New York City: Our first day in the city, sunny, bright, refreshing, sunnies perched high– nothing could wipe the smiles off our faces.
Yet, getting into our first yellow cab of the trip with our faithful Egyptian driver Yahya (us Arabs really are everywhere), all we hear of is this ‘blizzard is a-comin’. A’comin? Really?? Last time I heard that, it was in a Steinbeck book in my high school English Lit course (then again, my dictionary doesn’t go back too long).
So bound by memories of the sun, editor in chief WAFA ALOBAIDAT and myself trek out in our reliable converse on day two (big mistake; also known as Blizzard Day) onto our first trans-Atlantic cultural stop, 11 West & 53rd Street, where we find ourselves at The MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (MoMA).
Watch out for our upcoming review of the TIM BURTON exhibition at the MoMA.
Filep Motwary is the mastermind behind international blog Un Nouveau Ideal and his very own fashion label. After graduating from fashion school in Athens, Filep’s experience boasts of some of the most respected designers in the fashion industry including Galliano, Dior, Chloe and Loukia. Constantly surrounded by fashion since he was young, fashion design came as second nature and it seems like major success is never far behind. In collaboration with jewellery designer Maria Mastori, his next womenswear collection comes out this month for A/W 10/11 and if that wasn’t enough; a movie and book are also in the works. Here we talk to Filep about his journey into fashion, blogging, projects and what he really thinks about Sketchbook.
Where were you born and raised? What was growing up like?
I was born in Cyprus. Which was at the time, during the aftermath of the 1974 war. So there was an echo of silence, if you know what I mean. But on the other hand my childhood was quite carefree. I lived in this area which was very close to the green line which separates the Greece Cypriots from the Turkish Cypriots and there were these huge fields full of greenery with high plants. We also had this horse stable there; they raised horses there, old horses that no one could use. So we used to ride these horses without permission. So that was my childhood (laughs).
Your mother is from Cyprus and your father is Syrian, do those places have any influence on your work?
I never saw it this way, although the more I grow older, the more I see a reflection of the history of both civilizations in what I’m doing. But its never intended. Its something that in a way comes out naturally since I’m coming from both heritages.
How did you get into the fashion industry; when did you know that was where you were supposed to be?
It’s a bit cliché because my mother was a seamstress, a dress maker, so we had all of these people at home all of the time, all of these ladies, and the greatest magazines and all of that so it came naturally I think. When I was about 12 I discovered the power of the Mtv and shows like Fashion File with T. Blanks and that was a major influence I would say. But of course now that I’m involved in the business, what I thought about the business back then has nothing to do with the reality of it today so…
You and Maria Mastori seem to be completely in sync with your designs. Can you explain the dynamic between you two and how your work comes together so well?
Well we work in the same space; we have an apartment studio where we both work. Its divided into rooms. There’s a room where we see our clients, there’s a room where we expose the collections and there’s two other rooms where each of use work on our own collections. But when the time comes to create the new stuff for the season we always have a central meeting to discuss the ideas and then have a second meeting to have some, you know, sketches on the table and see how we can start with the procedure. I would say it comes naturally, as I said before, because we’re in the same space. The thing is also, although we have an age difference, we like the same things and in a way we behave the same way towards our life. So I don’t know how ideal it sounds that we’re a perfect match, because although we work together we do not interfere with each other’s space.
Could you explain the transition from being just a designer to being a designer and well-known blogger? How do you balance both?
Well, um…Blogging came as, it was actually and invite from a friend, Diane Pernet. She wanted me to write for her blog but in the meantime I discovered that writing and exposing my knowledge, or my connection to fashion, or my connection to people in fashion was something that was never exposed before. So a lot of people discovered my work through my writing and thinking that if it wasn’t for the blog my work would still have been, not unknown, but not as known as it is right now. So by combining my experiences through the world’s fashion weeks or through a visit to another designer in combination with my own collection each time, and Maria’s, it has become a sort of melting pot of information. Some of this information is indeed about us, but on the other hand, its not, I don’t know if that makes sense (laughs).
London Fashion Week: Day 5: ASHISH THE BOY IN STRIPED PYJAMAS
‘Ashishistan’, as the collection was titled, is ASHISH’S fairytale version of a former Soviet republic, which is the inspiration for his catwalk story. Each outfit brings a new narrative as the models shimmer down the catwalk, with loose side plaited hair that had visible streaks of candy floss pink and sky blue, the nude make-up added to the nonchalant attitudes.
ASHISH proved he hasn’t moved away from his signature glamorous casual wear as he sent the first model out in a pair of sequin pyjamas, similar to those from ‘THE BOY IN STRIPED PYJAMAS’. Catering for the cold winter months outfits consisted of thick chunky cable knit jumpers, some in sequin version, making you look twice, and cardigans in creams, browns and charcoal grey.
There was a strong androgynous theme, as black brogues and knitted beanie hats were teamed with every look. Oversized wool coats and blazers, in black and hues of grey, were thrown over sleek black matt sequined maxi dresses and colourful geometric patterned sequin tops.
ASHISH took inspiration from Uzbeki Turkmen rugs and tapestries and applied them to hand-made sequin dresses, in autumnal colours of burnt orange, black, yellows and greens. Russian nostalgia was also influential to the collection, with teddy bears and roses sewn onto sequin tops, which were tucked into tweed paper-bag trousers, shorts and dirndl skirts and accessorized with patterned long socks which were rolled down to the ankles.
All-in-all a successful collection, ASHISH has successfully introduced sequins and sparkle to androgynous, grunge clothing. And the good news, knitted hats and socks, flat shoes and chunky, warm cardigans are back.
London College of fashion MA Fashion and Film exhibition
On Thursday the 18th of February, I was conveyed to attend a special screening of “Dress Up”, a short film that promised to reveal all about Fashion’s new star system, the celebrity, the consumption and the desire no less! Well, that’s what the flier read at least…
A panel discussion was to follow with a line-up consisting of a who’s who of fashion’s best representing the various arms of the industry. Grazia’s Melanie Rickey and blogger Coco’s Tea Party would impart with hard earned insiders’ wisdom and the presence of Hollywood Catwalk author Tamar Jeffers Thomas certainly promised this evening to be edifying. Fashion was about to ditch its seemingly shallow coat and dig deep into content.
The screening turned out to be a student film by Kate Battrick. “This is not a filmmaking course”, warned MA director Pamela Church Gibson and evident amateur filmmaking put aside, the room was invited to focus on what was meant to be a “Wanna Be Wag” expose, stripping bare the ideals at the root of many a would be spotty girl’s classic journey to wagdom. There wasn’t much of a story but the footage was littered with the all-important fashion signifiers. The aspiring wag wears a red dress and lends her football boyfriend her “Mythologies” book, their romance played out with a backdrop of shops and household brands.
Afterwards, we were all invited to discuss issues raised by the film. That part was captivating and mystifying in equal parts. From Jezebel, the woman gold digger personified by her red dress to the democratization of film, the talk covered quite a range of topics. I found most puzzling the discussion about the rise of fashion, becoming more important than Hollywood…Really? Tea party replied: “ I will post weekly about Jessica Alba but won’t see her films.” There is a new relationship between cinema, celebrity and product placement and films are now sold on the back of a starlet’s outfit. And what about fashion bloggers’ prominence versus printed media?
