From Absent Friends to This is Home: Your Culture Guide to May

Do - Howard Hodgkin: Absent Friends | National Portrait Gallery. Absent Friends is the first exhibition of portraits by Howard Hodgkin (1932-2017), one of Britain’s greatest artists. Hodgkin’s paintings are characterised by rich colour, complex illusionistic space and sensuous brushwork. The role of memory, the expression of emotion, and the exploration of relationships between people and places are all fixations. The exhibition surveys Hodgkin’s development of a personal visual language of portraiture, which challenges conventional forms of representation. Until 18th June 2017. 

  Howard Hodgkin  -  Going for a Walk with Andrew.

Howard Hodgkin - Going for a Walk with Andrew.

See - Loewe Exhibition | Liberty. To coincide with London Craft Week, Liberty will host a pop-up showcasing LOEWE: This is Home, direct from Salone de Mobile, Milan’s International Furniture Fair. Curated by LOEWE’s creative director Jonathan Anderson, the exhibition will house a category spanning collection of inimitably designed products, each obscuring the lines between decorative and functional. Coalescing inspiration from various art disciplines, the display offers an exploration of novel forms for the interior, articulated through a mix of materials, hands, techniques and cultural references. 2nd - 21st May 2017.  

Eat – Clarette | Marylebone, London - The heiress of the renowned Chateaux Margaux estate has just opened Clarette, the ultra-chic three-storey wine bar in Marylebone. The wine list in predominantly French, though there are wines from around the world so there is certainly something for everyone. There is also a selection of sharing plates available to complement the wines. 44 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HS. 

Read - Ibiza Bohemia | Assouline. From roaring nightlife to peaceful yoga retreats, Ibiza’s hippie-chic atmosphere is its hallmark. This quintessential Mediterranean hot spot has served as an escape for artists, creatives, and musicians alike for decades. It is a place to reinvent oneself, to walk the fine line between civilization and wilderness, and to discover bliss. Ibiza Bohemia explores the island’s scenic Balearic cliffs, its legendary cast of characters, and the archetypal interiors that define its signature style.

Visit - London Craft Week | London. This annual event showcases exceptional craftsmanship through a journey-of-discovery programme featuring hidden workshops and unknown makers alongside celebrated masters, famous studios, galleries, shops and luxury brands. 3-7 May 2017. Full programme at: http://www.londoncraftweek.com

#SustainableCities May 2017 Guide: Keeping on the Pulse of Milan's Treasures

Curated by Katrin Kaurov

In our modern world of chaotic, fast-paced rhythms, there is one nation that still embraces il dolce far niente - the sweetness of doing nothing. Italians have mastered the art of slow lifestyle even in a business-oriented fashion and design capital, Milan. A true Milanese knows when to disconnect from the virtual, fast-paced world and embrace being fully present with all senses attuned to the moment. Whether it embodies zipping an ice-cold Spritz at an aperitivo in the bohemian district of Navigli, or an unhurried window-shopping stroll in the luxury district of via Montenapoleone, it's all about taking in the beauty of the city's cherished treasures. Running out of unique ways to wind down in Milan? Grasp the beauty of on-the-spot meaningful moments with our Culture Guide to May.

ART BOOST FOR THE SENSES — The highly anticipated “LOVE.Contemporary Art Meets Love” which travelled from Rome to Milan’s Museo della Permanente is curated by Danilo Eccher. It features 39 masterpieces dedicated to the expression of love, taking you on a deeply emotional journey. The contemporary art exhibition spotlights Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann and Francesco Vezzoli among others, enabling you to compare and contrast different visions of love’s fairytale.

 Tracey Emin - My Forgotten Heart. 

Tracey Emin - My Forgotten Heart. 

GOOD ENERGY SPOT - Missing the edge in the elegant and sophisticated capital of Lombardy? There is an alternative East London vibe in Lambrate Design District. Situated in the hipster district nearby artists’ lofts, exhibitions and installations, East Market Milano brings together indie music, vintage designer clothes, old vinyls, multicultural street food and extravagantly dressed people. Taking place on the third Sunday of each month on 600 sq., the Brooklyn-type creative energy of the avant-garde market will leave you spiritually nourished.

