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!

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

Advertisements

Listen to a Londoner: Wendy McCooey

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers! 

Wendy McCooey, 34 

Wendy is a southern Tennessee girl with a sales and marketing background who loves to travel, cook, craft, take pictures, blog, (currently job shopping) and do just about anything if it’s fun. She’s is now seeing what Notting Hill and the rest of London (if not the world) has to offer. 

LLO: Give us the basics first: How long have you lived in London , where are you from originally and what brought you to this brilliant city?
WM:
We moved here October 2009 from Nashville, TN (yes, I have a southern accent, but my husband does not) due to a job transfer with my husband’s company. 

LLO: What’s the best part about living in your postcode?
WM:
 I live in the W11 which is Notting Hill (yes, the inspiration for a lil’ rom-com you may have heard of) and love it here.  The energy and the layout of the area is perfect. It’s city living at its finest, but somehow it still manages to keep some neighborhood “small town” charm to it. Maybe it’s due to all the cool independent movie theatres, the Portobello Market, or maybe the adorable strip of Westbourne Grove/Ledbury area. Whatever it is, it’s home to me now and I smile just thinking about it 

LLO: Favourite place to find a taste of home?
WM:
 If I’m craving pancakes, I hightail it to Balan’s on Kensington High Street for their American Pancakes. I’m a breakfast girl, so these cravings come more often than they need to.  If it’s not pancakes, it’s buffalo wing sauce and the closest thing to ours at home is the voodoo sauce at Henry J Beans in Chelsea. It’s delicious and I get it with their yummy chicken crunchies. 

LLO: Tell us about a memorable “expat in London ” experience.
WM:
 Well… although my husband moved around a lot as a kid, I did not. I had always pretty much lived in the Nashville area until we packed up and moved to London. I was ready for a change, and so I said, “Yes, let’s do it”.  So I quit my job of 7+ years, told my family and friends, packed our stuff, shipped it off, got on a plane and never cried really. UNTIL we landed and later arrived at our new home  – “our flat”. Once that door shut, something happened. I cried, hysterically. My husband could not bring up anything related to back home or I would cry.  There were a lot of ups and downs for me for many many months. Not for him though; he adjusted just fine.  It took me three or four months before I could call London home and truly be 100% happy with my decision. However, now I couldn’t imagine moving back to Nashville any time soon. I guess the most important thing that happened to change how I felt was making new friends here. I have a great group of new friends and I would really miss them if I were to leave.  Oh yeah, and the nonstop traveling around Europe doesn’t hurt either. 

LLO: If I had one day in London , where would you tell me to eat and drink?
WM:
 I would tell you to eat at either Osteria Basilico in Notting Hill for the tastiest tortellini that you will ever eat or The Ebury on Pimlico Road for their gnocchi.  As for drinks, the bar at Just St. James near Green Park/The Ritz. Order anything to drink, you’ll like it. Or if you want more low-key with loads of charm, head on over to Churchill Arms (Kensington) for a tasty pint of their organic Honey Dew. 

LLO: Favourite places for a Saturday night out in the capital?
WM:
For a Saturday night, if you are wanting to do something special I would say  dinner and go see WICKED (I’ve seen it 4 times and can’t wait til the 5th) or just walk around Oxford/Regent St and people watch for a while and then crawl into a pub and drink until your heart’s content. 

LLO: What’s the strangest or most amusing thing you’ve seen since moving to this city?
WM:
 The most amusing thing was a lady on the tube, probably late 40’s. She was fair-skinned, dark hair, bright red dress and nails, sitting in front of me. Just as I noticed that her toenails were so long that they were growing down in front of her toes (like cupping them), she hopped up in this almost empty car and grabbed the “hold on” bar and starting swinging on it. She grabbed hold, lifted her feet up and just started swinging. Then she put her feet down and swung her hips to the left while still holding on, stretching herself and then changed to the right and did the same thing. This rotation went on for a good 15 minutes.  Being a girl from the South, I wasn’t sure if I needed to laugh or be scared. 

LLO: Best London discovery?
WM:
Kensington Roof Gardens! It’s amazing and believe it or not, Virgin owns it. (Where this picture of me was actually taken). 

LLO: If someone came to you saying they wanted to explore London for a day, but wanted to go off the beaten path, where would you send them?
WM: I would send them to Postman’s Park to start, then off to Camden or Brick Lane and just tell them to walk around. Those areas have so much charm and energy, not to mention all the food you could want at your fingertips. Every few feet you see something new and cool to check out. At night, take a Jack the Ripper walking tour and to finish the evening a pint at Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street. 

LLO: Favourite place around here for a culture fix?
WM: If we’re talking museum, it’s gotta be the British Museum. I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world when I walk in their gorgeous lobby, take a left and cruise on by the Rosetta stone on my way to the Parthenon area. I’ve visited numerous times and it never gets old. The Lindow man in there is also pretty badass. 

If we are talking Theatre, Jersey Boys is amazing, but WICKED is out of this world terrific in every way possible. I can honestly say that I will probably go see it as many times as I can, it’s just amazing. Although I’m a big Dirty Dancing fan, the Dirty Dancing that I saw here was Horrible, to the point that at intermission I wanted to ask for my money back and leave.  I have tickets to see Les Mis in September, so I’m really excited about that! 

You can also never go wrong with the exhibits at V&A. I’m currently dying to go see the Grace Kelly exhibit there. 

Thanks Wendy! 

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here. 

Listen to a Londoner: Janine Clements

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you want to be interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new volunteers.

