Monthly Archives: February 2011

Girls & Boys & Birkenstocks

I was thinking about boys and girls and fashion. Or rather, girls and boys and fashion.

Most girls I know will slyly confess to having gradually and subtly infiltrated the dark recesses of their significant others’ wardrobes and ‘tweaking’ them into something more ‘appropriate’. This tweaking is generally a gradual process. First it’s a blank, dumb-founded stare when you first lay eyes upon the world’s most obstinately ugly shoes. You might then follow this up (across a series of occasions) with a couple of lighthearted but really very deadly serious jokes about said shoes. And then you might be forced to actually be moody and/or difficult when they continue to show up. If it gets to the point where you have to actually reason or bargain over the offending shoes, then you know you’re in for a rough ride – a guy who either (inexplicably) loves these shoes as much as you do yours, or a guy who wants to make a point – about being down-to-earth or about standing his ground, negative on all accounts.

If he truly adores them, your resolved might be weakened. And if he’s playing the down-to-earth, I-don’t-care-about-clothes card, then you’re either going to feel like a primadonna, or you’re going to be faced with a whole lot of cargo pants, Crocs and – God forbid – polar fleece.


I’m familiar with both phenomena. My first serious boyfriend, walked into my life in a do-rag, a pair of gangster jeans and a basketball vest. There also may or may not have been a bandanna hanging out of his back pocket, a la Snoop Dogg. He looked like he might surprise the Grahamstown high street with a Crip walk at any second. By the time we broke up he was wearing corduroy stove pipes, flannel shirts, (normal sized) tshirts and Converse. The only remnants of his Tupac fetish were the flat caps he refused to part with and his Dallas drawl. Success! Through a careful campaign of encouragement, discouragement, raised eyebrows and birthday presents, I guided him into manhood. Goodbye Fubu! So long, Evisu. Your services are no longer needed. Of course, he believed that he had just changed. He still believes it, I’m sure.

A friend of mine adopted a more aggressive approach. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband, wore white square toe leather loafers on their first date. With chinos. She told him in no uncertain terms that the shoes would not be around for long, nor would their partners in crime, the chinos. If he didn’t oblige, she, too, would not be around for very long. The rest, as they say, is history. She now reminds him almost daily about these humble beginnings, especially when he pips her to the post at vintage fairs, snatching the early-shape Wayfarers before she can get her paws on them. He smiles sweetly, and tightens his grip on their sleek, rare frames. True love, I tell you.

The man that is bound to his Birkenstocks out of sheer principle is the one that puts you in a real pickle. If you really dig him, you may wind up wavering on your fashion maxims – maybe I do take too long to get ready, maybe silk is impractical for a hike, maybe I shouldn’t wear sequins to Obs Fest, etc. This, upon reflection, is a masterful example of reverse psychology. He is trying to outsmart you with earthy undertones and inside-out rhetoric, i.e: You look better without makeup on (read: liquid eyeliner takes eons to get right and the gig is about to start). If, like me, the way you feel about clothes and dressing is a part of your DNA, then you should never allow someone else’s opinions on the matter to cloud your judgment. Even if he is 6″2, dark-eyed and daring.

If Herr Birkenstock is, however, the sweet type – the type that is happy to trundle along in his orthopaedic footwear while you slick on the liquid eyeliner and wear silk to sleep in, then you know you’ve found yourself a keeper. Someone who genuinely is down-to-earth and who understands that you are too, you just do it in diamonds.

The only downside is that you may then have to forego the shoe jokes and blank-eyed stares.


Up your ziggy with a Rah-Rah crush!

If you’ve ever seen the classic 90’s girls movie, Strike! starring Gaby Hoffman and a young Kirsten Dunst, then you’ll get the title reference. Strike! rocks (see clip below and then do yourself a favour and track down the full film).

In any case… it’s The Rah-Rah Room 2.0 tomorrow!