 East Market Milano. 

East Market Milano. 

FOR RECHARGING THE TASTEBUDS - Considered as the most “instagrammable” café in Milan, Macha Café, situated just a few steps away from Corso Garibaldi, offers a Japanese-Scandinavian fusion with a twist. Everything in the menu includes green macha - the Japanese superpowder notorious for unbelievable health benefits. The healthy menu ranges from filling (and incredibly photogenic) macha-avocado burgers to sushi bowls and delicate green chia puddings topped with macha for good. Be ready for a buzzing live queue to secure a spot in the new it-place!

 Macha Café

Macha Café

SHOP FOR A GOOD CAUSE - An exclusive shopping marathon will take place nearby Moscova from 13-16 May, with a mission to fundraise for underprivileged children. The event called ‘Profit No Profit’ Haute Couture Shopping features more than 90 high-end brands donating their current season’s collection of clothing, bags and other accessories for charity. The items will be sold at discounted prices up to 80% and all the profit will be granted to “Associazione per il Bambino Nefropatico Onlus” and “Panda Onlus.”

 Via Lincoln. 

Via Lincoln. 

STROLL AWAY THE WEEKEND - One of Milan’s best-kept secrets is via Lincoln, just a few steps away from the business district of Porta Nuova known for its skyscrapers and futuristic buildings. The picturesque neighbourhood via Lincoln, which grew out of the idea of having a garden city with small colourful houses, resembles an extraordinary fairy tale. Take a long stroll in the tranquility of the Rainbow District with its tiny gardens full of fruit trees and flowerbeds.
 

SUSS UK: Imagine a World Where Fashion is Fair...

SUSS UK proudly announce a Kickstarter campaign for its upcoming pop-up concept store, promoting a sustainable lifestyle with ethical, environmentally and human friendly brands. Founded by two fashion industry veterans, SUSS UK are concerned about the irreversible damage being caused by our excessive levels of consumption. In just one year, the clothes discarded in the UK alone could fill Wembley stadium, the equivalent of 1.5 million tonnes of landfill every 365 days. 

The aim of the Kickstarter is to create a state of the art concept store open throughout September, stocking brands from across the globe including womenswear, menswear, kids-wear, homeware, beauty and food and drink, whereas offering an entire lifestyle not just a fad. What makes this pop-up different, however, is what it offers an experience beyond the shop floor. A series of talks will run throughout, with industry heavyweights giving insight into their sustainable life, whilst interactive workshops will give consumers a hands-on experience.

Savant spoke with the founders duo, Emma Grace Bailey and Abigail Grainger. 

What is SUSS UK in a nutshell?

SUSS UK is a start-up that aims to help change attitudes towards consumption by providing insight into the destructive nature of the fast fashion industry, inspiring people to buy better by providing access to sustainable alternatives that remain as stylish their high street counterparts. We love fashion, but we love our planet too. 

How does your professional background link with establishing SUSS?

Both of us have worked in the fashion industry now for a collective 20 or so years, Abi as a designer for the high street and Emma as a journalist, and so we have first hand experience of the inner workings and the very real need for change to prolong the industry that we love. 

What inspired you to take action and create your own start-up? 

Combining education and access, we're not just a shop trying to sell yet another fashion trend, and instead focus heavily on creating inspiring and insightful talks and workshops with some of the industry's most forward-thinking pioneers, teaching people about the devastating effects of fast fashion that are so often hidden away. Greater knowledge allows for more informed decisions and we truly believe that people are becoming more actively engaged in how they can help make a difference, no matter how small it might be. 

“Sustainability is not a trend. It is a necessary step which the fashion industry must take for the future of our planet. All consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re buying.” 

What are the main prospects and values represented by you?

Raising awareness is our main driver - the more people know about the issues caused by excessive consumption, from the start of the supply chain right through to the end with how we choose to wash and dispose of our garments, the more hope we have of making a positive difference.

