Monday, 15 December 2014

Rebooting The Archive

I managed to save some of the archive.

"They're only clothes".

I would like to say something that is blindingly obvious, but important to say nevertheless: clothes are there to be worn. I love fashion and dress. I love feeling fabrics, inspecting seams, getting an idea of the garment and some understanding of the construction (my knowledge of pattern cutting is relatively basic, but I have been attempting to learn more). I love trying on everything I can get my hands on - heck, I've tried on a corset, six inch heels and a ballgown...although, oddly, now that I think back at it, not all at the same time. I love wearing beautiful garments each and every day.

I often get asked what I wear when I am having a lazy day at home, or running out to the supermarket on a Sunday morning, to which the answer is the exact same clothes I normally wear. My wardrobe is too small for that not to be the case, and besides, there is a certain luxury to wearing full Yohji when doing the gardening or being prodded and poked (or worse, although admittedly those instances usually involve those rather breezy-back, bobbled cotton, faded blue gowns) in a hospital. Of course I try to take extremely good care of my clothes, but ultimately, you can't baby clothes, you have to wear them. I dislike the idea of owning a garment that only gets worn once or twice year - my wardrobe is built around the realities of my daily life, so it is formed entirely of pieces I wear regularly.

Omnia mea mecum porto - everything I have, I carry with me. I love every single garment I own, but if I was to lose them all tomorrow, it would not be the end of the world. I have actually been toying with the idea of donating my favourite Yohji sweater to charity just to see if I could. I am by nature a collector, but I dislike the idea of actually collecting - emotions mixed with rampant consumerism seems far too dangerous a combination for me personally. I like to live with less because it makes me constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the necessity of what I really need to be happy and content. That is not to say that I am against surrounding yourself with as many beautiful things as your heart desires, but for me you have to truly love those things, not just fill your life with clutter.

I absolutely love clothes, but I only own a few. Then again, I love books, but I own many (my dress library is finally reaching a respectably comprehensive state). I have a relatively small wardrobe, but I have owned many, many clothes and made just as many mistakes along the way. I am firm believer in the idea of never settling for less - go for what you love and go for the best. It does not matter how expensive, rare or beautiful a garment is, if it does not fit quite right, does not feel quite right, or is not being worn regularly enough to warrant keeping, I sell or donate it. That is not to even mention the fact that I will buy garments going cheap second hand purely in order to get my hands on them, inspect them in person, try them on and move around in them, before selling them again (and no, I do not flip for profit, I usually just sell to recoup the price I spent). Retail stores are a brilliant place to try on current and recently past season clothing, but there are so many garments out there to explore, I find it far too limiting to rely on that alone. Of course the dream is to be able to rummage through a museum archive, but I am working on that.

Like I said, I am collector, but I do not collect. Not in a way that is immediately apparent anyway - I collect information. When my laptop drive failed earlier this year, I lost a ton of information that I had spent years compiling - my archive. I managed to recover some of the archive (although sadly I did lose a massive amount), and having learnt the lesson that you should always back everything up the hard way, now that I have built my own computer I have a dedicated fashion hard drive (labelled the Rei drive, to my Yohji solid state boot drive, with an additional Issey drive to come...yes I know, terribly corny of me, but whatever). With the opportunity to start afresh I have decided to reboot the archive project in an incredibly ambitious way. I have implemented a five year plan to cover the period 2015-20, with additional features to help improve not only my collection of sensory and somatic information, but also a far more detailed archiving system to make sure I have as wide a spectrum of information as possible.

The original archive:

  • Front and back photographs of garment
  • Tagged size
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition

The rebooted archive:

  • Front, back and detail photographs of garment
  • Tagged size, measurements, and description of actual fit
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition
  • Date added - date sold/donated/worn-into-smithereens
  • Price and place bought - price and place sold/donated
  • Short description of sensory experience to be updated biannually
  • Short description of emotional experience to be updated biannually
  • Alterations and mending to be noted and photographed
  • Photographs of garment if remarkable wear patterns emerge

I will be photographing and documenting every single article of clothing I currently own, as well as every single piece I own for the next five years in similar (if not increasing) detail. The ultimate plan is to compile a detailed archive of my clothing for the next few decades in order to extrapolate trends and better understand my changing relationship with clothing over time. Our relationship with clothing is a constantly shifting dynamic, and one that fascinates me to no end, so where better to start than with my own experiences?


Simple. How can I possibly begin to understand why people wear what they wear if I don't even understand why I wear what I wear? It is also the most immediate source of information I have, and although it is not an objective project, having those sensory and emotional entries, it is not meant to be - I am interested in the experience of the individual wearer. I am also toying with the idea of adding a smaller side project - photographing and documenting the wardrobes of friends and family (who are happy to let me do so) on a yearly basis. The information, whilst not as detailed, will still show shifts in habits, and I plan to ask them to point out their favourite garment each time and explain why. Also the fact that this could include some people who are interested in fashion and others who are not, could also make it all the more fun. I plan on backing up all photographs and information in multiple locations so as to avoid losing information, and also to ensure that in the future I do actually have a solid and comprehensive archive to study. 

Alongside the archive I also plan to take a photograph of what I wear each and every day for the entirety of 2015, continuing either each year or at frequent intervals. The idea behind this is to have visual documentation of how the clothes are actually being worn, but also to better see shifting trends and habits in my dressing.

I may have lost the majority of several years worth of (admittedly basic) work, but going ahead I plan to have an even more detailed and impressive archive. Never give up, just aim higher.

Let the fun begin.



Photograph posts have now been retired.

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Saturday, 22 November 2014

Yamamoto & Yohji

Christmas come early. Yohji Yamamoto is the reason I got into fashion and dress, and out of all the books I have on Yohji's work, this is by far the most comprehensive. A must-have for any fan of his work, and the best place to start for anyone interested. I would also recommend My Dear Bomb if you can still find a copy (kicking myself for not buying a few extra copies to give away through the blog). I have to say Rizzoli really do seem to have a cachet for publishing decent fashion and art books, just looking around me now I have the Yohji Yamamoto, Ann Demeulemeester, Rick Owens and Hussein Chalayan book all within arm's reach and all are worth having a look through if you get the chance.

Unlike the new Ann Demeulemeester monograph (covered here), this publication actually has a decent amount of writing and contributions from just about everyone Yohji has worked with. A wealth of information compiled in one place, which makes a huge difference to the scattered quotes that seem to be endlessly reblogged on Tumblr. There are quotes aplenty for those with a short attention span, but this, like the fantastic Hussein Chalayan monograph, deserves to be read properly. For those who have already read the V&A exhibition catalogue or even just online interviews, much of the information at the start will cover a lot of old ground, but the latter half of the book in particular was for me quite a goldmine of additional information. 

A beautiful letter from Charlotte Rampling ending with...

"Deeply haunting, mysterious man
I've walked in your footsteps
in the space of remarkable shapes
that no one can fashion like you. 
A man of prayer when all breaks at the seams
I've walked in my dreams beside you."

"I love women and I consider them works of art. I can't live without them; they are my whole life..."

Yvonne Baby: "When can you say that you are well dressed?"

Yohji Yamamoto: "When the item of clothing disappears and there is only the person, only you. A presence, its beauty, that is the essential. In the end, you always come back to what is beautiful."

A quick timeline, good for a general overview.

A company biography covering the main lines, followed by notable collaborations. 

Salvatore Ferragamo for Yohji Yamamoto (Autumn/Winter 2009).

A look at licensing, beginning with the perfume line (recently re-released, but unfortunately also reformulated, meaning that Yohji Homme is a mere shadow of its former beauty - unlike the re-release of the Helmut Lang fragrances, which are meant to be unchanged).

Stormy Weather jewelry.
"Jewelry has great depth of meaning, it speaks a lot. Jewelry needs a strong will. For a long time I myself had little interest in jewelry, yet when I saw a woman wearing jewelry well, there was a sense of shock, a deep emotion."

The short-lived diffusion line, Coming Soon. I still believe Coming Soon had the potential to bring Yohji's work to a wider audience without encroaching on Y-3 sales (especially as there was no visible Yohji branding or his name attached to any of the tags or literature with the purchases). The cuts were interesting, the prints and colours were fun, however Sinv Spa just needed to step up a notch on the fabrics as I found them somewhat disappointing. The advertising that went with the project was however remarkably well done - the films done by Max Vadukul were superb.

