Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Hoggs and fishes, walls and wishes

Pam Hogg's show at the ON/OFF venue, Victoria House, Bloomsbury Square

For all the excitement, expectation and general razzmatazz, Fashion weeks for me without exception, mean high stress, low nutrition and a necessity for sleeping upright in chairs when a rare moment for rest comes along. This week my team and I covered more than 130 designers in six days, so great has the clamour to get onto the Roller-coaster ride of London Fashion Week, and our urgency to cover as much of the action as possible.

Peter Pilotto's show at Selfridges car park, W1

This particular London Fashion Week also threw my way a strong sense of déjà vu. Despite a sizeable gaggle of new names on the burgeoning schedules, something about the presentations reminded me of early London. As well as sober venues like The Cellars in Covent Garden and the car park at Selfridges, there was also a reinforced presence of strong classic British brands like, Burberry, Jaeger, Daks and Aquascutum, highlighting a more marked contrast between money and moderation than in recent years. There was as well something about the crowd that evoked those mad, electric days of the 1980s. At that time, the front row offered as much interest and colour as anything you might see on the catwalks, and the intensity of the paparazzi bun fights to crash the venues matched their vibrance.

Louise Roe and Peaches Geldof posing for the paparazzi, front row at Pam Hogg

Pam Hogg’s show had all this spirit and colour, on and off the catwalk; it was a hugely enjoyable and riveting scene which reminded me why shooting catwalks became such an addiction in the first place. In the 80s of course it was a post Live Aid, Bob Geldof and Paula Yates who sat with a detached air in the front rows, but now fast forwarding a couple of decades sits their daughter Peaches, rubbing shoulders and knees with fashionistas like designer Johnny Blue Eyes and presenter Louise Roe.

Siouxsie Sioux, Pamm Hogg and Johnny Blue Eyes,
all at the Pam Hogg show

At Somerset House it was touching to see the many messages and best wishes left on the British Fashion Council's board of condolence, in memory of Alexander McQueen. Some people left short notes and others included sketches of their favourite fashion designs, and the whole board changed organically as the week progressed, and I snapped a few details of the messages which are on the slide show at the end of this post.

The Alexander McQueen board of condolence at Somerset House

As well as the BFC wall, Lee Lapthorne of ON/OFF had the fantastic idea of putting the Catwalking archive of McQueen pictures onto an iPod wall, so that everyone could look through the entire span of collections since 1994, including some of his Menswear and collaborations with Givenchy. It looked amazing but the way it worked for everyone was even better and a lovely tribute to McQueen and his loyal staff, many of whom were his long standing friends. Well done Mr Lapthorne for making it happen.

Lee Lapthorne with the ON| iPod wall

With so much work behind us in London Fashion week, the Catwalking team decided to celebrate in a good old fashioned British way with Fish & Chips, Daddies sauce and a bottle of Champagne ... Bloody marvellous!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Five cabs, four drivers and a Virgin

Derek Lam at the Capitol One Bank, Bowery downtown New York

My last two days in New York were a bit on the surreal side, all cities have their extremes but in Manhattan, like nowhere else, you find these extremes rubbing alongside each other like detached neighbours, each conscious of the other’s existence, but neither invited in for coffee.

So it was then that Derek Lam like many other uptown labels chose to show his new autumn collection downtown, against the backdrop of fish markets and Chinatown mayhem. Of course as is the law of fashion, my next show was uptown and the next downtown and so on, and so on, as is the familiar yo-yo pace of New York Fashion Week.

The trouble is that this law applies to anyone else chasing the schedule as well, turning yellow cabs into a scarce commodity. However in the midst of a second wave of snowstorms my entire time seemed to be punctuated by one cab crisis after another.

For this reason I never did make it to ‘The Row’, the ever rising label by The Olsen twins, my hard won cab preferring to take me to an alternative address to the one I had given him. When at last I did arrive at the right venue I sat dejected watching a long stream of the more fortunate as they left the building. I had to lean on a good friend for the pictures I later sent to my number one editor, who was, as ever on deadline. (Thanks for that Dan!).

