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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Alexander McQueen

A previous fashion editor at Amelia's magazine reflects back on his time interning at the designer's eponymous label

Written by Jonno Ovans

valentine

Valentines schmallentines. Yup, visit this site malady that’s what I normally think. But for some reason I’m in a good mood this year. Although that doesn’t stop me grumbling about the excessive tat for sale in absolutely every shop I enter. Who the hell wants a light up musical plastic toad covered in hearts? Just one of the ridiculous landfill-bound items available on the groaning Valentine’s Day display in one supermarket I visited.

I was leaving my singing class last night when our teacher wished us all a Happy Valentines Day and I realised that this celebration of love has become a national event not unlike Christmas or Easter. How did that happen? But maybe it is a good thing… I shall explain.

valentine 2

Most of the time I have been on my own on Valentine’s Day. As a teenager my first boyfriend (this is him now. EWWWWWWWWWW. Amazing what you can do with google! I swear he was a smooth looker way back when, sale and he was cool. I know you don’t believe me) gave me a squashed box of Black Magic before trying to persuade me to give him a blow job. I wasn’t impressed. Then a boyfriend who I loved very much memorably gave me some hastily bought wilting ‘petrol station flowers’. But he was young. I was in love. I forgave him and we lasted quite a bit longer.

At school and university I often made cards for my best friends instead of for a non-existent boyfriend, buy and during the long dry spell that I experienced in my 20s my lovely mother usually remembered to send me a card, and I would send her one too. I always felt that Valentine’s Day should be a time of year to give thanks to people who are special in our lives, regardless of whether they are our sole love interest.

And remember hearts. Hearts are just so great. Their shape, their colour. Like a circle or a square or a star, the shape of a heart says so much with so little. They’re cute and pretty and like most other girls, I probably can’t get enough of them. No, that’s a lie. When they’re bad hearts I can. Like these. Actually no, even these aren’t too bad. I have a seriously high tolerance for kitsch. But the commercial overkill of hearts makes me cross.

Pink kitsch hearts

I think it’s best to ignore the pressurised consumerism of Valentine’s Day, but I do think it’s nice to celebrate the occasion because everyone likes to feel appreciated. And if you’ve got some singleton friends, maybe you should think about popping a card in the post to them (making it obvious that it’s from you of course, not some handsome hunk of their dreams). I am sure it would make them smile this weekend.

Best of all, make something. Surprise that special someone with a special act or a special gift that you spent time and energy on. It means so much more than a bit of thoughtless tat. Having said that, us girls would also appreciate a bit of artwork or jewellery, especially if it’s by a talented independent designer or artist. So, here for your last minute delection I offer you my pick of Valentine inspired gifts.

rob-ryan-valentines

First up we have a beautiful print from Rob Ryan, whose sentimental art is perfectly suited to this time of year. I am reliably informed that as of earlier today there were two of these cut-outs left in the Tatty Devine Soho shop, but be quick if you’d like to snap up one because Rob Ryan grows ever more popular.

Bonbi Forest-love letter necklace

The Bonbi Forest website is run by artist Lee May Foster, who specialises in hand screenprinting and jewellery made from vintage pieces. Her brass Love Letter Lockets are ever so cute.

lisa jones-lovebirds

Over at Soma Gallery you can pick up a lovely silk screen print of kissing lovebirds, created by Lisa Jones.

valentines print-thereza-rowe

Amelia’s Magazine favourite Thereza Rowe is offering a limited edition Amore Valentines print, lovingly created in her inimitable colour palette. This bold artwork would look good on your wall all year round.

Clara Francis-The-Shop

And although it’s got darn all to do with hearts I’m kind of smitten with this beaded hummingbird necklace by Clara Francis. She’s used a traditional beading technique that I remember being fascinated by as a teenager. I told myself that I was going to learn how to do this myself. Yes well. Best intentions and all that.

