Thursday, 17 April 2014

Reading-over

Do bloggers ever go back and read back what they'd written in previous years? I did that just now, and my feelings were intensely mixed. Half of me cringes with the absolute awfulness of the writing, the uncontrolled words, sentences, ideas just flying around chaotically like those uncaged blue Cornish pixies in the Chamber of Secrets.

The other half thinks it's quite sweet that I'd managed to capture such an 'uninhibited' tone on some of my older blog posts. I think (I hope) I've improved since I started this blog. Really, it's been an outlet of ideas, and it means that I've learnt a lot about myself and my writing, and it's also helped me realise what I actually want to do with my life, which is to write.

This reads a little bit like a farewell, as if I'm packing up the blog. But I'm not, I'm just realising that I am maturing as a writer, and will probably take it in a slightly different direction from now on. That doesn't mean the content won't be similar, but it means I shall be making a conscious effort to control what I write in terms of readability and credibility. It was nice to do the whole diary-post word-vomit thing, and not have to think too much about what my fingers were tapping out, but a writer has to grow, and I feel like that's happening right now.

Thanks to all of you that read my silly little ramblings, and for your kind words over the past two years.

X

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

London Town





















 
I was barely eighteen when I moved to London. Like a siren, the beating, polluted heart of the city sang me away from my backwater hometown and I had no intention of returning, although I had little idea of what the capital would actually be like. The car that took me on my one-way journey pulled up at my student-halls-to-be, and drove away, leaving me there with my little life in bags, looking up at the dirty windows of my new home.

My place of residence for the first year in the city was a particularly grimy room on a stretch of the A2 which threaded noisily through the heart of New Cross, a bubbling concoction of chicken shops, gastro pubs, unhinged locals and arts students. My room – visited by cockroaches of varying sizes during my stay – was thinly veiled to the perpetual hum of traffic immediately below it by a wisp of brown curtain, and although each time an ambulance blared past (which was ridiculously often) I was treated to a personal disco of sapphire emergency lights pulsing across my walls, I never felt irritated by it. On the contrary, the fact that it disturbed my sleep inspired an occasional smile to flicker across my face; I was happily content to be there, safe in the heart of this beastly city.

And I settled nicely enough. I've always thought that, at least while I'm young, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else in the UK except London. After this it'll be Tokyo, New York, and finally Paris. No one should live in Paris for their twenties. It's too refined and rude and it'll rob you of any bright-eyed naivety.

But any city is bound to rob you of some naivety. It's inevitable: there's too much of everything going on. Michael Gove might have been a bit out of touch and creepy when he said that people move to London for 'loads of hot sex', but there's definitely something about the city that feels somehow more adult. I could be referencing the xxx shops in Soho or the drug deals that you sometimes overhear on the bus, but really, I'm thinking more towards the 'Londoner Mindset'. The Londoner Mindset commands a sharper knowledge of everything that deems one to be 'in-the-know'. It's the reason for Londoners' aloof reputation. It means the Londoner knows the best places to eat sliders before you even knew what a slider was, because it wasn't something that had entered even the periphery of your small-town consciousness. It means the Londoner can deconstruct your outfit with a sharp glance and know what kind of job you do and how much you get paid, because they've spent hours secretly studying these career getups on their daily commutes. In short, it means the Londoner is one step ahead, and knows it.

But most Londoners probably don't give a shit about that, because they're too busy being crushed by rising rents, sinking benefits, and the weight of a million indifferent faces that pass them in the street every day. When I'm walking down Rye Lane in Peckham and I see those tired, sunken eyes set into dusty faces, same expression in the morning light as in the dusk, their Asda bags weighing them down, and the thick scent of raw meat wafting its way out of the butchers, mixing with the exhaust fumes of an ill-repaired bus, my naivety starts to wane. For all the perceived regality of the big smoke, I've never seen such dejectedness as on the night bus home from a night out at 4am, my blissful drunkenness not a strong enough intoxicant to blind me to those ghostly faces staring blankly ahead, coming home from (or on the way to) some mind-numbing cleaning job simply to afford existence.

