Lee

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During a time where you only need to be a reality TV star, where fame and fashion have joined forces to make a ‘designer’ and when one clothing collection looks like the next, you can imagine how sad it feels to walk around the Savage Beauty exhibition which has just come to an end, hailing the late works of the most imaginative, avant-garde and daring fashion designer of the 21st century, Lee Alexander McQueen.

The exhibition turned out to be the biggest grossing and most visited exhibition in the V&A’s history, oversubscribed even, as much so, that the museum remained open for its final 24 hours to try to meet demand and have the experience of the world of McQueen.

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Housed in the decadent labyrinth of London’s V&A, the highlights of Alexander McQueen’s historic rise as a fashion designer are celebrated. Curated by Claire Wilcox a woman who was lucky enough to spend time with McQueen and tried to get him to show at the V&A while he was alive, although during that time he always made excuses that he was too busy and too young to achieve such a feat, so this feels like a sad but good dream that was a long time in the making. The exhibition is similar to the one housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 2011 but for the show in London, the exhibition has been expanded to include McQueen’s early works as a graduate and his breakthrough into the industry.

So the exhibition, well on entry to the cube, the black drapes hang and drag, it’s dark and eery, while McQueen’s face hovers ghost like over the entrance, almost guarding his works in that theatrical way that he was famous for.

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The first room is incredibly industrial, raw and urban, it documents his graduate collection ‘‘The Highland Rape’’ and the city where his of love of fashion was rooted and where his collections gained inspiration, London! ‘I’m a romantic scichrephic’ narrates McQueen on the concrete washed walls that’s certainly one way to describe it, I would go with crazy, but who I am to judge. His early works were incredibly simple, where he drew on tradition, tailoring and his heritage, themes he continued to draw on throughout his work, but here they are at their most evident. Shredded lace gowns, slashed leather jackets, corroded one pieces and sadistic masks. I probably won’t be wearing a leather mask down the high street tomorrow, but I think I can see where he was going with it! Not your average collection but this isn’t your average designer this is McQueen starting to provoke a reaction and his way of starting a revolution.

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Nothing in here is quite ready to wear but that’s not the point, it’s not just clothes on a rack, you’re seeing art, being immersed into his vision and his imagination, its wonderful.  And from one room to the next its mind-blowing, the collection I have just seen goes to another extreme, this is the recurring theme throughout the exhibition. The next room inspired by his love of ‘romantic exoitiscm’. A heavily blacked out room, with ornate mirrors and acid stained glass and a clear step up in the detail of McQueen’s wacky outfits. You can see the themes from next door carried though but the detail is on another level. Incredibly detailed gown’s made from goose feathers, sprayed gold, black lace, high necks collars and capes galore, talk about drama! The masquerade theme is ever evident here, and this plays into McQueen’s fascination with sexuality and the sense of freedom to become and explore sexuality in all manner of ways, its pretty deep! I had to squint my way through this room, much like I have with the dark side of his personality.  Rubbing my temples, I can only wait to see what’s around the corner.

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What feels like a cross between the Flintstone’s and the Deep Blue, his Romantic Privitism collection draw’s on his fascination with skeleton’s and tribalism. If you were after a coat of human hair you have definitely arrived at the right place! The hairy coat as I called it, is definitely the standout piece, I do wonder how it never made it onto the high street though? He took some classic shapes here again and added his leather staple to create a piece with inspiration from tribal patterns, he had it lazered into the leather, an avant-garde way of dress making at the time, which has now filtered though and become a common mark in clothes today.  As some sea goddess swims above my head, I slide along the stone tree line walls, slip through the black curtain into a room that would sit rather comfortable amongst the State rooms at Buckingham Palace, no sign of the queen though here!

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Another part of McQueen, which was incredibly important to him, was his heritage. There’s no doubt that McQueen was patriotic and adored his Scottish roots and that’s laid bare within the Widows of Culloden collection. Inspired by Jacobite Riding in 1745, the collection was full of tartan, constructed for today, the most artistic has to the grey lace dress, worn with antlers and a veil. I felt like this was bringing together once again the traditional and yet ethereal vision of McQueen.  It’s a bit creepy and uncomfortable but somehow it works, you feel like the clothes are literally talking to you.  Oh wait, now I’m going crazy, its contagious!

By far the most surreal and mind blogging of rooms was the cabinet of curiosities. Showcasing various pieces of nature which have been lost in time but with McQueen’s vision and collaboration’s that he forged with other designers, he brought them back to life. Where the surreal comes to the forefront, Butterfly greenhouse headdresses (lets not leave out that the butterflies were flying and breathing!), the spine corset, the coil body plate. These pieces are all one of kind for his shows and were never made for production. I felt slight unease around these curiosities, because that’s what they are, parts of life for the curious, but that was McQueen, he found beauty in the grotesque, and forced people to look. I felt like I was in accessories closet, sitting on the centrepiece and pondering what to wear, it turns out none of it!   You really have to admire McQueen on how his imagination really went above and beyond and made it into the mainstream. I managed to scan the room for at least half an hour, before I became consumed that I was having a bad dream, time to move on!

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The whole time I was walking through, I was wondering how Kate Moss, his long-term friend and muse who frequently was the focal point of his shows, would feature. She popped up in various spots, but the most visual was in the cinematic prism, this closed his Windows of Culloden show. Moss, angel like suspended beneath the prism with the clever use of projection and mirrors, slowly gliding around a white sheet, it was classic. Classic in its simplicity and classic McQueen, in his way to shock and showcase a new technique. It’s Moss at the end of the day, who could wear anything and be anywhere and still look cool.

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The end wraps with Plato’s Atlantis, his last unfinished collection, completely different and literally on another planet. This out of all of his work has now gone onto inspire a generation. Gaga’s Bad Romance video isn’t as original as your might think, paying homage to McQueen, maybe she’s not but everything about it, is a reflection of this collection. The iconic Armadillo boot, the concept being light years ahead of time, its one of a kind, it’s different, its show-stopping, it’s McQueen!