Blogger Tavi Gevinson at Rodarte

Simon Doonan of Barney's New York, and Natalie Portman, both at Rodarte

Leaving Manhattan for London, (a day early to get to London Fashion Week), was a similar farce, the kind of farce you see in Woody Allen’s movies. Getting out of the Jeremy Scott show I realised I only had time to swing by the hotel for my luggage then leave immediately for Kennedy airport and so I asked my very polite lady cab driver to take me on.

Kelly Osbourne (left) and Peaches Geldof (right) both at Jeremy Scott

When we pulled up at the Hotel she asked me to pay for the first ride (which would be usual), but that her sister, by now in the cab behind, would be taking the ride to JFK. OK I thought, that’s a bit random, (you don’t see many lady cab drivers anywhere but sisters in the same rank, that can’t happen very often!), but to use an Americanism ...Whatever! More surprisingly my second driver then pulled over half way to Kennedy and announced that her husband would be taking over the cab and be taking me the rest of the way!

Three New York cab rides

Fortunately my Virgin Atlantic flight was without abnormal incident, and my ability to turn into an airborne cabbage meant that I walked into the Heathrow Taxi rank calm and rested. The cab gremlins however had somehow followed me across the pond and caused my Taxi to breakdown midway. Any other time I would have felt quite downtrodden, but I resigned myself to the irony of it, 5 drivers but only 4 cabs and all that just to get home!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Local colour and candy hues

I was struck yesterday at the Chris Benz show, as the girls lined up alongside each other for the finale, how much like the boiled sweets I'd been craving all day they were, and last night whilst reviewing my photos for the day, I noticed that candy colours had been a theme through Zac Posen's collection that same morning. It must have been a kind of subliminal plant in my brain wafting Sherbert Lemons and Rhubarb & Custard sweeties through my mind. By the time I got to Marc Jacobs in the evening and saw his fondant coloured clothes gather in a quadrant on the catwalk, I mentally added the ribbon to complete the candy box already formed in my eye.

More local colour popped up in the form of Bill Cunningham (or Hamburger as I call him since he insists on calling me Fish & Chips!), he is a resident feature of New York Fashion Week, where he has been documenting fashion trends not only on the catwalks but also through the living breathing mass of fashion's finest, as they parade in and out of the show venues, for decades. It was a special treat to see that he is still shunning the digital age and was proudly wearing those splendid Nikon FM celluloid camera's I myself once could not live without. He must have a truly envious archive not only of NYFW which is but a few weeks in his year, documenting the streets of Manhattan, and and archive not vulnerable to the tech gremlins that can reduce a grown man to tears. (Ahem .... or so I'm told!)

The great Bill Cunningham

Also in evidence around the Bryant Park shows tents, were Scot Schuman, blogger extraordinaire ( and stylist Shail Upadhya, who lets his wardrobe do the talking.

left - Lisa Theadore and Shail Upadhya, and right - Scott Schuman

Among my other shows yesterday was the Thom Browne menswear collection where some of the more challenging items on offer for men were the fetching headscarfs in Her Majesty the Queen of England. See the slide show below ..

Sunday, 14 February 2010

The boys in blue and other hair raising stories

Patrik Ervell autumn winter 2010, New York

Arriving in New York I was underwhelmed by the small snow on the Manhattan sidewalks given the disruption it had caused two days earlier with something like six thousand flights being cancelled to and from the East coast of America and half our team stranded in Heathrow for longer than they will care to let me forget in a hurry. Missing the first day of shows with press deadlines to meet was just unthinkable, so a very expensive fix later the team did make it over just in time to see the first lights go down at the Bryant Park show tents. The only remaining evidence now for all the hoopla are the travel tale whinges circulating around the fashion pack.

As if wishing me to share the pain when it came to my turn someone checked 150 school kids onto my flight, all of them in identical royal blue hoodies … please note the irony of a style theme here!

