Friday, 19 June 2015

University Central Mexico for Graduate Fashion Week 2015

On it’s final day, in a grey-skied London GFW 2015 was immensely excited to welcome University Central Mexico, presenting designs from Textile and Fashion Program for the first time.
This prestigious school was the only international institution to present individually at GFW 2015. One of these scholars, we are informed, may be selected to showcase in London Fashion Week – an exciting prospect for any young fashion opportunist. The school has an excellent reputation, having bestowed students’ thesis projects in Mexico Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week for many years.
This year, fashion apostle Palo Rosa presented designs that juxtaposed the concept of nuns with seductiveness – an innovative start.

Wide, A-line tulip shapes flowed creating immense and sweeping silhouettes; yet the cotton made it light and unfussy. Her use of colours was limited; mostly white and beige, allowing the audience focus on classic simplicity, and unnecessary fussiness. These pieces were carefully embroided using the traditional cross-stitching, layered with a much more translucent, sheen layer of organza. The two concepts, not typically associated, were ultimately presented as fashion forward.
“The Mistake” was the name for Paula Grieve Torres’ collection. She explains that her focus was on deconstructing the concept of what society sees as “looking right” – a considerable task to tackle. Thankfully, she proved herself able to do so. An unusual range of materials were used to contradict culture’s views on the mediocre ‘norms’ of today. These included mohair, wool crepe and triple organza silk. Some tight-fitting skirts became suddenly wide at the knee, and others were irregularly shaped with wide slits right up to the upper thigh.
Material was gathered at the hips with a train at the back, but shortened at the front, providing a sense of asymmetry to the whole collection.

Zips emerged from nowhere. In addition, footwear was made out of hair extensions to compliment the sense of the “accidental”. Torres’ link between concept and visuals was strong. We were confronted with unusual pieces that challenged our own sense of ordinary. This was not art to wear – instead, it was a form of contemporary art.

Overall, Velasco Gil’s “Cocaine Blues”, an appropriate referral to the late Johnny Cash, was the star of UCM’s womenswear. American cowboys inspired her pieces, but it was the unusual take on the theme that was impressive: subtly feminine, with an range of textures for different roles. Like Roa, Gil had embroidered cotton with square shapes for a mosaic like effect coupled with long fringing of a scarf-like belt, nostalgic of patterned blankets seen on cowboys’ horses backs. What could be alluded to as saddle bags were glamorous accessories on the catwalk; made of brightly coloured nylon ropes and interweaved with one another at the waist.
The material used was folded over thoughtfully, especially around the shoulders, to present a style that was not bulky but stylishly graceful, yet with clear associations to the original cowboy inspiration.

Menswear was unconventional. Students incorporated strong colours as a main function in their designs to emphasise boldness. One in particular used a latex and rubber banana yellow to catch our eye. “Neon Pipes” by Anrea Izquierdo Ruiz, was inspired by surfwear. Here, outerwear was oversized, with large cut-outs, making it quite revealing. Although these were men’s pieces, some of the detail resulted effeminately: cropped pieces that laid models’ midriffs bare and tight trousers cutting well above ankle. It reminded us of the beach in the summertime, and that surfing is a unisex sport – linking the sense of womanhood in a menswear presentation. The designer was inspired by Olympic athletes using kinesio, which refer to the use of medical tapes placed across the body to alleviate pain incurred during competitions. The element of sport was therefore clear, and strong.
All in all, University of Centro Mexico brought a strong show. Of course, it was exciting to engage with fashion from an exotic country. But more importantly, it was exciting to realize the country’s potential for good fashion through its students.

Photo credit to Mary Moir.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Sense and Sensitivity: Be Kind to Your Skin

It may or may not seem obvious to you what your skin type is – and of course, we all have our own, unique reactions to external factors.

So how can you know if your skin is sensitive? 

It's easier to find out than you think. 

By carrying out a patch test, you will be able to test whether your skin has any particular adverse reactions to products you are unfamiliar with. Using a tiny amount of on your wrist or behind your ear, leave the product on for just a few minutes. If you have a reaction to the product, such as breakouts, redness, puffiness, or a stinging, then you know that your skin is sensitive to the product and you shouldn’t use it. 

There’s research that tells us more and more of us are realising that our skin is sensitive. As a result, many will find their skin is far too delicate for some beauty products on the market. But skin shouldn’t have to suffer just because of this. 

Fortunately, the Dr Sebagh skincare range carries plenty of options look after and nourish sensitive skin. You can find your perfect exfoliator, for example, with Deep Exfoliating Mask or Deep Exfoliating Mask for Sensitive Skin. The sensitive version contains less acidic formula which means you can still exfoliate without having an unwanted reaction to the product, leaving your skin deeply cleansed and smooth.

All aforementioned products at

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Open your eyes.

I have written on what might be deemed as ‘ethical fashion’ before. Most namely, my entry for Modeconnect’s International Fashion Writing Competition, named 'Abercrombie and Fitch: the Pride and Prejudice retail giant', in which I won second place, discussed Abercrombie and Fitch’s poor conduct when it came to incinerating their unwanted stock, rather than giving it away to homeless people. 

A sly dig at A&C was fun. Incidentally, I despise their clothing line nonetheless – preppy just isn’t me.

What I want to now turn your attention to something that’s far closer to home for me. Something that’s often brought up but discussed at arm’s length, perhaps, for fear of opening a Pandora’s box of generic complaints about how 'terrible society is these days'. Hopefully, what I can provide are specified examples to emphasise my passion for the subject you are about to read.

Do you remember when Urban Outfitters brought out a t-shirt that said “Eat Less” in 2010? The company was absolutely shamed for it in the media - they were forced to withdraw in June that year. When I read about it, I felt absolutely disgusted with Urban. It was absolutely and irrevocably irresponsible of them, and in my opinion, totally inexcusable. According to a business site, the highest percentage of Urban Outfitter consumers were fourteen to fifteen year olds back in 2010. Since then, their market has ‘grown up’ a little. What that therefore meant was millions of fourteen to fifteen year olds were being subjected to a two word slogan that perfectly exposed and made example of the sense of of self-doubt and imperfection – no matter how small or insignificant it may have been beforehand, for many of their customers buying the product. A slogan that had its lettering printed and fused onto a t-shirt in this way may as well have burned right into the soul.

(Isn’t it funny how pubescent teenagers will compare their imperfect body to the advertising campaigns of models spread across the Daily Mail? Editing and photoshopping is a wonderful, powerful tool created by humans through technology. One highly edited photo of a supermodel will undoubtedly destroy countless self-esteems: the embodiment of your peers at school who were always thinner than you, your mum raising eyebrows and asking if you were ‘really going to eat that’. Photoshop is our own construction over hundreds of years of progress, and aren’t we so proud the results?)

This is why I was so angry at Urban Outfitters for unquestionably helping to diminish any vulnerable teenager’s sense of self worth through this. These are the peak years in which your sense of image is being built up, and to shatter them by commanding you to ‘eat less’ is a true abhorrence, and the media were absolutely write to slate them for it. It is one thing to think upon these words in varying waves of insecurity, but to have them printed across your chest seems as if it’s touching on something far, far more sinister – and it is not the first time Urban have produced controversial statements like this, leading me to believe they knew exactly what they were doing when the design team sat down one day and said ‘lets make a t-shirt saying this on it’.

Of course, this was five years ago now. But I strongly feel it was but a precursor to something more recent that I stumbled upon in Topshop and was flagged up through Instagram, and quickly became viral. Allegedley, the mannequins in Topshop are a size 8. Easily checkable, this one.  So how is it possible that one Instagram user who is also a size 8 could possibly stand next to a Topshop mannequin and look three times as wide? Topshop were actually incredibly sneaky here. They made their mannequins ‘longer’, if you will, meaning that if you stood adjacently to the mannequin, you would realize that from the side they are much fuller than if you were to stand directly in front of them. The clothes that fit them are a size 8, but they look very very thin because of this unnatural stretching from the side. A familiar rage rose inside me when I saw this.

It is so important that the media continues to tear apart these irresponsible high street retailers. I encourage and aim to promote and nurture ‘responsible fashion’. Earlier this year, France actually banned superskinny models from the catwalk. The Guardian says: ‘Agencies who use models whose BMIs fall below the stipulated figure will face a fine of €75,000 (£55,000) and staff face up to six months in prison. Failure to state when photos have been retouched will incur a fine of €37,500 or up to 30% of the amount spent on the advertising featuring the model.’ When I read those words, I was elated beyond belief. France, whose much-loved Paris is considered the fashion capital of the world, has made a major move that will see a steady reduction in eating disorders in young women  - and men too, for that matter.

There is a terrible, hungry, aching gap in between the touched up models of multi million pound campaigns and the fourteen year old girl who longs to look like her, staring up from the pavement. Eating disorders are terrible, terrible diseases to suffer. To only be passionate about your strive to be absolutely perfect; relishing in your control; starving your mind, body and soul to strive for something unstriveable, is something that many of us can only imagine, and sadly some of us will suffer.  Anorexia has only really existed for the last thirty years or so, and its deadly poison is spreading unless more governments continue to take action as France has done. It is a hideously lonely, desperate, harrowing mental disease that I have seen happen around me since I was fourteen myself. 

When I was growing up, my mother always told me I was beautiful, and I am grateful for it now.  Soon, the children of the generation non-superskinny in France will welcome these influences, and will also be grateful for them. The rest of the world needs to follow in their footsteps, and shape up, literally.

UAB for Graduate Fashion Week 2015: A Love of Lace

Arts University Bournemouth fashion design graduates kicked off GFW for 2015. Womenswear dominated the show with a satisfying variety of textiles and textures. Lace, donated by Sophie Hallet, (one of the most important lace manufacturers today) was featured with two designers and treated in distinctive styles.

Olga Novikova presented couture style dresses reminiscent of the 1950’s ball gown. She used disjointed shapes with heavy bulking around the waist and Chantilly lace as a luxury; an extravagance in it’s own right. The layering of cordial lace and tulle certainly alluded further to the extravagance. Olga cited Christian Dior as her most significant inspiration, and it showed.

Louise Boland, on the other hand, confronted these traditional associations. Psychedelic rainbow prints rebelled against bright floral lace, a jumble of textures that said: “Hey! I do not conform to convention. I am my own”. Skirts layered over leggings, colour blocks, and shoulder fringes created a frenzy of colours and prints. Her major influences were the fusion of UK and Afro-Caribbean street culture from the 1960s onwards. In other words, miniskirts and lacing meets tie-die and fuchsia pink.

Anja Povey presented a very sentimental piece that relished in simplicity. Inspired by her grandmother’s presence on Broadway, she incorporated treble clefs all around the body of each item. Here, we saw a personal connection applied in a highly creative way. High waisted, wide legged trousers matched neat, three quarter length sleeves in muted blues in simple A-line symmetry. The models, poised and posed, sashayed this sense of streamline, creating elegance in a way that was uncomplicated and not fussy. As a result, her work was outstanding – it just worked.

James Andrew presented the most androgynous collection referring the Russian Revolution. The models stormed the catwalk in corduroy flares and hessian oversized frills. The designer merged the majesty and poverty of the period by working with harsh, rough materials embossed with feminist gold sequins on the shoulders. The juxtaposition of rich with poor created an impressive rawness. Leather belts, fur, leather shoulders and opposing greens and reds showcased the nature of civil war.
If the AUB menswear wanted to particularly emphasise one thing in 2015, it was that accessories are now part of garments.

Lara Gunnarsdottir presents thick and oversized woollen jumpers under harnessed leather straps across the back. One material bolted down by another, it created the illusion of outdoor backpackers venturing down the catwalk, glowing in the sunlight. Are we wearing hoods? Are these combats or joggers? Are we summer or winter? Seasons seemed lost in translation here – and perhaps irrelevant – as heavy, bright anoraks and fair isle wool met with sandals. Perhaps none of this mattered. What we were to focus on here were the use interweaved accessories ranging from leather to wool.

Arts University Bournemouth’s creative director Anne Chasey calls the first year a “boot camp”. If students cannot pattern cut properly, they repeat a year of school. We don’t doubt this for a second. The work presented here was penetrating, nothing short of clean and professional. She is obviously very passionate about her student

This review was published on Modeconnect and was written at Graduate Fashion Week 2015.

UCA Rochester: Atelier at its very best at Graduate Fashion Week 2015

University for the Creative Arts at Rochester’s graduates presented a well assembled ensemble for GFW 2015. Interestingly, UCA Rochester offers three eclectic fashion courses: fashion design, fashion textiles and fashion atelier, all of which were showcased here.

Atelier student, Daisy Flanagan, presented particularly innovative designs meant to “demonstrate the mind’s ability to reject truth and reason” and what this said about humanity – she explained. A deeply philosophical concept, she carried through by juxtaposing textiles together. Taking contemporary cut outs and intertwining them within layers she allowed bold colours to emerge, creating visually stunning distortions. Daisy used folds in her stitching to create subtle trailing strips for her silhouettes, often layered on top of one another. The results were clean and beautiful.

Rosheen Comerford Brunt’s sports-inspired collection demonstrated the range of her atelier skills. She added accessories to her garments that were made from with unusual materials. Each outfit was clearly meant to evoke a sport, and the collection could proudly stand in the window of Bottega Veneta’s who turned the weaving of ribbon into a brand identity. The gold ribbon extended to recreate body parts referring to our anatomy as the source of all our movement. Her colours were simple and classic, yet seductive and enticing. The adding of weaved ribbon made it even more so.

Jihae An, on the other hand, focused on merging traditional folk culture with the modern city woman. She concentrated on techniques within tailoring to produce clean, beautiful and flowing shapes. Appropriately, her title was “In Conjunction”, and referred to her personal experience of existing in between two cultures.

Rebecca Kellet’s design work was gripping. A focus on the contrast of nature and the metropolis, she varied her technique using intricate prints on some pieces and using plastic as the main material on others.

The graphics alluded to watercolour paintings: bright, fluid and printed on plain white creating stark contrasts. The plastic pieces – huge and round – were abrasive and shocking, producing tall, high-collared silhouettes. The result was an emphasis of the size of her shapes.
In Lauren Ward’s presentation, we saw a strong reference to Momento Mori. Models were dressed in a gothic and corpse-like way accessorized with sequins, sashaying towards a spiritual séance. Bold sentences such as “I hate you” were printed in glitter and fused onto softer, silk materials.

The juxtaposition of these two ideas clashed perfectly, giving us the mismatch she intended. Her work was kitsch: bright yet gothic, fun yet sombre, a mix of emotions not usually experienced together. It was unusual and exciting.
Overall, the work of the atelier students seemed to have taken centre place at the UCA Rochester GFW 2015 show, taking away the misconception that fashion is about just creating pretty things.

Although Daisy and Rosheen’s pieces were particularly beautiful, it was a result of careful and very professional take on traditional techniques acquired from a unique course that proved this range of work to be consistently high in quality.

This review was published on Modeconnect and was written at Graduate Fashion Week 2015.

A glittering show for UCA Epsom 2015 at GFW

University for the Creative Arts Epsom boasts a range of fashion courses allowing its students to explore a commercial or a creative approach to fashion design. The result? A highly eclectic GFW 2015 show. Back to 2013, graduate Hannah Williams received two accolades for Womenswear and Fashion Innovation while Danya Sjadzali won the All Walks Diversity Now award. This year, the quality of design was just as strong. Different techniques acquired in each course showed well on the catwalk, with both womenswear and menswear demonstrating a degree of poignancy.

Later on, Alexandra Wall also played with patterns using the typical flamenco styling as a theme in her work. She explained that in the Spanish province of Avila, the townsfolk annually celebrate the renewal of their town through a carnival performance reflecting sacrifice and death. Her technique involved gathering material by folding it over one another. As a result, gothic petals folded over one another, gathered at the shoulders and waist. The designer combined these with leather-like trousers to compliment these dark tones.

Patterns were a popular focus at Epsom. Sarah Brooker’s collection was delightful. She used floral lace cuts in beige and black accessorized with thick rope to make them seem as if it were held in place. The cuts themselves were reminiscent of 1920s flapper style with pieces deliberately squared off at the hips. It was highly unusual, but fascinating to observe.

Annie Bostock’s menswear worked particularly well, especially with the models stood against the white backdrop, drawing attention to her impressive bold text prints. The colours Annie used made sense against the glittering text: blues and deep reds complimented one another. The silhouettes were imaginative; the designer took sleeping bags and transformed them into oversized (and probably very warm) outwear pieces. Other pieces included a padded jumpsuit – a new take on the all-in-one contemporary craze; something fresh.

The use of colour was particularly strong from Naba Shan. Her use of product packaging as an inspiration for her bold designs, with fluorescent orange and silver to contrast each other, reminded us of the brashness of consumerist culture. 3D trains curled and twisted awkwardly over each other recreating the plastic bonds found on fresh produce. The slicing of fabrics and draping signified the break down of packaging once it is rendered useless. It was an extraordinary take on something so ordinary – which are always fascinating to examine.

University of Creative Arts Epsom once again demonstrated their student’s ability to impress. We have to thank tutors, innovative students, and the latest technology available to them for the quality of this year show.

This review was published on Modeconnect and was written at Graduate Fashion Week 2015.