Multi-talented producer and musician Labrinth is set to release his debut album, Electronic Earth, next month. I interviewed him for Topman GENERATION magazine. Check it out here
With some arriving ‘Buttoned Up’, and others rocking a Button Down – London’s creative set put their best fashion feet forward at Individualism’s third birthday party.
Held last Thursday at Shoreditch’s suitably cool The Book Club, over two hundred people packed the basement to toast the style collective’s success and celebrate their birthday in style.
From giveaways to a style booth, a special UK Talk to Me to DJs throwing down some SERIOUS old school tunes, a well-dressed crowd partied into the small hours.
Individualism is the brain-child of brothers Aaron and Reuben Christian. Born out of a love of all things men’s style related, Aaron and Reuben spotted a gap in the market. The website began in 2008, with nifty ‘How To’ videos, quick-read informative posts and product reviews of the newest swag to hit the shops.
As the demand and interest for men’s fashion grew, so did the site: with so many blogs claiming to publishing original content, the Christian brothers made it paramount that all content emanating from their site would be new, innovative and push the boundaries of what a style blog should be.
With style studies, photo shoots, brand testimonials, street style analysis and weekly ‘get the look’ style posts, the sheer volume of content catapulted the blog into many Top 10 lists, with Individualism regularly charting in the Top Three!
But it has to be the video content which sets Individualism apart from its contemporaries: an interview with Topman Design Director Gordon Richardson, a sit-down chat with Michael Bastian; a sneak peek behind-the-scenes at Sam Greenberg and a host of other style-related videos really upped the ante.
This helped establish Individualism as the go-to guys, for not just style savvy readers but brands and companies recognising the impact Individualism are having in men’s style.
Marrying style and comedy, the Sins of Style series spins a humorous take on sartorial blunders – like the woeful sin of wearing sunglasses at night. Its slick production and witty scripts created a new dimension to their growing brand.
When Aaron asked me to be the copy sub in November 2009, I jumped at the chance. What a better way to sharpen my skills, contribute wherever I could and learn something new. And while it’s very unlikely you’ll see my ugly mug in any promotional snaps, to be part of this ever-growing collective is a privilege and has been a great experience.
Meeting new people has been fun, and working with like-minded individuals (‘scuse the pun) who are dedicated to their craft is an immense source of inspiration.
With a background in print journalism, it’s an eye-opening experience to see the growing influence of the web. To reach millions of people around the world, just by clicking ‘Post’ is a real treat – but mind-boggling too.
While the party whizzed by at an alarming speed, we were all in agreement that it was a great success. The buzz it has created is unreal and other nights are in the pipeline.
The collision of photography, journalism, styling, graphic design, fashion, video production and broadcasting has helped to create this idiosyncratic ‘nuuu meedja’ platform – who knows the heights that Individualism will scale.
It’s only the beginning.
Working in retail is a rite of passage for anyone in pursuit of a creative career. Let’s not fuck about – the hours are long, it’s a sweatshop wage and it wreaks havoc with your social life.
After spending a prison sentence working for a dodgy High Street brand, I thought my days of folding denim at 7.30am, along with being asked ‘Have you got this in black, boss?’ – were over.
But my career plans changed and part-time work was sought. I swallowed my pride and got over it quite quickly, but I knew there was no going back to the High Street; so having swapped it for its well-off cousin, I wished I did it sooner.
Most people assume there’s a degree of snobbery when it comes to luxury brands. And some would be correct in thinking so. But, underneath this pretentious and well-dressed creature lies a softly spoken, sartorially satisfied shopper.
Being a weekender in an iconic brand, I wandered around the store in amazement, marvelling at price tags reaching the upper echelons of normality.
In my store, expensive Rick Owens leather jackets are housed in the same room as revered designers like Vivienne Westwood and her disctinctly-British regalia. The clean lines of Dries Van Noten and the technical wizardry of Alexander McQueen are separated by Paul Smith and Burberry, stalwarts of mens fashion.
The quality and the expert craftmanship was obvious from first glance; avant-garde designers charge thousands of pounds for garments, comfortable in the knowledge that the wearer won’t be upstaged or embarrassed as it’s not a cheap, mass-produced item.
As I continued to look around, shoppers were handling pricey scented candles, checking out bespoke stationary and sizing up printed silk scarves.
Being a bit of a nerd, I naturally gravitated towards the bookshop and my eyes were seduced by interesting and inspirational books and journals. The products of a specialist publisher, these books were stunning coffee-table tomes. And with the price of one book reaching £30,000, it was a case of looking and not touching.