Bloggers are now seated front row, creating tension with old timers to the point that traditional codes of behaviour are becoming irrelevant. Also the prediction is that celebrities’ influence is waning and craft is making a come back after celebrities were banned from Marc Jacobs’ front row. Maybe…For one hundred years, fashion enjoyed a traditional alliance with photography but all of that is about to change; it will be fashion and movies for the next one hundred. Wong Kar Wai is now making commercials and shops are backdrops for people’s fantasies the way films were. Is fashion having an over-inflated sense of self? “I think so”, intimated Thomas.
JOHN ROCHA exceeded all expectations this season. His voluminous collection was inspired by a gathering of diverse notions from dandy Edwardian ruffians and DEBORAH TURBEVILLE’S ‘ninos’ of Guatemala to Mayan battle dress and the gauchos of the Argentinean pampas.
DAVID BOWIE’S Heroes played as the models took to the runway, the first wearing a black brocade ruffled dress accompanied by some interesting tights with holes on the knees and a large headdress which is a similar shape to the hats of London’s horse guards. ROCHA took note of the emerging low heels trend and sent models out wearing gilly laced shoes with a chunky low platform and heels.
The collection gave a feminine edge to a gothic theme by playfully cutting the hemline of a black roll-neck, leather dress and layering it over a long sleeved lace top. Male models appeared on the runway wearing chunky knit cardigans interestingly layered over a white shirt and black lace waistcoat, distorting the male silhouette. The looks are completed with black leather riding boots and bowler hats with added embellishment from studs to ruffles.
The women’s outerwear was layered over patterned tops and came in hues of grey and blacks and varied from re-worked leather macs to structured and embroidered tailored coats. A beautiful cream dress, with a sheer bust panel and georgette ruffles, bounced as the model walked down the catwalk and imbedded the feminine theme. Dresses were teamed with adorable knee-high socks with subtle bows on the side, which, when put with the lace up shoes, resembled a Victorian school-girl, from the knees down.
Not one to be distracted by trends, ROCHA created a collection that was inspired by and reflects the things that he is passionate about. His exquisite craftsmanship and entertaining show would suggest that ROCHA has more than 25 years of LFW experience under his belt.
Nature influenced BERNARD CHANDRAN’S latest collection; his strong autumnal colours show this with a concurrent use of charcoal greys, midnight blues, black and plum.
CHANDRAN’S main theme was androgyny, which he took a fresh angle on by mixing this in with femininity, by juxtaposing materials such as wool with sheer silk. The set up was simple and fresh, with bright lights, a white catwalk and background, reflecting CHANDRAN’S collection.
Models stormed out onto the catwalk with white and peach coloured faces complete with blue lipstick, slightly resembling a geisha girl. The first look was a sheer and silk panelled black dress. This was followed by a charcoal dress with a sheer deep plunging v-neck and a low v-shaped back, with a triangle of material joining each side, to give seductive glimpses of flesh.
CHANDRAN’S clever interplay with fabrics was shown in dresses with the bottom half made from wool and the top half made from sheer silk, appearing like a skirt and top combination. Dresses were often finished off with asymmetric zip detailing. Dresses were often accessorised with rope belts, cinching in the waist to again contrast the feminine body with a typically masculine material.
This collection was not all about androgyny though, CHANDRAN also created sparkling gold sequin dresses with deep, sultry v-neck backs that glimmered under the lights. There was also a predominant amount of feathers on skirts, bags and shoulders.
The numerous looks that were sent down the catwalk all varied and impressed the audience, from feathers and sequins to asymmetric wool dresses this collection was a definite winner, especially when CHANDRAN himself walked down the catwalk. Although you will need to get some thick skin to resist the winter temperatures in those sheer, backless dresses.
GEMMA SLACK, young born and raised Sheffield designer, exhibited her A/W ’10 collection at London Fashion Week’s Vauxhall venue.
Slack’s collection, as her previous one, continued to be gothic inspired but this time around inspirations gathered from Bram Stoker’s DRACULA and the romanticism of the Victorian era weaved themselves into this very dark and erotic collection as well.
The extensive use of black leather, metal and chains gave the collection a very masculine and dominating vibe but in combination with sheer chiffon drapery SLACK managed to keep the collection fiercely feminine.
The pieces included a high-waisted, black leather skirt in combination with a sheer chiffon top, a tailored leather jacket with an I HEART NORWEGIAN inspired cage skirt and a black long sleeved dress which showed the feminine vs. masculine theme perfectly as it was made out of alternative patches of leather and sheer chiffon.
SLACK’s dominatrix inspired collection was fully supported by her collaboration with jewellery designer KATIE ROWLAND. Delicate, golden flowing chains were the base of this collaboration. ROWLAND created memorable head pieces made out of golden chains which delicately draped their way around the entired head and face with chunky golden nose or cheek plates. ROWLAND continued to use golden chains for cuffs and body jewellery complimenting the contrasting theme of SLACK’S fierce yet sensual collection perfectly.
SLACK, with her unconventional use of materials and successful contrast of hard masculinity and delicate femininity, proved that she definitely is a fashion fledgling to watch.
On a quiet, rainy Friday, I had a long journey up to Manor House, North London, and was extremely excited to be doing this specific journey. I was excited because I was going to meet Yan To, designer (who has not been to design school), marketing manager and father of 2. He is showcasing his designs at On/Off this LFW. I spent the day (not just the scheduled hour) with him in the studio to see how him and his team work.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Hong Kong and at the age of 2 my father was studying for a PhD so we relocated to England and moved around for a while before finally settling in Glasgow when I was 6 till I was 17.
What was the creative and fashion scene in Glasgow and how did growing up as the only foreigner there shape your personality?
I don’t really remember much of the fashion in Glasgow, but I would say that the fashion was eclectic and people take risks. Growing up as the only ethnic person in every class I was in, you learn to adapt to situations if need be. I rebelled a bit from being an ‘outsider’ and some would say this can be seen in my collection ‘Zero’ with the cigarette burn-holes in the fabric.
What made you first become interested in design and fashion?
I used to love shopping with my female friends and doing a bit of amateur styling, so I always had an interest in the way clothes fit on the body and can drape, be fitted or concealing. I created my first two collections in a creative vacuum as I did not read magazines, but now I’ve done two collections I do read around.
What’s a typical day for Yan To?
I generally wake up at 6am that’s usually by the kids jumping on me! I have breakfast with them and take them to school. I meet with my team at around mid-morning, from 3.30pm to 7pm I spend with my children, we stay at home and play. From 7pm I go back to work (even if it is from home) and can sometimes finish at between 1-3am.
If we were to look into your sketchbook what would we find?
I have about 4-5 trousers in there and I’m doing tops for the first time too. I have a range of fabrics in my designs too. I’m using leather for the first time and vintage real fur or faux fur. Knitwear, silk and the colours black and grey can all be found in my sketchbook. Most of my designs are created and take shape on the form.
That’s really interesting how do you come up with the ideas and where did you learn the technical skills you have now?
I learn my skills on the job and my creative process is just random, I’m lucky because in the areas that I lack I have people to work with that are experienced in those areas.
What woman wears Yan To designs?
I don’t really know, as I wouldn’t force anyone to wear my stuff! But she would have a sense of style, attitude and appreciate detailing in garments. She would be clothes-lover as opposed to a label collector.
Random things about Yan To
· He is very shy and has a sublime personal style. He wears mainly black, as it is easy to wear.
· He does not drink alcohol but does drink a lot of Pepsi Max up to a 6 pack a day especially around the stressful time of Fashion Week.
· He is not hungry for fame or being a big name, he is focused more on the designs and maintaining integrity throughout his fashion career.
KINDER AGGUGINI’S A/W 10 collection, titled “Madame Recamier”, took inspiration from JULIETTE RECAMIER the heroic woman who stood up to Napoleon. AGGUGINI imagined what she would be like as a modern day woman he thinks she would be a beautiful muse, living a rock-star life, much like the woman who would wear this collection.
The AGGUGINI show began with the lights dimming, to show a warm gothic setting of church like candles and statues lining out the runway. As the eerie classical music began the models sashayed out onto the runway complete with pale faces, dark lips and back combed messy hair, which was pinned up into buns, setting the tone for a dark collection. There was a clear military theme, as tweed trench coats were sent down the runway in blacks and pale khaki’s, some with a red under-cutting, teamed with a black jersey dress, with a gothic pattern it was clear to see how AGGUGINI was inspired by JULIETTE RECAMIER.
The music switched to loud rock music, to accompany the models attitudes as they stomped down the runway in long black maxi dresses, gothic printed skirts and muslin shirts. Black maxi dresses came in many variations, one of those in jersey, with a silk back. Another had a deep V-neck complete with sashes of material dangling on either side, which moved freely with the model.
Leather and velvet black biker jackets showed elements of AGGUNGINI’S punk roots. The collection also catered for the androgynous audience, with trousers complete with a line of subtle silver studs, that glimmered under the catwalk lights, there was also an unusual pleating on the back of the knee.
AGGUGINI’S collection was filled with effortless wardrobe essentials, with a dark twist.
New York City: It is a truth universally acknowledged that on a drab dark, grey snowy winter day like this, no one in their right mind would step out without a few pets in tow; one on your shoulder, another wrapped around your head and a third preferably cozying around both your ankles. Unfortunately for me, another truth being not having a father who pursues hunting-related activities left me with a little less animals to wear but no less determination to finally hit MILK STUDIOS in the Meatpacking District, a venue that has seen the launch of some of the most underground coveted cult labels this side of the Atlantic, this season’s shows include McQ of the late and great MCQUEEN, PROENZA SCHOULER and JEREMY SCOTT. And running to Ecco Domani 2009 winner for new talent MATTHEW AMES’ show was definitely not unworthy of the trip. Look after look, this Brooklyn-based designer’s minimalist approach of taking only three essential components of the wardrobe [the jacket, the shirt and the trousers] hit home on so many levels: cozy, warm and refreshingly minty. Removing all embellishments and focusing on proportion and shape, Ames defied all risks of turning minimal into dull and instead put forward a strong classic collection of composed freedom from to start to finish. The perfect palette of pastels in mint, baby blue, lavender, yellow and nude with a focus on cream and camel, as well as the movement of each piece reflecting the skill in tailoring, felt like a far cry from winter if not for the use of such luxurious fabrics as cashmere, silk and leather. Not one to show menswear down, 5 complementing couple looks were also presented and I felt a certain skip when a cocoon-liked quilted lavender jacket teamed with a bubblegum pink leather miniskirt swished by me, followed by a lime yellow jacket and the creamiest camel soft leather pants. What can I say, I’m a sucker for pastel colour. If Ames’ refreshing, serene, cleansing Autumn/Winter 2010 wonderland isn’t reality, then I don’t want to know what reality is.
New York City: Brazilian designer CARLOS MIELE has been well known for his constructivist take on pure bright colours and graphic prints in form-fitting silhouettes. And this was not overlooked as CARINE ROITFELD, SUZY MENKES and HILARY ALEXANDER made their way front row and center to watch what Miele had in store for his A/W 2010 collection. As the first model straddled the catwalk followed by a few more in geometric print slim-fitting dresses, it was clearly a Rio de Janeiro inspired winter with blasts of bright pure hues of fuschia, red and purple.
Editors with TommyTon
Of course, one could not escape the winter blues, as what has now seemed to become the staple items for A/W 2010 down the New York Fashion Week catwalk appeared yet again in the form of the fur cape, the high-waisted bow trousers, the chunky knit cardigan and the cocoon mixed fabric black jacket. Yet Miele managed to pull away again from the traditional, bringing a slightly too tropical touch with several turquoise dresses in various lengths, some of which seemed slightly ill-fitted on the models.
Later on, speaking to the PR girls, we managed to find out that a big part of the fabrics used by Miele were made of remnant pieces of fabric, as well as Bio Denim, a biodegradable fabric exclusively produced with excess denim and a finish made of a natural softener - cupuacu’s butter to be exact, a traditional Brazilian fruit cultivated in the Amazon. Through this, all proceeds through its use will go to the development of local communities in Amazon, which is a great socio-environmental conscious effort on Miele’s part. Text/Photography LUMA BASHMI & WAFA ALOBAIDAT
New York City: Everyone in New York City and the fashion industry can confirm that REBECCA TAYLOR knows how to pull a Teen Vogue celebrity crowd. Walking into the Salon at Bryant Park, front row and center were WHITNEY PORT, OLIVIA PALERMO, MICHELLE TRACHTENBERG, KRISTEN BELL, MENA SUVARI, SOPHIE BUSH and CARMEN ELECTRA.
The soundtrack, a tad out of date for the London scene yet still ever so patriotic to us, was Florence & the Machine, setting the mood for a grunge glam look. The collection was a range of it-items like chunky knits in moody shades of grey/maroon/blues/greens, ribbon-bow shorts (our favourite), the leopard print fur coat, bowler hats, and skinny jeans. Though a majority of the collection seemed a bit recycled and almost readily available in most department stores and the high street, it seemed to be well-taken by the actors front row.
New York City: Catching a cab downtown to the Chelsea Arts Museum where CATHERINE MALANDRINO’S presentation was being held, I could see why The Sartorialist captures some of his best shots here. The scene, a contrast of the dirty streets against a backdrop of beautifully aged red brick buildings (ignoring the smell of fish.. and meat..) with the sun reflecting against the melted snow played all too well for perfection.
It really seemed to me like the middle of nowhere, but spotting a pair of Chloe Sevigny for Opening Ceremony black wedges and chunky leopard scarf just around the corner, I knew I was in the right spot.
Entering down into the galleries, I’m always a bit worse for wear on what to expect of at a presentation - no catwalk means close up of clothing, crucial scrutiny of all the fabrics, stitching, folds, layering, materials, jewelry, makeup, and most obviously, the models. I sometimes gulp at the thought of it, definitely not wanting to be in the designer’s shoes in this instance..