The catwalk timeline is indispensable. A snapshot of each show accompanied by a small description. For anybody looking to find out the main theme behind each collection, or even just a bit of help in potentially dating a piece, they will find this incredibly useful as a starting point. Yes, it would have been nice to have had larger images, or multiple shots of each collection, but considering the scope of the entire book I can understand the compromise. 

A look at fashion show invites, which is something that can easily be overlooked by most, being a rather exclusive and ostensibly ephemeral item. But as an introductory clue for the invitees as to the theme and ideas behind the collection, it is a fun little piece of the puzzle. 

Both Wim and Donata Wenders contribute. Of course.

Hair styling (Eugene Souleiman) and make-up (Pat McGrath and Stephane Marais) are covered. Given that coverage of these areas is virtually non-existent in the books of many other designers, it was a nice addition, but I do wish there had been more photographs and coverage of more collections.

A show would not be a show without the music. Again an integral part of the show, but one that is often overlooked in works on a designer's career, so I appreciated this (admittedly brief) section.

A look at the images and catalogues that have captured Yohji's spirit. Given that many of these images appear in other publications and are reasonably easy to find online, I appreciated these montage pages.

A history of books on Yohji Yamamoto, including Rewind/Forward (for scans see my post).

The only Yohji Yamamoto book I need to complete my collection - Talking To Myself.

A look at museum exhibitions. Definitely pick up the V&A exhibition catalogue if you get the opportunity, it is very well written and compiled.

A look at film, theatre and dance costume, including one of my favourite visual feasts - Dolls (click here for my post). I think this aspect of Yohji's career can often be overlooked when people discuss his work, but costume design is an incredibly powerful medium. One of the good things about the extensive exhibition on Jean Paul Gaultier's work at the Barbican earlier this year was that they also included his costume design. Admittedly it fits nicely alongside the general theatricality of his work, but I think it is a fascinating insight into the skills of the designer, especially in terms of collaborative design.

Yohji and Limi.
Father and daughter.

No doubt this book will be torn apart and posted here and there and everywhere, including all over social media, but please do have a proper read if you get the chance (followed by My Dear Bomb). Although there were many parts I wish had been more extensive and written about in greater depth, given the scope of the entire book, it was remarkably comprehensive and really an indispensable book for any Yohji fan.





Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Romantic's Bible

1982 - 2014

There are people who contribute to our lives in ways they could never know simply by sharing what they love with the world. An author writes a book, a musician sings a song, a designer creates a garment. Whether consciously or not, we come to define the memory of our lives around our experiences of the moments these people create. It can catch you entirely unawares. You hear the snippet of a song in passing during your day, and it stops you there and then in your tracks - you are transported back instantly, as a flood of emotions and memories rush over you. We all have those books, those paintings, those sounds, those smells, that mean something to us that is entirely unique. People can often get quite obsessive over these feelings. Just think about how common it is to encounter someone who has been listening to a band since they started playing, disparaging newcomers to that band's music. But I think there is space for us all to appreciate any person's work, from any time or any place, as long as it truly moves us.   

There are two fashion designers whose work means more to me than any other - Yohji Yamamoto and Ann Demeulemeester. I love the work of many other designers, but it is these two who really drew me into contemporary fashion and made me realize what it could actually be, and, perhaps more importantly, what it could feel like. Trying on their garments and moving around in them for the first time was a revelation - it just felt right, and that feeling has thankfully never dissipated. It is the reason why my wardrobe is dominated by these two designers (although Issey Miyake comes a close third thanks to the fact that I buy my t-shirts from there). 

I am too young to have experienced Helmut Lang or Martin Margiela's work when they were both designing, even though I have worn pieces from those earlier collections that they themselves actually designed. And although you appreciate the work of designers like that, it is an entirely different feeling to experiencing it (or at least a small part of it) as it actually happens. It is the difference between nostalgia for something that once was, to excitement for what is to come. Fashion is the art of the perfect moment, but at its best it is something that lives with you and ages with you. It becomes part of your life, and the moment it captures is no longer some fleeting season from however long ago, but each and every day of you life for years. 

Wearing Yohji, wearing Ann. The best way I can describe it? It's like coming home.       

Thank you Ann.