Archives for category: Fashion

Mad Men series 6

It’s 1968 in the world of Mad Men. Or so say pundits speculating on the time jump for series six which debuts with a two hour special 7 April (US) and 10 April (UK). Your scribe is unable to watch since cable poached MM from BBC4, so no plot spoilers please. Nevertheless it’s hard to avoid blog speculations on MM6 set design and fashions.

Newsletters from a certain vintage and modern US design site drop into your scribe’s mailbox weekly. Adherence to a blog code not dissimilar to Queensbury Rules means your scribe won’t name the site, but 1) they seem to believe years beginning with 19 refer to the 19th century, and 2) their prognostications for MM6 sets are skewed to the pop end of the design scale. Yes, there will be pop art inspired elements, but your scribe hopes they are curtailed to clothing and the MM office is dressed to emulate textile maestro Jack Lenor Larsen.

Jack Lenor Larsen Mercury textile, 1969, Verel, metallic gimp, rayon, cotton leno weave. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Jack Lenor Larsen Mercury textile, 1969, Verel, metallic gimp, rayon, cotton leno weave. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Wealth was still largely “quiet” in the 1960s meaning it wasn’t the done thing to crassly broadcast earnings as is now the norm. Madison Avenue ad merchants might wear à la mode madras suits, but office decor would veer to luxe moderne rather than a surfeit of pop art modernity. Larsen’s 1969 Mercury cabin dividers for Braniff International Airways, prioritised materials, technology and technique without sacrificing a richly designed surface. Understanding the “worth” of Larsen designs was a sign of design discernment, and your scribe suggests senior partner Bert Cooper would recognise how Larsen textiles would complement his Asian art collection.

Jack Lenor Larsen Nimbus made for curtain wall windows

Jack Lenor Larsen Nimbus made for curtain wall windows. Saran, polyethylene monofilaments; woven and heat shrunk. Collection Cowan & Tout. Image from Jack Lenor Larsen Creator and Collector by McFadden, Friedman, Stack, Larsen, 2004

Larsen’s innovation-led textiles were appreciated by like-minded clients. Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP commissioned Larsen to design vertical space treatments for Lever House (1952), which coincided with their growing renown as the progenitor of International Style glass curtain wall skyscrapers.

Nimbus – still in production – demonstrates how Larsen’s decision to use the three metre width newly achieved by European textile mills in the 1950s as length, allowed him to dress skyscraper curtain walls from mullion to mullion with a single textile width. Simple idea? Sure. But Larsen was the one who spotted the potential, and it’s this type of irrational creativity that inspires the superlative set designers and writing staff of MM, and they in turn will drive millions to watch Mad Men this weekend. Your scribe thinks it’s time to buy that Sky subscription. DJ


First day of Spring 2013 is achieved, and now it’s almost time for sum, sum, summertime. Blazing glory is three months distant for northern climes, and yes London’s sufferance of summer gloom will likely continue, but nevertheless your scribe is thinking summer madras and madness. Fans of the American television series Mad Men will remember the eye popping splendour of Pete Campbell’s madras plaid suit. Too bold? Too bright? Too retro for now? Wrong. Madras has been a perennial US summer favourite since the Jazz Age (did fictional Jay Gatsby own Madras shorts? Likely), and its legacy is sterling. (Cont)

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras Spring 2013

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras Spring 2013

When Cole Porter sang “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” he meant folk like Elihu Yale, i.e. denizens of the Northern Hemisphere who become intoxicated by the Southern Hemisphere’s hot sun on tap. Said to be the first Yank to wear madras, Yale spent 27 years as Governor of the East India Company at Madras (now known as Chennai), India. Local fascination with Scottish tartans is said to be the source for Madras plaid designs. Maybe Yale’s Madras office was decorated with a forerunner print similar to the portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie in a tartan suit which by comparison makes Campbell’s Mad Men madras look rather conservative. (Cont)

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras

Osborne & Little Trapani Madras

Your scribe longs for barbecues with dads in chef hats and madras board shorts manning the poolside grill, but in lieu of that and in expectation of a damp squib London summer, your scribe suggests SAD sufferers, Mad Men fans and Madras aficionados buy Osborne & Little’s Trapani from the Lorca Silk Road Collection. A riff rather than a replica of traditional Madras plaid, Trapani’s colourways include pink and Indian sunshine yellow which will lift spirits in any hemisphere. Whatever the source, Madras has stayed the course through preppy Ivy League alignment, to parody in National Lampoon’s Animal House, to Andy Spade’s recent reinvention of the classic. And so too Osborne & Little’s Trapani is the bright note sun lovers can count on for Summer 2013. DJ

Osborne & Little Trapani

Osborne & Little Trapani fabric

“Clothes make the man”. So said American humorist and author Mark Twain. His famous quote was a comment on power. “Naked people”, he concluded, “have little or no influence on society”. In the hundred plus years since Twain’s observation, considerably less of our bodies are now habitually covered. But his quote is still valid. Clothes make statements. And since clothes “speak” for the wearer, shouldn’t our sartorial messages – at least some of the time – speak to the greater good? Scabal think so.

