Monday, 30 March 2009

Something Old, Something New


This is my most inspiring flea market find in a long time - God bless Brooklyn Flea!

The clash of the formal Louis XVI frames with the kicky mid-century floral print sends shivers up my spine. A combination like that could have gone horribly wrong, but this one is definitely 100% right.  Love it.


Sunday, 29 March 2009

Illustrated Book Of The Week - How ~ Indian Sign Talk In Pictures


This weeks IBOTW is a find from my friends Rick and Thomas' apartment (or as I prefer to think of it, The Ellis-Jayne Library of Esoterica).  The two of them share an aesthetic for everything exquisite, obscure, peculiar and ever so slightly twisted. We will be exploring some of their more interesting literature and decorative objects in due course.

This booklet particularly tickled my fancy. Published in 1952, it's an informative guide to the dying art of Indian sign language. Most useful if one was ever to find oneself trapped on a reservation with seven scouts and the urgent need to feed them bacon.

The author, Iron Eyes Cody tells us of his upbringing as a Cherokee Indian, his adventures with his father Thomas Long Plume, and the many triumphs of his life thus far (dancing for the King of England, opening his 'Moosehead Museum', helping Boy Scout groups at their Scout-a-ramas). What he fails to mention is the fact that his parents were Sicilian immigrants, and that his real name was Espera de Corti - which, I suppose, would have spoilt all the fun.

I must admit - I think that the fact that "Iron Eyes" was a fraud adds to the charm of this book. A sweet reminder of the innocent days when thousands of American children would dream of wigwams and smoke signals and dancing warriors in magnificent head dresses.




Friday, 27 March 2009

Fantastic Man - Truly Fantastic


I must admit, I was completely wrong about Fantastic Man.

It has been around for a few years now, but I had avoided it, purely on the basis of my own prejudices. 

It's pretentious, I thought. And cliquey. And trying way too hard to be cool. It's just the sort of magazine that irritates the hell out of me. 

And then I actually read a copy. And yes, it was pretentious, and somewhat cliquey - and even so - I loved it. It is now, bar none, my favorite magazine being published today.

Why? Well, it reminds me of some of my most beloved magazines in their heyday. I get the same thrill from it that I used to get from Interview in the eighties, or nest in the nineties - that wonderful feeling of amusement, discovery and desire that great magazines can impart. 

Like all good magazines it has a strong and singular editorial voice. And that voice is decidedly odd - in a good way. If Marcel Proust was writing for Andy Warhol, you might get an editorial style like this. Everything is approached with a certain amount of etiquette, particularly introductions, so we learn that 'Mr' Aiden Shaw is 'an acclaimed author and pornography star' and 'Mr' Simon Clarke is a 'full time model'. 

In the Fantastic Man world live in 'residences', they are 'men of words' and read books that are 'unfeasibly fashionable'. They are immaculate in every detail. 

The formality of the language fits the subject matter perfectly. Men's clothing here is a series of rigid codes that are either strictly adopted (the correct break of a suit trouser, the importance of remaining sockless when wearing a loafer) or subverted (a story on men in skirts discusses styles that allow the wearer to 'remain demure'). Details are exhaustively noted - for example, a study of sports clothing regulations tells us that at track meetings, runners 'may compete in bare feet, or with footwear on one or both feet' - great news for those of us who like to take part in competitive sports while remaining asymmetrically clad.

Most pleasingly, it's clear that the editors, Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers are endlessly enchanted by their subject matter. There's nothing cynical or insincere about their approach - their pleasure is entirely genuine. 

Despite my previous misgivings, Fantastic Man doesn't smirk ironically, it smiles beatifically. And after a few hours reading the magazine, so do I.


Thursday, 26 March 2009

The Picture Show

'The Picture Show' is another great find from the ever-amazing Norman.

A huge scrapbook, dated 1925, filled to the brim with images of the stars of the era. This was the height of Hollywood's silent movie age - a time where cinema became enormously popular, and the public became fascinated with movie stars for the very first time. 

There's no trace of the identity of the original owner - but whoever he or she was, they were clearly obsessed with the beauty and glamour of the silver screen. The book is packed with incredible images - and many of them have been 'enhanced' by the owner. Photographs have been cut out of magazines, decorative borders have been glued or painted around them, and many of them have been 'colorized' with watercolour paints. There's even some crazy decoupage, taking original shots and adding scraps and painting to make new scenarios.

The book is clearly a labour of love, as hours of work has gone into it - and the movies featured span at lease five years - it must have been a major undertaking.

