A trend or a staple?

Agnes-Ashe-silk-scarf-hand-painted-Valeria-pink-2Last month Vogue UK had an update piece on the Spring/Summer 2015 trends commenting on the presence of all kinds of scarves on the catwalks. So I had a quick click around to see what all the fuss was about and to use the Biblical expression ‘there’s nothing new under the sun’. I guess when you think about it a simple square or length of cloth is an elementary item of clothing and can be tied up into all types of apparel.

But as a ‘scarf’ you can wear a long piece draped artfully round the neck.

Or, a small square can be tied niftily to add a splash of colour.

Of course, draped or tied round your head is always an option.

Or, why not arrange it casually like a shawl or even try out the recent trend for belting your scarf across your body!

Naturally, some folks take styling more seriously than others and my mother took my daughter in hand at an early age!

And, finally the best use for a large scarf – wearing it as a sling for baby.



The ‘bleached’ filter aesthetic

The advert for Coach - photographer Steven Meisel, stylist Karl Templer and art director Fabien Baron.  Spring 2015 from Vogue Italia.
The advert for Coach – photographer Steven Meisel, stylist Karl Templer and art director Fabien Baron.
Spring 2015 from Vogue Italia.

Last week a couple of photo shoots caught my eye. One was this advert for ‘Coach’ which shows a professional shoot where the images have been treated to a post-production working in a very similar manner to filters on a camera app on your smart phone or the filters on Instagram.

Fashion feature for the Sunday Times 'Style' magazine. Photography and set design by Elena Rendina.
Fashion feature for the Sunday Times ‘Style’ magazine. Photography and set design by Elena Rendina.

And, the second was a shoot for a magazine which also produced images with a bleached out effect. Now using filters in photography is nothing new, but I was just wondering whether this recent shift in the look and feel of these fashion pictures, is an attempt to close the gap between the immediacy and youth of mobile social media uploads, and the more sedate rendering of a formal fashion magazine spread.

Below is my series of three images using Instagram. It shows the original (left) and a couple of standard filters – not exactly subtle when viewed on my phone let alone on a bigger screen.

And then, I thought I’d take the same image and try a little Photoshop manipulation to see if I could achieve a ‘bleached’ kind of look but not as harsh as the Instagram filters.

And finally, this is what I settled for. I like it as a picture, but it doesn’t give the most accurate representation of the scarf!

Added a warm filter layer.
Added a warm filter layer.

Pinning, painting, steaming

Agnes-Ashe-hand-painted-silk-chiffon-scarf-clupI have just finished and uploaded five painted chiffon scarves to my shop. Pink, navy, orange and turquoise, it all flits by so quickly as you click around the images, but altogether it is a month’s worth of work!

And, for all those folks reading this in the UK, tomorrow,
Friday 3rd October is ‘Buy British Day‘.

Double feature, double exposure – no wait, triple!

Agnes-|Ashe-Featured-UKHandmade-2014We have an expression here in England, I used to say it a lot when I lived in London “You wait half an hour for a bus and then three come along at once!”. Well, in this case three pieces of my work have just been featured in three different publications.

I applied to be in the UKHandmade Showcase for jewellery and accessories, and they chose this scarf to fit in with the overall muted colours of their spread. (First bus)

Over the weekend I was checking out the UKHandmade site and looked at the latest edition of their magazine – UKHandmade Magazine Autumn 2014 and, surprise, another of my scarves has been included on the inside front cover. (Second bus)

And, finally, arriving in the post this morning, was the Guild of Silk Painters Year Book 2014 with another pleasant surprise – another scarf, another photo. (Third bus).

Oh, yes and then there are the real London buses!


Sometimes it is black and white

NatDynamic2About four times a year I collect together my recent work and spend a day having my scarves modelled and photographed. Every time I’ve done this I have started out with a vague idea of what I wanted, but never clear or strong enough to get instant results. But of course, nothing is simply instant and now experience has shown me that it always takes two or three hours minimum before we start to achieve some worthwhile images.

All my product photographs are in colour as if you are going to buy a scarf you want to see what colour it is. But every now and then a shot just looks so much better in black and white.


