IsabelleOC a fashion blog

Henri Matisse the Cut-outs at the Tate Modern

Some art is like a bit of research, or it’s like getting an idea or a concept and then some art is just very simply great. The new Matisse Cut-out exhibition coming to the Tate Modern this weekend is just that, a joyful and expert celebration of colour and shape. Starting off as a way of mapping paintings, his cut-out collages ended up as works in themselves, some of his most famous pieces like the Snail and the Sheaf aren’t paintings but assembled bits of paper. It’s so much more than that though, through the eyes of an artist known for his use of colour and composition these collages really show what a trained eye can accomplish with something very humble.

It’s a great lesson to anyone that creativity doesn’t have to mean gold leaf or the most expensive fabrics. In a way, the sketches and collages are more interesting to me than the paintings, perhaps it’s like how I might sometimes prefer a designer’s pre-fall collection to their Fall one, without the pressure there’s room for happy accidents and bits of humanity slipping through the creative cracks.

This is the perfect post-winter exhibition, the dancing shapes and colours are so animated. There’s a real sense of joy in these cut-outs, the stubborn happiness of someone whose youth is behind them. Anyone who has ever been interested in print, pattern or colour would definitely benefit from the rush of blood and inspiration.




matisse-sucession-cutout-tate the sheaf





Tour Diary: Hamburg, Altona and Blankenese

Hamburg was the day that I really went for broke with the sightseeing; Silke, the lovely German promoter, sent me a whole list of things to see in her hometown. I was really getting into the rhythm of the tour, cannily taking a shower in the venue after the gig, so I could be clean(ish) enough for a wander as soon as we arrived our next destination the following day. After a quick nibble at the catering in the dressing room, I walked over to the train station and headed to Blankese, a beautiful small town by the sea near Hamburg. It’s a dream place for a holiday, with lots of cute little houses dotted around the hills. I walked along the seafront and then treated myself to an ice cream in the sun before the ascent back into town.

Then, feeling quite proud of my intrepid-ness, I hopped back on a train and then took the bus to Neumühlen, where the Altona Fishmarket is. It’s a lovely walk, Hamburg Port is just across the water with huge freight tankers and shipping containers, while on the Altona side it’s all quaint houses and little boats. It’s the perfect place to stop and have a fish roll and glass of something in the sun.

Apart from a bus ride through the wonderfully gaudy St Pauli district -with its sex shops that I can never believe are still going, haven’t these people heard of the internet?!- I didn’t see that much of Hamburg itself but it’s definitely one of the places I’d like to return to. The Altona area where our venue was situated had lods of little cobbled streets and cute shops that demand another visit.










Sunday Sundries: the importance of art

matisse the sheaf tate cutoutSo this is the first Sunday Sundries since I went away on tour, I still miss my cosy little bunk but I’m glad to be back. Looking forward to many things, namely Matisse’s Cut Outs at the Tate and the Chris Marker retrospective at the Whitechapel -the director of La Jetée- as well as Play What’s Not There, at Raven Row -one of my favourite galleries. Closer to home is Welcome To Iraq, a restaging of the Venice Biennale’s National Pavilion of Iraq (which I missed when we visited the Biennale last year) at South London Gallery. Even though I work in a pretty unrelated field, I’m grateful for my Critical Fine Art Practice degree, a creative and visual training which still informs the work I do today.

chris marker la jeteee whitechapel

You can tell I’m building up to something can’t you? This week Michael Rosen wrote an open letter to our new Culture Minister. The poet talks about how ambivalent we are as a country about ‘culture’ and quite rightly asks what someone like Sajid Javid is doing in the role. It does seem strange that an ex-banker -and one who worked somewhere that was fined for rate-fixing- should now be heading up this position.

I guess one of the simplest things you can do as a person to show art and culture matters is keep going to exhibitions, keep being counted as a bum on a seat or feet in a gallery. There is a demand and more importantly a need for non-essential services like galleries, museums and when funding for the arts has been slashed it’s important to show your participation. The richness of a country cannot just be counted economically.

Farfetch x Muuse: giving new designers a leg-up

Fashion hub Farfetch has teamed up with Muuse, a Danish site that scours the world for fresh and exciting graduate talent. Working together, Farfetch x Muuse is going to provide a platform for emerging designers to showcase and more importantly, sell their work. Being a total Dane-o-phile I jumped at the chance to quiz the Muuse team on their work, cool Copenhagen and new fashion and also got to put some questions to Farfetch CEO José Neves.

Eun-Jung-Lee-from-MuuseDress,  Eun-Jung Lee from Muuse Shoes, Chloe, from Biondini

José Neves, Founder and CEO at Farfetch:
This collaboration really comes from the importance of harnessing and showcasing the creativity of new designers. Given the current economic climate, it’s a very difficult time for emerging designers to become sustainable but MUUSE offers those designers a platform of support and a retail opportunity that could begin to forge the foundations of a fashion brand.

We believe supporting emerging fashion talent is necessary in keeping the fashion industry interesting, fresh and diverse. MUUSE scours the globe for the best emerging talent, in the same way that Farfetch finds and curates new products from boutiques around the world, so it seemed like the perfect partnership. We’re extremely excited about this collaboration as Farfetch will be able to offer in Farfetch x MUUSE an international platform that exposes the designers’ pieces to an international customer.

Farfetch-x-Muuse,-Jantine-Van PeskiTrousers- £201, Farfetch x Muuse, Jantine Van Peski, // Jacket- £284, Farfetch x Muuse, Jantine Van Peski, Shoes, Chloe, from Biondini

Gitte Jonsdatter, Co-founder and Director of Strategy at MUUSE

What are some of the attributes the MUUSE team look for in new designers?

We look for an original vision and something we’ve not seen before – an indication that this designer is a sign of the future.

What sort of practical assistance do you offer young designers, what kind of help do they most need?

We offer emerging designers help with the production and sales processes behind running a successful fashion label and also enable them to spend money each season on producing a set of collection samples and promoting the collection. Experienced brands are able do this because they have teams of specialists in production and sales, and have built up a sales network over time. MUUSE gives new designers the opportunity to have that kind of experience for free. We develop samples with the designers that meet the same quality standards as luxury brands. When retailers order from the designers, we have the capacity to produce the pieces in quantity – with each piece labelled with the MUUSE tag and the designer’s name. Designers are delighted to see their pieces sold in shops and boutiques, without the risk or expense that normally comes with retail.

Sara-Lundberg-from-MuuseJacket and dress, Sara Lundberg from Muuse Shoes, Chloe, Biondini

Tell me more about why you’re joining forces with Farfetch?

With a knack for discovering hidden gems of great design and new talent, Farfetch x MUUSE brings some of the world’s most anticipated new talents to a global audience. We work with the designers to support them with their collections and Farfetch makes those collections accessible to customers from all over the world – it seemed like a natural partnership.

Who are the newest additions to the MUUSE roster and why were they picked?

Each season we look for a mix of international designers whose aesthetics are in some way complementary. Ece Gözen is an exciting new Turkish designer that we’ve been working with since Sara Maino (Senior Fashion Editor, Vogue Italia) selected her as winner of the 2012 talent competition we ran in collaboration with Vogue. In this collection for Farfetch x MUUSE, Ece layers couture references using fabrics that can go from the tennis court to cocktail party. Eun-Jung Lee recently launched with MUUSE – her unique combination of couture silhouettes with neoprene is both elegant and fresh.

Sasha-Nassar-from-MuuseVest, Leggings and Long sleeved top, Sasha Nassar from Muuse Earrings, COOP, from Kabiri

How was the selection process for picking the Farfetch x MUUSE new designers? How long did it take?

Similarly to the way that Farfetch searches the globe looking for the world’s best boutiques, we look for the world’s next best designer. We’re invited to attend a lot of graduate shows and often take part in judging panels to discover new talent. We have a pretty good sense of the emerging designers that are out there and we keep a long list of potential designers to work with. The designers selected to be showcased on Farfetch have been chosen for
their individual and diverse collections that we’re sure will appeal to Farfetch consumers worldwide.

