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“Finding My Way From Hopper To Hoppen…!”

It’s all in the timing.

The past three events have proven it… beyond a shadow..

Read on.

All will be revealed… as it was for me.

The first, set the scene at the Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington Gardens. Mayfair was glazed in honey-hued sunshine, as I made my way to a private viewing of ‘The Lost Album’, an exhibiton of work by the late, great, actor, filmmaker, artist and photgrapher, Dennis Hopper.

I approached the distinctive, weather-mottled structure, distinctly-etched into the cognitive history of Arts…its dappled-grey exterior punctuated by billowing banners, raised aloft in celebration of the creative wonders within. Somewhat awash with excitement, I entered. Gentle scents of artisanal treats from ‘Atelier’, the RA cafe, wafted invitingly, roundabout me. Monochromatic Hopper-themed images emblazoned the space and I was already lost in them.

Ascending the wealth-of-winding staircase to the ‘Senate Room’, was, I mused, somewhat akin to being Scarlett O’Hara, swept up into the strapping arms of Rhett Butler and being swung across the threshold with sheer, Southern swagger! The highly-decorative ceilings, expansive windows and caramel-coloured, well-walked, wooden flooring, momentarily served to fuel my imaginings, but passionately-delivered and hugely informative pre-exhibiton talks soon brought me back into the room, with an ever-more piqued desire to discover what lay behind a new door, to the next.

That which ensued was a rhythmic chorus of movement, of guests from all walks of life. From the designer-clad to the street-stylers, to the suited-and-booted and beyond…a contemporary collection of attendees quickly became the, unknown, precursor and parallel, to the breadth of Hopper’s subject matter. In genteel clusters, they transitioned through an antechamber, where an expressive quote from the man, himself, distils the life-giving inspiration which the photographs had given to him. Standing to read and re-read, in order to familiarise myself with his ‘voice’, the human satellites had dwindled, only to have reformed, face-to-face, with encased black-and-white stills, along three sides of the perimeter of Room 1, lunch-queue-like, as if to devour the prints whole! The counter-cultural undercurrent running through the exhibiton, also seemed to be running through my veins, to the extent that I bypassed the following space and the viewing gallery and began my journey in the final room! As others observed, I perched upon banquettes in the midst of the floor and copied more of Dennis Hopper’s words, echoed upon the walls… In so doing, I began to assimilate the sense of freedom with which Hopper captured everything he saw.

From the quiet intimacy of boudoir shots, taken in L.A., to the ebullient evangelist series, caught, mid-sermon, so that you could almost hear the preaching… From gowned hippies at flower-power festivals, to Hells Angels, at rest and play, to the effortless cool of the ‘Fab Four of Art’, Warhol, Geldzahler, Hockney and Goodman…From ‘Soul Brother Number 1’, Mr James Brown, being fêted outside his Lear jet, to the picture-perfect Paul Newman, a living canvas upon which are cast charcoal shadows of wire and foliage… From the most visceral bullfighting in Mexico, to the stark irony of a welcome which warns you to ‘Keep Out’, in race-hate ravaged Montgomery, Alabama… to the power and poignancy of Martin Luther King speaking at Selma, no stone seems left unturned, no issue too raw, through which to manifest the truth of life and times in Dennis Hopper’s 60’s. Even the narrative of such minutiae as blistering paint and torn gauze, seem to represent revelatory realities behind the glamour of Hollywood and an increasing intolerance, bleeding through the thin veil of society. All the while, the intensity and detail are juxtaposed by an expansive, audiovisual shangri-la, of a road-scene from the co-created classic, ‘Easy Rider’….the constant stream, of which, engulfs you and baits your curiosity, as to Hopper’s unique vista, developed on-screen.

No wonder, then, that when invited to the B.F.I Southbank, to attend a private showing of the seminal indie-archetype, as part of the ‘Icon of Oblivion’ season, I was only too pleased to rsvp, without hesitation, and appease my inquisitiveness!

Second scene set, it was lights, camera, action in a robustly, modern venue, with a Southbank wrap-around…Yet this was no ordinary cinema… This was a veritable palace, doused in ruby-red, velvet curtains, with plush, matching chairs (the pile of which somehow moulded, ergonomically to the body, like a warm, cinematic cuddle!)… unobtrusive air-con…spacious legroom, (fantastic for me, being 5’9″..old money for approx 1m 80cm!)… and at 20:45 precisely, an impressive demonstration of sound, vision and performance got underway.

Having heard of, but never seen ‘Easy Rider’, I chose not to delve into research, preferring to rely on my R.A experience for a creative template. However, from the opening moments of South American drawl, to a dashing Peter Fonda (‘Wyatt’) in leathers and a hippie Hopper (‘Billy’), strands of Mexico, motorbiking and marginalised members of society, started to emerge.

A stream of consciousness unfurled. From Downtown L.A., wide-angled highway scenes on Harley Davidsons, begat pacy cut-aways, themselves, spliced with extreme-close-ups of twigs, only to be followed by contrasting, mountainous backdrops, which, in turn, were artistically peppered with silhouetted figures of our protagonists and an enigmatic hitchhiker, whom they had picked up, en route to New Orleans’ Mardi Gras!

The spectre of automation, hovering over tradition, was also accutely parallelled in a scene which sees Wyatt and Billy ride into a farm and park their bikes in a barn in the background, whereupon they clean their tyres, with a farrier/ farmhand, in the foreground, tending to horseshoes. Modernity and the notion of progress, seem to be replacing heritage, as swiftly as the Harleys.