We value honesty, transparency and the right intentions, values we instill into everything we do.

What are the different industries you aim to connect?

We want to offer a complete sustainable and holistic lifestyle, bringing together fashion, beauty, food and drink and even personal care, showing that with the smallest of changes we can make our every day life that little bit more conscience. But it's not just about what we buy. We are also dedicated to providing people with little tips and tricks that they can adopt on a daily basis to help make a difference.

Our Sustainable September tips series last year on Instagram saw beautiful illustrations depicting simple steps, such as taking the stairs rather than the lift or only hanging one item of clothing on each hanger so you know exactly what you own. We also celebrate people's efforts with our #isusseditout social media campaign - where we encourage people to take a photo of themselves holding up our hashtag, post it to Instagram and tell us how they're working towards a more sustainable life. 

What can we look forward to at the first pop-up event on April 8th? What brands will be represented?

Our first pop-up promises to provide a truly immersive offering that will enable visitors to not only support the super cool and sustainable brands we have on board in our store, but also actively participate in leading discussions about the future of the industry, the issues it causes from crop contamination to water scarcity, and hear from people that have been inspired to change their way of life in a bid to help counteract these effects.

In the store, we will showcase a carefully curated selection of stylish and forward-thinking brands from the likes of Kowtow, Ono Creations, Auria Swimwear and Kind. We want to change the way people view sustainable product by presenting it in a way that is exciting, design-led and on trend, which is why we are collaborating with a top set designer to help create a concept store that is an experience in itself. 

"We are very aware of the need to take a step back - not only to gain perspective but to bring a sense of calm into the craziness." 

What is your personal relationship with fashion?

Our personal connection to fashion goes right back to university days with both of us attending UAL, where we fell in love with the creativity, energy and beauty of the fashion world. Through this relationship it became clear to us that the issue of sustainability was only growing, and reactionary action wasn't coming quickly enough.

If you had to bring out your main concerns about the fast fashion industry, these would be...

We currently live as though the world is ours to own, but we are only tenants and we need to leave this planet how we would like to find it. Our fast fashion culture isn’t helping, and the secretive nature of the industry is only making it harder for consumers to realise the impact it has on our environment.

What is your personal relationship with meaningful living?

Living in London it's so difficult to disconnect and slow down - the fashion industry is fast-paced and as a result our lives are too. We are very aware of the need to take a step back - not only to gain perspective but to bring a sense of calm into the craziness. 

Although sustainability is trending, why do you think there is still very little awareness about sustainable fashion? How can we make it more visible and appreciated?

It's because sustainability is trending that it's not being taken seriously by the everyday consumer. Trends are fleeting - if people don't connect with them or understand them they're ignored as another one will be along in a moment. This cannot happen with sustainability. 

This isn't to say, however, that we should be condemning high street brands, but instead lets draw attention to the practices they already have in place to be more sustainable, and highlight the changes they plan to make for the future. Lets be more transparent about what they do and don't do, let's ask more questions. 

At present, the consumer associates the word with design that isn't stylish, that isn't cool, that isn't desirable. This isn't true, but until the brands that combine both style and sustainability get more attention and exposure - outside of the circle they currently live in - this perception won't be easy to shift. 

Fashion With a Conscience: Kickstarter Pledge Party:

Saturday, April 8th 2017

7.30pm-22.30pm @Stunt Dolly Salon, 582 Kingsland Road, Dalston Junction, E8 4AH

You can support the cause here

 

Alpha Shadows: Cornucopia of Far Eastern Design in Peckham, London

The scarcity of garments of Far East origin available in the UK inspired Tom, founder of Alpha Shadows, to start catering a cornucopia of contemporary Japanese design for fellow seekers of Far Eastern impeccable excellence. In his concept store in Peckham, London, built according to his own vision, a slow-paced shopping experience awaits admirers of the finest Japanese porcelains and jeans, whereas even the odd lost wanderer is guaranteed to leave with a few new Far Eastern founds in hand… 

  Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Tell us more about your background. 

