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Festival Review: Primavera Sound

Our sunkissed contributor reports from the frontlines of Spains biggest music festival, and discovers bands that drove her wild, the second coming of Kurt Cobain (maybe) and a few acts that should be put out to pasture.

Written by Laura Lotti

Natalie Rae graduated from London College of Fashion this year with a BA in fashion design. The designer caught my attention for her stance on the use of fur in the fashion industry and her use of embroidery to create stunning textures on the oversized 1980′s inspired jackets. Speaking to Natalie provided an insight in the difficulties that await any designer branching out into sustainable fashion design. With this fantastic collection Natalie blows apart the long held assumption that sustainable fashion has no place on the catwalk, discount hospital proving you can be both sustainable and innovative, if you are prepared to research and work hard to find those ethically and sustainable fabrics and practices.

What was the starting point for your collection?

Before embarking on my initial research for my collection concepts, I knew I wanted all of my ideas to centre around sustainability. To be conscious of how I would be producing my garments, using only organic or recycled materials as well as making sure my production methods where compliant with fair trade. This was very important to me through every step of this project. Also craft is something I have always been fascinated with; many different types of crafts, not just related to fashion; this was how I came across Ryan Berkley’s amazing animal portraits. These illustrations gave me a great starting point to help build a story for my collection and opened me up to using lots and lots of colors.

How does your creative process begin?

I work straight into patterncutting, I collect all my research into one book to refer to and start pulling from each image, creating random sketches and then go straight into sampling either textures, silhouettes or details. I am very visual and hands on about everything I do, I find I absorb ideas better this way. I also don’t like wasting time, I like to get started right away with things, that is way I go straight into patterncutting and sampling. All of this really helps me to create more ideas and to start pulling things together into one cohesive collection of ideas.

What techniques do you use to minimize waste when pattern cutting or constructing the garments?

I try to minimize the amount of fabric and paper I use while patterncutting and sewing by trying to fit my patterns in a way that they don’t waste massive amounts of small bits. This can be really tricky sometimes because in some cases you just can’t help it. I have a box for scraps for both paper and fabric, I use the scrapes usually for sampling ideas or making small details like pockets and such. I also try to reuse my twilling samples for other project as much as i can by refitting them or just cutting them up to create something else.

How did you become interested in designing sustainable clothes?

Its my lifestyle essentially. Its somewhat hard to say where it begin because it is something I’ve always agreed with and tried to incorporate into my everyday life. I will admit that when I started fashion design here in London, I became a bit more religious about it and started re-educated myself on the different areas of sustainability but particularly those in fashion and realized there is such massive gap in the fashion industry for it.

How do you think this gap in fashion with regards to sustainability can be closed?

I can honestly say that I don’t think sustainability will ever take over fashion, but it needs to more prominent then it is at the moment, I believe it will be in the near future. I think what is important is not only creating brands that are sustainable but that existing brands switch to more sustainable practices. These brands already have a place in the market and have seen the industry and its effects, they have the power to modify these existing problems and I feel if they promoted more sustainable/ethical ideals other people will follow. But saying that, I do think new brands coming into the market place promoting only sustainability/ethical fashion is very important as well. Making people aware of the effects of both non-sustainable and sustainable fashion is something that needs to be done, if they can see the before and after, it helps put things in prospective.

I also think design should not be sacrificed when creating sustainable/ethical fashion. Some people at my university think that sustainable fashion feels dated and they always imagine it being another scratchy hemp sack. This is far from the truth, sustainable fashion design and fabrics have come a long way, even brands like H&M and Topshop carry small amounts of sustainable/ethical pieces in their collections that are very on trend. The problem is that people don’t realise it, as it’s not promoted as much as it should be

Where did the idea of embroidery develop from and what is your stance on the use of fur within the fashion industry?

I am very in to surface textiles and I have always loved the use of embroidery in both art and fashion, it reminds me of something that is a bit more special and authentic. The uniqueness and beauty of hand crafted embroidery is hard to copy, so when you buy a piece that has that, you feel special and that you have something no-one else has. Previously I worked at a couture bridal salon, where we would create these beautiful one off gowns with amazingly small details people just loved, I wanted to recreate that idea with my garments, by creating pieces that make you feel special everyday, not just for one.