Standing around with my new colleagues, we all marvelled at a black suede shopper bag. We inspected the work, the intricate detailing. When one looked at the price tag and said: “Hmmm, £200, that’s quite cheap,” everyone nodded in approval.
Working in my previous job, things were rarely bought unless they were on sale, heavily discounted AND with staff discount! My team members laughed and said that this position would “ruin me” and that I would become a “clothes snob”. I don’t doubt that.
If you’ve got money, it’s a no-brainer: splash your cash on quality goods – it’s all part of the exclusivity of owning rare and coveted items. It’s a million miles away from the High Street. And thankfully, so am I.
♫ Heaven 17 – ‘Temptation’
What happens when you put some bloggers, a smattering of media darlings, a couple of gender-bending fashionistas and numerous coolhunters into a West End store disguised as a concept nightclub?
Luxury Italian fashion house Dolce and Gabbana, recently invited five bloggers to create bespoke windows in their store, with the best one being chosen by bloggers and dedicated fashion followers.
To celebrate this feat, they flung open their doors of their stylish Old Bond Street store and invited people to join the fun. And thanks to my connections with Team Individualism, yours truly found himself on the guest list.
It was like delving into the society pages of a glossy magazine. OK, maybe not Tatler, but you get my drift.
After navigating through a scrum of paparazzos, flashbulbs began to pop when a black car pulled up (Addison Lee!) and out stepped a perfectly coiffed X Factor winner.
Inside, it was like a really weird corporate rave; expensive garms lined the perimeter of the dance floor whilst student waiters handed out cocktails and savoury snacks. Shop assistants grimaced in their role as nightclub stewards as baying mobs surrounded the makeshift bar, unashamedly snatching free drinks.
It was a really diverse crowd; Chelsea girls rubbed shoulders with Brixton boys but the pretentiousness seemed to linger like the smoke in a working mans pub. But it was the F-word which really bought everyone to this pocket of W1. That being fashion. With a capital F.
Being conservatively dressed, I felt a touch 0ut of place. London’s underground cool hunters were on a mission to be seen, one hem line at a time. Coloured weaves, gravity-defying creations, towering platforms, billowing contraptions and eye-catching custom-made clothes were the order of the day.
Standing close to the exit, I spied numerous ‘famous’ faces; the offspring of a well-known personality; an ageing actor who looked pleased as punch to have scored an invite; a (talented) former girl band member; a well-known business woman from London’s arts/fashion scene, and two offspring of a famous British singer, whose claim to fame is that they are the offspring of a famous British singer.
It didn’t feel like a party; it felt like attending the party of a friend-of-a-friend; you kind of know them, your friend is going along and has invited you to tag along, so you attend, out of courtesy, acknowledging that it’s a cheap night out, but have to stay close to your friend as you don’t know anyone there.
Ha, it was fun. The DJ threw down some serious choons and everyone was brucking out. Even the ‘celebs’. Though some were enjoying it a bit too much. There was enough hip-shaking and X-rated gyrating that it verged on embarrassing.
But thankfully – after downing a few cheeky drinks – I refrained throwing any shapes. No, I left that to the cool kids.
♫ Nicki Minaj Feat. Sean Garrett – ‘Massive Attack’
I am not the best of dressers.
I still possess a black Nike drawstring bag from secondary school as I’m sure it’ll come back in fashion one day. My first pair of trainers were courtesy of Kappa, in an ecru and navy colour way. And you know what? I have no problems wearing blue with green. Who said they ‘should never be seen?’
Arriving in London five years ago, armed with said drawstring bag and lashings of government money, my student loan was promptly seduced by the likes of ‘Size?’, quirky T-shirt brands and perennially-popular wardrobe staples. I am getting better. Every day is a struggle but I am slowly navigating my way through this sartorial minefield.
So the prospect of milling around with some of the world’s most pretentious, fashion-forward folk was enough to make even the most cynical writer dry heave, but in the interests of journalism and bringing you guys a sardonic slice of literature on this ‘nuuu meedja’ platform, I took to this task with a mixture of glee and great trepidation.
This is what happens when you put a sartorial sinner in the fashion capital of the world.
Stepping out of an iconic yellow cab after giving my driver the wrong cross street, I found myself stranded in the fashionable Chelsea district. Vexed, and shuffling down the street with a heavy case in tow, I came to a halt when I observed a group of guys and girls congregating around the subway entrance.
