Sunday, 22 February 2009

a dedicated follower of fashion...

Those of you who have met me will know that my fashion tastes can only be described as eclectic. Vintage is sometimes thrown in there, along with 40's, 50's and plain old weird. Charity shop chic is another label I am proud to wear on my secondhand lapels, so you may find it odd that I am extremely interested in fashion as a whole, and love to watch the catwalk shows.

Sometimes this is for the sheer spectacle and imagination poured into the event, but I mostly enjoy ogling at the structured shapes of clothes that wiggle their way towards the cameras. I am a very strong believer that all design, across the board of disciplines can be pared down to a few key elements - spatial awareness, form, mass and void, movement (or lack of), colour and functionality. From a jacket to a typeface, these can be applied in one way or another. This is how an inspirational cut for a jacket can manifest itself in my sketchbook as a chair, or a garden plan, and how colour combinations in a shoe end up as the basis of a planting plan or an interior scheme.
All designers do this, sometimes without thinking. We are all a sounding board for each other - designers or not, which goes back to my favourite phrase 'you can find inspiration in everything and if you can't look again' (Paul Smith). We all must see as well as look.

But something else exciting happened at London Fashion Week 2009 - the government has got involved. Our minister for sustainability, Lord Hunt, revealed the spanking new Sustainable Clothing Action Plan at the now firmly rooted Estethica eco fashion element of LFW.
Unfortunately, this is not a set of regulations (give it time), but essentially a code of practices that will be adopted by all those signing up. The action plan will tackle the full loop, from the raw materials and manufacture of the clothes, abolishing exploitative labour, using innovative materials such as bamboo and nettles through to how to wash at lower temperatures and dispose of the clothes responsibly at the end of their life, by recycling or donating to charity. Some 300 retailers have signed their names on the dotted line.

So will this tackle the nationwide and infamous 'Primark effect' where items are bought, worn once then chucked? I think probably not. If there is no perceived value in an item, then we have been conditioned into thinking it is a throwaway. We all should be throwing any unwanted items into the charity bin, but the same questions will always be asked - if you can buy a top for £1 however, how much are those being paid to make it? Does cheap mean unethical and unsustainable? And at the time of a credit crunch, not many will be able to resist the urge of buying ten things instead of one, key item.

We need recondititoning, but at least it's a start.

But as the sun is shining on me, and I am in far to good a mood to end a ranty post with nothing but the vast expanse of bleakness that lies ahead, here are some nice links to some very interesting ethical designers - take a look and don't forget to see...

Beyond Skin - tasty shoes and based down the road from me in Hove
Ciel - lovely structure and also based down the road in Hove
Nahui Ollin - fantastic bags made from sweet wrappers ( got one for Christmas - love it)
Eloise Grey - I love proper tweeds, and Eloise pushes all the right buttons
From Somewhere - upcycling at its best
Izzy Lane - ethical knitted stuff - made in Britain.
Veja - sorry - more shoes, plus practice your French on their website

Friday, 20 February 2009

the electric urban orchard - better late than never...

One funny thing I have noticed most about blogging is that if you are lucky enough to be blogged about, you will probably miss the scoop on yourself. So, it is with belated joy that I bring you another report on the new look RHS London Plant and Design Show 2009 (with some back stage snippets...).


From months of planning, we found ourselves heading up to London in a Luton van containing the entire garden last Saturday evening, arriving at the very concrete yet beautiful RHS Lawrence Hall at approx 7pm. Unloading the modules for the garden and a myriad of fruit trees. Leave by 9pm and treat ourselves to some chips on the way home. Oh yes, a very romantic way to spend a valentines night.

It has to be said that the facade set up the RHS commissioned is extraordinary - in scale and undertaking. I am told it is not a one hit wonder, and will return in other guises at other shows, so watch this space.

5.45am sunday - take van back and catch train to London (which takes an hour longer than usual due to engineering works). First day of build goes relatively smoothly, plants arrive and we almost get everything we want done. Collapse.

7.30am monday - back on site to complete the garden. Try and revive some squashed violets that did not fare as well on the journey from the nursery as the thyme, lavender and rosemary. Pretty much fail. Continue anyway with build, take delivery of two crates of organic British Jonagold apples to hand out as part of the promotions and the two very heavy yet wonderful electric scooters from Gnewt. Panic that our staging will not take the weight of said scooters and breathe a massive sigh of relief when it does. Suddenly look up at 5pm to see a wafting past of smartly dressed press, journalists, sponsors and waiters. The press event has begun.

