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Pharrell on Elle UK. Why the controversy?

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Do you think Pharrell should not have worn a Native American head-dress on cover of Elle UK? We don’t.

Although this sparked understandable and respectable outrage from communities and commentators alike, resulting in a sincere apology by the cultural icon, we believe this new controversy shows society has figured fashion out all wrong.

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As a matter of fact, the base of controversy seems far-fetched to us, or at least most of commentators express it with little concision: most of the tweets bear judgments such as “it’s not ok”, ‘what’s wrong with you” and “this is scandalous”, only a few mention the reasons of anger:

“Urgh. Why does the fashion industry insist on turning sacred cultural items into fashion props? #NOTHappy @ELLEUK” – says @OnceAPARNATime.

Cultural appropriation seems to be the problem, as highlighted Refinery29. But the real question is where is the line to draw for offensiveness?

We believe blackfaceing a model is a mistake, but criticizing a graphic and photographic fashion job made with respect (at least benefit of that doubt can be given to the team in charge, right?) seems way over-crying. Why did fashion teams like this one chose this item? Because it bears positive symbols, it also has impeccable visual style and it may remind us that some cultures should not be lost in contemporary moments.

This cover is beautiful. It has character. It does not depict a community in any negative way. Let’s stop underestimating the fashion industry’s capacity to curate cultures. Fashion is not a superficial discipline, whatever twitter might say.

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Paul Smith celebrates World Cup with John Farnsworth #football #freestyle

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When Paul Smith commissioned the young British director  Oliver Hadlee Pearch and the talented football freestyler John Farnsworth to work together, the result is just awesome.

Paul Smith celebrates a summer of football with a short that takes a schoolyard kick-about to one of the designer’s most iconic shops in Notting Hill:

A nice wink to the world cup with a British twist. We hope we’ll seen smart moves like these in the next weeks.

 

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The Feet Project: what feet mean to people

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1 year ago, we started to work with Flavie Trichet Lespagnol and Marion May on a crazy project with the agency. We were having a chit-chat and Chris looked at his feet. And he said: this is our topic.

Everybody has a story with feet; and feet tell a lot of stories about people. Very surprisingly, when it comes to shoes and brands, not so many products are really dedicated to feet. Is it because marketers think they have ugly feet?

We discovered many crazy insights: when you are pregnant, your feet grow. Women walk more than men every day in the world. We are a vast majority to buy shoes that are not at the right size for us.

Flavie and Marion went to Spain, France, travelled the UK; and interviewed a lot of interesting people. Asking questions about our feet was actually a way to talk about deeper topics: love, anxiety, self-esteem. Style as a bone of contention of our humanity; skins as the features of our journeys.

Discover the documentary right now:

Oh and if you’re brave enough, you can submit photos of your feet.

Viva The Feet Project!

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The genius of Lacoste LED AW 2014: day & night best friend

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It’s always tricky to wear a nice pair of shoes which fit all our needs; when we’re at the office, we sometimes need to feel comfy but not too idle. When we go out, we need to suit up but not too much as we’ll have to wear our shoes during the day.

The beauty of the new Lacoste Essential Design collection for Autumn Winter 2014 is to flirt between classic designs and a twist of audacity. Elastic gussets, russet orange, cable stitch are nice details to explore…

As Lacoste states:

LED is designed to give the discerning gentleman quality designs that can be worn day to night

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San Art Gallery – Saigon Contemporary Art

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Sàn in vietnamese means ground. Sàn Art Gallery is a unique space in Ho Chi Minh City that has provided a platform for art and creation for 6 years. Yesterday was the opening for a group exhibition called Mind, Flesh, Matter.

We have been impressed by the rich atmosphere offered by the space – formerly a reading space / library, but also with the diversity of works and the precision of curation by director of gallery Zoe Butt.

Mind, Flesh, Matter is the work of 3 vietnamese artists: Lai Dieu Ha, Le Phi Long and Nguyen Van Du and was part of a process called Sàn Art Laboratory. The residency program allowed the artists to exchange and find talking partners to further their research, resulting in quite an achieving set up.

Materials and ideas seemed to collide in a very subtle way. Installations were meant to provide depth to paintings and drawings, echoing how Mind, Flesh and Matter coincide. In a reserved way, we could think performance art would have in some way contributed to deepen the experience.