Multi-sensory statements including the changing faces of fashion, music and spirituality, are vividly presented. Nothing is contrived. The script is sparsely written, to allow for its multi-faceted, sociopolitical meanings to deeply penetrate the psyche. With an energy of unadulterated art-in-response, undaunted by popular opinion and a short-sharp-shock of an ending, ‘Easy Rider’ struck me with extreme profoundity and was brilliantly complemented by the truly incredible ‘Lost Album’ exhibition.

In fact, it is the final ‘view-from-above’ shot, which would resonate even further with me, at the closing scene of my event-trilogy, that the ‘Photographers v Prostate Cancer’ private viewing and silent auction, in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, held at ‘The Michael Hoppen Gallery’, in the heart of Chelsea.

The late Dennis Hopper lost his battle against prostate cancer in 2010, as did my Father and so, by way of honouring his memory, I sought the chance to cover the evening…and what a moving, optimistic, enjoyable night it was! Photography spanned such genres as portraiture, landscape and reportage…decades, with such names as Hendrix and Yehudi Menuhin encapsulated alongside Keira Knightley….and such amazing photgraphers as Thomas Stanworth, Clive Barda and Rankin.

Hearty addresses were given by Lord Archer, himself a survivor of the male form of cancer and leading prostate surgeon, Professor Roger Kirby, both, of whom, were unrelenting in encouragement of men to proactively pursue GP check-ups, at the first sign of a problem, rather than leave the situation, until it might be too late to treat. Enthusiastic rallying was also made, to bid as much as possible, in order to raise as much as possible, so as to continue the fight against this ruthless disease. Notwithstanding the seriousness of the cause, the bright, white gallery was filled with an air of joy and hope…and by the end of the 3-hour event, an outstanding £17,600 had been raised.

I exited with a sense of peace, joy and exhileration, safe in the knowledge that whilst some, dear, loved ones might have lost their valiant battles against prostate cancer, such cheerful giving-in-action, would help to win the war.

I was then brought, full-circle, to ‘Easy Rider’s’ end camera angle, which finished high up in the sky, as if looking down upon the world…

I somehow felt as if Dennis and my Father were smiling and doing the same…

*********

Many thanks to:-

Simone Stewart at the Royal Academy, Victoria Humphrys at the B.F.I Southbank, Michael Hoppen, Richard Dunkley, Leena Patel, Team Prostate Cancer UK for your kindess and hospitality!

For more information on the above events at the R.A and B.F.I Southbank, organisations and to bid on remaining pictures in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, click the links below!

www.royalacademy.org.uk ~( @royalacademy ~ www.facebook.com/royalacademy )

www.bfi.org.uk ~ ( @bfi ~ www.facebook.com/BritishFilmInstitute )

Photographers v Prostate Cancer

www.prostatecanceruk.org

www.michaelhoppengallery.com

©AFROW2014-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

***

EMAIL EXCHANGE FROM LEENA PATEL (PCUK)

‘Thank you so much for doing this, means a lot that we have your support.’

LCM: THE HEAVENS OPEN AT TOPMAN’S AW2014 SHOW!

Dark. Dank. Devoid of sound.

Booooom!!!

The edgy power of John Cooper Clarke cuts through the ether…His weighty words, doused in a Lancashire accent, darting rhythmically about like vocal strobes.

The spoken word hits a crescendo, his last line held in the air, embraced by nothingness.

Within seconds, action ensues, as mist-for-lighting announces the dawn in Topman’s LCM showspace. An industrial location is revealed, with a concrete catwalk, dressed, intermittently, in pools of water and as deep, electronica replaces the solo, the first model, with already-drenched hair, turns the corner into this brick-clad world of ‘Wuthering Heights’, breaking the modern-day barrenness with an opening AW14 look.

Black literally set the tone, represented by substantial, single-breasted, over-sized, overcoats, such as the duffel, with a popular toggle-fastening and their double-breasted counterparts in waist-hitting jackets. PVC bonded to ‘notch’-lapels, patch-pockets and block-hems, added textural impact to the round-shouldered silhouettes, which skulked the pass. ‘Wet-look’ variations-on-the-theme would be presented in high-shine, lacquered-leather separates, impressively accentuating apparel in shape, form and line, whilst also defining details through such simple, yet effective, techniques as piping. Within this section, the colour propostions mirrored the autumnal palettes of moss-meadow green and mushroom, with red-based plaid shirts and tassled jackets (echoing the cowboy-themed SS14 motif), acting as the flash of sunlight, breaking free upon the moorland.  Knitwear was rugged. At times, no-nonsense, with exaggerated, chin-cupping roll-necks, in open, cable and honeycomb weaves, resembling stylised fishing-nets…At others, given lozenge-beading and bouclé, to revisit pops-of-colour and to add surface characteristics.

Yet stronger spectral statements flooded onto sumptuous, full-length coats, in blazing orange, with matching, ‘jazzed-up’, ‘zoot-suit-style’ pants, voluminous and billowing against the strength-of-momentum with which the models strode through the venue. The pieces were also to be reprised in baby-blue pastel, a further homage to the tonal story, which has played a starring role in the sartorial spring/summer repertoire of many a design-house. The next seasonal trend-transition to be encapsulated, was the see-through mac, of long and short dimensions. Layered alongside these key advents into eye-catching shades, they complemented the story, with a revealing twist. Signature tailoring, for which the brand has become so higly-recognised and revered, featured in juxtaposed fashion to the drop-shouldered, full-pant ensembles, instead shown as straight-lined, straight-legged, suiting, in shipyard-slate and charcoal-greys, ever-echoing the ‘working-men’ of the past.