With the subject of fur, I came into animals rights activism at a young age, I never saw the use of fur as a necessity in fashion. To me the whole concept is really grotesque and I can’t understand it even in the smallest of ways. The production and use for creating fur is so inhumane, we have so many alternatives (and I am not talking about synthetic furs) in fashion for creating warmth but I know that this is not just the issue, people see it as luxury, but how can one see the death of animals as a luxury? Be creative. I wanted to show that you can still have luxury with out death.

Why the illustrations of Ryan Berkley? How were his anthropomorphic illustrations transferred into the collection?

I saw each of Berkley’s illustrations as a great story of each animal. Giving me an insight into their lives, how they dressed themselves and even the expressions on their faces told me that they may be a bit more serious about their daily lives, trying to pass off as proper civilized humans. It reminded me of working class and how we must put on a costume or character for work that is not really who we are; trying to restrain the animal inside. The collection really shows a coming through or breaking out; the wild with the restrained.

Where did the 1980′s american shape of the collection develop from?

I am big on causal attire, anyone that hangs around me will tell you I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. But saying that, I love well tailored pieces that are easy to wear and mix. I wanted to convey that with this collection, to show both sides. I also needed that concept to fit with my working class animals idea. I found images from the early 80’s of designers I admire such as Calvin Klein and Perry Ellis; I felt that the style of the early 80‘s causal american mixed with a little bit of tailoring was perfect way to show my two loves for style.

Who are Hand and Lock of London?

Hand and Lock are an embroidery company based in London that have been around since the mid 1700‘s, it is the merging of two long established embroidery companies. I chose Hand and Lock because of their many, many years of experience and expertise as well as their professionalism and friendliness. They where extremely easy to work with and everything was done in a very timely fashion. When I was searching for embroidery companies, my top priority was for finding fair trade work conditions. Hand and Lock had just opened a factory in India to balance their work load and I was reassured, very adamantly, that the employees are paid fair trade wages and have good quality working conditions. I was very happy in the end that my work would be done in India, where the craft and tradition of embroidery is such an amazing part of the culture and I could promote it and show the beauty of it in a small way.

Where did you source your materials?

The vast majority of my materials came from India, some where sources directly from companies in India and some where from companies here in the UK that supply from India. The biggest challenge I came across with using organic materials was finding variations in colours. This was a problem because my collection has so many colours and organic materials rarely come in a vast amount of colorways. I knew all this to begin with and tried to stick with what I could find but silly me, I kept choosing fabrics that came only in one colorway, the base color; un-dyed cream. In the end, I researched the self dying of natural dyes and low impact dyes to solve this problem. I didn’t want to create another step in production that would create more waste but I also wanted to create a beautiful vibrant collection that was sellable and wearable, so I had to make the sacrifice. I was very conscious of my consumption of water and tried my best to conserve as much as I could by minimizing the amount of dying that needed to be done. In the end it wasn’t so terrible but defiantly made me want to research more into the process of fabric dying.

Where the fabric companies you used part of fair trade initiatives? Do you have tips to other fashion students considering using ethical/sustainable fabric?

It can be tricky business finding organic/fair trade suppliers, especially ones that will supply in smaller quantities but they are out there and there are more then people realize. All of the suppliers I used are certified organic fabric suppliers and each company also states they practice fair trade principles. Only some of them are actually part of The Fair Trade Foundation. As far as finding organic/fair trade suppliers, there are sites that will help direct you to suppliers, such as: The Green Directory, Ethical Junction and the Ethical Fashion Forum. Additionally, some suppliers have references to other sites relating to eco suppliers and going to trade shows is very important. I try to attend as many textile trade shows as possible, even ones that don’t say anything about sustainable/ethical fabrics because there are always a few companies that do provide them or are trying to cross over to more sustainable practices. It is important to be able to talk to a rep about the company, as you can find out more about what individual companies consider to be sustainable and see products in person.

I found all of my fabric suppliers either through tons of research, collecting at fabric libraries or from my work experience with ethical brands. I will say that people in ethical fashion are very friendly and very willing to help. Going to any type of ethical fair/ marketplace or event with sustainable brands where you can speak to people is always a good start, most people will give you good tips and suggestions.

Can the same be said of the embroidery through hand and lock?

Unfortunately no. When I came to Hand and Lock my first question to them was about fair trade practices, they could only reassure me that they do pay fair wages and have good working conditions for their employees in India. They seemed very honest and actually happy that someone asked them. I do wish I could say they are part of the fair trade initiative and maybe they will be, the factory in India is still new. At the time that I choose to work with them, I was very short on time and had to make a quick decision, they are such lovely people that it was hard to say no. As well, one thing I learned from my work experience with sustainable brands is that you can’t tick every box with it comes to being ethical and sustainable, its very difficult and in the end, you can only do the best you can and to be honest every step of the way.

What’s next for Natalie Rae?

I take things day to day and try not to restrict myself from any new ideas. At the moment I am sorting out my next big move, whether I do an MA or gain more work experience. I do want to gain more experience with in the fashion industry before I move on to create my own label in the future. But who knows, things change……

I have recently noticed that the more music festivals I attend, sildenafil the less stressival I suffer from. Are summer festivals becoming less and less exciting or is it that my music tastes get fussier and fussier? Probably both.

It is with this mood that I approach the new adventure of Primavera Sound 2010. Few of the names on the bill actually make me wet my pants, here but honestly I expected a more “dangerous”, pill braver line-up from the self-proclaimed “international reference of independent music” in Europe, that this year gets to its 10th edition. For instance, it surprisingly lacks of the exponents of the big dubstep and new underground electronic scene that has characterised large part of the musical year 2009-2010.
Plenty of the übercool chillwave American bands, darlings of the major international music blogs, grace the stages of the Parc Del Forum in Barcelona but what about the great producers we have here in the UK, and in France?
There are some great big comebacks (Pavement, Liquid Liquid, The Slits), some classics (Pixies, Shellac), established new acts (Panda and Grizzly Bears, Atlas Sound, Broken Social Scene, Diplo), the best hip new bands (Real Estate, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells, Surfer Blood) but it seems it lacks of the sparkle it had till last year.

Here are in chronological order of appearance some impressions of the acts I’ve had the pleasure (or the pain, depending on the circumstances) to see in the 3-day music marathon of Primavera Sound, collected in real time and (almost) uncensored.

The Fall: miserably missed due to queue at the accreditation stand point. It rains. The night kicks off in a quite delusional way.

Smith Westerns: the singer looks exactly like Nick Cave’s son! But he’s not, thank God, otherwise I would lose all the respect I have got for the Cave family.
Pitchfork’s indie darlings are not bad after all, they sound pretty garage-y and their catchy guitar riffs and the stage presence of his frontman are quite entertaining. But I don’t see much inventive or novelty.
On record they sound much much better – a raw, fuzzy, surf-y powerpop, that has nothing to do with the boring indie version of them I’m seeing tonight.

Superchunk: did we really need the comeback of the Nineties? Did we really miss it? They put up a good show, but they give me that mixed feeling of when you see your parents putting out the 20-year-old kid attitude. Sweet attempt.

Broken Social Scene: Kevin Drew is possibly the most talented male singer of the decade, at least. They are so good I want to cry. Seeing them is a real pleasure. Their airy, rich melodies fill the air in the Rayban stage, no one talks, everyone listens to them in ecstatic silence.
They are actually so good, so eclectic and effortlessly beautiful that I almost hate them.

Pavement: I saw them in Brixton in early May and I was not that convinced by this comeback. And the show on Thursday confirms my first impression. It seems that Mr Malkmus has lost his voice. He still looks unbelievably hot, though.
They actually seems they’ve got their energy back in ‘Fight This Generation’, but maybe I’m too drunk already not to notice their struggle in trying rock like in the good ol’ days.
I’m definitely too drunk.

Fuck Buttons: this is actually the show I’m unexpectedly enjoying the most on Thursday. Sitting on the “gradas” of the Rayban stage at 4 in the morning, knackered, sipping the nth “vodka y redbull light”, waiting for the metro to reopen so that I can finally pass out in bed.
They build up a psychedelic wall of sounds and lights, the rhythm gets faster and faster, orgasmic almost. ‘Sweet Love For Planet Heart’ is the song that will sing me to sleep in the wee hours.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow: first, they are not from Glasgow, they are from Philly. And I’ve been apparently not enough obsessed with them for the past few years to be surprised by how young they look. To be honest, I’ve never cared about giving a face to those haunting voices that build up as if they were coming from outer space – there’s still too much music out there to waste time in caring about looks. But the richness and maturity of their sound and elaborated melodies have always made me think of some more mature musician. Or maybe they’ve just got a healthy lifestyle and know how to keep themselves young. Or maybe they’ve done a pact with the devil.

Harlem: cool Texan dudes that sing of ‘Gay Human Bones and ‘Junkie Nurse’. Their power-surf-pop is well fun, everyone jumps around in the evening sun and salty breeze.

Scout Niblett: Holy shit! Where does this tiny mousy-faced woman in mismatched clads with the most powerful and heartbreaking voice come from? Well, I’ve done my research, it’s not Neptune or some obscure otherworldly space. It’s Nottingham. The depth and flexibility of her voice reminds me of Bjork and the rawness and brutality of her sound makes me strangely think of Kurt Cobain. Everybody listens in religious silence to the guitar roaring, the drums kicking and her timid but potent and violent voice. Goosebumps.

Ganglians: why are there so many good bands from California? Why London is lacking so much of young talented bands effortlessly cool, not afraid to experiment with both instruments and technology, other than with illegal substances? I think London is pretty dead on that front, it seems everyone is busy in “after-partying” or just “posing”, while on the West Coast there’s so much musical ferment.

*Amend: pardonnez-moi for this stream of consciousness, after all London has got its musical gems, too, like Django Django, Fiction, La Shark… And plenty of amazing electronic producers. Only, somehow they didn’t get to Primavera Sound.

Anyway, my love Ganglians’ ability to centrifuge together psych, surf, pop, goth, noise has
been lasting so far. I think they are officially my favourite new band around.

Cocorosie: great arty show for the Cassidy sisters, with psychedelic scenography and fairy costumes. I appreciate their ability to mix medieval fantasies, flutes, boom-boxes, pop and opera, but the final effect doesn’t convince me. I find their sound too pop, actually, almost trip-hop.

Beach House: Another great voice and delicious melodies. Less inventive than Cocorosie, that I’ve ditched in order to see them on Friday, they put up a show solely focused on their musical performance without visual embellishments, but their melodies are so haunting and enthralling that I can’t help and close my eyes to the notes of ‘Zebra’ and sing along.

Wire: They. Are. Impressive. They still rock, and rock hard. And Colin Newman has still got all his voice.

Panda Bear: sweet smell of weed fills the air in front of the Vice stage. And I feel like enjoying Panda Bear in a transcendental status, too. Unfortunately Noah Lennox will have to play without visuals – which sounds a bit of a joke for a “multimedia artist” like him.
I’ve always liked Panda Bear and Animal Collective but I think there’s not much point in seeing him live since the show is not very visually exciting.
Actually, who needs visuals, when you can sit down, close your eyes and surrender to the beats, the bass, those kicks and that infinite primordial echo.
Yes, I’m gladly stoned, too by the end of the gig.

Marc Almond: I feel sorry for him. This gig is quite embarrassing, He looks like an old cocotte wearing too much make up in order to still try to attract clients.

Pixies: yeah, Pixies are always superb. Still, it doesn’t feel “real”, if you know what I mean, considering all the rumors surrounding issues going on between the members of the band (the fact that Kim Deal’s face is never caught on the maxi screens might be a clue, or maybe I’m simply conspiracy freak?).
I’m in a peace-and-love vibe and don’t feel comfortable in that hard-rock situation. I run to see Yeasayer that will better suit my mood.

Yeasayer: I think All Our Cymbals has been the album I’ve most listened to in 2008 AND 2009. But this doesn’t change my personal opinion on Chris Keating, the singer, that tonight confirms my impressions with his biggest-twat-in-town attitude.

The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77: glad to hear that my Italian fella Bloody Beetroots, Steve Aoki’s protegés and tech-house kings, have evolved into a “real” instrumental electronic band that mixes techno, hip-hop, italo disco, punk and house in an explosive mix.

ODDSAC: if I saw Danny Perez and Animal Collective’s movie on LSD I would be traumatized forever. Watching it right after breakfast (as I did) is not highly recommended either.
Plotless succession of psychedelic images, primordial cries and surreal situation. I leave the theatre completely high on sensory stimuli.
My head feels emptied. My only certainty, as I re-acclimatize to reality in the warm Saturday afternoon sun, is that I will never eat marshmallows again.

Real Estate: fuzzy guitars: check. Reverb: check. New home in Brooklyn: check. Feature on the cool blog celebrating them as the-new-cool-band -to-check-out: check. Check shirt: check . (Too many “check”s, I’m getting a headache.)
I’m always a bit sceptical towards bands that meet all the requirements to automatically be regarded as “cool”, but I have to admit that their raw shoegaze-y pop is catchy and refreshing.

Michael Rother and Friends present Neu!music: Michael Rother playing Neu! tracks out of a sleek silver Mac? Is he taking the piss? I’m leaving.

Atlas Sound: magical. His creepy and unwillingly imposing presence, his acoustic guitar and a few effects create a wonderful atmosphere.

The Slits: Ari Up is still a hot mess, all clad in Jamaican colours, and the new tracks sound as good and fun as the old classics. But Ari should definitely smoke less dope.

Grizzly Bear: ok, I’ve got some issues with this band. I do like them, but I can’t understand why. Maybe this is the deepest secret of real love? I still can’t understand how they could fill up the second biggest stage this way. And I don’t know why they keep putting them and Animal Collective in the same music cluster. Tonight, they sound a bit blues-y for some reasons. But my heart of stone melts like ice lolly in the sun to the airy melodies of the Brooklyn-based 4-piece outfit.

Matt & Kim: I guess they can’t even believe it themselves but they gather a massive audience. Everyone is dancing like crazy! Their genuine enthusiasm and energy are contagious. And I’m down in the crowd, too.

Liquid Liquid: in the words of Sal Principato:

Real music
Played by real people
For real people

And he is right indeed. I crown them the best band I’ve had the honour to see performing live. It feels like their sound has never changed, they still bang those percussions like 30 years ago. I had lots of expectations for them, and they haven’t let me down once. This is the feeling I was expecting to experience in Primavera Sound.

*It has only happened once or twice, though (with Liquid Liquid and Ganglians, precisely).

Pet Shop Boys: I pass by the main stage to see Pet Shop Boy just because I feel I have to, being the main headliner of the whole festival. A technicolor show where special effect take the precedence over the music. Gaga would be proud of them. I’m not.

Lee “Scratch” Perry: wait a minute. Me? Not only listening to Lee “Scratch” Perry, but jumping and dancing by the stage to the irresistible tracks of the 74 year-old godfather of dub? Yes! And I’m loving it.

Orbital: they kick off brilliantly, with a mayhem of techno and house supported by great visual effects. But they lose me with a remix of Jon Bonjovi’s ‘Heaven on Heart‘.

The Field: I discover this Stockholm electronic musician tonight and I’m blown away by the deep beats that open up in a hectic crescendo. He performs live supported by nonetheless than John Stainer, drummer of the über-cool Battles (and other two dudes I don’t really know).
since I discovered Kopperberg cider I knew that Swedish were cool, and The Field definitely confirms my love and respect for that population.

The Field is the last act I see at Primavera Sound 2010. Fake Blood is next on the Pitchfork stage. But I start to feel drained by these three days of dwelling with queues at the accreditation points, queues at the bars, queues at the toilets (that were really only few), dealing with the lack of information and with the fact that apparently people in Barcelona are not gifted with the talent of giving directions to strangers (seriously, someone should do an ethnographic study about this). I feel I need a holiday to recover from this holiday.
But I leave Parc Del Forum with a smile and the echo of Ganglians’ ‘Crying’ Smoke’ in my head, sure that next year, in spite of the troubles and some disappointment, I’ll be here.

But before memories get blurred and emotions fade away, let me decree the winners of this 3-day music marathon.

Best of best: Liquid Liquid.
Best new act: Ganglians, Scout Niblett.
Acts I regret the most not having seen: The Fall, Sleigh Bells, The King Kahn & BBQ Show.
Acts I regret the most having seen: Marc Almond, Michael Rother and Friends.
Best overall line-up per stage: Pitchfork and ATP tie.
Best day: Saturday. I haven’t danced so much in ages.

All photos by Laura Lotti


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