Amelia’s Magazine | Pre-London Fashion Week S/S 2011 Interview: Eugene Lin

“It was when we were awarded a giant golden penis at the Erotic Awards, prostate malady that has to be my best moment here so far. It was a fashion show that went really well and everything came to plan.” Holly Jade picked up, check with grinning pride, a huge, winged and golden figurine of male genitalia. As manager of a successful London business, you might expect a more contained answer from Holly, who sits adorned with silver chains, ripped tights and purple streaked hair. Wait a second. Scrap that.

Prangsta Costumiers is far from conventional. “We don’t try and be something that we’re not.” And quite rightly so. Why play the fashion game when their concept already oozes the type of London decadence, imagination and crisp tailoring that one would expect from the likes of Westwood? Seem like an overstatement? Well, yes. But don’t knock this place until you’ve seen it.

I first came across Prangsta when strolling through the streets of New Cross with my mum (as you do). We stopped outside the barred up, clouded shop window and strained our eyes through the metal, trying to fathom what this place was. Despite my mum’s adamance that it was a brothel, she confidently ducked under the corrugated iron and called out for any possible inhabitants. A French lady emerged. She beckoned us inside, casually wearing a riding helmet (as one also does).

An Aladdin’s cave still is the only way to describe it. Trunks and dressers spilling with jewels, brooches, elaborate belts, crowns and masks; dishevelled bustiers heaped with wigs and mad fabric; a trapeze swinging from the ceiling. There was no order. It was undisputed beautiful chaos.

The best part? Every costume is hand-made and tailored by the tight-nit Prangsta team. “We try to purchase as little material as possible so we go to a lot of vintage markets and also get a lot of materials donated to us. We take apart old costumes and old fabrics and then restore them and make them into our own Prangsta designs.” This kind of eco-awareness has been a core principle of Prangsta ever since Melanie Wilson founded the company in 1998. “She studied fashion at Central Saint Martins and really hated how wasteful the fashion industry was portrayed to her.”

Theatrical and period costume dominates Prangsta’s extensive mish-mash gallery of stunning work. A Victorian suited wolf, a burlesque fox or perhaps a two of diamonds playing card? (The shop does have an astonishingly brilliant Alice in Wonderland collection). Simply enter their hidden world and you could transform into characters you barely knew of. Hell, you could make up your own! Or at least leave the imagination to Holly herself, who styles her clients’ costumes rather than creating the pieces in their 1500 square foot studio in Deptford.

I of course guided the conversation onto that 21st birthday party of one Daisy Lowe. Daisy, her mother Pearl and several members of the star-studded guestlist were dressed by Holly and her talented team. Daisy, in particular, wore floor-skimming jaw-dropping ‘Ice Queen’-esque attire. “It was great… They are rock n’ roll royalty. Daisy is a lovely girl and a pleasure to dress.”  ? ?And their impressive list of clients doesn’t end there. Prangsta have also dressed The Noisettes (Shingai, the lead singer, used to work for the company), the Moulettes, the White Stripes, the BBC2 comedy drama ‘Psychoville’ and, get this, have even dressed Florence & The Machine.

Holly insists, however, that dressing such high-flying stars aren’t considered amongst Prangsta’s greatest achievements. I know. ‘You what?’ was my reaction too. But she continued… “I think it’s more of an achievement that we’ve been going like this for 12 years. We’ve made everything ourselves and we’re a London-based local business. Everyone works really hard. We work long hours, sometimes 12 hour days, and keeping the business running I think is more of an achievement.”

And she’s right. The Prangsta team do seem to work incessantly hard. They don’t just simply lend beautiful costumes to individuals. They tour all different festivals throughout the summer. They organize community nights for local performers and artists. They scour markets and thrift stores for the beautiful trinkets and treasures you’ll see placed around their shop. They even run their own dressmaking classes which take place in their Deptford studio. “Classes are taught by Mel and two of her seamstresses,” she says. I then of course comment on the advantage to the class members by being taught by Melanie, being an ex-Saint Martin’s student and pioneer of this mad palace. Holly even mentioned to me how Melanie began squatting in the building that we were sitting in. “Mel started out completely alone, from nothing. She now owns this row of shops and rents them out and also has Prangsta.”How’s that for a success story?

I also just HAD to ask about that haunting but quirky shop-front that had my mum so convinced we were about to come across prostitutes. Holly laughed when I told of her of this.  ?“We do what we can. We’re in New Cross, not in Soho. And I guess we’re quite an urban team. We’re quite subversive, eccentric characters. It is quite dilapidated but we’re a small business in a rundown area.” But no excuses were necessary. I really and truly loved the subversive exterior. And, well, the mysterious look of Prangsta is certainly parallel with the mysterious Melanie, who apparently prefers not to do interviews (damn, eh?).  ? ?Prangsta sure has got a good thing going, but they’re not stopping there. They have pretty big plans for future expansion. “One day we will have an online shop. People will be able to click on, say, a little hat and will be able to request one to be made for them. Within the next five years I’d say we’d like to be working on expanding our costume collection and maybe pump out a fashion collection aswell. We’d like to break through this wall to next door so that we can have an exhibition space and put a lot of costumes up on the walls like a bit of a gallery, have some music playing with a DJ, have some chai on the go. Above all, we want to provide a really quality service by restoring and recycling aswell as contributing to the community.”

After seeing the place for the second time, and speaking to Holly, it appears that not only Prangsta’s enchanting costumes, but also it’s intriguing story and extensive achievement is a true example of what those young, fun, London minds are made of.

Prangsta can be found at 304, New Cross Road, London. ?Costumes are between £80-100 to rent for 5 days and are also sold at individual prices. ?Their next dressmaking classes begin on Wednesday 22nd September from 7 – 9.30pm and cost £200. There is a maximum class size of 10 (so get in there quick if you’re interested!).

