LFW Craft 1/3 – Claire Barrow

London Fashion Week’s international reputation is that of risk-taking and unclipped creativity, but I think the real theme, especially with younger designers, is that of craft. Not crappy felt-and-PVA craft or horrible faux-naif stuff, but real craft. The kind of stuff that gets your hands dirty with paint, or slightly sticky, or smelling of interesting chemicals.

London has a slightly subversive edge due to the underground-ness of many of its presentations. For Claire Barrow, it was a soon-to-be demolished basement, once the home of the BBC Orchestra. A black void, painted empty space and loose wires. Also, free Jack Daniels.

Barrow’s hand painted visions of nightmarish, anthropomorphic characters are standing at the edge at the end of the world. Stupidly, I was reminded of kid’s TV show Adventure Time, where the world as we know it has blown up and the passing of a thousand years allows magic to grow back again. But much, much more nihilistic. No Bubblegum Princesses this time. Only darkness, with a sheer sliver of hope.

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Photos by Kim Rehnstedt and edited by yours truly.

Karen Walker, Visible

Karen Walker is well-known for the originality of their eyewear campaigns, but this one is that little bit extra special.

The Visible eyewear range will be available from February 10th and is partly made in Kenya with a group of artisans under the UN’s ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative. The stars are the people who worked to make special beaded glasses pouches; assistants, screenprinters and specialist Maasai beaders.

A lot of campaigns pay scant lip service to ethical and sustainable fashion initiatives in Africa, so it’s nice to see a company doing slightly more than photographing a wistful celebrity in an arid, vaguely desert-like environment to hawk terrible, deliberately faux-naive looking stuff. “Look how desperate it is here!” the celebrity’s eyes say. “You must buy this bag out of a misguided sense of guilt. Oh, go on.”

What a fucking insult to the people of Africa. Sorry, I’ve gone off on a tangent here. Hopefully this campaign will persuade people to look at little deeper into African fashion in a real, engaged way instead of just pandering to the same old stereotypical images. If Karen Walker can do it, there’s no reason why we couldn’t either.

karen walker behind the scenes

Rason (Maasai beader)

Rason (Maasai beader)

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Velma (Assistant)

Velma (Assistant)

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Collins (Metal Caster)

Collins (Metal Caster)

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Kappoka (Maasai beader)

Kappoka (Maasai beader)

Pics via Karen Walker

Licentiate Column 06/12/12: Buy Irish (and Make a Better Christmas)

Even though I’m writing this column a week in advance, I think that I can predict with eerie, Nostradamus-like skills that it is cold, it is wet and it is utterly miserable outside. As temperatures drop and shoes made of natural fibres begin to degrade due to extreme schlepping through slush, it becomes more and more convenient to shop online.

I don’t need to extoll the many advantages of shopping online; if you have an internet connection and a credit card, then you’ll know what they are. However, buying presents from the safety of a small screen poses one quite distinct problem.

Buying online usually means not buying Irish. Not pumping money into the local economy means less money for everyone. I’ve skipped a few logical steps there, but this is not an economics column and I am not John Maynard Keynes.

Buy Irish, if you can. This is easy when it comes to fresh produce; we’re very lucky in Ireland in that respect. When it comes to fashion though, we literally are floating out on an island on our own.

But, and this labours the metaphor further, there are a limited number of life preservers to grab on to.

Craft fairs. One of the unexpectedly great things about a recession is seeing the reserve of strength and creativity being mined by an ever-increasing amount of people in Ireland. Stalls at craft fairs are no longer loaded with tat and fake-turquoise necklaces; now we can buy jewellery that isn’t self-consciously ‘crafty’ or homespun-looking but slickly executed. The democratisation of fashion makes professional techniques and materials more accessible, so your crafts are going to be of a better quality. Many designers and vintage sellers can be found at craft fairs. I quite like the The Fair Alternative, which is held in the old Unitarian Church near the English Market (next date – 8th of December).

Shop locally – online. I know, I know I said earlier that shopping online was the devil, but there’s always a loophole when Beelzebub is involved. Etsy (etsy.com) is a global marketplace but you can search for shops based in Ireland.  The new kid on the block, Prowlster (theprowlster.com) is an online magazine-cum-boutique that sell the best of Irish designers, including jeweller Merle O’Grady and designer Emma Manley. If you can’t choose just one thing, Prowlster also offer gift vouchers.

Local boutiques. If you have to buy that British-label dress, think about buying it in a local shop instead of online. While it’s important to shop for the best price, don’t immediately expect things to be cheaper online – you may be pleasantly surprised. You’d also be surprised at how many boutique owners are willing to haggle, which is more than can be said for online high-street retailers (trust me, I’ve tried).

Buying Irish this year isn’t just an easy way to give something unique to the person you love. It’s also a way for use to sew a tiny thread of confidence back into a country that has been torn, socially and economically, into shreds. If everyone does this, we make the first step towards mending ourselves.

On the lookout…

We at The Licentiate (that’s just me then) are preparing for a big ol’ giveaway.  This is a special giveaway, because it marks both a year of blogging and a move to a dot com – both milestones that deserves a few spot prizes!

Studio 54 erupts at the prospect of free nail products

We’re reaching out to any designers/PRs/crafters/retailers who might want to participate in this giveaway.  People who come to this blog usually love these products:

  • Nail products
  • Satchels (very specific, I know)
  • Fashionable books and films
  • Contemporary Irish designers
  • Vintage clothing

If you want to promote anything that fits in the above bracket (or even in the general periphery), this website is a great place to start.  If you want more information on page views, Klout ratings etc and what this website could do for you, then please send me an email at thelicentiate@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.  As a journalist as well as a blogger, there’s a larger potential reach than just out of the website.

And if you’re a fellow blogger or social networking nut, please feel more than free to pass this post along.  It’s good karma (and I’ll give you sweeties)*.

Grace Jones is unamused that there are no sparkly Venetian masks on offer. Next time Grace, next time.

*There may not be sweeties.