With the last look of black roll-neck, oversized, three-quarter length, matt, PVC coat and glistening liquid-look trousers, the Topman AW14 Collection had brought us to the end of our tour-of-the moors….or so it seemed…The last hurrah was an indoor downpour of rain, which fell upon the models as they walked the finale! It was an other-worldly end to a show which was typical of a collaboration, headed by the ebullient Gordon Richardson, and backed by an amazing design-team who know exactly who their ‘man’ is. To me, he’s a powerful, passionate, hardworking, salt-of-the-earth, modern-day Heathcliff and he wants his clothing to express that!

In the inimitable words of John Cooper Clark, ‘There’s apparel, Jim, but not as we know it!’* and when this distinctive collection hits the stores, you’ll see exactly what he means!

  http://www.londoncollections.co.uk/ ~ http://www.topman.com/

*Excerpt from ‘TOP MAN’ by John Cooper Clark

©AFROW2014-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

SPOTLIGHT ON: ‘THE 24 HOUR PLAYS CELEBRITY GALA’… A SENTIMENTAL RETROSPECTIVE!

Dearest Afrow-Family, as I compose this, my newest post, somewhere, there is ensuing, a hive-of-activity, a buzz-of-excitement, a thrill-of-the-theatrical-chase! The location for the epicentre of this explosion-of-anticipation, is one of the cornerstone venues of the UK, if not global, Theatrical Arts arena, namely, our beloved Old Vic!

Yes, this weekend, will see well-known faces of stage and screen, join artistic forces and flex creative muscles with a tantalisingly team of writers and directors, themselves amongst the industry’s finest emerging and established talent, to produce ‘The 24-Hour Plays’, one of the most exhilerating, multi-discplinary rollercoaster-rides upon the Cultural/Creative Arts mustsee list!

Past years have seen a plethora of stars, old-guard and new, showcasing the best of edge-of-your-seat collaborations, somewhat metamorphosing into a combined vanguard, for the elemental nature of stagecraft. Such names as Josh Hartnett, he of the melifluously Robeson-esque tones, Sally Phillips, she of the razor-sharp witticims and Mackenzie Crook, he, the rascal of genuis comedy-timing, have deigned to take the bull that is the ’24 Hour Plays’ event, by the horns and subdue it over an evening of live performances, so palpably immediate, as to be ignited by raw flint!

This year’s participants, who will include the indefatigable, Clive Rowe, the understatedly sublime Tom Ellis, the creative powerhouse, who is Catherine Tate and a rising-star, with quite the most captivating screen-presence, Douglas Booth. The list of celebrities does not tail off and, consistent with the unpredictability of the process, will surely serve-up some of the most delightfully unusual casting combinations that the audience in-attendance might ever have the pleasure to see!

To compound the hub-bub, akin to that of a Hollywood premiere of a hotly-tipped, award-winning movie, is the fact that this year also marks the 10th Anniversary of the fundraising gala. No pressure then!

So what if, as an actor, you have to sit in a room with a prop, share it with other new faces, except that they’re not new faces, because you already know who they are, having racked-up, between them, a C.V the likes of which you couldn’t dream-up?! So what if, as a writer, you are to take that prop and reversecram a vignette, which will, hopefully, interlock seamlessly with all of the other five scenes?! What of the fact that you have to pull an all-nighter, in order to release said work-of-written-art?! Or even that there’ll barely be enough time for writer’s block?! Who cares, that it is all to be nursed-and-rehearsed, then presented infront of a kindly-donating audience of savvy theatre-going witnesses?! Oh and why should it be in-the-slightest bit bothersome that the Social Media-Readers can ride, side-saddle, with every second of progress?!

Forming, storming, norming and performing in a 24 Hour group-dynamic, for one night only?!

NO. PRESSURE. AT. ALL!!!!!

Well, having attended, myself, I know that it was pressure-filled, but that, evidently, this was the kind of pressure which caused the artists to yield control, dig deeper than ever before and share the journey towards the birth of theatre-like-no-other! I had the privelege of seeing the entire arc-of-vision, from backstage tours which allowed we band-of-happy-guests to see the performers working through scripts on their own, as well as being face-to-face with the very boards upon which so many greats had trodden, and which would soon become the home of skilfully-crafted creativity, with an intensely off-the-cuff edge!

The very year I attended, I remember walking with other guests, extremely gingerly, past an actor, himself, sat staring into the distance, as if in his own incredible world of moment-to-moment brainfreeze, interspersed with absolute recognition of his lines! It was, right then, that the realisation dawned upon me of being an honoured party to the condensed version of this ‘artist’s way’… and although, prior to the day, I had been enthusiastic about what was to burst its way into my psyche, it rapidly stepped onto my mental-plane and took subsequent flight!

My chosen outfit of a floor-length, champagne-coloured, spaghetti-strapped, ballerina dress, with draped bodice and an acreage of tulle skirt, had also flown all the way from New York City, and was accompanied by a matching pair of crystal-embellished high-heels, an iridescent, sheer pashmina, matching oyster-shell satin purse, with gold chain, a selection of pearl jewellery and a shower of Coco Chanel! My hair was gently encouraged into a delicate chignon, with a few wisps and tendrils, teased for texture… My chosen transport? A good old London Cab!

