J.Crew Previews New Collection ahead of its Upcoming UK Opening

I am a great fan of J.Crew, so as soon as I heard that they were having a flash pop-up store event in London on the 24 and 25 May, I immediately put it in my diary. J.Crew’s highly anticipated opening in the UK in autumn 2013 was made even more exciting by the subtle but nonetheless definite hype of this event, which took place at the Western Transit Shed, an eclectically dressed urban warehouse conversion just a stone’s throw from King’s Cross Station,  to sample J.Crew’s new range, take a few snaps and generally be a bit nosey.JCrew 003JCrew 006JCrew 012JCrew 011

On display were a dozen or so key looks from the upcoming Fall/Winter collection. The most prominent new trends were woolly print-on-prints, beautifully intricate gem-filled jewellery, Aztec prints, embroidery on clean-cut heavy-weight blazers, and brocade and geometric patterns. The exquisite wool and cashmere pieces modelled clean and simple lines, and were well complemented by the busy Central American prints. For men, there were work boots, puff coats and furry hoodies.JCrew 010JCrew 001JCrew 002JCrew 009

The only pieces actually available for sale were their classic cashmeres – in a small selection of colours.  They also provided personalised monogramming, which won’t be available on the UK website, and customised, handmade collars to be worn on t-shirts. Sadly, they had run out of my size in the navy cashmere, but I’ll make sure to buy it online and perhaps try my luck and have it monogrammed at the Regent Street shop once it opens in the autumn.JCrew 007JCrew 004JCrew 005JCrew 008

Two Manuelas Are Better than One

I recently discovered the designer Manuela Dack. I thought “with such a name, she can only be a winner”. Well, I was right (I don’t know if it’s down to the name, though).

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Manuela graduated from Middlesex University in 2010 and since then she has been a very prolific designer. Her first collection, Autumn/Winter ’11, was discovered at the London Concept store Machine-A and stocked at The Shop at Bluebird on King’s Road. Since then, Manuela received plenty of attention from the press and media, including Elle Japan, Grazia Magazine, Style.it, SHOWStudio, Vogue Italia, Style Bubble, W Magazine and recently The Independent and Fashion Editor at Large (Grazia’s fashion editor Melanie Rickey’s blog). And it’s easy to see why. This hot new talent’s signature elements are silk and leather layering, embellishment and texture. Her elegant style is clean despite including several intricate craft detailing, such as dreamlike hand-dyeing, embroidery and beaded fringing.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Spring/Summer ’12 collection is astounding: cascading silk layers ripple ethereally like in her second film collaboration, a short video which was directed by artist Max Langlands and that focuses on the sculptural and shape aspects of clothing. British-made, delicate lace and digitally printed leather (cowhide is printed to look like stingray to keep things ethical) are juxtaposed in a natural and breezy colour palette to create a minimalistic and sophisticated collection.

The inspiration for this collection came from the designer’s childhood on the Caribbean Island of Grand Cayman. The sea, colours and textures of the Caribbean, along with the island’s traditional craft techniques, play a very strong role in influencing this collection. And the perfectionist obsession of the attention to detail, which sees beading and hand-dyeing all done in-house, the label’s production kept within the UK and the inclusion of British craft work, can only guarantee wonderfully high-quality product standards, which puts this young newcomer to the same level of high-end designers.

Manuela Dack S/S '12

Her Autumn/Winter ’12 sees the return of her inspiring outerwear, which features a powerful feminine silhouette with a focus on detail. This latest collection was inspired by a collection of carved and inlaid wooden boxes owned by the designer, which transpired in the design through cut-away leather and with an angular uniform silhouette in contrast to spring/summer’s relaxed vibe.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela won London and Paris Fashion Week Sponsorship for Autumn/ Winter 2012 from Vauxhall Fashion Scout and the Center of Fashion Enterprise and her new pieces from the S/S ’12 collection are being stocked by The Shop at Bluebird, where they seemed only too happy to take her design on board for a second time.

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Manuela Dack A/W '12

Machines and Lights: An Interview with Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Last Thursday I attended a fashion exhibition showcasing Sarmite Ostanevica’s A/W ’12 collection called Automatic. The show was held at Testbed 1, a big ex-factory building in Battersea. It was organised by the designer herself and supported by my friend Melanie at the World Photography Organisation. The exhibition was very unusual, with the whole collection displayed in amazing pictures on the walls all over the venue, and a few sample pieces hung on a rail under multicoloured neon lights. I had the luck to interview the designer about this exhibition, and this is what she revealed.

Designer Sarmite Ostanevica

Neon lights

DfD: How did you come up with the idea to hold a fashion show in such a different, innovative and exciting way, rather than having a simple catwalk show?

SO: I quite often get contacted by photographers who want to shoot my previous collections, so I thought why not use my newest material to create an exhibition with it! And what’s the point in having all the work in a portfolio which you only show to certain contacts and not to the public? You know, around here tonight we have real public. So much work goes towards it and it’s worth sharing it.

Photographs by Carine Ottou

Photograph by Gina Amama

Photographs by Johan Paul Hion

DfD: Does this exhibition include just your Automatic collection?

SO: Yes, it does.

The Automatic collection

DfD: And are you enjoying it here today?

SO: Yes, I am, because I hadn’t seen any of the photographers’ work until today so it’s very exciting for me.

DfD: I know you’re from Latvia. Can you give me a bit more background about yourself? Where did you study and why did you decide to move to the UK?

SO: I moved to London because I wasn’t sure what to study, and once here it didn’t take me long to realise that I should study fashion. And that was an adventure for me, to see how I’d get to study and learn in a foreign country. I worked with a lot of people for free to learn the trade. I studied at Kensington and Chelsea College, and took some courses at St Martin’s College.

DfD: Where do you get your inspiration from?

SO: In terms of this particular collection, the inspiration was quite unusual. Automatic comes from motors and engines, but inspiration can come from anywhere. It is something that comes from your mind, something that you want to discover and at this point I decided I’d discover something about mechanics and machines! (laughs)

Sketches for the collection

DfD: Why not! All the luxe and metallics recall that theme.

SO: Yes, I tried to keep colours and tones quite neutral, look on the obviously metallic colours and tried to play around with the combinations. But I think cuts and shapes are the most important aspect of this collection.

A few samples

Organza top

Bronze silk top

DfD: How do shapes relate to the theme?

SO: As a designer it’s quite difficult to explain how I got to the final products. You see some images, like I have, and they will reflect in the designs. I studied and looked at motors for many days, and to begin with it was really complicated to see something out of it but then after a week or so you choose some shapes from it which you’d like to use in your designs.

Round-neck sleeveless black top

DfD: Do you retail anywhere?

SO: I do retail in Latvia at the moment. I’m sourcing for retailers in Europe but I understand especially now with this economic climate that it’s not going to happen overnight. But I’m open to suggestions.

Detail from a silk top

Detail from a wool and silk top

DfD: What other projects are you planning to work on soon?

SO: Oh I have so many! I’m going to keep it as a bit of a secret. The fact is that I am social, I have hundreds of ideas and contacts and it’s hard to choose the right one. But at least that means I never find myself in a situation where I’m stuck and I have nowhere to go. I have hundreds of options and connections.

DfD: Are you interested in other forms of art and design?

SO: I do paint a little bit. I love various art directions. This time I chose photography to express the collection.

DfD: So we just need to watch this space really, right? You might use painting to showcase the next collection!

SO: Nice one, we’ll see…

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A Quick Look into the Italian Fashion Scene

I’ve recently got back from Genoa, Italy, where I went to visit my family. That little trip inspired me in putting together a super brief list of my very favourite designers who are either up-and-coming or established but still fairly obscure to the British audience.

PENNYBLACK is produced and distributed by Manifatture del Nord, one of the companies which belong to the Max Mara Fashion Group. Born in 1978, PENNYBLACK is characterised by a sophisticated yet easy-to-wear style. They utilise high-quality materials and pay great attention to detail, and their international team of innovative designers constantly create fresh looks which quickly become modern classics.



Claudia Tacchella is a young designer who lives and works in Milan and currently collaborates with Flashstone, another name to make note of. Her latest standalone collection was called Chromophobia, and it featured monochrome contrasts, elegant cuts in faux leather, black sheer micronet and crisp white silk. Different textures and contrasting fabrics are juxtaposed to highlight curves and blazers feature strong, structured shoulders to balance hyper-feminine hips wrapped in tight skirts and leggings. Claudia explains that inspiration for this collection was drawn from the apartheid and the contrasting roles of the white and black races. The designer said the aim of this collection was to recall through the garments the feeling of the rigidity of the segregation and, at the same time, the freedom that ensued.

One of Claudia Tacchella's designs.

Giuro Che Domani Smetto (GCDS), literally ‘I swear I’ll give it up tomorrow’, was developed from an idea by Veronica Massa, Walter D’Aprile e Vincenzo Paccone. GCDS is a journey through one-night parties which are accompanied by a clothing line. Every party tells the story of each one of us, who after excess drinking and ‘good times out’ reflect on the possibility of quitting the party lifestyle. These parties take place in Naples one Saturday per month. Tailored videos are created for each party, which encourage the people attending to take part in the next event. The clothing line that accompanies the events is GCDS’s second means of communication. Through the T-shirts, which are becoming increasingly fashionable, they communicate the main message of each event. They are ironic and mock many of the classic situations that take place during nightlife and partying. Next to the simple black or white Tees features also a more complex, edgy line: Giuro Che Domani Smetto Wardrobe, which is like a little trunk filled with unisex clothing through which men and women alike can swap clothes.


Max & Co. is by far and away my favourite, favourite Italian brand, and every time I go to Italy I spend a small fortune in their shop in central Genoa.  Max & Co. also belongs to the Max Mara Fashion Group and was born in 1986. The lines are clean and fuss-free but at the same time edgy and stylish. The designs are classic and modern at the same time and extremely easy to wear. These guys know how to do justice to the Italian sartorial tradition with a very high attention to detail and only the best materials. The quality is outstanding and the designs are always on trend.

Max & Co.

Max & Co.

These are my top four favourite Italian designers/labels. Which are yours? Do you have any new names to suggest?

Marni for H&M 2012 – Something to be Looking Forward to

Another fashion post and yet another collaboration. On 8 March 2012 H&M will present its new collection jointly with Italian-Swiss high-end designer Marni. This exciting range will include all the staple styles and elements of this truly eclectic designer house. With strong utilitarian shapes, the new men’s and women’s collection will include on-trend block heels and wedges, precious-looking ethnic accessories next to plastic ones, colour blocking as long as big, playful, clashing prints juxtaposition and bold African-inspired prints.

The Marni brand was launched in 1994 by Lugano-based couple Consuelo and Gianni Castiglioni as a side business from Gianni’s fur company. Since then they have created a modern yet classic look that is constantly chic and at the same time cool and have had their collections photographed by many big names, among which Mario Testino.

H&M has previously collaborated with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Comme des Garçons, Jimmy Choo and Lanvin. Their current collaboration with Versace is in shops now and the Marni collection will be sold in 260 stores worldwide and online.

Despite generally feeling wary about H&M designer collaborations, which I often find overpriced and of poor quality if a little overrated, I am sure this new collection is a breath of fresh air and definitely something to be looking forward to.

Gareth Pugh’s New Make Up Range for M•A•C

After two years of hard work, Gareth Pugh, the UK’s most unconventional and edgy designer, has teamed up with the international cosmetics brand M•A•C to launch a beautiful new range of chic and unexpectedly beautiful makeup. Pugh has forged a reputation for awe-inspiring, thoroughly unique and beautifully exquisite pieces, and now he brings his unusual approach to this exciting new collection. Drawing directly from his signature gothic, androgynous and futuristic style, the range includes nail varnishes, graphic false lashes, lipsticks, creamy eyeshadows, beauty powders and a make-up bag. The collection is made of two parts: in an interview with Vogue.com the designer explains: “it’s like the positive and negative elements of a battery. They are total opposites but when combined together they create energy”. He adds therefore that the two opposites are contrasting: “One light and ethereal, based on silver and grey tones and the other is dark blue colours, which has a more powerful message – I really like the idea of exploring the hard side of beauty”.

To celebrate the launch of this highly anticipated new line, which happened on 2 December, an event will take place in the very large venue of Ambika, P3 at the University of Westminster. The date is not yet disclosed to the general public but fans of both M•A•C and Gareth Pugh will be able to enjoy a stylishly subversive evening of bespoke Patron tequila margaritas, gin cocktails and Moscow mules and DJs with sets from Pippa Greenbank, Iwan Halstead, Pippa Brooks, Richard Mortimer and Princess Julia. Guests will also get a glimpse of the Gareth Pugh for M•A•C film, directed by Ruth Hogben.

My favourite product in the range – Gareth Pugh for M•A•C nail lacquer in hyper

Guests confirmed to attend include Gareth Pugh, Mary Charteris, Erin O’Connor, Peaches Geldof, Hannah Marshall, Amy Molyneaux, Percy Parker, Jameela Jamil, Lara Bohinc, Lisa Moorish, Holly Fulton, Bay Garnett, Mark Fast, Louise Gray, Bip Ling, Virginia Bates, Noelle Reno, Fred Butler and Tolula Adeyemi.

Gareth Pugh, who has in the past been compared to the likes of Alexander McQueenJohn Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Leigh Bowery, is famous for his trademark experimentation with form and volume. Daniel West from Icon Magazine in 2006 said that the designer often uses “nonsensically shaped, wearable sculptures” to “distort […] the human body almost beyond recognition”, and with this new collection Pugh has definitely reinforced his reputation as one of the most avant-garde and creative designers in the UK.

If you are as excited as I am about this wonderful collaboration, you can buy the collection at http://www.maccosmetics.co.uk/whats_new/7766/index.tmpl.