Eugene Lin, page A/W 2010, stomach illustrated by Abby Wright

It is the impeccable designs of Eugene Lin that have captivated us here at Amelia’s Magazine. The Central Saint Martins graduate’s intricate and feminine designs are a force to be reckoned with in the near future, patient and it is his expertise in pattern cutting that has given him this power. While we wait for Eugene Lin’s ultra-swish designs to bulldoze their way into magazine editorials and on the bodies of celebrities alike, we get to know the designer behind his eponymous label…

Your autumn/winter 2010 collection ‘The Gordian Knot’ and your spring/summer ?2010 collection both have a unique, tailored simplicity that flatteringly ?emphasises the feminine form. Is this a key factor when designing your collections, or do you feel it comes naturally to you? 
In the words of the great Hubert De Givenchy ‘Adding a flower or piling on details is not couture. But make an utterly simple dress, with a simple style line, this is the key to haute couture.’  The legendary Coco Chanel also said, ‘Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.’ My clothes are not haute couture, but the essence of what the two aforementioned designers is something I totally agree with and embody in my work. Simplicity should not be confused with plainness; the elegance of my work becomes very evident on closer inspection and that is what the women who buy my pieces appreciate and love. While some of the pieces from both collections are very feminine, there are also large appropriations taken from menswear, right down to the fabrics of the S/S 2010 collection where I used fine menswear shirting for the best-selling dresses. Ultimately, it is a combination of both a feel and a conscious reminder that it is a womenswear line after all. ?


S/S 2010

You’ve spent a lot of time with influential British designers – Preen, Vivienne WestwoodRoksanda Ilincic and Ashley Isham. Do you feel your designs exemplify what British fashion is all about? Would you define your aesthetic as British, or otherwise?
I love British fashion. I always have and always will.  British fashion for me stands for designers who are bold, directional and cutting edge. There is a burning spirit and huge support for new British designers which far surpasses any other city, including the other three fashion capitals. While the catwalks are teeming with unwearable showpieces which often draw flak from the public and other cities, there are also other designers such as myself which push the boundaries in a quieter, unexaggerated way in terms of innovative cut, fabrication and wearability.  Jackie JS Lee and Joana Sykes are examples of this.

I would define my aesthetic as Euro-centric, but not necessarily British. A designer can say all they want about who they think they are or are like, but at the end of the day, the buyers and customers are the ones who ultimately decide because customers never lie with their money. They are the ones who, through the pure forces of economics, decide which market responds the best and whose collections sit alongside yours in the multi-brand boutiques. So far, my work has been described as very chic, very Italian and very Parisian. But I am stocked along other great British designers both in the UK and in Asia, hence I feel the label has a broad European appeal. ?


A/W 2010, illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins

Your spring/summer collection made use of a beautiful royal blue colour, ?whilst your autumn/winter collection visited a flattering and seductive red. Do you find inspiration in the rich colours, or do the rich colours inspire you? Do you feel you must be selective in your colour choices to match ?your aesthetic? 
There is always an accent colour in each of my collections, but the question is finding it and making it work in harmony with the rest of the palette. I choose my colours very carefully, and if I cannot envision a piece in a certain colour, I will re-evaluate the entire palette.  The accent colours are rich, but the rest tend to be muted to balance it. Sometimes, the fabric jumps out at me and I immediately know I will use it, like the rich blue for S/S 2010. For the red in A/W 2010, the inspiration came from the concept; red is the colour of Mars, the Roman God of War. Finding the right shade, weight and texture is very tricky especially for new designers who cannot afford large minimums. The colours have to sit in blocks across the collection, as well as in the order of silhouettes. This process is a constant delicate juggling act, but getting it right really pays off as it makes each collection cohesive – something that all my buyers have really appreciated when visiting my stands and buying into the collections for their stores.


A/W 2010, illustrated by Katherine Tromans

Your intricately made ‘Bella’ top (above) is both draped and unmistakeably tailored to fit the female form. Is your unique tailoring going to be a pleasantly recurring theme in your future work, like a calling card or so to speak?
The key difference between a Eugene Lin piece and many other designer pieces is the amount of attention that is paid to the intelligent cut and detail, both in draped and tailored pieces.  The entire front of Bella is actually draped out of one single piece, being pinched together at the knot. With such a rich experience in pattern cutting, it came as a natural progression to my work, and it’s one of the few things that is incredibly difficult to imitate due to the level of technical difficulty in my work. S/S 2010 had a lot of panels and pieces which were cut from a single piece of fabric – draped or intricately split, while A/W 2010 revolved around the knots and loops.  I have been accused of being a minimalist, but ask any one of my interns or machinists who have worked on my pieces and they will laugh it off. As I mentioned before, my work always reveals something on closer inspection.  I find it incredibly insulting to both customers and other designers who really put in a lot of effort into creating a real designer garment when a pretender slaps a couple of metal studs and rings onto a piece of leather and calls it a designer dress or jacket. I would never insult my customers this way. I will always push my tailoring in different directions each season to give them something new, yet draw them back because of the familiar guarantee of quality of an impeccable fit.   ?



A/W 2010

Speaking of your future work, what do you have in store for the future of the ?Eugene Lin label? Can you divulge any information on future ventures, or even ?Spring/Summer 2011?
I will be exhibiting my third collection, S/S 2011 ‘The Vanishing Twin’, on-schedule at Somerset House this coming London Fashion Week, and for the first time taking the collection to Paris Fashion Week to an even bigger international audience. S/S 2011 was inspired by Stephen King’s novel ‘The Dark Half’ and based on the medical condition foetus in fetu (FIF), commonly known as Vanishing Twin Syndrome, whereby a foetus develops around its twin in the womb. The result, although rare, causes cases where a foot has been found growing in a boy’s brain, and limbs growing in stomachs.  However, for me a concept is only as good as its translation, and I’d like to think I’ve translated all my themes successfully so far. The pieces for S/S 2011 feature tailored trousers with extra ‘grown in’ features like an extra waistband, mutated skirts and dresses and separates which have been draped to resemble muscle and tissue.  Bottom line, I am selling clothes, and even if the customer is not aware of the inspiration or does not buy into the concept, they can always walk away with an incredible designer piece.  The concept becomes a bonus for those interested in more than just a beautifully created garment. ? ?


A/W 2010, illustrated by Jaymie O’Callaghan

Do you prefer sketching designs or actually constructing them?
I prefer constructing them, although I do sketch of course. Seeing the piece come to life is like birthing an idea, and sometimes I discover things on the stand which makes it even more beautiful than the sketch. Anyone can draw a sketch, but a woman is not going to walk into a boutique to buy a sketch to wear to an event now, is she?
 