A commission goes to the Summer Ball

ball dress full length silk chiffon
At the ball
(4m hand painted silk chiffon made up into a 1930s style, bias-cut, full-length evening dress)
Working to a tight brief can be a rewarding experience. I think the key to success is to help the client crystallize their ideas as early in the design process as possible. It may be they just have a particular colour palette in my mind and the rest is down to me or they may have a very clear idea of the finished piece.

In the past I have asked people to send me a mini mood board. That is simply a postcard with scraps of magazines, fabrics, dried petals or even feathers stuck to it, indicating the overall feel they want their silk to have.

More often though nowadays putting together a selection of pictures on Pinterest can work equally as well as a starting point. (I keep and add to several boards almost on a daily basis for visual inspiration). Online photos grouped together can certainly indicate a general, wished-for ‘look’, but care has to be taken if true colour matching is required as screen colours and printed colours rarely accurately reflect ‘real life’ fabric colours. And, in some cases the colours are so wildly inaccurate a blue could be called green! In reality this dress is a paler softer peach colour with pale pink highlights that shimmer as the chiffon glides over the pink silk lining – an effect not captured in a still photograph.

Inspiration versus just a little bit of copying

There is a fine line between work being inspired by another very similar piece even sometimes actually re-using the original, known in the art world as appropriation, and work that is simply an unacknowledged copy of the original, known in the real world as counterfeiting. In art there is the relationship between the idea or concept and the artist’s intent when using, or we should really say, re-using another’s work. But in the commercial world of design we rapidly descend into the mire of copyright infringement and counterfeiting.

From fashion supplement of the sunday paper, supplier and price included, but no text description of fabric or detail of finish.
From fashion supplement of the sunday paper, supplier and price included, but no text description of fabric or detail of finish.

I really liked this design for a skirt and have looked at photographs of both. The one on the left is an affordable version by Flying Wardrobe (£40) and the one on the right is the designer version by Stella Jean (£1908) – on sale at the moment for £815 at Saks Fifth Avenue. If you walked down the street in either one it would be difficult, with just a glance, to say which was which. Obviously, they do differ, the motifs on the expensive skirt look more subtle instead of very obviously and artificially floating on top as in the print of the cheaper skirt. For a ticket price of £1908 the fruit and leaves on the Stella Jean skirt are apparently “dusted with glittering sequins and beads for a magical final touch”, unfortunately you can’t see that effect in photographs.

The cheaper skirt is not a fake, but it has surely been inspired by the designer version. There is also a hint of inspiration from the 1950s perhaps this vintage skirt or similar caught both contemporary designers’attention.

vintage inspiration
Vintage 1950s dirndl skirt.

In the end I suppose we should just remember the expression ‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!’ Well, nobody really owns ideas do they?

Summer shows, summer colour

Krasimira Ivanova-Stayneva
Krasimira Ivanova-Stayneva from the University of East London, Graduate Fashion Week. Summer colours not over bright, but with energy.
The graduate and undergraduate shows have been in full swing with Graduate Fashion Week. Across the UK over 1000 fashion students have been showing off their design skills hoping to get noticed by a prestigious fashion house. Their work professionally modelled and professionally photographed can be found by clicking on the specific university fashion show on the Vogue page. The educational institutions are intriguingly sandwiched between some famous haute couture names. I suppose that is how it should be as today’s graduating students are tomorrow’s leading designers.

Richard Quinn
Richard Quinn from Central Saint Martins, Graduate Fashion Week.
Painterly floral skirt offset with midnight blue trim.

Bold patterns, delicate intricate fabrics and a smattering of the current favourite, painterly florals floated up and down the catwalks. There were numerous unusual, striking and even provocative outfits. Bright colours followed dark and gloomy palettes.

And, there was fun with some amusing, charming designs from Rebecca Rimmer graduating from the University of Central Lancashire. I particularly liked her work as I think that sometimes fashion can take itself a bit too seriously.

Rebecca Rimmer
Rebecca Rimmer from the University of Central Lancashire, Graduate Fashion Week.
Fun and the detailing of the black frilling flicks out from the yellow counterpart.

Finally, here’s a photo of the fantastic Linda Rodin (65 years young), reminding everybody that fashion is for all ages.

Linda Rodin
Linda Rodin modelling for the J.Crew 2012 campaign.