But once in, I’m welcomed by a series of amazon-like models posing powerfully on white square pedestals lined all across the rectangular venue (37 models = 37 looks to be exact). The collection does not disappoint and the tribal theme is unmistakable (and in case we weren’t so sure, the soundtrack was just as ooga chaka as it should be). Coats and vests in rough and rugged fabrics like kidassia goat hair, shearling and fox fur were mixed with distressed leather, wool boucle, lace and fantastic embroidery. The detail in this collection and balance of draping and proportion is quite spot-on, but it’s the ability for MALANDRINO to truly layer and mix all these details together without making it look overly ethnic or cluttered that makes even the most minimal dressers crave the collection.
Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice’s KATE WALSH and MENA SUVARI, both with their boyfriends taking in the collections. Very of the earth and true to its nature, some of the most beautiful pieces to highlight were the burnt orange flared tweed trousers juxtaposed against a deep blue and black leather arms - the silhouettes are striking and the jewelled metal cuffs are delectable.
Creative hair genius, CHARLIE LE MINDU presented his second collection at LFW this season, presenting new and crazy ideas without losing his signature trademark of human hair. Hard electronic music mixed with creepy, manic laughter and eerie church bell chimes set the mood for a cult and religious inspired collection. The first model set the tone for the show as she paraded down the runway in a black, sheer lace crop top and leggings with a glittering crucifix perched on her black poker straight wig.
The next look was similar with the model, again head-to-toe in black lace accompanied by a black-fringed wig but this time the crucifix was in a dazzling sapphire blue encircled by silver, glittering orbit.
As already mentioned LE MINDU continued his usage of human hair: a model’s face was completely covered by a staggering mammoth pile of black human hair resembling “Cousin It” from The Adams Family.
For the next look LE MINDU elaborated on the “Cousin It” theme but this time the human hair was layered and perched above the head in the shape of a lampshade.
Not only was the human hair used for head decoration purposes but also LE MINDU showed its variability by creating hairy cuffs and capes that are sure to keep you warm. For this look the model’s head served as a platform for a hair and blue diamond covered FABERGE inspired egg. A ballerina figurine stood in its blue satin interior. The look was completed with glittering blue lipstick and sparkling green eye shadow.
LE MINDU sent out models with what appeared to be crimped hair that, after a second glance, turned out to be multi-dyed hair in hues of blue, blacks and grey achieving a fur-like effect.
LE MINDU’S macabre and melancholic second collection proved that he is able to maintain his trademark look whilst moving forward as an avant-garde hair artist.
New York City: Hitting further downtown to the old CBGB’s haunt was an exciting trek on its own, but having to view FIT graduate KAROLINA ZMARLAK’s latest A/W 2010 presentation was a definite refreshing change to the dilectable wannabe upper-eastside scene that was ever so present on the first day of fashion week at Bryant Park.
Entering CBGB’s venue down a dangerously worst for wear staircase, we entered what seemed to be a re-visited destination for the underground rock glam crew: upon entry, we were welcomed by the sounds of an Indie Beach Boys-like band (cute and clad in some smart attire - shame on us for not catching their names) with an assembly of 17 exuberantly dressed models spread out across both sides of the stage against a wall painted in a deco ocean blue. Clad in glamorous 50’s swimming caps and sleek maroon lipstick, reminiscent of a scene from a 50’s Elizabeth Taylor movie on Miami Beach.
A glam Shoreditch affair similar to Hoxton’s Square (before its commerical heydays), it was clear that Zmarlak’s experience under the reigns of Theory and Carolina Herrera did not fail - her inspiration, a revival of Art Deco in the 1950s heydey of Miami (or so we had been told by the press) showed a great glam decadance that still remained timeless and urban. The large scale oil flower paintings by Georgie O’Keefe were her pallette inspirational points: soft hues of blues and maroons against nudes and beiges in showed for a modern twist. Her collection of reversible jackets and coats, shifts, leather cigarette pants, gives a futuristic yet timeless look of adding the essentials to an urban yet feminine uniform.
You know when you first meet someone and immediately you know that they are going to be one of those people you could sit and talk with for hours? That’s how it is with Matthew Zorpas. A Greek public relations student in his final year at London College of Communications, Matthew is just the sort of person that belongs in pr, personable, a smooth talker, and fantastically dressed. After moving to London to attend university at the age of 20 with no connections, Matthew fell in love with the city and jumped right into the fashion industry. For him, life is about finding challenges, making connections, and giving due thanks to everyone that supports him.
Why did you choose London over other cities?
I’ve been travelling to London quite often from a young age and I love the passion and the energy. It’s the only city that managed to take me into that communication and that energy and that creativity to be around. Its all about the energy that I feel here.
How did you know you wanted to pursue PR?
I think it all started with a family background. My parents are both teachers so I’ve always been in a communications environment lets say. And the creative part came because my sister is an artist so I grew up with seeing many exhibitions, having a lot of that around, always forcing myself to create that critical eye so I started combining that together and came up with PR.
How is the creative scene different from what you would have been able to do in Greece?
In Cyprus and Greece, there are so many talented people but they don’t have the support of the government or the system to create that industry. Here in London, they can support all of those people in the creative industry. I think that’s what’s missing from Cyprus and Greece. We have the talent but not the industry. They need that PR person to connect it and create that industry and offer that industry and maybe that’s my future goal, I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes.
You’ve worked with Filep Motwary and his blog Un Nouveau Ideal for 5-6 years now, what is it like working as the London correspondent and working with him?
I believe he built up the trust in me after 5 years and he knows what we’re reporting and he always supports what I’m reporting. He knows who I’m choosing to show off and present to the blog and we create that trust. He always gives his advice, he always supports my decisions and I believe he offers so much; like invitations to London fashion week, he offers me passes, keeps giving me ideas of people to work with.
Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
After these freelance projects I’m going to leave for a master’s program in California. I’m looking forward to media or law or something like that, to combine something. What I would love to do is maybe be working for Greece or Cyprus or work in a European embassy for culture and education. You create that circle of people, and supporting that with a really strong financial background with the embassy and the EU, you give chances to those people and you can create the system.
It sort of sounds like you’re heading out of fashion PR then?
Not heading out…
Yeah, expanding is the right word… because I like to move in bigger spaces rather than small spaces, it nice to have a challenge with different stuff. Here I’m doing PR and I’m doing it for five years, what is going to happen after? There’s no challenge in doing the same thing again, and again, and again. You call the same company; you speak with the same publishers. And now in fashion, everyone changes position, okay, but after that, you speak with the same agent on one day and then again on another day. That’s not what I want to do in the future. I want a new challenge, and to say okay, one day I do that, one day I do this…
Anything else you want to share with Sketchbook readers?
Who do I need to mention? Its important to mention the people who are behind you. When something is coming out in print or on a blog, you need to be able to support those people that are behind you, photographers, graphic designers, friends maybe or family. When you’re being interviewed you need to thank all of those people because that’s who you are at the end.
New York City: The first New York Fashion Week show of our day was definitely clouded by the demise of fashion designer extraordinaire ALEXANDER MCQUEEN. Standing in line to enter the Duckie Brown show, the large screen at the heart of the Bryant Park tent was awash with a lengthy Twitter feed of McQueen’s sudden death from the fashion industry: from Anna Wintour leaving BCBG midshow when hearing the news to a swarm of sadness and condolences of big names in fashion.
