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August 31 2014

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25 posts tagged "Louise Gray"

Why I Loved Louise Wilson: Katharine K. Zarrella Remembers What It Was Like to Be Taught by the Fearsome, Brilliant, and Irreplaceable Fashion Educator

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Louise WilsonI woke up to a devastating e-mail from Roger Tredre, my Central Saint Martins graduate tutor, this morning. “Louise Wilson has died,” read the subject line. “This is a great shock,” the message continued. “A very sad day.” Wilson, the revered Central Saint Martins Fashion MA course director, passed away in her sleep on Friday night. She was 52.

It is a sad day. Not only for the Saint Martins students fortunate enough to have been yelled at by the at once feared and adored professor, but for the fashion industry as a whole. Wilson, who was known to have some, let’s call them “unorthodox” teaching methods (screaming profanities was the least of it), helped mold many of the most brilliant design talents of the last twenty years. Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Jonathan Saunders, Mary Katrantzou, and more all at one point stood (and probably cried) in her whitewashed office, the walls of which were covered in thank-you notes from graduates and heavy-hitting designers like Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz. He was a friend of Wilson’s who often came to speak at the school at her request. Such was the irreplaceable educator’s influence in the industry: While she was a force to be reckoned with—and a terrifying one at that—she was beloved by alums and movers and shakers alike. No one said no to Louise Wilson—not because they were afraid to, but because they didn’t want to.

I studied on the journalism pathway of the Central Saint Martins Fashion MA from 2010 until my graduation in 2012. And while I refused to admit it at the time, I was scared shitless of Louise. I remember the first day of my two-year stint at the school, when she walked into a room filled with aspiring journalists and designers and invited them to ask her questions about the course and the industry in general. It took a good while for anyone to come forward, thanks to Wilson’s famously intimidating presence. Eventually, I sheepishly raised my hand and inquired about her thoughts on a pair of American designers who were particularly hot at the moment. She leaned on the desk, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Not much,” before taking the next question.

That was Louise’s way, both in conversation and education. She was refreshingly blunt, funny in the borderline offensive way that only the English can be, and had the ability to teach you more about not only fashion, but life in one terse sentence than most could in a decade. All eight of the students on my course initially thought Louise hated us. And who knows, in the beginning, she may have. She told us that we were “visually blind,” that we spat out too many words without saying anything, and, as a classmate noted today, she taught us that we needed to go to the design studio, not just the classroom, to learn how to be good fashion journalists.

I’ll never forget when I walked into her office to present the first draft of our class newspaper, The Central Saint Martins Journal, which was set to be distributed during the Fall ’12 CSM graduate show at London fashion week. Needless to say, she had her reservations (we were visually blind, after all) and wanted to ensure our work was fit to sit alongside that of her designers. At first, it wasn’t. She told me that the draft looked like a “venereal disease,” and proceeded to scream about writers’ lack of attention to aesthetics and the poor state of journalism for a solid forty-five minutes before dismissing me. After weeks of deliberating and arguing, the class decided that Louise’s disapproval only made us want our paper more.

She was surprised to see us back at her office door two months later, a second draft in hand. With a little guidance, we finally got her stamp of approval (we weren’t allowed to use any images, and our cover was blank, but that’s beside the point), and the final result still sits on my bookshelf. At the CSM show’s after-party, Louise gave me a hug, put her hands on my shoulders, and said, “Did you see it? It was on the seats!” before walking up the stairs of the since-shuttered London outpost of Le Baron nightclub.

That’s another thing about Louise. She didn’t wash her hands of you after you stepped off campus. Until her death, she attended many of her students’ fashion shows—I’d always see her backstage in London offering praise and, sometimes, advice to the likes of Louise Gray, Richard Nicoll, and Simone Rocha. She may have tortured them at Saint Martins, but she was there for them until the end. “She was a truly brilliant teacher because she showed students how to make ordinary work into extraordinary work, and took them on the journey with her,” recalls Tredre. “It was tough love all the way with Louise, but that tough love was, she believed, the best preparation for the real world.”

But it wasn’t just that Louise wanted her students to be prepared for the unforgiving beast that is the fashion industry—she wanted them to put their whole selves, and their best selves, into each stitch of their designs. She hated unnecessary flash; privileged, unwarranted arrogance; and, most of all, laziness. Nothing but heartfelt, sweat-infused perfection was allowed on the CSM fashion week runway. And given the caliber of collections we’ve seen year after year, her high standards paid off.

While I wasn’t as close to Louise as her design students, I still can’t begin to list all that she taught me. We don’t have the bandwidth. One thing I will say, though, is that her approach was flawless. For instance, during my final year, I needed to interview her for a story. She thought my questions were absolute crap and, as punishment, gave me only one-word responses. (Even so, they were some of the best answers I’ve gotten in my journalistic career.) Ever since, when preparing for an interview, I think to myself, Would Louise answer this? before settling on a query.

