Riches to Racks

As published here: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/riches-to-racks-celebrities-as-designers/

Originally written: 23/10/2011

 

It was recently revealed that Jessie J is to design a range of tights for Henry Holland’s Pretty Polly collection. After I got over my initial annoyance (Henry – yay, Jessie – nay), it struck me that actually, it’s almost expected nowadays for celebrities to do clothing collaborations. A surprising amount have their own fashion houses. But aren’t they busy enough doing what they normally do for a living? How can they find time to take on jobs as creative directors too?

It’s kind of a given that most celebrities love fashion (with the amount of freebies they get, it’d be rude not to, right?). On a slightly grander scale than us commoners, they’re just people who love clothes. They’re invited to fashion weeks, sit front row, befriend the designers. So maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise when one announces they’re setting up her own fashion label. After all, if the years have given them insight into the industry, if it’s something they’re passionate about and can afford to fund – why not?

Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. label has been going for several years now, and shows alongside ‘regular’ designers at New York Fashion Week. In the past, the singer has claimed it was something she’d always wanted to do – in her No Doubt days, she’d often make her own stage costumes. For Stefani, passion is key.

Jay-Z’s Rocawear label was established in 1999, and each year it generates sales of around $700 million, with everything from childrenswear to accessories.  Though he remains CEO, Jay-Z sold the rights to Rocawear in 2007 for $204 million. So there’s money to be made if you’re savvy.

But for most celebrities, that’s probably not their first consideration. Perhaps they want to show that there’s more to them than what you see on TV or in magazines; or like Gwen, they simply have a love of making clothes.

The Olsen twins are well known world-wide for their hugely successful Mary Kate and Ashley film, TV and book franchise, as well as a clothing line for Wal-Mart. Aged twenty-five, they are now established fashion icons and run two fashion lines, high-end label The Row (this season featuring a £23,000 alligator backpack, if you’re interested) and lower-priced sister label Elizabeth and James, named after their siblings. In 2007, the twins were thought to have amassed around $100 million from their various enterprises. Not bad for former child stars.

For those not so keen on the catwalk, the high street presents an alternative. Some celebrities have taken to simply designing a few things for a retailer. Kate Moss’collections for Topshop over the past few years has yielded crazy queues outside stores, and some even-crazier bidding on eBay for those unable to obtain items from the greatly coveted collections. Women everywhere were battling for their own piece of Kate – but why?

The garments she designed seem to almost come with a ‘golden touch’, her own personal seal of approval, the kind of thing a non-celebrity label, or the retailer alone, can’t give. To own a Kate Moss Topshop dress is like having your very own piece of Kate’s style – not to mention this works out a lot cheaper than any of the catwalk celebrity designers. Prices for Kate’s clothes ranged from roughly £20-£150; Victoria Beckham, L.A.M.B. and The Row will set you back considerably more.

There’s no doubt the Kate Moss lines have been hugely successful, so does this mean we’ll be seeing more celebrities doing high street collaborations in the future? It’s one of the easiest ways to imitate their style without breaking the bank (if your elbows are sharp enough to fight off the crowds). As far as promotion for the store itself, announce a celebrity collaboration and the customers will come flooding in.

The Jessie J line is no exception – one of this year’s biggest stars, Jessie has done wonders for the tights trade by wearing all types of zany designs, including the original Henry Holland tights, a walking promotion of the trend for crazy legwear. But getting the celebrity in question to actually design the goods they’re trying to sell to you brings ‘celebrity spokesperson’ to the next level.

Clearly, fame carries weight in the fashion world, and it seems whether on the catwalk or on the high street, there’s always a market for a product with a celebrity’s name on it – no matter what the price tag.

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A Tale of Four Cities

As published here: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/fashion-week-round-up/

Originally written: 11/10/2011

While autumn may just have begun, the fashion world is already gearing up for spring/summer – aren’t they optimistic? The four major fashion weeks, which essentially dictate what we’ll be wearing next season, have just taken place. Fashion editors, photographers and bloggers have all meticulously recorded what they saw, and the stand has sorted through it all to bring you the highlights of each city.