Twittter feed screen post -McQueen death at NYFW venue
Though the scene was not as chaotic as most fashion weeks often are, albeit the recent blizzard, a decent and steady crowd of fashion stylists, journalists and somewhat less likely celebrities, such as Ugly Betty’s Marc Indelicto and Rev Run’s son Diggy, occupied the scene and front row..
Onto the A/W 2010/11 collection, Duckie Brown showed a more sophisticated quintessential clean take on the 80s English post-punk scene, with mixed tartans followed by bright tomato red and acid yellow on various boxy well-tailored suits, double-breasted jackets, peacots, bomber jackets and coats. Grey tweed mixes with hints of pinks, purples and blues softened the edge off the sharply tailored suits, with striped collar shirts peeking out and leather fingerless gloves adding a slightly grungy touch to the otherwise sophisticated layering. Though this did not break out of the ordinary, the juxtaposition of the sharp tailoring against minor detailed elements of cropped pants, fingerless leather gloves and introduction of an acid yellow double breasted jacket, a seemingly new color for sophisticated menswear, introduced a decent effort towards an interesting movement of tailored menswear in a post-punk era.
DUCKIE BROWN designers Steven Cox & Daniel Silver
The Editor Wafa Al Obaidat
Editor, Features Editor and NY correspondent outside Bryant Park on the first day of New York Fashion Week Fall 2010
We just received the greatest little booklets from one of our favorite Sketchbook crew members from the past, Bethan Thomas. Each of the four sketchbooks are handmade and bound by Beth personally. She’s even drawn the illustrations on a few of the pages. Creatively individual, these little carry-around drawing pads are perfect for anyone to pencil in their daily inspirations. Thanks Bethan!
This afternoon the news of Alexander McQueen’s tragic death was announced, the fashion world is in mourning and on behalf of the Sketchbook Team we would like to pass on our deepest sympathies to the McQueen family and those who worked closely with him.
We have a lost a true British icon and one of the world’s leading creative designers. He was a revolutionary designer, taking digital print to luxury fashion brands, creating controversial designs and inspired a generation of designers and fashion followers alike. McQueen was named British Designer of the Year four times between 1996-2003 and was awarded a CBE and International Designer of the Year in 2003.
His death coincides with the first day of New York Fashion Week and a little under a month before he was due to showcase his new collection at Paris Fashion Week.
The editors of Sketchbook would also like to pass on their respects from New York where they are currently covering Fashion Week.
Take a trip down to Carnaby Street this Valentines day to see the new Lulu Guinness pop up store featuring everything that Lulu represents - Kisses!!
Clean, simple and girly, this store sells a limited selection of products including rows of the famous Lulu Guinness Lips clutch in an array of colours. Plus lipstick marks everywhere and a lips couch!
My favourite item was funnily enough not a trademark handbag but a £10 mug with lipstick stains on the rim!
Lulu is donating a percentage of the sales to students studying the historical and contemporary practice of fashion at London College of Fashion. She launched a scholarship for MA Accessories/Artifact Design last summer to celebrate her 20th anniversary.
WOLF & BADGER’S opening night was a suitably glamorous affair. Packing in the punters until they were spilling out the door and some of our favourite editors, like Imran Amed from Business of Fashion, Notting Hill’s newest design boutique (not to mention it being just around the corner from our Sketchbook studios) showcases up-and-coming fashion, accessories and unique product design in a glossy interior full of brightly lit vitrines.
The work is mostly high-end, and so are the price tags. Jewellery is mostly cast from precious metals and garments are at least hand-embellished, if not completely assembled by hand. Although some familiar faces pop up, the work has been curated in a way that gives existing designs fresh appeal, all topped off with the store’s pièce de résistance; a giant light box proudly illuminating Wolf & Badger’s logo.
Stand-out contributions came from WENDY STEVENS, SARAH EYTON DESIGNS and SHO JEWELLERY. Stevens’ laser cut and etched metal handbags bring edginess to every girl’s best friend without creating caricatures of the classic forms, and Eyton’s accessories have stepped up the pace since we last saw her work, switching acrylic for polished metals.
Jake Phipps’ lighting designs - shades inspired by bowler and top hats - give the austere environment a sense of sophisticated fun, something that many exclusive boutiques easily lose once paired with a “cooler than thou” assistant which, these days, seems to come as standard. Opening night is never the perfect environment for viewing work but I will definitely be back for a more detailed look once the crowds quiet down.
'In a digital world, there is something romantic to print photographs.'
Yvan Rodic has released his first book featuring 300 photographs selected from the four years spent documenting street style on his blog Facehunter. With the popularity of blogs still on the increase, Facehunter is second in line to the Satorialist in printing the digital imagery first produced for mass distribution on the web into something more tangible. The book differs to previous street style books with Rodic’s desire for the complete image; the settings have to work with the look and fifteen to twenty photographs are usually taken to achieve the desired outcome.
‘Many other street photographers are taking pictures, because this fashion is good, or this dress is nice. But I never do that. I am attracted by the charisma and uniqueness of the people.’
The book was launched at Colette in Paris naturally followed by an after party at Le Baron; one has to imagine the sheer amount of worthy Facehunter candidates attending.
It’s a treasure of style inspiration and simple documentation of contemporary street life.
In true Sketchbook style, here we have a peek behind the scenes of a fashion shoot. from the model’s to the photographer, here’s a taste of what its like to be part of one of the fashion industry’s oldest traditions…
Stylist ELLA DROR Photography JAMES BROWN Behind-the-scenes images GEORGIE MAYBEE
Out from the busy streets of Whitechapel into the serene studio in which DEAN SIDAWAY has created his intricate and beautiful first collection. The consultant, lecturer, stylist and initially trained designer presents his first collection.
After graduating in fashion design you concentrated on styling and consulting - why is it only now that you’ve released your first collection?
I think it was a combination of working with different designers, putting ideas forward but they always have their stamp and signature as it came from their brief, so even though I’m probably happy with 80-90 percent of the work I produced for them, it wasn’t my vision. I had this idea of being able to embellish and decorate an area, not creating clothing but being able to work on the body with ceramics and glass; things that aren’t normally associated with fashion. The shoulders seemed such an obvious place to do it – three seasons down after they first made such an impact I thought if I don’t do it then its going to be over. Although, I don’t want to be known as the shoulder person but it suited what I was doing.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I really like Edgar Allen Poe at the moment, I read a lot; Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter, they evoke such a power in terms of using their imagination, I like that idea but I never really have a muse.
You speak of the power of imagination, literature and romance – would you consider yourself a ‘romantic’ the William Blake-esq?
Well I’m into the idea of romanticism but it’s the tragic kind … stories of love and loss!
Were shoulders and their indefinite relationship to power important in the concept of your collection?
No not really, I think the whole idea of the power shoulders, the 80s thing, symbolises the women in power, career driven women and enormous shoulders – when I look at mine I don’t see power I see fragility and a kind of melancholy with the burnt lace, the glass which is see through – transparency – which is fragile, the ceramics – the matt, little details like that are really important to me. The matt of the ceramic, I didn’t want it to be shiny, it was no to be glossy – soft. And with the keys there is a padlock but none of the keys fit. There is such tenderness to all of them so I would never have the idea of a power shoulder.