Copenhagen-ers are so stylish, what is it about Danes that gives them such good taste?

There is a long tradition of design and fine craft in Denmark that pervades daily life. People here have grown up with Wegner furniture and played with Kai Bojesen toys and even the traditional ‘smørrebrød’ cuisine is put together with an eye for colour and form contrast. I think when people grow up surrounded by great design, it is imprinted in them as well.

Farfetch-x-Muuse-Ece-GozenJacket- £303, Farfetch x Muuse, Ece Gözen, // Jumpsuit- £318, Farfetch x Muuse, Ece Gözen,

How would you define Danish style?

Danish style is intelligent and sophisticated. Every element of a design has to fit and unify with the whole somehow – there is not a lot of superfluous ‘decoration’ and things tend not to be overstated.

What’s next for MUUSE?

We’re working on growing our network of international retail partners now – fashion is very personal, so it’s important that people are able to visually experience the colour, texture and feel of our collections, whether it be online or in a boutique.

Tour Diary: Berlin

With Berlin, I had the luxury of a town that I’ve been to a few times, so I didn’t feel the need to tick off a load of tourist things. It’s also where Miggy lives, which gave me the chance to hang out with an internet pal and party like it was 2008. With some of the band and crew, we pushed down hangovers with a huge feed-up in the sun and went out separate ways to run errands. I ended up getting my eyebrows threaded and having a pretty decent conversation in pidgin German with my Turkish threader.

Later that day, I did the boring task of going into town and buying a computer lead from the Apple store. 60E lighter and with the sun setting, I looked up restaurants near our Prenzlauer Berg hotel and found Herr Rossi, a totally charming Italian. Sometimes eating on your own can be a bit depressing, but reading my book with an Aperol spritz and veal ragu in such a lovely setting I couldn’t have been happier.

The next morning after an enormous room service breakfast I met up with Miggy and we took a train east to Muggelsee, one of Berlin’s many lakes. This is where it gets magic, Miggy knows an amazing restaurant/bar on the lake, where you have to ring a bell so the owner can punt along on his raft and pick you up. We spent a few blissful hours at the top of this house on the lake, soaking up the sun and drinking beers. If you’re in Berlin I definitely recommend this hidden spot, it was a totally unforgettable experience. Thanks Miggy!

That evening before the gig a few of us sloped off for the lovely dinner you can see at the bottom, I can’t remember the name of the place which is just as well as the service was extraordinarily rude. An insignificant blip in a lovely few days.










Ren’s Rosa Centifolia Hot Cloth Cleanser

I took a fair few (read: a ton) beauty products on tour with me, but only one really stood out as a superhero. Ren’s Rosa Centifolia hot cloth cleanser fulfils the function of makeup remover very capably, gently getting rid of grime and cakey mascara and cloggy skin cells like it’s no big thing.

Where it really shines though, is calming and replenishing travel-weary, dry, irritated skin. I hate having dry skin, but a good layer of this cleanser, left to soak in while I brush my teeth or taking a shower, undoing all the damage of dry hotel rooms, late nights, tour bus air con and a few too many shandies, moisturising and soothing with a lovely rose fragrance. Its hydrating powers are so good that even when I was looking for my moisturiser in my handbag, day bag, overnight bag, oh god it’s in my suitcase in the bay under the bus- my skin would still be all quenched and soft after cleansing, it wasn’t the end of the world if I missed out moisturising. A lot of creamy rich cleansers leave you with the occasional spot but no such drawbacks with this one. I’ve actually just thrown away a few cleansers I had in my beauty stash, because this one works so well. Sayonara suckers, I’ve got a new best friend.

ren-rosa-ren rosa centifolia-hot-cloth-cleanser


Tour Diary: Poznan, Warsaw and Krakow


I’ve never been to Poznan before but a bouncer in one of the Birmingham venues told me that it was his favourite Polish city. A few of us headed out together, to go for an energising swim. We wandered from the pool into town and I swear we must have gone through the worst bits because my first impression was that Poznan was grotty. Once in the town itself it was easy to see why my Birmingham friend spoke so highly of the place. The old town is so pretty, with painted houses, a lovely square and even a clock that around midday bursts forth with two mechanical fighting goats. Incredible!

After a lovely walk around in the sun, we went on a hunt for food and found Chatka Babuni, an amazing pierogi place which serves up all sorts of variations on this Polish classic. It was definitely one of my favourite meals of the trip, oven baked pierogi with different sauces and a lovely garlic sauce. I had it with a black coffee and mint lemonade. Feeling sad right now that I can’t have it.











I always remember my friend Marie-Louise’s Polish grandmother telling me ‘for a long time Poland didn’t exist as a country’ which sounded very confusing concept to a ten-year old. It’s a shame that not a lot of people know the hard times Polish people has face and also how much Poland has to offer, much more than being the butt of anti-immigration jokes. Between Nazi invasion and Communist regime it’s a country that has faced extreme hardship, but then I guess it’s very British of me to root for the underdog!

One such hardship was the destruction of Warsaw’s old town by Nazi bombing during the second world war, most of the damage was done after the Warsaw Uprising. But you know what? Those guys took paintings, family photos and architectural plans and lovingly rebuilt the whole thing, sifting through the rubble for original features. If that’s not the most wonderful thing that you’ve heard today I’ll eat my trainers. I’m aware that I sound totally ‘This One Amazing Thing That These People Did Will Change The Way You Look At Bricks Forever.’

Anyway, I massively digress. Warsaw immediately made it onto my ‘visit again’ list, it’s an effortlessly lovely place with a great buzz about it. My first sight was the Jewish monument to the Ghetto Uprising, we’d not long all been on a grim day trip to Auschwitz on one of the days off and it felt right to visit this memorial to one of the largest Jewish revolts of the war. After that, I lightened the mood considerably with a visit to the amazing Paradox Café, a place for gamers and World of Warcraft enthusiasts to crab a coffee and chill with their nerd-buds. Great.

I walked back towards the old town in the sun, falling more and more in love with the place and the kind of people that would determinedly rebuild their city brick by brick. Everyone was out in the sun, obviously enjoying one of the first few days of Spring which only added to the good vibes.

I got the bus back towards our venue (you know I started to become quite the pro at foreign public transport) and went for a walk in the beautiful Lazienki Park, a massive which has a Palace on the water, rivers, other palaces… It’s basically huge! Once I’d been walking for about four hours, I decided to get back, picking up some biscuits for the band and crew who couldn’t make it out.












My last encounter with Krakow included a run-in (not literally) with a man openly wanking in the street, so I wasn’t worried about surpassing that visit. We had a hotel that night, so I got some lovely takeaway veggie food, a beer and a chocolate bar and holed myself up for an early night in my room. As it happened, sleeping came much more easily on the tour bus and I read Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit cover to cover before falling asleep around 5.30. Still, I hauled my ass up, took a lift selfie and resolved to see more of the place.

Krakow is hella pretty -I remember on my first trip being really impressed- and conveniently most of the best bits are within an easily navigable old town (the ol’ Stare Miasto again!) I think I was flagging a little that day, you can sort of tell by my pictures, they look a little half-hearted. Definitely blaming lack of sleep, but also a graphic anti-abortion protest happening in the main square when I walked past. I mean, I appreciate differences in political opinion, but nothing is going to get my back up more than people telling me what to do with my body, especially when coupled with stupidly horrific images. Cheers guys.

Anyway, feminist rants aside, I did really love my little wander around Krakow, saw some really lovely bits, especially round the Vistula river, which in the hazy light looked kind of eerie.