NEW YORK: 

The DKNY show fell on the anniversary of 9/11, and the homeland influence was clear in this collection, from the red, white and blue florals, to the tailoring, which evoked ‘New York City chic’. Alexander Wang offered his (much more fashionable) interpretation of the American football jersey, succeeding in making sportswear acceptable streetwear. Ralph Lauren also took inspiration from US culture, as always, presenting a Great Gatsby-esque collection. Don’t be surprised if some of these looks make it into the upcoming film adaptation.

LONDON:

Everyone was talking (or rather sniffling) about Christopher Kane’s show, one which apparently moved the fash pack to tears! Brilliantly structured dresses were the order of the day here, with smatterings of florals alongside more subtle shades.  Spring’s predicted trend of animal prints ‘with a twist’ were shown by Mary Katrantzou, whose incredible designs went down a storm as usual. Meadham Kirchhoff put on a show that made whimsical, childish dressing strangely appealing; rainbows and smiling love hearts, here we come.

MILAN:

Bottega Veneta used a mixture of textures and bright colours to give a retro feel to their catwalk show. There were some rather… interesting… vegetable prints at Dolce and Gabbana (taking the produce theme a step further from Stella McCartney’s Summer 2011 collection). Continuing the slightly random print theme, Prada presented various car printed garments, including one leather skirt with a large hot-rod motif. Forget bananas, Miuccia has just given us the next cult print. Expect to see it everywhere come spring.

PARIS:

The City of Light brought plenty to talk about, from Sarah Burton’s mermaids at Alexander McQueen, to Commes des Garcons’ entire collection of white wedding-style dresses. Some, however, may be a tad outlandish for even the most tradition-defying bride. Karl Lagerfeld created an underwater paradise at the Grand Palais for Chanel. Pearly-white suits and iridescent sequinned jackets presented a different interpretation of the aquatic theme than previously seen. The accompanying siren song was provided by none other than Florence Welch, who got to take a bow with Karl himself at the end. Lucky girl…

 

 

Photographs © Vogue.co.uk; © CondéNetUK Limited 2011

Review: ‘America Give Up’

As published here: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/album-review-howlers-america-give-up/

Originally written: 22/01/2012

Have you heard? On January 16th the much-hyped band Howler released their debut album, ‘America Give Up’. The Minneapolis five-piece are hotly tipped to rocket to fame in 2012. Already, they’ve had dates supporting The Vaccines and next month they head over to the UK for their own headline tour. They made it to number 5 on the NME’s Top 20 shortlist of ‘New Bands You Must Hear’. It’s fair to say the music world is pretty buzzed about these guys. But do they make the grade? I listened to find out.

Opening song ‘Beach Sluts’ encapsulates their surf-rock vibe (and not just from the title). The rest of the album also delivers Howler’s summery escapist feel. No doubt they’ll be the soundtrack to the summer ahead. The Julian Casablancas-style vocals mingle with Beach Boys-esque harmonies; their inspiration seems to come from several musical styles and eras. Comparisons aside, the music has a hedonistic, carefree feel about it.

The ‘tales of booze and girls’ theme is always present, but in a different way than usual. Relatable stories of failed relationships and self-esteem issues unfold alongside rock-out riffs and rhythms to give a mix that is at times spacey and flowing, at other times punch-the-air anthemic. The music and its subject matter perfectly fit the summer mood, thoughts of which will surely drag us through the dark winter days and on to the beaches come May. The only thing I found is that, despite several listens, I’m still struggling to tell the songs apart. This becomes something of a problem when they get stuck in your head, as they undoubtedly will be. All in all, though, ‘America Give Up’ is an excellent debut, and a great album to kick off the year. Consider the grade officially made. Howler – welcome to the big leagues.