Amelia Gregory

Fashion editor Rachael has already mentioned this classic lollipop necklace by Tatty Devine but I thought I’d add it in again – mainly because it was the necklace that they asked me to model in their Best Of booklet about a year ago. Ohhhh missus. Get me trying to be all saucy!

Lady Luck Rules Okay

And I know a certain someone who has already bought this for their loved one – a wooden squirrel broach from Lady Luck Rules Okay. I’m Nuts About You has room for your own message too. Lady Luck have a shop just moments from my house off Brick Lane. I should introduce them to the (real) squirrels who live in the ivy just below my bedroom windowsill. There’s certainly a lot of love going on between this happy (noisy) couple – in fact I’m expecting some additions to the family soon. Squirrel love. You really can’t beat it.

Oh, and I’ll let you know if I get any half dead flowers this year.
valentine

Valentines schmallentines. Yup, drug that’s what I normally think. But for some reason I’m in a good mood this year. Although that doesn’t stop me grumbling about the excessive tat for sale in absolutely every shop I enter. Who the hell wants a light up musical plastic toad covered in hearts? Just one of the ridiculous landfill-bound items available on the groaning Valentine’s Day display in one supermarket I visited.

I was leaving my singing class last night when our teacher wished us all a Happy Valentines Day and I realised that this celebration of love has become a national event not unlike Christmas or Easter. How did that happen? But maybe it is a good thing… I shall explain.

valentine 2

Most of the time I have been on my own on Valentine’s Day. As a teenager my first boyfriend (this is him now. EWWWWWWWWWW. Amazing what you can do with google! I swear he was a smooth looker way back when, viagra approved and he was cool. I know you don’t believe me) gave me a squashed box of Black Magic before trying to persuade me to give him a blow job. I wasn’t impressed. Then a boyfriend who I loved very much memorably gave me some hastily bought wilting ‘petrol station flowers’. But he was young. I was in love. I forgave him and we lasted quite a bit longer.

At school and university I often made cards for my best friends instead of for a non-existent boyfriend, decease and during the long dry spell that I experienced in my 20s my lovely mother usually remembered to send me a card, and I would send her one too. I always felt that Valentine’s Day should be a time of year to give thanks to people who are special in our lives, regardless of whether they are our sole love interest.

And remember hearts. Hearts are just so great. Their shape, their colour. Like a circle or a square or a star, the shape of a heart says so much with so little. They’re cute and pretty and like most other girls, I probably can’t get enough of them. No, that’s a lie. When they’re bad hearts I can. Like these. Actually no, even these aren’t too bad. I have a seriously high tolerance for kitsch. But the commercial overkill of hearts makes me cross.

Pink kitsch hearts

I think it’s best to ignore the pressurised consumerism of Valentine’s Day, but I do think it’s nice to celebrate the occasion because everyone likes to feel appreciated. And if you’ve got some singleton friends, maybe you should think about popping a card in the post to them (making it obvious that it’s from you of course, not some handsome hunk of their dreams). I am sure it would make them smile this weekend.

Best of all, make something. Surprise that special someone with a special act or a special gift that you spent time and energy on. It means so much more than a bit of thoughtless tat. Having said that, us girls would also appreciate a bit of artwork or jewellery, especially if it’s by a talented independent designer or artist. So, here for your last minute delection I offer you my pick of Valentine inspired gifts.

rob-ryan-valentines

First up we have a beautiful print from Rob Ryan, whose sentimental art is perfectly suited to this time of year. I am reliably informed that as of earlier today there were two of these cut-outs left in the Tatty Devine Soho shop, but be quick if you’d like to snap up one because Rob Ryan grows ever more popular.

Bonbi Forest-love letter necklace

The Bonbi Forest website is run by artist Lee May Foster, who specialises in hand screenprinting and jewellery made from vintage pieces. Her brass Love Letter Lockets are ever so cute.

lisa jones-lovebirds

Over at Soma Gallery you can pick up a lovely silk screen print of kissing lovebirds, created by Lisa Jones.

valentines print-thereza-rowe

Amelia’s Magazine favourite Thereza Rowe is offering a limited edition Amore Valentines print, lovingly created in her inimitable colour palette. This bold artwork would look good on your wall all year round.