How would you summarise your collection?
That’s a really difficult one. I suppose there’s a line in the press release, ‘romantic evocations,’ I’ve talked a lot about romanticism with you and romantic evocations of the past. There is an idea of nostalgia within all of them I feel.
I’ve read a lot of your interviews and this romanticism didn’t seem quite as prevalent to the collection…
A lot of interviews are in question and answer formats through emails - when I type a response the romantic ideas never come through as I always think it sounds a bit wet, but when speaking about the collection the passion of what I do and my feelings come across more.
Ideally I would be consulting for really amazing fashion houses like Lanvin and Chanel. If not I would really like to collaborate with designers in London not necessarily in fashion, maybe art and film.
Could you maybe explain what exactly you do when you consult?
I would go to the designer and look at their research or their initial ideas, some designers I would do research for I would be pulling images from art and fashion to create a mood for them. Others will have already have research done for them, then we’ll talk about shapes to develop by pulling ideas from the research into shape and silhouettes and fabrics. Essentially it’s like my tutorials with students.
How do you feel about continuously contributing your ideas?
I suppose you only give what is relevant to that collection and I’m such a small fish that if I don’t do the idea for them and I hold on to it then someone else will do it and might do it really well so you might as well just get the ideas. I don’t think you’ll ever lose ideas if you’re a creative person, you don’t just stop. So I don’t tend to store them, I just try it, whether it’s for someone else or myself. The more you progress and research the more you develop your own design identity, you’ll always come up with better ideas, hopefully, than ones you will have had a year or two years ago.
You seem to have developed your own design identity well; each collection has its own characteristics and identity.
[There is] definite identity whether that’s the nature of what I’ve used – each piece has a different fabrication but I like to think that it does have its own identity.
Are they your characteristics?
I suppose each one is a bit of me.
Do you have a favourite one?
I think I have a real affection for Corinna which is the crystal chandeliers; there is something about the contrast of the glass and they’re encased in a silk shawl but when you pick them up they look like they are so light but they’re so heavy, ridiculously heavy and I like that about it. Aesthetically and emotionally? I think that one is my favourite pieces but I love them all dearly!
Think CHRIS OFILI, think elephant shit. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. As the 1998 Turner Prize winner, and the 2003 British representative at the Venice Biennale, Ofili clearly has much more than shit to offer, but still the association remains.
Shit was the first thing that greeted me at Ofili’s latest retrospective at Tate Britain. 1993’s subtly-titled ‘Painting with Shit on It’ welcomes visitors with its intricate and bright colouring adorned with lumps of dung. More dung acts as a pedestal, as it does for most of the early works, elevating the painting above the ground.
The sacred and the profane feature heavily in his painting, and Ofili makes this most apparent in ‘The Upper Room’, which took three years to complete in the late 90s. No shit here though: designed by the architect David Adjaye, the room resembles a dark wooden church punctuated with spotlights. Paintings of rhesus macaque monkeys line the room towards a large ‘altarpiece’ at the end, like a simian Sistine chapel. It’s an oddly holy space, and the crowds seem even quieter than usual.
The exhibition features some of the paintings that Ofili is famed for. ‘No Woman, No Cry’, his heartbreakingdepiction of a weeping mother. It was created in the immediate aftermath of the racially aggravated murder of Stephen Lawrence, and the appalling police enquiry that followed.
Another of Ofili’s mother figures also makes an appearance at the Tate; his black Madonna, in 1996’s ‘The Holy Virgin Mary’. Considering this once led to total outrage with that old spoilsport Mayor Giuliani of New York, it now seems rather tame. Ofili’s work of the 90s is very much a product of its time, and in a post-YBA world a bit of poo on a painting actually becomes quite pleasing to the eye. Even when its surrounding cherubs are made from blaxploitation-arses.
Raising of Lazerus, 2007
Like Picasso, Ofili also had a blue period, and like Picasso’s, they’re sombre and haunting. To look at the work properly we needed to twist and turn to catch the shapes in the light and make out its subject; the title rarely alluded to the horror contained in the canvas. Ofili’s Catholic upbringing is evident in the themes he explores, and 2006’s Iscariot Blues is another instance where Ofili explores betrayal and injustice.
After doing some work in Trinidad, in 2005 Ofili made the decision to move permanently, and the change is hugely visible in his more recent work. It uses simpler shapes and block colours, and not a lump of dung in sight. I found this work harder to decipher, and it’s evident that Ofili has changed his philosophical outlook since moving to sunnier climes. His work may be more sophisticated than ever to some, but I couldn’t shake the idea that at times one or two of the works looked a bit like a teenage art project.
Text: SIOBHAN LEDDY
Images: COURTESY DAVID ZWIRNER, NEW YORK/CONTEMPORARY FINE ARTS, BERLIN
Danny Roberts is certainly a fashion illustrator and blogger who is getting the recognition he deserves with his creative and emotive illustrations which have been featured in many publications worldwide. Danny is currently juggling many projects at the moment so Sketchbook were grateful to be lucky enough to speak with Danny about his inspirations, his favourite blogs and the highlight of his career so far.
1. You said you started your own clothing company at the age of 13, which just goes to show you have been interested in fashion from a very young age! What can you tell me about that?
I’ve always been one for story and fantasy, and I have found that fashion is a great gateway into story telling and fantasy. I feel each designer is designing for their own characters, and each collection tells its own unique story. I think it’s this that pulls me towards fashion.
2. Would you ever consider getting back into designing? Or do you see your future mainly based in illustration?
Oh, I’m very interested in designing my own collection. All the clothes from the “fairy tale”-esque paintings are clothes I designed. I’m always sketching up collections. Maybe, some day, I might try designing a collection and have it made.
3. What is in your inspiration book and what things do you tend to be inspired by in everyday life as well as fashion and art inspirations?
The inspiration book has anything from fashion photography to pre-raphaelite paintings. I’m inspired by almost everything for one reason or another. New experiences and people inspire me a lot. I would say women inspire me more than anything. That’s why the majority of my art revolves around women. I also find genuine innocence very moving, and am inspired by anything from the 1920’s.
4. You have said before that your artistic goal is to draw a cover of Vogue, as you are heavily inspired by 1920’s magazine covers. What is it about the 1920’s which interests you?
You know, I’m not really even sure why. Haha. I just have always been drawn in by all the various aspects of it. It is almost like looking at a piece of art. Sometimes you are not sure why, but you know you like it.
5. What is your workspace like? And in what situation/surrounding do you work best in?
Well, it’s kind of like something out of Harry Potter. Ha Ha. Almost every square inch of it (including the cealing) is covered in art. It has a very warm, friendly feel to it. I work best in a really laid back relaxed environment. My studio has a very homey feel to it. I usually turn music on and get working.
6. You have said before that you have been inspired by many bloggers ever since you set up your own blog. Your illustrations of bloggers have almost become your trademark now, what is it about the various bloggers you have featured that interests you?
I guess there isn’t any one reason or set rule on which blogger I drew, except that if they inspired me, I ended up drawing them.
7. How do you decide who you want to draw? Your illustrations of people seem to show a lot of emotion in the drawings, how do you manage to show this through illustration?
