The V&A unveils the Tim Walker: Wonderful Things exhibition featuring Tilda Swinton, Grace Jones, Karen Elson and Grayson Perry, as well as over 150 brand new images inspired by objects in the V&A’s collections. The exhibition is the largest-ever exhibition on the photographer to-date, celebrating his 25-year career.
Left - The exhibition is centred around objects Walker has chosen from the V&A's collection
TheChicGeek says, “When I stopped religiously buying fashion magazines, probably over a decade ago now, fashion photographers feel off my radar. Their names were pride of place at the beginning of each editorial and they became as familiar as the models, editors and stylists.
But, things changed, budgets were cut and everything started to become advertiser lead, very samey and anonymous. Probably the reason why so many people have stopped buying them.
And so, to Tim Walker, his career really started to take off after I’d stopped buying magazines and as such I really don’t know that much about him. I missed the exhibition he had at Somerset House, which really seemed to cement his name.
His style is fantasist, Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, fish eye lens type images, which, in this world of billions of daily images, are very memorable, which shows their strength. The first room is a collection of his previous work. (It’s a shame some of them weren’t reproduced larger, but there are a lot to cram in).
Then, each thematic room is based around an object from the V&A’s collection and the subsequent images Walker has produced inspired by and in respect of.
This idea, which they could easily roll out to other creative figures, is a good way of connecting one type of audience - here fashion - into exploring more areas of the museum. Walker’s connection to his items seemed quite lite and it would have been nice to have some more history or emotion to his objects. Let’s be honest, you could probably connect any random idea with something inside the V&A.
Right - The first room - love a Space Odyssey ceiling
Here we have ‘Wonderful Things’ ranging from Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations to some rather wonderful French stain glass windows featuring crowns and maces to Edith Sitwell’s gold shoes. It's quite a mix, but that's part of the fun. As always with the V&A, the staging is great, and it all has the fantasy touches we all know and love these days. I particularly liked the highly lit, Space Odyssey-type rooms and, overall, it was all playful and approachable.
It did make me think about where can fashion photography really go? These images are great and everybody loves them, but, like fashion, it's a continual rehash of previous themes and styles and these images could easily been produced at any time in his 25 year career. It doesn't feel contemporary, and, until fashion changes, fashion photography won't either."
Below - More images from the exhibition
As nearly as delayed as the Elizabeth Line, well, not quite, the new Flannels on the eastern side of Oxford Street has been the most anticipated addition to London’s busiest retail thoroughfare this year.
Sandwiched between Marks & Spencer’s Pantheon store and Matalan, this four storey, 18,000 sq ft store, selling designer clothes and accessorises, has been 3 years in the making. The entire building was purchased for £108 million in 2016 by a Sports Direct subsidiary and doubles as office space for its parent group. Part of Mike Ashley’s growing empire, it is the debut of Flannels in Central London.
Left - Veja display inside the new Oxford Street Flannels
This is Flannels' 44th store in the UK, after a lightning expansion, with a further 15 stores coming this year alone. In 2012, sportswear giant Sports Direct bought a majority 51% stake in Flannels and in September 2017 they acquired the brand in full and began investing in and opening stores.
It is worth noting Sports Direct also own other premium fashion chains such as USC, Cruise and Van Mildert, but, it is Flannels which has been chosen to lead the designer crusade to “elevate” the company. Sports Direct currently has an obsession with moving from discounted sports to full price branded.
Mike Ashley said at a recent shareholder meeting regarding Flannels, “I think they are better than any other stores in the market. Now, I might have rose-tinted glasses but one of the reasons is because I have absolutely nothing to do with it. I just sign off the money. It has nothing to do with Mike Ashley.
“It’s not just a few show stores. When you have a pipeline it takes time. I’m telling you – this is for real. The reality is, I’m telling you it is real and the proof of the pudding will be when they start to roll out. It’s happening, it’s coming. It’s just not as fast as I would like it.
“I’m going to do the same with House of Fraser and get around to elevating. The modern-day consumer – that’s what they want. It could be Stone Island, it could be Nike and Adidas – it’s all about the branded world.
“Maybe I was late to the party, I accept that. Maybe my son-in-law should’ve gone out with my daughter when she was 12, but now we’re on it, nothing’s going to get us off it.”