When I went to Leeds last weekend, the people seemed slower, happier, friendlier. They said sorry when I bashed into them in my rushing London manner. It shocked me. Sometimes you only notice something when it's not there anymore. Londoners aren't so much rude as busy, self-absorbed, and purposeful. Everywhere else seems trivial in comparison, but somehow more jubilant and appealing for being so, in that old ignorance is bliss kind of way. London tires you out and makes you harder. That old saying always springs to mind: 'tired of London, tired of life'. But it's obvious that it was written a long time ago. London's exhausting and dirty, and plenty of us are tired of it, especially young people. But, like anywhere else, if you've been there for long enough, it becomes home. We've got the worst of everything here, but we've also got the best of everything. Is a cramped and expensive space a price worth paying for living in London? It's a hard one, and after being here for a few years I don't really see the answer manifesting itself to me soon. I'll be here for as long as I can survive for regardless, because I'm stupid maybe, but also because I'm naively in love with the place.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

huffpost

I drank too much wine last night so I'm just dying in bed wishing for peanut butter ice cream, but also feeling quite pleased that I got a blog post up on the huffington. So a nice end to a bit of a shit week. You can read it here anyway http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ashley-clarke/rupals-drag-race_b_4957651.html?utm_hp_ref=uk It's about feminism and rupaul's drag race. What else?

Sunday, 2 March 2014

What We Can Learn From Issie

“Fashion is a vampiric thing; it’s the hoover on your brain. That’s why I wear the hats, to keep everyone away from me. They say, ‘Oh, can I kiss you?’ I say, ‘No, thank you very much. That’s why I’ve worn the hat. Goodbye.’ I don't want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love.” – Isabella Blow

One of the most notable ‘fashion personalities’ that anyone in the industry can name, Isabella Blow was the bawdy aristocrat whose head was perpetually adorned in one of Philip Treacy’s millinery masterpieces. A true embodiment of English eccentricity, the British fashion industry owes much to Isabella – she is, after all, the benefactor who bought the entirety of Lee Alexander McQueen’s graduate collection and discovered the models Sophie Dahl and Stella Tennant, as well as the aforementioned Treacy, of whom she became a muse.

The exhibition of Isabella’s clothing, her letters, and her work at Somerset House entitled Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! ended today. I saw it yesterday, just in time, and wasn’t disappointed. Thank god for Daphne Guinness, (Isabella’s friend and someone else who gets put in the blue-blooded fashion eccentric box) who bought Isabella’s wardrobe in its entirety so that she could showcase it to the world. It was a huge exhibition comprising of Blow’s astonishing wardrobe, her photographs, personal letters, and articles about her from when she was alive, in magazines from Vogue to The Face.

The clothes were absolutely stunning, with something special about each item, be it a black glittery pompommed Viktor & Rolf dress or some white Jeremy Scott heels with the toes split like hoofs. Nothing was plain. I suppose people might look at pictures of her in her finery and think she looks garish or overdone, an original fashion peacock. Although you wouldn’t really be able to say she ever looked ‘nice’, she certainly had glamour and she certainly had balls (always a good mix), and really I think the most important thing that most people will take from a character like her is that she made fashion fun, and at the very least, stimulating. In a way I suppose she embodied that whole ‘fashion is a fantasy land’ thing – the kind of thing you think of when you look at anything Tim Walker has done – but as well as being the creative force behind the creation of that fantasy, Isabella also was that fantasy.