If you’re still not convinced, listen for yourself. They’re streaming the album at www.howlerband.com, where you can also download their song ‘Back of Your Neck’ for free.

Top picks: Beach Sluts, This One’s Different, Told You Once, Pythagorean Fearem.

You’ll like if you like: The Gaslight Anthem, The Strokes, The Vaccines, old-school rock ‘n’ roll, fun.

‘Review From…’ Arctic Monkeys, AECC, 13/11/11

As published here: http://www.stand-news.co.uk/arctic-monkeys-behind-the-bars/

Originally written: 18/11/2011

There’s no doubt that the Arctic Monkeys are well and truly back. Packing out arenas worldwide, featuring in NME every other week, inspiring a strangely obsessive fanbase on Tumblr… Yup, sounds like the lads from Sheffield who brought us the indie anthems of our teens have gone the distance. They tick all the boxes and have become bona-fide rock stars.

The anticipation at the AECC is palpable – it’s barely 7pm and already fans are jockeying for the best position at the front of the crowd. Bands like Arctic Monkeys don’t normally venture this far north, but tonight is special. Support band, The Vaccines take to the stage shortly before 8pm, and despite the vocals being quieter than they’d have liked, they do a brilliant job of whipping the crowd into a frenzy, storming through an edited version of their debut album, ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’. One fan in particular keeps calling out for ‘Family Friend’, but his calls go unanswered. The band don’t have enough time to play the 8-minute album-closer this evening. Nonetheless, their set is well received, more so than many support bands – probably due to the mainstream fame they’ve received in their own right.

Post-Vaccines set (if you’ll excuse the pun) the crowd grows restless as roadies set up for the night’s headline act. At long last, the strains of ‘Wild Thing’ are heard over the speakers and Alex Turner struts out on to the stage first, to wild cheers from the crowd. Judging from the average age of the audience, most have grown up to the music he and the other Monkeys have made over the years, so tonight many come face-to-face with their musical heroes. Alex and Jamie (Cook, guitarist) look sharp in leather jackets, and the whole band seem to have embraced the rock n’ roll persona ‘Suck It and See’, their latest album, exudes. Sadly Matt’s leather trousers are absent.

They launch straight into the album’s lead single, ‘Don’t Sit Down Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’, and the crowd launches its attack on… each other. Mosh pits open up for every song (even slower ones like this) and at times its a chore to move, as those behind pack forward despite there being nowhere else to go. But nobody really minds – Arctic Monkeys continue to play a setlist that seems to please everyone, there’s no absence of hits for those who came on a whim, and there’s a decent number of new album tracks – and ‘Evil Twin’, their latest B-side – to satisfy the more hardcore fans. My only quibble is that, in my opinion, they didn’t play the best tracks from ‘Suck It and See’: ‘Library Pictures’, ‘All My Own Stunts’ and ‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’ wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Within a few songs, they moved from ‘Brianstorm’ to ‘Black Treacle’, showing just how their sound has progressed over the years. ‘Pretty Visitors’ inspired one of the most surreal slow-moshes I’ve ever seen, and as the band launch into following track ‘This House is a Circus’, nothing could be more true. ‘Suck It and See’, the first song of the encore, had the crowd still, singing along, as did ‘Mardy Bum’. Closer ‘505’ inspired something of a mixed reaction – a pit opened up next to people huddling together emotionally, belting out the lyrics.

It seems that with Arctic Monkeys, anything goes. Any way you want to react to what’s happening onstage is fine by them; it’s crowd reaction that’s got them through all these years anyhow. It’s certainly brought Alex out of his shell – earlier gig footage shows him staring at the ground, presumably following the dust rolling by in front of the microphone, with minimal audience interaction between songs. Tonight, he provides the banter, and even delivers some moves (he did the Macarena and even executed a power slide at one point).

