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Thirty Years of Ally Capellino at The Wapping Project

Ally Capellino celebrates thirty years of bags and fashion at The Wapping Project for a limited time only…

Written by Matt Bramford

little comets

Photos by Jazzy Lemon

It’s not often that a support band makes your ears prick up and pay attention; too often I’ve been to gigs where sub-standard support acts make the wait for the headliners feel that little bit longer. I doubt in their short career that Little Comets have ever had that problem.

They caught my attention when they supported the Noisettes on their national tour last year, and so it was exciting to see the band headline the Joiners in Southampton last week.

Little Comets are already favourites with the music press after a few well publicised stunts such as playing on the Metro, purchase or in the bakery isle of the local Marks & Spencer store, sales in their hometown of Newcastle. Their single ‘One Night In October’ reached No. 1 in the independent singles chart, so they’ve already got a relatively huge following.

It was the busiest I’ve seen the Joiners; it was a room full of sweaty, drunk lads who were all pretty excited for the band to start. When Little Comets play live they breathe life into their bouncy, poppy songs. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the fun of their live sets. At such an intimate venue, the gig really felt like we were watching something special.

Yes, Little Comets are a guitar band and that’s nothing new, but their songs and the way they approach them really are. In a genre that’s been done to death already, Little Comets are unexpectedly unique. In half an hour they convinced me that there is a future for guitar bands; something that no one has been able to do for a good year or so.

The audience sang along to pretty much every song as the band bounced their way through their perfectly formed pop-tracks such as ‘Friday Don’t Need It’ and ‘Adultery’, but it was ‘Joanna’ that really stood out. Unlike their other guitar-pop tunes, this a capella track quietened the room. It’s the song that sets them above their contemporaries and proves they’re not just four guys playing poppy lad-rock. They’re not a grown-up version of McFly, they’re a group of proper musicians who write proper lyrics and know how to engage the crowd.

Someone in the crowd shouted up to singer Rob, confessing that his girlfriend loved him. Rob got a lot of love that night; a couple of tracks in someone shouted that they loved him too. His witty responses, which were quicker than a heartbeat, had the crowd laughing throughout the set. Little Comets are the kind of band that will do well during the festival season. The fun they radiate is infectious and I can imagine nothing nicer than dancing in the afternoon to one of their sets.

They won over my friend whose CD collection extends to a collection of Now albums and the Glee soundtrack If they can do that, I have no doubt they’ll charm their audiences on the rest of the tour, and wherever else they get to play this summer.

Illustration by Aniela Murphy

The other Saturday I took a little trip down to The Wapping Project to see the rather splendid Ally Capellino exhibition. Completely under-publicised, drugs I have to thank Susie over at Style Bubble for bringing it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of this understated label, and I often pop into their store on Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch to salivate over their rather wonderful bags, rewarding myself with a coffee at Leila’s afterwards.

Turns out I’m a mere moment from The Wapping Project too, so I popped down with a couple of pals, only to be told by a florist, who shall remain nameless, that the exhibition was closed due to a wedding. Saddened, we stood outside hoping that we could at least get a glimpse through the window. LUCKILY, the director of the WP ushered us in. The wedding wasn’t due to start for a while (the International Sales Director of Topshop’s wedding, none-the-less, lah-de-dah) so we had twenty-two minutes to zip round.

The Wapping Project is ‘an idea consistently in transition’ and is set in the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station. Its interior remains pretty much as it would have done when in commercial use, with power hydrants and various power station ephemera still clinging solidly to the floors, around which the space is managed. During the evenings, the main room is transformed into an a la carte restaurant, and said wedding looked pretty incredible.

In the lower, darker, damper room, the Ally Capellino exhibition occupies the entire space. The central exhibition, made from recycled doors and different types of wood, tells the story of this intriguing brand, encircled by portraits of various fashionistas modelling different luggage and apparel.

Ally Capellino is the baby and brainchild of Alison Lloyd, began in 1980 (obv, being its thirtieth birthday). It’s gone from being a very small operation to an acclaimed British leather label. In her own words, she’s gone from ‘young designer to old bag lady’ and this exhibition sees Alison take a nostalgic and sometimes ‘embarrassing’ trip down memory lane.

The essence of Ally Capellino is predominantly British, with sneaky and slight European influences – often the simple style of the Scandinavians. The choronilogical exhibition explains, in just the right amount of detail, the progression of the label year-on-year.. The focus is it’s creative bag and luggage range, with clothing peppered here and there.

The label was originally set up as a clothing brand, and some of the examples on display of early garments are a total treat. It’s only been the past ten years where the accessories have shone through and become the stronghold, but the label has produced some exciting and innovative clothing throughout its existence.

There were graphic patterns, floral prints and neat tailoring in the 1980s:

…While a more futuristic style came through in 1990s with clean lines and masculine shapes:

…and childrenswear has remained fun and hip, reflecting the styles of the mens and womenswear whilst remaining playful:

The focus of the exhibition is the ‘bag wall’ – a huge wall dedicated to said bags – a mixture of new styles and vintage examples sent in by dedicated followers of the brand. Each bag has it’s only story to tell and numbers attached to the bag link to a wall of numbered stories. The essence of the brand is it’s focus on quality – some of these bags, which appear relatively new, are twenty years old for God’s sake!

Rupert Blanchard is behind the recycled, industrial look of the exhibition, and he shares Alison’s ‘passion for salvage and dread of waste’ and nothing looks out of place in this historical landmark.

There’s also a great selection of press material and advertising spanning the whole Ally Capellino era, with some great menswear advertisements, photographic thumbnails, and Vogue featured-in cards:

What does the future hold for the brand? Well, more of the same, please. With a host of collaborations with the likes of the Tate galleries and Apple, I expect there’ll be more of this in the pipeline. And what to say of the bags? Well, hopefully these beautiful creations, in a variety of subtle leathers and complimentary materials, will be produced for years to come.

Head down to the exhibition fast because it’s not on for long – go on, you’ll have a whopping time, even if fashion’s not necessarily your bag. (With puns like these, I should really work in Wapping for a certain tabloid newspaper.)

Illustration by Aniela Murphy

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One Response to “Thirty Years of Ally Capellino at The Wapping Project”

  1. Fascinating exhibition.
    Great photos you’ve taken of it!

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