What we can learn from Isabella Blow is to be colourful and weird and to wear a fucking lobster on your head if you like it. It’s sad that it’s only the aristocrats that get away with being wacky. Imagine if anyone on James Turner street wore a lobster hat. Eek. But really, we do need people like that, to inspire that way of dressing. I think that’s what makes the club scene so interesting, and sorry to bring it all back to that, but with the risk of sounding like a massive nob, that’s the place you can go to let your inner Issie out. It’s the place you can wear whatever the feck you want on your head and people will tell you that you look fab and mean it. Maybe because they’re drunk, but whatever. The most important point to make here is: wear what makes you happy. Cringe and simple, but very very very true and important.
Isabella Blow is, in many ways, one of the greatest examples of liberation through fashion. It’s a good way to get things out.

As well as expression, it’s also one of the greatest forms of defense. I would bet – and I say this lightly, with nothing other than naive intuition – that Isabella would have killed herself much earlier if she had not had the solace of fashion, the fantasy world to escape into, the satorial sacramentals with which she used to exorcise her demons.
Freedom of creative expression might not always be the thing that makes the world turn, but it’s certainly the thing that keeps some of us back from the edge: Without it, a good many of us may well have jumped ship a long time ago.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

MEADHAM KIRCHHOFF AW14














Edward Meadham and Benjamin Kirchhoff are wonderful at tapping into the feminine. This season, the girlishness of the clothes shone through, although perhaps in a more grownup way than their SS14 schoolgirl collection, and certainly with the most colour we’ve seen for a couple of seasons. Rainbow-striped metallic knee-high boots, veils, and the usual lace and ribbons adorned a very eclectic collection full of beautifully feminine, floaty shapes and silhouettes. The design duo would be hard-pushed, I think, to create a show or a collection that comes anywhere close to boring, and I think that’s probably why I love them so much. They have so much feeling in what they do, be it happy clappy fairyland or a broken hearts hotel, there’s lots of emotion in their collections, and also a lot of strangeness. Which obviously goes down so well in London.

Shown in the turbine hall in the Tate Modern, the red carpet runway was rolled out with heart-shaped obstacles all over the shop. Each model passed through a gold tinsel canopy which was a nice touch, and the lucky bastards on the front row got to take home a hefty bottle of MK's new perfume, Tralala, worth £150.

On the press release about this Penhaligon’s perfume collaboration, they talk how they wanted an outspoken fragrance, nothing shy, because they ‘don’t believe in subtlety in any sense’. But I see a lot of subtlety in what they do. It is certainly garish and loud, but it has something running underneath it too. Maybe I’m reading into them too much, because I do want there to be something subtly sinister flowing around. When you think about the darkness that a designer like McQueen presented, there’s something about that shadowy side that we love and embrace in the fashion industry. It’s so dramatic and tortured and although it is such a delicate subject, it is also something so very interesting to talk about, and I think there's a bit of that darkness that we see in Meadham Kirchhoff’s clothes too.

I love that undertone of darkness that runs through their collections, especially their womenswear. Perhaps really, it isn’t subtle at all and I was wrong to say that earlier. It’s all out there. Especially last season with all those straw boaters and ringlets, it made me see a girls’ boarding school in the highlands where everyone’s having an absolutely awful time in the most beautiful way. Because for all its glitz and ribbons, it feels sad. There’s a definitely solemn, poignant touch to what they do, and it is incredibly moving – that might sound pretentious and cliché, but it is moving. Although I’m barely a fashion fledgling falling out of my nest, I can really feel something when I’ve seen their shows. They capture something quite special, it’s that dark Englishness that McQueen did very well too. And that’s perhaps the most important thing to me in fashion – something that hits on your feelings. Perhaps I’m doing one of those post-show overreaction write-ups and getting high on the buzz of it all, but it does feel – like Tim Blanks says – that after certain shows, you feel like your life has been somehow enriched. You might not always understand why, and you might not even particularly like the clothes on a personal level, but you get a pang of something or other, and you know you’ve just witnessed something extremely special.



ASHISH AW14


Last night Ashish presented his latest collection in the gargantuan Turbine Hall in the Tate Modern – AKA the Topshop Show Space at fashion week.