?What do you like most about designing clothes?
The fulfilment of seeing women buy and wear a piece of their identity based on my aesthetics which originated from a simple thought. It’s like watching a seed grow right to fruitation.

?Describe your personal style in three words.
Clean, precise, elegant. In that order.

What does fashion mean to you in three words?
Love. Life. Light.

What advice would you give to those that would like to get into fashion ?design? 
Haha!! Where do we start on this….It’s really not for everyone, you have got to be really, really tough – it’s not a profession for little farm girls. Ask yourself WHERE exactly you want to be in the industry – a designer of your own label or designing for a house, and WHY you want to do it. For some like myself, I know that I will never be happy working under someone else and I wanted my own career, but for others they enjoy a design team. There is no right or wrong solution, and you should never expect to emulate another designer’s path. Internships are vital, do as many as you can to see the real face of our industry.

Categories ,A/W 2010, ,Abby Wright, ,Ashley Islam, ,Asia, ,Bella, ,british, ,Central Saint Martins, ,Coco Chanel, ,Eugene Lin, ,europe, ,fashion, ,FIF, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,Hubert De Givenchy, ,Jackie JS Lee, ,Jaymie O’Callaghan, ,Joana Sykes, ,Katherine Tromans, ,London Fashion Week, ,Parisian, ,Preen, ,Roksanda Ilincic, ,S/S 2010, ,S/S 2011, ,Simplicity, ,Somerset House, ,tailoring, ,UK, ,Vanishing Twin Syndrome, ,Vivienne Westwood

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Amelia’s Magazine | Eugene Lin: London Fashion Week S/S 2014 Catwalk Review

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Eugene Lin S/S14 by Novemto Komo

Eugene Lin’s interest in Mythology has not dwindled and neither has his talent: for his S/S 2014 collection he set out to create his own fable with Valkyrie; named after the Norse myth that female spirits of battle become swans with the aid of feathered cloaks. Returning once again to the Fashion Scout catwalk, for this latest battle he offered a much cleaner and less embellished collection, sending his own kind of modern warrior women down the runway. Pure white pieces came first, before a burst of unexpected orange turned things up a notch. Strong tailoring included high waists, feathers and pleats and provoked much delight, my own included. Lin provided his signature sharp lines and much loved screen prints; this time including some minimal digital printing techniques that worked well with the structured pieces. Themes and references can be tacky if overdone but Eugene Lin managed to modernise the myth and create a collection that showed the execution of an idea done well, plus the power of top class tailoring.

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Photography by Christopher Dadey



Categories ,Eugene Lin, ,Fashion Scout, ,Freemasons’ Hall, ,London Fashion Week, ,prints, ,S/S 2014, ,tailoring, ,Valkyrie

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Amelia’s Magazine | Event: Mr Jones Watches launches The Masters of Time

The Compass Road by Iain Sinclair illustrated by Faye West

The decision to wear one of Mr Jones’ Watches is to accept the designer’s challenge to a modern concept of time being a series of fixed units, remedy through which the day is neatly compartmentalised. A concept most succinctly visualised by the watch The Average Day watch. This piece was originally produced for The Muses. The watch-face illustrates the average activities undertaken at particular points throughout the day. The information was digested from sources researching how time is spent by an average person throughout the day. The hours are replaced by words; 6pm becomes social life and 11am becomes work.

The Average Day, Photograph by Chris Overend. The Muse for this particular watch was Jonathan Gershuny, Director of the Centre for Time Use Research and who Mr Jones stipulates has “750,000 time-use diaries.”

Continuing to dispense with Western Modernity’s accepted measurement of time, Mr Jones developed Cyclops, a watch with no hour, minute or second hands. Instead a circular disk mimics the movement of shadows across a sundial, as the passage of time is meditatively documented. Encouraging the wearer to reevaluate their relationship to capitalist time in which every precious second counts.

Cyclops

On Wednesday 3rd November 2010 Mr Jones’ Watches launched The Masters of Time a collaboration with five unique professionals who share an unique and personal concept of time.

During the launch Iain Sinclair, author and psycho-geographer, Greame Obree, record breaking cyclist and artist Brian Catling discussed the ideas behind their watches and the process of negotiating whilst collaborating with Mr Jones. The final two watches were developed with Comedian William Andrews, and DJ Tom Middleton.

Iain Sinclair Photograph by Emilie Sandy

Iain Sinclair’s (Author of Hackney That Red Rose Empire) Compass Watch relates to 90 minutes of film time, rather than your usual TV time of 60 minutes. Sinclair discussed the relation of time to walking, the layers created as time passes both between an event and the walker’s presence, within the walker’s own time.

Iain Sinclair – Compass Road interview from Mr Jones on Vimeo.

Fittingly Sinclair’s watch replaces the units of time with authors whose experience was shaped both by the influence of both geographic location and a complex understanding of time. In his 15 minutes Sinclair discussed the breakdown of the poet John Clare after the enclosure of the landscape to JG Ballard’s experiences as a prisoner of war before his arrival in Suburban England.

Compass Road by Iain Sinclair and Mr Jones Watches

The performance artist and sculptor Brian Catling, introduced the ideas behind Dawn West Dusk East via an art historical slide show. Original paintings and performances explored and expanded on the concept of ‘the Cyclops’. The watch –in the words of the artist- was designed to be “enigmatic, subtle and poetic.” The single rotation of this exquisite design is a silent request to return to a slower pace. The dial gradually measures the 12 hours between Dawn and Dusk.

Brian Catling Photograph by Emilie Sandy

The final speaker of the evening was the twice claimant of the toughest cycling challenge The Hour – a race between the cyclist, distance and the clock. Fittingly the title chosen for Graeme Obree’s timepiece is The Hour. As the hand rotates each hour reveals a different word encouraging the wearer to question emotions experienced during a variety of daily activities. Obree described The Hour as the best, worst, most exhilaratingly painful amount of time imaginable, each second a step closer to achieving or failing a lifelong obsession.

The Masters of Time launch was a fantastic introduction to an individuals complex relation to time. Sadly William Andrews and Tom Middleton were unable to attend, their watches The Last Hour and BPM played with the idea of ‘death’ on stage and a DJ’s relation to the beats per minute respectively. BPM comes complete with a specifically designed animation to help the nocturnal DJ keep count of each record’s BPM prior to the moment of a live mix.

