Sunday, 31 October 2010

The fashion for all things freaky

No matter whether it’s Halloween, have you noticed the tendency for artists, musicians and designers to want to shock their audiences?

A couple of months ago, Alice Cooper held a macabre evening of horror at the London Dungeon to choose freakish acts for his Halloween Night of Fear shows at the Roundhouse in Camden. The winners included a very unique ballet routine, where the dancer stuck needle-mounted feathers into her arms. Another winner was a cabaret style performer, who hammered a nail up her nose and put hooks with weights attached though her eyelids.

A further winner went one better – and used a drill to bore through his nose. Then there was a man who lifted barrels of beer using hooks through his arms, who also put his tongue in a mouse trap.

On the art and design scene, we’re continuing to see all manner of morbid fashion accessories and weird taxidermy, like Alex Randall’s Rat Swarm Lamp (as shown above).

The current focus on our mortality is fueling an obsession with death and disease. Medical curiosities, anatomical models, pickled body parts and freakish pathology inspired installations are increasingly being incorporated into the work of emerging artists and designers.

With this in mind, we thought we’d tempt you with our own freak of nature – a dicephalic, two headed teddy bear called Ted and Eddy that’s now available at ShopCurious, courtesy of our most curious friend Viktor Wynd and his Little Shop of Horrors. Just the thing to cuddle up to in bed.

Hope you don't get nightmares?

Do you?

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Halloween fashion horrors

What’s your verdict on the curiously unique Halloween outfits in my article over at The Dabbler today… even ShopCurious finds them rather scary.

Do you?

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Retro maps and dashing old dogs

You’ve probably noticed that psychogeography’s in fashion, but did I mention the psychogeography inspired designs by Fake London at ShopCurious? This really comfortable and easy to wear apron style dress, for instance, features a fabulous print of an antiquarian map and the English rose (and there's a scarf in the same fabric too).

Also just in are some new super-soft cashmere cardigans for men, featuring Fake’s trademark Union Jack logo. This cardie definitely qualifies as a timeless modern classic and is a great investment, as it’ll keep you warm for years to come. Something to consider for Fashion's Night In next Monday...

Talking of menswear, I recently produced some of my own DIY design men’s waistcoats, with suede at the front and vintage silk on the reverse side. One of these is made using retro tourist silk scarf fabric featuring a map of Italy. The simple waistcoat style, updated using upcycled offcuts of exotic fabric, looks flattering on everyone from cool young dudes to dashing old dogs.

Which reminds me of the typically quirky Fake London video, showing a British-looking dog getting up to all sorts of curious mischief. Come to think of it a book on the psychogeogaphy of dogs is rather a novel idea. A sort of four legged tour of trees and lamp posts… Might be rather amusing, don’t you think?

Do you?

Saturday, 23 October 2010

On psychogeography and walking in style

With half term week approaching, many of you are probably wondering how to get the kids out of the house and how to encourage them to be a little more active? Over at The Dabbler this week, I step back in time on a psychogeographic journey to the days when children enjoyed walking. And I've come up with a few novel ideas involving books and celebrities that may help to get children stepping out in style.

The latest trends from ShopCurious also indicate that lifestyle walks are an increasingly popular way of exploring fashion, art and design districts to find out what exciting new things are going on. Read today's Curious Trends article and you'll probably want to step out on your own psychogeographic expedition...

Do you?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Sweet but spooky retro treats

Did you know that Halloween is the second most commercially successful holiday next to Christmas? In the United States, Halloween candy sales average around two billion dollars annually.

I stumbled upon this old style American candy store on a recent visit to the States. Full to the brim with old fashioned varieties of sweets – plus retro memorabilia that included images of dead movie stars and celebrities like John Wayne, Elvis Presley and Ronald Reagan.

Never mind the ghoulish apparitions and skulls on display, I got a distinctly weird feeling about this store. The staff were very curious - and there was something decidedly eerie about the place. I started to imagine all sorts of horror film scenes, like candy store displays coming to life in a sort of Mexican Day of the Dead style procession.

And I was reminded of the Mexican style curiosities (called Die-a-ramas) by Blue at ShopCurious. There’s one curiosity box in particular - featuring a skull and the word ‘Muerte’ (death) - that’s made from a vintage sweet tin, decorated with found objects and macabre ephemera. If you’re looking for unusual gifts for Halloween, this is curiously creepy.

Go on, have a sweetie…

Will you?

Monday, 18 October 2010

Web of curious Halloween horrors

I spotted a huge variety of pumpkins for sale outside a supermarket in southern California the other day. The Cinderella pumpkins looked so perfect – like something out of a children’s cartoon. I wasn’t sure if these were $9.99 for each pumpkin, or per box? Though I can probably find out by checking the prices on the internet.

The web is a great source of information on everything to do with Halloween. Here you can learn how to carve the perfect Jack-O-Lantern, where to go, what to wear - and discover all manner of Halloween related ideas and curiosities.

By the way, I noticed there are some suitably spooky events going on in London, including the Ghost Stories Show at the Duke of York’s Theatre. However, those who are especially curious might like to dance the dance of death at the Last Tuesday Society’s 'A Danse Macabre' Halloween Ball on 29th October. Amongst the decadent delights on offer are a 'torture garden operating theatre' and The Urban Voodoo Machine. You’ll also be able to watch the iconic Empress Stah ‘suspended from her chandelier draped with Miss Havisham cobwebs, syringing out her own blood and drinking it…’ Mmmm.. most tasteful.

The dress code is ‘beautiful and damned’, so if you’re looking for a costume it’s worth considering some of the curiously unique accessories at ShopCurious. In fact, may I suggest this hand crafted corset-like, black leather spider’s web belt by Thea Cadabra?

Anyway, that’s enough advice from the web - I’m sure you’re more than able to spin the guests in your own seductively mysterious web of dark and delicious charm. Just remember, if you're not home before midnight, you might turn into a pumpkin.

Will you?

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The curious art of modern shopping

Funny how our style of shopping changes over time. A curious trend I’ve noticed is that markets are becoming much posher of late. This has a lot to do with creative types selling artworks, retro and crafts based products from stalls and pop-up shops in edgy locations.

In my column over at The Dabbler this week I also talk about the commoditization of art – now everyone seems to want a piece of it.

You might like to get yours for free by immersing yourself in Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern - except now you can only look and not touch. The piece has many symbolic meanings, including the overwhelming importance of 'health and safety'. The 15 million porcelain replica Sunflower seeds are supposed to remind visitors of the famines under Mao Tse-tung. But, above all else, they resemble a bed of human ashes.

Alternatively, and also full of symbolic meaning, is this Fake Modern t-shirt by Fake London, currently available at ShopCurious.

By the way, I’d love to hear about any enjoyable arty things you’ve seen or done lately. Do let me know if you’ve any recommendations.

Will you?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The curious art of camera-less photography

London is in a very arty mood this week. Perfect timing for the Victoria and Albert Museum to launch its new exhibition, Shadow Catchers: Camera-less photography - featuring the curious art of photography without a camera.

The show features the work of five leading artists and includes around 75 photographs that explore the simple and powerful effects of light and science - with results than often appear surreal, enigmatic or abstract.

Apparently, camera-less photography can be made using a variety of vintage techniques, the most common of which are the photogram, the luminogram and the chemigram. The exhibition flyer explains that “These techniques are sometimes used in combination. Many involve an element of chance.”

Hit or miss camera-less techniques were first explored by the pioneers of photography by blocking light, casting shadows on light sensitive paper, or chemically manipulating its surface. These sorts of experiments were rediscovered by 20th century artists, including Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy and revived by contemporary image makers in the past twenty years.

Anyway, to find out more about the various methods and what can be achieved by using camera-less techniques, simply pop down to the V&A, where the exhibition is open from today.

Accompanying the relatively recent works, The Photography Gallery is also showing a display of early photograms from the V and A’s collection, which just happens to be the oldest museum photography collection in the world.

Martin Barnes, the Senior Curator of Photographs at the V and A points out that the exhibition provides a welcome and “surprising alternative to increasingly mass-produced, digital camera imagery.” That being said, ShopCurious managed to sneak in a few shadow catching digital images of the museum foyer - along with these rather animated looking classical statues.

Judging from my initial look around, I'd say there's a lot more to camera-less photography than meets the eye. Definitely something worth investigating further...

Will you?

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mad hats or timeless turbans?

Yesterday my photograph appeared in the ‘What are you wearing?’ column of Sunday Times Style. I was wearing one of my curious hats – a Mad Hatter style creation that was made to my unique specification by talented milliner, Katherine Goodison. I was also wearing a fabulous pair of Vivienne Westwood mauve platform shoes. No, not on my head... at least not on that occasion.

I love theatrical headwear, but it’s not always practical to go out with a precariously balanced hoodoo of haberdashery on one's head. Of course, we’ve a fantastic array of hair accessories at ShopCurious, from simple one size headbands to rare, retro feather hats...

However, I wanted to offer the Curious Cognoscenti something really glamorous, yet also totally comfortable. So I used some DIY design to create these curiously dramatic turbans, which are upcycled from scraps of exotic vintage fabric, and embellished with flower corsages, jewels and feather trimmings. They're available on the website now too.

Turbans were very popular in the golden days of Hollywood. I was wondering if this was because the actresses usually wore wigs and wanted to cover their damaged hair? Turbans are really handy if your hair’s in a bit of a mess – I could certainly have done with one when the photo above was taken.

Turbans are also light to wear and the ones shown here could even be folded up and kept in a handbag, to jazz up an outfit as required.

They're pretty timeless too – and can work as part of a Bohemian casual look, or with more formal, arty attire.

Anyway, I hope you agree that not all hats are mad...

Do you?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Umbrella dilemma: Do real men use umbrellas?

It’s been particularly wet in Britain recently, but I sincerely hope you don’t need to use an umbrella this weekend. If so, please shake it dry before you bring it into the house…

According to Victorian etiquette, a man ‘may leave his umbrella and cane in the hall, but not his hat and gloves.’ It would be terribly embarrassing to be considered ‘an unpleasant caller just in out of the rain, whose overcoat and umbrella drips on the carpet.’

In the past there were strict rules relating to the use of umbrellas – one learned how to furl an umbrella properly, to hold the handle in the right hand, to grip the ferrule in the left, with folds lying neatly one over the other – and so on…

It used to be traditional for every City gent to carry an umbrella. But all that changed only a couple of decades ago.

Of course, some would argue that no real man would ever use, or even be seen carrying an umbrella. The Duke of Wellington was astonished when in 1913 Bayonne, officers of the Guards put up their umbrellas because it was raining. But the guards loved their umbrellas and eventually a tightly furled umbrella became part of the guards’ town and civilian uniform.

Men who are reticent to carry umbrellas, often believe them to be for wimps. They’d rather get wet. Anyway, for those who are happy to be be seen with them, here are a few of the current options available (unfortunately not from ShopCurious) if you happen to be shopping for an umbrella..

First, there's the fold up version, as modelled here by Steve from Style Salvage. By the way, Fulton is one of the best known UK manufacturers of this variety (Mr Fulton is a charming old gentleman too). But would a gentleman dare to be seen with such an accessory?

For the classic, retro-style black City umbrella best go to Fox (inventors of the steel framed umbrella),
or Briggs for this type of design (though these can also be very pricey ) The bamboo handled whangee looks by far the most stylish design to me..

There’s also the over shoulder version – perfect for country pursuits, not so sure about Henley Royal Regatta…

Another is the popular corporate or golfing umbrella, often featuring a straight rather than bowed handle - along with the ubiquitous logo.

For night, there’s an electric, an LED umbrella – or even the suitably high-tech wi-fi Internet version?

Or perhaps you'd prefer something a little more arty or colourful?

So, do real men use umbrellas? I can't seem to find a picture of David Beckham carrying one... Does that mean they’re not cool?  Let me know what you think on the subject of men's umbrellas. And what type of umbrella you prefer to carry, if any?

