Joe De Mennato has been a tailor since 1969. Working behind the scenes of the famous Savile Row, he has a top floor work space in the heart of Soho.
Creative Director and Producer Olly Cooper had the pleasure of meeting him to make a micro documentary about him and his work for Cricket Productions. He sent me a link to the video thinking I might be interested.
I am. It is beautifully shot and edited and fits in perfectly with what I want to achieve with LLO – which is looking at London from the view of people who live and work here, the secrets and hidden gems. I think Joe is probably one of those gems.
Newcomers to the city, Emily and Emily from the feminist art collective “The Two Emilys” are settling in to London life just fine (apart from all of those typical moving-to-London money woes we all experience for a while in the beginning). But they’re making themselves at home with £3 corner shop bottles of wine and taking advantage of London’s vast and varied free arts and culture scene. And in the meantime, they’re making videos about what it means to be a woman in the Western world today.
Read on for their thoughts on London life, their double take on 50 Shades of Grey and have a look at their video toward the bottom of the post – “Validate My Life” (Note – if watching at work, contains bits of nudity).
LLO:So you recently moved to London. How does it feel? E&E: Good, exciting and at times pretty terrifying. I think we are both buzzing from the city atmosphere and that there is so much art and culture for free. It’s great to be part of the rat race, rushing to work, reading the metro; we’re finding that quite interesting.
LLO: Where are you from originally and what’s been your biggest challenge or surprise in London so far? E&E: We are both from Plymouth, and then we studied in Reading together. Budgeting has been our largest challenge – we are living in a house with no living room and cupboard doors which don’t fit as a consequence.
LLO: Tell us a bit about yourselves as a “feminist art collective”. What does that mean exactly? E&E: Our work is essentially a social documentary, focussing on how young women behave within society now and how this relates to the concept of feminism, post feminism and what these definitions mean.
LLO: How long have you been collaborating as a creative duo and how did you come together in the first place? E&E: Last summer we were really disillusioned with our degree programme and lives in general. Once again there was a serious lack of money, and we took to drinking excessively together. We moaned a lot. We noticed how we sounded, the nature of our conversation, and started filming ourselves. It was an effective way of recording how young women relate to each other, producing material which we began to create satirical scripts from.
LLO: How do you go about devising a skit? What’s your method of putting your ideas into their final format? E&E: We take conversations that we are having and write them into a script, which forms very naturally. Then we set up a tripod and a microphone, get all our props together (many fancy dress places have been visited) and experiment with the dialogue.
LLO: You say you create a commentary on modern femininity. How do you think the definition has changed over the years to reflect women now? E&E: There so many rules for women which are supposed to define femininity. Due to the feminist movements in the 60’s and 70’s, freedom for the female gender has increased in western society. This has produced a self-policing environment. Women have become a driving force in the fashion and beauty industry, creating their own restrictions which define what it is to be feminine and attractive.. Consumer culture has created a market for everyone. There is so much choice, and such a pressure to be flexible; a flexible career, a varied social life, a varied vibrator collection, a varied wardrobe… which results in this kind of voluntary neurotic behaviour amongst young women; we constantly need approval and are always partaking in extensive self analysis.
That’s what our films try and show. We are aware of our own voluntary exploitation into consumerism; it’s comfy, and it’s easier to think about buying shampoo than about genital mutilation.
Empowerment and repression are now blurring, everybody’s perspective on defining the two terms is different. Take 50 Shades Of Grey – is it a) ‘empowering’ to read porn in public as a woman, or b) encouraging ‘repressive’ relationships, as the storyline encourages the excitement of a relationship where the man has the majority of sexual power and control?
LLO: Can you tell us about any other Londoners you know who are talking about it publicly or places in London where there is an environment that caters to open conversation about what it means to be a woman today? E&E: We feel there has been a big feminist boom lately; Waterstones is a great environment which caters to open conversations about women. Caitlin Moran’s How to be A Woman is a bestseller. Living Dolls by Natasha Walter and One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power are also fantastic reads.
LLO: Do you do live shows or focus more on videos? E&E: Videos. We have tried live performance a few times. When we film together we lose all of our inhibitions producing an edited video diary. This way we can produce a film which would have a higher impact than a live performance, which we feel can sometimes come across as insincere. However, we do like having a live audience to view our films.
LLO: What is your favourite piece so far and why? Share a clip with us? E&E: Validated? As it seems like the final product of a lot of hard work.
LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery so far? E&E: The private view circuit and this evening it’s the 2.99 bottle of wine from the off license around the corner.
Coincidentally, Where The Art Is happened to be at Columbia Road Flower Market the same day I took those pictures that I posted on the blog a few days ago. Rather than photos, Where The Art Is captured a great little video that really picks up the vibe of the market and has shared it in the LLO Flickr pool. You’ll notice a lot of the same characters that were in my photos including the lovely fox doing a bit of embroidery in the window.
Did any of you manage to go last weekend? It wasn’t exactly ideal with the cold and the rain creeping back in. I spent my Sunday shopping…!
It’s like floating through a film, life unfolding in slow motion. The song playing in my ears the only sound I can hear. It pulses through me like blood. It becomes me. I am invisible, a silent sound, something inexpressible. I notice others who have blanketed the sounds of this city with thick sheets of music, a personal soundtrack to reality. The accountant in his Savile Row suit; the teenager with his Doc Martins and black dreadlocks; the girl with the skinny jeans and mustard yellow beret. The tiny ear buds, the giant headphones, the knowing glances and shy smiles. We seem to think we’ve figured out the secret.
Without screeching trains, beeping cars, tube announcements, slamming doors, phone conversations and sirens, the little things stand out more. Other senses perk up. I notice the smell of the chai latte the woman next to me on the tube is holding, her lilac nail polish chipping at the edges. I notice freckle patterns and green-flecked eyes. And the city flies by through the windows at the speed of light.
This is that London feeling. You know it, don’t you? It’s rare, but magical. Usually it happens while walking across the Thames, down the South Bank or through Trafalgar Square. I find myself thinking… I’m in London. I live here. This is my city. I work here. I sleep here. I play here. I ride this train every day and how many people in the world would love to be able to say that? It’s that feeling of pride, that I know this city inside and out. A feeling of humbleness that there is so much I have yet to learn and explore. But I can recommend places to eat, things to do. I know to stand on the right and walk on the left. It’s a reminder never to take it for granted.
And I smile to myself, to my thoughts and to the music. And I feel happy because I’ve appreciated something simple. I feel happy because this is London.
Just wanted to share this video with you that Londonist pointed out the other day: