In: New Look, out: Borders

Bloody hell! There I was popping in to Borders on Oxford Street to ‘use the facilities’ and I was greeted by the world’s biggest queue for the tills, coiling every which way around the ground floor. There must be a new Harry Potter book out, I thought, but no, it’s much more sinister than that. New Look has bought five Borders stores and the Oxford Street branch is one of the unlucky ones. Almost everything is half price (but not the magazines, natch) hence the frenzy.

The photography section looked tantalising on first inspection but when I returned for a proper recce two hours later, everything was on the floor.

What a sorry state of affairs. What on earth is going to happen to the rest of our bookshops if this is happening to Borders now? What can we do? I don’t have anything against New Look but there is already a flagship store in Marble Arch (unless they are downsizing and swapping sites), is our appetite for jazzy leggings so great that we need two branches of the same store in the same street at the expense of a bookshop? It’s all too sad!

Design Museum Super Contemporary press preview

So much to take in at the press preview for the new Super Contemporary exhibition at the Design Museum which explores and celebrates London creativity and design. As well as a detailed design timeline that runs along the entire four walls of the space (and the space is pretty big, but not big enough), there are videos, personal maps designed by London creatives and fifteen unique commissions from designers who have been asked to create something that ‘gives back’ to the city of London. My favourite (of course) was the Paul Smith bunny rubbish bin whose ears light up when litter is placed inside. Quirky but practical – who doesn’t love that?

Lots of brilliant magazines on show from Town to Oz to i-D

Pirelli ad by Fletcher/Forbes/Gill incorporating the much-missed Routemaster bus

My friend Simon Porter (key retail figure on the streetwear scene) got name-checked on a map by the Wilson Brothers!

Wayne Hemmingway remembers the wonder that was Kensington Market

I spy an iconic New Order record cover in the not-quite-cleared-up corner. Mancunian sleeve designer Peter Saville was apparently inspired by fashion designers Scott Crolla and Georgina Godley’s Mayfair shop. Wow, I’ve not thought about Scott Crolla for ever!

Anglepoise Fifty Table Light by Anthony Dickens. Mmmmm, not seen this before…

Neville Brody’s Freedom Space – a commentary on London’s surveillance culture
You can go inside this interactive pod and be filmed voicing your opinion on the subject of surveillance

Paul Smith’s lush loafers. Don’t miss the model pose…

If you’re going to visit this exhibition, allow lots of time, possibly with a little break midway. There is masses to see and you WILL want to study it all.

Super Contemporary, Design Museum, 3rd June-4th October 2009, £8.50 adults

[Click pics to enlarge]

Confessions of a fashion editor – the summer trip

The June issues of the glossies are in the shops now bringing memories of past summer fashion-shoot trips flooding back. The tears, the trauma, the time my entire crew got thrown off a BA flight, it’s all etched in my memory in glorious detail.

In order to shoot bikinis in time for a glossy mag’s deadline, the trip needs to be in the bag by the end of February. Which means a warm and often ‘exotic’ location is called for as February in London doesn’t quite conjure up ‘sexy summer swimwear’. The first thing to be addressed is budget. Contrary to popular myth, a fashion editor’s best accessory is more likely to be her calculator than her Chanel 2.55. Having presented her figures to the managing editor, there is inevitably a shortfall meaning extra funds need to be raised. This is called sponsorship. Cue breakfasts, lunches and teas in the diary to beg persuade PRs of non-cool brands (i.e. catalogues) to part with cash in exchange for a few well-placed mentions across the summer issues. Planning a joint trip with the beauty team? Oh phew. The beauty editor will also pull as many strings as she can from the cash-rich suncare, skincare, hair and make-up brands to boost the budget in exchange for bigging up their new-and-improved wares.

More calls are placed to hotels and airlines to blag free/cheap flights and accomodation for the team. Want to know why so many publications shoot in Cape Town? Because it’s pretty cheap, the weather is fairly reliable and there are model agencies in place to save money on ‘flying girls in’. (Also, the food is amazing.) Fact: Trip budgets are usually tighter than a pair of Superfines and don’t include alcohol. The reality is that you need the nightly bar-hop to get you through the trip. Solution: a mountain of blank taxi receipts to be filled in post-trip – a Labour MP has nothing on a funds-strapped fashion editor.

Money issues out of the way, there is the small matter of the clothes to deal with. Not least, how do we shoot bikinis in a new and innovative way? Can we bear to do nautical, safari and ‘ethnic’ again? Can we think of a snappy new name for ‘boho’? Of course, while your magazine is planning its summer swimwear trip, so is every other glossy. Meaning there is much competition for the Missonis, Ralphs and Guccis, not to mention TopShops, H & Ms and Gaps. Plus the essential cheapo bikini from Primark – a must for that bonanza ‘Found! The £4.99 bikini!’ coverline. Pity the poor PR who tries to call back her key piece that has already been sitting in your cupboard for a fortnight. Honey, you won’t be seeing it again for weeks.

Having managed to collate five caseloads of clothes, accessories and shoes, the real fun begins – organising the carnet. The bane of the fashion assistant’s life, a carnet is a typed, numbered list of all the luggage contents – no mistakes allowed. Each item is numbered with a sticker and listed on a form. Cue an army of interns enlisted to stay up all night until every earring, flipflop and bikini top is listed, numbered and packed. While all this goes on, the fashion editor (or bookings editor if they’re lucky) simultaneously spends the weeks prior to departure liaising with the production company based in Rio/Cape Town/Goa. A whole other heap of fun ensues as hidden location fees and government charges are routinely flagged up, queried and refused. Bodyguards, props managers and umbrella-holders all get the red-pencil treatment. Three catering assistants? I thought we were having sandwiches!

A word about models. Use the local model agencies at your peril. I’ll never forget the trip I did in Rio where the production company assured me they had access to the same girls as the main agencies in Sao Paulo. Big fat liar! We arrived at the casting to a room overflowing with ‘models’ who looked like they’d literally rolled out of the local school. Tall, short, fat, thin, there they were, not one of them with a portfolio or any semblance of ‘model looks’. Oh how we cried laughed. And yet. However stingy the budget, however ropy the models, however nightmarish the production company and however crazy the photographer (it’s true, all photographers are a little bit mad), a trip is always an unforgettable experience and the pictures always work out in the end.

[Pic: Italian Vogue]