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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

A Chat With Christina Brodie

Luxury glove designer Christina Brodie tells us about her latest collection, her insipiration, Prince Charles and a million other things…

Written by Matt Bramford

she and him cover thumbnail review volume two

I suppose I should let Zooey Deschanel go by now. I was so young at the time, viagra dosage a mumbling, shy teenager with a crappy haircut (admittedly, the hair hasn’t improved much) when I first developed a bit of a pathetic fancy for those big blue eyes of hers – I can’t say my admiration of her looks hasn’t dimmed, admittedly (and somewhat shallowly), but I’ve grown wary of her acting ability. Being typecast is something some, if not most, actors attempt to avoid, yet Zooey thrives on playing what’s referred to in critical circles as the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ role – a bit kooky, a bit insane, and just a tad an absolute fiction of a person, one who exists in the minds of fevered male youth everywhere. Her purpose is to bring the lead male out of his emotional shell, to embrace life, to seize the day (and, presumably, to act as therapist and counsellor and tissue) – to be, in effect, a nothing of a person but a blank canvas who’s just waiting for a chance to listen to all the moaning and despairing and general torment of the soul that characterises the most privileged demographic group in history, the Young White Western Man of the 21st Century.

So – as her roles keep her locked up in a safe little box, a box that doesn’t allow too much range (even (500) Days of Summer, whilst specifically a film about how real life doesn’t conform to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, was hardly a stretch), I’m in danger of losing sight of Zooey Deschanel, Actress. All I will have left is Zooey Deschanel, Attractive Celebrity. Being left with that would just be unfair to her as an individual, considering how lovely she is an all – though let’s not concentrate on how I know this, or how I met her, or how her height disappointed me, or how her strapless dress was perhaps a brave choice for the evening but she rocked it admirably – let’s leave that for now. OK? OK. What we’re talking about today is She & Him’s Volume 2, the second album from the musical collaboration between Zooey and folk singer-songwriter M. Ward. Their first, the aptly-titled Volume 1, was an excellent stab at breathing new air into 60s country-folk, and Volume 2 is a further step forward. What it also does is reaffirm, for little old neurotic me, that Zooey Deschanel is a very ably-talented singer and songwriter. Zooey Deschanel, Artist, if you will.

Halfway through first track ‘Thieves’ and the blueprints from Volume 1 are still there – gentle drumbeats, an electric guitar-line with a lovely country twang, and Zooey’s lilting voice that’s as sweet as a glass of freshly-squeezed fruit juice (I’m an orange man, myself, but other fruits such as banana or kiwi would be acceptable alternatives). It can feel a bit like well-trodden territory, but the compositions are just accomplished enough to avoid this (though, of course, one has to ask how long this formula – and it is a formula – can keep working).

M. Ward still stays mostly in the background, leaving the spotlight to his leading lady, except for a notable appearance on a cover of NRBQ’s ‘Ridin’ In My Car’, here reinterpreted as a duet. The other cover here, the Milton Kellem-penned standard ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’, also manages to be reinterpreted in such a way that’s not hugely different to the more memorable versions by singers like Skeeter Davis – things are shifted around only slightly to achieve that She & Him vibe. Zooey’s recurring lyrical theme here is of losing or dumping a man but being the happier for it, so the background hums and ahs on this cover totally fit between the ballad to Californian loving that is ‘Home’ and the filled-with-longing ‘ba-da-da-dum’ chorus on ‘Me and You’.

‘In The Sun’, also a single, fizzes and bumps along thanks to Ward letting his guitar do a little bit more work than on Volume 1 – I think it can be safely said that he’s let himself show a little bit more here. Despite mentioning earlier that, yes, he’s still largely a background figure, the actual music that carries Zooey’s lyrics so delicately is still mostly his work, and there are some more flourishes, a few more touches of individual energy that come peeping through. He’s got a very distinctive husk of a voice, and it would be nice if he could show us a bit more, but, as it is, Zooey still does well on her own. You can hear the smile on her face when she sings, “why do I always want to sock it to you hard?” on ‘Over and Over Again’ – she plays the role of the strong-willed woman admirably, and these are most determinedly not laments. It’s a sassy album at its heart.

I suppose the main lesson to be learned from She & Him is that soft rock isn’t a terrible sin. Sure, it’s repetitive, but when the basic framework is so enchanting (especially on closer ‘If You Can’t Sleep’, which has a fair shout at being the most beautiful lullabies you’ll hear this year

I suppose I should let Zooey Deschanel go by now. I was so young at the time, buy more about a mumbling, find shy teenager with a crappy haircut (admittedly, pills the hair hasn’t improved much) when I first developed a bit of a pathetic fancy for those big blue eyes of hers – I can’t say my admiration of her looks hasn’t dimmed, admittedly (and somewhat shallowly), but I’ve grown wary of her acting ability. Being typecast is something some, if not most, actors attempt to avoid, yet Zooey thrives on playing what’s referred to in critical circles as the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ role – a bit kooky, a bit insane, and just a tad an absolute fiction of a person, one who exists in the minds of fevered male youth everywhere. Her purpose is to bring the lead male out of his emotional shell, to embrace life, to seize the day (and, presumably, to act as therapist and counsellor and tissue) – to be, in effect, a nothing of a person but a blank canvas who’s just waiting for a chance to listen to all the moaning and despairing and general torment of the soul that characterises the most privileged demographic group in history, the Young White Western Man of the 21st Century.

