Recently discussing with a fellow fashion blogger the growing interest in the Scandinavian fashion world, information pills treatment she quipped that it was very easy for Scandinavians to be fashionable; after all, link each and every one of them seem to be all long legs and white blonde hair. Her remark seemed to suggest that perhaps the Scandinavians have no street style genius or imaginative flair when it comes to dressing. Indeed, sale the stereotype of beautiful dumb models hailing from the North of Europe is far from rare – but there’s something going on over there that’s worth a bit of investigating.
Taking just one look at street style websites Lookbook or the Face Hunter confronts us with the fresh new faces of Scandinavian fashion. The majority of the most ‘hyped’ looks on Lookbook come from sassy, fashionable (and often very young) North Europeans, hailing from Stockholm, Helsinki and beyond. Indeed, for a clear picture of Swedish success on Lookbook, just look at “Shelley M, 18 year old art student and blogger from Sweden,” with her knack of combining little girl cuteness (headbands and bows) with serious sex appeal (short black skirts and lace) topped off with crazy heels and splashes of kitsch accessories straight out of Tatty Devine.
And she’s not a lone phenomenon. Sporting brave and bold urban prints in vivid colours, these bright young things from Scandinavian meccas of style exude a perfect blend of 90s skate culture with Clueless‘ Cher Horowitz, with her high school polished, blonde doll-faced perfection. See Amelia’s Magazine’s recent articles on Daniel Palillo and CTRL for examples of this kind of styling, something that appears to be truly specific to the Scandinavians. The 90s, it seems, are the nostalgic wardrobe reference du jour here, embodying past positivity and youth in a pre-doom and gloom world of the new millennium.
Ever since the Swedish Institute’s exhibition – ‘Swedish Fashion: Exploring a New Identity’ – launched at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum this February, Scandinavian fashion has seen a markedly rising profile in the fashion world. Celebrating a new wave of Swedish design talent, the exhibition questioned the static view that fashion blooms only in the eponymous fashion capitals of Paris, London, New York and Milan. In fact, this collection instead raised the debate over whether globally, we neglect fashion from all four corners of the globe at the cost of fresher and more interesting approaches to design, simply because they have traditionally been ignored by the industry.
Ann-Sofie Back must be considered one of the most influential and successful of these designers, with her place at London Fashion Week and her capsule collection for Topshop, not to mention her collaboration with that uber-successful Swedish brand, Cheap Monday. As seen at her s/s 09 collection, Back is unafraid to incorporate social comment into her shows, holding celebrity obsession with plastic surgery up to ridicule with her bandaged and felt-tipped models.
But then, there are also the clothes. Back’s most recent collection sported ripped and distressed pieces supposedly representing ‘Ann-Sofie Back goes to Hell’. Striking the balance can be near-impossible, yet she really knows how to shock whilst also providing wearable fashion pieces.
And Back’s not the only one causing a stir. Joining her from the recent exhibition for particular note are Sandra Backlund, Helena Horstedt and Martin Bergström, who showcased similarly effortless Scandinavian cool.
If you saw our feature on Backlund’s knitwear in recent weeks, you’ll know that it is really something special; with oversize knotting and draping, with the designs exude wooly coziness whilst remaining edgy and thoroughly modern. Alongside Backlund stands Horstedt whose work focuses on intricacy of shape in order to create highly fascinating designs that swirl and envelope the body with draping and fringing detail, all in solid black.
Indeed, for both designers, it seems that the human body is paramount to their designs, with Backlund quoted as saying the it is her chief inspiration. Finally we have Bergström, who once again predominantly centres on futuristic shapes enveloping the body with volume, but in a more vivid aquamarine colour palette.
It seems then, that the Finns and the Swedes are well and truly indulging in some kind of sartorial breakthrough at the moment. Whatever it is that’s doing it, there is undoubtedly something linking these North European designers spurring them into a fashion frenzy. Hopefully, the fashion world will take notice, and we will be joining the likes of Shelley M in her fashion credentials all too soon.
