Tuesday, 15 April 2014

T1.3 Iceland (i)

Well, I just returned from one of the most exciting trips of my life – a week spent in Iceland. For seven days we drove around Þjóðvegur 1 (also called the 'ring road'), Iceland's main circular artery, exploring every inch of the inhabited coastal regions. We experienced nature at its fullest force (more on that later) and relished in the strangely Scandinavian culture.

Iceland is an odd country, a historical fluke. The sparse population is descended directly from the early Viking settlers (and their Celtic brides) who came from Norway, Scotland and Ireland, to find more space and escape the rule of the Norwegian King. Because of expert documentation and the Icelanders' famous sagas, they have preserved their family trees going right back to the settlement period in the 9th century. Iceland is almost unique in recording its history in such detail. Iceland is also unique in having preserved its language and culture for so long. Modern Icelandic is incredibly similar to Old West Norse, the original settler language, and the population's relative isolation and small size has meant their traditional ways of life have barely changed over the centuries.

My first few days in Iceland focused on the capital, Reykjavík, and the surrounding historical region known as The Golden Circle. We explored the stunning new Harpa concert hall (and ate at its restaurant, Kolabrautin), best seen by night. We learnt about Iceland's history at the National Museum and took in the austere yet calming Hallgrímskirkja designed by Guðjón Samuel. At Þingvellir we found where the original settlers created the world's first democratic parliament – the Alþingi – and then carried on to see the original Geysir (from which all other geysers derive their names) and the impressive Gullfoss waterfalls. It was the perfect start to our trip and gave us the relevant historical and cultural information required to understand what we were about to experience in the more remote regions of the country. Which will be coming up in my next few blog posts...

Dr Duck

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

D1.7 Charging Ahead

Silver and leather bracelet by Stephen Einhorn, notes model's own

I feel like time is slipping through my fingers right now, as I move from one career and into a new one, from one city to another. In the next four weeks I'm focusing hard on finishing a key paper from my research, catching up on high school electronics for my new job, and moving into my mews apartment in Edinburgh's city centre. Somehow I'm also going to fit in a week exploring Iceland with my family, and a luxury birthday spa weekend at the Aman in London with Charlie and Anna. I'm spending a lot of time sprawled across the dining room table with my notes right now, so I'm kind of living in my comfy pyjamas or gym kit. But that's no reason not to accessorise with jewellery, to keep my spirits high. My wrist is definitely enjoying the chic simplicity of this leather and silver bracelet by London-based artisan jeweller, Stephen Einhorn. Simply serendipitous that he's also launched a new campaign and video around the making of his Flame Ring today. And with a surname that means unicorn in German, what's not to love?

Dr Duck

Sunday, 23 March 2014

D1.6 Paris - or avoiding fashion week

A few weeks ago I packed up a case of my chicest items (read: H2T outfits emergency-purchased and express-delivered from TheCorner) and headed across to Paris to visit during fashion week.  I took an apartment on the Rue St Honoré, across the street from the Rue Cambon Chanel HQ and just a stone's throw away from Charlie May's studio showroom.  This is, I think, my fifth visit to Paris during the shows, but the first one where I avoided the fashion circus as much as humanly possible.  I only stopped by Charlie's showroom in the evening for glasses of wine watching the sunset on the balcony with Charlie, India Rose, Andrew Blyszak and Clym Evernden, and paid a visit to Anna's Completed Works showroom in the Marais to see her latest display.  The rest of the time I ate (at Frenchie and Le Dauphin), I drank (at Monsieur Bleu in the Palais de Tokyo), I shopped (for the perfect shearling at Sandro), I danced (with Charlie at Silencio).  Staying so central was the best decision I've made in all my visits - Airbnb officially rocks when compared to overpriced Parisian hotels - and the ability to self-cater meant I could still enjoy my organic Greek yoghurt for breakfast.  Avoiding the fashion hoo-ha was my second best decision, although I did accidentally gate-crash the Galliano show at the Palais de Tokyo.  I'm starting a new career next month, moving to a new city, and separating myself from the fashion lifestyle is becoming more than necessary.  I want to return to that joy of design, the pleasure in finding the perfect item to wear or in discovering a new designer, which the fast-paced fashion industry is destroying for me.  I just want to stroll around the Palais Royal, take in Dries Van Noten's all-encompassing exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and then revel in a slice of speculoos cheesecake before my flight home.  

Dr Duck

Sunday, 23 February 2014

D1.5 Vin and Omi

It's very hard to define fashion. Some people praise it as art, others deride it as mere frivolity. Maybe it can be both, or something in between. Few designers, however, manage to straddle those polar extremes to create works which are at once shocking, thought-provoking and incredibly commercial. Vin and Omi are two such artists.

It's hard to find a lot of information about the pair online, but from a short meeting with Omi in the May Fair hotel after their show, I know this much. Vin and Omi were some of the earliest recipients of the NESTA (National Endowment for Science and Technology Award) fashion award, along with Alistair Carr (of Balenciaga, Pringle and McQ fame). Reading the lists of early funding prize winners (including other prestigious competitions such as NEWGEN), it's noticeable how few of the brands have gone on to become household names around the world. And the same is true of Vin and Omi – but that is not to say that they haven't been successful.

They have, in fact, been incredibly successful in many fields. They focused on fabric development and now are based in the Cotswolds where various farmyard outhouses allow them to experiment with myriad and messy new techniques. Their work with latex is particularly strong, and has led to collaborations with brands from Felder Felder through to Louis Vuitton. They have studios in the US from which they art-direct the careers of celebrities such as Christina Aguilera (they were responsible for her skin-tight, blonde-bombshell looks of the mid Noughties), produce video collections for Lady Gaga and work on public art installations. They have designed one-off pieces for many a star, including a specially commissioned dress for Michelle Obama later deconstructed by security due to Vin and Omi's penchant for hiding secret messages in their garments. Their success in all these fields is due to a) their talent, but also b) their willingness to let others shine. Vin and Omi do not micromanage their success stories — they let all their collaborators work independently, safe in the knowledge that talented people will show up with the goods.