Manage to tidy up enough to be presentable (including myself, which involved putting on my leather jacket in an inside rock style to hide the dirt and crap on my t-shirt). Do a bit of hobnobbing, including chatting to the wonderful Nina Acton from The Malvern shows, and the very eloquent James Alexander-Sinclair. Drink one very beautiful cocktail and wish I'd eaten more than a posh vol-ou-vent all day.

Continue with build until we get kicked out (again) at 10.00.

Show day one - arrive at 7.30am and do the last titivating before judging, get banished to the cafe whilst judging happens, then back in the hall for the arrival of the hoards.

Unfortunately, the very first comment from the public on our garden was awful, stating that 'motorcycles have no place at an RHS show, and where are all the flowers?' I told her (politely) about drainage issues of paving over a front garden for parking, but gave up after I guessed she probably would not have a parking problem in her huge Kensington abode. So I pointed her in the direction of the Lindley Hall, which was magnificently packed full of flowers.

Fortunately this was as bad as it got, and most people I spoke to were very happy with the new design element of the show, and very receptive to our garden.

Our recycled glass permeable paving got lots of attention, as did the biowall panels from our chums at BioTecture, and I was (rightly) quizzed by a few people about apple pollination groups in our mini orchard. Fortunately I had done my homework, and I think all went away with a satisfied little nugget of new info for their brains.

RHS medals then were filtered out from the offices and we had a Silver plonked onto our garden. Was I disappointed? Yes. I really wanted the Silver Gilt, but there you go, my violets weren't in flower and medals can be won or lost on such a small detail. What was interesting though was the more traditional the garden, the higher the medal...

The second day was started with a bang with the exhibitors meeting. I think I turned a few heads when I spoke out at my first exhibitors meeting, but as you are probably now aware dear readers, is that I am not one to hold my tongue.

After a couple of comments from the plantsmen about the new 'design' element I pointed out that the RHS is in vital need of younger blood to prevent it dying and that the younger generations are more receptive to good design than a stand of wonderful plants. The key is to link the two, and we suggested a linking of a specialist nursery to a designer for the next show, to highlight wonderful, seasonal plants in a well conceived show garden environment. Will the RHS take up our suggestion? Watch this space...

So, that's about it - day two went well, the sell off raised a few quid, and after a very speedy breakdown, we were back in Brighton before midnight on Wednesday.

Thank you to all those who managed to come and say hello, including the fab Deb Bird, and VP herself, and all those who have posted nice things about the garden.

I'm off to sleep some more now, and ready my brain for the next show garden stretch - the Malvern Spring Show.

As they say - I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

romance? sorry, no time...

Apologies for the incredible lack of bloggage over the past couple of weeks, my head is so full of stuff it feels a size or too smaller than it should be - like in Beetlejuice when his head is shrunken down by a deceased Voodoo priest.

Add to this the incredible dreams I have been having of late, including battling an ice dragon who could breathe out gas and then ignite it (so the flames go around corners), an army of lego men with Cadbury's Creme egg heads and tabbards, and arguing with a milkman, and you might get the impression my thoughts are full and varied.

But, on the plus side, the final construction for the RHS Plant and Design Show is nearing a close, with one more day left to prefab as much as we can before we get to the Hall on Sat evening.

What a way to spend a valentines day - loading up then driving a van into central London.

But there you go - my choice I suppose.

But for all of you spending some quality time with your loved one (which I will be doing, albeit in an abstract way), have a good one, and here are a couple of links for my favourite chocs and some bits about ethical flowers and recycled pants.

Enjoy - xxx

Monday, 2 February 2009

let it snow...

I love snow. It might be because I am an avid winter sport enthusiast (of the single plank variety), but I think a bit of the cold white stuff does us all wonders.

Firstly, we get to see our lovely world covered with a clean white sheet which seems to wipe away all the dirt, despair and crap that builds up over the rest of the year.

Secondly, we can appreciate the bare bones of trees, as they stand with their cloaks of white outlining their barren branches. We see things we do not necessarily see in the grey wash of a typical winter day. We see a unification and yet a contrast in structures.

But maybe the most heartening of all is that we speak to people we would probably never had spoken to ordinarily. Don't get me wrong, I like to talk, and I would class myself in the smiley say hello to people brigade, but not everyone you meet would normally say hello, let alone stop for a quick chat.

Today was different.

Today I joked about the lack of milk in the corner shop with an old man (would I have to resort to watering down Carnation like he did in the war), laughed with the owner of a lowered VW Beetle which was acting as a very effective snowplough and chatted with others as loony as me to be out at 7.30 in the morning taking pictures. I had only met one of the many before.

We Brits unite in a crisis, and joke at our misfortune.

Wouldn't it be great if we were all like this all of the time, and not once every 18 years or so? The world would be a nicer place if we were all to imagine a woolly white covering all year around...