Sometimes design can feel quite technical, even industrial in a sense.
You fabricate a drawing into a sculptural form. You worry about material execution. There are logistics on so many levels and being very small it's not like I have a design team to bounce off.
Um, I am the design team.
Creatively, it can be a bit lonely choosing between dove blue and slate grey in an airport lounge using a coaster to draw on and a sample book to choose and maybe a coin to flip because, at this stage, it’s my call. That’s the beauty and austerity of luxury design on a micro-scale.
Imagine then, the bliss of meeting upcoming independent designers from all over the world at a very rare and original event dedicated to small houses just like mine.
In May I was chosen to participate in ORIGIN, PASSION AND BELIEFS (www.originfair.com) in Vicenza and, in design terms, it was sort of like being asked to play Glastonbury.
Through my involvement with the independent fashion website www.notjustalabel.co.uk I was invited to be part of the fantastic creative circus, pretty much in the middle of a field in Vicenza, Italy and also given the chance to meet unusual manufacturers and adventurous buyers.
Over four days, presenting ROCK MUSE (see my next blog) I found a flock of new designers I loved. Make yourself a pot of Kusmi Jasmin tea and check out these new talents:
Williams Handmade - Sarah Williams also did her Masters at the same school of fashion in London as me. Her bags are amazing!
NOM*D from New Zealand. Margie from New Zealand has been in the industry for more than 20 years, kiwi style is so esoteric.
And kooky ear cuffs from Rachel Entwistle Jewellery from London
When I got back from this event (it's a bit too cool to be described as a conventional trade show) friends asked me to explain it. In some ways ORIGIN, PASSION and BELIEFS was like a Biennale because of the very tight agent grade curatorial edit and because of the very global selection. Clothes designed by an Isreali in Morocco that looked like Comme de Garcon and an African fable or Jewels honed from rat spines. Yeah, I know….Are the things you can’t get in a department store. Yet.
Fashion is driven by trends, but behind the trend is always the idea. The crazy out of nowhere just gotta have it concept. So, I don't lose sleep wondering why I have a sudden urge for perforated mint green leather peep toe mid heels…You just have to trust it.
Meeting one hundred liked minded souls truly backed this up and I want to say a big GRAZIA to the organisers of this incredible event. It was an honour and a privilege.
What is it with me and famous people who are three hundred thousand times richer than me? Anna Wintour. Vivienne Westwood. Karl Lagerfeld's cat. They seem to follow me from baggage carousel to baggage carousel reminding me that:
A. I am not sleeping with a rap star.
B. I am not married to a rap star.
C. I have never in fact made a reality TV show, a sex tape or a rap video naked and wind blown on a motor bike. Damn, I suppose. (There's time I guess.)
D. And all of the women who are involved with the above issues need my shoes.
At the airport in Florence on Friday, I see a large group of men in black and they are obviously American because they are wearing large spongey rap sneakers not Tods or loafers without socks like the locals. One of them is yelling into a phone "Kanye is coming. Kanye is coming. Bla bla bla, something something something, Kanye Man, you got that?"
I was not, this time, stuck in my Lulu Lemon tracksuit but I was witnessing some strange fragment of 21st century pop culture history unfolding in tense and loud tones a few feet away from my ballet flats.
Inflated like an air balloon made of 20,000 Hermes scarves, the Kardashian/West wedding ravaged and clogged the two major cities of Europe with cavalcades of limos, acres of tuber roses and a cake that is a bit larger than my living room.
Usually for me at least, Florence has a nerdy charm. Everything and everyone under the Tuscan sun is sort of squirrel coloured. But then, when Kanye was coming...enter the MEN IN BLACK and the women in WHITE SATIN and a sense that the world was a film set or maximum security backdrop for the wedding of the century. So far all that has been revealed of La Kim's dress is a grainy image of a Givenchy lace thing. Said to have cost four hundred thousand dollars. And it's backless so how does that make sense? Cocaine petticoats?
But I don't care about the wall of roses, the trashing of Versailles or the obscenity of spending four million dollars on a wedding.
What I want to know about, of course, are the shoes.
Last night in London the eccentric sexy naughty designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were guests at the launch of “The Glamour of Italian Fashion,” a new exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Diplomatically they praised Britain’s “cool” style and designers like Vivienne Westwood, but when it came to Victoria Beckham. MAMA MIA!!! Gabbana said the former Spice Girl had turned to fashion after doing “many, many, many different things.” then adding this clanger: "she's a designer but, for us, she don't make clothes the same way like a fashion designer!"
Is this war? I doubt it. British designers will never love velvet ribbon and scarlet silk satin and black lace and high heels and garlic and men with thin moustaches and weird post war suede platforms and ali baba wedges and Loden green the way Italians do.