This season Vin and Omi decided to return to London, where their 'fashion' careers began, to put on a show of two parts. The womenswear collection consisted of specially distressed printed silks and latex pieces, designed as couture items and not intended as ready-to-wear. The line of t-shirts and hoodies sported by the hunks of the show, however, are ready for commercial release. At first glance, these pieces seem to derive quite superficially from the recent Célfie hype. In fact the joke is much more personal. Just weeks before the show, Vin was undergoing brain surgery. The t-shirts feature scans taken at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford of Vin's brain bleed, quickly snapped by Omi on his iPhone. I'm not sure if I can think of a greater fusion of art and fashion commercialism.

I met Vin and Omi through Twitter, as did Jen. And at the show I recognised quite a few of the Twiteratti (Caroline looking particularly fierce front row). It's amazing how the internet brings us weirdos all together, and it is quite incredible the breadth of contacts and friendships I've forged down the fibre-optic cable. I'd just like to take this chance to thank V+O again for inviting me to see your first show in years, and I look forward to favouriting your tweets for years to come.

Dr Duck

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

D1.4 Charlie May

Phew, that's London Fashion Week over for another season and, to be honest, I'm not that sad to see the back of it. Attending all the shows can be chic and fabulous at times, but mostly it's just tiring and not particularly satisfying. It's rare you feel that buzz that reminds you why you fell in love with fashion in the first place. Now going to London, for me, is all about catching up with my best friends from around the world. Luckily, on Saturday, I got to combine the best of both worlds at my breb Charlie May's AWESOME show in the iconic OXO Tower. No Bisto-themed collection, this season Charlie kept things minimal and sporty-chic, with a greater focus on wearability and commercial appeal. These are pieces she, and the girls we hang out with, would wear. There are pieces even I'd be able to wear if she can scale them up to fit my man shoulders (got my eye on that cushioned mesh bomber jacket). I stopped by the studio the day before for model casting and got to watch her stylist, Nobuko Tannawa, at work. Go-sees are exactly as they appear on ANTM, except there the designer's best friend is rarely sipping red wine in the background. Ah, life.

Dr Duck

Thursday, 13 February 2014

D1.3 New Silhouette

Floral shirt (underneath) and printed t-shirt, both Raf Simons

All in a tizz over preparations for my fly-by fashion weekend in London starting tomorrow. I've been finishing up some pieces of work (and completing a few other job applications while I'm at it), all the while trying to cram in as much cardio as my problematic thyroid will allow. At least I know exactly what I'll be wearing as I slide out of my UberLUX (we're pronouncing it luxe, by the way), push past the throngs of streetstyle-papping scum and force my way into a potential ALT lift situation on my way up to Charlie show's at the top of the iconic OXO tower. People frown upon wearing total runway looks but I say: SCREW YOU. I'd only be wearing more Raf if the seasonal drop had come in time. Still, there's always Paris. 

Florals for Spring? Give me a break, OK, it's my new silhouette.

Dr Duck

Friday, 7 February 2014

E1.3 Face-Off

OK can we talk about the amazingness of this twinset from Christopher Kane's SS14 collection? I'm basically obsessed with twinsets at the moment (what I'm calling playing matchy-matchy with tops and bottoms) and the stark black-and-white combination here is exactly what I need to be wearing on Charlie May's front row at the Oxo Tower next week. I am so close to emptying my PayPal account into TheCorner right now.

While we're on the subject of Christopher, can we also have a round of applause for his AW menswear collection which will feature blown-up prints of molecular structures. I've wanted to do this myself for ages but he's beaten me to it. Still, I think a t-shirt with some visualisations from my calculation of non-collinear magnetism in iron might be chic? We'll see.

Dr Duck

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

E1.2 Sandro

January's nearly over so I can't believe lots of stores are still stuck in winter sale mode – I need those SS14 collections to drop now! Dreaming of springtime prints, new-season cuts and daring to bare my legs again. I'm thinking this year I'll be investing in Christopher Kane, Raf Simons and Dries Van Noten, particulièrement. But it seems like the first stores to be stocking up for the new year are on the high street, and I'm especially impressed by Sandro's menswear offering. Sure, they lean heavily on what designers are doing on the runway, but they do those 'inspired by' pieces with style and luxury fabrics. It's become sort of like a French Joseph, providing chic basics in black and white, punctuated with the odd colourful MUST HAVE. The piece I must-be-having? That perfect pull telepathic.

Just one problem: they don't deliver to the UK.  I'll be hitting up those London stores hard during fashion week.

Dr Duck

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

L1.2 Dubble Vision

Recently I've been experimenting with the new iPhone photography app Dubble. The iTunes store is chock-a-block with apps from those capable of high level photo manipulation to those for the simple addition of cats. What makes Dubble different is that it superimposes two different images, adds a touch of creative magic, and produces some genuinely beautiful results like those shown here. The downside is that, at the moment, you upload one photo and the app creates a Dubble using another randomly selected from its users. So a lot of the time the results look a bit...crap. Perseverance is key here. Rumour on the grapevine is, however, that future updates will allow you to choose specifically which two images get mixed together. Which would be a significant step forward and would move Dubble from the 'fun game for an afternoon' category to a seriously useful artistic tool.

Dr Duck