Tom Middleton Photograph by Emilie Sandy

William Andrews Photograph by Emilie Sandy

William Andrews The Last Laugh functions as a symbol of the performer’s need for the last laugh and a momento mori, a reminder that life is brief as time flashes past on the moving teeth of the skull illustrated watchface

The Last Laugh by William Andrews and Mr Jones Watches

Mr Jones Watches are available from the website or you can visit Mr Jones Design, Unit 1.11, Oxo Tower Wharf? Southbank London SE1 9PH.
Compass Road and The Last Laugh are available today.

Categories ,artist, ,Author, ,BPM, ,Brian Catling, ,Comedien, ,Compass Road, ,Concept, ,Cyclist, ,Cyclops, ,Dawn West Dawn East, ,dj, ,Emilie Sandy, ,Graeme Obree, ,hours, ,Iain Sinclair, ,minutes, ,Mr Jones Watches, ,Oxo Tower, ,Pip Pip, ,seconds, ,The Average Day, ,The Hour, ,The Last Laugh, ,Time, ,Tom Middleton, ,watch hands, ,William Andrews

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Amelia’s Magazine | Fashion designers’ New Year’s Resolutions!

Explain who Lira is… What she studied etc…

Who is Lira Leirner and what do you do?

Like many who do what they love, viagra I’m a little bit of a Jack of all trades. First and foremost, for sale whichever way my career takes me, more about I’m a writer. However, the name has become detached from myself and when I hear what used to be my name and surname I tend to think not of myself but the fashion line it labels. Said fashion line offers mainly quirky yet classically cut dresses. I focus on luxurious materials and a classic youthful look which is more playful than preppy but continuously carries a demure elegance without losing a hint of sexiness.

Have you always known what you wanted to do?

I had an amazing primary school teacher who supported my writing heavily. I went to a Waldorf School for my primary school years, and we had to write an essay every day. It never felt like homework to me, so I had a lot of fun with it, exploring the different formats ranging from reportage to theatre pieces to poetry to absurdist writing. My fellow students would actually mock my teacher’s end-of-day catch phrase: “And remember – two pages minimum. Lira, ten pages maximum”, which was quite funny. I knew I was going to become a writer from a very early age. As much as the topics of interest may have varied over time – from philosophy and law to white collar crime to fashion – writing was always at the core of my actions. Even when I started working, writing was still at the core in some form or another, ranging from content manager to translator to copywriter.

Fashion, on the other hand, slowly crept into my life although I tried to ignore it for a long time as I enjoyed being the black sheep in the family, the non-artist, non-designer who was leaning towards academic subjects. I started creating pieces because I couldn’t find anything that fitted my petite frame as well as my classic yet quirky and high maintenance taste and in doing so I opened the floodgates of ideas. I started for practical reasons but it became quite quickly apparent that there were other people out there who liked what I was doing, which pushed me, of course.

Where can we find your writing?

Most of my writing that is accessible online you can find on my blog www.lltheportmanteau.com, including pieces I’ve written for other websites. I have a small portfolio of poems and old articles uploaded to www.liraleirner.co.uk, however, some of it is in German. I am currently writing a book, so my online writing has decreased accordingly.

Detail! What were your thoughts on the Goldsmiths course “sociology and cultural studies?”

In comparison to Cambridge University or LSE, Goldsmiths focuses on the cultural aspect rather than the political aspect of sociology. This allows for an approach closer to the way I see the world, that is, to take into account, among other criteria of course, language, media and style to understand a certain phenomena. However, I must say, sociology requires you to spend a lot of time on your own and is not the most sociable of courses. I spent a lot of time with the design ‘crew’ as my partner Stuart Bannocks is a designer – so much so, in fact, that I now still interact with the teachers and students from that course, while my sociology tutors and lecturers barely recognize me when I happen to run into them.

Fill in detail here… read previous interviews where this has been mentioned. What is it do you think about white collar crime which has gripped your attention?

It’s difficult to answer this question without delving too deeply into very personal and psychological reasons. Due to certain circumstances in my life and certain people that I’ve been exposed to from a young age, which worked very well as a deterrent role model, I guess I’ve developed an almost obsessive, deeply rooted disgust for dishonesty, greed and exploitation of trust. That, more than anything else, is at the root of white collar crime. It fascinates me because it’s behavior I don’t understand although I can objectively follow its logic.

Any book recommendations?

In order to recommend a book, I need to know the reader. There’s no recommendation one can do without starting with “If you like…” so I’m going to take some of my favourite books and explain why and who I would suggest them to.

“Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell I would recommend to snobs who create a classic hierarchy into human experience. I create it, but it’s probably reversed as I care more about what I learn from an experience than what the symbolic value of that experience is in a social situation.

I’d recommend “Orientalism” by Edward Said to anybody I’d like to explain the xenophobia I had to deal with anywhere I went as a result of growing up in an almost constant stage of flux having lived in as many houses as I’m old, in five countries and many, many cities.

“Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” by Pierre Bordieu I’d recommend to anybody that works in the fashion industry.

Although fantasy books are a guilty pleasure for me, I did particularly enjoy the dark material trilogy by Phillip Pullman (whose main character was names Lyra, go figure). I remember reading the first Harry Potter book from cover to cover on the evening of my birthday (such a cool kid, huh?) in 1998, years before it became so big, which didn’t hinder me from abandoning all life every time the next book came out.
The inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini was one that had me running to the book store with every book that came out and spend the day cut off from the outside world as well. The Wheel of Time series, as I started reading it when quite a few books were published, came dangerously close to being abusive to my health as I would not move from my chosen spot for drink nor food nor toilet nor people coming in and out of the room until I had read all the books, which, despite being a very fast reader, took me a few days (there are 13 books, each ca. 500 – 900 pages long). This might sound extreme, but I approach fashion in the same manner; I created twenty pieces the week before fashion week. That’s not healthy, but was the only way I could keep up with my ideas – seeing them completed.

Why did you start Lira Leirner?

Contributing to a field that interests you I find to be an undertaking a lot more satisfying and noble than mere consumption, so sharing my steps into fashion design was the natural development in that direction. And, as Confucius pointed out… Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

How is Lira Leirner (the company) doing?