Oxford Street is their new flagship and is a physical testament to their ambitious intentions of becoming “the biggest global luxury retailer,”. This is what Sports Direct Group’s head of elevation, Mike Murray, Mike Ashley’s daughter’s boyfriend, told Drapers in March. He went on, “We’re in the early stages, but we have a clear vision for Flannels, we have ambition and we are willing to invest,”.
Right - Art on the second floor
The £10 million new store has been designed by Italian studio P con P, and you can see the Gucci influence in the rugs, over blown William Morris type screens, 1970s brass changing rooms and waiting areas and contrasting use of materials.
The store is split into women’s accessorises on ground, womenswear in the basement, men’s designer on first and men’s accessorise and sportswear on the second, though there wasn’t much difference between the latter two. The second-floor will also house the first ever UK retail space for US footwear brand Flight Club and the store offers services such as Click & Collect and personal styling.
One notable difference was the huge amount of staff, all dressed in black. I was told 50 members of staff currently work there. I visited on a late Tuesday afternoon and the only people seriously buying were a group of Asian tourists in the Gucci men’s section. They’d probably never heard of Flannels before.
I expected to see the usual chav labels such as Off-White and Burberry, which were there, but, interestingly, there were also brands such as Barena, Brioni, Alanui and JW Anderson. There was even a diamond necklace for nearly £60,000. I did ask how many they’d sold that week?!
Cire Trudon candles, Acqua Di Parma fragrances and Ganni dresses were also spied, and while nothing particularly revolutionary, it is difficult to pick holes in.
“His whole plan for 100 Flannels stores is bonkers. Knock a nought off, mate!” says Eric Musgrave, former editor of Drapers and fashion industry consultant. “It will be a ghost town for 5 or 6 days a week. Wrong location. Too big. Offering nothing you can't get in the West End or Knightsbridge already.” he says.
“My guess is that they will leave it as it is for two or three years, then reorganise it, making the Flannels area smaller and bringing in USC and SD. But, I believe Ashley owns the building, so he can run it as a vanity project.” says Musgrave.
Left - Display in collaboration with artist, Alec Monopoly
The simile I would use is, it’s like an Essex nightclub, which, if playing the right music, you’d have a good time in. And that’s what the clothes and buy is, the music.
(The security guards do look a bit like bouncers though, and one made me delete a picture I took on my phone of the new store *eyeroll*).
There’s nothing to fault in the design and money spent, it feels premium and everything is nicely presented, but Flannels has a problem with the snobby stigma London has towards Mike Ashley. He needs to distance himself like he says above.
People will need persuading to part with their cash here, unless it is product they can’t get anywhere else. Flannels needs to change perceptions so people are happy to be seen swinging a Flannels bag when they leave. It’s just not cool right now. They need to turn into leaders rather than just flogging the same old mega brands to punters.
Right - That £60,000 necklace
They own the building here, so are here for the long haul, but it will be interesting to see how it develops and how long they stick to this initial format. Flannels recorded sales of £173.9 million in its latest financial year, up 12 per cent from 2018. It’s growing because it is rapidly expanding, it obviously wants to get to the point where is it more powerful than the brands, rather than the other way around currently. I can imagine many luxury brands, currently, being cautious about choosing them as a stockist, but watch this space as they grow.
Flannels will also struggle with some of the quality of the product, and disappointed consumers. Read Gucci Quality Is Rubbish - here - which isn’t their fault.
Left - Flannels Oxford Street exterior. Sports Direct own the entire building
Sports Direct want more elevation than the Wright brothers, but it’s going to be expensive and I can't help think that 100 stores is too many, especially when you’re trying to sell £900 Gucci hoodies. Even though this is on Oxford Street, it needs to become a destination. It feels like the kind of store going against the retail tide, but I certainly admire the ambition.
Below - Interior shot of the new Flannels Oxford Street store
Drag: The Complete Story, by Simon Doonan, published by Laurence King, is a cultural history of drag throughout the ages, from Rome to the Renaissance, through the reign of Ru Paul and up to the present day. The book is grouped into thematic chapters from Glamour Drag to Radical Drag.