I find the combination of the slightly naive handpainted work and the high glamour of the photos incredibly interesting. It adds a human touch to the images, and gives you the real feeling of one person's absolute passion for their movie idols.






I'm loving Clara Bow in these last two shots - there's something very fresh and modern about her that makes her jump off the page to me. The pictures could almost be used in a fashion editorial today with no adjustments. It's interesting that she was the very first celebrity to be dubbed an 'It Girl" - a phrase now that has been horribly degraded and overused. Looking at these photographs - you can totally see that she had 'it' in abundance.

Ahmedabad Adventure


I'm here in Ahmedabad for 3 weeks working on a small colection of clothes and accessories for an amazing organisation SEWA but more about all that later, here are some pictures of Ahmed Shahs' Tomb, I hope to be sharing more inspiring pictures as I go along .




Monday, 23 March 2009

An Elegant Punk

Now, it’s time for some shameless self-promotion,  This is my latest project, a beauty story called ‘An Elegant Punk’. It’s a collaboration with the brilliant make-up artist Lisa Eldridge, and  our attempt to take a classic piece of subculture and make it modern, relevant and beautiful.

The process of getting to these images was interesting.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been aware that the sartorial tides have been turning. It’s no longer cool to look like you rolled out of bed, threw on a military parka and didn’t have time to wash your hair. Now, there’s a whole generation of twenty-somethings who are rejecting the anonymous, ‘undone’ styles that have been surrounding us for the last ten years, and who are making extreme style statements. For them it’s far more interesting to make an effort, dress up and take pride in your appearance, than to look like you’re too cool for school.

It’s not only fashion that is being affected by this trend. Hair and make-up styles are becoming more stylized and exaggerated too. The Amy Winehouse beehive/eyeliner combo is a great example of a beauty trend that sprang from the streets of Camden, and has had a global impact. I’ve seen kids on the streets of East London wearing head scarves and curlers during the day. Extreme make-up is filtering through too – as ornamentation and experimentation become more and more acceptable.

Lisa and I wanted to reflect this change in spirit – but we didn’t want to slavishly recreate the forties and fifties styles that seem to be most popular at the moment. We were talking about shooting something with dramatic, saturated colour – when  the idea of punk came up. It seemed like a perfect fit. Not only does it relate to the current Rockabilly trend (which had a huge influence on early punk, particularly with the Westwood/Maclaren shorp, ‘Let It Rock) – it also has historical roots in recession, and is the perfect example of a subculture that thrived on extreme sartorial self-expression. If kids are wearing beehives today, they’re just one step away from wearing Mohicans tomorrow.

We started looking at classic punk images. The Bromley Contingent and the staff of ‘Sex’ in World’s End, particularly Jordan, gave us masses of material. Early images of pre-goth Siouxsie, with blonde, cropped hair. Adam Ant (because ridicule is nothing to be scared of) and the seminal punk movie ‘The Fabulous Stains’ – all went in the mix.

Finally, with the help of Keiichiro Hirano’s inspired hairdressing, the beautiful Jana from Models1, and some styling backup from Romaine Lillie, we had our team, and our theme.





Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Illustrated Book Of The Week - Anyone Can Draw!

Before I discovered it last week, I had never heard of Arthur Zaidenberg's 'Anyone Can Draw!', but according to The New York Times, it is a classic. 

Published in 1939, it works on the principal that anyone who can write the letters of the alphabet can learn to draw. It all sounds suspiciously simple, but I hope it's true. I'm really looking forward to learning to draw in this fantastic 1930's style, which is very reminiscent of Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticist movement.

Now I just need to persuade someone to pose for me in jodhpurs, hiking boots and a turtle neck, so that I can get it absolutely spot on.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Bridge Poetry

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When our great friend and hugely talented graffic designer Rene Knip and his colleague Janno Hahn (also very talented)came over to see Radiohead last year he brought with him some new fonts that he planned to leave behind in London. This one is in lazercut metal. It is the first line from Radioheads' song 'Faust Arp' they nearly got arrested attaching to this Hackney railway bridge. He also left a quote from winnie the pooh stenciled on our houses' front stairs.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Flights Of Fancy


Like most big cities, London can be sublime or ridiculous. Some areas have an unsurpassable elegance, and others are so grim they become almost physically oppressive.

Vauxhall definitely falls into the last category. Much of it is so grey and industrial that even on a sunny day it feels like you could be sucked into a brutal vortex of grit and grime.

