Article Archive: April 2011

Is this the future?

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The shop I’ve just visited is underground (LITERALLY!)… and I need a cup of tea to gather my thoughts. Initially I think it’s the best shopping experience I’ve had in a long time. Finally I’ve decided that it’s the best online shopping experience I’ve had to date.

I think I’ve glimpsed the future of shopping. I hope so

The concept at LN-CC (Late Night Cameleon Café) is ingenious – a service which allows me to buy everything online (all manner of left-field fashion designers, cutting-edge and rare books and new and used vinyl) but a phone call or email will get me an appointment to browse and shop and try on items at their physical shop space.

To gain access to LN-CC’s physical shop in Dalston, East London I made an appointment via phone. For most physical shops, this would be a nuisance; as they depend on daily passing trade, it would be a financial nightmare. But for the people at LN-CC who sell everything online anyway, the manned space is like a shop cum gallery, a ‘wonderful’ place to work and welcome shoppers to view their online stock.

Admittedly, the space in which they operate is not your run-of-the-mill rack and shelf box city warehouse – they are after all working in a space dripping in Dries van Noten and Damir Doma, Aaaah, you think to yourself, slightly less impressed at this last point, it’s one of ‘those’ type of places G? Yes I too had initial ‘aaahs’ but was quickly converted to pure happiness at a) how rare most of the stock is and b) the staff are just so darn nice. (Um, quick check here… aren’t hipsters meant to be nonchalant?)

Following on from yesterday’s blog post about Scott Shulman (aka The Sartorialist), here is yet more evidence that talented people in the fashion industry are nice.  Subsequently after three hours of me poking about in every nook and cranny in LN-CC we spotted that the old girders holding up the operation were forged in Middlesbrough not unlike owner John Skelton and his brother Michael Skelton. (I’m only saying!). You might be lucky enough to have Michael help you on your visit, he has that rare invisibility skill that all good waiters have. He made my visit extra memorable.

So apart from the lovely staff, what made the shopping experience different? Let’s rewind just for a sac. Arriving with my cameras and notebook in Dalston in East London and ducking down Shacklewell Lane to LN-CC’s HQ, a discreet alley lead me to their big metal door. I buzzed nervously. In situations like this, I expected everything to be warehouse-eee as many of the very beautiful shopping websites storage facilities usually are. After climbing down the concrete stairs, a door swung opened onto ‘the tunnel’ and suddenly it was ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

The tunnel and the six bespoke rooms leading off of it were built by the talented Gary Card with the help of his father (cool). Incidentally Gary has also pimped out loads of other great stores and you’ll find a low-down of his pimpery on his blog.

I spent three hours browsing the selection at LN-CC and John Skelton although well known in the industry deserves a little introduction and explanation here. I was impressed with his tongue-in-cheek-modest admission that ‘I used to be the buyer at Harrods, the most expensive leathers, anything really, it was a great place to cut my teeth. Then I went onto become Creative Director of Oki-ni before leaving to start this.’

Addressing a very attentive Gisèle, John Skelton explained how he chose each designer. ‘I visited several hundreds and whittled it down.’ Indeed, the online store is a prefect showcase for both John Skelton and Daniel Mitchell’s very honed buying skills. But it’s this underground warren that’s the icing on the cake, an ideal environment to experience the pieces and get to now the buying stories behind them. I think this is a very clever way forward for luxury shopping, maybe more luxury brands with online stores might try it like this.

The physical LN-CC space left a lasting impression on me. It was interesting to hear John break down the technique of construction of a neat chiselled Rick Owens jacket while offering me the garment for some Goddess fondling. The buying has focused on exacting fit, luxurious fabrics and handworked finishes from established names such as Martin Margiela, Raf Simons, to more recent success stories J.W. Anderson, Haider Ackermann and a host of Japanese brands stocked nowhere else outside of Japan.

Each little thing that I was shown only deepened my respect for this level of passion and service. I was so interested that I viewed the entire inventory of garments, shoes, books and vinyl, which allowed me to stitch together this gargantuan gushing synopsis (I do apologise).  Anne Demeulemeester’s fitted black leggings, and ‘lace’ shawl slung over a prim white shirt was a highlight for me and the ‘feeling’ I got at LN-CC while looking at these pieces up close returned when I went online later that evening to browse. I got a first-hand shopping experience and an insight into who John Skelton and his team were and from the get-go the experience gave me a ‘feeling’ of warmth. I’ve NEVER gotten that from a press release or an exorbitant ad campaign.

“My friends wanted something different, a new way to shop, garments, books that are different from what everybody else has,” observed John. And at a time when the latest catwalk trend hits the highstreet before the designers can even deliver them online, only top quality, speed and guaranteed exclusivity will cut it when prices are high. I really love LN-CC (I especially like that Donlon Books curates their perfect bookstore). I’d like to call what I experienced at LN-CC “quiet luxury”. Every little thing in it place.

As shoppers poured over the meticulously merchandised rails secret smiles and glances erupted at the 2001: A Space Odyssey tunnel which received an inordinate amount of excited squeals as shoppers stepped through the door. I’d like to also say at this point that the ‘tunnel’ is not just a scheme to impress me or shoppers to prise open our wallets, if it were I think I’d feel it.