So – as her roles keep her locked up in a safe little box, a box that doesn’t allow too much range (even (500) Days of Summer, whilst specifically a film about how real life doesn’t conform to the Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype, was hardly a stretch), I’m in danger of losing sight of Zooey Deschanel, Actress. All I will have left is Zooey Deschanel, Attractive Celebrity. Being left with that would just be unfair to her as an individual, considering how lovely she is an all – though let’s not concentrate on how I know this, or how I met her, or how her height disappointed me, or how her strapless dress was perhaps a brave choice for the evening but she rocked it admirably – let’s leave that for now. OK? OK. What we’re talking about today is She & Him’s Volume 2, the second album from the musical collaboration between Zooey and folk singer-songwriter M. Ward. Their first, the aptly-titled Volume 1, was an excellent stab at breathing new air into 60s country-folk, and Volume 2 is a further step forward. What it also does is reaffirm, for little old neurotic me, that Zooey Deschanel is a very ably-talented singer and songwriter. Zooey Deschanel, Artist, if you will.

Halfway through first track ‘Thieves’ and the blueprints from Volume 1 are still there – gentle drumbeats, an electric guitar-line with a lovely country twang, and Zooey’s lilting voice that’s as sweet as a glass of freshly-squeezed fruit juice (I’m an orange man, myself, but other fruits such as banana or kiwi would be acceptable alternatives). It can feel a bit like well-trodden territory, but the compositions are just accomplished enough to avoid this (though, of course, one has to ask how long this formula – and it is a formula – can keep working).

M. Ward still stays mostly in the background, leaving the spotlight to his leading lady, except for a notable appearance on a cover of NRBQ’s ‘Ridin’ In My Car’, here reinterpreted as a duet. The other cover here, the Milton Kellem-penned standard ‘Gonna Get Along Without You Now’, also manages to be reinterpreted in such a way that’s not hugely different to the more memorable versions by singers like Skeeter Davis – things are shifted around only slightly to achieve that She & Him vibe. Zooey’s recurring lyrical theme here is of losing or dumping a man but being the happier for it, so the background hums and ahs on this cover totally fit between the ballad to Californian lovin’ that is ‘Home’ and the filled-with-longing ‘ba-da-da-dum’ chorus on ‘Me and You’.

In The Sun’, also a single, fizzes and bumps along thanks to Ward letting his guitar do a little bit more work than on Volume 1 – I think it can be safely said that he’s let himself show a little bit more here. Despite mentioning earlier that, yes, he’s still largely a background figure, the actual music that carries Zooey’s lyrics so delicately is still mostly his work, and there are some more flourishes, a few more touches of individual energy that come peeping through. He’s got a very distinctive husk of a voice, and it would be nice if he could show us a bit more, but, as it is, Zooey still does well on her own. You can hear the smile on her face when she sings, “why do I always want to sock it to you hard?” on ‘Over and Over Again’ – she plays the role of the strong-willed woman admirably, and these are most determinedly not laments. At its heart this album is about sassiness.

I suppose the main lesson to be learned from She & Him is that soft rock isn’t a terrible sin. Sure, it’s repetitive, but when the basic framework is so enchanting (especially on closer ‘If You Can’t Sleep’, which has a fair shout at being the most beautiful lullabies you’ll hear this year). There’s something comforting about familiarity, and here that comfort comes in spades.

Photograph by Matt Bramford

When Christina Brodie’s luxury glove range popped up in the fashion inbox, this web I knew that I’d like to interview the woman behind these vibrant and unique items. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, though – the list of activities Christina immerses herself in leaves me breathless.

I arranged to meet Christina for breakfast in Leon at Bankside – it’s pretty early as we both have our day jobs to get to. I order us some drinks and we take a seat, and it’s immediately obvious, as Christina launches into conversation, that we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

I’d like to set Christina and Amelia up on a date – not of the romantic nature, but I think they’d get along like a house on fire. They have a lot in common.

It’s inspirational to meet somebody with such a strong work ethic and a dedication to all they do, and lord knows how Christina finds time to enjoy herself, with so many things on the burner. The fact is, she doesn’t. ‘My social life goes out of the window,’ she tells me, ‘it’s pretty difficult to manage. Although I am pretty organised’ she continues.

Christina doesn’t do collections – she does mini-launches because she doesn’t want to contain herself within the constraints of the fashion cycle. Plus, she’s bursting with ideas. ‘When I design a collection,’ she announces, ‘I already have ideas for the next four or five.’