Join me for a post-payday shop if you are looking for something fetching to call your own. New newbies, just-arrived vintage and a whole new range of hand-crafted Crystal Birch headpieces… all waiting to be held up to the light and loved!

10:00 am til 2:00 pm. See directions above.


Design Indaba

So, I didn’t post today.

And it always makes me quite anxious, like I’m frittering away precious ideas that will lose their glorious sheen once pressed onto the lined pages of a book and left to seep for some days.

I do have a good reason, though.

And that reason is the wondrous fact that I won a ticket to attend the Design Indaba Simulcast, via Elle Deco. In a way I feel bad, because it’s almost like I made them give it to me, with all my persistent tweeting and nudging… but… in a way… I totally deserve it! And I am making the most of it (follow my tweets for both The Pessimiss and my day job at Colourworks, and you’ll see just how much).

For those who don’t know, the annual Design Indaba is a world class conference centered around all things design orientated – from architecture, to social design, to graphic and multimedia design, to trend forecasting and industrial design. It’s basically three days crammed with speakers from all over the globe, speaking on things so inspiring they might drive you to tears – from sheer appreciation, awe or envy.

Today we listened to Francis Kere, an architect from Burkino Faso, talk about preserving culture and tradition in his hometown by building infrastructure their own way. Instead of building high rise structures popularised and suited to urban landscapes, Francis embraces the inclusive nature of his people and gets everyone from children to mothers to grandparents involved in smoothing in traditional clay floors. Francis was so animated he could scarcely confine himself to the stage allotted, and both audiences were so moved by his clear and emotive understanding of the people of his country, that people literally wanted to hug the man when he said his thanks.

Dror Benshetrit, an Israeli-born creative, unveiled a project he has spent four years working on today at the Design Indaba. Social media channels were alight with the news that he was ‘giving birth,’ and it was indeed a momentous and stirring occasion. QuaDror, the revolutionary support structure that he and his team have invented, is composed of four identical L-shaped pieces, that, when arranged in a certain, form a solid base for a vast array of structures. Dror explained that he was building on work done by the likes of Da Vinci and Buckminster Fuller, if that gives you an idea of the magnitude of the occasion.

Acclaimed UK design agency, Hat-Trick, were my favourite, rifling through a collection of 19 incredibly emotive pieces of work at a rate of knots and with tons of charm and laughs along the way. From typographic campaigns for the Sumatran Orangutang Society to self-published volumes that are there for no other reason than to exist as a memoir of one person’s life, Hat-Trick have spent time and energy on ideas. Great ideas.

And that’s what the Design Indaba is all about. Giving room, appreciation and light to great ideas. Whether they be about affecting social change, or getting people to do or see something, or just because.

Three trends that seemed to make their presence felt on day 1, and which I look forward to seeing develop in the next 2 days include:

1. Co-design – collaborating with other creatives and with direct users of products to create the best solutions possible.

2. Design that improves lives and living – from healthcare, to public transport, to banking.

3. Design for innovation’s sake – design for no other reason than to create something exquisite, hilarious or historic. As South African speaker Richard Hart termed it: ‘Utterly beautiful, but useless.’

These are trends that filter implicitly into fashion, too. We see brands incorporating elements of co-design into their businesses in many ways. Take, for example, the hauling trend that has taken America by storm. Corporations now approach girls in their specific target markets to do their hauls and to consult on what other girls want. Collaboration, too, has become an important mechanism for both economising and innovating in the fashion industry. Look at luxury brand collaborations with high street chain stores – Lanvin x H&M or Kate Moss for Topshop.

More and more, fashion is also developing a conscience. How do you feel about wearing fur or leather? Or have you considered the impact your spending habits have on your carbon footprint? What kind of packaging did your brand new shoes come in? Do you support brands that manufacture their clothing under harsh working conditions? These are things the fashion industry is also taking into consideration, design wise.