TheChicGeek says, “When we look back at this moment in time, it’s probable we’ve reached ‘Peak Drag’. The rise and popularity of Ru Paul’s Drag Race and every club night having an appearance of some sort, Drag has mirrored the new gender fluid maximalism we’ve seen in fashion.
This is book of love, and you can tell Doonan is a huge drag fan. The images are great and the history of drag and the raft of historical characters is really interesting. ‘Drag’ is a bit like the ‘Camp’ theme we saw at the last Met Gala; when you start looking, you start to see it everywhere; those McQueen lips or the majesty of Galliano’s Dior. This book gives drag is cultural relevance and importance."
Left & Below - Drag: The Complete Story By Simon Doonan - Hardback - £30.00 - The author’s proceeds for this book will be donated to the Ali Forney Center to protect LGBTQ youth from the harms of homelessness
GROUNDTRUTH is a new premium bag brand made from a bespoke PET fabric which was developed using post-consumer plastic extracted from the environment. Even the thread is recycled.
Left - RIKR RANGE 24L BACKPACK - £ 256
GROUNDTRUTH was founded by Sophia, Georgia and Nina Scott, three sisters who have experienced a lifetime of intercontinental, and sometimes extreme, travel. Together, Georgia and Sophia have spent over a decade working and living in communities around the world while filming documentaries for their company, Groundtruth Productions, while Nina has spent her career in product development and artisan textiles, pioneering sustainable products and innovative fabrics.
In addition to reducing plastic pollution, GROUNDTRUTH prioritises ethical production methods by partnering with manufacturers who are approved by bluesignâ, an organisation which provides safer and more sustainable working conditions to change the environmental impact of the textile and fashion industries.
The brand’s first range is called ‘RIKR’, with a backpack being the hero product. Made from 120 plastic bottles, it provides the reliability any traveller might need without sacrificing the wellbeing of the environment for its production. It is 100% recycled.
Right - Founders, Sophia, Georgia and Nina Scott
To celebrate their launch there is a pop-up shop at Protein Studios, Shoreditch until Wednesday 11th September.
TheChicGeek says, "I'm banning the word 'sustainable' until further notice, but this bag is really making advances by being 100% recycled. I do wonder what we're going to do when we run out of plastic bottles?! The reason the bag is black is because this is the easiest colour with the least processes, and there has been a lot of thought and care gone into this new brand and product."
Created by perfumer Jordi Fernandez, ‘Imperial Emerald’ layers iris, Egyptian jasmine and lily of the valley over a subtle base of white musk.
The perfume was inspired by the beauty and majesty of the peacock. Native to India and Sri Lanka, for centuries the peacock has been interpreted by different cultures as a symbol of immortality and regality.
TheChicGeek says, “This looks beautiful with its real feather detail, and you know how much I love Venice. The fragrance is very white florals. There’s a lot going on here with top notes of bergamot, mandarin, pink peppercorn, carnation and iris. Heart notes of orange flowers, ylang ylang, peony, egyptian jasmine, lily of the valley and a base composed of white amber, benzoin and white musk, so it’s definitely not for the wallflowers of fragrance.
It smells old-fashioned, but not in a bad way. It’s probably too blousy for me, but would suit some of those other strutting male peacocks I know..."
Left - Merchant Of Venice - Imperial Emerald Eau de Parfum Concentrée - 100ml - £250 Available exclusively from Harrods
Disclosure - A sample product was gifted by Merchant of Venice to review
People say I’m shady, and I just reply, “I’m ginger!”. You probably saw it was silly hat season all over social media this summer, and it was the bigger the better - I’m looking at you, Jacquemus - but the large hat has its practicalities.
This ‘Pamela Hat’ is rag woven from fabric remnants in an array of colours by Moroccan-made brand, Marrakshi Life. The Pamela Hat has a 40cm brim, so you don't have to worry about forgetting to put sun protection on the back of your neck (and shoulders!).
Left & Below - Marrakshi Life - Pamela Hat - $212
Read more about Marrakshi Life - here
September is a month when you want to squeeze out the last rays of sunshine. Whether that’s a late holiday, or the hope of an Indian Summer, we’re not quite ready yet to pack away all our warm weather gear.