Momentarily tranced by their presence, this collection of futuristic soldiers were ready to hit a club; dressed in a uniform of spray-on skinnies, fitted white shirts, over-sized red glasses (the same from school woodwork lessons), over-the-top accessories and studded high-tops – one was even sporting what looked like a structured titanium glove – these five guys illustrated why New York is regarded as the fashion capital of the world.
The clothing industry based in the city generates over $14 billion in annual sales and its trends and designs are copied the world over. The city’s Garment District spans from Fifth to Ninth Avenue, between 34th and 42nd Street and here, you’ll find showrooms from the great and the good, production spaces and vast warehouses.
So here we have an unstoppable corporate machine, pumping out high fashion and high street in non-proportional measures, but just who is buying the clothes? Are New Yorkers really that vain?
I’d heard horror stories of New Yorkers spending $300 on a sweater or a pair of shoes, and then having to sheepishly pass the pomegranates and rustic breads at Whole Foods in favour of Hamburger Helper and maize snacks at Food for Less.
My trip now had purpose; I wanted to see who was buying what, and where they were buying it from. New York has long been dubbed as a ‘melting pot’ and quite rightly so. The many different ingredients that give each neighbourhood its idiosyncratic flavour is evident from first glance.
Visit the Upper East Side and you’ll find the archetypal Manhattanites, stomping along the exclusive sidewalks, dripping in expensive designer threads with their dogs in matching jumpsuits. Inside the vast Bloomingdales emporium shoppers peruse rails-upon-rails of luxurious labels, clothes that make the culture of shopping a till-ringing reality.
Hop on the 6 to Harlem’s historical 125th Street and witness the evolution of street chic; fashion-savvy youngsters mixing the old with the new, reinterpreting past trends and sealing their stamp on re-invented street styles.
Slide to the Lower East Side for a fresh take on urban street style. Visit the holy trinity of sneakers stores – Dave’s Quality Meat, Premium Laces and Alfie Rivington Club - for a truly religious experience, then cross the East River to Brooklyn for a hipster fix – think vintage, vintage and trunk fulls of vintage.
Beginning my study in SoHo, I was confronted by an army of marching mannequins fresh from the pages of Nylon. These aspiring scene-stealers were spending some serious cash in the many flagship stores that line this area of Broadway; American Apparel, Levi’s, Zara, Lucky Brand Jeans, New York’s only Uniqlo…the interlocking streets open up to a maze of shops, where chain stores sit alongside pop-up shops and cult apparel brands. Inside, these stores are visually impressive; striking store merchandising and easy-on-the-eye displays have been carefully executed to encourage you to dispense with your newly-acquired dollar bills.
Dubbed New York’s ‘Worst Kept Secret’, Century 21 is the kind of place made for only the brave and the patient; witness sweating and screeching shoppers running amok in this gargantuan site housing knock-off designer threads and you’ll get the picture. And with price tags reaching the upper echelons of abnormality, it would make our very own Philip Green pleased as punch.
In this store near the World Trade Center site, Marc Jacobs takes its place next to Marc Ecko; DKNY looms ominously in the background; Garbstore and Jil Sander are vying for attention whilst Calvin Klein boxers are a mere snip at $9.97 (£6.17).
Uptown in Harlem, the shopping experience couldn’t be more different. A historically black neighbourhood, the fashions are noticeably subtle and not as overt as their SoHo stable mates. On 125th Street, a quiet invasion of the high street was taking place; Gap’s younger brother, Old Navy, is housed in a sizeable store alongside an H&M, but apart from that, that’s it. There’s a smattering of cheaper stores, some flogging multi-pocket jeans and XXXXXXXL T-shirts and others hawking “hood wear” – think Enyce, Pele Pele and Avirex – labels which tie in with the stereotypical Harlem aesthetic.
Upon entering Jimmy Jamz, a silent revolution was gathering pace in an unassuming way. This store was stacked with smart gilets in a variety of colour ways and textures, slim fit dress jeans, sneakers with vivid splashes of colour and floor-to-wall displays of expensive New Era hats…
Over the weekend, I decided to veer away from the well-trodden tourist track, so I bopped over to Brooklyn – Williamsburg to be precise.
Williamsburg is a funny place. Everyone seems to be in denial. One suspects that these overly trendy people were once uncomfortable social misfits, bored with being Goths and the regime of jet black in summer.
