Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Microchic - the lowdown.....

Heres an article I wrote for Amelias Online

Future Human Lectures: Fashion’s Microchic Shake-Up

Bad Idea Magazine hosts the latest in their series of 'Future Human' lectures, debating on the influence of the internet on global and British fashion...

Written by Ester Kneen
The latest in a series of events from Bad Idea Magazine, ‘Future Human’ explores a new topic each month and hosts an evening of discussion and debate at The Book Club in Shoreditch.
This month’s topic ‘Fashion’s Microchic Shake-Up’ pondered on the impact of the internet on the global fashion market we see today. Prior to the invention of the internet, origins of fashion trends could be pinpointed to say, a specific youth culture, a political movement, or a new music trend. Times have changed; the way we see fashion has changed. The serge of information made accessible to us via the internet has created a new breed of consumer, a fashionista in his or her own right. Hello Microchic. 
The term Microchic is used to describe fashion today – fashion derived from a variety of new, and inspirational sources. A style influenced by social networking sites, trend blogs and small cult labels adopted by highstreet clothing lines. A Microchic consumer knows about fashion and demands individuality, quality, innovation and fashion-forward appeal. 
Ben Beaumont-Thomas began the evening with ‘The Great Microchic Shake-Up: A Primer’, in which he defined microchic as a ‘hyper-personal multi-faceted look’. The internet allows us to cherry pick fashions, it’s no longer about subcultures showcasing specific looks but about a consumer being able to choose a look for that day without the commitment. London’s fashion-forward hubs like Shoreditchaccommodate many a microchic fashionista and, it seems what used to be ironic now just ‘is’. In order to track cult fashion movements on the streets of London, Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo big brands subscribe to online global think tanks and trend forecasting services such as WGSN. These think tanks track fashion movements all over the world. Data is collected to give information on a global scale. Sales figures, market research, on-the-street trend spotters, and research into new manufacturing techniques all form a hub of information essential to any brand that wants to survive. It seems clear; the Internet has played a huge part in turning the way we think about fashion around.
So began the evenings debate; “Can the British High Street compete with Microchic?” The audience were able to upload thoughts in real-time via a live twitter feed which was displayed on stage for debate interaction. Guests Iris Ben David, CEO of Styleshake, Helen Brown, founder of Catwalk Genius and Ruth Marshall-Johnson, senior editor of WGSN Think Tank also shared their thoughts, prompting further debate. A particularly interesting point made by @cushefootwear via twitter was “Internet is to clothes what microwaves are to food”, prompting us to question the importance of ‘experience’ and ‘sensation’ when buying fashion. 
Alterations in consumer shopping patterns have led to many interesting technological developments. Innovative systems are being designed to meet new sets of consumer demands. 

Styleshake allows a user to build a look within an online interface. The idea is, the user can create the garment they have in their head (you know, that absolutely perfect dress you wonder if you’ll ever find) through the selection of various characteristics, such as fabrics, necklines, and detailing. After you’ve designed the garment you can have it made at very reasonable prices.
Catwalk Genius is an innovative creative platform in which unestablished and up-and-coming fashion designers can sell their ranges. It’s a great resource for those looking for something ‘not on the High Street’. Users can also invest in emerging talent by buying shares in a designer’s next collection.
Perhaps a more extreme example of innovation is Augmented-Reality Shopping in which tools such as 3D scanners are used to replicate the body shape and look of a user, allowing him or her to see what they would look like in any chosen garment. 
Emerging trends are all about the involvement of the consumer. The consumer is part of the process. Innovative systems like these are designed to combat consumer frustrations such as differentiation in sizing between brands or inability to find a specific item or size, while offering an alternative consumer experience. Many consumers would be happy to do away with the days of long queues, sweaty changing rooms, rude salespeople and traipsing round shops all afternoon. By adopting an online shopping sphere, however, we lose out on the interactivity, the social nature and the tactility of shopping the High Street. Retail brands will need to facilitate technical developments such as 3D scanners (eliminating the need for changing rooms) to compete. 

H&M Garden Collection
The competitive nature of the High Street has resulted in a cycle of mass production of fast-fashion garments and large amounts of waste. In contributing to our throw-away society the highstreet fails to represent the ethical edge that can be found in Microchic. However the High Street favourites H&M’s Garden Collection made up of organic cotton and recycled polyester represents a change in attitudes from big brands.
So what does the future hold for the British High Street? Join the Debate!


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Textiles with Memory

Here is an article I wrote for The Hub Magazine...

Textiles with Memory

Have you ever considered the concept of textiles with memory? Or taken a moment to think about the memories ingrained within the clothes you wear? Maybe an outfit reminds you of an event that took place whilst you were wearing it, or maybe the day or place you bought it? Or perhaps a family heirloom like a rug or a tapestry reminds you of a lost relative?
Silja Puranen, a Finnish artist and winner of 2009’s Nordic Award for Textiles, explores this idea often through her groundbreaking work. Utilizing a harmonious relationship between modern printing techniques and handcrafted traditional textile making, Puranen’s work is always intriguing. Using old fabrics as her foundations she applies layer upon layer of narrative dimensions. Photographic imagery, paint and stitches are arranged layer-by-layer giving a new lease of life to an old textile. Photographic imagery plays a significant part in Puranen’s work capturing; “a specific moment in time, that magical millisecond when time stands still and something significant happens.”
In Siamese Twins (2009), pictured at top, an antique rug is transformed into an art piece that tells a story. New life is given to a textile no longer fit for purpose. A simple antique bedspread is used to great effect in ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (2003), pictured above. The damaged textile portrays a previous existence, a past life of wear and tear. The purposefully overlaid painting has a tactile transparency offering a view into the layers – of history – beneath. The pattern of the textile and the signs of damage represent the textile’s history. Her pieces keep memories intact whilst applying new narratives, breathing a new generation of life into a textile.
Textile artist Gail Baxter also explores the concept of ‘textiles with memory’. Her project ‘Records and Memories’ (pictured below)explores hidden codes within textiles through her practice of ‘free lace’. Baxter’s interpretation of lace making breaks away from traditional techniques. She describes her lace work as; “a pattern of constructed holes, random or geometric as the subject requires and constructed in whatever medium is most appropriate”.
Baxter’s MA research is based around archeological records from Christ Church, Spitalfields from 1729-1852. Baxter investigates hidden knowledge within parish records and censuses, playing upon the fact that memories and artifacts can be used to continue a person’s existence after their death.
‘Records and Memories’ is a series of photographs showing Baxter’s lace work at various points of deconstruction. The deconstruction of the lace’s original structure represents the process of decay of the corporeal body. Interestingly the threads retain their memory, even after the piece is completely deconstructed, with the threads’ kinks comprising evidence of their previous existence. The work questions at what point, if any, the lace loses its memories. And thus, at what point, if any, a person ceases to exist.
Carol Quarini’s conceptual textiles incorporate lace and silk paper to investigate the degeneration of memory. Her complex and intricate pieces represent the disconnection of nerves and cell division, among other fascinating biological processes.
Her investigation into memory as well as family and genetics in her pieces ‘Memories are made of this’ and ‘Family Tree’ (2007), pictured above, display; “links between the nerve endings that form our neural network are tenuous and easily broken. As we age the memory becomes cloudy and we grope for memories as if in a fog.”
Quarini’s pieces aim to challenge our perceptions of lace. At first glance the pieces may appear similar to traditional lace work, however up close the pieces tell a different and more intricate story.“She subverts the idea of the industrious, submissive female producing decorative coverings for the home… her net curtains appear conventional, with a traditional lace trim, but closer inspection reveals that the lace has an ‘unhomely’ meaning.”
The works of these three artists promote the historical integrity of textiles. The DNA of textiles is made up of narrative fibres that tell a story, with the warp and weft holding strands of information. These storytelling textiles can be used as historical archives, windows into the past. Apply a “if these walls could talk” principle and imagine the stories waiting to be told!
Newly popularized trends in ‘ecological fairness’ and ‘authenticity’ see a growing importance for all things ethical – which can only be a good thing. It’s all about the quality not the quantity. Savvy consumers are seeking not only value for their money but assurances in a brand’s moral responsibility. In short, it’s not just about the materials anymore; it’s about the story behind them from their creation through to their journey to the consumer and beyond.
Author: Ester Kneen
Images courtesy of the three aforementioned artists

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Dame Vivienne Westwood: Fashion Icon

Here's an article I wrote for The Hub


Dame Vivienne Westwood: Fashion Icon

British fashion’s finest ambassador, Dame Vivienne Westwood continues to draw upon her iconic punk status in her latest collections, more than 40 years since first moving to London.
The opening of Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s Kings Road shop ‘Let it Rock’ in 1971 was to form the foundations of the influential label we see today. It was here Westwood developed her distinctive style expressing politically charged messages through pop culture inspired garments. Her first catwalk show in 1981 – entitled ‘Pirate’ – debuted a strong collection influenced by the burgeoning youth movement and progressive street culture, juxtaposed with traditional techniques which paved the way for the extraordinary collections to come. Calling upon and modernising Britain’s finest wools, tartans and tweeds with honed 17th-18th Century cutting and draping techniques, Westwood encompasses and typifies ‘Anglomania’.
Ever the activist, Westwood often hijacks her eponymous catwalk shows to promote her Active Resistance policies outlined in her much publicized manifesto. Her commitment to environmental campaigning has become an additional asset to the brand, with her most recently and somewhat controversially, encouraging consumers to ‘stop buying clothes’.
James Lovelock’s groundbreaking Gaia hypothesis (centered around issues such as climate change) continues to be a huge influence on Westwood, with slogans such as “Loyalty 2 Gaia” and “+5degrees” appearing on t-shirts. In September 2005, Westwood joined forces with Liberty, a civil rights group to design charity slogan t-shirts and kidswear boldly stating, “I AM NOT A TERRORIST, please don’t arrest me”. Westwood’s recent ‘STOP SHOPPING’ plea on BBC London Radio shocked the world of fashion and highlights the designer’s devotion to the cause – in some ways shooting herself in the foot telling her shoppers to stop buying.
High impact advertising campaigns, featuring the designer alongside celebrities such as Pamela Anderson and ubër photographer, Juergen Teller are fantastically inventive and perfectly highlight the importance of both tongue-in-cheek humour and fantasy within her collections – and the fashion world for that matter.
Author: Ester Kneen
First image depicting the ‘Pirate’ collection, courtesy of  the Victoria and Albert Museum, with additional campaign images courtesy of Vivienne Westwood

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Vivienne Westwood Wallpaper

For any of those who don't know, Vivienne Westwood recently teamed up with Cole & Son to design a wallpaper collection. I am a massive fan of wallpaper, and it's great to see the amalgamation between interior design and fashion design. The prints call upon Westwood's past collections (for example the cut-out lace from the S/S 07 'I am Expensiv' collection) creating a range that maps out the Westwood label's history. The amazing results of this collaboration are shown below.


I'm exhibiting here...