The band have a great time, the audience love it, and that’s what it all comes down to – one of the UK’s best bands, playing some of their best songs. There’s not much more you can ask for on a cold November night.

Live Review: Kasabian, AECC, 12/12/11

Originally written: 16th December 2011

Approaching the venue (ok, I ran, in the manner of a small child) I found I could little contain my excitement for this gig. The reason for this, however, was the support act. Miles Kane was 90% of the reason I even bought a ticket. It’s not that I don’t like Kasabian, it’s just that I’ve never really loved them, so much as I feel is sufficient to see them live without feeling like a fraud among the die-hards. Miles has been the soundtrack to my summer, and I felt it only right to show my appreciation in person, so I planted myself firmly at the front, with elbows ready to defend my territory.

Call me biased, but he was brilliant. Hopefully this tour has gained Miles more recognition, his solo debut Colour of the Trap is a rather underrated release this year. A newly-announced tour next year should also help him fully emerge from Alex Turner’s shadow and establish himself as an artist in his own right. His set moved through fast and slow songs, all with that distinct old-style rock ‘n’ roll sound. He even threw in a Jacques Dutronc cover. Altogether he met a great reception from the crowd, and at that point I would have been happy to leave.

My mind was changed when Kasabian took to the stage, opening with ‘Days Are Forgotten’. For a moment I was confused, I could hear singing but there was no sign of Tom Meighan (lead vocals). It turned out my poor positioning behind a speaker stack had hidden him from my view. There was no miming. From that first song, I realised how wrong I’d been to write off the band all this time- I was blown away.  The diversity of their sound is amazing, one minute you can be shouting along and rocking out, the next minute you’re being led through a psychedelic storm of sound. They translate their music from record to stage excellently, some bands omit parts, or just generally manage to mangle what on record sounded so good, but with Kasabian everything is there- what’s  recorded is recreated perfectly live. ‘ID’ slotted in nicely to the set- a very trippy, mostly instrumental song compared to the rest. ‘Take Aim’ was a definite highlight in my opinion- Serge (Pizzorno, lead guitar and backing vocals) took the lead and, well, I was enraptured. I’ll admit, the first time I heard the song properly was when I knew they would be playing it, but I thought it was excellent- despite not being able to remember the words.

Unlike Arctic Monkeys, my positioning on the barrier allowed me to actually watch the band, and appreciate the performance more, I think. Both Serge and Tom managed to get the audience going, but in their showmanship they are somewhat lacking. There was little banter between songs, clearly they prefer to let the music do the talking. Thankfully, this is something they have no problem with. Tracks old and new were well-received, but ones from West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum, their breakthrough third album, were the ones the audience were most responsive to.

I don’t normally really notice, but the stage effects were great. During ‘LSF’ a camera skimmed across the crowd, displaying audience members on the large screens. Every few seconds a photograph would be captured, and these end up on the Kasabian Facebook page, which is a brilliant idea in theory. However, logging on later to check where my photo was, I was met with a set of pictures which mostly show one group of people. Where are the rest of the audience? Where am I?! If anything, it’s a novelty, and a nice memento of the gig- for those five or six people. Surely whoever uploaded the pictures must have noticed the same people were in each one?

Despite the obvious oversight in failing to feature me in all my sweaty gig glory (come to think of it… Maybe it’s for the best there’s not a photo of me), Kasabian were a very pleasant surprise. I had expected to go and sing along to all the songs I knew, but I didn’t expect them to actually be… good. Scratch that, I didn’t expect to be absolutely blown away. Kasabian, I feel, have always been somewhat underrated- it took three goes for them to really break into the mainstream as much as their classmates, The Killers and Arctic Monkeys. But now they’ve done it, they’ve proved there’s no doubt they’re worthy of every piece of recognition they get, and that they can completely conquer any arena they set foot in.