And of course, the final point. Art for art’s sake. I watched The Last Emperor, a movie about Valentino and his decadent, crumbling empire this week at the Design Indaba Film Fest, and it plays very much to this dichotomy: excess and fabulousness (or art for art’s sake) vs. modernity and commercialism. 90% of revenue at big fashion houses is generated through accessories, like handbags, belts and watches, not through the extravagant couture shows we all love to love. How can someone like Valentino, whose gowns are handstitched by a team of eagle-eyed artists, and to whom each gown is a triumph, conceive of licensing away his name and churning out hundreds of V-emblazoned clutch bags to the masses? Economy dictates these changes.

Perhaps more fashion people need to come and spend a day at Design Indaba. Perhaps we all need to relook the way we perceive design and its purpose, and see that it can be used to change lives, to educate and to stun.

Oh, Erdem!

Erdem’s Autumn/Winter 2011 collection makes my heart sing.
Tantalising slicks of psychedelic devore velvet, satin and velvet shoes as sleek and vivid as a bird’s belly… floor length dresses fit for rogue gypsy priestesses on the run, and a compelling chaos of prints and textures that has become synonymous with the Erdem name.
The velvet detailing just does me in. I was almost irritated when its telltale plushness began to appear on shins and shoulders, heralding a trend revival, because I always quite liked that most people thought it dowdy and were oblivious to its lush allure.
But this is different – another level of lush altogether.  Rohrschach printed blouses of ink blotted silk and satin, molten watercolour and irregular celestial beauty all over the show. Shift dresses, blouses, lightweight trenches, new wave she-suits and some show stopping evening dresses beamed down the catwalk and into my heart (and yours).
When I see things like this my faith in the world is restored. And I think IXNAY on those who extoll negativity and say things like there is no more originality in the world. And that everything is a reimagining of something that came before. Isn’t that the point? I think that’s what makes it all the more beautiful. That these prints, textures and shapes remind us other times, places and people.

The Curve of Forgotten Things

Another beautiful piece of short film brought to the universe by Nowness, an LVMH (Moet, Hennessy, Louis Vuitton) brand that collaborates with the world’s best creative thinkers to tell tales of luxury and beauty.

Directed by Todd Cole and featuring Dakota’s doll of a little sister, Elle Fanning, the film is a showcase for Rodarte‘s dreamy A/W 2011 collection. Elle is the Mulleavy sisters’ latest muse, and she certainly does their otherworldly shapes justice, with her flaxen hair, snub girlish nose and lilting lope. She has all the beauty and grace of an adult woman, with all the clear-eyed artlessness of a girl.

I wonder how it must be to be so light? Having had dark hair and eyes my entire life, I cannot fathom how it must be to walk amid such a white halo of hair.



Man. I love Vivetta.

I first saw it on editor of French ELLE and ingenue, Eva Fontanelli, and fell head over heels in love with a velveteen skeleton dress.

Their witty sartorial style, quirky detailing and rockabilly girl edge just speak to my heart. This is a peek at their most recent collection. Well, not so much a peek as an almost-complete look. Because I love it all so much that it was hard to select favourites. The styling is so great – from those off-centre lips, to the model’s Purdy ‘do and deadpan pinup posturing… hot!

Suzaan Heyns, Die Vorm

Suzaan Heyns‘ collection for Autumn/Winter 2011, ‘Die Vorm’, was a startling examination of the human form, externalised.

“I wanted to take the inside of the body and reveal it on the outside, flipping it inside out. The idea behind this collection was to flip fashion on its head by focusing on the inside of the body, rather than the outside”.

Produced by renowned fashion show producer Deon Redman and featuring an opening short film directed by Jeana Theron, the collection is a visualisation of Heyns’ trademark “conceptual androgyny and steel-edged femininity”. The footwear for the show was provided by edgy UK label, FINSK and it looks epic. I love that the show was such a production – the hair and makeup make me think of some kind of Transylvanian swan princess.