Well, lets put it this way – at the moment I get more press attention than sales.

Your collections entirely consist of dresses, what attracts you to this particular garment?

A dress can be both simple yet complex in terms of cut, which allows for a big playground and to explore the shapes of the wearer. It is one of the biggest garment canvas in terms of the surface it covers, apart from the coat. A dress is also an entire outfit and therefore a lot more satisfying to put thought into – it finishes as a complete piece, and I can be almost certain that it will be used as a statement rather than accompanying piece in any outfit. In the end, I just love wearing dresses. It’s the garment which makes me smile the most, so why not focus on that?

What are your thoughts on menswear?

It’s difficult and quite frustrating. I’ve tried, but even the most fashion forward men I know were taken back by the pieces I created, the only ones they seemed to like were incredibly simple with just a tiny twist (such as a standard tie with a funky stripe), and quite frankly that’s just too boring for me. I know fashionistos will not be very happy with me saying this, but it made me realize that most of them have bigger mouths than the will to be experimental. Most of them have gotten so used to the (infuriatingly) small range of choice, that they have become naturally born stylists, and prefer to take a few relatively simple pieces and put together their own look – to which they stick. There’s not much room for experimentation for me as a designer, as they’re very specific about what they want and even half an inch down or up is a deal breaker. Hopefully I can be proven wrong one day.

Where did the idea come from to use actual royal mail sacs?

I participated in a RAG fashion show at Goldsmiths many years ago now, and had just received a big load of packages following a shopping spree, which meant I had just spent the funds I needed. My eyes fell on the Royal Mail sack in the corner of my room, sadly entailing the contents of the money I had spent, and the idea became quite apparent. In a way, that money went into the right direction, after all. I sew a coat/ dress by hand, using packaging rope to create the details and voila… a few ripped and bleeding fingers and days without sleep later, this was my very first piece. The image of the model wearing it during the show ended up being used on the cover of a magazine. I loved the iconic implication but most of all, the fact that it was up-cycled. I spent many days making sure I was there when the postmen came to collect their letters form the mailboxes – they would even shift some letters spread across bags into one in order to give the empty ones to me once I told them my plans. My favourite source was the office at my old job, though. The bags tended to be brand new and just left in the locker in heaps, from years and months of collecting them and not knowing what to do with them. Finding a sack full of different colors was quite a score. It’s notoriously frustrating to work with as it frays quite quickly so the pieces need to be prepared, but it’s worth it.

What advice would you have for designers interested in starting up their own label?

Just do it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do or for that perfect financial situation. When you have the idea and the drive, go for it. It may fail, it may turn out wonderfully, the important thing is to get going because if you don’t create it yourself, nothing can happen in the first place. Be the most excited person in the room – it’s your own thing, you can’t expect anybody else to be as excited as you are. The more excited you are, the more excited other people will be. Both these statements have seeped into my being over the years as it rubbed off from my partner Stuart Bannocks, who lives and breathes these with great success.

Follow a single person’s own vision. This is less obvious than it sounds. No matter how many people get involved, as long as it’s one person having the last say in all details, the taste and style will be a coherent one even when you’re experimenting. This makes it easier to specify the direction and to market the brand as a whole.

How was it to show a capsule collection during London Fashion Week?

A bit surreal. I was invited to be part of a Fashion Fete in Covent Garden, which in itself was a lovely idea. However, it meant that the majority of people around were not my target buyers at all, which resulted in situations such as having a deluded mother trying to haggle a £200 100% silk, handmade one-off dress down to £8.50 because “that’s how much her daughter spends on dresses in Primark”. I couldn’t help but laugh. Bitterly.

Where do you source the materials for your clothes?

A lot of the materials I use are one off, end of the roll finds from a local market stall or from clear outs I came across online. I pride myself in working with what I call “real” materials only; such as silk, leather, tweed, wool, cotton, or in the case of Royal Mails sacks, the actual sacks themselves. The quality of the fabric is important to me because it’s one of the issues I had with garments that can be found in most high street shops. The way in which I source my material, as I’ve pointed out before [link to previous Amelia’s Magazine article], is environmentally friendly because I focus on local production, which cuts out transportation, and use “left overs” that aren’t really left overs, I’m not exactly dealing with snippets but yards and yards of gorgeous fabric that would be simply wasted otherwise.

As a blogger, what are your thoughts on blogging and do you have any favourites you would like to recommend?

A blog without content appropriate distribution is like a diary without a publisher. There might be a potential Anne Frank lurking in the ocean of being able to be found via google keywords, but until then, it is a private pool of potential only. The key is in the distribution through micro blogging (aka Twitter) and social media. As was pointed out in an article recently, google identified fashion to be the industry which uses social media to its advantage better than any other. In other words, fashion bloggers fit into the construction and intent of social media perfectly, making it quite a natural process. In the end a blog is just a medium, and it’s up to you to use it properly.

The big fashion blogs in the industry I’d recommend are:
http://www.thestylerookie.com/ -> to keep tabs on the industry’s favourite witty girl
http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/ -> for street style and photography
http://stylebubble.typepad.com/ -> for hunting down small and quirky fashion lines
http://www.fashionfoiegras.com/ -> for fashion from a consumer’s point of view
http://www.styleite.com/ -> for fashion news, big and small
http://www.theclotheswhisperer.co.uk/ -> for literature quality fashion wit and style whispering

Who are your favourite fashion designers or artists?

I have a split personality when it comes to favourite fashion designers but in all my preferences you can find a meticulously balanced symmetry of sorts. Asymmetry makes me nervous, in anything. On one hand I like fashion designers who manage to create simplicity within an architectural precision such as Calvin Klein, Valentino and Jil Sanders. On the other hand, I adore the theatrical statement pieces with intense attention to detail which you can often find in the vision of smaller designers such as Alberto Sinpatron but also in Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

When it comes to art, my preferences lies quite heavily within the environment I have grown up in – concrete art and framed concrete poetry. I think that when deciding what goes on your wall you need to be utterly personal – it’s you who will look at it day in and day out. Purchasing art the way I think it should be purchased, that is without the weaves of pretentiousness and hierarchy of value that I’m unfortunately all too familiar with in the art world, should take into account merely the immediate, personal reaction to a piece before you. I understand the intelligent purchase of art as an investment or logical, historical or poignant contribution to a collection but I don’t have much patience with such purchases in the privacy of a home.