What I find so fascinating, search bewildering and ultimately beautiful about Japan can all be found in Shu Okada, site and her stunning watercolour illustrations. Perfectly and carefully rendered, aesthetically desirable but with undertones of the dark and unspoken, her work is enchanting and haunting in equal measures. Okada is true to her Japanese roots though she now chooses to reside in the more artistically liberal city of New York from where she not only illustrates, but blogs, photographs and produces animation.
One of the most important things I think for an artist to do is to take themselves out of their comfort zones and immerse their entire beings in different worlds, different cities, different cultures, and that is exactly what Okada has achieved and she’s still only in her early twenties. Her creative passion has taken her around the globe in search of inspiration; schooling in Switzerland, a spell at St Martins, some time at Parsons New School for Design, and already her work has been recognised and awarded by Bologna Book Fair, New Ink Cover Design and New York Times.
We talked about Kimonos, moving around the world and where to find inspiration, our conversation follows below.
Hello, how are you today?
Good! August is my birth month, so I am very excited now.
What have you been doing recently?
I just finished my college life this summer, so now I have a lot of time to paint and draw anything I want.
What materials or mediums do you like to work with best?
I like to experiment with different media such as watercolour, ink, and oil paint. Recently I’ve been using watercolour and colour pencil the most. I like how watercolour shows differently when it is wet and dry.
How is the New York art scene different from the Tokyo art scene? What made you decide to leave Japan?
New York is mix of many different cultures and nationalities. I feel that New York art has more variety than in Japan. Also, the attitude of illustrators is slightly different in New York. Before I came here, I thought illustration was about comics (manga) or animations for young kids. I decided to come to New York to see how other cultures see art.
What inspires your work?
Knowledge is very important, not just for art, but also for living. So now I am trying to read books and watch different kinds of movies when I have time. It doesn’t necessarily need to connect to my art directly, but I believe it helps my way of thinking. Also, I get inspiration from architecture and I sometimes travel to other countries and like to imagine people’s lives there.
How long do the illustrations usually take you to do?
Watercolour has to be quick, because when it is dry, I can’t fix it. So when I start putting watercolour, it doesn’t take a long time to paint at all…but if I make any mistakes, I have to repaint it all over again.
At what age did you realise you were creative?
My dream was always related to art. When I was in 2nd grade, I wanted to be a fashion designer, and when I was in junior high school, my dream was to be a trumpeter. However, I knew these dreams were just dreams. The time I decided to follow my creativity was in high school. I went to a high school in Switzerland and the way they thought was different from Japan. After we made something in art class, we had a critique time, which was unusual for a Japanese high school. At that time, I realized how I love to show my art to other people and decided to study art more.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I have no idea where I will be living because I am constantly moving around the world; such as Switzerland, New York, London, Tokyo, and Kanazawa. What I am sure about is that I will have a cute dog and I will name it “Maru the 6th” (my family’s dog is always named “Maru”), and painting everyday.
Besides art and photography, what are you passions or interests in life?
Kimono is traditional clothing that is still worn in Japan. However, there are many rules about the choice of patterns, colours, and fabric. Because my family works in the Kimono business, I have always wanted to study the Kimono. One of my passions is to study the Kimono and become a Kimono teacher.
Which are your favourite artists/illustrators/photographers?
For now, I like Makoto Aida, a Japanese artist. When I first saw his paintings, I couldn’t move for long time.
Tell us a secret!
Follow your mind!
Sound advice from a lady who obviously tastes her own medicine.
31 Temple Street
London E2 6QQ
25th July – 16th August
Thursday – Sunday 12 – 6pm
“Emma Puntis, hospital a Chelsea College of Art and Design graduate, paints strangely intense small-scale portraits. The images which act as inspiration for her work are collected from a wide range of sources, from contemporary family snapshots to historical documents of early photography and traditional landscape painting. In translating these images into paintings she suggests a puzzling connection between these apparently disparate snapshots.”
A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break
176 Prince of Wales Road
London NW5 3PT
Until 16th August
Thursday & Friday 11am-3pm
Saturday & Sunday 11am-6pm
Other times by appointment
Continuing with the theme of music and folklore at the 176 Gallery, this exhibition promises exciting new audiovisual work including films by David Blandy, Henry Coombes and Tereza Bušková, and will be presented alongside works, by the same artists, from the Zabludowicz Collection.Each artist explores a particular cultural subject with which they strongly identify, using myth, custom and symbolism, delving into gothica, melancholy and opulence.
Make Do and Mend
V&A Museum of Childhood
Cambridge Heath Rd
London, E2 9PA
Until 8th November
Monday – Sunday 10am to 5:45pm
“Make Do and Mend combines the work of contemporary designers and local schoolchildren. Jon Male, Lou Rota and Max McMurdo rework salvaged domestic and industrial waste to create stylish, quirky new products. The exhibition is based around a display of objects which have been salvaged and refashioned to make useful new items, with an eye on both the environment and the wallet. Anti-waste wartime tips on cutting excessive consumption have an obvious resonance in today’s economic climate and the campaign to salvage, recycle, and reduce your carbon footprint is also impacting on design.”
Team Lump: DIY Rapture
Cell Project Space
258 Cambridge Heath Rd
London, E2 9DA
Until 2nd August
Friday – Sunday 12pm – 6pm
A fascinating discussion on the culture of cults in America lead by native art collective Team Lump, collaborating nicely with drawing, sculpture, painting and film & music. With a focus on the social and political unrest surrounding cults, founder Bill Thelen presents the group who are connected by a DIY aesthetic and a self publishing ethic.
Team Lump Collective, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Leah Bailis, Jerstin Crosby Josh Rickards, Bill Thelen ,Tory Wright
Village Fete Jubilee
London SW7 2RL
24th July 6.30-10pm
25th July 1-5pm
Kids 12 years and under: 50p and must be accompanied by an adult
This year the V&A’s famous Village Fete goes POP ! with the aid of our fabulous sponsors French Connection and just a few balloons. This balloon popping extravanganza is brought to you by Scarlet Projects and Mark Garside. Once again, we bring you the best and most extraordinary in contemporary British design and creative practice. Never has Splat The Rat, coconut shies and homemade jam seemed so much fun. Many thanks go to all the designers taking part in the Fete for their wonderful ideas, their time and their energy.
Carl Clerkin Goes -BING!
Kieron Baroutchi, Carl and Cavan Clerkin, Danny Clarke, Gitta Gschwendtner, Rosie Irvine and Ed Ward do Bada Bingo. This years cultural roulette has a distinct Italian American flavor. Cigars, revolving costumes and plenty of drama and of course everyones a winner at the Bing.
Here’s One I Made Ea rlier Goes -Rustle!
Pick ‘n’ Mix Bags
Make like an eco magpie and delve into our pick ‘n’ mix selection of bits and bobs for you to stamp, stick and style your own unique canvas bag. Perfect for transporting your stash of fete goodies!!
Tatty Devine Goes -hoopla!
Welcome to The Ring Master!
The trusty Tatty team will be handing out giant rings for you to throw onto the giant ring master’s hands. If you manage to get a ring on any finger then you win either a Tatty Devine moustache ring or a limited edition hand shaped ring made especially for the fete. Ready Steady. . .Tatty Hoop la!
Candy Coated Canvas
London Miles Gallery
212 Kensington Park Road
London W11 1NR
24th July – 24th August
Tuesday / Wednesday : 10am to 6pm
Thursday : 11am to 8pm
Friday: 10am to 7pm
Saturday: 11am to 7pm
“Candy Coated Canvas is a themed group exhibition showcasing unique artworks by various established and emerging international talent. All artists have been asked to take inspiration from the title “Candy Coated Canvas” and create a unique art piece which is visually extremely colourful and playful, whilst sparking up memories of childhood, sweets, fantasy lands and those naughty but nice pleasures in life.”
Exhibiting artists include:
D’ Holbachie Yoko, Matthew Bone, Zoe Lacchei, Tadaomi Shibuya, Mike Bilz, Lost Fish, Ryan Myers, Sebastian Otto, Scrumptious Delight, Robert Tirado, Rudi Fig, Natalie Shau, Jade Klara, David Palumbo, Luke Kopycinski, Amanda Riley, KuKula,
For me, sildenafil albums by bands I love leaking pre-release onto the internet is not dissimilar to that childhood dilemma of deciding whether to peek at your birthday presents too early ( I say “childhood”-I’m 23 and I still do it), advice you can’t really imagine not doing it but you always feel guilty for the gift-giver afterwards.