In our very specific way, we have ended up stumbling into hints of pop culture here and there, most probably unintentional or better totally unrelated.

Organic side cuts reminded us of recent imagery from Hannibal (TV version with Mads Mikkelsen), when the man in the wood somehow reproduced the post-apocalyptic post-human postulate of Danny Boyle heroes Di Caprio in The Beach or Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later. There was also this distant memory of Six Feet Under’s legendary tree…

Art and design are making their way into the hectic life of the fast-growing metropolis. We Boulevardiers could not love it more.

 

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2 days in Ho Chi Minh City

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Vietnam is scoring higher and higher points in coolness these days while things heat up at its borders. While China and Vietnam go head to head on territorial claims in the South China Sea, the country took the scene in 2 world-leading media to show its fascinating new lifestyles.

First on May 7 – Louis Vuitton released its refined Travel Book – Vietnam, subtly edited and drawn by Lorenzo Mattotti. The introduction video makes the exploit of showing all the famous traits of Vietnam without an ounce of cliché-ness. Residing in the country for a little less than a year now, I can certainly appreciate even more that a fresh eye such as Mr Mattotti’s has brushed up the overloaded motorbikes, the tacky alleys, the incredible sights of Ha Long Bay in a poetic way. As he says, all these symbols can be looked at in a quite abstract way. Shapes are key to his vision.

See the video:

 

 

Then on May 8 – the New York Times took its famous 36 Hours In… series to Ho Chi Minh City. The well-documented article does walk through the hottest places of modern Saigon. I’d certainly +1 on designer Linda Mai Phung’s works (see our french column last summer in L’Express Styles), vouch for the artistic new wave led by Gallery Quynh, San Art and L’Observatory, and yum in on Cuc Gach Quan’s foodie delight.

But I could not help bring up the happy few spots and people overlooked by the article. So here’s an additional 48h you can add to your stay in Ho Chi Minh City with its extra recommendable experiences. Welcome to the exciting contemporary Saigon: authentic and futuristic, mostly at the same time.

The Street Treat – Unconspicuous Pho joints where you get to taste the unavoidable national dish include Pho Thai Son on Le Lai street, a short park-walk away from the backpacker area. Next comes Tan Dinh Market, a place to find an immense choice of weird to cool fabrics – the street food court there is highly cool too. By night time, join in a street quan nhau (literally binge eat-drinking joint) on Ham Nghi street to enjoy watered-down beers and grilled seafood.

The Liquor Tour – Saigon offers a still confidential taste of quality drinks. The best Negroni can be found at the Purple Jade, while great wines are curated by a team of passionates at Wine Embassy. Last but not least, drinks are usually more enjoyable with a cool musical scene. Venues such as Cargo Bar (Q4) – a huge warehouse turned into concert spot hosting international gigs of rock and electronic music (Onra, Poni Hoax among others in 2013) – or the hip and kinky Broma, and the experimental street-culture spot called Saigon Outcast (where contributors organized a Flaming Lips experience gig last winter) are all worth the visit.

The Shopping Spree – As we all love to explore local options, the fascinating thing about Saigon is how it opened to the most avantgarde cultural scenes lately and allowed subsequent shopping options. The most curious of them all would be Runway Concept Store, located in an otherwise uncharming Vincom mall. International contemporary designers like Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang or Acne Studios have found their place there for a cultured generation of vietnamese and expats, among luxury brands including Saint Laurent Paris, Givenchy or Maison Martin Margiela. VIPs looking for a more glamorous outfit could also turn to a more fancy cocktail dress at Luala, another local concept store offering Victoria Beckham, Azzedine Alaia and Elie Saab.

 

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COS x Frieze Art Fair : the come back of Al’s Grand Hotel

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COS is supporting a very interesting project which will happen at Frieze Art fair: the tribute to Allen Ruppersberg’s Al’s Grand Hotel.

The legendary temporary hotel was realized 1971 in LA. Open for six weeks, the hotel gathered artists, hosted performances and parties. Guests could also spend the night.

