It’s no lie that some women -and men- are deterred from cycling for vanity reasons. Bike riding is great, for many reasons, but it’s not always compatible with my life as a ~glamorous~ fashion writer (lol, jk). Ever arrived at a press day or a meeting with a designer rocking a triple threat of waxen sweaty face, streaming nose and bloodshot eyes? It’s not a good look let me tell you. Here’s my non-exhaustive list of what I rely on to look semi-decent while cycling:
Sunscreen. If there’s one beauty tip I’d give to anyone it’s sunscreen, always. I’ve sung the praises of Alpha-H’s factor 50 but at the moment I’m using Anthelios by Laroche Posay, a liquid, ultra-fine veil that protect your face from
the lovely gorgeous sun evil rays.
Face mask. All that dust and pollution means I’ll often cleanse my face as soon as I get home to get rid of the grime. Ultra-rich oily cleansers are great for getting deep down into the dirt but sometimes you can’t beat an old-fashioned clay mask to get a real clean feel. A’Kin’s Express Purifying Facial Masque is a real treat, drawing out all the day’s gunk without leaving your face feeling dry or super tight, my pores feel like Kim & Aggie have been round, smaller, tighter, better. Plus it’s quick!
Hand cream. Bike-riding exposes you to the wind, so carrying around a nourishing hand cream is a great idea if you don’t want to look down and find your hands have turned into scabby claws. I love Bliss’ Lemon & Sage Body Butter, because it smells amazing and it reminds me of when I was YOUNG & interning in New York years and years ago.
Good Mascara. Benefit’s They’re Real mascara is great for extended lashes, it also sets quite ‘hard’ if that makes sense, so you can put on a few coats without worrying about getting streaming panda eyes in the wind. It also does some magical lengthening business to your lashes so
Hair shiz. I love Goody’s griptastic hair elastics, they wont budge no matter how hard you ride. Bikes and fringes are not friends, especially if you’re a member of the frizz brigade like me, I keep mine out of harm’s way with a sectioning clip. Lastly, a mini can of Batiste stashed in your bag is great for a sneaky spray to cure flat helmet hair or a sweaty fringe.
I was invited into the Daks studio to meet designer Sheila McKain Waid and talk through the brand and their SS13 collection. Sheila comes across as really un-fashiony, in flat sandals, minimal makeup and a lovely Marni top. Sheila likes to bake when she can’t sleep, so come fashion season the Daks office is filled with homemade cookies and banana bread. We start off the interview talking folk art…
Sheila: I was looking at your blog and the Shell House in Margate, it’s amazing. I love crazy folk artists like that, near my family’s home there’s this and he made the whole garden of Eden out of cement. That weird obsessive quality, it must have taken him 30 years to complete.
If you have a job and you’re creative, someone who’s obsessive and creative is just amazing
I loved the Museum of Everything, weird people making things out of tinfoil and every year they’d have a different exhibition. This guy made a whole world of circuses and moving trains and parts, it was all out of components, it was so crazy and brilliant. Can you imagine going to someone’s basement and discovering a whole world? Or just the fact that they did it their whole lives and nobody knows about it.
That’s the thing, doing it for yourself because you want to and not because you want to tell anyone about it. So how long have you been at Daks for?
Two and a half years. Before I was at Daks, I moved to London in 2004 and when I first came here I was freelancing so I did two years at Jaeger and then I did two more years, well I took time off to have a baby. I went to work at Jasper Conran for a year and a half and had another baby.
After that I did lots of freelance projects for people, various design houses. I did that for almost two years, the kids were quite small and I didn’t want something full-on.
It’s hard to give up that freedom
It was good for my psyche because it’s different when you get out of that world, it’s also quite intimidating to step back in. I think a lot of working women you have to take time off to have babies and you sort of lose confidence in a way. You need to rebuild it back up.
Especially fashion moves so quickly, you miss out a couple of seasons.
I had imagined a lovely life, painting by the sea, and then you get back and you realise oh I do love it, the clothes, the process.
It’s important when you do something creative.
