EUR to go see this, before it closes (it remains open until the end of the month). Apologies if the images are blurry by the way. But all original photos can be viewed on various pages online, so I figured this should hopefully be enough to give a general idea of how items were displayed.

I'm going to be honest and say that the one main reason for going has to be the building his works are housed in. The Monnaie de Paris is a grand impressive structure, situated along the Left Bank of the Seine and usually reserved for showcasing old coins and medals. The stark contrast between LaChapelle's loud grotesque pieces and the majestic interior of the museum was quite striking.

This exhibit was supposedly the largest retrospective ever to have been presented in France (which probably isn't saying much) and promised to show works previously not seen in Europe. The first two pieces that greeted me in the foyer were very well-known though: on the left was the (in)famous 'Pieta with Courtney Love', while the right wall showed 'Kanye West: Passion of the Christ'. Both more impressive in their full-sized proportions (over 6 foot high) than they ever could be in a book or magazine.

The main area, which resembled a ballroom if it weren't for the giant 3D installations, was probably the major attraction. You could easily spend at least 10 minutes taking in the details of 'Decadence: The Insufficiency of All Things Attainable' featuring mostly nude models and Paris Hilton, surrounded by luxury items, food and a few exotic animals. The opposite walls featured more 3D pieces, this time damaged American cars stacked on top of each other. The only 2D artwork was the negative of a 10 dollar bill. All of this according to the artist himself is "inspired by the idea of negative money. I'm taking this as a chance and an opportunity to say something."

LaChapelle's somewhat anti-capitalist stance continued in the following room, where the first of his 'Deluge' series was displayed like an oversized mural, depicting human's growing attachment to consumer goods and the decline of values such as kindness or empathy. The adjoining room continued this theme with 'Museum' (which criticizes art ownership) and 'Cathedral' (loss of spiritual value). The last room dedicated to this series showed a few images from 'Awakened' - normal people floating in water or air, as a symbol of rebirth.

Another 3D installation followed: 'Holy War' showed scenes of men dying in anguish (under the word 'Holy') and Jesus surrounded by children and lambs (under the word 'War'). It was at least 3 meters long and punctuated by flashing LED bulbs. More works with Jesus followed in the next room belonging to the 'Jesus is My Homeboy' series.

The next few rooms displayed a few pieces from the 'Destruction and Disaster' series, most of them depicting homes destroyed by natural forces, while my favorite all-time classic had Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow burning down a house.

I'm not quite sure why 'Recollections in America' followed at this point. It seemed a bit odd wedged into this area, then again, I'm not sure where I would have put it. All images were real-life photos taken in the seventies, which LaChapelle photoshopped to include slightly disturbing objects or scenes, such as families filling a baby bottle with beer or older folks at a party holding rifles.

The most popular photographs followed in the last two rooms - all of them presenting works that both celebrate and subvert celebrity. The theme ranged anywhere from celebrities' narcissistic nature, their excesses and exhibitionism to their obsession with plastic surgery and the invasion of privacy.

I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw and liked the fact that everything was categorized by subject matter or series. The 3D pieces alone were worth seeing in person and you get a much better overview viewing all photographs side by side. The bigger scale of the images allowed you to notice details that you might not otherwise see on a computer screen or on paper. My one big gripe is that there were nowhere near 200 artworks on display as advertised by the press and the exhibition itself. I would say the number was well under a 100 (somewhere around 60-70). I didn't expect the full range of LaChapelle's work to be presented - it would have been too much and would have watered down the essence of what he was trying to say with each series. However it does come across as pointless when the written description that precedes a series in each room references photographs that are nowhere to be found, especially if these were pretty groundbreaking in the photographer's career - there wasn't a single photo of Marilyn Manson, Eminem or even Britney Spears in sight.

If you're a fan, you should definitely check it out anyway. If you're not, you might want to browse one of his books first (such as this one), before handing out that much money for an exhibit you might only spend 20 minutes in. LaChapelle retrospectives are constantly on display throughout the world, so keep your eye out. In any case, the pieces are thought-provoking and well worth looking at.

