Fashion, Photography, Subculture

The Wild Girl Gangs of Marrakech

Kesh Angels, the work of Moroccan-born, UK-based photographer Hassan Hajjaj is a hallucinatory look into a young subculture that most people aren’t privy to – the Moroccan motorcycle girl gang. Women on scooters with Nike djellabas, knockoff designer slippers, heart-shaped shades and a flagrant disregard for perceived speed limits. They’re got the attitude and unblinking, unwavering stares of Russ Meyer film heroines, but the only killing these ladies are doing are with their threads.

It’s only a matter of time before this gets co-opted into an M.I.A music video – or maybe that’s kinda happened already

P.S – If you like this, you might like this old post on the Hell’s Angels and the women who rode with them.

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Kesh Angels is running at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 8th

More photos at The Guardian.

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Fashion, Subculture

Punk, or a Facsimile of

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- From Vogue Russia, October 2013

Punk has become very glossy, hasn’t it?  It’s been appropriated and bastardised and distorted and machine-gunned and laquered beyond all comprehension.  And yet…

I rather like this editorial.  It pulls together as-yet unmined aspects of punk (like how feminine it could be – in an intrusive, slightly threatening way) and is still incredibly high-end and glossy, albeit with a slightly slimy edge.  It might be the massive Mint Aero that I’ve just eaten, but I feel a little queasy looking at it.

It reminds me a little of this don’t-care photo of two punks on the Kings Road, as shot by Steve Johnston.

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Johnston also talks to Nick Knight of Showstudio about shooting these particular punks (with a camera, I assume).


If that floats your boat, Showstudio have much more up online as part of their Punk: Photography Exhibition.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 10/10/13:Big Bad Branding

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Kids love the darndest things. They love selfies, they love Molly and they love Alexander Wang. I’m far too much of a snob (or too terrified of criticism) to post selfies and I don’t know who or what Molly is but I’m sure one of my friends will tell me eventually (I hear that Miley Cyrus loves dancing with her).

Alexander Wang, though. That’s a different proposition altogether.

Alexander Wang is by far the coolest designer out there – and by ‘cool’ I mean ‘very, very popular’. His clothes are easy to wear and for the most part, easy to produce. He has invented or popularised several major trends, is in his second season as designer for legendary fashion house Balenciaga and is a major contributor to the global takeover of the ‘leggings as trousers’ look. From this we can at least glean that while Alexander Wang is incredibly talented, productive and well able to tap into the zeitgeist, he is not Fashion Infallible.

Alexander Wang’s most recent collection for his eponymous label was roundly hailed as a tour de force – yet again. The clothes fit his usual remit; slouchy sportswear with unexpected details in tones of black, white and grey. The most striking of his pieces was a white sweatshirt bearing the Parental Advisory logo. It was an interesting addition. Now that CDs have disappeared, surely the Parental Advisory logo should have disappeared too?

Without delving too deeply into the possibilities, the Parental Advisory logo worn on a woman’s chest is at best, a heavy-handed nod to truly awful, cliched logo t-shirts and 90’s ladette-style coy double entendres. At worst, it’s the micro-trend that’s going to annoy the bejaysus out of people like me – that is, people who are very easily annoyed – for at least four months.

This collection was presented about three weeks ago. Already, I have spotted three or four lost-looking waifs bearing the Advisory logo on their very PG selves.
There’s no way that I could possibly guarantee this, but I absolutely, 100% guarantee that at least fifty such designer copycat sweatshop sweatshirts are winging their way from China to Cork at this very second. It’s cool, it’s fresh, it’s young. It’s whatever word of the moment that you want it to be.

However, one has to examine the mechanisms of a youth culture where a twenty-six year old (that me then) can remember the trend quite vividly the first time around. Does anyone else remember Limp Bizkit and balding frontman Fred Durst’s predilection for red baseball caps and t-shirt bearing a very familiar logo? Nu-metal was the subculture that spawned the trends of today.

As a fashion statement, nu-metal clothing needs to be popped on a compost heap and literally recycled, not shorn of a few details and repackaged as a brand new trend. Youth culture (and come to think of it, Alexander Wang’s designs) tend to look forward, not back. Hindsight is 20/20 – and logos are embarrassing on par to leggings worn as trousers.

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Art, Fashion, Inspiration, Subculture, The Reading List

Nonconformist Fashion Tips, with a Personal Introduction

Hi everyone.  Hi there.

For a little while back there, I fell out of love with blogging.  What happened was this:  I applied for (and got into) the MA in Fashion course at Central Saint Martins, which I had been working towards for… Hmm.  About two years.  That two years was punctuated with a lot of frustration, hard work and heartbreak in both my personal and professional life.  A lot.

One thing kept me going when I split up with my long-term boyfriend, quit a job that was not quite what it advertised itself to be and moved back in with my parents in a small town that was, and is, slowly dying due mostly to drugs and emigration.  It was the thought of getting out, moving to London and doing my dream course that stopped me from melting into a big fat puddle of self-pity, Ovaltine and Take A Break magazines.

In May, I found out that I was moving to London.  I had the course.

In May, I lost the urge to work altogether.  Everything seemed entirely pointless.

So, from May to September, I had what can tastefully be termed a lost summer.  I made so many brilliant new friends, who I miss immensely now that I’ve moved over, had some brand new experiences and learned a lot of valuable things (not least how to throw a successful club night, but that’s a different post altogether).

I stopped blogging.  In fact, I stopped writing altogether bar what was required of me for work.  My attention span was shot.  I barely read more than ten pages at a time.  I finished approximately zero books over the summer.  I did however, for the first time in almost twenty years, get a tan – the evidence of which is still fading around my shoulders.

Over the course of a few months, I became a different person. I joined a band of amazing artists and renegades and explored the Irish countryside – and if you’re imagining this through a Sofia Coppola-ish, slightly twee filter, that’s EXACTLY how it was.  It was the very best summer of my life, though not untouched by spots of drama.

But here I am.  I live in London now, a city so rich with people and ideas and beautiful things that I feel that my brain might burst if I don’t type everything out through my fingers.  At the very least, I can start writing posts again, instead of just putting up my weekly Cork Independent columns.

This isn’t a particularly personal blog.  But this is a personal post.  Being personal makes me uncomfortable – slightly ironic as in real life I have a definite tendency to overshare.  The short version is this – I’m back to blog another day.

Ahem.

And now for something completely different.

London is full of nonconformists.  In fact, it’s so full of nonconformists that they all sort of blend into each other.  A massive nonconforming mass. I love it. I fall in love on the Tube at least twice a day.

London style is such that this 1968 gem, How to be a Nonconformist, by Elissa Jane Karg, still holds some very relevant fashion tips, not least the one about not wearing socks.

You can see the rest of this book over on Brainpickings.

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Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 15/08/13: Hindsight 1 – 0 The Zodiac

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- No no no, not THAT Zodiac…

It’s amazing what a bit of hindsight can do. That relationship that’s just not working out, the shoes you couldn’t walk in, that one drink that’s one drink too many… All are the result of foolish personal decisions that only come to light in your head after the foolishness has ended.

Still, it’s nice to look backwards, especially in terms of fashion and beauty. The bad advice of others is a million times more enjoyable than the bad advice you give yourself. It’s especially more enjoyable when that bad advice is recorded for posterity in print.

A friend of mine runs a vintage shop and amongst her stock is a massive pile of Irish women’s magazine from the early and mid-seventies. Mostly, the problem pages are a hotbed of extreme sadness; women who can’t leave their abusive husbands or women who have had seven children and physically can’t handle any more. Sometimes the problems are funny (‘Why do policemen’s helmets have to hide their lovely hair?’ was one particularly enjoyable one’).

The best features, however, are the zodiac-themed ones. What’s with Irish women and the zodiac? Did it just become a ‘thing’ in the Seventies? Anyway, the plethora of oddly specific life advice that stems exclusively from your date of birth is really a thing of beauty. It’s perfect in its kitschy inaccuracy.

I am a Taurus. According to one article, which was focused on the beauty regimes of the various star signs, Taureans are obsessed with being pretty. Not only are they obsessed with being pretty, they are so duplicitous that they can easily fool people into thinking that they are good-looking even when they’re ugly as sin. Barbra Streisland was cited as an example – poor Babs always got the bum rap. The only accurate part of the piece (which also talked about my ‘lovely full neck’ – do Taureans suffer from glandular problems?) was the part that said we’d try anything beauty wise – although I might forgo the suggestion of mauve eyeshadow.

Another friend is a Capricorn. Apparently, Capricorns suffer from the burden of ageless beauty. Marlene Dietrich was the example there – apparently the zodiac doesn’t account for facelifts and seclusion. Capricorns should also try to think outside the box with their clothes as they tend to stick with classic style – said friend looked unimpressed with that advice, but that might have been the (very stylish) ensemble of leopard-print pencil skirt and green vintage athletic top that she was wearing at the time.

Similarly, a Sagittarean friend was not cool with the advice that she should accentuate her ‘large but attractive teeth’ with a good toothpaste and a smudge of red lipstick. She was even less impressed with the suggestion that she spent most of her days ‘whinging balls about’. That’s a direct quote, by the way. Whanging balls.

So, if there’s anything to be learned from the zodiac, it might be to ignore it altogether – or maybe just keep making foolish decisions. Just hope that the stars will end up aligning.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 11/07/13: How Freud’s Nephew Invented Consumer Culture

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- This is the man responsible for you spending all your money in the Zara sale.

Once upon a time (in 1918, to be specific), there was a man called Edward Bernays. Bernays was an abject propagandist, an American and the nephew of Sigmund Freud. He is also probably the sole reason that consumers think the way that they do. Without him, the world would be a totally different place.

He was, in short, the guy who invented PR.

Bernays was the man who created consumer culture in its embryonic form. Before him, people bought clothes – as well as almost everything else – because of their durability and the need of the consumer. It’s very cold? Buy a coat. Don’t bother buying two, the one black wool will do for every occasion.

How did he successfully change the crowd mindset from buying as you need to the kind of thinking that makes bi-weekly vajazzles a not-entirely-ludicrous part of a grooming routine?

Easy. He tricked us.

During World War One, Bernays was part of a team that created a highly successful propaganda campaign for the American War effort. This led him to thinking about how to apply that kind of thinking towards things that don’t kill you immediately, like cars and cigarettes. And clothes, of course.

He set up an office in New York. Not being totally into the idea of calling himself a propagandist, he called himself a public relations officer. And so, history begins.

Bernays used the theories of his uncle Sigmund to shape the mindset of a crowd, irrationally linking objects to people’s deepest desires and feelings. Why? Because people are stupid, and we can be incredibly easily led.

Before Bernays, women didn’t smoke in public. It was taboo as, according to uncle Siggy, the cigarette is like a penis, and good girls don’t go puffing on dicks in public – or at least they didn’t back then. Bernays paid a group of women to smoke at a parade, calling cigarettes ‘torches of freedom’. From then on, cigarettes, basically just cancer in a tube, became a symbol of female emancipation. Women started puffing en masse.

It’s the same with clothes. Clothing, through celebrity endorsements and appealing to the subconscious instincts of the consumer, buying clothes became an expression of your innermost self, your personality, your mood and feelings, instead of something warm to horse onto yourself before stepping out into the bitter cold.

No Bernays; no ASOS, no highstreet culture, no fashion columnists. Without Bernays, I might easily be out ploughing fields or writing my fiftieth column on why a good sturdy pair of brogues are best for walking out in the muck.

In a way, the Bernays approach has eaten itself. While people still buy clothes they don’t strictly need, the psychology of clothes has become a very real thing. People do indeed express themselves through clothes. What you wear does say things about you that you might not particularly want to express at any given time. The subconsious expression of the self has much more to do with what you wear now than it did back in 1918. But then, I think Bernays might have something to say about that.

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Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 04/07/13: Why Fashion is Not as Embarrassing as Vomiting at Mass

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- eep! Via Getty images

I think that even the most ardent and unswerving fans of fashion will agree that it can get a bit weird sometimes.
From streakers on the Dolce and Gabbana catwalk (unfortunately, a rather cynical and calculated gambit to draw attention towards a German fashion blog) to the apparent ease with which we consumers can wear cheap clothes made, hopefully not literally, out of the blood, sweat and tears of sweatshop-bound children, it’s an industry chock full of uneasy dichotomies. Maybe that’s why so many people working in it look so anxious and thin. Maybe.

Fashion is one of those things that people just get into, like a tick burrowing industriously towards the spinal cord of your obsessions. Once you’re in, you’re in. You’re committed, you’re absorbed and you’re only vaguely aware that such an obsession is a foolish choice.

You can love fashion like a fairweather fan of football or music – pick a favourite team and stick to it, only get a sense of the big leagues and know nothing about the rising stars. Or, you could become impossibly embroiled in all the small subgenres of fashion, wanting to know more and more, realising all the time that what you know is never, ever enough. I had such a moment the other day when, moaning about a not great zombie flick starring a man whos name rhymes with Schmad Schmidt, a friend revealed that he had several hundred similar filmson a hard drive. How many had I seen in my entire life, maybe fifty or sixty? I was but a zombie dilettante. And I really love zombie films too. It was such a personal disappointment.

As personal disappointments go, it wasn’t on a par with vomiting in Mass, but it was ever-so-slightly rattling.
People are snobs. One of the great things about an obsession (and this includes a fashion obsession) is that it’s the glue in the bonding experience with like-minded people. However, it only works if you’re on the same level of knowledge as your peers. One misstep, one admission of doubt, can make you feel inferior and insecure – and that’s without delving into the bottomless abyss of the fashion and body image debate.

Obsession is both isolating and inclusive – it’s no different with fashion. But without obsession, there is no fashion, no art, no music – at least, nothing good anyway. The urge to collect and compile tidbits of information, to squirrel trivia away like a, eh, squirrel at a pub quiz is but one small part of human nature.

An obsessive nature can be useful. Obviously it’s not useful when it comes to things like washing your hands, or doing everything in even numbers, but it’s vital with your work and interests. In fashion, it’s no different – except maybe it’s a little more stylish.

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Art, Fashion, Inspiration, Subculture

Licentiate Column 16/05/13: Punk and the Mantis Shrimp

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This week, I’ve been thinking about authenticity and the cultural relevance of clothes. Well, some of the time. Before I fool myself into thinking that I’m an intellectual powerhouse, I have to admit to that more time has been spent thinking about Facebook, the lifespan of a pair of dirty socks or how I’m possibly going to avoid That Guy at That Party next month.

Sometimes, I think about nothing in particular. This morning I was up at 5am thinking about the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, which is as flamboyant and aquarium glass-crackingly terrifying as it sounds. The Mantis Shrimp has such advanced eyes that it see colours that we can only dream about perceiving. Imagine that – one shrimp can see more than any human ever will. At 8am, I put a picture on Facebook.

This week, The Great Gatsby arrives in cinemas. A Baz Luhrmann extravaganza, a riot of sound and colour and a confusion of costumes that aren’t quite Roaring Twenties will hit the screens – but not literally. In the meantime, the 2013 costume exhibition ‘Punk: From Chaos to Couture’ has opened up at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. At the opening gala, the Met Ball, famous attendees were invited to interpret the theme in their own outfits – which they either didn’t bother doing or liberally misinterpreted. The most punk thing that happened that night was Jennifer Lawrence lampooning celebrity culture by photobombing Sarah Jessica Parker.

When it comes to the past, interpretation isn’t always open. But, for Gatsby, the inauthenticity works, while at The Met, it does not. Why is that?

Careful planning for one. Not being a vacuous clotheshorse with very little to say for herself might also be a factor. But really, the Roaring Twenties was about putting on a show. East and West Egg (where The Great Gatsby is set), a facsimile of Long Island Sound, is full of replicas of Tudor houses and Normandy villas. Nothing is real, everything is fantasy. It makes sense that elements of the costume include the Thirties as well as the decades preceding it. The characters of The Great Gatsby are staring into the sun of a brand new era – one that is not nearly as bright as it seems.

Punk, however, is all about realness and a lack of intellectual fakery or political sleight of hand, as well as anger, aggression and Vivienne Westwood. The ersatz costumes at the Met Ball, as well as the dialogue created by the exhibition within, would have caused derisive snorts from even the most casual weekend punk of the King’s Road.

The Mantis Shrimp, which sees all, probably knows more about authenticity than we do. I’d like to think that it sees the faults that humanity is blind to – that’s why it’s such a violent creature. The reality though, is that it’s batshit crazy. If you had that kind of sight, wouldn’t you be?

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Art, Fashion, Inspiration, Subculture, The Reading List

The Reading List: Punk Press…

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Rebel Rock in the Underground Press, 1968-1980, compiled by Vincent Berniére and Marcel Primois.

Punk Press, much like punk style, doesn’t demand reading, but it does demand intense, concentrated looking. Really look at it. Get into all the cracks and crevices. Weed out the dirt and the anger. Look at how easy it can be to get something out of almost nothing.

Comprising full page facsimiles of the most noted international punk magazines and ‘zines, Punk Press is a must for anyone even remotely interested in the genuine aesthetic and NOT what everyone was wearing at the little ol’ Met Ball (mostly boring – though props go to Giovanna Battaglia and her safety pin crown).

It’s the best in punk style, music and art, with the famous (Linder Sterling’s provocative Buzzcocks collages) to the slightly obscure (Loulou Picasso’s Soviet nods for French magazine series Libération) featuring.

A friend and I spent a few hours looking through the pages and dreaming about how we could make our own ‘zine. You can take that as a good sign – I rarely get inspired to actually ‘do’ something unless pizza or red wine is the end result. Such is the impact of Punk Press, or indeed, the punk presses at large.

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Punk Press is published by Abrams and is out now.

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