The show, itself, was…well…out-of-this-world! Filled with emotional highs, lows and turning points…and that was just the introductionEvery excited synonym, possible, sat upon the lips of the adrenaline-fuelled audience. We all knew what the rules of the ‘game’ were, but the improvisational quality of the experience meant that all of the rules had been jettisoned out of the fourth-wall window.. We all knew that too! No longer were we ‘audience members’, but, fellow participants.. Co-creative-cathodes, emitting empathetic energy! Thus, when one actress forgot her lines, looked out at us, declared, ‘Oh, I can’t do this’ and proceeded to retrieve the script and read, verbatim, through the scene, she received rapturous applause, not, as one might think, because she had been defeated, in any way, shape or form…but because she had made an absolute triumph of the moment, and enjoyed the freedom of being able to do so! In this context, it all made utter sense and gave rise to a certain bonding, such as I haven’t experienced in quite the same way since. The post-show party was an entirely relaxed, yet, highly elegant affair, with artists and guests mingling and dancing away until way into the wee, small post-24-hours hours!! I have no doubt that 10th anniversary celebration of this uniquely glitzy gala will be even more impressive, especially being held at the luxurious 5* Rosewood Hotel!

 Whilst embraced by glamour, The 24 Hour Plays model, is an ingenius medium, through which we are blessed to see expressed, what I believe to be at the foundation of all great experiences… At the root, is the courage to fly-by-the-seat-of-one’s-pants (be they of the exquisite YSL cigarette-silhouette, or a nonchalantly loose-legged, denim-flared DKNY variety), and to have faith that, not only is there potential for all of those experiences to come together for the good, but also, that these combined episodes, en-route, will contribute to an amazing ‘mosaic-of-moments’, which we, with true feeling, can all call ‘real life’.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to support The Old Vic by snapping up one of the few remaining tickets, getting your best bib ‘n’ tucker on and going… Black Cab, optional, of course!

©AFROW2013-2019  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

http://www.oldvictheatre.com/the-24-hour-plays-celebrity-gala/

www.rosewoodhotels.com

Welcome to the ‘Maison Bentley Style’ Blog Party!

BLOGGERS-OF-THE-WORRRRRRLD…UNITE!!!

‘Tis the season to show the social-media-cognoscenti how to get-the-pardy-starded!

I’m AFROW:BLACK GIRL ON THE FRONT ROW…a wiley-wordsmith and ardent-aficionado of all-things creative!

A trip to my blog will find you meandering through the streets of art, fashion, music, poetry and so much more

So don’t bother about a map, because, here, it’s all about getting lost-in-lucid-lines and navigating-in-narrative, via an eternally-open-heart and the images of the inner-mind!

Have a fanTAStic time…and remember, there’s always a seat for you at AFROW’s!

Pardy-hardy kids!

xAx

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

‘STYLE HAPPENS SOONER, ON ‘LATER’!’

We have a lot to thank Mr Jools Holland for! Not only does he bring us the most eclectic of live, global musical offerings, from established and emerging artists, alike, but with them, come a plethora of stand-out, sartorial selections, from the style-spectrum! For instance, you’re as likely to see and hear the hauntingly melodic, ‘Amadou and Mariam’, bedecked in bold, traditional Malian dress, playing in the-round, as you are the infectiously-anthemic synth-pop of ‘M.T’, in their eponymous multi-coloured, tie-dye-tees!

Case-in-point has to be a recent episode, featuring, Goldfrapp, James Blake, Franz Ferdinand and Kanye West!

 Backlit in a pure-gold aura and engulfed, full-length, in a column of black chiffon-drapery, the ever-ethereal, Alison Goldfrapp, held the audience, spell-bound with her melifluously reed-like, vocal perfomance of ‘Annabel’. The timeless gown, simultaneously, captured her effortless, idiosyncratic grace, whilst also paying homage to SS14 runways, with its pintuck-peephole bodice.

The unnervingly-talented James Blake delivered an equally-classy rendition of the stunning ‘Retrograde’. With hair, windswept, in defiance of the stillness generated by his unfolding-wall-of sound, he was an example of understated style, surrendering to sonic substance. In a ‘1-800 Dinosaur’ T-shirt-and-jeans ensemble, Blake also seamlessly combined product-placement of his new record label and a pinpoint performance, with ease and flair.

In stark juxtaposition, was the riff and quiff-friendly, Franz Ferdinand. Already well-known for their unique fashion statements including the sharpest of Savile Row-silhouettes, the band showed that they had lost none of their couture-creativity, teaming the gusto of, lyrically, ‘right words’ with the ‘right action’ of donning fashion-forward Hawaiian-prints with rock-a-billy attitude! Very D-Squared-2!

Kanye West’s performance of ‘Bound To’, with the outstanding ‘Uncle’ Charlie (Gap Band) Wilson, more-than-referenced the fact that he had graduated, magna-cum-laude, from the School-of-FROW! The ‘College Drop-Out’ star stamped his artistic authority on the programme, with all of the swagger for which we have come to love him. Punctuating the pitch-black studio with dramatic spotlighting, which served to accente his choice of a laid-back, layering trend, a play-on-neutrals of black ribbed-tee and low-slung, loose-fit, trousers, was complemented by a three-quarter length, khaki parka and desert boots in a pop-of-camel-colour. The entire look was topped-off by the trademark, heavy-gold, diamond-set, belcher-link chain, de rigueur for ushering in SS14’s metallic forecast! Uncle Charlie was certainly in-the-house, with his own, distinguished, take on double-denim, accessorizing with shades, as blacked-out as the windows on a one-off, customised Bugatti! It was, undoubtedly, a fitting backdrop to the soaring, silky-smooth, vocal-runs and devastating musical prowess of such a living-legend of U.S Funk/R&B!