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‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them, That’s what i’m here for, to demolish the rules but keep the traditions’.

Leaving the exhibition, it would be easy for part of me to feel like I was having a bad dream but the other part of me felt like I had just been inspired and fortunate enough to be apart of something very special!

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*Photos from Savage Beauty from V&A website

**Photos from Inferno – TheUrbanEdit’s own

The ‘Lego House’

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If Collins had a new definition for the use of the shipping container I can’t think of a better time than right now for it to be redefined, maybe with an urban undertone. Set on a former car park on the wrong side of the tracks in Brixton lies a new pile of containers. It’s not quite a graveyard scene, the containers have given recycling new meaning.  They have been re-painted in an array of bright colours, decorated with art by local artists and have been given a new lease of life the Brixton way and created a community lazily titled PopBrixton. I think PopBrix would have been better, but what do I know, I’m just a blogger.

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Spaces for business and pleasure have undergone a major rebirth over the past decade in Brixton. At a time when space and cost is at a premium, finding a spot to create a new community and encourage growth can be a tricky hurdle. Not anymore, the tides have turned, designed by local maverick architect Carl Turner, the container park has been born delivering space and location ideal for any new entrepreneurs. Unlike its older brother BoxPark in Shoreditch, PopBrixton is geared towards local leisure, enterprise and entertainment where it has managed to create a sense of community where locals come and play.

The Lego bricks are as I playfully call them, have been setup in a rough square enclosure, it’s hard to not feel like Lego people when walking around, a few drinks at the S11 bar and you might actually think you are one! The jewel of the complex is the ‘Garden of Disorientation’, once you get beyond the mouthful of its namesake, it’s actually really cool, pitched underneath a concave roof, which unfortunately is not thin enough to see the stars, but it will keep you dry come rain or shine, so there’s always a spot to wet your whistle! Where greenery lacks in Brixton, the disoriented garden or whatever, tries to make up for it, it’s not quite an Eden so leave your leaves at home but in time it’s got potential to Pop!

 

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Most of the business here is geared towards the catering industry, god forbid they branch into fresh produce, I’m sure the local market that has been around for the last century would love that! There’s an array of bars, which will appeal to all. S11 bar, dominates the entrance when you walk in and you can’t miss it, as it’s where all the suits have gathered after work. New Zealand Cellar is a great addition and really original, bringing the best of the wine from the land of the long white cloud and giving it an industrial edge and Donostia’s Social Club, great food although from my experience not so social! Don’t rile up the major D, you might be bluntly asked to leave!

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The diversity of the different food on offer is great, nothing the same to directly put any of the businesses in competition. Made of Dough was one of my favourites the doughy (surprising), crisp pizza base was wonderful with a play on the most mouth-watering of toppings. Zoes Ghana Kitchen as they say, its Ghana B Good, good-by name and good-by nature, great value for money, good use of native ingredients and a kitchen to draw in any die-hard artist, leave your paintbrush at home! If your just in the market for something sweet, Yumitub ice cream is perfect, Thai style ice cream made on a frozen plate and locally produced.  You need to see it to believe it, it’s definitely an original idea and makes you feel slightly better post hoovering a few roles, just don’t think about the calories!

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Like most of the new developments that are contributing to the gentrification of the area, our new Lego house is targeted at the resurgent young professional community that are overtaking the area. At £4 a pint and £5 for a glass of prosecco, by their standards you’ll be pushed to find a better deal anywhere else, hurry before popularity results in inflation again!

PopBrixton is still undergoing construction and expanding slowly but surely (this is a council initiative after all!) to include a gig space and more cubes for business. And if my last visits anything to go by, I think they will be booming into the summer. If not I will eat some urban Lego pie!

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Although you will find mostly suits here and the art nouveau Brixton crowd, its hard to dislike box heaven. It’s questionable about whether it’s a Pop Up to stay, but what is certain is that Lambeth council have got it right, in creating a community where your average Londoner can go and pass sometime whether that’s a lifetime or a few hours after work. There’s great laid back appeal and something on offer that you can’t find anywhere else in London. Next time your thinking about a drink in the sun, your next date or starting that business that you’ve always dreamt of, give PopBrixton a thought, it hasn’t failed yet!

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The Style Launchpad

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Stella McCartney, Giles Deacon, Christopher Bailey and Matthew Williamson, all famed alumni who once upon a time presented collections at Graduate Fashion Week and who are now well established brands amongst the global fashion elite. So those with the opportunity to present here are not only given a wonderful platform to showcase their creative vision and reach a global audience but also a life changing moment in time to change their lives.

The highly esteemed fashion departments from 40 of the country’s universities showcase designs from more than 1,000 talented students this year, featuring 22 catwalk shows, therefore the GFW competition is as fierce as you can imagine and only the best will get noticed.

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GFW attracts the cream of those in the business, browsing around the various displays that showcase here every year. Whether its taking photos, contemplating prints, mulling over themes or sitting front row on the runway, they are hungry to see what the up and coming graduate fashionistas and fashionistos have to offer and how they can shake up the global stage.

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This was my first experience of GFW and what an amazing ride it is. My first impression is that it doesn’t have the pretentiousness air and tense atmosphere of London Fashion Week. This is helped by the fact that anyone with a passion for fashion can attend the event, this helps to lighten the atmosphere and put the audience at the heart of the show. It was also really nice that each of the different universities were incredibly accepting and engaging with anyone. I watched and mingled with those in attendance and watched how people from all walks of life engaged with the displays and people to discuss fashion.

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What’s special here is that you’re seeing the process from beginning to end within minutes. The mood boards summarising creative inspiration, the fine pencil drawings and shadings are beautifully laid out, a rainbow of fabrics and prints samples adorn design tables and final pieces wrap around numerous mannequins, showcasing the final product. It’s a real creative space and forum, which is thrilling, it feels very fresh and organic, rather than their being a focus on the actual designer which is the draw to mainstream fashion, the actual designs speaks for themselves and pave the way for each designer to make a name for themselves in fashion culture.