Tour Diary: Prague

Like Budapest, Prague is a town that I really fell in love with when I went interrailing as a student. Even then it was a trendy tourist place, but I feel like the fuss has died down a bit and it feels more relaxed. On reflection, Budapest felt more thrumming with packs of Brit stag do lads, maybe they’ve got bored of the Czech capital? I don’t know why, because it’s one of the most beautiful European cities, with crumbly, pastel-coloured buildings and beautiful boulevards. I got the most popular tourist attraction out of the way first, the Charles bridge is a lovely sight, with statues flanking either side but you definitely get shades of Leicester Sq when you walk across.

On the other side of the river, it’s all very fancy with grand buildings and embassies, I carried on to the funicular railway (quelle surprise) and let it carry me up Petrin Hill after a bit of a stressful attempt at buying tickets. The views aren’t amazing once you’re up there (stupid trees!) but nonetheless there’s lots to see, including the Observatory and the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence.

All that walking had built up an appetite and there was a place I wanted to try, I looked around for it but then settled for this nice looking deli. Which ended up being the place I was looking for! Jan Paukert is a bit of a Prague institution, serving up authentic Czech specialities for nearly a hundred years. In truth it’s a little more complicated than that, because of Communist nationalisation and WWII, but suffice to say they’ve tried to stick to their roots and keep with tradition. I had a beautiful lunch of pork and sauerkraut with some deliciously doughy, bready dumplings that were super comforting without being too stodgy. Any Czech food experts want to enlighten me? It was a deceptively simple dish -like my dad’s bacon cabbage and spuds- that is more than the sum of its parts.

(I totally missed Bratislava btw, lamely 4 weeks of constant tourism took its toll and I spent the day in the venue watching Les Miserables)












Tour Diary: Budapest

On my student interrailing trip, Budapest ended up being one of my favourite places, first up the streets just looks different, grand and sometimes faded boulevards that hadn’t changed when I returned. Another big pull is the baths, thermal spas that Hungarians have been visiting for years. On my first time I went to the Szechenyi baths, which is one of the oldest, this time I went to the Gellert which is one of the fanciest and most popular for tourists owing to its central location.

I tell you what, when you’re tumbling out of a hot bunk, with a shower of varying quality a few hours away, spending some time soaking and sweating is the best thing you can do. We whiled away over three hours in there, steaming, sauna-ing, plunge pool-ing and swimming in the thermal water that somehow feels thicker than your average pool. I haven’t felt so serene in ages, there definitely is something magic about being in a body of water, no doubt. It’s also really beautiful, with mosaic tiled ceilings and sculptures lining the pools.

Once out of the pools and a super steep climb later, we were at the top of the Buda hills, looking over flat Pest on the other side. An amazing view that is one of my favourites from the trip. I did a bit of wandering after and took up the opportunity to do something different (aka not a castle) and visit Brody House Studios, a member’s club that is sited in a magnificent old family home. They’ve remodelled the place very sensitively, recycling as much as possible and side-stepping that horrible urge to strip everything out and bland it up. Brody House boasts a mix of creatives, locals, expats and has a few artists in residency in their studios. Definitely looking forward to another visit when I’m back.

In the evening we wandered out to Fulemule, a Hungarian-Jewish restaurant, where we had a tasty but very milky pumpkin soup and I had, quelle surprise, a beef goulash. It’s turning into an obsession.













Back home

Settling into normal life after two months away, with the new-ish copy of the Gentlewoman to crack into and falling in love with my one pint-er Sports Direct mug all over again. Yes there’s three bags in there, I’m on a complex system of tea-fills.

While I get reacquainted with sleeping in a bed and self-determined days, there’s still a ton of tour diary stuff to go up, so I’ll get through that before I get back to usual blogging, but in the meantime here’s what I learned on my trip away:

- After a while, wearing the same pair of socks for three days just feels natural.
- My sense of direction is pretty amazing. Never realised how good I am at finding my way round unfamiliar cities and tube systems.
- Even I will reach a limit of tolerance with cheese and cold cuts.
- On average -even most of the people we met were lovely- the German venues were the nicest and cleanest with the most friendliest people. Might brush up on my GCSE deutsche skills for a return trip sometime.
- Europeans really love puffa jackets, shiny slick puffa jackets.

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