Monday, 16 February 2015

The Staple: Russian Not-so-Standard

I began this post wanting to write about designer T-shirts. Something was brewing in my mind about affordable luxury and buying into a brand that you love (in my case things like Matthew Miller, Acne, Wooyoungmi, APC (obvs) and Comme) without going the whole hog for a coat or a specific 'look'.

I felt like there was a connection between crap high-street T-shirt brands and the way that even top-end fashion houses will do a basic T - basic of course is no reflection of the price, but it's an easy buy-in for most, and while around £50 (yes, and upwards) is expensive for these kind of garments in the high street context, but you get into a brand a fall in love with its aesthetic, manufacturing values and general vibe.

Then I realised (after much mucking about with 'arty' lighting [aka me trying to use a £5.99 argos lamp as a lightbox and failing] and a pile of T-shirts) that I really just wanted to write about Gosha Rubchinskiy.

First a little more preface. I am a T-shirt lover. I have waaaay too many (colour-coded, natch) and a drawer just of white ones. Along with jeans/shirts, nice trainers and a crewneck sweater, I live in Ts, and I try to find interesting ones as much as possible.

As with my weird attempts to dress like a football hooligan from the 1980s, I've no idea where my wanting to dress like a skater boy comes from. I'm not very grungy - obvs. But I do like that California style, the whole Kurt Cobain, baggy jumpers and ripped denim, setting out on your board to do tricks and such. I bet it probably has something to do with me being not very sporty as a kid (aren't all these deep-seated desires rooted in our childhood), but tbh I don't really care - and that means you definitely won't either.

But skate style is something that I've always been drawn towards, which is why Rubchinskiy's aesthetic is so appealing. Working in Russia but showing in Paris, the designer is channeling local skate culture through modern streetwear, simply put. Increasingly interesting in his aesthetic development is this desire to explore a subculture in a country that seems to be careering out of control (cheers Putin, you dick), in many ways paralleling the horrors of late '80s American capitalism, but in a weird, very Russian way.

Look, there's a whole lot more to it than that, but here's what I love about Gosha's pieces. In fact, in pictorial form:

This T-shirt is an acrid yellow, reasonably well-made soft cotton T. Aside from the pretty ridiculous colour, it's a raglan-sleeve. But only from the front. From the back, Rubchinskiy has crafted the entire shoulder of the T with two pieces; one seam stretching from armpit-to-armpit, and one directly vertically from the neck down. The construction does two things: it constantly reminds you that you're wearing something unusual; it gives a sensation of difference, of otherness, and of thought. It also creates a different hang to the garment; it moves from the way you move your back, it's slightly awkward, and isn't entirely comfortable.

This sounds perverse (and possibly pretentious, but I've already used talked about 'otherness', so I might as well steam through) but the way this garment makes you feel means that you're constantly thinking about it as you wear it. Not in a 'how do I look?' way, but a 'what does this mean?' way.

In brief, it challenges the wearer. Much more than you'd expect from a humble t-shirt. With the simple space age graphic, PACCBET (meaning sunrise, or dawn - make of that what you will) on the front, it's one of the oddest Ts I own.

There's something challenging about Rubchinskiy's work, which is possibly why he's supported by the Comme des Garcons/DSM stable; it's conceptual, but not in the way you think. Crucially though - and if you have an inquiring mind - it does make you think. And not many garments do that, right?

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Staple: Well jell of Gazelles

Anyone that knows me knows I am a creature of habit. From my Sunday evening Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow routine to my pretty much unshakeable current wardrobe of crewneck sweatshirts and jeans, I'm not often knocked out of my comfort zone - part of the reason that the Shirt challenge was a bit, ahem, challenging. (That said, I have actually done a few days of shirt-wearing; I'm saving them up for a proper post, promise).