Up until my visit I had begun to fear that “luxury” had become an over used word, it had become hard to define. What it has come to mean to me since is something a little more refreshing; care and attention, and passion. LN-CC is a lesson in how to put personal back into one of the most personal things of all – getting dressed and choosing your sartorial identity.

“May we buy the beaded Computer Memory Sticks please?” three Japanese girls asked. African label The Inoue Brothers have a lovely idea, they give an exclusive beaded memory stick, containing information on the label, images, a soundtrack free to each person who buys a garment (their hemp t-shirts are beautiful). So unfortunately a purchase is necessary. Incidentally LN-CC will give you a friendship bracelet if you purchase anything at all online or in store – it’s part of their packaging and a befitting symbol I feel on which to end.

Goddess In The Details: To schedule a shop visit (email: enquiries@ln-cc.com or telephone: +(44) (0)203 174 0736 ). LN-CC, The Basement: 18-24 Shacklewell Lane, Dalston, London. E8 2EZ

Coloured dreams

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Oh yes, Faile’s new book and a craving for a new printed bag for my laptop, but let me rewind a little first to the time I first saw Faile’s mix of colour on a Brooklyn street. An hour off the plane from JFK, June 2004 I took a cab into Brooklyn.I don’t really know how it happened, to be honest I – whoever I was – had disappeared and I – whoever I was – had been replaced by David Attenborough (Sir). I know it sounds silly, photograph Brooklyn, photograph Manhattan and photograph them like David Attenborough, but I love how he does things you know (not showey offey) and I wanted to do it like that. Like nature. Now, this is the mistake I always make – conveniently forgetting the most important thing, that I could barely hold let alone use a camera and all I can say is. Thank God I’m good with notebooks and thank God I took the chance.

Have you ever had something keep you awake like this?

Now I’m a snap-it-and-spend-a-few-days-processing-it-and-filtering-it kind of person and so it wasn’t until the following week that what I’d seen in Brooklyn really settled in my head. I spent the best part of what should have been dreamtime processing the photographs in my head thinking incessantly about how wonderful the Faile streetart on the damaged and maltreated walls in Brooklyn was. Have you ever had something keep you awake like this? People tell me it’s an Irish thing; we lie awake wondering about the love affairs between stuff, like pictures and walls and nature and yes INANIMATE printed things!

Longing with the desire to have more of their imagery in my home, I found them in a limited edition Lavender book printed by a wonderful publisher in Germany called Die Gestalten Verlag. Even the book paper was infused with the scent of lavender – when I opened the Lavender book to take these photos of it this morning it still smells of LAVENDER eight years on. A tiny bit Attenborough me thinks.

The Brooklyn based Faile (pronounced “fail”) collective are the two artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller who’ve been stenciling walls together since around 2000. Alternately seductive and scary, their vivid imagery built from multicultural shards has appeared in prestigious galleries worldwide. Their paintings resell at auction for hefty prices these days but their art prints and limited edition books are more attainable. Previous book print runs by Die Gestalten Verlag were tiny so they’re scarce and a little hard to get. Their latest book Faile:Prints + Originals 1999-2009 however is really easy to get and it’s their best one yet – I’ve a few little paintings of theirs and a Faile hand customized bag I found on Ebay (love the chunky interchangeable chain strap) but this new Faile book is like standing in front of their entire collection of paintings and prints up close. As you flick the pages you’ll turn a New York corner and spot their archetypal mock ads made of stencils, posters and fliers overlaid to maximal excess. There is always that wonderful sense of an accidental encounter with colour and the risks they take in their work.

Likewise, that’s why I really loved everything about the Louise Gray A/W 2011 show at London Fashion Week; it was the perfect love affair between fashion and art, (to be fair she has been the queen of coloured embellishment with her embroidered scattered printed swatches since her first collection for S/S 2008). So I’m backstage standing and staring and snapping for an awfully long time at the prints on her model line up feeling that Irish emotional thing that I was telling you about earlier (ie. feeling the right and sometimes the wrong emotion at the right and sometimes wrong time) and in that moment realising that the patterns coloured in daffodil (Attenborough) and turquoise blue and mint and lemon were all my favourite colours from years of Faile paintings and I suddenly realised that I was getting overemotional about the colours of a dress and a bag.

Seriously when this dream of a kaleidoscopic collection lined up, the colours from ALL-the-pages-of-my-favourite-Faile-books and my first Faile encounter – those two spray painted blue and pink lines on that bare Brooklyn wall – came tumbling towards my eyes; the lavenders and blue on a mohair plaid coat set on the perfect shade of dark concrete grey overlaid with gold dots and the neat shiny ponytail; so, so smooth (a huge hair trend next season and more of how to get yours that way later) only confirmed how wearable stripe, plaid and dot prints really are and to me it was as exciting as finding a new wall of Faile’s.

Oh God, I must go now! I hope your wardrobe and you walls are better coloured in than mine are at the moment and that the next few months bring many lovely coloured things your way. I’m going to hopefully have a little dreams in COLOUR tonight of me reading my Faile books and wrapping myself in up in Louise Gray and my laptop in this printed envelope bag (it really is rather lovely). (Has anyone a favourite print this season yet? Come September the trend is imminent!!!!).