So, the next time you tune into ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, keep an eye out for a new class of ‘artist-interpretations’… I think you’ll find that, on closer inspection, they are, in fact, rather more original!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Creative Arts go OFF-the-BEAT-en track!

All roads led to ‘The Oval Space’, in Bethnal Green, last night, for one of the most anticipated of multi-media mash-ups on the Creative-Arts Calendar, namely, ‘The Shoreditch Fashion Show 2013’! You might remember that I was more-than-a-tad excited at the prospect of attending the event, which was presented by ‘öffbeat’, the Arts lifestyle brand… Well, it was, indeed, an extraordinary display of, what I happen to believe, makes the power of creative-collaboration so undeniably potent.

The moment I entered into the behemoth of this, formerly-derelict, space, pregnant with potential, I immediately sensed a synchronicity between the throbbing baseline, which was disseminating through my central nervous system and the  contractions of imminent, fashion-brand-births! I also found myself marvelling at just how perfectly-balanced a venue it was, being, at once, expansive, with enough room in which to throw and catch shapes, a-plenty, whilst also intimate enough to accommodate the collective energy of a collaborative congregation.

The vibe was rich and distinct. People from all walks-of-life rubbed shoulders, as they shook to the dynamic DJ-grooves and pressed palms with artists and designers, alike, in congratulatory exuberance. However, just like the beats, the meet-and-greets didn’t stop, for these everday-people embraced one another, as well as opportunities to form newfound fashion-friendships.

Co-existing under this banner of ’emergent ambience’ were starkly-contrasting Art-forms. In one corner was housed a formidable frieze of stylised character-outlines, created by self-confessed Narnia-resident, Dom&Ink! These especially-conceived, ebullient images were oft-surrounded by admirers, yet, things took a definite turn, when the quiff-sporting illustrator, and author of ‘Map Of My Heart’, appeared, and encouraged the observers to colour them in! Around the corner, more exceptional Art took my breath away. Wandering guests were bathed in diffused, iridescent light, emitted from the impressive installations, at floor and eye-levels, of SunYin Xiaowen and Aphra Shezma. Others stood, face-to-face, with equally-stunning, Fine Art offerings from Linda Cieniawska, Charlotte Osbourne and Gwyneth Fugard. As I passed by the intermittent onlookers, it was as if their inner energies were mirrored by the pieces, in such a way as to become ‘human glowsticks’ and ‘living wallpaper’ and I recall feeling truly priveleged, not only to witness the effect of such private moments, being experienced in public, but to also be an integral part of appreciating the exquisite talent.

As time grew nearer to the presentation of fashion, which was so on-edge, it felt as if someone were scraping their fingernails down a blackboard, excitement was fuelled by singing sensation, Vince Kidd. All but prowling-the-platform, he delivered Otis-Redding-raw vocals, with a similarly-seasoned prowess, speaking-to-the-deeps with his soul-inspired spin, on life, love and all that lies between. After taking the audience upon a heartfelt journey, Kidd made his exit, stage left, to whoops of delight and enthusiastic applause, leaving the see-through screen to became the backdrop behind which each model would wait, before taking to the runway.

In a bid to further immerse myself into the experience, yours truly took to her second home (for which I didn’t need to find five percent!), the Frow! Suddenly, silhouettes of each collection were backlit-to-perfection, establishing the effect of a ‘fashion-fourth-wall’, as well as indicating that, tonight, something was coming, which was better than good! However, this separation was soon to be aurally removed by bespoke, live collaborations with up-and-coming musicians who, from the stature of their performances, are bound to make increasingly influential impacts in each of their respective genres. First-up, was the amazing singer, Lydia Baylis, who tore-away-the-veil, with a unique set of beautifully-accompanied, sultry, acoustic-folk. Hot-on-her-heels, and before anyone had time to settle into the still, harmonic haze, ‘Kill It Kid’ stepped up and totally smashed the divide, juxtaposing the, previously, gentle mood, with an awesome repertoire of sonic explosions! Both styles brilliantly served to complement the essence of each designer-aesthetic and we were treated to a creative-clash which would put the SS14 ‘print-clash’ trend of any well-known fashion-house to shame!

Models with raked-back, ‘just-got-out-of-bed’ Batiste-hair and fashion-forward, metallic make-up were bedecked in sublime, sheer pieces from the avant-garde world of Marcelo Yarussi, the deftest of twists on masterful, digitally-printed garments, designed by Nicolas Wirth and the cool creations of blank-canvas-white, high-end futurism of London College of Fashion Graduate, Isabell Yalda Hellysaz. The fêted, power-house-of-a design institution was also showcased via the stand-out, all-black, structural apparel from Maria Zhminko, the intriguing, open-weave, cage-like, riffs on body-con from design-duo, Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson and the decadent columns-of-kaftans, with concentrated print-formations, from the joint-genius-pairing of Christina Tiran and Victoria Rowley.