Address: Monnaie de Paris, 11 Quai de Conti, 75006 Paris
Opening Hrs: Tue-Thu: 10:30-19:30, Mon/Fri: 10:30-22:00

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Luella Boutique (London, UK)

While I tend to opt for black or more muted shades when it comes to my wardrobe, Luella is one of the few designers who's whimsical, cute but never tacky outfits make me want to wear something pink and ruffled. There are tweed creations out there that just make me cringe or girly dresses that make the average gal look more like a cupcake than an actual person, but somehow Luella has always managed to keep a certain balance in her collections.

Spring/Summer 09 runway (images:

Having graduated from Central St. Martins, Luella Bartley pursued a career in journalism, before starting her own label 10 years ago. Her goal was to design "the kind of clothes you can get drunk and fall over in". Always wearable, but never boring, even the girliest pieces had a certain edge and quickly became coveted pieces among both fashion insiders and women seeking a flattering outfit, with retail collaborations (e.g. Target and Urban Outfitters) making her a household name. Her runway collections always put a smile on my face and the current Summer 09 range is the perfect example of how something that at first glance looks so ladylike slowly reveals a kookier more psychedelic side as seen from the asymmetrical detailing and modern tailoring.

I had somehow always failed to visit the Luella flagship (which opened just under two years ago) and I made a point to go this time, mainly because I wanted to see the entire range in person and because currently this is the designer's only standalone store in the world. The boutique definitely didn't disappoint and was every bit as quirky as her designs. While most designer flagships tend to be big, bold or incredibly sleek, this one is very cosy and welcoming. Those not familiar with this designer would probably not even realize they were in a high-end boutique (until they see the price tag).

Just like the clothes, the store seems to mirror the combination of English sophistication and cute bizarre colorful touches. The walls are adorned with your typical country club memorabilia such as photos of horses and baroque oil paintings. Yet sitting right beside these items, was a big bunny rabbit... I'm guessing it got lost on it's way to Wonderland? In any case it was sporting a very chic fuchsia Luella bag. Old solid wood furniture was filled with odd trinkets (some Luella, others just completely random). Another more modern table in the middle of the front room was adorned with pirate stickers and displayed a good selection of smaller accessories.

The great thing about the darker wood furnishings was that the bright summery colors of the current collection stood out so much more. I didn't even know where to begin. I'm a huge fan of the Liberty print and a good portion of the current season's dresses, blouses and skirts feature my favorite pattern. While most flagships in London seem to have at least eight SA's in-store standing around waiting for you to try something on (why is that?? I've never witnessed an abundance of sales staff like I did in London), there were thankfully only two that were visible during my visit.

I was happily browsing and already thoroughly enjoying myself when I reached the back room. The 'country club gone wrong' theme continued here... I'm not quite sure what caught my attention first - was it the wooden fox in the fireplace or the bright turquoise horse's head (not real of course) in the changing room?

A large table in the center showcased a range of bags and shoes, all equally vibrant and cute. Footwear is the latest addition to the Luella range and I must say the heels featuring the big hearts in the center would probably brighten up any outfit.

If anyone out there is ever in a bad mood and needs their spirits lifted - I suggest you visit this store. Those outside of London should head on over to the next best thing: the online shop (deliveries can be made worldwide). Just as wonderful and quaint, but without the memorabilia, it's still bound to make you smile.

Address: 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London W1K 4HB
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sat: 10:00-18:00, Thu: 10:00-19:00

Luella Homepage and Online Shop

Monday, May 25, 2009

All Saints (London, UK)

A few years ago during a trip to the UK when I was still relatively unfamiliar with some of the British high street stores (having not visited the country for several years), my then boyfriend (now hubby) excitedly told me he had found a place that stocked items resembling what Keanu Reeves could be seen wearing in 'The Matrix'. For a minute I was slightly concerned, visions of latex suits and clip-on sunglasses swirling through my brain. He then clarified that he was referring to the more distressed loose-fitted sweaters the 'Neo' character was sporting when he wasn't out and about fighting evil villains. I was intrigued, but figured the store would probably only feature one or two such items. I was very very wrong and have been a fan ever since.