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While trawling through which catwalk show to attend its difficult to decide, they are all so captivating. On this occasion I went with practicality and what I know best, the University of East London’s show is meant to be one of the best. East London is a bustling cultural arena that can offer graduates inspiration from market stalls, books shops, street markets, club nights and street art.

I made the decision on my love for all the things East London has to offer and wanted to see how the students take inspiration from the culture and translate that onto the catwalk.

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I loved the space where the catwalk show took place, it was a white, sparse blank room, lit with powerful spot lights, shaped with black, cotton drapes and luckily we managed to sit just behind the main seating. When I say main, I mean the ‘front row’ elite, so not as important as those bottoms sitting in those seats but within view and around those consumers supporting the cause with the non-pretentious pouts. As the lights went down and the names of the designers scrolled over the catwalk, I got the sudden buzz, much like a kid reaching his hands out for candy and as soon at the scorching lights came on the sugary adrenaline rush struck.

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The show was wonderful, each budding designer, having a completely different vision to the next. Each designer showcased 6 designs, each design drapped over the immaculately groomed models who strutted down the runway in sync with the bold music.

There was so much menswear on show here and it was great to see that menswear becoming more experimental, visionary and cutting edge. My favourites had to be Shabana Begum, the designers use of oversized white garments to hold incredibly colourful textile pieces was brilliant. I liked how the various textile shapes hung off the clothes and created a motion, in sync with the movement of the clothes, when the textiles caught the beams of light. the pieces came to life, much like when the sun glistens on the sea.

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Vuri Pardi de Oliviera’s garments were also a highlight. The rigid, heavy grey and black felts, created superhero style armour and it gave the clothing character, like they were meant for a Marvel movie. The full length gown with the dinosaur style spine was incredibly inventive and heavy, the model had to walk at tortoise pace to drag the dress down the runway, it just goes to show you have to suffer for fashion.

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The Rhianna Ellis collection was the most ready to wear and commercially ready collection. Taking her inspiration from the Scandi lumberjacks, not the most original but I like how she took the theme and brought it up to date. The denim was oversized with equally oversized fixings and stitching, the sheep-skin linings had been developed into trims and beautifully cut oversized collars. The use of tailoring highlighted in the braces was also a wonderful touch. As the show closed and the models did their final walk, the atmosphere was electric and the cheers once again hailed a creatively bold and successfully put together show and I walked away feeling incredibly creative and inspired.

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I mingled around the UEL display at the end and weaved in-between the movers and shakers in its design department, you could feel the relief in people’s voices and the elation that the show was complete, all of them gossiping about what’s next. Gripping a beer and flicking through a design book, I felt a tap on my shoulder, ‘are you a designer?’ the voice said, ‘no not at all, I’m a blogger’ I said with passion. ‘Press’ the voice shouted, ‘come over here!’ and I went or more like enthusiastically dragged. So I hopped along behind the voice over to the crowd of movers and shakers, my first graduate fashion show experience had ended but my path as a blogger might just be able to take off on the runway.

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Sliding on Clay

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Those who know me, know that 1. I like trying new things, never one, to never say never, I will try anything once, 2. I love to travel, well maybe that’s an understatement, it’s not even a hobby more of a routine way of life, 3. I am a huge tennis fan, I’m not talking following Murray although that is at the heart of it. Whether it’s the grand slams, masters, ATP or WTA, I’m transfixed. There’s nothing like a 229 km/h cross court forehand, clipping the baseline. That’s excitement, nervous, elation, misery, point won or point lost, all emotion’s experienced at the same time, well that does depend on which side of the net your on!

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I’ve only managed to get to one of the grand slams, and that’s in my native London, but I will save that for another time. It’s on my bucket list to get to all four and given that it involves all 3 of the things about me above, it’s a safe bet that I will do them in my lifetime.  On this occasion, its my time to go to Roland Garros.  The tournament is a celebration of the culmination of the clay court season, which takes place at the sprawling Stade de Roland Garros nestled in western Paris, France’s most famous tennis arena, shadowed by the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  Centred around Phillippe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, the 2 main show courts, the park is not as pristine and beautiful as the grass court grand slam or as vast as our neighbour’s grand slam down under, but Roland Garros brings with it the romance of the city where it sits and the laid back atmosphere of its culture.

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I was fortunate enough to be able to go out for the opening few days and get the best out of the tournament in my eyes where you get to see the most tennis, as well as it’s top ranked players. We had fantastic seats, sitting just behind the baseline, looking out across the courts, with some fantastic weather and wonderful conditions to set up some great tennis. Sitting on Chatrier, it’s an incredibly open arena, and you feel like your sitting in the outdoors, rather than in a grand tennis stadium. The stands don’t tower over the court from intimidating heights, it’s vast and has a relaxed feel to it, which adds to the tennis atmosphere. The clay as you expect is terracotta at its best, its beautiful shade contrasts beautifully with the sky above, it’s truly an epic setting.

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Roland Garros is usually dominated by Rafael Nadal who knows how to slide on clay, having won the tournament, 9 out of 10 times he has participated, he is pretty much king of the clay (he was denied that one time by the king of tennis, Roger Federer). However in the run up to the tournament this year he’s failed to win any of the masters which is incredibly unusual, with Murray and Djokovic, denying him between them. Not to be under-estimated though, it will be a close tournament by any means and I’m excited to see who comes out on top.

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On this encounter we managed to see last years women’s finalist Halep, fly by her opponent, Tsonga dance his way through to round 2, with the full force of the French crowd chanting ‘Magique’. Garcia managed to escape an early scare and exit, with a thrilling 3 setter and my favourite Roger Federer, sailing through in 3 straight sets. It never gets tiring watching Federer play, with his effortless backhand strokes, his initiative to get into the net for a classic volley or drop shot and his stamina to cover the court and go for every ball is really remarkable.

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Taking my search beyond the courts and wanting to absorb all that Rolland Garros had to offer, we went in search of the food which was impressive by stadium standards. The baguettes in every filling you can imagine, go for the poulle frites, it was in the most amazingly fresh baguette or if you’re in the market for something sweet, the Gaufre as the French say or waffle for us English folk. You can’t miss it, the scent intoxicates the grounds, go basic on the topping, icing sugar or caramel are delicious.   The drinks by no means pale in comparison, the cocktails are inventive to say the least and come with wonderful macaroons, if that doesn’t take your fancy, you can always slum it with a glass of Moet while taking a break from all the waffles!

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While I continued to munch through a waffle and sip champagne, making my way around the grounds, we saw Andy Murray training for his first round match out on court 12, under the closeful watch of his coach, Amelie Mauresmo. On the opposite court was Rafa Nadal, taking the opportunity to train, with so many young tennis hopefuls watching on to get a glimpse of their idol and the tennis queen herself Serena Williams looking calm and composed training and talking strategy with Patrick Mouratoglou in preparation for her Roland Garros opener.

While watching some of these players play, as much as their tennis is talked about there is no missing the outfits that some of them wear.  Tennis used to be all about clean tennis whites or splashes of block colours.  However these days especially at this tournament, it’s the most colourful display and shows another side to the players.  Whether its Serena’s fluorescent pink leopard print dress, Rafa’s bright blue head to toe choice, Roger’s bright Purple and Pink combination (Nike have gone big on their tennis clothing!) or Stan’s psychedelic shorts, each player has their own style and it gives all the commentators and tennis fans something extra to talk about (we won’t talk about Murray’s all black choice, let’s just focus on his tennis!).  Its great players showing off this side of their character on court, bringing to life another element of the game and pushing tennis further into other global platforms.

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Coming back to Murray and most importantly his tennis, while watching Murray clinch his opener with a straight set win was icing on the cake to my trip here, allowing me to walk away with a nice hop in my step and a slightly smug feeling from having had a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Who knows if I will ever make it here again or why it ever took so long to get here in the first place, but it was well worth the wait.  Now when I watch the tournament from home, shouting at the TV, I won’t ease up having experienced the magic. I will yell with more conviction along with those supporters in the stands, relive my experience and raise the spirit as if I were there for the players to win!

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‘Creative’ Town

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For a few days in late spring the interior design elite from across Europe decent on the creative capital of London, Clerkenwell, to showcase their talents.  Now in its sixth year, Clerkenwell Design Week or CDW as its also known, is continuing to get bigger.  Building on its ‘Fringe programme’, outsiders are being given access to EC1’s creative showrooms, offices and studios to experience what goes on behind the scenes. This is allowing creatives to engage with their peers, have a nosey around office space and watch them at work.  This provides a first-rate insight into how creatives work and gives a rare glimpse of people channeling their skills on a day-to-day basis in the creative town.

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CDW runs out of 4 main hubs which take the form of iconic Clerkenwell building’s and various showrooms. The architecture of the hub buildings are incredible, some of these I have only just ever seen from the outside and now to see the history and character on the inside, is brilliant. The Old Sessions House, housed the new for 2015, Icon’s House of Culture exhibition.  It has a rustic Georgian interior with old column radiators, bare, worn polished concrete walls and exposed wood floors and a glass dome ceiling with a geometric design.  It houses luxury European brands, designer Gubi stood out, with their mixture of post-modernist and contemporary designs and splashes of spring like prints creating a calming and serene effect.

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The ‘Additions’ exhibition at the Crypt on the Green was a wonderful display of designer accessories.  Housed beneath St James Church,  I particularly liked the designer Jimbobart, who displayed a surreal tea-party hosted by animals, using the designers crockery products. Iona Crawford’s designs are one’s to watch and her way of using timeless and classic prints, to bring to life various interior accessories is really original and just went back to basics. Most of the products on show at CDW are a bit beyond the tastes of your average consumer, so I found her display really refreshing and it shows that there is still a market for the re-invention of everyday household interior items.

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The ‘Platform’ exhibition at the ‘House of Detention’, firstly, wow, what an amazing space. It’s underground, with its various doors leading off the main rectangular space , with the arched exposed brick and the dripping ceiling, it felt like a movie like labyrinth.  This venue houses emerging interior designers, Rubertelli’s designs were original and the best on show.  Fusing his artistic and designer skills to create lighting and furniture that target the senses.  The colorfully lit, ring light installation, use string to create a nest like effect which are the focus of the collection in a variation of colours. These products would appeal to a niche market, for those who have a love of the strange pieces and a large wallet!  Studio 23 Textile was also a standout exhibitor for me, where they use sustainable materials and native skills that originate from a small Nepalese village to harness the various geometric prints to create wonderful fabrics for interiors and garments. As basic as they might seem to the eye, the way they went about creating these designs and the skills used, from local naturally produced products it’s incredibly inspiring.

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My favourite hub was the ‘Design Factory’ which is housed at the historic Farmiloe Building. Centred around the main sponsors (Renault) Kadjar model in the atrium and the Verve, a spectacular tile installation by Johnson Tiles, which transforms the Shed into a 3D sculpture. It is the largest of the exhibition spaces and forms the heart of CDW. There are all sorts of displays, from cutting edge lighting to funky office furniture to rustic dining room tables to old school wall art. There was everything you can imagine and it was great moving from room to room, chatting to designers, experimenting with the goods and absorbing the atmosphere from a buyer’s perspective rather than a consumer which was really interesting.  I was being spoken to differently, the conversation’s went a bit deeper than talking about purchasing.  The conversation between designers to buyers was about materials, sourcing, suppliers, markets, trade, it went to various depths which really put me in touch with the designer’s concepts of the brand that they had created, which was really insightful.