Much is made of New York’s sidewalks being the people’s catwalk and you see folk peddling retro looks from yester-year; 1940’s dapper gents in full evening dress accompanying his screen starlet; Chaka Zulu’s great, great grand children having had a one-to-one with Chaka Khan; smattering of 70’s icons – decadent and ethereal creatures ushered in from Studio 54 - furiously wiping an unidentifiable powder away from their noses…
And not wanting to be one of those pretentious ‘freelance writers’ who ride in on tall equine creatures and guffaw at statements of originality (I COULD NAME NAMES) – I was truly fascinated by the combination of innovation, experimentation and homage pounding the pavements of Brooklyn and that was something I managed to capture in the Street Style Sunday posts for Individualism.co.uk. I lost count of the number of vintage shops, thrift stores and warehouse spaces that sell second-hand wares that line Bedford Avenue.
And I’m pleased to report that these Brooklynites have refrained from boring and unimaginative denim shirts, the ubiquitous cuffed skinny carrot chinos, snoods…
Later in the afternoon, I wandered into ‘Artists and Fleas’, a stylish souk where young designers come to flog their wares – be it T-shirts, jewellery, clothing or furniture. In the corner of this bustling bazaar I spied a guy, sitting down, wondering what he had done to be caught up in this organised chaos.
It was at that moment in which I got ‘it’. His name was Alexander Campaz, a designer who makes clothes for all the right reasons. Possessing a quiet and brooding character, this softly spoken New Yorker let me rummage through his designs, allowing me to size up my options by trying them on, all while providing me with a running commentary of how the item was made, where the materials were sourced from…
Campaz told me how his father was involved with textiles and how he had grown up around sewing machines. In front of me was a display of custom made jumpers and T-shirts in a variety of unusual and luxe fabrics. Some were innovatively woven, other garments implored unusual twists on a simple canvas. I settled on a cut and sew jumper in a red, grey and navy colour palette, thanked him and went on my way.
Fashion in New York is a big deal. Like fast food, there are enough clothing stores, outlets and emporiums to fulfil the appetites of the most seasoned shopper, but style and its many associations is prevalent in New Yorkers’ DNA. You don’t have to be rinsing “Daddy’s” credit card to be regarded as fashionable, in fact, going against the norm is the season’s new black. In these austere times it’s wiser to dress to impress yourself and not others. They say fashion has no mercy, and neither will your landlord when you can’t make the rent.
In NY, trends are treated like freesheet newspapers - abandoned soon after they’ve been acquired. In addition to brash behaviour and uncouth cockiness, the culture of silent appreciation is something New Yorkers do pretty well; people are free to rock check-board trousers, statement knuckle-dusters and unusual and uncomfortable designs are worn in the name of fashion and nothing else.
And they aren’t heckled or disrespected either, but encouraged and complimented…something many will say is missing on the stuffy streets of London.
They may not be wearing drawstring bags or sporting Kappa trainers yet, but give it time. Just watch.
A funny conversation I had whilst on my break at my PTJ (part-time job) has encouraged this musing. Stay with me…
Standing on the shop floor the other day, I noticed something that made me laugh. There were these dudes wandering around the store, expertly studying clothes, sizing up their options, inspecting the workmanship.
One approached me and asked for my opinion on something. After reminding him that I am a Sales Assistant and that my duties are limited to selling and assisting, he asked me why we don’t stock any dashikis.
Suppressing my laughter (and my sarcasm), I asked him why he thought we would stock such an item, an item so closely associated with Africa and its strong cultural identity, with its rich colours on intricately woven fabrics, and so came his response….
“Cos it’s in fashion, innit fam.”
And there you have it, the death of cultural identity and originality, and the beginning of this summer’s fashion trend, Zanzibar Chic.
These dudes weren’t dressed conservatively, in fact, they couldn’t have drawn more attention to themselves if they had tried. What got me thinking was not the fact that they were dressed to (not) impress, but the fact that everything about them, their whole get-up, was borrowed. Stolen. Copied.
The pictures above illustrate this episode perfectly…think ’1980s-Brooklyn-meets-the-bush’…or ‘Coming To America-via-Catford’…just add a couple of garish toilet chains hanging from their necks, a pair of acid brights on their feet, some jazzy African cloth on top and you should have a vision. A vision of theft.
The evolution of youth culture has seen many a trend, fad and style come and go over the years but it’s amazing to think that this generation has yet to discover one that will transcend genres and cement a lasting impression for decades to come; one that will provide a platform to analyse youth culture and provide historians with a snapshot of what life was like in 2010.
Maybe I’ve been thinking about this too deeply (maybe I need to find a proper, full-time job?) but when you look at it, music and fashion have always been intrinsically linked and the last time we vaguely saw anything that sheepishly masqueraded as a movement was the Nu Rave scene in 2006.
