London Art Spot: Holly Somers

If you walk down Carnaby Street right now, you’ll see a wintery scene in the windows of the Deisel shop called “Paper vs. Scissors” with delicate paper cut-out trees and mannequins with blank faces and big white hair. This is the work of Holly Somers, a recent graduate of London College of Fashion and joint winner of the Nina De York Illustration Award 2010.

Her debut collection takes the simple practices of folding, pleating and layering to the next level with inspiration from Japanese origami in rich, earthy tones perfect for this time of year. There’s a selection of images below for this week’s London Art Spot and for a more expansive look at the origami collection, there’s a great blog post here.

Read on to hear about Holly’s favourite gold blazer, where her love of a great fabric leads her on days out in the shops around here and her thoughts that went into the design of the Deisel shop window display.

LLO: Give us an overview of your latest Japanese origami-inspired collection.
HS: Throughout my design career, I have always had an interest in and an admiration for Japanese design and in particular Japanese fashion. Working with initial origami maquettes, I was able to experiment with unusual shape construction on a small scale before transferring it on to the body. This quickly led to the development of manipulating a two dimensional form to create a three dimensional object, both in paper, but then more naturally in fabric and garment construction. I was fascinated with the juxtaposition of woven fabrics with stretch fabrics and the intrinsic properties of these opposing materials. This concept became integral to the design and success of the garments as fabric manipulation extended beyond simple folding, pleating and layering. Much of the silk was transformed through interfusing before the fabrics were even cut altering the nature of the fabric to suit the needs of each garment. This collection became an exploration.

LLO: You created the lovely Paper vs. Scissors display in the Female Diesel shop windows on Carnaby Street. What was your thought process when given the brief through deciding on your final designs?
HS: The Window Installation was a fantastic opportunity to step into the world of visual merchandising and with the paper theme I could build on ideas from my previous collection but move it away from the body.  Diesel wanted a white paper forest to appeal to the Christmas season, however, it had to keep the edge that the Diesel brand upholds. I researched back over many artists who had manipulated paper for art installations with a focus on paper cutting rather than folding as before. I began experimenting drawing over tree designs using Adobe Illustrator to create intricate, ambiguous tree stencils that could be laser cut for the window. Design ideas went from broken chairs to be stacked up like tree trunks, rotating lights casting stencil silhouettes on the walls to importing large quantities of branches and logs from the Cotswolds to act as support and structure for the installation; from 8ft wooden trees attached to the store facing to laser cut paper creepers pasted to the woodwork like vines encompassing the store in a tangled forest. The concept also had to translate to the Male Diesel store so we attached hundreds of laser cut scissors to trees there to convey the idea that the boy’s trees had cut up the paper girl’s trees. Despite a great deal of design development there was still an aspect of improvisation on the installation nights, especially to deal with the restraints that come from the location being first and foremost a working shop. Working alongside the team at StudioXag was a great: logistically, technically and creatively.

LLO: Where’s your favourite place in London for fashion inspiration – both in the shops and on the streets?
HS: London as a city is a fantastic source of inspiration in itself with the endless resources available to anyone who lives here. The markets, libraries and museums are  perfect places to contemplate design ideas; especially the Design Bookshop in the V&A. However, since  moving here, I find walking along the South Bank at night when the city is alight one of the most inspiring places to be.LLO: Give us a hint at some of the upcoming fashions in London for next season?
HS: London’s fashion strives to be new and exciting playing to a more youthful clientele where the idea of design and creativity is pushed to the limit when the factor of wearability often comes into play. I feel that next season London designers will continue in this way, however there is definitely starting to be a move to more accessible collections as individual designers’ stylistic tastes are becoming more refined and therefore subtler in their portrayal.

LLO: Which aspects of your designs make them uniquely yours?
HS: Detail. In everything that attracts me, inspires me or interests me it is always the detail that captures my attention. The cleverness of an idea or the way something has been cut. It does not have to be complex but it provokes thought. I want my work to engage people in this way; for them to see and to appreciate the detail and depth of an idea.

LLO: Who is the target audience for your work? Do your designs transfer easily from the catwalk to the streets?
HS: My work is aimed at women aged from mid-twenties to mid-thirties with an understanding and appreciation of fashion, fabric and cut who will find innovative creations in my work that augments their style and femininity. I feel my designs could be diffused from the catwalk to the streets especially as jersey is a very popular fabric to work with at the moment. However, my collection relied on using high end fabrics to create the desired effect. Replacements can be found to cater to the high street market and price-point though the results would still be different. The joy in designing for the catwalk is there is not always a mass market and a low cost budget to consider. As a designer you have more manoeuvrability.