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Having a particular interest in style and fashion, I took a particular liking to Buster and Punch, the London-based designer who make everyday furniture and lighting from rare and solids materials. The products are heavily influenced by East-London culture, which is evident from the items taking inspiration from fashion, street-art, warehousing and busking. They have a small jewellery line which was amazing, the black plaited leather bracelet with the brass and steel lock is really cutting edge, wearable and I wouldn’t mind purchasing it for myself!

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My favourite exhibition hands down had to be for Dezeen Watchstore. Their watches are contemporary, sleek and simple.  Some watches even feel like they are years ahead of the times.  Although the designs were simple, they were bold.  The Michael Young’s Hacker watch in gold with the black strap and the Dennis Guldone’s Sometimes watch in gold with the brown strap had to be the best of the collection. They both had clean lines and were stylish with a post-modern feel, but with the use of metallic’s to create a strong and solid shape, they really make an impact as statement watch. The straps for the watches are also really innovative, what looks like leather is a fusion of rubber.  In feel and appearance it very much seems like a leather strap but on closer inspection and watching the strap move its rubber like qualities are apparent.  These attributes contributed the amazing design of the watches, I felt like they stood out with their own identity and it’s very different from anything else on the market at the moment.

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Coming away from the CDW I had the urge to re-design my home again, unfortunately it’s just been done it but it gave me inspiration for the future and the creative ideas that I gained are going to be channelled into my everyday work. If you are really into interior design or even want inspiration for your next home makeover, design week is definitely worth a visit, it will give you ideas that you would never have thought of, make your life that little more stylish and a home that your friends will envy!

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City Surfer Style

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There are so many of my favourite stores continuing to create new brands as an extension of the brand. Trying to appeal to a new demographic, while keeping the label fresh and continuing to grow.  I’ve noticed that these are the designer’s that I usually go for. Rather than going for the all of nothing approach which is key to the main line, the new brand has a focus, which is what I like. There’s identity, there’s association and there’s a particular lifestyle that I’m getting from it and that’s the point which gages my attention.

I’ve got a real passion for these lines and I’m going to be looking at some of my favourites in my blog. This time I’m putting Topman LTD in focus. As spring is in full swing it’s always hard to know how to layer up under the gentle spring heat while staying on trend.  Topman LTD has created a great collection for spring/summer 2015 with pieces that I think are stylish and understated at the same time.

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Inspired by Montauk (the famous New York state surf spot) this line takes its cue from a New Yorker’s interpretation of surf culture.  The pieces bridge the gap for wearing clothes out into the city and while hanging out at the beach. They are the epitome for smart casual for any contemporary mans wardrobe . The palette is based on muted colours: oatmeal, navy, khaki and rust with a focus on bold spray prints. The fabrics are light and wearable, using cotton and light canvas. Key pieces includes canvas bombers, graffiti printed vests and shirts, and structured polo’s. I’ve blogged about some of my favourites from the collection below.

Look 1 – The Montauk Surf Blue Pebbledash bomber, the slim stone tapered chino, and a Topman basic white vest.  The fit of the chino is slim through the thigh and narrow to the ankle.  The canvas fabric doesn’t really allow for much movement, so I would suggest going for a size up and rolling up the hem.  The the ribbed neck, waist and cuffs add to the modern feel of the jacket and make it more contemporary.  The jacket is cotton and heavier than I would have expected so I wore it with a white basic Topman vest and converse to complement the relaxed style.

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Look 2 – The Montauk Surf white Coach jacket, The black denim ripped jeans and the Surf Pebble dash vest in rust. The vest is incredibly light and loose in its fit, I thought they came up bigger than they should do so I would suggest going for a size down.  I have put these together with the slim black denim jeans with the ripped detail in the knee. The jeans are slim fit, which are my preferred style, with the rip in the right place! It feels like there’s some stretch in the denim, as they move well and look great rolled up.  The off-white jacket is brilliant, it’s canvas and unlike the chinos from look one, it’s a lot thinner.  The elastic cuffs allow to have the sleeves gathered up the arm, the poppers on the front add to the casual feel of the jacket and the varsity letter details in satin across the back give the jacket a really laid back feel.

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Look 3 – The black denim ripped jeans and the navy knitted polo shirt.  I love this polo, yes it’s knitted which you might think is strange for spring/summer, but its light and its rather foam like in the way it sits and that’s why I recommend going for a size up and wearing it looser. Because the jeans have so much movement I put them with the polo as they can be carried off for casual during the day and then be turned into a smarter evening look, which is what I have done here.  Perfect for a sunset walk along the beach in the evening.

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JxR

Note: 1. All items of clothing are from Topman LTD and Topman. Footwear is by converse and models own. 2. I am not employed, associated or affiliated with Topman in any capacity.

Dancing and the Desert

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Picture this: clear skies, towering palm trees, rusty mountains, scorching sunshine, pool parties, awesome music, the celebrity elite, and more fringe than you can fathom, it can only mean one thing, I’m at Coachella.

Being a festival goer and follower myself at home in the UK, going overseas to live the festival dream has always been on the cards and when an opportunity presented itself, I didn’t need to be told twice, it was a YOLO moment (for those who aren’t down with the kids that means you only live once), well that’s what I said to convince myself.  And what better place to go than the US of A’s most well-known music festival and the one that kicks starts festival season the world over.

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The first thing that strikes you on arrival is the beautiful setting, its pretty epic and was enough to instantly put me into a good mood and the queues, which were surprising non-existent. Shocking I know, the last festival I went to, I queued for an hour in the rain, and remained damp for the rest of the festival, so this as you can imagine was refreshingly different and set precedent for what was to come. Although its quick to get in, you do need to go through a rigorous pat down to enter, and sadly my Clift bar didn’t make it through, tears were shed! That’s one thing about this festival everything is incredibly controlled.  From drinking in certain areas, to not being able to take in certain items and pretty tight security!  The world most notorious festival goer, Kate Moss, doesn’t ever come to Coachella for that reason, preferring the unpredictable and more relaxed approach back home, embracing the mud. I think I will opt for the pat down and sunshine on this occasion, it would be rude not to especially as I am already here.