Among others, I have pieces by Duval Timothy, Jose Resende, Kathryn Hall, Sarah Leirner, Pablo Picasso, Antonio Dias, Peter Keler, Doerte Helm, Betty Leirner and Jemma Austin gracing my wall.

You gathered a lot of attention in a short amount of time…

I was lucky enough to pique the attention of some major fashion bloggers in London by coincidence, which eased the snowball into rolling on a steep hill. I do think that being a fashion blogger myself may have had an impact as I wear my own pieces out and about. This is turn meant they were exposed during events and meetings I was invited to as a blogger and attracted coverage as well as requests for interviews that way.

What are you plans for the upcoming year? Do you plan on returning to LFW for AW11?

I have been creating a more solid and bigger collection than the ones I’ve done so far and I think this is a collection whose production is likely to stretch into spring, especially with the winter months freezing my shackles into hibernation.

Explain who Lira is… What she studied etc…

Who is Lira Leirner and what do you do?

Like many who do what they love, mind I’m a little bit of a Jack of all trades. First and foremost, price whichever way my career takes me, I’m a writer. However, the name has become detached from myself and when I hear what used to be my name and surname I tend to think not of myself but the fashion line it labels. Said fashion line offers mainly quirky yet classically cut dresses. I focus on luxurious materials and a classic youthful look which is more playful than preppy but continuously carries a demure elegance without losing a hint of sexiness.

Have you always known what you wanted to do?

I had an amazing primary school teacher who supported my writing heavily. I went to a Waldorf School for my primary school years, and we had to write an essay every day. It never felt like homework to me, so I had a lot of fun with it, exploring the different formats ranging from reportage to theatre pieces to poetry to absurdist writing. My fellow students would actually mock my teacher’s end-of-day catch phrase: “And remember – two pages minimum. Lira, ten pages maximum”, which was quite funny. I knew I was going to become a writer from a very early age. As much as the topics of interest may have varied over time – from philosophy and law to white collar crime to fashion – writing was always at the core of my actions. Even when I started working, writing was still at the core in some form or another, ranging from content manager to translator to copywriter.

Fashion, on the other hand, slowly crept into my life although I tried to ignore it for a long time as I enjoyed being the black sheep in the family, the non-artist, non-designer who was leaning towards academic subjects. I started creating pieces because I couldn’t find anything that fitted my petite frame as well as my classic yet quirky and high maintenance taste and in doing so I opened the floodgates of ideas. I started for practical reasons but it became quite quickly apparent that there were other people out there who liked what I was doing, which pushed me, of course.

Where can we find your writing?

Most of my writing that is accessible online you can find on my blog www.lltheportmanteau.com, including pieces I’ve written for other websites. I have a small portfolio of poems and old articles uploaded to www.liraleirner.co.uk, however, some of it is in German. I am currently writing a book, so my online writing has decreased accordingly.

Detail! What were your thoughts on the Goldsmiths course “sociology and cultural studies?”

In comparison to Cambridge University or LSE, Goldsmiths focuses on the cultural aspect rather than the political aspect of sociology. This allows for an approach closer to the way I see the world, that is, to take into account, among other criteria of course, language, media and style to understand a certain phenomena. However, I must say, sociology requires you to spend a lot of time on your own and is not the most sociable of courses. I spent a lot of time with the design ‘crew’ as my partner Stuart Bannocks is a designer – so much so, in fact, that I now still interact with the teachers and students from that course, while my sociology tutors and lecturers barely recognize me when I happen to run into them.

Fill in detail here… read previous interviews where this has been mentioned. What is it do you think about white collar crime which has gripped your attention?

It’s difficult to answer this question without delving too deeply into very personal and psychological reasons. Due to certain circumstances in my life and certain people that I’ve been exposed to from a young age, which worked very well as a deterrent role model, I guess I’ve developed an almost obsessive, deeply rooted disgust for dishonesty, greed and exploitation of trust. That, more than anything else, is at the root of white collar crime. It fascinates me because it’s behavior I don’t understand although I can objectively follow its logic.

Any book recommendations?

In order to recommend a book, I need to know the reader. There’s no recommendation one can do without starting with “If you like…” so I’m going to take some of my favourite books and explain why and who I would suggest them to.

“Down and Out in Paris and London” by George Orwell I would recommend to snobs who create a classic hierarchy into human experience. I create it, but it’s probably reversed as I care more about what I learn from an experience than what the symbolic value of that experience is in a social situation.

I’d recommend “Orientalism” by Edward Said to anybody I’d like to explain the xenophobia I had to deal with anywhere I went as a result of growing up in an almost constant stage of flux having lived in as many houses as I’m old, in five countries and many, many cities.

“Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste” by Pierre Bordieu I’d recommend to anybody that works in the fashion industry.

Although fantasy books are a guilty pleasure for me, I did particularly enjoy the dark material trilogy by Phillip Pullman (whose main character was names Lyra, go figure). I remember reading the first Harry Potter book from cover to cover on the evening of my birthday (such a cool kid, huh?) in 1998, years before it became so big, which didn’t hinder me from abandoning all life every time the next book came out.
The inheritance cycle by Christopher Paolini was one that had me running to the book store with every book that came out and spend the day cut off from the outside world as well. The Wheel of Time series, as I started reading it when quite a few books were published, came dangerously close to being abusive to my health as I would not move from my chosen spot for drink nor food nor toilet nor people coming in and out of the room until I had read all the books, which, despite being a very fast reader, took me a few days (there are 13 books, each ca. 500 – 900 pages long). This might sound extreme, but I approach fashion in the same manner; I created twenty pieces the week before fashion week. That’s not healthy, but was the only way I could keep up with my ideas – seeing them completed.

Why did you start Lira Leirner?

Contributing to a field that interests you I find to be an undertaking a lot more satisfying and noble than mere consumption, so sharing my steps into fashion design was the natural development in that direction. And, as Confucius pointed out… Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

How is Lira Leirner (the company) doing?

Well, lets put it this way – at the moment I get more press attention than sales.

Your collections entirely consist of dresses, what attracts you to this particular garment?