Illustration by Antonia Parker

Her gloves are vibrant and bold, taking the iconic driving glove and reworking them for 21st century fashion. Using graphic prints, inspired by graffiti and geometry, the gloves boast wings and flaps and are real statement pieces.

Why gloves? Well, I’ll let Christina explain. ‘I experimented with a range of accessories – belts, bags, and so on. I found that gloves haven’t really been explored, so I set my sights on breaking this. I have a fascination for small, delicate things, and I adore soft fabrics.’ Experimenting with the properties of leather is Christina’s forte, and her adoration for graphic and comic art shines through in this particular collection (sorry, mini-collection).

The graphic patterns come from a very familiar place. ‘They’re actually abstractions of my logo,’ she tells me. The collection (sorry, mini-collection – this is getting difficult!) is split into three areas – ‘Super’ ‘Crazy’ and ‘Bow’, which are pretty self explanatory. Elements of each pair of gloves are inspired by all sorts of things. ‘My ideas are spontaneous,’ Christina continues, ‘they’re never logical.’

Who or what inspires Christina? I suggest there’s a hint of Lady Gaga about the gloves. ‘I think she’s necessary,’ Christina states, diplomatically. ‘I think what she does has been around for a while, but it’s great that she’s brought the creativity of Gareth Pugh and others into the mainstream. And I love her bold use of colour – red, black – they’re great.’ Gaga’s exagarrated, bold shapes have been insiraptional to Christina, and it’s these geometric silhouettes that are evident in the, erm, collection (oh, sod it.)

Her favourite designer is Christian Lacroix. ‘I love his use of colour,’ Christina tells me. “I don’t think the British use colour naturally – I think it’s a Northern Europe thing, maybe because of the availability of light. We tend to stick with muted colours. The French and the Spanish use colour so much more effectively.’ She LOVES colour, especially rainbow colours. We chat about the demise of Lacroix’s label. ‘I’ve read that women don’t buy his clothes because of the colours, an to be commercially viable you should use beiges, baby pinks, baby blues,’ she says. I see a serious streak coming. ‘I’m damned if I’m going to mute my colours for commercial viability!’

Christina is glad she isn’t part of a debt-riddled, multi-million pound operation. ‘I read how much debt McQueen‘s label was/is in, and I was astounded,’ she states. ‘I guess with all the hangers-on and marketing, you run up huge costs.’ This is where her relief originates. ‘I like working on my own. While it’s time consuming, I do the marketing and so on myself – so it’s free.’ She likes it this way. ‘I like being involved in every stage. It’s a control thing. It’s precious to me.’

Christina is a classically trained pianist and also trained as a botanical artist, in which she boasts 3 books to her name. She writes music, performs occasionally and has an acoustic album set for release at the end of the month. Yikes! I was fascinated to discover that Christina had met our future King, Prince Charles. ‘He was lovely!’ she remembers. ‘He was very encouraging. He was fascinated by my work’. The art, I presume, not the gloves!

Does Christina see herself as a sort of Gaga-esque fashion/music collaborator? Not really. ‘I like to keep things separate,’ she tells me. ‘It’s not a conscious thing, but my music and fashion tend not to mix.’

She began writing songs seriously about 4-5 years ago, and while she has an admiration for heavily-produced music, it’s a more acoustic sound that appeals to her. ‘There’s an art to writing songs that sound good heavily-produced, and there’s an art to writing songs that sound good acoustically,’ she informs me, ‘and I much prefer the latter’. She doesn’t get chance to listen to music that often, but when she does, she gets out to see it, rather than sticking on a CD. ‘I think to find out what’s going on [in music] you have to go and see it, you have to hear what people are playing’.

When she does listen to music, she adores Kate Bush (whom she’s happy to announce she’s compared to when she performs), Crowded House and Julian Cope, seventies rock band Heart and The Bangles, both of which she remembers listening to at the age of 14 ‘with a HUGE perm!’

With so much going on, I play devil’s advocate, and ask that if she could only explore one of her fields, what it would be. ‘It would be the gloves,’ she reveals quickly. ‘I am really passionate about this at the moment, so I guess it would be these. I feel like I’ve explored all I can with music, and the books!’ She enjoys the new challenges that creating the gloves bring. ‘I do keep one eye on fashion, but at the same time it’s important to keep things personal.’ She continues, ‘I’ve learned that things don’t move at the speed of light, so I’m enjoying this period of self-exploration.’

Christina also digs classical music, particularly the grandiosity of Beethoven, and the Godlike influence of Bach. ‘I don’t see myself as a religious person,’ she tells me, ‘but I like to think that God operates, through everything I do.’

Surely there’s time for some Christina-time? How does she relax? ‘I love to read – especially Dylan Thomas‘ poetry, and I have a new book by Oswald Spengler that I’m looking forward to.’ ‘I’m having some Crash Time this week actually’ she says, relieved. ‘I think you have to, or you burn out.’

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