Amelia’s Magazine | Thirty Years of Ally Capellino at The Wapping Project

little comets

Photos by Jazzy Lemon

It’s not often that a support band makes your ears prick up and pay attention; too often I’ve been to gigs where sub-standard support acts make the wait for the headliners feel that little bit longer. I doubt in their short career that Little Comets have ever had that problem.

They caught my attention when they supported the Noisettes on their national tour last year, and so it was exciting to see the band headline the Joiners in Southampton last week.

Little Comets are already favourites with the music press after a few well publicised stunts such as playing on the Metro, purchase or in the bakery isle of the local Marks & Spencer store, sales in their hometown of Newcastle. Their single ‘One Night In October’ reached No. 1 in the independent singles chart, so they’ve already got a relatively huge following.

It was the busiest I’ve seen the Joiners; it was a room full of sweaty, drunk lads who were all pretty excited for the band to start. When Little Comets play live they breathe life into their bouncy, poppy songs. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the fun of their live sets. At such an intimate venue, the gig really felt like we were watching something special.

Yes, Little Comets are a guitar band and that’s nothing new, but their songs and the way they approach them really are. In a genre that’s been done to death already, Little Comets are unexpectedly unique. In half an hour they convinced me that there is a future for guitar bands; something that no one has been able to do for a good year or so.

The audience sang along to pretty much every song as the band bounced their way through their perfectly formed pop-tracks such as ‘Friday Don’t Need It’ and ‘Adultery’, but it was ‘Joanna’ that really stood out. Unlike their other guitar-pop tunes, this a capella track quietened the room. It’s the song that sets them above their contemporaries and proves they’re not just four guys playing poppy lad-rock. They’re not a grown-up version of McFly, they’re a group of proper musicians who write proper lyrics and know how to engage the crowd.

Someone in the crowd shouted up to singer Rob, confessing that his girlfriend loved him. Rob got a lot of love that night; a couple of tracks in someone shouted that they loved him too. His witty responses, which were quicker than a heartbeat, had the crowd laughing throughout the set. Little Comets are the kind of band that will do well during the festival season. The fun they radiate is infectious and I can imagine nothing nicer than dancing in the afternoon to one of their sets.

They won over my friend whose CD collection extends to a collection of Now albums and the Glee soundtrack If they can do that, I have no doubt they’ll charm their audiences on the rest of the tour, and wherever else they get to play this summer.

Illustration by Aniela Murphy

The other Saturday I took a little trip down to The Wapping Project to see the rather splendid Ally Capellino exhibition. Completely under-publicised, drugs I have to thank Susie over at Style Bubble for bringing it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of this understated label, and I often pop into their store on Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch to salivate over their rather wonderful bags, rewarding myself with a coffee at Leila’s afterwards.

Turns out I’m a mere moment from The Wapping Project too, so I popped down with a couple of pals, only to be told by a florist, who shall remain nameless, that the exhibition was closed due to a wedding. Saddened, we stood outside hoping that we could at least get a glimpse through the window. LUCKILY, the director of the WP ushered us in. The wedding wasn’t due to start for a while (the International Sales Director of Topshop’s wedding, none-the-less, lah-de-dah) so we had twenty-two minutes to zip round.

The Wapping Project is ‘an idea consistently in transition’ and is set in the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Its interior remains pretty much as it would have done when in commercial use, with power hydrants and various power station ephemera still clinging solidly to the floors, around which the space is managed. During the evenings, the main room is transformed into an a la carte restaurant, and said wedding looked pretty incredible.

In the lower, darker, damper room, the Ally Capellino exhibition occupies the entire space. The central exhibition, made from recycled doors and different types of wood, tells the story of this intriguing brand, encircled by portraits of various fashionistas modelling different luggage and apparel.

Ally Capellino is the baby and brainchild of Alison Lloyd, began in 1980 (obv, being its thirtieth birthday). It’s gone from being a very small operation to an acclaimed British leather label. In her own words, she’s gone from ‘young designer to old bag lady’ and this exhibition sees Alison take a nostalgic and sometimes ‘embarrassing’ trip down memory lane.

The essence of Ally Capellino is predominantly British, with sneaky and slight European influences – often the simple style of the Scandinavians. The choronilogical exhibition explains, in just the right amount of detail, the progression of the label year-on-year.. The focus is it’s creative bag and luggage range, with clothing peppered here and there.

The label was originally set up as a clothing brand, and some of the examples on display of early garments are a total treat. It’s only been the past ten years where the accessories have shone through and become the stronghold, but the label has produced some exciting and innovative clothing throughout its existence.

There were graphic patterns, floral prints and neat tailoring in the 1980s:

…While a more futuristic style came through in 1990s with clean lines and masculine shapes:

…and childrenswear has remained fun and hip, reflecting the styles of the mens and womenswear whilst remaining playful:

The focus of the exhibition is the ‘bag wall’ – a huge wall dedicated to said bags – a mixture of new styles and vintage examples sent in by dedicated followers of the brand. Each bag has it’s only story to tell and numbers attached to the bag link to a wall of numbered stories. The essence of the brand is it’s focus on quality – some of these bags, which appear relatively new, are twenty years old for God’s sake!

Rupert Blanchard is behind the recycled, industrial look of the exhibition, and he shares Alison’s ‘passion for salvage and dread of waste’ and nothing looks out of place in this historical landmark.

There’s also a great selection of press material and advertising spanning the whole Ally Capellino era, with some great menswear advertisements, photographic thumbnails, and Vogue featured-in cards:

What does the future hold for the brand? Well, more of the same, please. With a host of collaborations with the likes of the Tate galleries and Apple, I expect there’ll be more of this in the pipeline. And what to say of the bags? Well, hopefully these beautiful creations, in a variety of subtle leathers and complimentary materials, will be produced for years to come.