A dress can be both simple yet complex in terms of cut, which allows for a big playground and to explore the shapes of the wearer. It is one of the biggest garment canvas in terms of the surface it covers, apart from the coat. A dress is also an entire outfit and therefore a lot more satisfying to put thought into – it finishes as a complete piece, and I can be almost certain that it will be used as a statement rather than accompanying piece in any outfit. In the end, I just love wearing dresses. It’s the garment which makes me smile the most, so why not focus on that?

What are your thoughts on menswear?

It’s difficult and quite frustrating. I’ve tried, but even the most fashion forward men I know were taken back by the pieces I created, the only ones they seemed to like were incredibly simple with just a tiny twist (such as a standard tie with a funky stripe), and quite frankly that’s just too boring for me. I know fashionistos will not be very happy with me saying this, but it made me realize that most of them have bigger mouths than the will to be experimental. Most of them have gotten so used to the (infuriatingly) small range of choice, that they have become naturally born stylists, and prefer to take a few relatively simple pieces and put together their own look – to which they stick. There’s not much room for experimentation for me as a designer, as they’re very specific about what they want and even half an inch down or up is a deal breaker. Hopefully I can be proven wrong one day.

Where did the idea come from to use actual royal mail sacs?

I participated in a RAG fashion show at Goldsmiths many years ago now, and had just received a big load of packages following a shopping spree, which meant I had just spent the funds I needed. My eyes fell on the Royal Mail sack in the corner of my room, sadly entailing the contents of the money I had spent, and the idea became quite apparent. In a way, that money went into the right direction, after all. I sew a coat/ dress by hand, using packaging rope to create the details and voila… a few ripped and bleeding fingers and days without sleep later, this was my very first piece. The image of the model wearing it during the show ended up being used on the cover of a magazine. I loved the iconic implication but most of all, the fact that it was up-cycled. I spent many days making sure I was there when the postmen came to collect their letters form the mailboxes – they would even shift some letters spread across bags into one in order to give the empty ones to me once I told them my plans. My favourite source was the office at my old job, though. The bags tended to be brand new and just left in the locker in heaps, from years and months of collecting them and not knowing what to do with them. Finding a sack full of different colors was quite a score. It’s notoriously frustrating to work with as it frays quite quickly so the pieces need to be prepared, but it’s worth it.

What advice would you have for designers interested in starting up their own label?

Just do it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you what to do or for that perfect financial situation. When you have the idea and the drive, go for it. It may fail, it may turn out wonderfully, the important thing is to get going because if you don’t create it yourself, nothing can happen in the first place. Be the most excited person in the room – it’s your own thing, you can’t expect anybody else to be as excited as you are. The more excited you are, the more excited other people will be. Both these statements have seeped into my being over the years as it rubbed off from my partner Stuart Bannocks, who lives and breathes these with great success.

Follow a single person’s own vision. This is less obvious than it sounds. No matter how many people get involved, as long as it’s one person having the last say in all details, the taste and style will be a coherent one even when you’re experimenting. This makes it easier to specify the direction and to market the brand as a whole.

How was it to show a capsule collection during London Fashion Week?

A bit surreal. I was invited to be part of a Fashion Fete in Covent Garden, which in itself was a lovely idea. However, it meant that the majority of people around were not my target buyers at all, which resulted in situations such as having a deluded mother trying to haggle a £200 100% silk, handmade one-off dress down to £8.50 because “that’s how much her daughter spends on dresses in Primark”. I couldn’t help but laugh. Bitterly.

Where do you source the materials for your clothes?

A lot of the materials I use are one off, end of the roll finds from a local market stall or from clear outs I came across online. I pride myself in working with what I call “real” materials only; such as silk, leather, tweed, wool, cotton, or in the case of Royal Mails sacks, the actual sacks themselves. The quality of the fabric is important to me because it’s one of the issues I had with garments that can be found in most high street shops. The way in which I source my material, as I’ve pointed out before [link to previous Amelia’s Magazine article], is environmentally friendly because I focus on local production, which cuts out transportation, and use “left overs” that aren’t really left overs, I’m not exactly dealing with snippets but yards and yards of gorgeous fabric that would be simply wasted otherwise.

As a blogger, what are your thoughts on blogging and do you have any favourites you would like to recommend?

A blog without content appropriate distribution is like a diary without a publisher. There might be a potential Anne Frank lurking in the ocean of being able to be found via google keywords, but until then, it is a private pool of potential only. The key is in the distribution through micro blogging (aka Twitter) and social media. As was pointed out in an article recently, google identified fashion to be the industry which uses social media to its advantage better than any other. In other words, fashion bloggers fit into the construction and intent of social media perfectly, making it quite a natural process. In the end a blog is just a medium, and it’s up to you to use it properly.

The big fashion blogs in the industry I’d recommend are:
http://www.thestylerookie.com/ -> to keep tabs on the industry’s favourite witty girl
http://thesartorialist.blogspot.com/ -> for street style and photography
http://stylebubble.typepad.com/ -> for hunting down small and quirky fashion lines
http://www.fashionfoiegras.com/ -> for fashion from a consumer’s point of view
http://www.styleite.com/ -> for fashion news, big and small
http://www.theclotheswhisperer.co.uk/ -> for literature quality fashion wit and style whispering

Who are your favourite fashion designers or artists?

I have a split personality when it comes to favourite fashion designers but in all my preferences you can find a meticulously balanced symmetry of sorts. Asymmetry makes me nervous, in anything. On one hand I like fashion designers who manage to create simplicity within an architectural precision such as Calvin Klein, Valentino and Jil Sanders. On the other hand, I adore the theatrical statement pieces with intense attention to detail which you can often find in the vision of smaller designers such as Alberto Sinpatron but also in Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood.

When it comes to art, my preferences lies quite heavily within the environment I have grown up in – concrete art and framed concrete poetry. I think that when deciding what goes on your wall you need to be utterly personal – it’s you who will look at it day in and day out. Purchasing art the way I think it should be purchased, that is without the weaves of pretentiousness and hierarchy of value that I’m unfortunately all too familiar with in the art world, should take into account merely the immediate, personal reaction to a piece before you. I understand the intelligent purchase of art as an investment or logical, historical or poignant contribution to a collection but I don’t have much patience with such purchases in the privacy of a home.