I think that being emotionally connected to the subject that I’m working with produces really sincere work. I usually only like to draw things that inspire me, because then I know I’m going to do my best work.
8. How do you feel to be a part of the blogging community? Have you made any firm friends from blogging?
I love being a part of the blogging community especially because of the friends I have made. Bloggers are really nice people. Both in my online and offline experience with them.
9. Why did you decide to start a blog? Did you think it would be a good platform for showing your work?
Well, my brother suggested it to me so I timidly started igorandandre.blogspot.com. Ever since then, its been great. I feel Art is made to be shared. I like blogs because I can share pictures I did that day with people all over the world. It’s amazing how small the world is in this day and age. Blogs are just a great vehicles to share.
10. Can you explain the meaning behind the title of your blog ‘Igor+Andre’?
Actually, I haven’t really said why it’s called that yet. It’s named after a project I’ve been planning for the last two years, but it’s not ready yet.
11. What blogs do you read religiously and what are some of your favourite blog’s?
I love Knight Cat, and Miss Pandora, as well as Fashion Toast, just to name a few.
12. Do you read many blogs besides fashion blogs?
Uh, yeah. A few, like photo blogs. I’m a visual person. Haha.
13. What is the greatest highlight in your career so far? Gwen Stefani including your work as part of her Harajuku Lovers’ fall collection must have been a highlight.
Haha. Yeah, I would definitely say that has been the greatest highlight so far!
14. What projects are you currently working on at the moment?
That is always a hard question for me, because I usually can’t talk about them. I’m currently working on about 3 or 4 projects for various clients.
DISORIENTATION II: THE RISE AND FALL OF ARAB CITIES
ABU DHABI: In our constant efforts to document the ever-increasing arts movement that has been enveloping the Middle East in the past few years, we most recently covered the Abu Dhabi Arts 2009 with the launch of Manarat Al Saadiyat, the new exhibition centre developed by TDIC on Saadiyat Island.
Our Abu Dhabi correspondent NADIA EL DASHER visits their first exhibit, Disorientation II, which focuses on the theme of unity and division as they co-exist in the Arab World.
Manarat Al Saadiyat’s first exhibition carries a lot of socio-political weight that is apparent in each exhibiting artists’ work. The exhibition’s title alone is enough to pull you onto the ambiguous roads of Saadiyat Island and (after many wrong turns) to the only visible sign of life on the newly developed island.
The building appears to be empty save for an excess of security guards and two curators. My disorientation began with HALA ELKOUSSY‘s installation “On Red Nails, Palm Trees and Other Icons”, which consisted of a classroom warped back to 1980s Cairo. Every inch of the walls covered in chipped gold and black frames with photos of broke-down taxis, architectural marvels, military men, and television screens displaying the cotton industry and essentially embodying Egypt as an ever-changing country and nation.
HALA ELKOUSSY, On red nails, palm trees and other icons - Al Archief (Take 2), 2009, mixed media installation. Photo by Plamen Galabov. Courtesy of Sharjah Biennial.
MONA HATOUM takes us north to “Present Tense”, a map of Palestinian controlled regions in Jerusalem. But this is no ordinary map; made entirely of bars of soap stacked to form a square. The soap is creamy and opaque, and the borders made of red beads embedded inside. The borders will one day disintegrate as will the soap, leaving the beads free to roam.
MONA HATOUM, Present Tense, 1996. Soap and glass beads.
“Portal To A Black Hole” can be mistaken for a dilapidated Anglican Cathedral crossed with an organ. Seeing as that is too difficult to imagine, we can also describe the sculpture as what a gothic church would look like if it went through a black hole. Simply put, DIANA AL HADID’s installation evoked a sense of pleasurable fear with the knowledge that nothing is eternal. The metal dome is rotten and covered in green mold, showing that even inanimate objects can decay. The collapsing inner spiral staircase is made of piano keys so melodies are played with every step instead of loud creaks.
DIANA AL-HADID, Portal to a Black Hole, 2007, sculpture. Courtesy Galerie Michael Janssen.
WAFA HOURANI puts a comical twist on the Palestinian camp near the Ramallah checkpoint. “Qalandia 2047” looks at the camp 100 years after its inhabitants were evicted in 1947. The contrast between the luxurious military camp and the decrepit huts is palpable; fancy cars, bars and swimming pools versus a rundown basketball court and bonfires. The artist’s bitterness towards the Palestinians subjection is reflected through the negative films of children’s faces looking out onto the barrier they constantly hope to cross.
The intervention speeches given in SAMAH HIJAWI’s “Where Are The Arabs?” play on the repetitive nature of the Arabic language. The speakers discuss their idea of Arab identity to a public audience who are uninterested, some simply leave the space and others eat lunch while watching the performance nonchalantly. The recurrent theme is of Arab unity and the lack thereof, but the speakers’ words fall onto deaf ears as their repetition generates more boredom than excitement. The piece explores human’s constant search for what is new and interesting, and the increasing deficit in attention spans.
The politically charged exhibition left me questioning my inaction towards my hometown of Cairo. I did in fact see the rise and fall of Arab cities, and it surpassed the history books’ tales of prosperity in the region and stirred my sense of patriotism.
YTO BARRADA, Gran Royal Turismo, 2003, installation.
MARWAN RECHMAOUI, Beirut Caoutchouc, 2004-2006, installation. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation.
DISORIENTATION II, Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE until 20 February 2010.
Middle Eastern graphic designer/artist RANA SALAM is just about as vibrant and colourful as the work she does. RANA has lent her Middle Eastern pop art style to clients in retail, fashion, design and press along with publishing her own book on Middle Eastern lingerie, launching her own product line and using her studio as a gallery space. We met in her studio to talk about her work.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED?
I was born and raised in Beirut until the age of 16. Then I came to London to start my design education 15 years ago. Applied to foundation course, built up a portfolio and applied to London College of printing, CSM and Royal College. When I came all the way to study in the UK I thought I would be a Western designer all cool and trendy and they actually said to me: “No, go back and discover the Middle East.” And I thought what is in the Middle East? There is nothing. No design really existed, there wasn’t a design movement like here in the West. So, when I went to do my thesis the only design I could use was what I found on the streets. I was fascinated by that.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE GRAPHIC DESIGN?
I thought it was something where I could be creative and make money. Combination of commercial and art. So that is why I call myself a graphic artist rather than a designer. I love things like labels, I already collected things when I was younger, I used to put it up on my wall. Like my wall of inspiration here in my studio…it all goes back to my childhood. Finding random things but not knowing what to do with them but eventually with graphic design I learnt how to manipulate things and how to use them.
IT IS LIKE POP ART…
Yeah, for sure, that is what I did for my thesis at the Royal College..the concept of Pop Art. The concept of Pop Art and the philosophy behind it, understanding all the pop artists, how they work. I started to apply that to my own work to justify it. It is not just grabbing a pretty image.
YOU WILL BE MOVING BACK TO BEIRUT IN A COUPLE OF MONTHS…HOW DO YOU THINK HAVING LIVED IN LONDON FOR SO LONG WILL INFLUENCE YOUR WORK WHEN YOU MOVE BACK?