The Indian-born designer gave us a vision of a happy fantasy land played to Fleetwood Mac's 'Dreaming', and depicted his sequinned flower-girl of the future. Indeed, it all seemed to revolve very much on the idea of dreaming, and the glitter and baby-pink blush on the models' faces, the tulle skirts and the abundance of sequins made it all seem very much like an insight into a little girl's imagination.

Cue an amalgamation of soft, hyper-feminine, and quite pretty pieces that would have perhaps been sickly were they not so intricate and retained that sense of light-hearted humour Ashish is so good at. A GSOH is something that he does very well, and manages to pull it off without playing down the beauty of his designs. Despite the femininity of this collection, he still had a lot of his signature sportswear in there, with a sequinned varsity jacket exclaiming FU 2 on its back, as well as tracksuit-style grey jersey fashioned into an impressive a-line skirt. Denim didn't miss out on this feminisation either, with frills and pleats of frayed denim curling over dungarees, jackets and jeans, which added a touch of boyishness that was punctuated nicely with a few cheeky princess tiaras.

I think in a lot of ways this show brought quite a lot of nostalgia with it; it presented what you probably thought you looked like when you were putting on something out of the dress-up box at five years old. Even more, the shoes were a wonderful warp back to the early 90s – they were white buffallo trainers with light-up platforms. Those were probably the most coveted items in a very wearable collection, and Lily Allen – who sat front row next to London Drag Queen DJ Jodie Harsh – got to take some home.

Despite its airy-fairyness, the show closed on a rather serious note. The final look was preceded by a slight pause, and featured a female model with a shaved head wearing a rainbow-striped sequinned t-shirt emblazoned with a message: Love Will Win. This powerful ending heralded much applause, and was almost certainly a protest against the oppression of gay rights in Russia. Accordingly, the show closed with the empowering 'COVERGIRL' by RuPaul, and the light-up shoes and positivity certainly put the bass in the models' walk.







 Images below from style.com

Monday, 17 February 2014

NASIR MAZHAR AW14

Nasir Mazhar's first womenswear catwalk show at London Fashion Week wasn't a particularly warm way to spend Valentine's evening, but it was certainly entertaining. An easy transposition of his street warrior menswear collections, Mazhar proved that he can bring womenswear up to the same pace as his menswear. Stronger and much more aggressive than his previous women's collections, the Nasir Mazhar woman was established as powerful, self-assured and street-wise.


The fur trims on thigh-high boots, gloves and jacket collars contrasted satisfyingly on the cold metallics, and combined with the crimsons, cold pinks and golds made for a somewhat festive twist on the dystopian cyber punk aesthetic. The gas-mask headwear featured at LC:M made an appearance on the girls too, and their chola-style eyeliner flicks gave a femininity without compromising on attitude. The heavy TLC influence could literally not be missed, with square holograms of the 90s girl band badged onto garments throughout the collection.


One of the more energetic collections presented in a particularly quiet season, Nasir Mazhar was a highlight in London, although his collections are very young and street-influenced in style, and it is interesting to see where he will go from here – the black and white elastic waistbands emblazoned with the designer's name that lined tight cropped tank tops, knee-length skirts and tracksuit bottoms gave the collection that east-london streetwear vibe that has pervaded such much fashion recently – think the Marc by Marc show in NYFW recently – and while it looks good now, it's certainly a look that's riding on the tumblr trends of the time, so it's interesting to see how Mazhar will adapt over the next year to bring something that doesn't feel so much like it's hanging so heavily on the zeitgeist.


However, where he is now is a good place, so we can only hope he rises to the challenge and shows as much resilience and attitude in the future as his collections do now. As a designer, Mazhar is still relatively new, and I'm looking forward to following his career to see what he does next. He's definitely got that 'London' mark on his clothes; it's hard to imagine them being shown anywhere else, so I think he'll be on the LFW schedule for a long time to come.

Nasir Mazhar
Images from vogue.co.uk