The multifaceted designer opens her London home, and discusses her affinity for using unusual juxtapositions in her decorating.
Runway set for Christian Dior RTW ss14
Photos by Bureau Betak
Hand-dyed namecards I designed for jazz singer & actress Joanna Dong
My Own Private Tokyo
by William Gibson, Wired, Sep 2001
I wish I had a thousand-yen note for every journalist who, over the past decade, has asked me whether Japan is still as futurologically sexy as it seemed to be in the ’80s. If I did, I’d take one of these spotlessly lace-upholstered taxis over to the Ginza and buy my wife a small box of the most expensive Belgian chocolates in the universe.
I’m back to Tokyo tonight to refresh my sense of place, check out the post-Bubble city, professionally resharpen that handy Japanese edge. If you believe, as I do, that all cultural change is essentially technology-driven, you pay attention to Japan. There are reasons for that, and they run deep.
Dining late, in a plastic-draped gypsy noodle stall in Shinjuku, the classic cliché better-than-Blade Runner Tokyo street set, I scope my neighbor’s phone as he checks his text messages. Wafer-thin, Kandy Kolor pearlescent white, complexly curvilinear, totally ephemeral looking, its screen seethes with a miniature version of Shinjuku’s neon light show. He’s got the rosary-like anticancer charm attached; most people here do, believing it deflects microwaves, grounding them away from the brain. It looks great, in terms of a novelist’s need for props, but it may not actually be that next-generation in terms of what I’m used to back home.
Tokyo has been my handiest prop shop for as long as I’ve been writing: sheer eye candy. You can see more chronological strata of futuristic design in a Tokyo streetscape than anywhere else in the world. Like successive layers of Tomorrowlands, older ones showing through when the newer ones start to peel.
The world’s second-richest economy, after a decade of stagflation, still looks like the world’s richest place, but the global lea lines of money and hustle have invisibly realigned. It feels to me as though all that crazy momentum has finally arrived.
So the pearlescent phone with the cancer thingy gets drafted straight into props, but what about Japan itself? The Bubble’s gone, successive economic plans sputter and wobble to the same halt, one political scandal follows another … Is that the future?
Yes. Part of it, and not necessarily ours, but definitely yes. The Japanese love “futuristic” things precisely because they’ve been living in the future for such a very long time now. History, that other form of speculative fiction, explains why.
The Japanese, you see, have been repeatedly drop-kicked, ever further down the timeline, by serial national traumata of quite unthinkable weirdness, by 150 years of deep, almost constant, change. The 20th century, for Japan, was like a ride on a rocket sled, with successive bundles of fuel igniting spontaneously, one after another.
They have had one strange ride, the Japanese, and we tend to forget that.
In 1854, with Commodore Perry’s second landing, gunboat diplomacy ended 200 years of self-imposed isolation, a deliberate stretching out of the feudal dreamtime. The Japanese knew that America, not to be denied, had come knocking with the future in its hip pocket. This was the quintessential cargo-cult moment for Japan: the arrival of alien tech.
The people who ran Japan - the emperor, the lords and ladies of his court, the nobles, and the very wealthy - were entranced. It must have seemed as though these visitors emerged from some rip in the fabric of reality. Imagine the Roswell Incident as a trade mission, a successful one; imagine us buying all the Gray technology we could afford, no reverse engineering required. This was a cargo cult where the cargo actually did what it claimed to do.
They must all have gone briefly but thoroughly mad, then pulled it together somehow and plunged on. The Industrial Revolution came whole, in kit form: steamships, railroads, telegraphy, factories, Western medicine, the division of labor - not to mention a mechanized military and the political will to use it. Then those Americans returned to whack Asia’s first industrial society with the light of a thousand suns - twice, and very hard - and thus the War ended.
At which point the aliens arrived in force, this time with briefcases and plans, bent on a cultural retrofit from the scorched earth up. Certain central aspects of the feudal-industrial core were left intact, while other areas of the nation’s political and business culture were heavily grafted with American tissue, resulting in hybrid forms …
Yohji Yamamoto: The Poet of Black
Thom Browne in Hong Kong
Now is the time to rise above the whims of corporate fashion and actualise the individual. Industrial relations Faye & Erica Toogood have built a new collection — inspired by the workers, to inspire the workers. Eight new coats, practical and sculptural, crafted from hardwearing materials and engineered to withstand the changing seasons. Each garment derives from the workwear of a specific trade — an authentic vocation, not the shallow desk jobs of the digital age — marked with the signs of toil in screen-printed rubber and foil. Each piece knows no boundaries of age or gender, available in six sizes to enhance or disguise the individual frame. The materials are redolent of the values of staunch tradespeople: the waxed cotton of the oilrigger; the vulcanised rubber of the industrial labourer; the hardwearing canvas of the mariner and the artist. Unique documentation sewn inside celebrates its provenance, encouraging the wearer to forge a new link in its chain of production: the names of the buyer, the seller, the manufacturer,right back to the designer and the pattern-cutter, are all displayed with justifiable pride.
atelier olschinsky / pixel city
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