Janine Clements, 37

Janine Clements is a freelance journalist, travel expert and mummy blogger who has been living in London for 12 years. She has lived in Holloway, Maida Vale, Westminster and now Fulham, where she has lived for four years with her husband and 2-year-old daughter.    

LLO: Living in London for 12 years, what are the best and worst changes you’ve seen in the city?
JC:
 The increase in gun and knife crime and scary dogs, but better transport facilities and better shopping with the arrival of Westfield. All the attractions have definitely become much better at catering for young children.    

LLO: Top three favourite things about living in Fulham?
JC:
Lots to do for children (e.g. Fulham Palace, Coffee and Crayons, Gambados, various parks). It’s got great pubs such as The White Horse and The Sands End. There are lots of families around so there is a real community feel.    

LLO: Tell us a bit about your blog http://21stcenturymummy.com.
JC:
My inspiration from my blog came from the fact I love writing. I decided to set up a blog that was an account of my take on life as a modern-day mum, as my daughter, who is two, grows up (and I grow older!). I also wanted to help other mums by providing useful information, advice and opinions, reviews and an insight into parenthood for other people to read. My blog covers everything from news and reviews of the latest products to family travel.  

LLO: Do you think London is a child-friendly city and why (or if not, what would make it more so)?
JC:
London is an exciting and vibrant city, and yes, I think most parts are very child-friendly, there’s so much to do for all age groups.  

LLO: If I had one day in London and wanted to explore the bits that don’t show up in the guidebooks, where would you recommend?
JC:
The parks are all fabulous. I love Holland Park, St. James Park and Kensington Palace Gardens. Battersea Park Zoo is fun for younger kids.

LLO: As a travel enthusiast, have you found a place in London you can go to feel like you’ve travelled without actually having left the city?
JC:
I’ve always been a big fan of Little Venice and its waterways and canal boats. It is so peaceful and very different from inner London. Or further out is Richmond Park, acres upon acres of parkland and loads of deer. 

LLO: What’s your favourite kid-friendly restaurant in London and another one you love when you’ve got a child-free night out?
JC:
Konnigans in Wandsworth is great for brunch. It’s got a relaxed atmosphere, good food and great kid’s menu. For the two of us it would be Tsunami, a fabulous Japanese restaurant. There’s one near Tottenham Court Road and another in Clapham.

LLO: Do you have any advice for travelling mums about to pop over to London for a week with the kids?
JC:
There are so many things for kids. Popular things to do include Buckingham Palace, the London Aquarium, and the Science Museum. Depending on the age of your kids, a West End show is a great idea. Hamleys or the toy shop at Harrods is also fun. When it’s sunny, the parks are fabulous too.

LLO: Favourite London discovery or a place you’ve heard is really cool but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet?
JC:
I’ve heard the Victoria and Albert Museum is great for kids, but I haven’t been yet.

LLO: Describe your perfect Spring Saturday in London.
JC:
Head outdoors if it’s sunny, so my 2-year-old can run around and burn off some energy. Somewhere like Fulham Palace or Cannzaro House (in Wimbledon) or Pembroke Lodge in Richmond Park. Each has a nice cafe to grab lunch at too.

Thanks Janine!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here. 

Listen to a Londoner: Flora Tonking

Listen to a Londoner. This is a weekly post where people who live (or have lived for a while) in London answer a few questions about the Big Smoke. If you fit the bill and want to be interviewed, give me a shout at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk. Always looking for new victims volunteers….

Flora Tonking (aka The Accidental Londoner), 25

Brought up the The Midlands, Flora always vowed she’d never live in London, but somehow after university she found herself job-hunting and flat-hunting in the city. Over two years later she’s still here and secretly loving it.  She works in research for an engineering company, blogs about life in London (http://theaccidentallondoner.blogspot.com/) and fills up her precious free time studying for a Masters degree.

LLO: Best thing about London?
FT:
So much to do and see!  You could live here for years and still be surprised and entertained.

LLO: 2012 Olympics – stay or go?
FT:
I confess I wouldn’t mind leaving the city for the duration of this event; I dread to think what it’s going to do to our already overloaded infrastructure.  That said, it’s hopefully going to do great things regenerating areas of East London.

LLO:  How do you spend your time on the tube?
FT:
Listening to my iPod and people-watching.

LLO: Best place to catch a gig?
FT:
The Roundhouse in Camden – fabulous music venue without the sticky floors and sweatiness.

LLO: Best place to spend a Sunday afternoon?
FT:
A leisurely (sometimes hungover!) walk down the river followed by a big Sunday lunch at The Sun Inn at Barnes with the newspapers.

LLO: Best museum or gallery?
FT:
The V&A, Knightsbridge – great temporary exhibitions and fabulous permanent collections; you always discover something new everytime you go.

LLO: Best London magazine, newspaper or website?
FT:
The Evening Standard – even better since it became free!

LLO: If you were to dress up as one of the tube station names for a costume party, which would you be?
FT:
My housemates and I once covered ourselves in leaves and green face-paint and went to a Tube station party as “Green Park” – we left foliage all over South West London that night!

LLO: Best time of year in London?
FT:
Summer – Wimbledon tennis, Pimms outside the pub and afternoon’s lying in a park somewhere.

LLO: What would you change about the city if you had the power to do so?
FT:
Make more of the centre pedestrianised, and maybe create a two-speed pavement system, so people who are late for work don’t get stuck behind lost tourists!

Thanks Flora!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.