Monday, 24 January 2011

Suited & Booted this Winter

My editorial - as published in the current issue of Fashion Insider, the Luxury issue AW10/11

Sam Outing advises we go suited and booted this winter

London has long been a popular stage for fringe fashion, churning out eccentric designers, abettors and wearers of clothes for centuries. From Viv West to Nicki Haslam, London's cool, somewhat slovenly, grunge attire has ignored the demands of work and climate. The recent popularity for top coats, trench coats, boots and ‘proper shoes’ however, is born from the necessities of the working day and biting weather. It’s in the cold, dark and often bleak recesses of winter particularly that the ‘city man’ comes to life creatively with his clothing. The city dweller now has the excuse to layer up, wrap up and generally adorn himself - in rich colours and luxury trims. The need to stay warm, but still look our well attired selves produces a challenge to be risen to. The answer is the art of layering and at the heart of this is the suit.

Since the nineties the suit was seen as a practical necessity, a symbol of the working week’s drudgery. Yet it is no longer the symbol of conformity and gloom: the suit once again, finally and thankfully, has become both the perfect all day attire, and most treasured wardrobe party piece. A mix of our new-found taste for conservatism, the post-dip nostalgia for money and our generation's thirst to forge our own ‘revolutionary’ identity has brought the suit into its own. It is now the choice of the sartorially minded.

The new flurry in fashion to ‘break’ the suit and create something altogether more alluring has produced some highly desirable changes in its make up. No longer mundane, drab or shapeless the new suit is a salute to timeless classic cuts and reinvented twills. It is now an item of extremes. It’s been shrunk, pinned and pinched, giving it a desirable, ill fitting school boy uniform, mixed with a snappy 60’s tuxedo feel. This preppy rebirth also incorporates thick, warm, and rich fabrics like corduroy, velvet, and tweeds as well as fine silks and wool twills. Add the wild mixes of colours and patterns, like bright plaids, checks and pinstripes and we have ourselves a modern classic. New suiting strays from matching top to bottom, instead favouring complimentary mixes of patterns, fabrics and colours. Many designers have gone beyond the call of suit duty, including Dior Homme, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford and D.S Dundee all following this modern mantra.

A short sharp silhouette of a double or single breasted jacket (only the top button done up for added emphasis of the pinched waste) and the embraced borderline fascist cuts, manifestos of designers like Thom Browne with his shortened cuffs and hems and narrow lapels, conjures a feel of sexy, confident, and even dandy supremacy. A tight smooth fitting suit, combined with a perfect set of gentlemen’s accessories; tie, tie clip, bright socks and gleaming brogues, all shown off by short cuffs and hems, is the best way to be decked out this winter.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Burberry AW11 – Milan

Burberry reclaims the British crown in Milan.

Under the helm of Christopher Bailey the brand has had a creative over haul and reclaimed its title as one of Britain’s best. Bailey’s ingenuity also helped rescue the brand from its 90’s slump, after it became the bedspread and baseball cap of Rottweiler wielding chav’s.

The Burberry show at Milan menswear bought to us live by the rising star in online menswear and style trends, was an inspiring breakthrough for the brand. Whilst retaining all the British quintessential charm and quality we expected, Burberry gave us a fresh lease of life and pumped some contemporary flare into their timeless staples.

As Bailey proved at the Milan show he brings a sophisticated, understated style to Burberry, up keeping the brands ethos, credibility and charm. After all, Burberry is notorious for its sharp military tailoring and weather durability with out making the wearer look like a train spotter in a water proof pocket mac.

The collections feel was of revolutionary Mod 60’s, apt given the fresh lick of colours and textures Burberry had to offer. Gentrified, keeping true to the brand staple – the trench.

Staying away from the traditional Burberry palettes of muted greens, grays and browns the brand boasted vibrant colour, ranging from plaid trenches and duffels in red, orange and blue, bluebell skinny trench’s and bright yellow waterproofs.

The kaleidoscope of colour was followed by a mix of tactile textures. Classics still intact, but the collection was mixed with plastic cable knit crew neck sweaters, a mixture of acrylics for the waterproofs and a wide abundance of fur.
As a fabric I adore fur for it’s practicality as well as its look are feel, combining a sense of sensuality, luxury and in this case masculinity.

In a mixture of natural hues fur was predominately used for trims and accessories. The over sized caps, lapels and holdalls were a huge success. Other great pieces were a navy suede trench and full fur trench’s and crew neck jumper, but one of the labels successes for AW11 has to be the sheep skin aviator jackets which is still a key trend of the winter months with it’s nostalgic and dare devil connotations.

A continuous theme in the show was the weather. In front of a backdrop of projected rain and deep soulful music the models strutted, but it wasn’t until the finale that the two elements of durable fashion and unpredictable climate were combined. The troop of models marched on the runway in beige duffels under waterproof transparent raincoats, and above the heavens opened and rain fell from the roof onto the catwalk.

Twitter reports came in that editors in the front row got drenched. Well, should have sat in with a nice cuppa in front of, or at least had a Burberry cagoule at the ready shouldn’t they? The perfect ending to what turned out to be a brand affirming and brand challenging show.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Get Stuffed

Taxidermy - an introduction into an animalistic love affair, oyster cards and ostrich feathers(ish).

If you were anything like me, your first encounter with creatures of the static stance would have been as a child. Not in a grand country pile, or colonial hunting lodge; the trophies of the celestial hunts, wall mounts and umbrella stands proof of mans conquering of the untameable beasts. No. It was in the name of science, and one of my original true loves, natural history. We have inherited a lot from our pious, sex obsessed and macabre Victorian’s. Their love of bringing the outside world in, in particular taxidermy has created a national treasure trove of natures wildest, weirdest and most beautiful.
The Natural History Museum was like entering a Darwinian scene of biblical proportions and still excites me. I had the lucky luxury of our local museum having an impressive collection of this sawdust stuffed Victoriana. The darkened corridors of Norwich’s Castle Museum were bursting with seal hunting polar bears, magnificent eagles and roaring tiger you’d dare each other to inch towards in genuine fear it might blink.
An aunt even worked in Cromer Museum, a picturesque Victorian crabbing village on the wild North Norfolk coast and would sneak me in, in my Paddington style wet weather gear to marvel at the animals crammed into the converted cottage. The real wild life outside didn’t interest me half as much.
Sadly adolescence settled in. All this museum visiting and stuffed things was no longer in vogue. Fashion, rebellion and being, ‘like totally over what you just said like five minutes ago’ was now cool. Boy bands, girl bands and angsty emo music was in and American teen culture took over the western world. It was the birds and bees we were after, and not the dead lifeless kind.
I’d forgotten about my childhood love of taxidermy till I became friends with my soon to be boss, who himself had what was bordering on an unhealthy relationship with dusty entombed wildlife. It was part and parcel of his general eccentricities - a Willy Wonka of on trend must haves. Needless to say we new what would become of his Italian Greyhound when she popped clogs. Returning from a long weekend I found on my desk a large cage containing a stuffed austere looking parrot and an animal print safari jacket to match. A gift (!) from his own collection to help me start my own. It was like I’d come of age.
I was over whelmed, elated, complete? But it quickly struck me, I had to get this magnificent beast home…on public transport. Full of bravado I donning the Haversack safari jacket and made my way, bobbing cumbersome parrot and cage in hand. Now how to look inconspicuous. I thought ‘act like this is normal. You always take a (dead) parrot with you to and from work, dressed like something out of Jamanji. Who doesn’t? If you act blasé they won’t even notice!’…much.
It was rush hour, and the tube was packed with angry commuters and raucous school children. The irony was, to begin with I was terrified I’d be mobbed by paint throwing activists, but instead the scene was of slowly mounting amusement and intrigue. If anything the kids were the excited one, like I would have been!
I got my confidence back. I’d been let out of the loony bin for the day, offering light entertainment for their journey home. I gave them a moment of jolly after the drudgery of work and before a dull evening of complaining spouses and TV dinners.
It actually became fun and I began to relish it. I felt like the charming, coy, but seamlessly sophisticated and confident Hitchcock heroin from the film The Birds Melanie Daniels. Whether city sidewalk, elevator or the dusty town of Bodega Bay she carried her self with a certain nonchalance and entitlement when it came to those caged love birds.
Of course there were some differences between Miss Daniels and I. Our gender, location, and her goddess New Look beauty to start (not to say my re-cut Band of Outsiders blazer, Mad Men style glasses and crochet tie wasn’t of similar ilk) and Josephine (yes she has a name) was dead.
Taxidermy with its eccentricities and glamour is becoming increasingly fashionable, though there are some unspoken rules. Vintage is much more expectable for example – no fresh kills! Tom Ford used ravens in his AW10 eyewear ad campaign, and the art world has been captivated by Thomas Grunfeld’s hybrid splicing. We should further embrace this macabre art, not to the point of becoming another Norman Bates and mummifying our mothers but to just bring nature that little bit closer. Drag it kicking, screaming and preferably stuffed into our homes.