The Other Art Fair opened last night with a private view, thronged with art lovers circling the stands with great enthusiasm (particularly after a visit to the Fever-Tree G&T bar). The event which spans this weekend, enables artists to represent their own work, and make connections with customers eager to buy a piece of art to take home. The general absence of gallerists and professional collectors makes The Other Art Fair a much more relaxed affair than the likes of Frieze, but in no sense is the work on show any less interesting or collectible. Indeed, as “visiting artist” Gavin Turk was the solitary big-league YBA presence but there is a wealth of lesser-known talent to explore, with photography, illustration and painting particularly in evidence. Highlights for me included Dan Hillier’s breathtaking prints which combine elements of the Gothic imagination with shamanistic symbolism, and Mark Powell’s incredibly detailed portraits, painstakingly created in biro over vintage postcards and other postal “documents”. Barbara Nati’s hyperreal composite photographs of futuristic buildings in natural settings, painter David Wightman’s three dimensional landscapes (painted over layers of textured wallpapers) in strong, fashion-friendly colour combinations and the delightfully named Archie Proudfoot’s stunning mirrored, gilded signs are just a few of the other artists whose work I’d be happy to find wallspace for at home for. The Other Art Fair is definitely worthy of some of your time this weekend, whether you’re in the market to buy or not, the opportunity to converse with artists this directly is normally restricted to open studio events and there are some real treats to discover (and save up for).
The Other Art Fair, April 23-26, Victoria House, (entrance on Southampton Row), Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A 2QP.
Better known for putting what’s on the shop rails at high-end boutiques the world over within reach of your laptop via a single, digital storefront, FarFetch has just released a book on food culture: FarFetch Curates: Food with luxury book publisher Prosper and Martine Assouline.
Drawing on the local expertise of the digital fashion brand’s inevitably widespread network, the book focuses on the finest food and drink experiences to be had around the world. With a foreword by Tim Blanks, the links between food and fashion are strongly established from the outset. As Blanks himself notes, curation is one of the defining words and activities of our times, social media making us all ‘curators’, with fashion and food being familiar tag mates on Instagram brunch shares the world over.
Hopefully you’ll be relieved to hear it’s not all about calorie deprivation and juice cleanses (or what Bryanboy wore at breakfast in the First Class lounge for that matter), although Man Repeller’s contribution on Manhattan had me fearing this might be the case. Pretty soon thereafter however, you’re into food heaven, from ex-Noma chefs bringing foraging to the Pacific Northwest to the best hawker stalls to seek out in Singapore, and what impressed me most was the passion and depth of knowledge of contributors.
There was also a risk with this book that it would focus on the starchy, buttoned up high-end and nothing else, but as the Singapore food hawker stall example demonstrates, fashion types are expert at tracking down the best places to sit down to eat, even if that involves grabbing a plastic chair at a hectic street food market.
The book is also a great way to sample the frisson of different global fashion weeks from Warsaw to Seoul, without leaving home at all, whether you prefer sipping chilled champagne with the modish tsarinas of Moscow, grabbing a cold beer with Astrid Andersen in easy-going Copenhagen or supping with Jonathan Saunders between collections in Hackney.
Unsurprisingly, this book makes you want to plan your next meal out with your mates, but above all it made me itchy to travel, when, as we all know, insider tips and insights like these are at their most useful.
FarFetch Curates: Food costs £16 and available at the network of boutiques globally as well as online at Farfetch.com.
Niche brand expert Andrew Blyszak is about to launch his own eyewear range, a high-end affair using matte powder-coated metal and real horn: bringing something genuinely new to the crowded sunglasses market. Here I ask him about his life behind the darkened lens and his plans for the brand. Product images are from the new lookbook, pre-release images are exclusives.
SL: I know you’re Australian by origin, so presumably sunglasses were an early necessity. Can you remember what pair you first bought for yourself?
AB: Not suprisingly the first pair I ever bought for myself were Ray-Ban.
SL: The collection features a very specific shape, how did you arrive at this design?
AB: The shape was derived from a pair I had been wearing for years which I had originally found at a flea market in the South of France for 50 cents. They got a real beating over the years and when I went to replace them I couldn’t find a single pair with that precise shape and so I decided to make my own.
SL: In the pantheon of iconic sunglasses wearers, who deserves a place?
AB: We are arguably all big Andy Warhol fans.
SL: What drove your desire to work with by-product horn, and how did you come across this as a material?
AB: Horn is a special material that doesn’t really have a spotlight in contemporary eyewear. It also requires intricate handling and so I hooked up with London based Edward Gucewicz who had been perfecting the art and manufacture for some time. What’s intersting is that no two horns are ever precisely the same. BLYwear (as my freinds are calling it) is a super-refined product using the highest quality materials. Mixing horn with metal to create something standout that naturally won’t be for everyone but which feels really good.
SL: The collection is unisex, was this a deliberate choice or just a result of the designs looking good on boys and girls?
AB: Personally I prefer to think of all niche product as unisex to some degree. The collection has a genderless mood which I think is reflected in the campaign imagery and true, the style sits well on both boys and girls.
SL: What are your immediate plans for Blyszak eyewear?
AB: There’s a full campaign release taking place in the middle of May 2015 and Blyszakeyewear.com will go live shortly thereafter. We are also teeing up with a few specialty stores to house the collection exclusively. All the details can be found at the website.