Will you?

PS Read more about the culture and philosophy of the umbrella over at The Dabbler today.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Fashion's golden age of theatrical excess

In recent decades we’ve experienced a resurgence of arty excess in the fashion world, and can probably all admit to the occasional theatrical indulgence when it comes to dressing up for an evening out. I hope, amidst everything you’re up of a day or an evening, you get a chance to visit the ‘Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Living the crazy life us Londoners do, I barely had time to whiz around the rooms – and this exhibition seems larger than most, with an awful lot to see. I’m not going to talk about the collections here, as they’ve been widely reviewed elsewhere - and there’s plenty of background information on the V and A’s own website. But I’d just like to point out a few things I noticed:

Firstly, the curator of the exhibition, Jane Pritchard seems to use the word ‘curious’ an awful lot. Perhaps she picked this up from Serge Diaghilev (variously known as a charlatan, devil, director, dictator, sorcerer, charmer and impresario) who believed himself to be much like the King of Spain,“I do nothing, but I’m indispensable, curious and elusive.”

Secondly, never mind the dancers, the creativity behind the scenes is responsible for the bulk of what’s on show here. Take the extraordinarily large and stunning backcloth for the 1926 production of the Firebird, for instance, which is said to be the largest single object currently on display at the V and A.


Thirdly, what this event showcases best is an amazing collection of costumes and illustrations for costume, advertising and set design by a whole host of world renowned artists and designers - including Matisse, Picasso, Bakst, Cocteau, Berard, Miro, Braque, Dali, de Chirico and even Chanel.

And, if that hasn’t whetted your appetite, here are few of the arty pieces currently on offer at ShopCurious, which bear more than a passing resemblance to some of the musuem's unique exhibits:

The collectable vintage silk kaftan coat above reminds me of the trousers worn by the Polovtsian Warriors in Prince Igor, as well as the costume worn by the Chief.

This embroidered Chinese silk dressing gown is vaguely reminiscent of Pablo Picasso’s costume for the Chinese Conjuror from Parade, which is apparently the most expensive costume ever purchased by the museum. There's also a costume for a Mandarin, that looks a little like another of our jackets.

I adore the stunningly simple, but very arty design by de Chirico (shown at the top of this post), which is slightly similar in style to our hand painted, swishy-skirted number. Of course, there are plenty of jewel embellished ballet tights too, just like the fancy pairs you’ll find on our website. And we haven’t even got on to the jewellery and headwear yet, but I’ll have to leave those for later…

It's possible to lose yourself in ballet's fantasy world at this exhibition, but don't get too carried away - I have a feeling that fashion’s golden age of excess may soon be coming to an end...

Do you?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Prince of retro filmstar style

I am and will continue to be a huge fan of Tony Curtis. I especially enjoyed watching him in cult 1970s series, The Persuaders. I can highly recommend his autobiography, American Prince, though was suprised this made only passing reference to his role as Danny Wilde.

The Persuaders is a showcase of '70s style, offering the utlimate in retro interiors, alongside fabulously cool and funky fashions. Above all, Tony Curtis seemed to be perfectly cast as the dashing and stylish American playboy, who'd worked his way from the slums of the Bronx to the international jetset.

What I loved most about Curtis was his individuality and flair. Apart from his obvious good looks and curiously charismatic manner, he had cultural and artistic interests that reached far beyond the film industry and Hollywood. His flamboyant personal style was a reflection of his larger than life personality, combined with his uniquely arty taste. Towards the end of his life he was usually pictured wearing a Stetson hat and one of his many cravats.

Amongst the old records I've got stored away is a 45 rpm recording of the original theme tune to The Persuaders by John Barry. I'd love to listen to this again, but am currently without a record player (as I've mentioned over at The Dabbler).

I'm afraid we don't have any for sale at the moment, either... but there's a rather special book about Hollywood stars, with some lovely old photos of Tony coming to ShopCurious very soon.

Keep a look out, or sign up for our monthly Curious Cognoscenti newsletter to be the first to hear of new arrivals to the website.

Will you?