As En-Chia Tsai explains:

He has turned a two-storey house at Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles into a hotel, as an artistic experiment. Although it was not a commercial undertaking, Ruppersberg treated the seven guest rooms seriously. He named the rooms individually- the Jesus Room, the Al Room, The Bridal Suite, the Breakfast Room, and Day Room, the Ultra Violet Room and the B Room; each one themed and built with vernacular materials. What’s more, Ruppersberg has made it possible for visitors to stay for a night with $30 forthe Suite, and $15 for other rooms.

COS also commissioned a film by director Simon Elephant; the analogy of the phoenix is very well executed as you’ll see. A subtle bridge between fashion and contemporary arts.

A good move from COS as the brand is attacking the US market starting from June…

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& Other Stories capsule collection PE/14 with Richard Braqo

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At the very beginning of & Other Stories, I was septic: again a copycat of a mass retailer trying to sell fake arty fashion pieces.

The thing that I was very wrong. & Other Stories multiplies interesting collaborations with rising designers, highlighting fashion with meaning.

Richard Braqo, born in Ghana, is famous for his daring shoes. He explores strange forces by “collating ideas in unexpected ways“. The collaboration with & Other Stories is loaded with this tension. Whims challenge abstraction, sexyness dares rebellion.

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O’Neill reminds us that today is perfect

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We like beaches, surfing and rock’n roll. And when it comes to style x surf, we become very hungry…
O’Neill has decided to start an original road-trip starting in the UK:

Sit back, relax and fasten those seat belts, the O’Neill Today is Perfect Road Trip is about to commence. No longer a rumour and far more a reality, the Californian lifestyle brand has finally revealed its unique tour bus that’s geared up and ready to take to the streets early next week. Making those surfing dreams a reality, the original wetsuit brand has packed its map and pencilled in one hell of a road trip.

Decked out from boot to bonnet, the new look surf wagon has been ‘madeover’ using recycled and upcycled materials giving it a cool new look with an old school vibe. Boasting reclaimed wood flooring, hand crafted tables, eco showers and wetsuit inspired seats, the O’Neill Tour Bus is every wave lover’s dream.

Starting its busy British schedule in mid-May the bus will make its first scheduled stop in the sunny, surf town of Newquay. Meandering its way along Britain’s picturesque southwest coast & hitting up a selection of the best surf spots, the diary is stacked with pro coaching sessions, product testing, onboard DJ’s and plenty of time in the water.  Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters. Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters.

Like every great surf trip, where there’s decent swell you have to put the brakes on, so rest assured the O’Neill Tour Bus will be stopping wherever the waves are good. Of course a trip like this wouldn’t be complete without boards and action cams so O’Neill have kindly invited Firewire Surfboards and iON Camera’s along for the ride!”

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Shortlist for BFC / GQ designer menswear fund 2014: Lou Dalton and Christopher Shannon on the rocks

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The British Fashion Council today announces the shortlist for the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund supported by Vertu.

Christopher Raeburn, Christopher Shannon, E. Tautz, Lou Dalton and Richard Nicoll are the happy few.

We’re really happy that Lou Dalton gets into this brilliant shortlist. Using roots, playing with history, we lover her inspiring way of doing menswear. Suits with stories, denims with culture: fashion a it should be.

Richard Nicoll (who’s also the new Jack Wills creative director) is not a newcomer: spotted several times before, multi-awarded, the designer keeps his skyrocketing pace in fashion, reinventing modernity, playing with hybrid influences, from street to preppy.

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“The shortlisted designers are testament to the extraordinary array of talent in the menswear industry in Britain right now. The current generation of British menswear designers might be the best ever, as they not only have creativity in abundance, but also a keen business sense. Our young designers know that without a solid business background, success can be tough, which is why it is so heartening to see such strong business plans from these shortlisted designers. I wish them all well.” Dylan Jones, Editor of British GQ and Chair of London Collections: Men

 

The Fund will provide one designer with a bespoke, high level mentoring support programme over a twelve month period, as well as a £150,000 grant to provide necessary infrastructure to take them to the next stage in their business and £50,000 value in kind services. The Fund is aimed at businesses that have been trading for a minimum of three years, with UK and international stockists and have graduated through the existing BFC talent support schemes or are at a similar stage in their business. The winner of the fund will be announced a week before London Collections: Men 15th – 17th June www.londoncollections.co.uk/men.

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