My work is going to get better. I need to discover new things, learn new things. There is a lot of homework to do and you can’t do it when you are here. What I have been doing for the last 15 years is collecting, collecting, collecting and I am going to continue to do that there.
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR MIDDLE EASTERN INSPIRATION FRESH AFTER HAVING BEEN IN LONDON FOR SO LONG?
My god, very good question. How do I keep it fresh? Well…a lot of my archives have actually been with me for 15 years….I’m stocking and stocking and stocking. And suddenly I can revive it through a project and it is about how I apply it 15 years later. The mood has changed, the graphics, the fashion has changed. When I design it today I hope it will still look cool in 20 years. I want it to be timeless. Like the cups for LA COMPTOIR will still be cool in 20 years but you do get graphics which you feel are part of trends.
COULD YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF WORKING ON A COMMISSIONED PROJECT. LET’S TAKE THE LEBANESE RESTAURANT LA COMPTOIR AS AN EXAMPLE…
For LA COMPTOIR we worked with an architect. The brief was obvious…it had to be a Lebanese style restaurant/cafe. We brainstormed with the architects how we were going to create visual imagery of Lebanese culture so that was the main thing….understanding what makes something look Lebanese. So, naturally we looked at the history and the architecture. Of course they came to me because I have a huge archive of Middle Eastern imagery. We went through my archives, selected images and cropped them. It was the art of cropping and editing images. It can just make it or break it…how you crop, where you crop it. The client, of course, was perfect for expressing all of this pop culture and it became really successful which none of us expected.
WHAT ABOUT THE ITSU CAMPAIGN?
They approached me having seen my image of a woman with butterflies. We made a collage out of that injecting some Itsu style butterflies to make the wallpaper that is part of the Itsu brand now.
So it does not look Middle Eastern necessarily, it is just my style. This is an interesting point…am I packed as a Middle Eastern popular artists/designer? Or am I packaged as a designer who can manipulate all different languages…Japanese, Middle Eastern…I trained as a designer but I am also an artist. I feel it is my duty to embrace the Middle East through design. It is kind of my mission.
HOW WERE YOUR DESIGNS FIRST RECEIVED IN THE MIDDLE EAST?
With a bit of a shock! The reaction to my HARVEY NICHOL’S window display, one of my first projects, was that I collect the rubbish off the street and put them in glamorous retail stores. But now it is very much celebrated. When I go to Beirut I’m like a little pop star but not here. Here when you walk down the street nobody knows you but in Beirut it is fantastic. After 20 years of doing this it’s nice and rewarding! I’v done something worthwhile.
ARE YOU WORKING WITH ANY CLIENTS AT THE MOMENT?
No, but we are developing our own product line for our shop MISH MAOUL. We are trying to develop our own products with our own vision, carpets, cushions and jewellery. There will be an exhibition in my studio in two weeks time on the theme of love and in a couple of months there will be another exhibition on theme of belly dancers.
WHAT ARE YOUR PROJECT PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
A book on Egyptian posters from the 40s, 50s and 60s. Other projects…I don’t know. I don’t look that far ahead.
This illustrative book depicts the dangers of climate change and demonstrates a creative display of weird and wonderful inventions to rebuff the current environment and make the world a better place. It’s not everyday you are presented with new ideas and alternatives to a serious issue through imagination and creative visions, makes for marvellous eye candy and a stimulating read. Each page has its own personality based on who designed it, from the borders to the typography; every little detail is catered to reveal the hidden characteristics of the individual artist, which sets it apart from ordinary Illustration books.
The book also features three hidden briefs set by Amelia; “Royal Bank of Sustainability for C words” the best ten entries were shown as part of C Words: Carbon, Climate and Culture at the Arnolfini gallery in Bristol in late 2009. “Two of Hearts Shelter Card Quilt” the resulting artwork was exhibited and raised £2200 at auction. “Climate Camp” the resulting imagery was used on posters, leaflets and stickers and has been adapted by many other climate Camps that are springing up across the world. All these illustrations are shown throughout the book displayed along with the original brief and two pieces of original artwork.
Brought together by research into alternative technologies for climate change and a thought-provoking new wave technology design by Amelia’s own father, Amelia then set up an open brief on her website www.ameliasmagazine.com calling all innovative artists from different backgrounds; aspiring illustrators, working illustrators, art directors to people who just believe in a more sustainable future.
“What we need right now is a whole heap of imagination, because humans need to make a big leap forward if we want to get out of the mess we currently find ourselves in.”- Amelia
Entirely ethical in production, the book is printed in the UK using environmentally responsible vegetable inks on FSC approved paper.
Art from the Indian subcontinent has long been a part of the international art scene. SUBODH GUPTA is famed for his agglomerations of objects from daily Indian life, and the Royal Academy saw a blockbuster exhibition from the 1991 Turner Prize winner, ANISH KAPOOR. Despite this, for some reason photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is often neglected. With WHERE THREE DREAMS CROSS, the Whitechapel Gallery presents Britain’s first major survey of photography from the region. And considering the breadth of work on offer, it’s about time.
Tempting as it must have been to curate the show chronologically, the exhibition is instead split into four rooms that explore different topics: performance, portrait, family, the street and politics. The investigation into portraiture saw it’s beginnings in hand-painted images through to contemporary maharaja descendents posing in front of their homes. Meanwhile, the performance room played with Bollywood as its theme, juxtaposing film photography with their parodies. Bangalore-based PUSHPAMALA recreates Bollywood stills as self-portraits, satirising a predictable and tired cultural stereotype. This is particularly eye-catching, and one of the highlights of the show.
In a further attempt to avoid cliché, the curators have deliberately steered clear of the turbulent and violent imagery usually associated with the region. As we were taken around we were directed to take note of particularly optimistic photographs – a serene Mother Teresa, a child running through a monsoon. It’s difficult to imagine that this portrayal is any more objective than that of the international media, but it’s important all the same.
I have to say, until last week, if anyone had asked me to name three photographers from the region, I’d have had a hard time. Luckily, life is one giant learning curve, so I’ve come away with some exciting photographers I’ll make an effort to see more of in future. Like HUMA MUJLI, whose photographs of Barbie and Ken in compromising positions subvert the subcontinent’s sexual conservatism. Although the photographs’ humour is about as subtle as a broken arm, it’s sharp enough to cut through any cultural barriers.
Another favourite of mine was RASHAD RANA’s ‘Twins’, a diptych resembling two Twin Towers-like skyscrapers. These in turn are made up from smaller images of working class homes, directly comparing the horizontal and vertical worlds, or to be less abstract, the rich and the poor.
Some of the photo-reportage was, admittedly, a bit lost on me. I’m not particularly au fait with the obscurities of Pakistani history, but without context some highly politicised images became little more than strangers staring down the lens. The communist reportage of SUNIL JANAH was incredible to look at, but it could have been used as a platform to educate and inform too – it’s a shame it wasn’t.
‘Where Three Dreams Cross’ includes photography from a variety of disparate sources and provides a good overview. However, the inevitability of such an ambitious exhibition is that the themes of each room have a tendency to overlap. The jumbled layout has a tendency to get quite confusing, and it’s likely a few hours are needed and lots of backtracking to get a real feel for the photographic history the show covers. But considering there are 150 years to catch up on, it’s probably worth it.
Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh