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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Fashion, Inspiration, Photography

Nina Leen: Feet Focus

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I’ve posted a fair bit on Life photographer Nina Leen – about 1234 times.

In her day, Leen was better known as a photographer of animals. Perhaps it’s her ability to capture the small, unusual, honest details which make what should be slightly humdrum shots of feet so very special. Some of these pictures are posed, some are not. None of them look stiff or forced.

Only one of them makes me want to stash a comb in my socks or, at the very least, start to wear socks.

It’s getting cold out there, kids.

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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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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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Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 25/4/13: Thinking About Tattoos

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about various things. This is good because a) if I didn’t, then the space where this column usually goes would be occupied by a picture of me shrugging and b) if I didn’t have any brain activity, I would most likely be a dead person – and I’ve heard that’s not much fun.

This week’s thought space has been disproportionately concerned with tattoos. Tattoos have been around for thousands of years, existing in almost as many social contexts. Only recently has the tattoo been floated as a fashion statement, despite that fact that only clothes and tattoos are specifically designed to be worn on the body.

Is a tattoo a valid fashion statement? My first reaction is no. When it comes down to it, fashion is fleeting and temporary; it exists in a series of moments, preserved only when there is a pen or a camera around to capture it. A tattoo is much more personal – and much more permanent.

I’ve been thinking about getting one particular tattoo for about five years. It’s a book illustration, very small and very personal. I know where I want it to go. I know who I want to do it.

I can never find the motivation to book it.

People wear clothes to express who they are, but tattoos express the essence of a person. While an outfit says a lot about a person’s occupation, values, likes, dislikes and social status, the tattoo tells a story often burdened with feeling (I am now remembering, shamefully, asking a man I had just met what his tattoo meant, only to have him dissolve into tears over the death of a loved one).

A tattoo is a personal statement, not a fashion statement. It’s a shame that the underlying reason people give for not liking the tattoos on other people is because ‘it looks cheap’. It’s an amazing world we live in, when we are raised not to judge people on how they naturally look, but make blithe assumptions of a lack of class when we consider a change in look that a person has planned his or herself.

A tattoo is ownership. It is a person assuming autonomy over her body. Because tattoos are so personal, they transcend notions of class or taste. A tattoo belongs only to the person whose skin bear its marks. A person who passes judgement on the tattoos of others passes it in an invalid way. It won’t hold up in court.

A good friend of mine has been itching to get a tattoo on her chest. On first telling me this, my face immediately scrunched up into confusion and distaste. ‘Why would anyone want to do that?’ I wondered.

Then, of course, I realised that it didn’t really matter. Not my chest, not my place to stick my oar in. Ink will not change a person. The mark that can do that, you can’t see on the skin.

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Fashion, Subculture, The Reading List

The Reading List: The Language of Clothes

Well, well, well.

For the first time in, well, ever I don’t have a new book to review. So, this is the perfect opportunity to showcase a few books in my collection that aren’t particularly new or popular. As voted by Facebook friends, this is The Language of Clothes by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alison Lurie.

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Before we start, have a think. What do your clothes say about you? If you don’t know, then Alison Lurie is about to tell you.

The subtitle to this book is The Definitive Guide to People-Watching Through the Ages and that, basically, is what it is. As it was published in 1981, the book is a little bit outdated and doesn’t really take into account how fluid and easy identity-hopping would become with modern day dressing. It is, however, a very enlightening read for anyone interested in semiotics, clothes or general people skills.

The book is split into sections dealing with clothing and age, clothing and signals, clothing and time, place, sex, gender, status, opinion, pattern, sex… Almost everything that can be read into a person’s outfit is read into.

By no means the last word on how clothes are a communication tool, The Language of Clothes is very comprehensive. The outdated and (even by 1980s standards) ignorant language is quite off-putting. ‘Blacks’, ‘queers’ and ‘retards’ are casually dropped in, transvestism is confused with transgender and there is one interesting mention of a ‘coolie hat’.

Just what is a ‘coolie hat’? Actually, don’t tell me. It might make me sad.

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Fashion, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column: Kill Your Idols – Or Dress Like Them

As I type this, one of my friends is having a Beyonce-themed birthday party. There’s a Beyonce cake, Beyonce masks and even a party guest dressed as Jay-Z, aka Mr. Beyonce. The cake is an impressive edifice; a card Beyonce dances on a totally edible stage with a totally edible backdrop. It’s pretty darn cool.

I’m not typing this at the party, by that way. That would be a bit weird. I’m in a totally different part of the country, thinking a bit about hero worship and trying to get rid of the mental image of several grown women, all dressed like Beyonce – one from the ‘Videophone’ video, another from ‘Single Ladies’ and so on – dancing around the place in cardboard Beyonce masks. I’m not trying to get rid of that mental image because I hate to think of my friends having fun (which I don’t, I swear a bit unconvincingly), it’s just the identical masks, the repetition, the anonymity that gets me. In my head it’s a bit like an Aphex Twin video, albeit a very glamorous and cake-filled one.*

There are many things to like about Beyonce. She’s one of the thankfully ever-growing list of female musicians that women look up to for more than just their singing abilities. People love Beyonce because she seems perfect even in her imperfections. Adele is her mirror twin, with fans finding a refuge in the many emotional false turns she takes in her songs. Lady Gaga is much-loved for her envelope-pushing outfit choices, as well as her bravery in risking a serious case of toxoplasmosis from wearing that meat dress.

Oh, and they sing good.

At some stage in our lives, we want to become our idols. It’s a bit odd, really. We admire their interior qualities, like their eloquence or political ideology or total lack of shame, but somehow this translates to dressing just like them, seriously or for fun. Many women want to act like Kesha at festivals (including that whole ‘I can’t find a loo so I’ll just pee on the side of the road’ thing), so they dress up in ripped short shorts and put feathers in their hair and roll around in dirt and glitter, or at least I – sorry, they – thought that was mud. And glitter.

I’m rewinding back in time to 1996, when I was adamant that I was the Posh Spice in our small group of neighbourhood friends. I was a brunette with a sharp bob, my dad had a nice car back then and I was a habitual frowner. The evidence was irrefutable. However, I got shouted down by the others, who were all brunettes of a certain hue, and I had to be Baby Spice.

It’s almost twenty years later, and I have got over not being Victoria Beckham. Unlike other pop icons, I can now buy her clothes and, unlike other pop icons with clothing lines, her creations don’t make my eyeballs want to melt right out of their sockets.

Kill your idols? Don’t bother. Dress like them instead.

* I don’t really think your birthday party was like an Aphex Twin video, Friend.

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