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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The London Fashion Week Virgin: Estethica Review

Thoughts from a London Fashion Week virgin and a review of Estethica, the ethical fashion showroom, featuring Little Glass Clementine, Goodone, Joanna Cave, North Circular, Ciel, MaxJenny, Lu Flux, Tara St James, and Kumvana Gomani.

Written by Hannah Bullivant

Illustration by Avril Kelly http://cargocollective.com/avrilkelly

There’s something about coming out of the Tube in an area you’ve never been to before. I realise this is an extremely London-centric point, order but bear with me – when you find yourself spat out onto a brand new street it’s like discovering a different city. But then you look up and see the familiar roundel and you know that yes, it’s still London. It’s interesting how so many of us seem to come to London to experience its variety, only to entrench ourselves in one specific part of the city. Some (who, me?) may even develop a few prejudices about certain other parts of the city too, as if London were some sort of microcosm of the world … Oh actually that last bit’s about right, isn’t it. ‘There is in London all that life can afford,’ Samuel Johnson famously said, and it’s very true. But still, going all the way to Clapham on a Saturday morning? SOUTH London? Really!

But last weekend I went to Clapham for the very first time, because that’s where the Papered Parlour is and I’d been looking forward to their silversmithing class for weeks. I resurfaced from the Tube at Clapham Common, curiously peeking around while the nice man with the coffee cart ground beans from scratch to make my espresso. The Papered Parlour is just up the road, hidden behind a plain door in a side street. Claire and Louise, the workshop’s founders, weren’t there, but my fellow would-be smithers and I were welcomed by Hana and our teacher, Caren Hartley.

Upcycled jewellery by Madi http://www.madiillustration.co.uk

Jewellery upcycling, or recycling of old items, was the theme for last Saturday’s seminar. We each poured out our bags of old, neglected jewellery, hoping Caren would be able to help us make something usable out of it. I’d brought two rings I was hoping to fix, having broken both of them within weeks of each other after having worn them every day for years. I’d also brought some broken brooches my grandma had given me, as well as a few other pieces I weren’t wearing. Having just told the group we could not use heat on any item that wasn’t pure silver or gold, Caren shook her head at my beloved moonstone ring. ‘You can’t heat anything with a gemstone as it will break,’ Caren said. Araldite glue it is, then.

My mother’s old floral pendant also got the brush-off from Caren: ‘That’s pewter, it would melt before you could do anything with it.’ This is the main danger when working with old jewellery, as you haven’t made it yourself and hence you can’t be completely sure about the metal composition. Caren studied the pendant, curved and prone to annoying swinging, concluding: ‘You could flatten it, with the mallet.’ Mallet! I was expecting delicate tools, tiny adjustments and boiling frustration, but it turns out silversmithing includes plenty of hammer action.

Caren Hartley

The next few hours went by in a flash. After my mallet fun I got the little pliers and snippers, changing the broken grandma brooches into pendants. Rough edges were smoothed down with the metal files – silver is quite soft when you’re working with it. Silversmithing is also a surprisingly dirty activity, with the suds from my hands running black as I washed before the cake break. It can be dangerous too – judging by the fact they made us sign some sort of release before letting us use the saw.

Make do and mend by Naomi Law http://www.nimlawdraws.co.uk

Halfway through the day we were introduced to the blowtorch, used not only to join pieces of metal together but also to prepare silver to be worked on. Heating up the metal to reach ‘the cherry red temperature’ loosens the molecules within the silver, Caren explained, meaning you can work on it. My main task with the blowtorch was to mend my ring, a little lady who wraps her legs around your finger. I’d got the ring half price at a craft fair nearly ten years ago, and worn it every day until the poor girl broke her leg about two years ago. High street silversmiths didn’t seem very keen on sorting this for me though, and now that I’ve seen how it’s done I can see why: it’s fiddly.

I put on the leather apron and the protective goggles, ready for the big moment. ‘Now, angle the flame away from me, as I will be holding the leg piece,’ Caren said as I lit the torch, wondering if she gets paid extra if a student maims her. But as the little lady turned cherry under the blue flame, everyone’s digits remained intact and the leg was back where it belonged. Okay, so it sticks out a bit more than it did before, but a little tap of the hammer and Bob’s your uncle.

