Saturday, 21 May 2011

Style Pirate: Designer Collaborations Rule O.K.

John Galliano
by Mrs. Justine Brown

Picture this-- John Galliano perched in his Arizona detox, surrounded by a cluster of rogue P.R. agents determined to somehow benefit from the designer's thoroughly-understandable exclusion from fashion circles worldwide. How can he possibly redeem himself after the series of poisonous outbursts that will have him brought up on charges in France? It's clearly a case of too little too late, but the ex-Dior designer may have hit on a way to make up for his bile a bit: he is set to design a Beatles-themed collection for ASDA, the British big-box shopping experience (a bit like Wal-Mart). Having just ordered Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki's latest collection for ASDA myself, I can attest happily to the success of the one the things that makes style-hunting so fun these days.

Ms. "Biba" Hulanicki

Designers making cheap clothes for the masses-- it's hard to resist. The style world is full of such winning combinations lately. For example, attentive Skoolkids may remember the swoon Mrs. Brown fell into in December, when H and M issued a collection designed by the delightful Israeli, now residing in Paris, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin. After a tense week spent in the virtual aisles of the Swedish superstore, I finally emerged triumphant with TWO cocktail dresses, one black and dramatic with puffy yet tight sleeves, the other resembling a dark purple tulip-- with one bare shoulder. I fear I'm not doing the dress justice through words. Pictures may be preferable. Suffice to say that this dress had its own Facebook following.

Another august example is the collaboration between TK Maxx, a cut-rate designer paradise (albeit a paradise with hellish greenish florescent lighting--- makes the skin look, well, "bad" doesn't quite cover it, speaking from personal experience) and Liberty. Now, in London-towne, just the mention of a Liberty scarf can send ladies' temperatures through the roof. Liberty is is department store dating back to the turn of the last century, and its headquarters are to be found in a huge mock-Tudor pile on Carnaby Street. There's a rich tradition there that can be traced back to William Morris and his Art Nouveau theories. Anyway, silk, weavers, sartorial idealism-- it didn't work out quite the way Morris planned, but, to sum it all up, TK Maxx got together with the Comic Relief charity and Liberty to produce a silk scarf with all the trimmings for 12 pounds 95 pence. Yes! That's about 5% of the regular retail price.

While I'm singing the praises of TK Maxx and Comic Relief, I may as well add that they also worked with Vivienne Westwood to produce a series of t-shirts featuring Rowan Atkinson and Miranda Richardson in their time-honoured roles as Lord Blackadder and Queen Elizabeth I. And I am pleased to report that the scarf and the t-shirts now have pride of place in my closet.

In honour of Britain's Queen of Style

And no report on this theme would be complete without a celebratory reference to the winning combination of Jil Sander and Uniqlo, the planet-wide Japanese sartorial phenomenon-- the German designer who rose to fame in the 1990s  dressing everyone in minimalist black suits. For reasons too dull to go into, Jil Sander is no longer allowed to use her own name. The label still active, but others lie behind it. The result is +J, the distinct line designed by the actual woman and retailed in Uniqlo. So hurrah! We win again-- designer threads at manageable prices.

So by all means explore these opportunities, dear readers, but beware-- those online baskets can get full hair-raisingly fast. Personally, I limit myself to one treat a month. But that's just me, Skoolkids-- you may have more control over your credit cards.