Undercover: Lingerie Exhibition at the Fashion and Textiles Museum
“Welcome to Limehouse.” With those words, about it Jarvis Cocker set off on the latest instalment of his 30 year musical odyssey, visit this site launching into set opener Pilchard from his new solo album, Further Complications. For such a long, often tortuous journey which began at a Sheffield secondary school and the formation of what was originally known as Arabicus Pulp, the Troxy did seem a rather apt stopping point – a former theatre turned bingo-hall in the deepest End End, where Stepney and Limehouse blur into each other, now restored and reborn as an unlikely concert venue.
In fact, Cocker did remark, in his own inimitable way, that the place reminded him of an ice-rink from his youth, where he went to “cop off” with someone, and you still half expected to hear calls of “clickety click” and “legs eleven”, even as support band the Horrors were going through their Neu! meets Echo and the Bunnymen infused motorik indie.
There were a few half-hearted requests from parts of the audience, but tonight was most definitely a Pulp-free zone (the presence of longtime sidekick Steve Mackey on bass was as near as we got). The set leant heavily on Cocker’s sophomore solo effort, which has a rockier, heavier edge to it than its’ predecessor (not surprising given the pedigree of producer Steve Albini). That said, old Jarvis still has the wry wit and subtle smut that made albums like Different Class such stand outs back in the day (witness news songs Leftover and I Never Said I Was Deep), and he still has plenty of those weirdly angular dance moves up his sleeves. As if that weren’t enough, he even dusted off his old junior school recorder skills on the introduction to Caucasian Blues.
A couple of numbers from Cocker’s debut solo album made an appearance towards the end of the set, including a driving Fat Children, whilst the encore opened with Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time. We ended on the closer from Further Complications, You’re In My eyes (Discosong), where Jarvis appears to channel the spirit of Barry White – there was even a glitterball to dazzle the Troxy’s faded glamour.
As Jarvis took the adulation of the massed faithful, it seemed like, after a bit of a wilderness period post-Pulp, old Mr Cocker has most definitely got his mojo back.
12 June – 27 September 2009
The Fashion and Textiles Museum‘s summer exhibition hopes to present the evolution of underwear over the last hundred years. The result is a lacklustre exhibition with a thrown-together-in-minutes appearance.
The exhibition is organised into areas covering research, more about innovation, seek materials, order celebrity, marketing, print and colour. Despite the ‘evolution’ title, there isn’t any sense of a chronological representation, apart from a small part of the opening corridor of the exhibition where underwear is displayed by year.
It is here where the most interesting pieces are displayed. Beginning with a Charles Bayer corset from the 1900s, we take an (albeit short) walk through the brief history of underwear. There are great examples from Triumph International – then a pioneering underwear brand, now underwear powerhouse governing brands like Sloggi.
We see a sanfor circular conical stretch bra, reminiscent of Madonna’s iconic bra designed by John Paul Gaultier in the 80s (which the placard reveals, to nobody’s surprise, is where JPG sought his inspiration).
In the main arena, there are corsets hanging from the ceiling, of which there are 8 or 9 examples. The corset, as the information details, is one of fashion’s most iconic items. So how can so few examples tell us anything we didn’t already know? Only one of the artefacts is pre 21st century – most are borrowed from burlesque ‘celebrities’ such as Immodesty Blaze and Dita von Teese – hardly representative of underwear’s evolution.
The bulk of the exhibition centres around print, pattern and colour, and again the exhibition relies too heavily on modern pieces, with a small scattering of interesting M&S items. This area, again, relies too heavily on modern underwear – usual suspects La Perla and Rigby & Peller extensively featured – but other key brands, such as Agent Provocateur, fail to get even a mention.
Pioneer of modern underwear Calvin Klein isn’t covered nearly enough as he should be, save for a couple of iconic 1990s white boxer shirts. In fact, men’s underwear isn’t given any coverage at all, which is a shame considering this exhibition’s bold title.