Caren and Eva by Avril Kelly http://cargocollective.com/avrilkelly

Detail

I left the Papered Parlour with eight new pieces of jewellery, having altered or mended old things I either couldn’t or wouldn’t wear. My hands were aching as I counted up change for another espresso from the cart, about to go back to the familiar side of the river. As I stood on the platform waiting for my train, I absent-mindedly ran my thumb along the lady-ring. She’s back, and I fixed her all by myself.

Result

The Papered Parlour is in Clapham: 7 Prescott Place, London SW4 6BS. For more information about the spring workshop schedule see our listing – there are more silversmithing workshops to come, plus printmaking, sewing, photography, quilting and how to make your own shoes. Also, the Papered Parlour is putting on two mini-festivals at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green this spring: ‘Ethical fashion in the age of austerity’ tonight (3 March) and ‘It’s your write!’ next month (7 April) – for more detail see our listing here.


Illustration by Avril Kelly

There’s something about coming out of the Tube in an area you’ve never been to before. I realise this is an extremely London-centric point, treat but bear with me – when you find yourself spat out onto a brand new street it’s like discovering a different city. But then you look up and see the familiar roundel and you know that yes, buy it’s still London. It’s interesting how so many of us seem to come to London to experience its variety, only to entrench ourselves in one specific part of the city. Some (who, me?) may even develop a few prejudices about certain other parts of the city too, as if London were some sort of microcosm of the world … Oh actually that last bit’s about right, isn’t it. ‘There is in London all that life can afford,’ Samuel Johnson famously said, and it’s very true. But still, going all the way to Clapham on a Saturday morning? SOUTH London? Really!

But last weekend I went to Clapham for the very first time, because that’s where the Papered Parlour is and I’d been looking forward to their silversmithing class for weeks. I resurfaced from the Tube at Clapham Common, curiously peeking around while the nice man with the coffee cart ground beans from scratch to make my espresso. The Papered Parlour is just up the road, hidden behind a plain door in a side street. Claire and Louise, the workshop’s founders, weren’t there, but my fellow would-be smithers and I were welcomed by Hana and our teacher, Caren Hartley.


Upcycled jewellery by Madi

Jewellery upcycling, or recycling of old items, was the theme for last Saturday’s seminar. We each poured out our bags of old, neglected jewellery, hoping Caren would be able to help us make something usable out of it. I’d brought two rings I was hoping to fix, having broken both of them within weeks of each other after having worn them every day for years. I’d also brought some broken brooches my grandma had given me, as well as a few other pieces I weren’t wearing. Having just told the group we could not use heat on any item that wasn’t pure silver or gold, Caren shook her head at my beloved moonstone ring. ‘You can’t heat anything with a gemstone as it will break,’ Caren said. Araldite glue it is, then.

My mother’s old floral pendant also got the brush-off from Caren: ‘That’s pewter, it would melt before you could do anything with it.’ This is the main danger when working with old jewellery, as you haven’t made it yourself and hence you can’t be completely sure about the metal composition. Caren studied the pendant, curved and prone to annoying swinging, concluding: ‘You could flatten it, with the mallet.’ Mallet! I was expecting delicate tools, tiny adjustments and boiling frustration, but it turns out silversmithing includes plenty of hammer action.


Caren Hartley

The next few hours went by in a flash. After my mallet fun I got the little pliers and snippers, changing the broken grandma brooches into pendants. Rough edges were smoothed down with the metal files – silver is quite soft when you’re working with it. Silversmithing is also a surprisingly dirty activity, with the suds from my hands running black as I washed before the cake break. It can be dangerous too – judging by the fact they made us sign some sort of release before letting us use the saw.


The blue flame by Naomi Law

Halfway through the day we were introduced to the blowtorch, used not only to join pieces of metal together but also to prepare silver to be worked on. Heating up the metal to reach ‘the cherry red temperature’ loosens the molecules within the silver, Caren explained, meaning you can work on it. My main task with the blowtorch was to mend my ring, a little lady who wraps her legs around your finger. I’d got the ring half price at a craft fair nearly ten years ago, and worn it every day until the poor girl broke her leg about two years ago. High street silversmiths didn’t seem very keen on sorting this for me though, and now that I’ve seen how it’s done I can see why: it’s fiddly.