For more than 70 years Scabal’s innovative excellence in the design and manufacture of luxury men’s fabrics has made them a leading global company and allowed them to expand to made-to-measure and ready-to-wear male fashion. A family company, Scabal’s leadership extends to corporate social responsibility. Scabal have launched a peace fund to support the work of Médecins sans Frontières – the doctors who risk their lives in crisis areas to provide emergency medical care for those who are metaphorically “naked” and vulnerable. Scabal has designed a Super 120’s charcoal 100% wool fabric with the word “peace” woven in pinstripes. Hundreds of the word appear in the suiting fabric, yet they can only be read at close range.

Scabal peace fabric

The sine qua non for a better world says JP Thissen, Chairman Scabal Group, “is peace and respect” for our fellow human beings. If the “naked” have little influence on society, then it is fitting that a company clothing men of influence should weave a “peace” fabric. Not one that shouts its message, but rather one that conveys its credo peacefully, quietly and with authority. Forget for a moment the semiotics of fashion, Scabal has made its commitment clear. Peace, peace, a hundred times peace. That is the mantra of the fabric and that is Scabal’s wish – and COVER’s – for 2013 and beyond. DJ

Jack Frost knocked on your scribe’s front door this morning and declared the interior temperature as officially “frosty”. That means just one thing (other than loading the wheelbarrow with gold bullion and trundling down to the gas provider); it’s time to break out the Fairisle. Not so long ago Fairisle meant jumpers or socks knitted in traditional patterns and colours. Nothing wrong with that if you don’t mind looking like an extra in The Sweeney, but times have changed.

Eribé Knitwear Ski Fairisle Capped Sleeve Neon Charcoal cardie

Your scribe prefers 21st century updates of the classic Scottish Fairisle. Her ideal Fairisle scenario is snuggling into Eribé Knitwear’s Ski Fairisle Capped Sleeve Neon Charcoal cardie, a cozy lounge on a hand-loomed Donna Wilson & SCP Fairisle rug (available in four covetable colourways), while dipping a fondue fork into a crucible of Emmental and shooting a shot glass of Schnapps. Sufficient measures, methinks, to ensure Jack Frost stays on the outside looking in. DJ

Fairisle rug in Mineral grey by Donna Wilson & SCP. Photograph courtesy SCP.

Fairisle rug in nautral-brown by Donna Wilson & SCP. Photograph courtesy of SCP.

Fairisle rug in peacock-orange by Donna Wilson & SCP. Photograph courtesy of SCP.

Fairisle rug in Rose Cloud by Donna Wilson & SCP. Photograph courtesy SCP.

Although recognised primarily as an architect, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, known by the pseudonym he adopted in 1920 – Le Corbusier – tipped his hand to many pursuits as an urban planner, artist, designer and theorist. The Swiss Embassy in London is not open to the public, and few are able to see the Le Corbu tapestry that graces the ground floor salon. Your scribe attended a press launch a few years ago at the embassy and took these photos of the tapestry.

Le Corbu’s striking thick rimmed black glasses were placed with care on the speaker’s podium. This style of eyeglasses reminds your scribe of Edna Mode in the Disney film The Incredibles, rumoured to be based on fashion designer Edith Head. But so too this style of eyeglasses is sported by legendary fashion maven Iris Apfel, still going strong aged ninety. Corbu wasn’t the only man of his time to adopt this eyewear, but he was one of the most prominent. Would he approve their iconic status? Of course. DJ

Le Corbusier tapestry, Swiss Embassy, London

Le Corbusier tapestry, Swiss Embassy, London

Le Corbusier tapestry, Swiss Embassy, London

Le Corbusier tapestry, Swiss Embassy, London

A sleek splash in the Olympic pool by Samantha Arevalo Salinas of Ecuador in the women’s 800-meter freestyle heat yesterday inspired your scribe to refresh her interest in Ecuadorean rugs (alfombras).

Olga Fisch was a significant figure in the global promotion and national protection of Ecuadorean crafts, particularly rugs. She founded Quito’s Folklore shop – a commissioning agency and museum for national craft – and designed many rugs alongside other designers including award winning contemporary designer Belén Mena.