Anyway, I have been rooted in my Vans, Vortex and Converse for, well, pretty much the last decade now. But I've always had dalliances with other footwear. Part of settling into the 30something vibe for me this year was about getting a bit smarter...and I still have to deal with that on the footwear front, despite owning some lovely smart shoes. But for some reason, and this is what I'd like to examine today, for the last six months I've lusted over '90s trainer classics the Adidas Gazelle.

These desires are odd, but when they happen, I'm more than happy to investigate. It's the kind of thing I've probably subconsciously seen in magazines, on shoots, in the street (in fact I think Lou Dalton sent her models down the LCM catwalk in them for SS15); the kind of trigger that you don't realise is building up in your brain until you're in a shoe shop on a day off in December, trying on a pair of trainers because you've decided you definitely need them in your life.

As you will have gathered from reading the blog for any length of time, my approach to a lot of fashion - particularly the stuff I buy - is very driven by my gut reactions. I don't often set out to buy something specific - especially during the sales - and I guess the last few years of working at a magazine has meant that freebies poured through the door and that's always a nice position to be in.

However, with these Gazelles I'm not quite sure what set off the desire. It might be in part a real masculine, Northern thing - Gazelles are of course a key part of the football terrace uniform (along with Stone Island jackets). Maybe I'm trying to cling to some Northernesque roots as I've been down here in LDN for over twelve years. TWELVE YEARS. Christ.

Anyway, maybe it's partly that. Maybe it's a 90s thing - that whole acid house, rave generation, leading into Britpop...they would all have worn Gazelles. If the music's good - the clothes must be right? Look at disco! I remember slopping round Camden in Puma Romas back in my uni days, and Gazelles are just a better Roma, really.

I think it might also be a bit of a reaction to the universal fashion acceptance of Stan Smiths too. I had a pair briefly, but they were so flat and uncomfortable (not to mention now ubiquitous at fashion week), that I got rid of them. There's something very pleasing about Stans' minimal appearance, but a trainer that isn't comfy might as well not be a trainer.

So I picked up a pair of Gazelles from Mr Porter - plumping for the black classics, and they've become my go-to winter shoes, despite being not that grippy, and not that waterproof. They're super-comfy and give a nice, dressed-down feel to my outfits. Which is good for those days when I wear a shirt...maybe I am getting out of my routine? Who knows. Only 2015 will provide the answers.

In the meantime, Gazelles. They're fab.

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Staple: Check, Mate

And so to another coat. Sorry about that - in my defence, it is bloody freezing out there! This one though, I haven't written about before - mostly because I bought it just the other week. 

The middle of January (the 20th to be exact, fact fans) heralds my birthday, which for the past few years has meant a sale treat. Last year it was the Christopher Raeburn bomber, and this year I surpassed myself and actually bought myself 2 coats in the sales.

This particular one though, as with so much sale shopping (right?) was an accident. I've been a bit of a fan of Ben Sherman over the last few years, as their range has matured to become a sort of junior Albam (that occasionally goes to a rave, rather than constant dull art openings). They've expanded their offering to include some really great things, that are chock full of detail and very reasonably priced.

So for the last few months, before the Sales and as they progressed, I had my eye on a black watch Tartan parka, osensibly to replace my student/miner chic one. On their website, it looks bloody fabulous - tailored in the right places, smart and just the right thing to chuck on over anything to keep toasty warm. In store though, it was another matter. The cut was all wrong on me, too tight at the neck, and with a proper trad parka fishtail hemline, as well as a boxy hood, that combined to give it a touch too much of Italian exchange student for me. A valuable lesson learned there - buying online can often prove fatal.

But with the purse strings opened by a previous Liberty bargain (of which more soon) and the shopping lust well and truly out, couple with Ben Sherman's bargainous sale markdowns, I was determined to make a purchase. Just not sweatshirts (anyone that knows me knows that I already have waaaaay too many!) So I checked out their coats and found this beauty. It's a little similar to the B Store one I bought a few months back on eBay, but made from a sturdier wool, and cut impeccably, as was pointed out to me by one of the menswear designers at work. This coat has a half-raglan sleeve; so raglan at the back of the shoulder, and straight at the front. this gives it the comfort and informality of a casual coat, but also the sharper shoulder shape of a smarter piece. 