At least enough of an element so that is kind of where it has the same feeling. Especially at the moment where the last couple of years we’ve focused making people rethink what we are as a brand. We are a heritage brand, when I started for me it was really exciting because you have all this heritage and you have an archive, it’s a lot to build on and a lot to work with. But then you’re also laboured with everybody’s perception for the last 125 years, everybody has a thought. Every single person I meet, you say where you do work and they have a story. Somebody bought something, I mean it’s nice, someone will tell you about their grandmother’s favourite raincoat but we’ve been pigeonholed in a certain way and people are looking for directional fashion have thought of us as traditional outerwear.
What proportion of the collections do you think comes from the archive and what proportion is more your creative taking things forward?
It might be hard to say X amount, maybe 5-10%, sometimes you’re in the archive and you’ll see a great stitch on a jumper on a picture from wherever, one year we fell in love with all these pictures we have of the queen in her shoes she was wearing so we did a version of that. One year we were looking at this racing driver, we used to dress the Daks racing team, so it’s great doing things like that.
It must be amazing to have that resource source of inspiration.
Right now it’s all being digitised, so you can go on and look things up at any point. Looking at a lot for Spring Summer 13, it’s always good to think, obviously everybody knows what’s happening in the world of fashion and there’s a movement and a feeling about what’s trending right now, what you feel, but also how do I make it relevant to the brand? There’s always that moment in the season where I stop myself and think, ok, what is Daks, is this right? Does this really make sense for us? Does this stay true to the brand?
It’s always a process of expanding out and taking it back in.
We have our check and I think that’s the big question for me every season, what do I do with it, how do I make people want to continue to buy it or look at it in a new way or rediscover it? Obviously it’s probably the most iconic feature of our brand. It’s about reinvention. It’s on everything from the huge quilted ball skirt, to covering it in plastic to creating it out of rope.
It’s a little bit like how menswear can really exciting, because of those parameters.
It’s funny we just did a project with CSM for the students to rethink our house check and how would they treat it, it was interesting to see how different people reconfigure it. Everyone who comes in here. After two weeks you’re seeing house check in your dreams, somehow there’s always an idea that floats to the surface so you’re always inspired by something. I tend to look at art, to go out and look at markets, there’s always something.
Filtering what’s in the air through a lens that’s already Daks and established and has a signature, rather than if you’re doing something for yourself, how do I want to represent what’s floating around?
I think I might borrow that line! Filtering it through my Daks lens.
That is what you want to do as a designer, you want to catch what’s floating around in the breeze.
And make it interesting to buyers and press and everything. It’s been a great challenge for me, sometimes [people say] how can you design for a British brand, you’re American?
That hadn’t even crossed my mind, because fashion labels are so international.
I think sometimes when you live in a culture or a country… I was back in America and I hadn’t been back, and I think looking at your country and they way people dress, the food they eat, particularly American, I felt like I was seeing it as a foreigner for the first time because I’ve been here so long now. I think that’s maybe true about British style, sometimes when a foreigner comes in you can see things that, for people who grew up here or have lived here their whole life it just becomes routine because you’re used to it. I remember the Guernsey sweater we did a couple of seasons ago, it was such a novelty to me, I had never seen it before. It was such a great look, an iconic British thing.
Continue reading Studio Visit: Daks’ Sheila McKain Waid
Apparently the internet is saying today is Grilled Cheese Day. So I’m doing a recipe for grilled cheese, aka a cheese toastie if you’re from the UK. If the internet told me it was International Jump Off A Cliff Day you’d probs see my Instagrams of the nearing coastline.
Cheese toasties are the numero uno treat lunch as a freelancer but most people make the mistake of doing them in a toastie machine. Wrong! If there’s one thing I learnt working in a fish and chip shop as a teen -apart from how to rock a foundation stained baseball cap- it’s that a cheese toastie made on a hotplate or in a frying pan beats any trad toastie hands down. Delicious dry crispness, even cooking and the contents don’t turn into that scary Brevillecano that has ruined many a student’s mouth-roof. Another tip is to quarantine your wet ingredients like tomato in ham or cheese to stop them leaking through and making the bread soggy.
Now that I’m deffo not a student I’ve moved on from your trad chedds and breads toastie, one of my faves is artichoke hearts, ham, mozzarella and comte for a weekday treat. It’s gooey, cheesy salty double cheese combo and the artichoke hearts make it feel a bit healthier. Gussy up a trad cheese and tom toastie with some spinach and basil and it’s a far cry from the snack that once accompanied a daytime TV marathon in uni halls. One problem with the toastie, one is never enough, but two is too much. Tough times.