And so now here I am, already two days into my trip and the weekend shows behind me. I have lost my mono-pod, usually it's my phone that gets left behind in a cab, at least once a season! which is bad enough, but I simply can’t work without a monopod, so I begged, borrowed, then scrambled downtown to buy one at B&H. Not a good start ... but now onto the shows.

What it means I'm not sure but what keeps coming back to me so far is not the clothes but the hair. Big big hair at Patrik Ervell with lofty quiffs in architectural proportions. At Alexander Wang it was greased and moulded and elsewhere fewer shows have stayed with that neat all-American grooming so familiar in New York styling.

left - Alexander Wang, right Patrik Ervell

For the collections that have left an impression on me I have put together a slide show so you can view them here below.

Click here for slideshow

Friday, 12 February 2010

The visual treasure of a Style genius

Alexander McQueen autumn winter 2008, Paris, March 2008

It is such an understatement to say that Fashion will be suffering a great loss at the death of Lee McQueen, his contribution to the driving force of style is undeniable, but much more than this his flair and showmanship meant that my work in photographing from the pack was not only easier but enjoyable. So much of what is sent out on the catwalk though professional and competent, lacks the ability to even surprise it's audience. By contrast I can't remember a single presentation of Lee's Alexander McQueen collections that didn't outright thrill me.

McQueen must have understood that if you wanted to share a good idea in the chaotic and crowed arena that catwalk circuits were becoming in the mid 1990s when he launched his career, you had to first make sure everyone was listening. His early shows despite the obvious lack of financial backing grabbed the attention he needed, not by coaxing or fawning, but by slashing through all the comfortable conventions the industry was slipping back into.

He sent his clothes out on women as well as girls, sometimes they were bald, sometimes pregnant, and if the clothes themselves were not challenging enough he showed them in dark seedy environments to underline your discomfort. Despite this dark side it was always in the mix to see truly remarkable and uplifting beauty. His 'bad boy' reputation sometimes meant that this beauty was overlooked in favour of a more shocking headline, but as his artistry matured the overriding vision shining through was of enchanting grace.

His genius didn't go unrecognised and it was not long before money followed to feed his ambition and our anticipation for the biggest event on the catwalk calendar. There were other highly commendable shows of course but it was McQueen who brought us the super spectacle, a fitting environment to present his giant vision.

The journey I have shared along this enthralling path can be seen in the amazing stream of visual treasure that Lee McQueen left in his wake.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The fashion flicker

Givenchy haute couture spring 2010, Paris, Jan 2010

So here it is at last, my first blog. Being a photographer I will of course allow my camera to do much of the work in these soon to be regular posts and let the pictures do the talking.

So often pictures don’t find an audience, not published because they don't quite fit the word, wit or whim of an editor, but are in themselves vital pieces of the riotous jigsaw of opinion the fashion by-stander must assemble when trying to make sense of the craziest weeks in the Fashion calendar. I will be posting many of these soon otherwise to be neglected gems from the up and coming Autumn 2010 collections, showing this February and March and beginning for me on the 11th. New York, London, Milan and Paris in that order will make up the nucleus of the international catwalk scene and what we see and perceive there will set the tone for the next six months.

Alongside the collections I will be offering you a look at 'my world' as I and my team go through the latest schedule with hundreds of shows over four Fashion Capitals. You will usually see what unfolds in front of that wall of lenses at the back of a catwalk venue, the infamous pack, sandwiched somewhere between the colossal sound stacks and the VIP rows of little gold chairs, but as well as this I will be taking some time to widen the view to take in both show presentation and the sweat, stress and consternation that goes into covering it, a kind of flickering view from stage to sideline and back again.

After upwards of 30 years and more seasons than I care to count many shows can only make a run-of-the-mill impression, but every now and then this unique arena offers up something truly special just at the point when you've forgotten how it feels to be excited or utterly moved by the moment.

For my introductory blog and whilst we wait for this season to unfold I hope you enjoy some of those special moments I have been privileged to experience over the years.

Click here for archive slideshow