LLO:  Which piece are you most proud of so far and why?
HS: The gold blazer from my collection. It was ironically one of the easier pieces to design as it seemed to design itself on the stand. After working on something for so many months I am often too close to my work to appreciate it, however for some reason I could still relate to this piece and enjoy wearing it myself. It is an example of an idea that remained strong from the initial sketch to its final fruition and therefore I am proud that it is mine.

LLO:What are your favourite materials to work with and the best places to buy them in London?
HS: For me, fabrics are of the utmost importance in a collection, so I take great pleasure in searching around fabric shops and showrooms to discover what is available. Shepherd’s Bush is a great place for toiling fabrics and there is a particular shop on Goldhawk Road which sells fantastic wools. There are a few showrooms along Great Titchfield Street that act as agents for factories and mills across the world. These places are ideal as you can touch and feel samples and quickly discover the vast range of fabrics that are on offer. I particularly love working with jersey and I actually sourced all of my silk jersey from Japan for my last collection.

LLO: You recently graduated from London College of Fashion and won the highly acclaimed Nina de York Illustration Award wowing people with your designs. What’s next for you?
HS: I want to keep experimenting in a range of Fashion Design disciplines. My loyalty will always remain with garment design and this is where I wish to build my career, however I feel that working in visual merchandising, buying and accessories, etc., all feeds my creativity and I hope to remain as creative a designer as possible. To study in Paris would be a fantastic opportunity and there are MBA courses that appeal to me greatly. However, I intend to gain further experience in the industry over the next few years before I embark on further education.

LLO: Any other up-and-coming London-based designers we should keep an eye on?
HS: Joanna Pritchard. I have known Jo throughout my time at London College of Fashion and she is a very talented, unassuming designer. Her minimalist style has a wide-ranging appeal but her detail attracts a closer scrutiny. Jo has just started an MA Womenswear Design course at Central St Martins and I cannot wait to see her move from strength to strength and produce an astounding collection.

Thanks Holly!

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London Art Spot: Emli Bendixen

This year started off well for Emli Bendixen as she was short-listed for Professional Photographer of the Year Award 2009. With a long list of clients like Wonderland, Vice and Dazed and Confused and a fascinating portfolio of images, this North London-based photographer – who was born in South Korea and grew up in Denmark – has the passion and vision to go far in her career.

For this week’s London Art Spot, she tells us about her approach to photography on a recent trip to India, where we can find a taste of Korean and Danish food in London and about some of the capital’s interesting locations to take a camera.

LLO: How did you end up in London and how long have you lived here?
I first moved to London aged 19 after finishing school in Denmark. Being from a small town, I couldn’t wait to move to the city. I later went off to Glasgow and then to Copenhagen for university before returning to London where I have been ever since. I’ve lived in Shepherds Bush, Kennington, Old Street, Dalston, Stoke Newington and now Crouch End.

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
 First and foremost it gives me access to some really exciting people. I’m curious and inquisitive by nature – and I can think of few places better than London to keep you stimulated and with so much to look at.

LLO: You’re from a Korean/Danish background. Where’s the best place in London to find a taste of Korean or Danish culture?
To be honest, I haven’t looked into either much. I’m here to check out all the other bits of culture that are different to mine… Although not entirely Danish, I do love the food at Elk in the Woods in Angel; and the Scandinavian bakery in Golden Square. For Korean food there are a couple of excellent places just next to Centre Point – and I really like Dong San in Poland Street.

LLO: Twitter tells me you went to India over Christmas and Flickr shows you brought back some great photos. Tell us a bit about your trip and the photos you took while you were there?
I went to Kerala in the South. It was an incredible experience. I was very aware of being a tourist, with a Western background, with a camera. I noticed that this role in relation to the people I photographed tinted my photographs with something not quite real – at best something very self-conscious, so I decided to break this process and instead forced myself to focus more on general impressions, the little and the big things… the view from our homestay in Periyar, our taxi driver from Munnar, and the dog that followed us down the beach in Varkala…The result is more personal – I suppose much like a diary – in that I spoke to almost everyone I photographed and walked the same mountains you see in my pictures. The food photography was part of a separate food diary, which my girlfriend was writing.

LLO: Which piece are you most proud of and why?
A portrait called Harmony.

LLO: Favourite place in London to take your camera?
The city is full of exciting locations – I’ve shot in pubs, clubs, warehouses, studios and council flats; next week I’m shooting in a friend’s house in Finsbury Park that’s in the middle of being renovated. Although I mainly shoot indoors at the moment, I love Hampstead Heath and Abney Park in Stoke Newington. 