Left - Marrakshi Life - Pinstriped Cotton-Blend Shirt - £260 from matchesfashion.com
One brand which specialises in a floaty, 40 degree fantasy of Summer is Marrakshi Life. They were invited to the recent Barcelona Fashion Week and the use of colour and oversized shapes piqued my interest.
Launched in 2013 by New York photographer Randall Bachner, Marrakshi Life uses the local skills of Moroccans to give us that romantic Getty fantasy of North Africa.
The brand says they are “using the skill of traditional Morrocan weaving practices and a desire to take this sartorial heritage forward, Marrakshi Life uses ancient techniques to create clothing that is authentic yet with a fashion-forward urban twist.”
Bachner is committed to supporting responsible manufacturing via sustainable, low impact production methods. He describes his atelier in Marrakech as a community rather than a factory. Visitors to Marrakshi Life can experience the family feel whilst viewing the whole process from textile creation to finished design.
Right - Marrakshi Life - French X-Long Cuff Shirt - $323
Always wanted to visit Marrakech? See what happened when TheChicGeek visited the YSL museum there - here
Fashion often follows ‘wellness’ and CBD is the ingredient du jour, especially in supplements and beauty. According to Wikipedia, CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940. It is one of some 113 identified cannabinoids in cannabis plants and accounts for up to 40% of the plant's extract. In 2018, clinical research on cannabidiol included preliminary studies of anxiety, cognition, movement disorders, and pain.
The CBD chemical from the cannabis plant does not induce a high - that’s THC - and recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in the UK.
Over in Canada, where they have legalised all forms of its use, there’s been a ‘green rush’ into cannabis production. The Toronto stock exchange has more than 50 Canadian cannabis stocks now worth £37 billion. Investors are hungry for the cannabis boom and noises, from New York to London, are being made about legalisation.
Left - Afends, Australian fashion brand using hemp
But, what does this mean for fashion? With increased production and the world looking for less environmentally harmful fibres, could hemp be the new fashion favourite?
Jonathon Salfield, Marketing Director and Co-Founder of Afends, an Australian fashion brand known for its strong use of hemp within its clothing ranges, says, “CBD Oil is derived from the flowers of the hemp plant where hemp fibre is derived from the stalk of the hemp plant. So, in theory, the hemp grown for CBD production could also be turned in to hemp fibre. However to be more efficient with hemp for fibre, the ideal plant is a very tall Sativa strain, where the ideal plant for CBD is one that has thick flowers.” he says.
Hemp has many qualities. It is one of the strongest natural fibres on the planet, it is also one of the most resource efficient. The farming of hemp adds nutrients to the soil - hemp is only one of 6 genus of plants that enrich the soil - only requiring half the amount of water of cotton, and needs no herbicides or other agricultural chemicals. Hemp is also the only CO2 negative textile fibre, meaning its growth actually reduces carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
“There are many great qualities of hemp for fibre.” says Salfield. “What we love about hemp in clothing is the way it feels when you wear it. Hemp has had a saying that stems back to the days when cotton was becoming mainstream and that's ‘Hemp wears in, not out’. This is because of the length of the raw fibres are about 10 times longer than cotton fibre.
“We also love the fact that hemp has antimicrobial qualities. Antimicrobial is a type of bacteria which breaks down the sweat from your body, sweat smells so this is beneficial to us living in the tropics. However, the main benefit of hemp is the peace of mind that you are wearing a natural fibre that is good for our planet.” he says.
Hemp is also naturally UV resistant and hypoallergenic.
Demand is growing, Afends’ own Hemp production from 2017 to 2018 increased by more than 30%. The European cannabis market will be worth €123bn (£106bn) by 2028, according to the London-based analysis firm Prohibition Partners. The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis estimates that 1.3 million consumers spent over £300 million on CBD products in the UK last year and BDS Analytics, a cannabis research firm, said worldwide legal cannabis spending will expand 36 per cent to $15 billion in 2019, and pass $40 billion by 2024.
Hemp isn’t a new discovery, it’s been used for thousands of years - researchers have found hemp garments dating back as far as 8,000 BC - but we’re in an age of rediscovering fibres that take less effort and energy to grow. Just as we’ve seen a renaissance in linen, hemp is a natural and complimentary addition to fibres that are easily grown and have many natural benefits.
“As the world's population continues to grow we can't keep depending on GMO (genetically modified organism) cotton and polyester.” says Salfield. “We can't keep producing so many toxic chemicals. Hemp will eventually normalise as a common commodity. At the moment, hemp is very expensive to make clothing from, this is due to the infrastructure of hemp in the textile industry. Also its a lot easier for a farmer to farm and sell cotton.” he says.
“If hemp was grown on a commercial scale it would be a lot cheaper to make clothing from. Being an optimistic person I see hemp being one of the major materials we will use in the fashion industry. Hemp is considered an ‘Environmental Super Fibre’ and in the future, it will be considered an environmental superhero.” says Salfield.
Right - Afends in a hemp field
This huge boom in cannabis demand, whether, medicinal, CBD or recreational, where legal, will see this more expensive fibre grown in larger and larger qualities and, will, hopefully, reduce in price.
Hemp was once seen as a hippy fibre, worn by those who were probably smoking the stuff too, but that will change as it becomes more mainstream and affordable and people learn the benefits to both themselves and the environment.
“HEMP IS FOR THE PEOPLE!” says Salfield. “Before the industrial revolution hemp was one of the most important commodities. It helped to keep people connected to the earth, it regenerated the soil and fuelled the economy. The modern-day hemp industry could potentially be the main source of pulp for the paper, fibre for fashion and give people in developing countries added nutrients to help them thrive.”
The idea for Hawkins & Brimble was born in 2016 when the founder, Stephen Shortt, noticed a lack of natural premium quality men’s grooming and skincare products on the shelves of British supermarkets. In addition, most of the products seem to smell of mint or lemons, he thought.
For what seemed like an eternity, Stephen went about creating products that he could use (and his wife when she steals them!), without harming his skin, and he did this with the help of a British Master Barber.
Left - Hawkins & Brimble - Daily Energising Moisturiser - £14.95, Face Wash - £8.95 & Energising Eye Cream - £16.95
TheChicGeek says, “I was sent 3 products from the Hawkins & Brimble’s range; Daily Energising Moisturiser, Face Wash & Energising Eye Cream. The latter 2 seem pretty standard fare with aloe barbadensis leaf juice in the Face Wash and aloe vera, ginseng, kernel oil, oatmeal, rhodiola rosea root, vitamin E and African fire tulip in the Eye Cream.
But, focus turns to the Daily Energising Moisturiser. It has a rich and nourishing sensation, thanks, I’m guessing, to the avena sativa kernel oil, but dries matt and doesn’t feel greasy. It smells lovely, as it’s got that addictive fragrant and woody ginseng scent. I would say this would be a good moisturiser for somebody with dry to normal skin. Oily skin could be too much for it.
I like the packaging and branding, - I’m not sure where the name is from? -it looks familiar, but it’s not trying to be too ‘Peaky-Blinders-hipster-tattoo-parlour/barber-shop’, which can look a little generic and dated. (Though it’s right at that line!). The prices feel pretty honest and it’s trying to push ‘Natural Ingredients’ which always feels like a positive thing.”
Disclosure - The products were gifted by Hawkins & Brimble to review
Handwork is the best. Dutch designer Jackie Villevoye specialises in embroidered items of menswear from India's Uttar Pradesh region. Establishing Jupe By Jackie in 2010 at age 54, after having raised her five children, her beautiful and fun designs make a welcome addition to any shirt or tie. (Her son has just launched a T-shirt brand called J By J using the same skills - See more here)
Jackie’s main goal became, and still is, to draw attention to this impeccable art, passed down from generation to generation - giving Indian hand embroiderers the worldwide recognition they deserve.
FYI - Ocon was a name for a person who lived at the corner of a street or village. This name is composed of the Old French word au, which means to the and coin, which means corner.
TheChicGeek says, "Nothing beats the quality of this stunning and intricate handwork and all at a realistic price. This shirt is perfect for a summer evening in a nice bar or restaurant and the bold hand embroidery gives you that extra feeling of something special."
Left & Below - Jupe By Jackie - Ocon - €150