Last week Selfridges launched its in-store installation, Agender, introducing the concept of gender-neutral fashion to a largely unsuspecting public and the media response has been really quite remarkable: a feature in Time Out, an insert on Radio 4’s Women’s Hour among others, all seemingly taking the concept at least half-seriously. Even with a declared disinterest in fashion, you’d have to be wilfully unobservant to have missed at least some mention of it this week. While gender “play” and the concept of gender neutral fashion have become common parlance in high fashion circles in the last few years, as ever, what is an accepted part of current fashion debate can be the subject of fierce derision beyond its luminous boundaries (and as an occasional commentator on fashion and gender on the likes of The Guardian, I can vouch for the fierceness of some of those reactions).
In person, the extent that Selfridge’s Oxford Street building has been taken over by a singular concept is really impressive and merits the amount of discussion and media attention it has received, with window displays and key lobby points in the store driving attention towards the initiative – the crossed through “he she me” messaging declaring a potent argument for individualism.
Wanting to experience the thinking behind it all a bit more, I attended the talk on Tuesday led by ShowStudio’s Lou Stoppard with designer Rad Hourani, whose work is available as part of the Agender initiative, albeit at the couture/high end. Having focused on gender neutral fashion for his whole career, (he is the only member of the French Federation of Haute Couture to present unisex designs), Hourani was well-placed to discuss the concept and made a reasonable case for the democratic, idealistic value of clothing designed as a neutral canvas to be worn by either gender. But what I wasn’t so convinced about was whether taking the gender associations out of clothing altogether renders them sexless, devoid of risk or playfulness. What made a greater impression on me was the sheer range of designers that Selfridges has chosen to demonstrate their big idea, presenting some genuinely covetable fashion: ‘80s London legends Bodymap, Yang Li’s intriguing collaboration with pandrogyne icon Genesis P. Orridge, big league designers Dries Van Noten and Rick Owens and the seriously streetstyle-worthy Nazir Mazhar and Astrid Andersen. The range of names on display in the windows left me feeling quite moved to have been part of an ongoing fashion conversation that, for once, has gone mainstream. This is a positive reminder that fashion has a role to play in presenting issues up for discussion, however the mainstream media may decide to respond to them.
It’s been a bit quiet here of late, as I’ve been publishing over at STREETS, the recently-planted digital flag for the new bi-annual print publication we’re preparing for, (in classic print style), a September Issue. More news on THAT soon.
Meanwhile, back on my personal radar, here is the release of Jonathan Saunders’ eyewear collection for SS15. Back when I reviewed the full collection for The Guardian at LC:M, I’d already picked out the eyewear as a highlight, adding to the appeal of the ready-to-wear collection’s soft candy colours and clean, modern lines. The glasses have similarly bold, modern outlines, in solid colours, unique patterns and shiny metals. I find that I wear sunglasses for most of the year, to combat low-lying winter sun as much as full-on summer glare, so I’m perennially on the hunt for cool shades. These tick most of my boxes: I love the strong shapes, the solid, acetate colours and the timeless, mid-century styling.
Available at Liberty.
As I share my highlights from the week, it’s time to wave goodbye to New York, though this time it’s more of a ‘see you later’ as we’ll be right back here again in July for the inaugural menswear week.
I’ve already reviewed Duckie Brown in detail, but here are some details from the other collections I particularly enjoyed this trip. There are some familiar names here, as certain New York talents continue to plough as steady furrow through the dross of mainstream menswear, but as ever, I was interested to discover the newer names around town. With the likes of Astrid Andersen and Bobby Abley showing in the city, it’s also interesting to see if some of the fierce lustre of the street-ier aspects of LC:M will rub off over here.
Bettering last season‘s epic rooftop show was always going to be a tough call, but Daisuke Obana’s collection for AW15 had some gentle highlights like the cable knits and collarless, shearling tunics, the snowflake prints and robust outerwear T-shirt shapes. Obana’s work benefits from the objective take on American style motifs his being based in Japan allows.
Being a fashion darling is a mixed blessing, but the home crowd enthusiasm for Robert Geller’s work only emphasises the desirability of his collection. Earthy, warm colours and graphic masculine outlines have become his signatures, and winter clothing is a great vehicle for both.
Another much loved home talent, Coppens work builds on a steady base of sleek, luxurious sportswear and showing womenswear alongside menswear for the second time this season, the totality of his vision is well represented. I loved the petrol-y tones of his opening pieces and the slick take on defending against the cold which is the exact opposite of rustic, folksy outerwear.
There were more bold, graphical lines in Bumsuk Choi’s collection at General Idea. Having skipped showing in New York last season, he was back and on point, this time the strong lines had a militaristic edge and were defined by shape and form as much as surface detail. The oversized coats, matchy pinstripe separates and bold knitwear were scene stealers.
Hood by Air
Speaking of scenes, Shayne Oliver’s Hood by Air continues to draw on an attention-grabbing, countercultural zeitgeist (as in those stocking-head masks) but there is also a growing maturity to his work, as though the attention that shows in London and Pitti have provided, has helped to reframe what his work is about. Here American streetwear standards from the puffa to the camel coat and track pants, were given a shake up and made less familiar. I loved the pleated wide leg pants, the furs with the HBA uber-branding and his take on camel, which shredded any association with conservatism that colour might have.
In terms of new names, Ryu Hayama’s Fingers Crossed line impressed with the elegant belted overcoats, Breton stripes, leather trimmed tracksuits and in general, his playful take on rainwear. Classic raincoat yellow was given a new spin, hair was styled as after the deluge and streamlined rain hats were cut with the precision of classic skyscraper-era New York architecture.
Other names around town which caught my eye were Thaddeus O’Neil‘s intriguing blend of Walt Whitman hobo poetry and surf culture, this season explored in the guise of Viking sea warriors, complete with face jewellery, and newcomer Vejas, whose presentation blurred gender difference with the kind of subversion with intent that is always a welcome counterpoint to whatever else might be going on in New York.
New York, see you in July.