As the showlights faded, such superstar-DJ names as the irrepressible ‘Bill & Will’, ‘Shivas Regal’, the A&R-astute founder of Tigermilk Recordings, and idiosyncratic rhythm-maker, ‘Mculo’, were heralded to take-to-the-decks and storm-the soundsystem! With a two-step, here, and a head-nod, there, (but, sadly, before the anticipated arrival of the superb Rufio Summers), I was ready to bow-out gracefully and wind my way through a London-town which, once again, felt like a haven for burgeoning, undiscovered artistry. In fact, I can’t remember a night where so many apparent-strangers were apt-for-sharing, participating and co-creating such a ‘moment’ in time.. It just goes to show that there is a real fashion-fellowship, of sorts, doing-away with the out-dated image of an industry which is, supposedly, replete with back-biting, where only the strong survive, and is redefining it, as one filled with opportunities to go beyond disciplines or regions and traverse brand new terrain! Of course, no industry is perfect, but the ethos behind such events as ‘The Shoreditch Fashion Show’, promotes the commercial as a facilitative route and supportsystem to creativity, whilst maintaining, without compromise, the core integrity of the energy-source from which successful collaboration grows.

So, my deepest gratitude goes out to öffbeat, for providing me with with the chance to be part of such a unique vibe. Further congratulations go out to all other sponsors/ affiliates, both front and back-of-house, involved in delivering this fantastic gathering. Last night was everything it promised to be, an interactive celebration of multi-media expression, par excellence, filled with extraordinary and inspiring examples of Creative-Arts-at-their-best and I cannot recommend ‘The Shoreditch Fashion Show’ to you, highly enough! Neither can I wait to see how öffbeat and partners focus-pull their combined-skills to shine new lights on rising-stars of parallel creative-platforms in 2014!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

***

TWITTER-TESTIMONIALS FROM ‘VIVID FASHION GROUP’ (@VIVIDFashionGrp)

‘One of the most descriptive and all together best blogs we have read!! @A_F_R_O_W please review all our events!’

‘…just re-read your blog on the show, it’s such an honour that what we created came across to you. Thank you for your words x’

MFW: I’M READY-TO-WEAR ‘ERMANNO SCERVINO’!

Picture it…

…Backstage, models sit calmly, hair being tailcomb-teased, face being made exquisitely, Terry Barber-ready, whilst front-of-house, conversations clatter like talking-typewriters! Suddenly, a cry of ‘EHH-OHH!‘, loosely-translated as ‘SILENCE!‘, splits the air into pin-drop reverence…

 Now, imagine a host of supermodels, amongst them Alek Wek and Karolina Kurkova, leading a runway of risng-stars, with the aplomb of their 90’s predecessors and you’ll understand the significance of the Scervino brand. If you even dared to blink, you would have missed an almost endless-string of timeless looks, worthy of their own reference encyclopaedia! Whilst we had seen the ‘Pastel/ Metallic/ Midi-Maxi Length/ Column-Hourglass/ Embellishment’ stories, favoured in the vestments of fellow MFW designers, Scervino interpretations seemed to renew them.

For example, skirts took on ice-skater-like proportions, pleats were more than couture-concertinas, reframed as flitting-gaudets… and embellishments, whilst beaded and embroidered, were off-set in position and oriental in theme. Metallics were not simply silver, but gunmetal and gave a more experimental edge when used in conjunction with the traditional silhouettes. Yes, lemon, taupe, mint, black and white all featured, however, peacock added strength to blues and something in the way that peach was colour-blocked, gave it the power of a full-on-primary. Fabrics perused PVC, took a departure into denim, suede injected a new joie-de-vivre to the vestments and silk-taffetta was accompanied by satin-trim, which was a signpost, not only  to the superb eye-for-detail on display, but also an attention-to-distinctive-detail.

It is with this in mind, that I take you on a whistle-stop tour of the most unique moments.

PVC won my ‘Return-of-the-mac’ prize for being a funky piece of outerwear, printed in lemon-hued houndstooth! The award for ‘Best Use of Embellishment’ was a split decision between a taupe, tailored-jacket with cluster-beading, set on the inner-edge of the tuxedo-collar (which, incidentally, did win ‘Best Placement of Embellishment’), and a stunning gun-metal-coloured sweater, with a silver-bead-encrusted accent around the crew-neck.

The ‘Prize-for-Prettiest-Pleating’ had to go to an amazing, chalk-white, column-dress, gathered from shoulder-to-waistline, with its pleating gathering pace to the hem…all cunningly-accompanied by a thigh-high split, for epic Grecian glamour! Coming in a close second, was a black, hour-glass gown with crystal-embellished gaudets at the tail.

‘Best Floral Motif’ was shared (I know, I know, there should only be one winner..but, my made-up competition, my rules!)…. The two stand-out creations were an oriental spray-of-orchids, perfectly-placed upon a strapless peach dress, in a diagonal formation, from empire-to-hemline and a peacock-blue, fitted, scoop-necked, mini-dress, with florals, off-set, on either side of the bodice, spilling into the skirt. ‘Best New Silhouette’ was a shoe-in, for a black, lace, nehru-collared cape with asymetric-opening and credit for ‘Best New Fabric’ could only go to……DENIM!!! The ink-blue offerings of v-necked crop-top, short-pant and denim-lined, white jacket were utterly irresistible!

We’re nearly there now, so, drum-roll please… because it’s time for ‘Best-In-Fashion-Show’…….which was…wait for it……the glorious  Jackie-O-inspired, midi-length, silk dress and collarless-overcoat ensemble, both in that lightning white, effortlessly worn by the magnificent Alek Wek!!!! Congratulations!!!

So, there you have it, fashion-friends….A  whirlwind tour of a tour-de-force collection, which gave us a collation of attire, reprising the traditional with a directional twist.

It’s safe to say that I absolutely adored what I saw…and if you want to reconnect with looks of vintage-modernity, then the designs of Ermanno Scervino are a great place to start!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

MFW DAY 3 OFFERS COOL SOPHISTICATION FROM BLUMARINE…

If, like me, you are an aficionado of the home-makeover/ home-build genre of t.v. programmes, then you will already be aware of a clever little design-touch of adding mirrors, to give the illusion of increased space…

Gucci employed the method upon their catwalk and Blumarine went that extra mile, in constructing a floor-to-ceiling, mirrored wall, which subsequently made the low-lit, u-shaped runway look as if it went on for miles!!!

‘Sophistication’ was the buzzword, with a little bit of ‘edge’ thrown in to keep things cool! What better musical metaphor to use for the show, than to feed the mesmerising voice of Moloko’s Roisin Murphy into the vast space.

The stories came thick-and-fast, beginning with razor-sharp tailoring to be found in calf-length cut-offs, body-skimming skirts and a striking white jacket with slash, asymetric-opening and deftly-defined shoulders. (Now, we are not talking about power-dressing of the 80’s, here, more  an understated authority of the noughties, which we can all work!). The neutral black companion was heralded by a ‘sheer’ theme, depicted in delicate, cap-sleeved tops, apt for summer days, and a neat, leather, knee-length pencil-skirt, perfect for a balmy evening. Nigh-on floor-sweeping dresses, both sleeved and sleeveless, were luxurious, being débuted into the collection, with the contrasting white, floral, motifs overlaid onto the fine fabric.

Indeed, this was a neat segway into the ’embellishment’ element of the show, which saw the first inclusion in any presentation, thus far, of a butterfly, on a sparkling, knee-length dress. Later on, the design would be developed into a ‘metallic’ rendition with sequinned wings, strikingly-placed upon gossamer-gowns, to retain a lady’s modesty! Another welcome thematic entrée to Milan Fashion Week was the ‘polka-dot’, depicted in silver and, once more, overlaid to impressive effect, onto a black maxi-dress. This led into a stunning column-creation, featuring a fish-tail hemline, which was wittily accentuated by fastidiously-fastened appliqué in fabric, cut to mimic scales.

However, an iridescent-gold, knee-length dress, styled with a darkly-hued, tailored jacket, served to retain the harmonic adaptability of the trends, whilst also underpinning an enticing design-edge. This mood matured through an unusual, ‘paint-splash’ print, in red, white and black and would mark the beginning of a carefree, celebration of colour, revealed in a burnt umber, scoop-necked number and a garment so dazzlingly yellow that, aside its fitted, silk nature, you would believe it to, literally, be a sun-dress !

The finale wowed with sequin-studded bodices, which, when reprised against the sheer-black backdrop, would fill the pass with walking constellations and the ravishing, white feathered variation which followed, gave a goodbye-embrace to embellishent.

In all, the collection embodied inspired designs of accomplished dexterity, with looks as suited to the red-carpet, as they are the edgiest of streets-scenes…and if that sounds like you, then ‘BLUMARINE’ might just be the next label you put down, in capitals, upon your show-shopping list!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

DSQUARED2: IN CELEBRATION OF THE MOVIE-STAR SIREN!

As a designer, you know that a show has gone down a storm when howling whoops of delight are audible from both back and  front-of-house!! After today’s Dsquared2 show, the identical-twin design-team of Dean and Dan Caten must surely be shouting the loudest!

Forget that the event was running half-an-hour behind the scheduled time, the buzz of anticipation from an audience, the size of which was comparable to the Burberry attendance, was palpable!

With a brassy blast of Mambo Kings announcing the imminent arrival of some spectacular style, we knew that we were being set up to depart upon the fashion-ride of our lives!!

First up, was a splash of showroom footage, in which models were either being fitted and dressed in the collection, or were dancing with the designers, themselves, in a tiki-hut!! The brief glimpse served as a tantalising teaser to what was to follow….which was a pitch black auditorium and a pinched, female voice, with an American accent, regaling the finer points of elegance, as if delivering a Public Service Announcement!!!

Then BANG! With the camera done, it was lights and action, accompanied by Elvis Presley entering the building, as ‘Bossa Nova’ was siphoned through the super-speakers!! The scene was set with an elongated tiki-bar, complete with bow-tied bartender, a stretch of runway which extended like a record-breaking length of taffy and models, ready in their first looks, to powerwalk the pass!

Oh and what looks they were! The Dsquared2 woman positively oozed Sophia Loren-allure, with lashings of Brigitte Bardot-boldness and Diahann Carroll- decadence! The story started with bustier/ corset- bikinis, harking back to the moulded shapes of lingerie and beachwear of yesteryear, thus illustrated by a blonde bombshell-of-a-model, sauntering along the runway in the opening stark, white two-piece. Variations of the ‘new-vintage’ look were presented in darling degradé blush-pink-on-white and burning-yellow ochre colour combinations, with maximum impact being achieved through a punch of pop-art-turquoise stilletoes and the additional back-combed hair and wing-tipped make-up, courtesy of Sam McKnight and Charlotte Tilbury, respectively!

As the audience surrendered to subsequent models owning the catwalk, the retro theme was developed by the introduction of more traditional two-piece bathing suit ensembles comprised of bra-tops and full-briefs. One such example was in (virtually flourescent) purple/orange print, teamed with a jauntily-sported, single-breasted jacket, the fabric of which would be reprised in a natty black-belted jumpsuit. Animal print was also popular and featured on both string and bustier-bikinis and as a, wonderfully worked, mélange of patchwork-print.

Dsquared2-daywear encouraged the play-on-white, by incorporating capri pants, cotton blouses and a sartorially-stunning, single-breasted jacket. Texture was developed by way of toffee-toned leather shorts and an adorable three-quarter length, over-sized coat in coffee-brown. Black-and-white bouclé appeared in jacket and bustier-bikini form, with sequins denoting their take on the knee-length skirt.

When it came to dresses, we were in for absolute treats, with a selected off-the-shoulder gowns of the multi-print, kneelength, puffball variety, in a red/black/white palette and in a devastating midnight-black, fit-and-flare silhouette. Each piece was laden with acres of tulle underskirting, floating like flotsam on the ocean and, of course, had handbags to match! Of particular note, was the quirky usage of fabric paillettes in yellow/ taupe-tones, which caused the garment to look somewhat feather-like, yet distinctly attractive and extremely fun to wear!

For the sunset hours, composed relaxation was in order, with black silk blousons and bell-sleeved tunics paired with classic white, high-legged shorts. Notwithstanding, the chance to incorporate colour was never missed and the reprise of the blouson, a dream in tangerine, was confidently  off-set by highly mirror-embellished shorts. The journey continued with an ivory collarless jacket, scattered with gold beads from top-to-tail and the metallic trend evolved into a shimmering silver adaptation of the three-quarter coat, styled with a matching, Doris Day-èsque ‘pill-box’ hat!

It was left to the bikini-story to bring the show to a dynamic close, with a Barbarella-worthy black, cut-away, criss-cross swimsuit, building to a climax of a black-on-white bustier-bikini, which was the only example to have a ‘creeping-vine’ motif.

The finale vignette of the entire model line-up, topped-off a show which would, quite frankly, give the Punchdrunk site-specific theatre company a run for their money!!! Once Dean and Dan had, themselves, walked the measure of the catwalk to rapturous applause, the ride-of-a-show was over..

No matter what the start-time, this triumphant collection was above-andbeyond worth the wait!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

MASONBENTLEY: STYLE AND SUBSTANCE FROM A UNIQUE FASHION-DUO….

Barely have the curtains on a most resplendent London Fashion Week come down, than my head has been turned by the wondrous collection from design-duo, MasonBentley!

The brainchild of Anna Mason and Kate Bentley, the eponymous label was birthed in 2012, with the objective of ‘carefully selecting and sourcing vintage clothes to be re-loved for the modern wardrobe’*. The popularity of their brand of one-off pieces left savvy consumers wanting more and to that end, an idiosyncratic capsule collection was created in order to satisfy the rumbling style-stomachs of their ever-increasing number of supporters!

You need only peruse their blog to notice how much they are relishing every precious moment upon, what they call, ‘the journey’, as well as to quickly recognise how seamlessly their respective talents combine. Delve deeper into the collection and I’m sure you’ll agree with me that they are totally in the fast lane to exponential success!

Their design aesthetic is effortless glamour, which you can expect to see represented in timeless separates such as their ‘Harper’ blouse, alluring, both in white or black cotton-broderie anglaise fabric. Add the ‘Deneuve’ collar, for a perfect complement to the leg o’mutton-style sleeve and evoke a look with inflections of ‘elegant equestrian’. The ‘Hepburn’ skirt and ‘Audrey’ top are aptly- named, offering than a nod to the ‘Roman Holiday’-spirit of Audrey, herself (after she had the elfin cut!) and the beige/ ivory and black options make for ultimate versatility in the wardrobe of any woman.

Let it be known that MasonBentley have a delightful way with detailing but do not shy away from colour or print either! Such examples can be found in the range, from the ivory piping in the aforementioned ‘Audrey’ top and the precisely-positioned black horizontal stripes on the ‘Billie’ dress, to the ‘Dante Blouse & Belt’, the ‘Romy’ dress and the ‘Birkin’ bikini, flamboyantly adorned with ‘Royal Peacock Print’ in grey, fuschia pink and teal colourways, respectively.

A House signature must be their ‘trans-seasonal’* silk/ crepe-de-chine blouses, such as the ‘Macaroon’, available in shades of baby pink and ivory and with silhouettes suited to all body shapes, featuring flattering butterfly sleeves, as on the grey ‘Trilby’ blouse.

Prices ranging from £120** for the Deneuve collar, through to £340** for the silk/ crepe-de-chine blouses, competitvely reflect the high-quality of design and execution, however, I believe that in purchasing a garment from MasonBentley, you are getting so much more… The creative journey which we are all invited to share and to which we can all respond through their blog, and the love which clearly goes into manifesting a priceless, ‘total experience‘ are at the root of this rare gem of a design-partnership…

Long may the ever-increasing success of the MasonBentley legend continue!

©AFROW2013-2019 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

*Quotes from masonbentleystyle.com   **Prices correct at time of publication, from masonbentleystyle.com