This exhibition does hold some key pieces, and regardless of what I think, it’s definitely worth seeing if you are a fashion follower. Its many flaws could have been ironed out with more attention to detail, and it’s a shame that the FTM isn’t more of a major player in London’s fashion scene. If you want to see stacks of salacious, expensive, modern-day underwear, why not just take a trip to Harrods? They have a larger selection and don’t charge an entry fee!
Dear Readers, symptoms
I am writing to share something a little bit special with you. We all know that warm butterflies-in-the-belly feeling when envelopes arrive through the letterbox with your name and address handwritten carefully on the front with a return address of a friend or lover on the reverse, pilule a beacon of personal correspondence among a mundane plethora of bills, more about takeaway menus and bank statements. How much more sincere is a ‘Thank You’ or a ‘Sorry’, how much more romantic is an ‘I Love You’ or ‘Marry Me’ when it comes in pen to paper form rather than digitalised and, heaven forbid, abbreviated via modern technological means.
Letter writing may be an old fashioned and somewhat dying art, one that we all claim to still do or intend to do, but actually don’t make time for in a world of convenient instant messaging, free text plans and social network sites, but Jamie Atherton and Jeremy Lin refuse to abandon the old worldly ways of communication just yet.
Finding their stationery was like being invited to a secret society for letter writers, a prize from the postal Gods to congratulate and reward all those who participate in mail exchanges, to inspire us to keep going to strive on and not let the Royal Mail network collapse from lack of traffic. The more I find out about this creative pair of gents the deeper I fall under their spell. Two handsome young men, madly in love with each other, one English one American, live together in London nowadays but in the 12 years that have passed since they fell head over heels they have lived in San Francisco too and co-created Atherton Lin, the name under which they produce, distribute and sell their products.
Their work, such as the collections of Winter and Summer greeting cards, is as collectable as it is sendable. Each of the four cards in a set tells a tale; funny, sentimental, melancholic and earnest. They strive to avoid clichés or overused formulaic recipes for ‘commercialised cute’, but instead the boys have created a world of butterflies, badgers, bicycles and balloons, using recycled materials and harm-free inks. It is not just their illustrated correspondence materials that Atherton Lin have become known and adored for, that paved the way to being noticed by and sold alongside Marc Jacobs’ wears and tears, as well as being stocked at places such as London’s ICA, LA’s Ooga Booga and San Francisco’s Little Otsu.
Working on the basis that not all correspondence is text, stationery therefore does not have to be exclusively on paper. With a nod to their burgeoning passion for mix tapes, which featured heavily through their transatlantic courtship, they created artwork for a series of blank CDs. The pair have collaborated with a number of talented outfits such as the musicians Vetiver and Elks, and for a book of poems published by Fithian Press, in addition to eye wateringly lovely calendars.
They cite their inspirations to include the charmingly unaware wit of Japanese stationary with its mysteriously nonsensical English translations, Peanuts comic strips, the lyrics to strumming shoe gaze bands such as Ride and poet Dylan Thomas. Having conducted the first three years of their blossoming relationship as long distance partners, they perhaps know better than anyone the value and worth of the handwritten word, the virtues of patience while awaiting the postman and the magnified importance of every tiny detail when letters are sustaining your longing heart.
Now that I’ve been well and truly bitten by the Atherton Lin bug, I have an overbearing urge to dig out my address book and scribe catch up letters to friends in far-flung corners of the globe, and those just around the corner. And for the scented pastel coloured envelopes about to reach the letterboxes of my acquaintances in the next couple of weeks, you have Jeremy and Jamie to thank, for restoring my faith in the romantic, timeless pastime of writing letters.
Yours ever so faithfully,
Last Thursday, order I negotiated my bicycle through the customary crush of Trafalgar Square to the RSA, find for a talk by R Beau Lotto in association with the Barbican Radical Nature series. Beau heads up Lotto Lab, whose aim is to explain and explore how and why we see what we do (do check out their website) – mainly through looking at how we see colour, which is one of the simplest things we do.
All images by R Beau Lotto, courtesy of Lotto Labs
Here’s a quick science bit, which he gets in at the beginning of the talk to a packed full lecture theatre – light and colour are not the same. Light can be represented on a linear scale. It has just wavelength and intensity. Colour has three bits to it. So it’s much more complicated to describe : hue (red-green-blue-or-yellowness), brightness, and saturation (greyness).
The whole talk is full of questions I asked as a six-year-old, and I’m left with a kind of wide-eyed amazement at how clearly everything is explained and presented – I’ll pick out one of the most satisfying.. Why is the sky blue? This is one to try at home. Get the biggest glass bowl or see-through container you can find, and fill it with water. Shine a desk lamp through it – the lamp’s now the sun and the water space. If we had no atmosphere, the sky would be black with a bright sun – as it is from the moon. Now add a little milk at a time to the water, stirring as you go. As it spreads through the water, the milk will scatter the light like the atmosphere does, and at the right level, will scatter blue. Add a bit more, and you’ll make a sunset – the longer-wave red light scatters when it goes through more atmosphere, as sunlight does when it’s low in the sky. Add more again, and it’ll go grey : you made a cloud, where all the light scatters equally.
The colour of space changes. We never quite see the surface of anything in the world – we see the result of the light shining, the character of the surface, and the space in between. So colours really are brighter in St Ives than Old Street. So the patterns of light that fall onto the eye are strictly meaningless.
We learn to see. We find relationships between things we look at – the context of anything we look at is essential to how we see it. This is what the ‘illusions’ spread through this article show so bogglingly. And context is what links the present to the past – we associate patterns with what we did last time, and learn from it. Beau asked at one point for a volunteer from the audience. I was desperately far back, in the middle of a row – smooth escape from that one. But the demonstration itself was quietly mind-blowing. A target was projected on the screen, and Rob the lucky volunteer was asked to hit it (this as a control – the exciting bit comes next). Next, he put on a pair of glasses which shifted the world 30 degrees to his right. Throwing again, he missed by miles. After a few goes, though, Rob’s whole body movement changed and he hit the target every time. Then he took the glasses off again, and immediately missed the other way – his mind had learnt for that moment to see the world utterly differently.
We don’t see the world as it is – in fact it doesn’t make much sense to talk about the world ‘as it really is’ – only what’s useful. Colour, for example, is great for not being eaten by orange tigers in a green jungle. We constantly figure out what is ‘normal’ – and what should stick out from this normal. So… there are no absolutes – only perceptions of a world relative to a changing normal. No one is outside of this relativity. We are all defined by our ecology. We all learn to live in the world that’s presented to us – and that in a very relative way.
Beau has four ‘C’s that he leaves as teasing thoughts – Compassion, Creativity, Choice and Community. And this is where, if you’ve been reading along wondering quite why I thought this was a good idea for an ‘Earth’ article, I started thinking about the way we tell stories about the environment, the way we tell stories about what happens in the world around us. Getting your head around different mindsets could be wonderfully informed by these ideas – things like understanding how to persuade business profit-heads that sustainability is the only way to long-term profit, or grassroots activists that FTSE 500 companies have been organising and managing disparate groups of employees for years – there’s surely something to learn there.
Knowing that everything we do – down to something so simple as seeing colour – is essentially informed by what we did before, and the kinds of context we’ve ever been exposed to – this can only add possibility to whatever buzzes round our brains : more compassionate, as we see where others might have come from; more creative, questioning these reflexes; more conscious in our choices, if we think a little past the instinctive; and more communal, in a broad sense, as we’re each a unique part of a whole, all sharing in individual perceptions and histories.
That was what I took from it, anyway. Do get in touch, or leave a comment, if you saw any other cool patterns here – I’d be intrigued to hear.
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- Darren Almond Exhibition
- New Designers 2012 Printed Textiles and Surface Design Graduates: part two
- Alexandra Groover: London Fashion Week A/W 2012 Presentation Review