Which is why it's such a joy to come across these origami pigeons suspended under one of the railway bridges. As the trucks and buses drive past they flutter and spin in the cross breeze, much like the real thing.

Whoever put them up has taken a lot of trouble - the bridge is about 18 feet high - so hanging them must have been no mean feat. Well worth the effort, as they transform a harsh environment into something quite poetic.

As one of my old friends used to say, it just goes to prove that even in the darkest of gutters you can find the shiniest of gems.


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Ermenonville by Elisabeth Toll

It's fair to say that we at The Curious Eye are magazine junkies. 

There isn't a room in our place that isn't filled with magazines - they have overflowed from our shelves, down our staircase, through our bathroom - some stacks are so large, they're almost makeshift furniture. One year we created a six foot christmas tree out of piles of them. Suffice to say, if it's glossy and full of photographs and text - we're buying it.

Which is why, amongst the surfeit of images that get thrown at us every day, it takes something very special for us to sit up and take notice.

This fashion story in 'Bon' Magazine completely captivated us. It's photographed by Elisabeth Toll and styled by Yoko Miyake. In it, the light, the scenery, the model and the clothing all work together to make something magical. 

Truly one of the best fashion stories that we've seen for a very long time - and a reminder to all of us that fashion magazines can be more than just a way of selling products. Once in a while they can show us great photography, beautiful imagery and something really inspiring.


See more of Elisabeth Toll's beautiful work at

Friday, 13 March 2009

Egg Cups Of Excellence


I am not really a morning person. On most days it takes a large cup of Monmouth coffee and a decent breakfast before I even qualify as a human being. But even in my primordial morning state, I think it's important to keep things aesthetically pleasing. Which is why having a soft boiled egg in one of these egg cups is the perfect way to begin the day. 

We started collecting wooden egg cups figures a few years ago and now we have a small army of them- about six Noddies, three Big Ears, some swiss maids, a few young men in lederhosen and even a couple of baby chicks. Each one is hand painted, so they're like miniature sculptures that you can eat your breakfast out of. Best of all, you can match your egg cup to your mood

If you are feeling jaunty you can use this one:


Despite the pink hair, this fellow is a little more serious:


And for Sundays and religious holidays, this is the perfect egg eating solution:


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Illustrated Book Of The Week - In The Fog Of Milan

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To continue with our Milanese theme, We have Bruno Munari's classic children's book 'Nella Nebbia Di Milano' The design of this book is truly masterful, Everything about it is perfect ! From the layout to the colours to the paper it's printed on. My Italian is still not perfect so I have not been able to read the story, but I'm sure that is also great. The beginning and end sections are printed on thick tracing paper on both sides so that you literally discover the images appearing out of the fog. Then you arrive at the grand circus in the centre,where everything is in colour, with various cutout to reveal shapes and colours on other pages. Finally, you disappear off again into 'the fog of Milan'
Genius !

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Saturday, 7 March 2009

Cordy House - Grunge Revival


'Cool' neighbourhoods have a very particular life cycle. 

Stage 1:Industrial areas are taken over by artists, who are attracted by the cheap rents and the large raw spaces. 
Stage 2: The area gains a reputation as being 'edgy' and avant-garde so the fashion crowd move in. They are swiftly followed by the hipsters, and wannabe bohemians. 
Stage 3:, the yuppies invade, in an attempt to bask in the reflected glory of the creative scene. The artists, fashionistas and hipsters then spend all their time complaining about how 'uncool' and expensive the area has become.

Shoreditch is a perfect example of this syndrome. It used to be a gritty industrial wasteland, but if you go down a dark backstreet today, you're more likely to find a private members club  or a designer patisserie than a drug den or a strip joint. Now, I like a mille-feuille as much as the next man - but when an area becomes too glossy, it starts to lose its sparkle.

I was therefore delighted to come across Cordy House, right in the centre of the action in Curtain Rd. It's a huge space, used for exhibitions, openings and parties, and it feels very much like 'Old Shoreditch' - the slightly dodgy area that was full of illegal raves, leather bars and Crusties. It reminds me of the days when we could move, move, move any mountain and everybody was free (to feel good).

As the ambiance of the space is very 'Squat circa 1991', it's hardly surprising that it recently housed 'MuTate Britain' an exhibition by The Mutoid Waste Company, the founding fathers of cyberpunk. The show is over, but the stairwells still retain some fantastic graffiti work, and the shutters by Dr D are a work of art in themselves.  


It's nice to see that despite the increasing latté-fication of Shoreditch, there are still a few rough edges left in the old neighborhood,