The sexy new exhibition, which opens Saturday, traces Italian style from the 1940s to the present day. As I have been spending a lot of time in Florence in April here is a collage of favourite Florentine shoe moments and to Dolce and Gabbana I have to say, Si Si....When it comes to shoes ITALIANS DO IT BETTER; That is why I make my lines there and that is why I keep coming back. That's not just MODA, that's AMORE!
In Milan seasonal fashion is religion.
It not so much worn as OBSERVED. And often it makes me laugh a snorty superior laugh, then the influence starts to trickle in.
For example, PRADA. How long will it be, actually, before I actually succumb to the windows I studied at (in the rain) and steal James' football socks in an attempt to capture the zeitgeist. I mean football socks are within reach and I can update them in fashion colours. He will be irritated but possibly relieved that I resist the chunky make-do and mend uber platforms that go with.
I think the essence of real luxury is creating a seasonal design that can't be copied quickly, or at least properly. No one does eccentric rich person like Miuccia Prada. And few can actually wear this look without looking like Bjork. Socks are sexy but bizarre. Beige people can't wear them, Gywneth won't bother. They are awkward and if they don't match they are just tragic. But I still have a twinge of desire for them. Possibly because my own definition of luxe is rarely art school freaky. I love quirk, on other people, in other labels...or possibly on the opposite sex. Watch out boys I want your SOCKS.
I got back from Italy, blinked and asked myself "Um, was that real?"
When you spend ten days in a shoe factory checking samples it ain't Fellini and it's not even Passolini. It's just sort of "what?" But I was faintly tickled by the hot pink satin the artisans used to make up the samples (hello next summer) and am always amazed by the nuance of heel and vamp that make a good design a great shoe. The way a heel is sculpted. The way a strap is finished, provide the integrity of fine footwear. This collection is my most adventurous yet so it needed a lot of careful attention in both the planning and the execution. My challenge is to design "forever shoes". Because, yes, we all wear sneakers and jellies for scampering around sand dunes in Palm Beach and Venice Beach but a power shoe can never be mass-produced. It has to have the magic sealed within every stitch. I come to Italy and basically I hover.
It's a bit like cooking pasta. I have Italian friends who say that if you turn your back on the pot, or worse, walk away from the pot...well, the spaghetti tastes unloved. Bland even. And that is the same for design. Involvement at every point of creation makes a shoe a complete entity and I come home tired but satisfied that the collection is comfortable, beautiful and above all complete. OK, al dente.
And that means no sight seeing other than a quick scrag fight at ZARA Milan over a questionable leather and lace mini-dress and a one day trip to Florence. Where it rained. Just like the traffic scene at the start of Fellini's ROMA. Perfect and sad and fleeting.
I'm so excited to be working on Season 2!!! It's all coming together.....
Always such a source of inspiration the Lineapelle leather and accessories tradeshow in Milan. Some really amazing textures for Autumn/Winter 2013/14
I love 10 Corso Como! Some of the perks of staying nearby 10 Corso Como the concept store in Brera Milano. Delicious lunch, amazing gallery, book store and clothes. I love Milan in the early summer. Bliss.
I was so excited to see my soles when I picked them up from the sole factory. The quality is perfect and they are so soft and beautiful. I ordered two different styles, one in shiny gloss black leather which is on the left, and a black nubuck suede sole on the right. Very luxurious.
I had the chance to visit the sewing factory today where Rosy helped me out by stitching my ankle boot at the last minute. I had to get the pattern correct as I am using elastic only and no zipper, which took time to get perfect. They did such a great job! Thank you!
Making the Buttons for the Peeptoe
I am excited to be back in Milan finalising all the samples for Spring
Summer 2013 (SS13). After a long time waiting I can't believe that
everything is finally coming together to make them all. All my
components waiting in the factory to be assembled to become a shoe.
Some beautiful ribbons that I am thinking of using in the collection.
Today I had time to develop and make my lasts for the collection.
Antonio is a master last maker and kindly helped me out perfecting the
shape and fit of my lasts.
Today I went to visit some of the best Tanneries in Northern Italy to
get some really deliciously soft Nappa and Suede for the collection.
Here are some pictures inside the factory. It is amazing how efficient
and organised everything is.
I have finally embarked upon setting up my luxury footwear label, Sophie Cox. It is very exciting as I am here in Milan sorting out factories, visiting different suppliers and gathering information. This is all so I can start to make my very first samples for my Spring Summer 2013 debut collection, 'The Little Black Shoe.' Here are some interesting things that I have found in the last few days. Lots of exciting heels. I am loving the tortoiseshell ones, however I have to stick to my original plan of black, but I will be saving these for next time.