Clara Francis-The-Shop

And although it’s got darn all to do with hearts I’m kind of smitten with this beaded hummingbird necklace by Clara Francis. She’s used a traditional beading technique that I remember being fascinated by as a teenager. I told myself that I was going to learn how to do this myself. Yes well. Best intentions and all that.

Amelia Gregory

Fashion editor Rachael has already mentioned this classic lollipop necklace by Tatty Devine but I thought I’d add it in again – mainly because it was the necklace that they asked me to model in their Best Of booklet about a year ago. Ohhhh missus. Get me trying to be all saucy!

Lady Luck Rules Okay

And I know a certain someone who has already bought this for their loved one – a wooden squirrel broach from Lady Luck Rules Okay. I’m Nuts About You has room for your own message too. Lady Luck have a shop just moments from my house off Brick Lane. I should introduce them to the (real) squirrels who live in the ivy just below my bedroom windowsill. There’s certainly a lot of love going on between this happy (noisy) couple – in fact I’m expecting some additions to the family soon. Squirrel love. You really can’t beat it.

Oh, and I’ll let you know if I get any half dead flowers this year.
1Alexander McQueen in 2005. Image courtesy of The Guardian, visit photographed by Martin Godwin

My first steps into the fashion world could not be described as tentative: in every sense I was placed smack bang in the middle of it, information pills interning in the press office of the company which defined British fashion, buy more about Alexander McQueen. The experience was every bit I had imagined it to be, for better or worse – a sharp, sleek office of metal stairways and white walls, elfin models drifting through, manic sample send outs, the occasional cup of tea to the man himself.

2Alexander Mcqueen Aw09, ‘The Horn of plenty’.

To be in such physical proximity to that which had propelled him to global notoriety was nothing short of surreal: the bumster trousers, the white, spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow, the carved wooden legs made for disabled model Aimee Mullins. The stuff of fashion legend. I have never been motivated by fast fashion: next season’s trouser shapes, on trend prints, the effectively meaningless information that makes up monthly glossy shopping pages. Lee McQueen always made fashion exist as spectacle, knowing that like art, it was something that needed to be responded to – executed in sometimes brutal and accusatory ways, loaded with reference and impossible to watch without reaction.

The first fashion show I ever went to was an Alexander McQueen one, which was the Autumn Winter 2009 show ‘The Horn of Plenty’ in a sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris. A retrospective of old collections, I watched with a huge, silly grin as ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Chic pulsated out of the speakers followed by some twisted drum and bass, with frighteningly white-faced models with clown-like red lips stalked about a mountain of old props from past shows – the effect, as always with McQueen, was menace and beauty in equal parts. The wild cheers that erupted from the audience I found surprising; I later learned that they came from a fierce love that the normally reserved fashion crowd had for McQueen.

4Alexander Mcqueen SS10, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’.

Fashion houses that work on such a large scale lose sight of a lot of things, make no mistake – but at Alexander McQueen’s heart was a man who worked with nothing but the raw feelings that he invariably rendered into daring, breathtaking beauty. He was not afraid to inform his personal life into his work: from horrific violence witnessed as a child, or the coral reefs in the Maldives seen on a snorkelling holiday translated into the shimmering prints and footwear of his most recent collection, Plato’s Atlantis.

Since moving onto other things, I have found it impossible to leave McQueen behind, and know that others who have found the same. Fashion can be an industry about wealth and connections, yet McQueen stood out as somebody whose position was realised by raw talent. The media’s intrusion into his personal life and issues is, of course, uncomfortable, but while his work always spoke for itself, there’s no denying we also loved what we knew of the man behind it, whose often devastatingly human spirit proved testament to limitless imagination and our own capacities to create.

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