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On the inside the grounds are perfect, like a hollywood smile.  The grass is lush and green, the palms looked like they are standing on a ruler and the different areas are neatly crafted to mould around the polo field setting.  Once inside there’s so much going on, the various art installations, the throngs of people, every form of food cart you can think of, the fairground and so much music.  Its pretty incredible and I felt instantly at ease and quickly slipped into festival mode.  Coachella is comparison to other festival is much smaller so you can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes which saved my weary feet and helped us catch as many bands as possible, this was music to my ears!

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Walking around and switching from tent to tent that easily made the Coachella experience more enjoyable and relaxed.  Being on American shores also meant that we saw a lot of new bands and see acts whose music we knew but never knew the artist, so that surprise was pretty awesome when we stumbled on it and that happened a lot!  Stand-out acts for me were The Weeknd, they were brilliant and the Kanye West surprise collaboration was just too good, as a character he’s pretty passionate, his musical creativity was genius and he was amazing to watch.  Seeing Royal Blood was pretty cool, having won best british group at the Brit Awards earlier this year and sealing their status as the new kings of modern rock back home, they are relativity unknown in the US so getting up-close and rocking out to ‘Out of the Black’ under the desert sky was awesome. We sneaked our way to the front for Clean Bandit who had a day slot on the main stage, and dancing to Real Love in the sun was nothing short of magical for me. Alesso was a great way to cap off the day, and we danced hard along with everyone else, he played a brilliant set of tunes and the laser show was something else.

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As well as the music, the festival is also famous for it’s art installations.  This years best had to be ‘Papilio Merraculous‘, the caterpillar, which does move, no that wasn’t just a figure of my imagination! and morphs into a beautiful butterfly.  Papilio celebrates the changes in nature and the world around us.  The ‘Praxis the Neon’ installation, was made up of multi-layered cubes which were great to photograph and I found them fun. The ‘Earthmover‘ design, which I would describe as a cross between a spider and a JCB was strange.  It’s meant to be an ant, the most hard-working insect, crossed between excavators, the most hard-working of machines and its meant to symbolise a modern form of intelligence.  I think that is questionable, considering what I thought it was, but it was great to photograph and provides a good spot for a meeting point! The ‘Chrono Chromatic‘ piece was another stand out for me, celebrating time and colour and the spectrum of bands and events that go on at the festival.  The light show at night is one of the best i’ve seen and it provided a much-needed space for shade in the day as well as a great place for a post band nap! I can’t forget ‘Corporate Headquarters‘, an office in chaos of half human, half hippo workers.  It was hilarious, incredibly surreal and a great interpretation of art, I will definitely be signing up to work there post festival!

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We sat beneath the Butterfly, to catch some shade away from the scorching rays one afternoon and between napping and people watching, I admired what everyone was wearing.  Festivals are a great place to showcase style and Coachella is famed for it.  It wasn’t as diverse as I was hoping, everyone pretty much dresses exactly the same, which was incredibly disappointing.  Denim cut offs, flower headdresses, fringe, round shades and not forgetting a face mask (not the most stylish of items, but practical!). Although everyone was in uniform it still looked great and added to the festival vibe. Being style conscious myself, I gave it a good go and it was fun to experiment. Being in the mid-30 something degree range in the desert though, does make it that little bit harder to turn on the style.  I didn’t miss being able to wear my trusty Wellies, I will have to save my Hunters for a muddier occasion!

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It appeared that face masks and bandana’s were the ultimate accessory for a lot of people, it made some of them look like Avengers, which was pretty random I thought, that’s before I noticed the dust.  The grounds having been trampled the weekend before and with the heat they had turned the grass in places into a sand track.  It was so bad in the evening that we pretty much choked and sneezed our way out of the festival – very attractive as you can imagine!  Having wondered why and smirked at so many people wearing face masks earlier in the day, they were clearly having the last laugh now as they happily left inhaling their clean air!

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We struck up conversation with some of these festival looking superhero’s that were clearly professionals and were incredibly friendly, just like everyone else.  I think everyone’s friendliness, openness and positive outlooks, really made the festival for me.  Everywhere we went, everyone struck up conversation, I think our English accents helped but that aside, it was great to share stories and have a chat with the new faces we met, it was really special.

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I think by the end of the final day I just made it through Drake, I was at the point of passing out from the pain from standing for 3 days straight, I am not exaggerating!  Capping off the festival we took a night ride on the Ferris wheel, looking down on the festival as it drew into the night, it was a beautiful sight.  Coachella as a festival was brilliant and just thinking about all the great moments we had and the bands gave me goosebumps or on second thought, maybe that was an allergic reaction to the dust!  Having looked at so many photos and envied so many people for years who had been, I had finally made it and it was well worth the wait.

See you next time Coachella!

JR.

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The Hills

Driving around the streets of Los Angeles, everything looks exactly as I remember it.  Our convertible gridlocked in traffic; the light smog burning off into the hills; the grey and concrete lined streets looking as optimistic as ever. Even the sun is shining like there’s no tomorrow, elevating the mood of the city to a level of positivity which to me is only true to LA.

On my last trip to the City of Angels, I had done the typical touristy cycle: the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Beverly Hills, being an extra in a film, Universal Studios. This time however, I wanted to experience something different and see another side of the city. But what else is there to do? Being skeptical about spending more time here than necessary, I heard a convincing story about how to enjoy LA as a local and along with the possibility of a celebrity spot, sold!

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It turns out that the best way to see LA is to get out into the outdoors. As a fitness and health focussed individual, I don’t need to be told twice about a hike in the Hollywood wilderness. Exercising is serious business in Los Angeles. The average person in this city does about 4.5 hours of physical activity per week, as opposed to the recommended 2.5 hours which 80% of Americans struggle to reach. I wouldn’t be surprised if the remaining 20% all lived here in LA, considering the local fitness craze. It’s a very active place and everywhere you go outside of the tourist circuit, you see locals cycling, running and exercising as if their life depends on it.