The Met Gala – delighting in difference

Previously known as the Costume Institute Gala, the Met Ball or Gala, is a fundraising occasion from the world of fashion. For those not into fashion this isn’t the opera Met, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York working with its own department – the Costume Institute (sorry if I’m teaching Grandma to suck eggs). It’s basically a big celeb fest with all the stars supposedly dressed to suit the year’s theme. This year’s theme was ‘White Tie and Decorations’ and linked to the new exhibition ‘Charles James Beyond Fashion’.

Press coverage of this event held earlier this week has been extensive, certainly here in the UK, and there are loads of photos all over the fashion blogs. But it is very sad how the professional fashion press love to give their ‘professional’ opinion in such a predictable and often unpleasant manner. More than one national newspaper and many of the magazines have presented their views in ‘the best versus the worst’ formula. Most amusing to me is seeing the same star/dress (they appear to morph into each other) being chosen simultaneously as both the best and the worst! I think one of the most appealing aspects of the blogging world, is that there is such a diverse spectrum of people challenging received opinion, delighting in difference.

emmy rossum
Emmy Rossum in Carolina Herrera photographed at the Met Gala.
Photograph from Vogue UK.

As somebody who gets asked to work to a brief, I have looked at many of the outfits and couldn’t see how half of them reference the work of Charles James and the ‘White Tie and Decorations’ theme. Reference does not mean copy, but between the stars and the designers, many designs were devoid of even a nod to the theme. Anyway, I thought Emmy Rossum wearing a ballgown by Carolina Herrera had it just right for a fresh, contemporary take on the glamour of Charles James.

Italian favourites – laughing, posing, eating

On a daily basis there are things that are uplifting and then there are things that irritate. And, sometimes those two responses meet in a head on crash. I don’t want to have a huge rant about this, but I couldn’t resist making a comment. Firstly, I love the women’s designs from the Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana. I love the rich, ornate fabrics, put together in irrepressible combinations and finished off with an expert attention to detail. Haute couture by its very nature isn’t mass market, but its long tentacles spread influence across the world of fashion through lesser, mass-produced merchandise embellished with a luxury brand name. As with much fashion retailing collections are supported by extensive, glossy ad campaigns. Last year’s Dolce & Gabbana’s campaign was a take on a vintage version of Italy, recycling the 1950s, über cool, stylish look. Sparkling models grouped together displaying a youthful, exuberant version of living. Fine. Gorgeous.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2013.
Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2013.

This year’s campaign’s launch photograph, not so fine. Beautiful people, beautiful clothes, beautifully shot, but one huge ERROR a female model is shown eating bread!! I mean let’s face it, it’s almost headline news to see a model eating, but blatantly eating white bread what is going on? Or, hang on, is this a deliberately provocative photograph? As beautiful as it all is, I just find seeing an industry infamous for the ‘size 0’ phenomenon parading stick thin models posed pretending to eat refined carbs a bit rich for my taste.

Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2014.
Dolce & Gabbana Spring 2014.

Do we think painterly florals are ‘Wearable Art’?

wearable art
Catalogue cover advertising ‘painterly florals’

Last week a mid-market catalogue arrived in the post with this cover page. Now the expression ‘Wearable Art’ is extremely flexible and let’s be honest a bit naff. Not for one minute am I saying that some art isn’t so beautiful you want more of it, for yourself, to remind you of seeing it. Most major art galleries and museums now have ‘the shop’ where you can buy all kinds of items emblazoned with reproductions of traditional, formal art. I have to admit to being so enamoured of Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ that I made myself a sunflowers silk top, but I never thought I was wearing his art. Art inspired, yes, but not art.

And, that is what I think about the rest of my wearable work, often art inspired, but perhaps not actually art. In the past, I have created art by painting silk where content has been an expression of a concept and knowing that the piece will be mounted and viewed flat on a wall has both broadened and constrained my approach. And, now we return, as so often, to the divide between art and craft where the flexible boundaries are bent by original intent.

thistle and dahlia design

As this year’s spring/summer fashion hits the stores, apparently one of the major trends in both fashion and interiors is ‘painterly florals’. I suppose this will be clothes made from floral textiles where the printed fabric designs were originally painted flowers with visible brushstrokes. I’m guessing it doesn’t mean cloth directly painted with flowers! Shame – as that would be such a boon to us silk painters who often actually paint flowers, sometimes called art, sometimes wearable, but always one-off images.

flowers and birds design
Work in progress – painterly flowers, birds and urns.
Will be wearable