Current All Saints campaign (images: All Saints)

All Saints might be high street, but if you didn't know better - and during my first visit I actually thought it was an independent boutique - you would think you just discovered another avant-garde label. The brand was founded by its original designer Stuart Trevor in 1994 initially only catering to menswear. Four years later the first women's collection followed and immediately garnered a strong fan base among style leaders who loved the draped jerseys, sexy structured tailoring and muted dark colors. According to Trevor "We were designing clothes that we wanted to wear and that we could not buy anywhere else. We became designers’ designers, all of the kids who dreamt of being cool fashion designers decided they were going to wear something that stood out from the crowd. People wanted something different.”

Even though Trevor ended up selling the company to retail entrepreneur Kevin Stanford in 2005, the clothing and accessories still remain unique and very cool. One could describe the range as grunge gone glam. Most items are either distressed, torn/ripped, asymmetrical or tailored in such a unique way, they're bound to stand out. If you're a fan of color, this isn't the brand for you. All clothes are either black or come in dark colors and neutrals. The beauty of the pieces lie in the details though: if it's not the fine draping or sheer chiffon fabrics, it's usually the intricate beading, fine embroidery or bold studding that will make each item not only wearable but in some cases even suitable for the red carpet.

The store design itself is what makes All Saints a true experience though. I decided to head to the main store in the East End, but rest assured that all boutiques have the same feel. 'Spitalfields' tends to be added to the All Saints brand name to remind people of it's roots - even though All Saints was derived from a street name in Notting Hill. The interior is every bit as alternative as the clothes: exposed brick walls, carefully aged wooden floorboards and furniture combined with lots of dark steel and iron give the store a very industrial feel. Headless mannequins hang from solid metal chains in the shop window and throughout the store, while select items are draped from hooks instead of clothes hangers. All Saints used to feature a lot of religious iconography (the most famous one being the Jesus statues) but have toned it down a little, I'm assuming due to the outcry that resulted the previous times.

If you do find something you like, my advice is to buy it right then and there. Even though I like to wait for sales and nothing is really that cheap (but therefore well-made), All Saints is one of those places people don't mind paying the full price for and regular sizes (anything that isn't the smallest or largest size) of more popular items tend to sell out fast. I spotted the softest studded leather jacket, which I would have loved to try on, but was no longer available in my size. I also remember that last year's parachute dress sold out instantly and to this day, my hubby still regrets not having bought that 'Neo' sweater.

If you want something on-trend, no worries - you'll find everything from the jumpsuit to harem trousers in the current collection. The great thing about this brand is that it won't look like another carbon copy of a high-end designer's runway collection. Even the printed tank tops are unique, so nothing you find here will resemble a knock-off which is something too many other retail giants seem to be doing these days.

By the way, don't be intimidated by the changing rooms even if they look like prison cells. They are actually quite roomy and SA's are happy to help you with the styling. You might want to free at least an hour for browsing or trying on clothes as well. Because some pieces are uniquely constructed, they aren't always the easiest to try on. I found a cool silk dress with a slightly goth vibe I spent 10 minutes trying to get on, then realized it was the wrong way round. For the next 10 minutes, I then attempted to fasten all the hooks and zippers until I finally had it on. It looked great, but was a bit too short, which was a shame because I would have preferred to leave it on instead of trying to maneuver out of it again. Thankfully an SA was there to help.

One thing I did notice was that All Saints has branched out into homeware. I only saw a few cushions and candles, but I was told they also stocked wallpaper and blankets, which is probably enough to give your home an All Saints feel if the clothes aren't enough. I would also like to point out that the accessories are well worth looking at. The majority of the shoes consist of slouchy boots and gladiator sandals, while the handbags are made of the softest leather and feature studs, fringes or buckles.

This brand might be a bit too rock 'n' roll for some, but I for one am glad that there's a high street retailer out there who's still producing unique, innovative pieces you won't find elsewhere. Unfortunately most stores are located in the UK, with a few select outlets in other European cities. The good news is that many items can be purchased directly from their website and will be delivered worldwide, so definitely take a look if you get the chance.

Click on products to purchase or see more.

Address: Jacks Place, 114 Commercial Street, London E1 6NF
Opening Hrs: Mon-Sat: 9:30-20:00, Sun: 11:00-19:00

All Saints Homepage and Online Shop