Unlike the parka, its pockets are in exactly the right place (hand height, durrrr), and the checked wool is clearly not from a 99p shop at the end of Brick Lane. I've taken to wearing it in a kind of Mod-ish way, with the top button done up and the rest free, creating a great a-line shape. It's rapidly become the go-to coat, despite not being as warm as the parka. 

Anyway, a little insight there. I've got a few articles brewing post-LCM (and the rest of the menswear shows; just fired off my Paris report), so I'll try and keep a little more regularly updated. But definitely worth scouring the end of the sale. This jacket was knocked down from £195 to £78. £78! That's the price of a jumper in most places. If you get paid Friday, go and have a scout round those sad-looking sale racks and see what you can turn up; there's plenty left to be found if you look hard enough...

Check, mate indeed.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Staple: Very Good, Parka

As January dawns, the thoughts of people working in the fashions turn to the upcoming 2-3 months of shows, presentations, catwalks, parties and relentless travel. It's a tough job (no, srsly), and I'm sure there'll be all sorts of thrills and spills across social media and various ritzy locations as the next few months unfurl.

However, January signals two things for most people: 1) it gets very cold and 2) everyone is very poor. Sadly I can't offer any tips on fixing the latter, but for me, every year I return to this jacket for some reason. (aside: January is also my birthday)

I've been in London for, well, this is my 13th year here. So some time. And despite gaining and losing more items of clothing, friends, drinks, colleagues and books, this parka seems to have stuck with me. I bought it as a first year student, living in Max Rayne House on Camden Road (typing those words does indeed take me back). On my walk back from the bus from uni, there was a vintage shop, just by Camden Rd station - now long gone - where I spunked most of my student loan on American college Ts, scratchy cardigans and 1970s kipper ties. And this very parka was a January purchase there.

Why a parka? Well dear readers, I have a confession: I was a noughties indie kid. I went to indie discos across Camden, I loved Trash at the End, I partied at student unions, I was obsessed with the Libertines. It was a fun time. And I must've seen it in NME or read about it in the Face or something, but parkas were cool. I bet Graham Coxon had one. Anyway, I picked this up for about £35, and it was pretty knackered at the time. I wore it relentlessly (with self-ripped and patched bootcut jeans, Puma Roma and a vintage BA flight bag *don't judge, it was 2003*), patched it up, and never quite got around to chucking it out.

Partly because it's so damn warm; it's like wearing a duvet, and it's got those hand-warmy pockets on the chest that are uber-toasty. And partly because, well this is real life. Not sure if you've picked this up from the blog along the way, but I don't go around wearing custom-made Valentino couture, or incredibly rare Miyake samples from 1983. Well, not *that* often anyway. 

I've grown to love this parka, there's something refreshingly honest about it - I love the terrible fake fur on the hood, the bobbled hood, the faded orange's not trying to be ridiculous, and it does its job well. It's the kind of jacket you can pull on over a T to face a cold winter's night, stuff behind a speaker and party til dawn, and then retrieve and wrap yourself up in it, safe in the knowledge that it's done its job. And yes, I have tested that theory - though not enough recently.

Back to January's shows though, and will I wear it to LCM? Probably not. It's practical for cold tube platforms, and like my walking gear at my parents in the Lakes, knows its place. But then, who knows - this parka has been to stranger places before.

(with apologies for the terrible photo - amazingly there is not a photo in existence in the history of Facebook of me actually wearing this. Oh and also, hope some of you get the Thunderbirds ref in the title...)

***UPDATE*** Turns out I've written about this damn parka before. Ah well, enjoy the update and any inconsistencies in the story. The original post is here.