Before the shop, I was camera crew in the film industry. I specialised in Stop Motion Animation, which involves a lot of waiting around, so between shots I started looking at ever-obscure clothing brands on indecipherable websites. 

There came a point when I just had to go to Japan — a country I'd long wanted to visit — to see these clothes in person, but also experience the culture, the food and the country.  On my first trip there, I wasn't especially thinking about starting a shop, more about filling my belly, my mind and my suitcase...

What led you to starting Alpha Shadows?

Once there, the penny started to drop. There were some great brands I was a fan of that were simply impossible to find anywhere outside of the Far East, and I couldn't understand why they weren't. I decided I didn't want to be sitting here in 2 or 3 year’s time, when such and such a brand was picked up by a UK, European or even U.S. shop and thinking, 'I should've done that!'. I was equally inspired by incredible retail environment over there; the whole experience is so well considered and executed. I came home with my mind made up about what I should be doing with my life!

Three of my big passions in life are film, clothing and cricket, and I never had the talent to be a cricketer. A big part of me misses working in stop motion and there's every chance, if I'd never made the journey to Japan I still would be, but after that first visit I knew what I really wanted to do.

How did you grow interest in Japanese fashion to begin with?

In my early teens I was really into skate brands and whilst my local town had a pretty decent skate shop, I always wanted some shoes or hoody that I knew I wouldn't see someone else wearing. This was in the late nineties/early noughties when the Internet was still in its infancy. I'd find myself on a website for a shop in the U.S. that had the thing I'd never seen anywhere else. As my sartorial 'persuasions' changed and developed, the habit of always looking further afield continued. 

At some point I got my first pair of ‘Made in Japan’ selvedge denim jeans (I'd hazard a guess that for many people, like myself, it all started with a pair of Japanese denim). There was something about the quality and attention to detail, even on something so simple in many ways, as a pair of jeans, that was just better in every way to any I'd owned before. This realisation that maybe they do everything a bit better quickly expanded beyond that pair of jeans. Obviously there is incredible clothing made all over the world, but what I found over there, as well as its scarcity, really appealed to me.

"From the fabric to the stitching to the buttons and the zips, it's about either sourcing or developing what they feel is the ideal component for that item, rather than the cheapest and quickest to produce."

  Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

What was the one most important thing you kept in mind when starting Alpha Shadows?

The most important thing at the beginning and always will be is to be different. I'm happy to admit that there's a handful of brands we stock that have a few other stockists outside of the Far East. In the grand scheme of things they're still pretty niche, but not that hard to find with a quick google search, but nonetheless, brands I'm a big fan of and wanted to have in the shop since day one. People might query how this makes us different and what I hope people see is that the majority of brands we stock are very, very tricky to find outside of their home country. When customers see the brand mix, I hope they appreciate the difference we attempt to offer vs. other retailers. The most important thing is visitors love the clothes or footwear or ceramics, but alongside that also feel like they've discovered something new and different. This is as important to me now, as it was at the start and will continue to be.

"I was equally inspired by incredible retail environment over there [in Japan]; the whole experience is so well considered and executed. I came home with my mind made up about what I should be doing with my life!"

  Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

  Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Why is Japanese fashion so hard to get hold of in the UK?

You may be able to find a coat by a certain Japanese brand on a website in Japan, but the site is in Japanese and even if and when auto-translate works, it is unlikely the brand will ship abroad.  While there are a very small number of sites that do offer some international shipping, it has only begun to happen fairly recently.

How important is sustainability for the designers you represent?

In terms of sustainability, I can't speak for each brand directly, but what I can say is the materials used are the very core of the brands' philosophies. It's what defines their clothing and, as a by-product of this ethos, they source the best fabrics and dyes rather than the cheapest, which in turn usually carries little regard for the environment and the people that make them.

Your branding is eye-catching and unique. What influences did you consider when creating the visual identity for the web shop?