Head down to the exhibition fast because it’s not on for long – go on, you’ll have a whopping time, even if fashion’s not necessarily your bag. (With puns like these, I should really work in Wapping for a certain tabloid newspaper.)

Illustration by Aniela Murphy

Check out all the important deets here.

Categories ,Alison Lloyd, ,Ally Capellino, ,Apple, ,Bags, ,Calvert Avenue, ,fashion, ,Hipstamatic, ,leather, ,Leila’s Café, ,Recycled wood, ,Rupert Blanchard, ,Salvage, ,shoreditch, ,Tate, ,The Wapping Project, ,vogue, ,wapping

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Amelia’s Magazine | Dispatches: Fashion’s Dirty Secret

Illustration by Antonia Parker

Saying you work in fashion normally garners one of two reactions: awe with a smidgen of jealousy on the presumption all you do is swan around with fabrics and making swishy type movements before dashing off to an exotic shoot/party/event of the year, more about ambulance or utter contempt.

On arriving at a friend’s boyfriend’s drinks it was the second reaction I received. He and his friends were doing a masters degree in ethical business, seek and had I arrived dressed as Cruella DeVil with a baby’s head on a silver platter I possible would have got a warmer reception. As allegedly glamorous as fashion is, medicine it is also many people’s favourite whipping boy. Neither picture is entirely true.

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme exposed the vile, undeniably horrific and illegal working conditions of UK based sweatshops. Showing the secret film to a sweatshop surveyor, he stated these compared to some of the worst conditions he’s seen in the Far East. The conditions in the sweatshop should never be allowed to happen regardless of where it is in the world: Leicester or Laos it really doesn’t matter.

Illustration by Karolina Burdon

The UK High Street actually has some very high standards when it comes to treatment of labourers. The retailers featured, including New Look, Peacocks and Jane Norman stated their supply chains were SEDEX approved. SEDEX allows retailers to independently demonstrate their commitment to ethics. Obviously this self regulation had failed. Each retailer appeared to take on board the facts and launch appropriate investigations into sub-contracting. If only they had been more proactive in the first place.

One retailer leading the way in the UK is ASOS. In the last few months they have built on the successes of Fashion Enter, a not-for-profit enterprise, specialising in garment sampling and helped them open a dedicated ASOS factory. Having a UK based factory will not only cut transport costs, carbon footprints, and lower turnaround times for ASOS but also boost the local economy.

It’s thanks to programmes like Dispatches that public awareness of poor working conditions is being raised. This is undeniably a good thing. Sweatshops like this should not be allowed to exist.

Let’s look at the facts for a moment. The story doesn’t end there and Dispatches, to their credit, touched on it. The existence of fast fashion and super cheap clothes has a huge role to play in the existence of sweatshops. In yesteryear clothes were luxury items, to be worn over and over; to be mended and repaired, to be recycled into new garments. Not so anymore.  Some of the responsibility must inevitably fall on the heads of all of us. How often have you bought a cheap top, or bargain basement jeans, or a £15 dress that was such a steal it’d be rude not to buy it? I know I have (not the dress, but you get the picture). How often do you really think about where that has come from? The Dispatches vox pop revealed that few people actually do.

Illustration by Willa Gebbie

The fact is until UK consumers begin to demand better working conditions and simultaneously agree to pay for them little will change. When asked why UK retailers rarely manufacture in the UK anymore, the answer is simple. The UK consumer won’t pay the necessary price. Why do these sweatshops exist? Because on ever dwindling profit margins short cuts will happen. Blind eyes will be turned – a feeling echoed by both Mary Portas and Melanie Rickey in their tweets after the show. Such things are, again, totally unacceptable.

I used to get asked to make outfits for people. When I gave honest rock bottom quotes, I found most of these requests vanished. Why pay £100 for a shirt when you can go down town and get one for a tenner? Scales of economy and an essentially bespoke service aside, it’s the same thing. Regardless of who does it, every piece has to be cut, every seam sewn, and every feature, rhinestone, embellishment and sequin attached. A suit has over 140 separate pieces, a zipper five, a shirt cuff six or more including buttons and buttonholes.

A lot of work goes into the shirt on your back. Those making it deserve to get paid a living wage, and work in safe conditions. Those manufacturing deserve to make a profit. The consumer deserves quality goods at the right price. At some point someone is going to lose out. Nine times out of ten this will be the person we can’t directly see.

Illustration by Karolina Burdon

So what do we do? A little bit of research goes a long way. Check out responsible manufacturers, check out your local boutiques (a small designer is often more likely to be ethical and more importantly the chance of bumping into someone in the same outfit is greatly reduced), check out eco-fashion labels (for instance in Amelia’s new book) or places like Traid, and check out ASOS’ own brand.Your t-shirt may cost £25 instead of £5, your jeans £40 instead of £15, but in each tiny way it’ll help stop sweatshops.

As one of the members of the public on the programme stated, ‘we each have to buy within our means, but that doesn’t mean buying irresponsibly.’

To watch the documentary on Channel 4′s 4oD, click here.

Categories ,Antonia Parker, ,ASOS, ,Channel 4, ,designers, ,Dispatches, ,ethical, ,Far East, ,fashion, ,Fashion Enter, ,High Street, ,Jane Norman, ,Laos, ,Leicester, ,Mary Portas, ,Melanie Rickey, ,New Look, ,Peacocks, ,SEDEX, ,Sweatshops, ,traid, ,Willa Gebbie

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