Monday, 25 February 2008

The Staple - Let Them Eat Cake

Anyone for Cake?

A bit of a wander on Saturday on my usual Oxford St.-avoiding route [Soho Sq-D'Arblay-Gt. Marlborough-Liberty-Regent-Conduit-B Store-Bond-Avery Row-South Molton-Poste-St. Christopher's Place-Reiss-Selfridges] washed me up in Selfridges' magazine hall. This is a dangerous place for me. I have an unabatable vice for glossy, beautiful photography with gorgeous clothes, articles erudite to irreverent, and men with razor-sharp cheekbones, all in a reassuringly weighty package. I buy most of the biennials and quarterlies, but have had to cut down on monthlies as a result. Favourites are: L'Officiel Hommes, GQ Style, 10+ Men and, of course, Monocle. But for the last year or so, I have been purchasing a lesser-known magazine called Let Them Eat Cake. Originally conceived when talented assistants of photographers, stylists, writers and designers were not given due credit, this magazine has been a gorgeous miniature pleasure of beautifully-shot clothes in an offbeat and experimental fashion. Whilst not strictly a mens publication, its sheer aesthetic pleasure combined of the 'underdog' ethos has made i one of my favourite purchases. And as I've followed it from Issue 3, I'm especially proud to discover that the magazine has made the transition from colour fanzine to a full-format glossy, and enough support to have less than five pages of advertisements out of 128, mostly photo-essays. What a delight, not having to flip past the umpteenth oiled D&G advert and find each page sprinkled with such sensory delight. This is a brilliant example of virtually independent publishing (LTEC is printed at a small Welsh press in Aberystwyth) making it good in the voraciously competitive glossy market. And unlike SuperSuper, there is an important and welcome lack of shock-and-awe tactics and in-your-face fonts. LTEC has been beautifully put together and is a welcome addition to my purchasing. A little more writing would be nice, but not if it reduces the quality and volume of photographic genius which is well worth my, and your, £3.50. It is, as it states on the cover, "for fashion's sake" - dedication to aesthetics. This makes it an unavoidable Staple. Along with the rest of this week's Staples:
Let Them Eat Cake magazine
A belt made from a Liberty print offcut
The Pride of Spitalfields pub, off Brick Lane
Uniqlo's '2 cashmere cotton jumpers for £30' offer
Fabriclive 36 - James Murphy & Pat Mahoney
Competitive hangman on a Sunday afternoon
Selfridges ever-improving menswear floor (and it's gorgeous electric blue patent Alexander McQueen hi-top trainers)

Monday, 18 February 2008

The Staple - Justice Live


Seeing a good gig, as I have mentioned previously, is an absolute Staple. But seeing a dance outfit in a gig situation can be hit and miss. I was lucky enough to see Simian Mobile Disco a couple of months back, but their lacklustre, short set, coupled with an almost complete lack of stage excitement - two guys strolling around a big circular synth pressing buttons does not a show make - left me wanting. I have also been lucky enough to see, and more importantly hear, some great DJs in clubs, but at a gig, they have to put on a show and entertain with their live performance rather than just stick the album on and bounce up and down. When I saw Four Tet, the visuals were both clever and absorbing, but Kieran Hebden himself was just bopping in front of his laptop. We had no idea if he was checking emails, or actually playing a set. My faith in brilliant DJ shows was restored however, at Thursday's Justice show at the Astoria. They were positioned amidst a Spinal Tap-style wall of enormous Marshall amps, above a Battlestar Galactica digital bank of bleepy lights. In the middle, the trademark Justice illuminated cross, which is the focus and usually the sole discernible subject of any photos taken of Justice gigs. More importantly, they played genuinely Live tracks, remixed and rearranged in a completely new way. For a band with a such well-known repertoire, some of which are now a good few years old, they sounded fresh and took their eye-bleeding techno to a new level, throwing in familiar lyrics and noises amidst a wall of euphoric, ripped sound. This combo juiced the audience so much so that every last person was not just tapping their feet, but full-on dancing, right up to the rafters. I left feeling uplifted and played the album on the bus home - a sure sign of hearing something fab. Complete genius. A veritable Staple - seeing music you love played in a fresh way that makes you fall in love with it all over again. Et Justice pour tous...