I put on the leather apron and the protective goggles, ready for the big moment. ‘Now, angle the flame away from me, as I will be holding the leg piece,’ Caren said as I lit the torch, wondering if she gets paid extra if a student maims her. But as the little lady turned cherry under the blue flame, everyone’s digits remained intact and the leg was back where it belonged. Okay, so it sticks out a bit more than it did before, but a little tap of the hammer and Bob’s your uncle.


Caren and Eva by Avril Kelly

I left the Papered Parlour with eight new pieces of jewellery, having altered or mended old things I either couldn’t or wouldn’t wear. My hands were aching as I counted up change for another espresso from the cart, about to go back to the familiar side of the river. As I stood on the platform waiting for my train, I absent-mindedly ran my thumb along the lady-ring. She’s back, and I fixed her all by myself.


Result

The Papered Parlour is in Clapham: 7 Prescott Place, London SW4 6BS. For more information about the spring workshop schedule see our listing – there are more silversmithing workshops to come, plus printmaking, sewing, photography, quilting and how to make your own shoes. Also, the Papered Parlour is putting on two mini-festivals at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green this spring: ‘Ethical fashion in the age of austerity’ tonight (3 March) and ‘It’s your write!’ next month (7 April) – for more detail see our listing here.

My first experience of London Fashion Week was less in at the deep end with the big kids, click and more of a splash about in the shallow end with armbands on. And actually, I found it a rather favourable place in which to position myself.

My task was to skulk around the Estethica and Ecoluxe show rooms and report back on some of my favourite designs, a task I undertook with gusto. Anyone who reads my personal blog will know that I adore beautiful ethically made clothes. So I jumped/squealed at the chance to meet some of the designers and see the clothes up close. I have been watching the rise and shine of some of the new ethical designers with interest, having been introduced to many of them via Amelia’s book (which of course you have bought, yes? Yes?)

My first hurdle in getting to Estethica involved ‘borrowing’ a friends pass and hoping that no one would look at the name on the badge and question my gender when I beeped in. I was a tad nervous approaching Somerset House, but was buoyed on by ‘West End Girls’ which popped onto shuffle at the most opportune moment for the final bit of the walk. I bloody love it when shuffle gets it right. So it was with a strut that I entered Somerset house aided by the Pet Shop Boys, my trusty Spanx and one too many soya latte’s.

My second hurdle was actually finding the room. Directions typically included: “You’re in entirely the wrong place. You need to turn round, go back downstairs and outside, then enter through one of two doors, left again….” I think I went cross eyed. It was located in a particularly awkward spot, which was a shame as the rooms contained some marvellous work. But the getting lost, trekking up and down stairs and being stomped on by lethal platform wedges was worth it. The quality of some of the designs was inspiring and innovative, easily rivalling their ‘non ethical’ neighbours.

I had kind of hoped that I’d be able to blend in with the crowd, take notes and snap pictures before skulking on, but I quickly realised that this would be nigh on impossible.  I soon found myself confabulating with some of the friendly designers and PR people. I was repeatedly asked if I had a card. I didn’t. Rookie error. Lesson learned for next time.  Stall holders craned to read my badge as I smiled sheepishly and surreptitiously covered it with my scarf. I was nervous so wondered around with a slightly creepy perma-grin, but thankfully most of the participants had heard of Amelia’s Magazine so far from being rebuffed, I had a very warm welcome. PHEW.

Ok- on to the clothes. I met lot of lovely people and saw some beautifully crafted clothes, but here are just a few of my favourites.

The jewellery of Little Glass Clementine caught my eye before I had even entered the room, and like a magpie, I was beckoned in by it. Necklaces are made from a marvellous concoction of found objects; from bird skulls and bottle tops, to bath plugs and plastic toys.  They are totally unique, slightly mad (in the bestest of ways) and utterly covetable. Little Glass Clementine is featured in Amelia’s book. See an extract of the interview here .