That summer saw the rise of all things nu rave, a collision of rave culture with disco and rock, with the synthesizer/indie/dance/electro, fashion and art thrown in to mix it up; think art school meets dirty club chic. But looking back, was it merely a cheap 80s rip off, borrowing heavily from the new wave era and the early 90s rave scene?
The music was an important device in the nu rave scene, helping illustrate a generation of teens who loved nothing better than flocking to Koko, Punk or the Amersham Arms on a Friday night, where they would immerse themselves in a day-glow, hedonistic utopia and dance to bands and music which NME heaped loads of praise on and deemed cool.
Led by CSS, New Young Pony Club and SHITdisco, this genre was effectively created by the music industry press and many alike, when really these were just guitar bands whose riffs and bass lines made them sound a bit dancey.
But the real poster boys of the genre were the Klaxons, a group of blokes whose debut album, ‘Myths of the Near Future’, won the Mercury Music Prize in 2007. You could say that they were the culpable catalysts for this minor subculture when singer Jamie Reynolds declared they were nu rave, only to sheepishly take it back a few months later. Speaking to thelondonpaper, he said: “I created it as a joke, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Now it’s a global media buzzword and I’ve talked about it in different languages.”
Okay, so global maybe a little over exaggerated.
Whilst some of the fashion was questionable, there’s no denying that music, clubbing and fashion have always gone hand in hand. Look back at the New Romantic movement from the early 80s and it’s clear to see how the music of the time influenced the fashions and social trends.
The Blitz Club in Great Queen Street, Billy’s in Dean Street and The Camden Palace over in Mornington Crescent gave birth to the New Romantic scene- it was where androgyny met the typical English gent, with over-the-top make-up, big hair and brand new music.
The leaders at the time were Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, Visage and Ultravox. It inspired a generation and helped cement the 1980s in popular culture.
New York caught onto this and developed their own answer to the New Romantics, with the Club Kids in the late 1980s. Known for their famous partying, eye-catching outfits and love for all drugs illegal, the Club Kids re-defined clubbing culture and paved the way to the 90s rave scene.
Nu rave made many things popular again, like East London districts such as Shoreditch, Hoxton and Spitalfields. Once run down areas, all three places have seen gentrification and rising house prices over the last few years and now have been colonised by art students and fashionistas alike, becoming the epicentre of contemporary bohemia, with pretentious media types frequenting various bars and clubs, traipsing around the many vintage and thrift stores and creating studio space from the numerous disused warehouses.
But as ‘great’ as this was, it makes me wonder what was new about nu rave? I mean if this was nu rave, what was old about ‘old rave’? Looking at rave from the 1990s, it was a term used for dance parties, usually all-nighters, where DJs and live performers played electro dance music, which was usually accompanied by lasers, strobe lighting and LED’s.
The word ‘rave’ was used to describe the acid house movement of the late 1980s but rave gained notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s when thousands of party-hungry youngsters would descend on hastily arranged weekend parties that would take place in warehouses, industrial parks, country retreats or London parks.
While rave saw a revival in dance styles such as body popping, break dancing and glow sticking, it also saw a rise in the use of recreational drugs, or ‘club drugs’ as they were known at the time, like LSD, ecstasy, amphetamines and GHB.
The then Conservative government set about imposing its limitations on the rave scene and youth culture by imposing the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which ultimately gave the Police the power to stop an outdoor rave if more than 100 people were attending, or if two or more people were making preparations for a rave.
Effectively, this killed the rave scene and to the present day, we have yet to see a movement like this.
A few years ago, the idea of shopping in a charity shop was laughable. Back in the early 2000s, it was about who had the cleanest Reebok Classics, the freshest Air Force Ones, the tightest Nike tracksuits, and now the word ‘Vintage’ has become a byword for cool. It’s proof that fashion comes around, that trends recycle. And with so many subcultures consigned to Wikipedia entries and lookbooks for fashion brands, it’s no surprise that the fun and originality of wearing clothes and expressing yourself clothes has long gone.
Going back to the images of those boys who graced the shop floor with their African-inspired look…hip hop has long taken its cues from Africa. Sub cultures, or ‘youth-quakes’ are normally born out of political unrest or socio-economic struggles and act as a form of rebellion against the system/the establishment.
Look back to the early hip hop movement in 1970s New York and it’s almost as if the new school were doffing their proverbial hats to their forefathers in the mother land, and so it transpired a movement which transcended genres and generations. But that was then. We need ours now.
J Dilla saved my life. But it doesn’t mean I want to dress like him.
♫ Common Feat. Erykah Badu, Pharrell & Q-Tip – Come Close (J Dilla Remix)