The Staple - Spider Badge

The Diamante Badge of Courage

In my mind, people fall into two categories; badge-wearers, or badge-deniers. I am resolutely in the first camp. But, as with everything that I wear, I am rather selective. And I have been through many different stages. On my jumpers I like simple, and plain badges; envelope-lining ones from the Design Museum, or map fragments from Tatty Devine. My most recent acquisition is one that my workmate James found attached to his dry cleaning; an old fashioned revolver pin-badge. I also like a bit of sparkle on a cardigan as well; a diamante mouse, or golden spider's web or a tacky golden leopard playing with a fake pearl. But it's on the lapels of my coats that I really go to town. On my velvet jacket I prefer vintage blue and gold enamel or silver latticework butterflies. On my khaki double-breasted coat have been my best and most creative selections. I began with large round anti-war and other left-wing badges from my parents, before moving onto a Sonia Rykiel multicoloured plastic 'Voila' which became my signature around Paris. I switched to a black perspex camera and having lost all or parts of the above, am now on this diamante spider, which both pleases and scares my mates in equal measure. It was an ubercheap purchase from H&M, but doesn't show its price. And also always provokes an interesting reaction. For me, badges should not only be a way of personalising your clothes and conveying something of yourself, but also to brighten up plainer and darker clothes, and in some cases contrast against the masculinity of an item such as a military-style coat. The contradiction of having a sparkly badge on such a coat pleases me, and, I feel, is something that more people should experiment with. Just make sure you pick the right badge. Other Staples this week:
An eclectic collection of badges
Dried Smyrna figs
The George & Dragon pub in East London
Fortuitous night buses (N63)
The LSO's performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15
Tring, Hertfordshire (and surrounding countryside)
Kim Jones for Umbro tshirts

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The Staple - London Fashion Week


The reason for the delay on this week’s blog is threefold; a rather busy weekend, starting work at 6.30am this week (necessitating a 5.15am wake-up alarm) and spending my Monday night this week not at home with the laptop and a cup of peppermint tea, but at my first Fashion Show. And it was in the ultimate spirit of My First..., as it was for the London magazine SuperSuper. So neon abounded, crazy make-up on the models (glittery 'taches for men) and guests (full-on clown faces), and unusual (to say the least) cuts, fabrics and details. Much of the evening was so 'fashion' that it made my brain hurt. As well as some utterly directional outfits (pea-green fur bodysuit, gimp masks and boys in heels that would have looked out of place in that peak of Nouvelle Rave, BoomBox) there were examples of promising talent there. Scott Ramsey Kyle's collection was a little OTT in its use of contrasting fabrics and neon for me, but did feature some well-cut dresses. Emma Bell's beautiful Quality-Street shiny fabrics and structured puffa jackets were a highlight; they may sound terrible, but were genuinely beautiful to see, and though the outfits jarred, individual pieces were beautifully made, and almost wearable. Dharma Taylor's menswear was very Shoreditch; a little gimmicky and made too much of putting your coat on your head. That is, if the just-released-from-borstal models didn't rip it off first. Finally Thomas Sels' dresses were a highlight, with one off-white striped, drop-backed creation really piquing my attention - it would have looked brilliant on a red carpet, on a Tilda Swinton-type perhaps. Interspersed between the clothes was video art, some terrible Art Brut-esque indie and a scene darling rapping about 'poached eggs' (actually pretty funny). Best of all was the soundtrack of eye-melting techno and b-more bass. We like. So an amusing start; last year I did promise myself I'd get to fashion week, so this is a good start, but next year I want to see some mens and womenswear that is both challenging and beautiful. SuperSuper show kids...and of course big thanks to the fabulous Katie for inviting me, and making it happen so successfully...

The Staple - Nokia Brick

Connecting People

Last week, after a very successful trip to Rough Trade East and my New Favourite Bar, I wound up on the tube back to King’s Cross with a lovely mate. On flopping onto the seats, what should we find but an old Nokia handset? I’m sure you know the sort – no camera, no music player, beepy ringtone and worn plastic buttons. Having gone through four of them myself last year, I know both the pain of losing them and their extraordinary resilience. These phones are infinitely preferable to modern flippy, slidey touch-screen phones that scratch easily, weigh a ton and have a tiny battery life because they have so many applications. Their simplicity (calls and text messages and that’s about it), genuine durability and universality (everyone’s got at least one spare Nokia charger) mean that they will be around for ages. I fully expect to lose my ridiculous Nokia Klingon phone and to have to revert to my standby brick at some stage, and that doesn’t bother me – just as long as I keep a record of the numbers and upload the photos to my laptop. With that in mind, we decided to attempt to return the phone to its owner, simply by texting the most recent messagers on it. The owner called it the next day and came to meet me near work, giving me a firm handshake, genuine thanks and a box of chocolates. Both he and I were pleased that such a thing could happen in London. And whilst it would have been easier to hold on to the phone and use it next time, the sense of having done something friendly and yet very simple was unmatchable, and really put me in a good mood. Karma, man. So next time you find an old phone, be virtuous – you already have at least one phone, and quite possibly a standby, take the initiative and give it back to its rightful owner. A simple, honest and free Staple. Other Staples this week:
Nokia brick phones (and their safe retrieval)
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' new album, ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’
Ten-pin bowling in Elephant and Castle
Rough Trade East
Eating Nutella from the jar
A stripy Reiss woollen scarf
Tusker East African lager 

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The Staple - The British Library


So this weekend I went to the British Library for the Futurism exhibition. It was lovely; as a committed bibliophile, Kings Cross-dweller and lover of early 20th Century art, it was right up my street (literally and figuratively). Gorgeous and fascinating typefaces, sketches, film extracts and other assorted vignettes. As well as covering the history, ideology and more obscure European pockets of avant-garde publishing, there was also a significant section on Paris. I was in heaven. And what a lovely space, the British Library. Light, airy, with plenty of ergonomically-specific work areas, unusual artworks dotted about and the only the most erudite of clientele. This mixture of people and place makes the BL an absolute Staple for the aesthetically-minded. But this was a day that progressed into a brilliant evening. After lurking in Camino and the Big Chill House, we moved to a lovely authentic Thai place; dirt cheap and filling, just how it should be, and refreshingly lacking in pretension. Moving on to Old Street, we found the most fantastic bar I think I've ever been to. Hidden away in a basement on Great Eastern Street is a beautifully-designed, compact space, furnished simply in a vintage 1950s G-Plan furniture kind of way, playing fabulous foreign jazz and easy-listening music, with cocktails to die for and an atmosphere that most bars would kill for. Never too loud, or too dark, or too busy, thanks to a complete lack of standing space and a brilliant table-reservation system, this epitome of relaxed Saturday living was a cocoon of lovely people in a chilled bar genuinely enjoying themselves; kudos to Janine and Stuart for making the evening as perfect as it could have been. I feel I'm beng a little effusive, but rarely have I been somewhere that I could find no fault with, the perfectionist that I am. Which is why I'll not divulge the name; if you want to know, drop me a message, but for now, this bar is a secret that I'm keeping to myself. It's too good to share just yet. Keep your eyes peeled for your perfect bar; and once you've found it, keep it under your hat. Sometimes secrecy is the best Staple of all.

The Staple - Ironing

(left-right: Cos; vintage; Sisley; B Store; Reiss; Full Circle; Tiger of Sweden; Sisley; Burton; Miu Miu; antipodium; Prada)

Pressing Matters

It's good when there's nothing on the telly. It gives me a little bit of space and time to finally attack that pile of ironing. I usually leave it until there's enough to do that it warrants me setting up and spending a couple of hours sorting. And though I put it off repeatedly, after running the iron across a couple of items, I remember how therapeutic and pleasant it is to have well-pressed clothes. It also gives you a chance to appreciate the detail in your wardrobe, particularly the cut and details of shirts. The placing of the darts, the shape of the collar, the differing widths of yokes and plackets, the epaulettes, sleeve creases and flare at the hem. Menswear is all in the detail, and nowhere can such a variety of detail be found as when ironing your shirts. I was taught to do this at a young age, more or less as soon as I went to school as my Dad was sick of ironing mine as well as his. Collar first, then the yoke, then arms, back (taking care to iron the creases correctly, then front and between the buttons. For a man, a well-pressed shirt is so important, not just for work, but to truly appreciate the clothes he has. Clothes look at their best when they've just been correctly pressed, and then slipped on. That morning perfection, that rarely even reaches the office, is mostly hidden underneath coats, scarves and jumpers (at least at this time of year). Relish it in the mirror as you leave for work tomorrow morning. If not, invest in an iron and a board. I guarantee you'll see the benefit. It's not necessarily about smartness, it's about getting it just right, starting the day as you mean to continue (whether that be in a t-shirt or in a suit) and looking your best. Other Staples this week:
Well-pressed clothes
Cat Power's new album 'Jukebox'
Coloured denim (maroon specifically)
'The Virgin Suicides' by Jeffrey Eugenides
Black Books on DVD
Green & Black's chocolate-covered shortbread
The Marquis of Cornwallis pub on Marchmont St.