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Showing posts by Samantha Conti- London Bureau Chief

Paint, scissors, pencils.

London was awash with illustrations and prints made the old-fashioned way--with bare hands and no computer keyboards--on and off the spring runways.

Designers including Matthew Williamson, Giles Deacon and Claire Barrow all opted for bold, naïve and hand-drawn prints, while Smythson, Claridge's and Roland Mouret hosted shows featuring freshly minted and vintage illustrations.

Williamson's collection was full of hand-drawn prints, a universe away from his usual digital ones. There were botanical motifs, hand-drawn daisies and dragonflies on loose, languid silhouettes while big, cartoonish flowers blossomed over floor-sweeping tunics and sheer blouses.

"I wanted the prints to look like a five-year-old girl had done them, and I wanted to take a different trajectory, to explore prints in a much more organic way, focusing on man-made rather than machine," Williamson said, adding that the hand doodling and graffiti was inspired by the late Keith Haring.

"Digital prints have been so popular in the last few seasons, and it really reflects where we are now in terms of technology: We are so heavily reliant on it. Switching off the computer and returning to hand-drawn techniques added a new dimension. The imperfect patterns gave the collection a more carefree, spontaneous spirit."

Deacon's show, a spiky take on springtime, featured bold, slightly smudgy gap-toothed ladies' mouth prints, hand-painted with acrylics by the artist Donald Robertson, who is head of creative development at cosmetics brand Bobbi Brown. Deacon said he discovered Robertson's work on Instagram.

"At the time, I had no idea who he was, but I loved his hand," said Deacon. "And I had wanted to do lips, but in a different way." He said he could easily return to handmade designs in the future. "I don't think anyone wants to see any more mental digital repeats anytime soon."

Off the runway, leather accessories and stationery brand Smythson tapped British illustrator and filmmaker Quentin Jones to create a series of collages of famous fans of the Panama Diary. The images are of a disparate bunch--from Sigmund Freud to Dita Von Teese, Erdem Moralioglu to Katharine Hepburn--and each features a letter of the alphabet that spells out Smythson.

"It's paint, it's paper, it's not digital or slick or computerized," said Rory O'Hanlon, the brand's design director. "The images are playful, and we're sharing what Smythson has been, what it is, and what it will be."

The exhibition is touring Smythson stores worldwide.

Mouret, meanwhile, teamed with Janina Joffe, founder of the online fashion illustration gallery East of Mayfair, to showcase rare and previously unseen drawings by the late fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez.

The show, at Mouret's Mayfair townhouse, was meant to mark the 70th anniversary of Lopez's birth.

"When I was young, Antonio was one of the people who made you dream about fashion," Mouret said of the bold, Pop Art-y works on show.

At the Mayfair Hotel, Claridge's artist-in-residence David Downton unveiled his "Midnight at Noon" exhibition, and talked about the intimate overlap between drawing and life. During his two-year residency, Downton has hand-drawn hotel guests including Diane von Furstenberg, Joan Collins, Alber Elbaz, Christian Louboutin and Erin O'Connor.

Of the latter, he said: "She looks like a drawing in all her proportions, and everything I try to do on paper she is in life--so she makes me look good."

With contributions from Stephanie Hirschmiller

Martin Amis at home.
PHOTO BY TIM JENKINS

Martin Amis' latest book, "The Pregnant Widow" (Random House), comes out in the US on May 11. The story, which takes place in a castle in the countryside near Naples, is a comedy of manners and centers on a clutch of 20-somethings test-driving free love in the summer of 1970. I'd interviewed Amis - a literary legend in the UK - a few times over the phone, and had found him frank and forthcoming. I also knew he had a long history with Women's Wear Daily - one of his former girlfriends is the biographer and author Julie Kavanagh, a former London correspondent for W and WWD in the early Seventies. Clearly, I couldn't wait to meet the man and pick his famously big brain about everything from his novelist father Kingsley Amis, to his old pal Saul Bellow to the books he was teaching at university and who he was voting for in the UK's latest general election. 


Sinking happily into the cushions of a fire-engine red velvet sofa in Amis' sunny sitting room, I felt like the sole guest at a fabulous literary festival, firing off questions and getting thoughtful and witty answers back. Herewith, an excerpt from our hour-long interview:


WWD: How long did it take you to write the book?
Martin Amis: I struggled with it for six years and then I abandoned what I was writing, which was a long autobiographical novel. Then, after two horrible weeks, I realized that with luck it would be two novels. What was wrong with it was trying to combine them.
 
WWD: There's much talk about physical beauty - and its power - in the book.  
Amis: It's the most invidious subject on earth because no one really knows what beauty is. We all sense it, don't we? But it's very hard to define, and very hard to see it in human worth or virtue - but there it is.


When the hoopla of the 25th anniversary of London Fashion Week died down last year, I think a lot of people were wondering what the British Fashion Council had up its sleeve this time around. The fall season -- which ended Wednesday with a string of polished men's wear shows -- may have been low-key, but it was an organized affair. Face it, not words in the past that often applied to London Fashion Week.
The 25th London Fashion Week -- so anticipated for so long -- is already winding down. There's giddiness in the air, with all the late-night parties, cocktails, dinners and flowing Champagne.
The Champagne flowed a little more slowly, shows actually started on time and there weren't the usual scrums -- and nasty bouncers -- at the entrance to events. Few were in the mood to play during London Fashion Week, which this season was a strictly business affair.

Everyone seems to have commerce on the brain: One designer told me that U.S. buyers' budgets are down 30 percent for the big luxury brands -- and "far more" for the smaller, independent labels, so it's time to explore new ways of doing business.

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