Artichoke hearts, ham, mozzarella and comte on sourdough
3-4 artichoke hearts, sliced in half and drained
honey roast ham, 2 slices
1/2 mozzarella ball
Gail’s Sanetra sourdough
thyme, smoked paprika
Layer the comte on your slice of bread, then arrange the artichoke hearts and mozzarella. Add the ham, some thyme and smoky paps and more comte.
Super Winner Toastie Method
Heat up a half/half mix of veg oil and butter in a frying pan, until starts to brown. On a high heat chuck in the sandwich and let fry until it begins to engolden itself. Yeah that’s a word. Then you want to put a big lid over the pan, for a few minutes to help the cheese melt. Not too long otherwise it’ll burn. Then just flip the sandwich and let fry lid-less for a another minute or two. Cut in two cause it tastes better that way and serve with a dressed green salad or a beer depending on your FML levs.
If you’re not in fancyland, try a supermarket seeded with blanched, chopped spinach, basil, tomato and cheddar, toasties are also amazing with any old rubbish from the fridge which is why they’re the ultimate wfh lunch.
Margaret Thatcher died yesterday. In her wake, tributes have been pouring in, some of them lauding Thatcher as a great leader and a female role model. This is a woman who once said ‘I hate feminism. It is a poison.’ This is a woman who, once in power, neglected to appoint more than a handful of female cabinet ministers. This is a woman who branded the ANC and Nelson Mandela ‘terrorists’ and built her politics around the virtues of selfishness. She is not my role model.
I don’t exactly feel elated, but I’m not going to reserve any feelings of sadness for the ex-Prime Minister. Death always leaves a horrible, permanent hole, though this is someone who lived a full life and died peacefully at the grand age of 87. I try not to bash people over the head with my political views on here and don’t expect all my readers to agree, but to me Thatcher left a legacy of destruction that is still felt in British society today. I could go on about selling off Britain’s assets, dismantling the country’s primary industries, her alliance with Pinochet, the Right To Buy, pitting the working classes against each other, you can read more here.
Instead here is a selection of women who I do consider to be role models. Women who are women-strong, not man-strong.
Watson and Crick are known as the duo who discovered DNA, but Rosalind Franklin’s crucial contributions to the understanding of DNA structure are often overlooked.
One half of experiential theatre company You Me Bum Bum Train, Kate Bond is a genius. From mind-boggling costumes to the amazing scenarios she dreams up, no one can top her brain for inventiveness.
Showing it’s entirely possible to be female-positive, fashionable and feminist, Michelle Obama is an almighty powerhouse. We love her J Crew outfits and her strength, from toned arms to stellar career she’s a person of substance.
Tiny Fey & Amy Poehler
My dream couple, these two have really kicked the doors in for female comedy and killed it at the Golden Globes. Fey’s lampooning of Sarah Palin pretty much destroyed her career and Poehler is always on team feminism, from Leslie Knope’s geekish career ambitions to the work she does on Smart Girls.
Most people fizzle out into blandness or cliché as they get older but Chloe is still totally badass and uber cool. Check her out in a really old X-Girl promo vid.
If you haven’t watched her TED Talk on vulnerability, man, you haven’t lived! Brené dishes out some pretty impressive truthbombs around the strength in showing vulnerability, without ever resorting to limp self-help babble.
Classic, but does anyone else do FU better? I’m not even that big a fan of her music, but her attitude is a really good example in not caring what other people think – and being all the more amazing for it.
This is mega shallow, but I just really like her clothes, innit. Her red carpet style is unmatched, consistently showing personality and style and without a sniff of a fashion trip up.
Westwood, pictured above, might have strayed off the path a few times but no one does anti-establishment like her. Even though she gets ripped apart, I love this old interview with her.
As someone who has spent a lot of time working around Fitzrovia and Oxford Street I fear that end of town. Unless I’ve got mega-mission I prefer to stay a little further down, so when the Regent Street peeps asked me to share my favourite haunts it was a no-brainer. A shopping trip ‘up west’ as they say on Eastenders usually goes thusly:
Always go to COS – it’s pretty much my favourite shop ever – to pick up some bits of jewellery, shift dresses and gaze longingly at most of the collection, I love how it’s so relaxing in there. Their mid-season sale has started, you can get some great discounts there. Then it’s off to Banana Republic they have some great preppy pieces and I love the jewellery. When I’m in there I always pretend I’m sneaking around in Michelle Obama’s walk-in wardrobe, it has that feel to it! New kid on the block And Other Stories has already proved its worth, it’s now on my list of stopoffs for ultra-unique accessories, their bags and shoes are so far from your usual high street fare.