I was pretty clear about what I didn't want rather than what I did, so much of the influence came from what I thought was wrong, rather than what I thought was right. I sketched out a few ideas for the logo and left this is in the far more capable hands of a designer, who turned it into something that I liked the minute I saw it.  It had to be clean and simple, but also unique and recognisable. This 'design philosophy' and this ethos I hope remains consistent with both the website and physical store. I didn't want to be too clever — the focus is to have a site that is usable with a well-presented collection, as well as clear, simple and honest product information.

Considering the designers and brands you represent in your store, what perhaps unites them?

What unites the brands we work with is a desire to make the best product they possibly can. From the fabric to the stitching to the buttons and the zips, it's about either sourcing or developing what they feel is the ideal component for that item, rather than the cheapest and quickest to produce. Some of the products I sell couldn't be more varied; there is denim created on antique looms and hand-woven sweaters, but also jackets with heat bonded seams, made from some of the most technically advanced fabrics on the planet.  

"This this realisation that maybe they do everything a bit better quickly expanded beyond that pair of jeans."

Where do you source the brands?

It's down to a lot of research and a lot of tough decisions!  I'm always finding new designers and brands that I appreciate, but I always try to consider how they will fit in alongside the other brands we stock. I want every brand to stand out in their own way, but I don't want them to seem at odds with one another. Just because I love a particular brand, doesn't mean it's right for the shop.

Name a couple of your recent favourites.

They're all my favourites, because each in their own way are doing some brilliant things. What is of importance, though, is the fact that we support and stock some really special young designers and brands that are in my mind criminally underrepresented. So to give them a platform is something I'm particularly proud of. andWander, Meanswhile, Niuhans, and Salvy have all been around a few years and these are some of the brands I have a certain fondness for.

How have customers reacted to the physical shop vs web store?

The reaction to the physical shop has been overwhelmingly positive. I suppose because the building we are in is a little rough around the edges (it's well over a 100 years old, so hardly surprising!), people aren't really sure what to expect. When they come inside the reaction is usually something like, 'It's actually really nice in here, what an amazing space!'. That's obviously nice to hear, but more importantly, is the fact that a customer is more likely to spend thirty minutes or more in the shop, rather than three. I hope this means our customers are comfortable in the space, find it a relaxing and welcoming place to be and one in which we can have a chat about the clothes or anything else for that matter.  

You can't really transfer the 'vibe' of the physical space to the web store, so keeping things clean and simple was always the priority in this respect and our customers seem to appreciate this.  We're always looking to improve both shopping environments, but we want to do this gradually in a way that makes sense.

"What is of importance, though, is the fact that we support and stock some really special young designers and brands that are in my mind criminally underrepresented."

  Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Photo: Alex Reyto. 

Who is perhaps the stereotypical customer of yours?

Our customers are as varied and interesting as the brands we stock; so to describe a stereotypical customer is almost impossible! What I can say is that our customers are united by their appreciation for good quality and interest in discovering new things. Whether it's men or women, there's no specific age, they come from all walks of life and from all over the world.

What makes the niche brands you represent popular with your audiences?

As much as a something being 'rare' or hard to find with limited quantities, what ultimately matters is the quality of the product. The fabrics, the fit and the finishing are the things that customers appreciate and admire. One of the most rewarding things for me on a personal level is for a customer to purchase an item from a brand that is new to them and for it to then become their new favourite brand.

What are your plans with Alpha Shadows going forward?

That's a bit of a secret to be honest, but I'd like the to naturally evolve and develop. I'm very conscious of the importance of keeping the number of brands limited. This isn't because I think we should only ever carry a specific amount of brands, but because I don't want any brand we do stock to get lost amongst a sea of others. A trap I'm keen to avoid is focusing on brands just because they sell well for a couple of season; I don't think that's enough to keep it interesting. 

We're very fortunate to have built up a solid base of customers who I hope appreciate this longer-term vision. 

Visit the store:

Unit C1, Bussey Building, 133 Rye Ln, London, SE15 3SN

www.alphashadows.com