Mena’s moth designs are striking. Ecuador’s biodiversity includes multiple moth species from the Cloud Forest reserve near Quito. Mena doesn’t confine these winged beauties to rugs, but has created a diverse line of products. Don’t read Spanish? Don’t worry – visit this link as the beautiful photos of Mena’s graphics on rugs, wall hangings and bags need no words (plus the site is in English). The bag designs are muy covetable! Discard any preconceived notions of what moth designs look like. Soak in Mena’s interpretations which are both “national” and “international”, which in your scribe’s opinion makes these classics. DJ

On the rare occasion the BBC has network problems your COVER scribe enjoys looking at the fiery Armageddon Clown 502 Bad Gateway message. Clown chappy looks quite chipper given the firestorm behind him. Return from whence you came, instructs the BBC. Very droll.

And a firestorm is just what US Olympic broadcaster NBC is getting from angry viewers who missed live coverage of the men’s 400m individual medley gold when US Olympian Michael Phelps lost the gold to teammate Ryan Lochte. Why is this? Because NBC decided to delay Olympic broadcasts to the “Prime Time” slot. Oh dear. COVER suspects legendary TV mogul Bill Paley from rival network CBS wouldn’t do the same. He’d be in his smartly appointed Knoll office instructing his newshounds to broadcast live.

So in a nod to the salad days of television when the big three US networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) ruled the airwaves, COVER has dipped into its archive to bring you “Static Screen”, a 2004 Knoll textile designed by fashion designer and artist Stephen Sprouse, who was inspired by a black & white static television screen.

Sprouse’s inspiration was television “noise”, but film buffs may think it’s also homage to the famous Poltergeist “They’re he-eere” static screen scene. Dipping ever further back in our archives, COVER rather thinks “Static Screen” looks like the curtain in Simon Templar’s hotel suite in the 1938 movie “The Saint in New York”.

“Static Screen” was designed in conjunction with Knoll’s Suzanne Tick. Do be sure to double click the curtain image to get the full effect of this glorious, sheer TV textile. DJ

Think Olympink. Yes, inspired by the colours of the fractured Olympic 2012 logo, pink has been declared the navy blue of the Olympics (to paraphrase Vogue magazine impresario Diana Vreeland‘s 1962 colour declaration.)

We at COVER do believe it’s possible to wear head to toe pink and not look like a waitress at the Hello Kitty Cafe, but our interest is pink carpets, and our favourite is “Bubblegum” by COVER friend, London designer Deirdre Dyson.

Diana Vreeland would approve. The floating dollops of pink delight hover over an inky navy blue ground. Sublime. And if “Bubblegum” isn’t the Dubble Bubble Olympink you hanker after, the pink and red of Dyson’s “Romance” will satisfy your sweet tooth. DJ

It’s the heady moment we at COVER dream of; a gold strike during a lunchtime shufti at the charity shop (thrift store in American speak). This week your scribe bagsied a mint copy of The Contemporary Decorative Arts from 1940 to the present day, published in 1980. After polite jostling with would-be claim jumpers, the book fell open to the page with an illustration of Warner’s 1969 “Space Walk” roller printed cotton furnishing textile, issued at the same time as “Lunar Rocket”, which keen readers will remember we blogged about last week. Weird, eh?

Our eye was also caught by Antonio Boggeri’s black and white op art carpet for Polymer-Montecatini Edison, Italy. Looking like a Bridget Riley painting as floor mat, a quick Google on Boggeri pulled up an Abe Books Italy sales page for the book “Proposals for printed textile floor coverings” by Giulia Borgese. Tantalising list of designers, mainly Italian, but with a “rogue” entry for American designer Ken Scott who moved to Italy and designed the Milan restaurant “Eats & Drinks”. Dubbed “eccentric” by TIME magazine in 2005, we at COVER want E&D decor for the staff canteen.
Called “the maestro of ultra floral prints” by Dino Buzzati in “Corriere della Sera”, July 17, 1963, a selection of Ken Scott designs have been reissued by various manufacturers. DJ

Should we have a staff shoe at COVER? Yes. Time to start that e-petition so COVER’s big Kahuna will buy us a slew of Kiyoshi Yamamoto’s hand printed leather textile shoes from the 2012/13 season of the Aurlandskoen shoe company.

The ancient Norse warriors who named the land where Aurland shoes are made weren’t ones for hyperbole. UNESCO has since declared the area a World Heritage site, but the Norsemen named it “Gravel Land”. Really? Gravel? Accurate but not the poetic moniker the sublime landscape deserves.

The shoes pictured above, a bit of a cross between a Blue Meanie and a fluffy cloud, are just one of Yamamoto’s designs. We quite fancy the dogstooth too. A graduate student working on his MA at Bergen Academy of Art and Design where the student/staff ratio is 3:1, Yamamoto’s textiles are revelatory. Be sure to have a good rummage round his website.

“The Original Aurland Cabin Shoe” is a moccasin-like design. Local man Nils Tveranger began making them in the early 19th century after being inspired by Native American moccasins. They quickly became identified with the region and produced by many Aurland makers, although there is now only one manufacturer, Aurlandskoen, and the shoe we see today is a refined model dating from the 1930s. DJ