Rapha are the Chanel of the cycle accessory world, I might not be able to afford it but I still like to wander around the store and drool over their merino jerseys, a girl can dream can’t she? Scents are a big deal, so I like to pop in to proper perfumery Penhaligons and see if I can add to my collection. My current favourite is their mens Opus 1870, a real power smell.
If I get the time, I might also nip off to the Salvo just off the top of Regent street, it’s a haven for vintage finds and newer bits, Vogue House is round the corner so I suspect they get a few donations from there. Liberty is also round the corner which is another excuse to stray this end of town. Also don’t forget Brasserie Zedel! I love to go back to my French roots and do some old school glam eating and sweet old couple spotting.
The folk at Regent Street have got a handy community hub which lets me check out which stores have got a twitter, useful when you’re instagramming changing room selfies! You can also have a nosy at what everyone else is shopping and sign in to share your pics and join in the convo.
This is a sponsored post, which this week is keeping me in silver shoes!
The second part of my Grenson factory visit, I interviewed creative director Tim Little, a advertising man by trade who came into the shoe business after failing to find his perfect pair of dress shoes. He is the man responsible for reviving Grenson and breathing life and humour into the brand.
How did you get into fashion, was it something from childhood?
No, my Dad was a lacemaker in Nottingham but not really fashion. I think of myself as a shoe maker and designer and the fashion thing just comes as part of the territory – I’m not hanging out with Anna Wintour on the weekend.
How exciting is it to have a kind of living museum to Grenson in the factory? Everything is there, the history is right in front of you.
Its great but the real history comes through the people. The skills have been handed down from father to son and mother to daughter. The history is a living thing, its how we stitch an upper or how we polish the leather, it hasn’t changed for 140 years
You really have a thorough knowledge of the nitty gritty and a love for the beauty in technical aspects of shoe design. What are the technical or craftsmanship aspects you’re most proud of at Grenson?
You are asking the impossible! We make the shoe from skin to box, from the cutting of the skin to the final polish and lacing. Every element of the process has its own place and every bit is technical and skilled. One stitch out of place and the shoe goes in the bin, on mark on the upper and its no good. I love the combination of the processes best of all.
What do you think of the popularisation of ‘Heritage’ in menswear and the inevitable backlash?
Heritage for heritage’s sake is irrelevant. I could buy a name of a company that shut down twenty years ago and do a brochure about the history but it wouldn’t mean that their heritage was impacting on what I was doing now. With Grenson, our heritage is real and its skills that have been handed down so there is a tangible benefit from our heritage.
Are you proud of being one of the few handmade shoe manufacturers who offers footwear at a more affordable price? Has this always been the case?
I’m very proud of what we do. I like to think that we have taken and old business and made it relevant again. I think over the years many shoe companies like us lost the plot a little bit and forgot to ask what their customers wanted.
Tell us a bit about the new leather bag range…
Our bags are made from similar materials to the shoes and we have used shoe details such as broguing and a wing tip design on the corners. We like to think of them as bag versions of the shoes, they are beautifully made and will last a long time like the shoes.
John Lee Hooker famously wore your Whiskey & Women loafer which was named after him, who else would you like to see?
I’d like to see Raphael Saadiq in them, I love his style. On the womens side, Anne Hathaway would be great, I think Alexa Chung has a pair but maybe Anna Wintour would be at the top of my list.
You described as a ‘twinkle in its eye’ what do you think it is that gives Grenson its attitude?
Grenson’s attitude comes from its people. We are a down to earth group but we love a bit of a laugh. We love beautiful things and we see the detail in everything, above all we like simplicity, this is what makes us tick. Simple things that work and look nice, substance and style in harmony. We’re known as “The Good Shoe”, classic British understatement, not “the all-amazing” shoe or “the Fantabulous shoe”, just “The Good Shoe”. This maybe sums us up.
What is your favourite kind of Grenson shoe?