Goodone pulled me in next, with their soft jersey bodycon dresses and thick woollen belts that begged to be handled. I loved the combination of figure hugging dresses with drapey, overized pieces too, all made from recycled, end of roll and salvaged materials. Feminine yet bolshy. Ace. Goodone are featured in Amelia’s book, see an extract of the interview here:


Illustration by Natasha Thompson

There is something irresistible to me about Joanna Cave’s delicate filigree jewellery. Inspired by ballet and old Art Nouveau costumes, the pieces are delicate and girly yet dramatic and bold. They are made from recycled sterling silver, ethically sourced pearls and vintage ribbon. Joanna cave jewellery is featured in Amelia’s book, see an extract of the interview here:

Actualy, I was pretty spoiled on the jewellery front. Kumvana Gomani uses old bottles and recycled aluminium to create gorgeous long necklaces and pretty earings.


Illustration by Alison Day

The North Circular, an ethical knitwear company, inhabited the corner of one of the rooms, filling it with an impressive alluring installation involving a huge bundle of sheeps wool and TV’s. Apparently the video was showing a piece called ‘metamorphosis’ with Lily Cole in it, but I managed to miss it. Truthfully, muted colours are not my thing, but the pieces were luxurious to feel and beautifully crafted, using British ethically sourced wool.


Illustration by Alison Haines

I loved this bright Pink Ciel dress. Just the right balance of smart and sexy.  All Ciel fabrics are carefully sourced to be as ethical as possible. Sarah Ratty, the founder of Ciel and chair of the Ethical fashion Forum was warm and friendly, and a long time friend of Amelia’s Magazine. She is featured in Amelia’s book, you can read an extract of her interview here.

Illustration by Avril kelly

I have to say that, despite the fact that the person in the stall seemed too busy to talk, I fell in love with Max Jenny. My favourite pieces were their colourful cape’s, for the following reasons.  They are waterproof; this satisfies my northern fell-walking roots. They are capes; this satisfies my Drama Queen roots. Amazingly their products are made from recycled PET bottles, which satisfies my inner hippie. Tick, tick. tick. MaxJenny is featured in Amelia’s Compedium of Fashion Illustration.


Illustration by Matilde Sazio

Lu Flux’s designs also caught my eye. I have always loved their use of colour and therefore loved this colourful leather rucksack. By working with salvaged, vintage and organic fabrics, that combine pleats, knitting and patchwork, the collection makes something new out of something old. .Lu Flux is featured in Amelia’s Compedium of Fashion Illustration. You can read an extract of their interview here.


Photograph by Damian Ucieda Cortes

Tara St James made use of copper pipe work in her gorgeous, chunky jewellery, and I also loved the blanket capes too. Chic and snuggley. Good for campsites and cocktails, bonus.


Photograph by Lauren Bilanko

And then I was out the door again, navigating Somerset House’s warren like corridors. I presumed I’d be surrounded by long legged, anorexic, bitchy looking women. I did see some ultra skinny, unhealthy looking people, which will always sadden me, but there were also plenty of healthy looking amazingly dressed people there too. In fact, I enjoyed the London Fashion Week street style stuff as much as the main show photo’s (perhaps sacrilegious?). But what really struck me was that people were, well, NICE. And mostly normal. Which I have to say I wasn’t expecting.

Next up, I’ll be reviewing Ecoluxe. You can buy Amelia’s Compendium of Fashion Illustration (featuring the very best in ethical fashion design) RIGHT HERE.

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2 Responses to “The London Fashion Week Virgin: Estethica Review”

  1. Lisa-Marie says:

    I love the scarf mobile, The first necklace is stunning – I am all about statement pieces.

    I have noticed, from this article and from Amelia’s tweets, that ethical designers design much more for the curvy woman. I could wear almost everything!

    The Ciel dress is seriously to die for!

  2. shabby says:

    We’re both LFW virgins! I attended Estethica as well and have been doing daily reports on the different designs, similar to what you’ve done here, but lengthier! :P I also kind of ‘blagged’ my way in, didn’t have a pass at first but I managed it!

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