LLO: Your largest set on Flickr is called “Faces”. What do you try to capture when you’re shooting a portrait and where do you find your models?
More often than not, I ask people I know to sit for me. What is most interesting for me in taking a picture is capturing some part of that person which may not usually be on display; so it’s about going beyond what immediately meets the eye. Again, it’s about curiosity… I just want to know a little bit more than I did the moment before that picture was taken.

LLO: What type of camera and lens do you use?
I normally use a Canon 450D and recently a Canon 1DS Mark III; also a Diana F+, a Holga, and a Minolta XD7.

LLO: Your client list already includes Dazed and Confused, Vice and Professional Photographer Magazine. Who is your dream client and why?
I would love to work for The Guardian and The Times; Monocle and Intelligent Life are also high on my list. I’m also keen to shoot more music photography – I’ve done press shots for bands such as Robots in Disguise for a couple of years which has been a great challenge and definitely something I want to get more into. I suppose generally I would be happy shooting portraits and lifestyle images that allow for a personal and aesthetic approach.

Thanks Emli!

For more of Emli’s work, check out her website:

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London Restaurants: Hell

My friend J and I went to Hell on Friday night to tuck into some tasty Lust and Pandemonium. Pizza that is. And by Hell, I mean Hell in Fulham. It’s a completely down-to-earth pizza joint with 90’s grunge pumping into the restaurant lit with flickering candle lights in dungeon-style ring chandeliers. There’s gold-framed comic demons on black walls and down the stairs near the toilets, red devils painted in the hallway.

Beside the atmosphere, this New Zealand franchise served up some of the best pizza I’ve had in London. There are many options with some funky combinations of ingredients. They have some veggie options like Damned, Pride and Purgatory. Or you could go for Sloth, Wrath, Envy or perhaps Gluttony?

As for us, we shared the two below and had plenty to take home for breakfast the next day:

Lust – smokey BBQ sauce, pepperoni, salami, bacon, ham, chorizo
Pandemonium –  chicken, brie, cranberry


Website for more info:
Menu & prices:
London Branches: Fulham, Shepherd’s Bush, Clapham

London Art Spot: Przemek Wajerowicz

Photo of Przemek by Sandra Stainberg 

Equipped with his camera, Przemek climbs the stairs to the upper deck on one of London’s iconic double decker busses, takes a seat by the window and waits for a moment of inspiration. With hundreds of bus routes in this bustling city, he has plenty of options. Looking down, he has only a second for a scene to speak to him. If he catches it in time, which he often does, he captures the idiosyncrasies of ordinary people, normalcy and oddity of daily life in a large city, our diversity, work habits, all those things we do when we think no one is watching… 

63 to King's Cross

Przemek has turned his photography of daily London life into a project called From the Upper Deck and continues to post images to his blog daily. When he has enough, he plans to publish a book. He’s agreed to share some of his images here for this week’s London Art Spot and answer a few questions about the goals and challenges of his ongoing infatuation with the view from London’s upper decks.

237 to Shepherd's Bush

LLO: I hear you’re aiming to ride every bus route in London to take photos from the upper deck. That’s a lot of buses. How many have you done so far? 

PW: I am not really sure how many. I think I have done more than a hundred, but I don’t have exact number. I know that there are more than 200 bus routes in total, so it will take some time. I take some notes and the route is recorded with each photo anyway but I don’t have the exact number. It’s a bit messy, I know, but it works for me. 

28 to Wandsworth

 LLO: What sort of camera do you have?

 PW: Digital SLR camera with 50mm fixed lens.

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41 to Tottenham Hale

LLO: What is the goal of From the Upper Deck?

The goal? The goal is simple and that is just to capture ordinary everyday life in London in the early 21st century.  

188 to North Greenwich

LLO: Most of your images are well composed despite the obvious limitations. Colours match up, people are in motion and contradictions that make an interesting photograph are in place. What do you look for in a scene before you snap a photo? 

PW: There are lot of factors – colours, sunlight, people, interactions between people that draw my attention. To be honest, the impulses that make me press the button are very random and often unpredictable.    

9 to Aldwych

LLO: Taking photos of strangers through bus windows with limited time to capture a scene must pose a few challenges. What issues have you dealt with and how do you overcome them?

PW: Well, the main difficulty is that you don’t have control of your position. In other words, you can’t stop and wait for the situation to unfold. The situation is either there and ready to be snapped, or it’s not. So it can be frustrating sometimes.

69 to Canning Town

LLO: How long have you been working on this project so far?  

PW: I have been taking photos from buses for about four years. I started on my daily routes to and form work just for fun and without any project idea in mind. It evolved into a project about two years ago when I started taking some remote routes and going to, for me, some really esoteric and obscure parts of London.   

19 to Battersea Bridge

 Thanks Przemek!

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