That’s like asking which of your children do you like best. Sorry, I can’t answer that!
Read part one of my Grenson factory visit here
Continue reading Grenson factory visit and interview pt2 – Tim Little, creative director
Remember when black and blue was the Worst Thing? Mixing your neutrals was on a par with going at your molars with a toothpick wa-aay back but now it’s delish. In Copenhagen I was working a snuggly mix of black and navy which was perfect for the cold, crisp weather there. I love a nice warm navy with a bit of patent or some leather, it’s super fronchy fronch and appropriately miserable for the ridiculous End of Times spring we’re having. Check out the little innocent glove-having smile on my face, this was before I lost my beloved mittens, think this is a recurring strand in my life…
Topshop dress, ankle boots car boot, Falke navy merino tights c/o MyTights, jacket and jumper Zara, mittens charity shop.
I have waxed on and waxed off about Studio Music before, for those who work from home or deal with the politics of office playlists it’s a total saviou, in fact I’m listening to it RIGHT NOW! Forget hearing the same 10 songs on the radio, or being subjected to your colleagues’ music tastes, Studio Music saves the day with a huge variety of playlists by talented artists, musicians and designers. I interviewed Rose Blake, one of the founders of the Studio Music to find out more about the people behind the site.
Who are Studio Music? Who are the people behind this idea, what are your jobs?
Studio Music is me (Rose Blake) and my friend Joseph Pochodzaj. I am an illustrator and Joe is a graphic designer- we met at the RCA. I came up with the concept of the site and I research who to ask for playlists and Joe designed the site and maintains the tech side of it!
How did this idea come about?
Through never knowing what to music to play in the studio, and wondering what other people listen to. I think it gives a different insight into the creative process- you learn very interesting things about people through the site, as well as discovering new music.
Do you work in the fashion industry?
No, but I have worked for designers before. I made an animation with my friend Andy Baker for Markus Lupfer’s AW2013 collection (http://vimeo.com/61528919) and I have done some illustrations for LF Markey.
Give us some of your favourite playlists so far:
Filip Pagowski, Stina Smith, Le Gun, Jiro Bevis, Stella McCartney, George Shaw, Mark Lamarr, Christopher Shannon.
Who are your art-throbs?
Artists: I have just found Pierre Le-Tan’s illustrations- I love them. Also young people making great stuff: Ping Zhu and Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk.
What sort of music do you listen to yourself?
Music: I mostly listen to old music, 60′s and 70′s- I always find myself going back to the same albums: Paul McCartney- Ram, Talking Heads- Fear of Music, Richard Thompson- Shoot Out The Lights, Hunky Dory, Nick Drake, Elvis Costello. But (relatively) new stuff I like: Matthew E White, Delicate Steve, Youth Lagoon, Azealia Banks 212!
Who would be your dream Studio Music designer?
David Hockney, David Byrne, Christoph Niemann…
What has been your favourite ever catwalk soundtrack?
Stella McCartney always plays cool stuff. I remember seeing a show she did with this mad Donut song soundtrack which I found out to be this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5Lr2r4N1XM … and she always plays something by Paul at the end of the shows which is nice. James Long always plays good stuff too!
Just at the end of last year I headed up to Northampton to visit the Grenson factory. Northampton has been associated with footwear and shoemaking for hundreds of years, records show a Cordwainers street back in 1200. Alison, Grenson’s PR, sent me instructions on how to get there but I decided to cycle (small aside, on the way back I totally nearly bonked and this little guy saved my life), the route was only half an hour, it would be a fun adventure and I’d get to see the countryside as I went. As I got off the train a kind old gent who had just picked up a bike from London offered to accompany me halfway, to Irchester. Leading the way we went over snowy B roads and icy paths and I saw the thriving villages and small towns. It makes me wonder when the divisive term ‘shirkers and strivers’ is being used in the political sphere to lay blame on a certain section of the population for recession-associated ills. Looking at the thriving towns of Northampton it seems not to be a question of shirking, but what local opportunities there are in post-industrial Britain. Rushden is an example of a place where there have thankfully been opportunities for local people to work thanks to the shoe industry and it’s very much alive and kicking. In other parts of England, relying on different -and now defunct- industries, people haven’t been so lucky.