“There’s a phrase, ‘All fur coat and no knickers,’” Louise told me during a 2011 interview for Style.com. “Saint Martins has always focused on the knickers.” With that in mind, I’d like to say thank you, Louise, for helping me, and so many others, find our knickers.

Photo: Dave M. Benett/ Getty Images

Lulu In Love

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Lulu & Co. Spring '14

Lulu Kennedy has David Lynch on her mind. “I am probably David Lynch’s biggest fan, and ‘Mysteries of Love’ on the Blue Velvet soundtrack really got me thinking about love. In fact, love is an ongoing theme for me,” she said. Hearts, polka dots, and roses then—symbols of love for the Lulu & Co. designer—flow throughout her Spring ’14 lineup, which debuts exclusively here. The “Co.” bit in this collection comes from the Scottish queen of quirk Louise Gray, whom Lulu calls the “ultimate vibrant cool girl, with a cult following and ferocious ideas.” That ferocity appears in a dress with clumps of sequins and heavy embroidery in the shapes of hearts and arrows. For a lilac dress with mint green metallic foil details, Grey blows up a photo of a rose, tears it up by hand, then rearranges the pieces as a collage. The effect is abstract, fragmented, and almost tribal. Continue Reading “Lulu In Love” »

Barbie Loves London

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Barbie's by Sister by Sibling, Fred Butler and Nasir Mazhar

If the past few years are any indication, Barbie has a thing for young London—designers, that is. Louise Gray, Roksanda Ilincic, and Gareth Pugh have all made a special little something for the blonde and her boyfriend, whether it be Dalston-appropriate duds or, in Ilincic’s case, a London dream house. Now, in celebration of Selfridges’ new fourth-floor toy shop, which opens this week, emerging Brit-based brands Sister by Sibling, Fred Butler, and Nasir Mazhar have each dressed five one-off dolls. Sibling’s Cozette McCreery, Sid Bryan, and Joe Bates designed a gaggle of knit looks (above, left), while Butler turned out a series of quirky, sculptural ensembles (above, center). Mazhar created some hard-edged streetwear styles—we especially enjoy the bucket hat and sweat suit getup he fashioned for Ken (above, right). All fifteen dolls will be on display—and for sale—in the toy shop’s Barbie department.

Barbie Goes Abroad

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It would seem that Barbie and co. can’t get enough of the London fashion scene. After receiving a rainbow dye job from East London salon Bleach, as well as a graffitied makeover from Louise Gray, last year, and sending Ken to get some new Gareth Pugh threads in 2009, Barbie has tapped Roksanda Ilincic and Nick Knight’s Showstudio to design her new virtual Dreamhouse. Considering Ilincic, who created a frock for Barbie four years ago in honor of her fiftieth anniversary (left), has a background in architecture, we assume she’s more than qualified for the job. Introduced in 1962, Barbie’s Dreamhouses have, of course, traditionally had a Malibu twist, but the new mini-mansion—set to be revealed later this summer—will pull inspiration from London’s gritty streets. Expect a harder, more subversive edge than the previous plastic abodes, but, knowing Ilincic, no less pink.

Photo: Courtesy Photo

Gwendoline Christie: Glamazon Warrior

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Most know Gwendoline Christie for her role as the armor-clad Brienne of Tarth on HBO’s fantasy smash Game of Thrones (get ready, the new season kicks off March 31). But when Ms. Christie’s not running through a Westeros battlefield, she’s a full-fledged member of London’s tight-knit fashion pack. You might find her cheering (and we mean cheering) at a good LFW show, squeezed into the front row between Princess Julia and Lulu Kennedy (Christie never misses the runways of close friends like Roksanda Ilincic, Louise Gray, Giles Deacon, and Henry Holland, just to name a few), and the bulk of her GOT press wardrobe was courtesy of pal Richard Nicoll. The six-foot, three-inch actress actually got her start modeling in student shows at the London College of Fashion and Central Saint Martins. “I feel quite passionately about London Fashion,” Christie told Style.com. “I think some of the most creative and interesting and brilliant people I know are involved in fashion, and I’m lucky enough that they’re my friends.”

Naturally, however, playing a die-hard warrior will have an effect on one’s look. “I had to cut my hair for Game of Thrones, which I found really hard. I find it quite embarrassing to admit that, but I think a lot of a woman’s femininity is tied up with her hair. Afterward, I had quite a big style overhaul,” says the actress, noting she used to study film-noir stars and covet a “sex bomb” Marilyn Monroe aesthetic. “Now, I look to people like Jean Shrimpton, Katharine Hepburn, Twiggy, and Greta Garbo in her more masculine stage.” Christie’s since embraced her ultra-androgynous makeover (pretty on trend, if we do say). “I think that’s more interesting—like a modern reimagining of femininity.” Continue Reading “Gwendoline Christie: Glamazon Warrior” »