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Being the glamourous home to the rich and famous, everyone dresses up even for a simple hike. Decked out in their finest workout kit; with the latest designer sunglasses, flourescent NIKE runners, dri-fit tops, cutting edge wearable tech on their wrists, Apple devices in one hand and weights in the other. They mean business! So, wanting to fit in, I was decked out in my finest exercise kit (as far as my travelling wardrobe would allow), I swapped the weights for a bottle of Vita Coco (I decided against the weights, this was a holiday after all!) and I was off.

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My first offscreen Hollywood hike took me to Runyon Canyon.  This 160 acre park lies in the heart of the Hollywood Hills and is enough to challenge anyone with its various terrains and navigational gradients. Running across dirt tracks and hiking over the steep and crumbling hillsides, I found myself in situations where I was on all fours, holding on for dear life, trying not to fall off from the 90 degree drops. It definitely got my heart racing and adrenaline pumping.  On a clear day, which we were lucky enough to have, the magnificent views across Hollywood went on for miles, it was stunning.  Standing at highest point in the Canyon at Indian Rock, looking down on LA was incredibly liberating and calming.  As a huge contrast to the touristy chaos down below, it is definitely a soothing experience worth every drop of sweat.

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Not satisfied with just the one trek under my belt, I am hungry to see more. The next trek takes me to Griffith Park. This 4000 acre park lies west from Runyon Canyon with sweeping views over downtown LA. It’s incredibly green, has a structured layout and feels like a city park rather than a national park. As a stark contrast to Runyon Canyon, all the trails were more like roads and easier to navigate. The main draws here are the observatory sitting at the summit and the trek to the Hollywood Sign, a surprisingly calming oasis away from the tourists snapping away below. The views are equally as impressive. It feels a bit more crowded up here due to being more accessible and a bit more of a tourist mecca rather than a workout spot. The car park and observatory grounds were shut off as we circled the observatory, it turns out that Burberry was hosting the Burberry London Fashion Show in Los Angeles. Blacked-out SUVs were craming the earlier calm streets as we ascended the park bringing along the Hollywood circus that I so far managed to avoid. Not complaining though as it is rather thrilling to be amongst the experience and a celebrity spot is always a bonus! Watching how sunset changes the colour of the mountains and the city down below from orange to blue is wonderful and it could leave anyone awestruck.

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Being high from the hikes and treks, I wanted to mix it up a bit more and try some more LA style physical activities. Thats when I found Soulcycle.  It’s basically a spinning class with a focus on spiritual being and the mind. Encouraging positive energy, concentrating your thoughts on the NOW and focusing your breathing to release tension. Not being a huge fan of cycling, spiritual element made me love this class. I don’t think I’ve ever worked up a sweat like this during a workout before, I couldn’t believe it.  Luckily the class was candle-lit and no one could see me constantly reaching for my towel and guzzling my bottle of Smart Water. My arm and leg coordination movements still need some fine tuning (I was trying really hard not to let the clips fall out of the pedals as they are a nightmare to get in and out of). At the end of the class, after a few minutes of sweaty panic, I resorted to stretching while still on the bike as I couldn’t get out (you have to excuse the beginner in the back!). Everyone was really helpful and approachable, adopting a really positive attitude which I think is so important in this environment. London gyms could take note.  I absolutely love Soulcyle and look forward to my next class in not so distant future. Soulcycle please come to London!

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Beyond the tacky tourism, which LA is famous for, there is a city full of diverse character and positive energy, an experience you need to open up to. Leaving Los Angeles, I felt a sense of pride of my achievements on my short stay; I take with me a piece of that positivity and a kickstart to a new way of working out. Glad that some of the Tinseltown magic has rubbed off on me and as fate would have it, lead me to my idol (in case your wondering, YES that’s Becks!)

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Battle of Trafalgar 2.0?

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Nelson’s Column towers over Trafalgar Square, backed by London’s finest bleak and dreary weather.  Tourists and Londoners alike are pitched with their cameras, red buses are gridlocked and there’s not an easter egg or bunny in sight.  You wouldn’t have thought it was easter weekend.

At the foot of Nelson’s Column there’s chaos; echoes and the sound of thumping are swelling from what appears from afar to be bevy of swans.  Their white wings flapping in the air and a storm of feathers bursting into the sky.  Take a few steps closer and it’s a different story. The echoes are of laugher, the wings are pillows and the flapping is a pillow fight, a rather large and raucous one. That or I was having a crazy hallucination!

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Slightly random you might think that there were crowds of people in Trafalgar Square having a pillow fight, but this is London after all, land of diversity. Well the 4th April this year was designated as ‘International Pillow Fight day’.  Now in its 7th year, pillow fights took place in hundreds of cities around the world, organised by the urban playground movement. They aim to create unique activities in an urban outdoor environment, to encourage people to reduce non-social experiences. Basically stop being a couch potato or candy crush addict and play outside with people. For those of you wondering whether grabbing a drink in your local beer garden counts? No it doesn’t. Some form of physical activity needs to be involved.  Walking up to the bar doesn’t count either.

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It is a cool idea in theory, but I don’t think it will dent Candy Crush downloads just yet. But if the number of people that turned up, is anything to go by, the ‘movement’ is certainly getting people out into the fresh or slightly polluted London air.

Having charged around for 30 minutes, fighting with strangers, choking on down, falling over pillows and losing myself in an avalanche of feathers, I was wiped. I definitely got my daily dose of exercise, I was buzzing!

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As I emerged from the pillow fight on the whistle (this was organised fun after-all) looking like I had a fight with Big bird and sustaining a bit of whiplash, everyone was cheering.  Looking around me, there were smiles and laughter, it was clear that everyone had enjoyed themselves.    I was glad that I manned up and joined in and its definitely an experience, that will not slip my mind for a while.  I am pretty sure that goes for the cleanup squad too, they probably won’t want to see another pillow or feather ever again!

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It’s on the Wall

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Street Art has become and still is a constant fixture around the inner city streets of London, as well as other cosmopolitan cities around the world.  Berlin, Buenos Aires, New York, Sydney, the list is endless.  What makes street art so significant though is its pace for change, it has the capacity to constantly transform the appearance of an outdoor space and give artists that freedom and ease of expression.  Almost every day a new piece of art emerges onto the scene; art is drafted, old pieces are covered up and started over, some is hi-jacked and blank canvasses are brought to life on the wall.  Within these cities, where street art is the new black, art is encouraged, embraced and bringing with it a cultural evolution. Nowhere else in London is it as apparent than around the atmospheric streets of Shoreditch.  Located in east London in the shadows of the glass, high-rise jungle of the city, sits this edgy and creative district. You cannot go a few streets without coming across street art. It takes on all forms and techniques, whether it’s a drawing, sculpture, sticker, graffiti, stencil, etc.  As long as there’s a grubby street and a ‘publicly’ owned wall, any person can become a street artist.

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The way street art engages with the backdrop is captivating and intriguing, aside from that, I think accessibility is key here and street art allows anyone who walks past it, to get up close and engage the senses.  It can be photographed, and channeled through social media, which you wouldn’t be allowed to do in your standard gallery.  Social media has been a catalyst for allowing streets artists and their followers to publicise art in an easy, non-intimadating and gratifying way. Some of the worlds most renowned streets artists come to Shoreditch to showcase their talent, Shepard Fairey and Banksy to name but a few.  Some artists like Banksy also have that element of mystery surrounding their work.  Some of their work lands when its least expected. How do you know it’s by a particular artist? Style and location are good indicators, for example alterations to street signs are a Banksy staple and rarely do you find a street artists creating their own work.  But why?  Being fascinated by this myself, I decided to find out more.

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With an abundance of street art in Shoreditch, its hard to photograph it all but I have posted a variety of those shots.  Those on walls, doors, bridges, up above on roofs, down below on the pavement, street art is everywhere.  While cool to look at and photograph, it’s not exactly the most pleasant place in London, I pretty much had to stand in a pile of rubbish and scale a skip to get my shots, all in the name of creativity! When researching for this post, I potted around Shoreditch in the sunshine to take some photos when I came across a street artist.  My luck’s in I thought, then again maybe not! At first I stood back in the shadows admiring the various strokes but when I got closer my presence didn’t receive the warmest of welcomes.  At first there was a bit of a stand-off, I tried to play the tourist card but they just were not buying it, clutching a clipboard myself and a bulky camera, was clearly making me look a bit suspicious.  As they grabbed for their cans, I scrambled and mumbled my way through trying to explain as much as I could to save the situation, but I was slowly failing and at that point of defeat.  While chasing them down the street, and shouting after them, I yelled out ‘I will buy you a coffee!’ (my desperation was apparent!).  As they slowed in their steps, I knelt against a wall, gasping for breath and as I looked up, I could see them walking back to me, could this be success at last? As I helped them gather their cans, I immediately went into charm mode. While I had their attention I managed to explain what I was doing and they listened with caution on their faces.  Maybe they took pity from the sweat pouring down my face (note to self: don’t wear grey on a run!). As we continued our introductions within a friendlier atmosphere, I drew them to a coffee cart just down from where we were and threw in a pastry for good measure and the adventure carried on. I came to learn that the artists were from Spain and they were trying to establish themselves in London.  Their art was making quite a name for itself on the scene and London was the next market for them to crack.  Drama and the fact that I wasn’t part of the authorities aside, we managed to settle down on a street curb and chat.

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Slowly I began to find that there is an allure to remaining anonymous as an artist (clearly not for these guys as I had ambushed them in the street). It’s a marketing tool, hidden identity can work in your favour, it works for Banksy I guess. Secondly it lets the art do the talking, I came to find out that they were not in this for money (just think of all the Banksy imitations in Spitalfields market, the amount that Banksy must have lost out on!).  It was a case of expression, having the freedom to paint and having people see their work.  You could really see how happy they were when talking about, where, and when they paint and most importantly to me, what they paint.  There’s not set agenda for them or message they were trying to convey.  I found how they spoke of their love for art really infectious.  The travel and the crusade they were on to paint all over the world, it was inspiring.  For a moment my mind slipped away and I contemplated a life as an artist, but then I remembered my lack of drawing skills. We walked back over to the wall, and as I was about to say goodbye, they handed me a can. At first I laughed it off, ‘I can’t paint’ I said.  Which was met by laugher and one of the artists uncovering a whole crate of used cans, ‘Everyone can paint, here, grab a can’.  I looked down into the tatty crate and thought, this has become a bit more than what I wanted, that and the thought of ruining something that to me looked pretty cool, made me want to run in the other direction as they had, but after what happened earlier I don’t think that would have gone down so well.  I reached down into the crate and drew out a green can.  Not looking so cool, I held my arm at length and drew a flat cap from my pocket to covered my face and began to hold the nozzle down, I created what can only be described as a dot with an uneven ring around it.  I stepped back and as I choked myself from the fumes, I was praised on my artistic skills, it was probably the quickest and most unrecognisable painting of Saturn, but out of politeness I thanked them and laughed.  While I was saying goodbye and walking away, they left me with a final thought, ‘now YOUR a street artist.’

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Those words pretty much stuck in my head for the rest of the day and as I continued to photograph pieces of art I stumbled across, I began to take on a conscious approach to what I was photographing and pay attention to the story within the artwork.  My experience has really spurred on my interest in street art and having had an introduction it has made me want to pursue this even further so no doubt there will be a part 2, so watch this space. It was easy to get lost in Shoreditch and see these urban forms of art, which I would recommend to anyone and if your lucky you might even find an artist hard at work to chat to or if not a bribe can sometimes work as well!

Note: No street artists or bloggers were harmed as part of this post 😉