The Grenson factory has been going since the 1800s and as you walk into the reception entrance the smell hits you. It’s a mix of cosily musty libraries – the ones where you would actually get shushed – and a smell of leather that fills the whole factory. Everywhere you look there are old tools, archive adverts, framed pictures of factory bosses from days gone by with thick NHS frames. It’s kind of like a working museum, there is so much history but there is also so much new and different product being made. I love lifting the lid on processes and manufacturing, as geeky as that sounds. I had a total geek out on my visit with Roger, Grenson’s designer and pattern cutter who has been working there for thirty years and can probably design a pair of shoes with his eyes closed.
How long have you worked at the factory?
April, it’ll be thirty years. Pattern cutting, designing, technical design, I learnt my trade becoming somebody’s assistant, then you become an assistant to a designer. Up until then I did a lot of travelling, I was living in Rushden. I’m from one of the villages up the road called Upperdene, my father’s family. If you’re go back into the history, you go to 1900, there’s a lot of money in these areas because of the shoe industry. Somerset were doing children’s shoes, Kendal were doing ladies, you can split it into areas. Here in this area was dress shoes and during the great war they made thousands of boots. Grenson has been going for quite a while now, when you work in the factory you can go back to that history. Men’s is my forte, I don’t have to think about it, you can look at something and see that it looks right. You don’t have to stop, if it looks right it is right. I can pick something up and say ‘that looks good.’ Pure experience is not something you can teach. I started at the bottom, I’d say it took me about 15 years, from the time I was allowed to do it. I worked in the factory and built my skills up, rather than like at university where you start drawing and sketching designs.
How long has the factory been going?
1866, it’s quite a long while. The light that comes in to the factory is from the North, it’s more pure because you don’t get the yellowness from the sun. The clickers cut the uppers on the shoe and they need a good light to see any marks and flaws in the leather.
Who does the factory employ?
Nearly all local people, even now it’s mainly the people who live within 10-15 miles, most people are actually in Rushden. It’s an active little place, there’s local pubs have music on at weekends, sports stadium. I go swimming on the Sunday there’s a nice pool. As a town it’s very nice, we’ve got Silverstone and we’re actually in the middle in the country. In the 80s-70s there used to be machines made, but it’s disappeared. You can still get machines in Italy, but these ones we’ve got they’re all built for the shoe trade. You can still get parts, we’ve got a factory mechanic on permanent duty if anything goes wrong it’s his job to sort it out.
I’m pleased that Tim’s [Little, Grenson Creative Director] come in because he’s picked it up, things are processing forward and to me it’s becoming a lively place again. I’ve never earn a million pounds or a fortune out of it but it’s kept my family well and I’ve been well looked after. It’s always been exciting, looking at things, coming up with things, you never know what you’re going to be doing, it’s always a challenge coming in the morning, someone might throw something on your desk and say: ‘we’re doing something like this.’
What do you look for for inspiration?
It always has been quite intense, you’re always looking at things. Shows, shops, anything. Going out with my wife she always says I look down at other people’s feet! Inspiration comes from books shop windows, we used to take a camera, a notebook to the fairs, sketch a few ideas. History is good, it’s a big circle which always goes round. Modern techniques have changed, there’s always movement within the trade, a new leather, a new way of doing of doing.
What’s your favourite shoe?
A nice, English brogue, that’s me! To me, a good welted shoe is the backbone of England and being English. Years ago, we used to make shoes for the Red Arrows, they liked to promote Englishness. They’d have all their uniforms made in the UK.
I’m happy to have got into it, I have always been employed. We used to have a football team, we used to play indoor cricket very good cricket I tell you. A couple of girls used to play for the county. The clicking room used to play the lasting room, and the lasting room used to play the office.
For me, my skills are by hand, I’m very good with my hands, I’ve been abroad Tokyo, India, New York, we used to have to travel to the shows. There was no internet. We had to be [on it, going to shows] if you don’t keep your eye on what you’re doing then obviously you miss out. There are lot more people: leather people, last makers, so you used the shows to build the business. You meet the buyers and they make suggestions, the reps, we put a ‘window lookers’ colours, bright, colours to get people to look in the windows and draw them into what you’re actually selling. Good welted man’s shoes.
Part two coming up next week, with a Q&A from Tim Little, owner and Creative Director at Grenson, plus mo-oore pics!