Photographs courtesy of Emma Morgan

This is the sound…

Originally written: 30th December 2011

2011 has been quite the year. Many things have happened, a lot of changes have taken place but overall it’s been a brilliant year for me. Musically it was brilliant, too: old bands released new albums, and new artists made their way into my life. Below are some of the tracks that, for me, have stood out and defined this year.

Alex Turner- Piledriver Waltz (from Submarine): this is the better version I think, and makes the ideal soundtrack for a long stroll on the beach.

Arctic Monkeys- Evil Twin (B-side to Suck It and See): such a contrast to the A-side but I instantly loved this. It just astounds me that the band still have the ability to make every song a masterpiece.

Arctic Monkeys- All My Own Stunts: proof if it were needed that Alex’s lyrics are still on fire. This song has some of my favourite lines on the album.

Bon Iver- Towers: This isn’t usually the sort of music I listen to, and I can say I don’t like all of Bon Iver’s music but this track has a strange sort of appeal to it.

The Black Keys- Little Black Submarines: El Camino is just unbelievably fantastic, and this song jumped right out before I’d even listened to the whole thing. It inspires nothing but a very emotional sing-along.

Foo Fighters- White Limo: a hilarious video, and the perfect driving anthem. This was the song I drove to when I first passed my driving test. Though it’s a silver Peugeot…

Kasabian- La Fee Verte: this was perfectly placed in the album, and kind of took on a bit of a spacey Beatles feel. True evidence of the band’s diversity.

The Kills- Future Starts Slow: I was so excited for a new Kills album, and it was this one that sparked my full-blown obsession. A beautiful song from one of my favourite albums.

Knife Party- Internet Friends: the incredible ‘side project’ featuring Rob and Gareth of Pendulum- what’s not to love? Apart from the fact they’ve not played any Scottish dates (yet…)

Miles Kane- Come Closer: I completely fell in love with Miles’ solo album. He proved he could hold his own and completely won the Aberdeen crowd over as a support act to Kasabian.

The Strokes- Machu Picchu: the long-awaited return of Julian and co didn’t disappoint. Even though I wasn’t there, this song is T in the Park as I saw my friends in the crowd while watching the band perform.

The Vaccines- Wetsuit/ Family Friend/ All in White: this year’s breakout band, providing THE summer soundtrack. Also an excellent support act to Arctic Monkeys last month.

Velvet Audio- Nice Cup of Tea/Junctions: a bit of shameless promotion for a band in my town, who earlier this year released their debut album. It’s on iTunes, check it out, it’s really very, very good.

Listen to Nice Cup of Tea in full here: http://soundcloud.com/rosscortg

Student Style

Originally written: 17th October 2011

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Clockwise from top: Duffle coat, Topshop; wool mix shorts, Gap; cardigan and lace skirt, H&M; quilted jacket and gloves, H&M (scarf- birthday gift, River Island); faux-suede leggings, H&M; leather boots, Office; scarf, H&M; glitter heels, New Look. Phew. (missing is an H&M dress I couldn’t get to sit right on the hanger- it looks glorious on though- black pleated)
 

I’m slightly ashamed to admit that all of the items pictured above (minus the denim shirt in the top right photo) have been bought in the past month. My restraint around clothes… disappears completely. To be fair though, I’m set for winter now. I won’t buy anything else…

University is my time to take some fashion risks. I think the faux-suede leggings kind of have that covered.

Needless to say 100% of the attraction factor to the duffle coat was that it looks so like Oliver Tate’s in Submarine.

 From a sartorial point of view, university is a really interesting place to be. There’s a lot of variety in the way people dress, which for me is inspiring. Just about any style you could imagine here seems to be represented, from jeans-and-tees casual to preppy blouses and riding boots; mishmashes of this season’s trends to the Barbour-and-Hunters stereotype that St Andrews seems to be famed for, though it’s no more prevalent than any of the other styles I’ve mentioned. Hopefully I can glean some new ideas for my own wardrobe to help me on my quest for fashion adventure. Who knows what sorts of things I’ll be wearing come next year?