Extended metaphors aside, I personally have fallen both sides of the download/ not download leaks even though I always buy the album when it comes out. I always seem to be sitting on my hands trying not to click ‘download’ (Veckatimest, Spring 2009) or staring down at them in shame whilst I enjoy the album guiltily like you would a 5-7 love affair in a seedy hotel after 20 years of separate bed pious marriage (Merriweather Post Pavillion, Christmas Eve 2008).
So this is why when news of the Dodos‘ Time to Die reached my beady music geek eyes, I abstained from scouring Rapidshare links in a darkened room. I’ve turned over a new leaf and besides the Dodos’ fun jingle-jangle psychedelic folk pop offerings; ‘Beware of the Maniacs’ and ‘Visiter’ were pretty much my go-to albums of last summer; we danced at parties and took many a long train journey together so I pretty much owed them some of my very low self-restraint levels.
Imagine my relief when I got the golden tickets of emails from the Dodos’ PR and all round good- guys; Radar Maker heralding (in what I imagine to be a peeling of bells and rippling fanfares) that the Dodos have embraced the leak of Time to Die, that the band have even released a high quality stream of the album on the website and a video of the band telling me it’s OK to listen to it as long as I buy the album when it’s released. My palms sweaty at the anticipation of revisiting last summer’s aural romance I click the link to listen.
‘Small Deaths’ opens the album in typical Dodos foot-stomping fashion and I’m reminded of just how rousing their drums are as my toes begin a-tapping under my desk and of their happy/sad blend that I vibed last summer; how heartbreakingly nostalgic their lyrics are, and how they contrast so nicely with the childlike simple happiness of their melodies. It also ends with a nice shoegaze noise which is exciting.
The album continues with all the best parts of the previous two albums, their awesome guitar strumming/ danceable drums that sound like this is going to be the soundtrack to the best day of your life, noticeable on ‘Fables’ and ‘Longform’. Yet there is a definite sense of new things being tried out; there is a definite nod to shoegaze and ‘Time to Die’ is more electric sounding than it’s predecessors; ‘This is the Business’ starts of sounding like Simon and Garfunkel moving into some Pavement-esque riffs and ending somewhere totally new. Two Medicines is a stand out track for me; it starts of with, and is held together by an acapella harmonious chant; like if Brian Wilson was in a Barbershop quartet with Animal Collective circa Sung Tongs; then add some 90s guitar riffs again contrasting with a lush sounding xylophones and glockenspiels slipping and sliding away in the background.
‘Troll Nacht’ starts with the most intense xylophone solo not unlike the music they’d play whilst someone was trying to answer an important question on a quiz show melting into some gentle guitar plucking loops and sad quiet vocals, then it explodes into something bigger and exciting, I can feel my year-old summer romance with the Dodos warming up again. ‘Acorn Factory’ follows on seamlessly in it’s folky simplicity. Time to Die ends the album in a grandiose fashion, it kind of sounds like if My Bloody Valentine swapped black for plaid, moved to the country and developed a penchant for folk, which lets’ face it is always going to sound awesome. Dare I name their new exciting tryst with shoegaze mixed with their old folky, psychedelic ways; Birkenstock-gaze? I think so.
Time to Die is everything you could want in a new album from a band you love; enough of the things you loved about them before with a definite sense of new things being tried out.
So say thank you to the Dodos (Thank You The Dodos!) for their infinite talent and the good vibes to streaming the album by buying/ downloading Time to Die when it comes out; I can promise you that it is worth it, it will be the soundtrack to the best summer you could have, with none of the sweaty guilt of illicit downloading!
In the mean time kids: Just Say No (and stream instead)…and ermm…Stay In School.
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- Team Ghost – You Never Did Anything Wrong To Me – Album Review
- Los Campesinos!
- Two Sunsets by Pastels/Tenniscoats- Pinky Blue Green Serene