Among others, I have pieces by Duval Timothy, Jose Resende, Kathryn Hall, Sarah Leirner, Pablo Picasso, Antonio Dias, Peter Keler, Doerte Helm, Betty Leirner and Jemma Austin gracing my wall.

You gathered a lot of attention in a short amount of time…

I was lucky enough to pique the attention of some major fashion bloggers in London by coincidence, which eased the snowball into rolling on a steep hill. I do think that being a fashion blogger myself may have had an impact as I wear my own pieces out and about. This is turn meant they were exposed during events and meetings I was invited to as a blogger and attracted coverage as well as requests for interviews that way.

What are you plans for the upcoming year? Do you plan on returning to LFW for AW11?

I have been creating a more solid and bigger collection than the ones I’ve done so far and I think this is a collection whose production is likely to stretch into spring, especially with the winter months freezing my shackles into hibernation.


Eugene Lin, malady illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year again when we all set about making resolutions and miraculously changing our lives for the better. So far, approved for 2011, view I’ve set myself the insurmountable tasks of quitting smoking (again), getting fit (again) and saving money (AGAIN), as well as to make more of an effort to contact friends who I don’t see regularly, get through that list of books I buy on recommendation that is quickly becoming a floor-to-celing pile, learn to cook more than just beans on toast. Oh, sure!

Here at Amelia’s Magazine, we thought it might be interesting to find out what some of our favourite fashion designers plan to do in 2011. I spoke to a few of them, who we interviewed in 2010, about their plans, hopes, ambitions, dreams and everything in between. I posed the question suggesting the response could be hopes for their labels, their personal lives or something more philosophical. I’m so glad one of our designer friends, amidst economic recession and doom and gloom, prioritises ‘more sex’ on their agenda for this coming year…

Here’s a little round-up, with as always, fabulous illustrations… and I’ve linked each designer’s name to our original interview so you can read more about them if you wish!

Ada Zanditon

Illustration by Caroline Coates

‘My main resolution for 2010 is to keep growing and evolving as a brand, creatively and as a business with the vision to bring awareness to conservation and also increase the percentage of my profit margin that can go towards conservation charities, completing the circle between what inspires me as a designer and helping to sustain it in a creative, innovative way that results in sculptural, desirable, uniquely embellished fashion.

‘I would also like to find some time between all of that to spend more time gardening…’

Read a full interview with Ada with even more amazing illustrations in Amelia’s new book!

Eugene Lin

Eugene Lin, illustrated by Gareth A Hopkins

1. Keep perfecting the cut of my clothes
2. Remember to ‘TAKE A BREAK’ at least once a month
3. Eat healthy. Run more.

Imogen Belfield

Illustration by Caroline Coates

‘My New Year resolutions are… well, quite honestly, I have to stop injuring myself in the workshop. I had two rather nasty accidents within the last 2 months. And secondly, it would be to have more Skype dates with my overseas friends and family. 2010 has been beyond incredible, and to wish for the same again would be enough in itself, I cannot wait for 2011 to begin, bring it on!’

Makepiece

Illustration by Genie Espinosa

Whilst we’ve developed new cute tags to help our garments last longer (it’s a nice little wooden tag holding yarn so you can fix your garments), launched knitwear shrugs for winter brides and taken on a small concession in Harveys, (the Halifax department store) I’ve also been struggling to feed the poor snowbound sheep.

I’ve been using sledges, mountain bikes and my own two feet to defeat the snow. I’ve never felt so popular as when I’m spotted from afar by my sheep so that they’re already forming a welcoming committee by the gate. It’s difficult, but exhilarating when, once the sheep are cheerfully surrounding their bale of haylage, I can look out over the snowbound valley. It’s beautiful!

Looking forward to the new year though, we’re hoping for a sunny spring. Lots of lambs, picnics in the hay meadow and summer balls. The new collection is coloured like the sun on a misty spring morning and is frilled and ruched and rippled into delicate dresses, tops, cardis and scarves.

Olivia Rubin

Illustration by Lisa Stannard

‘2011 already holds some exciting opportunities for the label including a lot more hard work! I’m looking forward to my collaborations with very.co.uk and my new accessory line for Dune at the start of the year. I’m hoping to broaden my collections and expand the brand by introducing printed knitwear as well as building on the success of the jersey line Oli Rubi… I have a very determined attitude for 2011!

On a personal level one of my New Year’s resolutions is to continue with my running and possibly attempt a half marathon – eeek!’

(Stefan) Orschel-Read

Illustration by Rachel Clare Price

’2011 will be a busy year for me. I will be producing three collections for Orschel-Read. A small A/W 2011/12, the summer 2012 collection for London Fashion Week in September, and also a couture collection for the end of May. A New Year’s resolution for me is to stop working Sundays! And to enjoy the wonderful city we live in a little more. I also hope to spend more time with friends and family, and finally learn something totally new.’

New Year’s Day is every man’s birthday” (Charles Lamb)

Ziad Ghanem

Illustration by Rukmunal Hakim

‘Professionally: In January 2011 I am launching the wedding collection during Couture Fashion Week. So from now on its “strictly sex after marriage…” In February 2011 I am producing an amazing show during London Fashion Week, inspired by Islamic Art, and Maiden Britain tees and sweats will be launched to buy online soon. I am also hoping to do a lot of new collaborations with artists from all over the world this year.

Personally: I hope and wish for peace of mind, good health and more sex. This year I am open for love! I hope everybody’s New Year wishes will come true.’

Do let us know if you’ve made any interesting resolutions for 2011, I’d love to hear them!

Categories ,2011, ,Ada Zanditon, ,Caroline Coates, ,Charles Lamb, ,Couture Fashion Week, ,Dune, ,Eugene Lin, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,Genie Espinosa, ,Imogen Belfield, ,Islamic Art, ,Lambs, ,Lisa Stannard, ,London Fashion Week, ,Maiden Britain, ,Makepiece, ,New Year, ,Olivia Rubin, ,Rachel Clare Price, ,Resolutions, ,Rukmunal Hakim, ,SEX, ,sheep, ,Skype, ,Stefan Orschel-Read, ,Very.co.uk, ,wool, ,Ziad Ghanem

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