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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Lee Moves East Party

Lee Showroom Shoreditch, August 27, 2008

Written by Michelle Heimerman

IllustrEIGHT is a series of live art installations by eight up-and-coming artists, pill ed which has been set up against the walls of Topshop’s Oxford Circus and Manchester Arndale stores. The gallery exhibitions, see due to run until the 7th September, cost include an exclusive capsule collection of eight t-shirts inspired by each of the artists themselves. With art and fashion being my two favourite things, the event sounded too good to miss.

So I flip flop along to Topshop with my soon-to-be-obsolete student discount card burning a metaphorical hole in my soon-to-be-replaced pocket. Any hesitation about spending the hottest Saturday in recent British summer history in quite possibly the busiest shop in retail history somewhat assuaged by IllustrEIGHT’s canny guise as an art exhibition.

But first, in the spirit of journalistic veracity, a confession: my name is Arabella Gubay and I am a t-shirt phobic, who avoids, or at best, approaches this most casual of garb with extreme caution and lives instead in the t-shirt’s polar opposite, the Little Black Dress.

Naturally then, I’m cautious about critiquing IllustrEIGHT’s capsule collection of eight illustrated t-shirts. But, bolstered by the knowledge that the ubiquity of the slogan/illustrated/statement tee shows no sign of abating and willing to overcome my streetwear phobia, I go where I have not gone before: the Topshop jersey section.

From Fern Cotton’s plausibly Dairy Association sponsored Topshop ‘Love My Bones‘ t-shirt, to ingénue Alexa Chung’s monochrome ‘In the Deep End‘ Marc by Marc Jacobs tee, this is the season of the statement t-shirt. Funny, mind, that the statement of the most recent raft of tees is so uniformly ambiguous; eco warrior Katharine Hamnett’s iconic slogan tees seeming positively cavalier in their comparative certitude. ‘Stay Alive in ‘85′ they scream; “I think that ship has sailed” I retort.

But I digress, nestled at the back of Topshop’s jersey section lie IllustrEIGHT’s eight tees, while scattered around the cavernous store their correlative installations. I use the word ‘scattered’ lightly as it’s more like an advanced level egg hunt with (imperative) map provided. This though, is perhaps integral to the concept of IllustREIGHT, the exhibition drawing inspiration from the creative art collective Designersblock, whose raison d’être is exhibiting work in unusual, labyrinthine locations.

Having located Pomme Chan’s illustration on a plinth near Topshop’s Boutique section with the kind of sartorial homing instinct usually reserved for finding cheap as chips Jens Laugesen separates at designer sales, I make a bee line for Chan’s long line jersey tee emblazoned with gothic floral illustration.

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All of the illustrations are exquisite. From Joe Wilson’s elaborate and painstakingly etched design on ethereal eau de nil tee, apparently inspired by Quantum Physics and Scientific exploration – whoa there, it’s way too early sub-atomics – to London-based Kerry Roper’s eye popping pink gnomic design on an oh so A/W ’08 purple tee. With Topshop true to populist retail form, there is truly something for everyone.

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My only criticism is the tees themselves. Forget the sometime incompatibility of art and fashion, the rendering of eight ineffably beautiful illustrations on poorly cut viscose jersey tees seems to me the height of aburdity. Take Barcelona-based Alex Trochut’s whimsical necklace design on periwinkle blue t-shirt dress. The print reminiscent of Ricardo Tisci’s £3,750 ‘It’ necklace; the cut reminiscent of a straitjacket.

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I’m tempted but with its batwing sleeves and heavily ruched seams the cut truly does preclude all but those most necessary movements; and I value my mobility. So with the foolproof dictum ‘fashion detail is style death’ ringing in my ears, I return Trochut’s beautiful tee to the rail, sadly surmising that this is, in fact, unwearable art. Brighton Art College graduate James Taylor’s graphic print tee with owl motif is perhaps the most successful overall. The plain white tee upon which the illustration is impressed allowing the print itself to make the statement, the cut and beautiful fit making this almost the perfect tee…but the fabric, oh dear the fabric.

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And so my unexpected foray into Topshop’s more casual recesses sees me leave with two jersey pieces. The first, a Fair Trade 100% cotton tunic in ultraviolet and the second a Fair Trade Zip Front Tee in classic black. Perhaps the age-old equine idiom should be revised, you can lead a gal to the jersey section but you certainly can’t make her don viscose.

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Sarah Howell

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Harry Malt

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Seripop
On Wednesday evening, help a handful of Amelia’s crew attended the Lee Moves East party to help celebrate the opening of a new Lee jeans showroom in Shoreditch. Arriving promptly on time, we helped ourselves to the drinks and then had a look around the two-floor display. Approached by friendly greeters, these denim experts were able to show us the collection and give us coupons for a chance to win a free pair of jeans. Unfortunately, none of us walked away with any.

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There was a nice variety in the collection, but it lacked anything extraordinary or unexpected. It was your traditional all-American Lee style, with plenty of plaid button-ups, denim, graphic tees and studded leather jackets(which happened to be my personal favorite).

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As the evening continued, the crowds gathered and the party was in full swing. There was an abundance of tasty hors d’oeuvres and drinks for everyone to enjoy while we mingled and satisfied our appetites. Live models and a DJ added to the atmosphere, with Pete and the Pirates scheduled to perform, but before we had the chance to check them out, we were on our way to the next event. Luckily, Sarah was able to hang around a bit to get a listen. Check out the music section soon to read more.

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