Katja Guenther – reinvention of tie-dye

To some, tie dye is strictly a thing for the hippies. Stylish it is not, and was never considered mainstream until many tie dye material surfaced on commercial runways – Rodarte, Bluemarine and Proenza Schouler etc etc.

But it was Katja Guenther, a German designer and a London College of Fashion graduate who has totally revolutionised the idea. Hippie or hedonistic they are not, the latex dyed jackets and coats exude an air of nonchalant and elegance about them. The dye worked like control chaos, coupled with excellent craftsmanship it adds that je ne sais quoi to the simplistic style.

Maybe it is the palette, pale and cold. The natural progression from nude to navy to black has made the collection so dreamy and addictive. There is a certain fragility emanating from these creations. And yet the hard symmetrical look compensated the softness and has neutralised the whole look. And I am right to say that this collection isn’t for the fragile woman. To put it in Katja’s own words, “The target cosumer is a confident and cosmopolitan woman. She lives an urban and sophisticated lifestyle and loves garments with quality and sophistication.” Say if Dior designs for the flamboyant lot; Katja is like Chanel, designs for the strong woman – she loves the subtle glamour and the quiet hints of innovation.

What I love about this coat – my favourite of all – is its flairish silhouette. The perfectly symmetrical piece are flared on the sleeves and cinched at the waist. It is all very balanced and feminine.

Katja then carried on her endeavour in search of more nonchalant elegance. The sheer blouse shown below, features kaleidoscopic layout of triangles in leather. This collection was inspired by gestalt images and hence the contrast in colour and material.

The shapes were traced on engraved leather and were cut out and sewn onto sheer tulle. The collection was all about the contrast of strong and weak, the balance between fragility and rigidity.

Items are priced between £250 to £750.

Kiwibiwi: How do you hand-dye the coats?

Katja: I worked out several folding and tie up technique, then I found the right solution to get the correct mixture of colour and control of the pattern.

Kiwibiwi: Pot of water let the dye roam free and let the latex soaks?

Katja: Yes.

Kiwibiwi: Any ongoing projects at the moment?

Katja: I’ll be off to Hong Kong in a few days time. I could either work for a young creative label with an art project history or designing an in house collection to a range of targeted customers. If I am working for the former, I will probably create exclusive digital prints for the up and coming fashion label.

Kiwibiwi: How do we buy your brilliant designs then?

Katja: Some of my friends bought a few hand-dye leggings. Are you interested?

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Ara Jo – The Fashion Hypnotist

I have found a new pastime and that is browsing the Showtime gallery on the Arts London website. The site is like an online gallery, I can squander hours on end on the site.

I came across Ara Jo, a fresh Central St. Martins BA graduate whose design featured a bird cage style crinoline dress; a stretchy loose catsuit that restraint movements on your limbs. The headgears boogle the mind of the admirer. A box that makes you feel framed; a bulb over your head that is reminiscent of the glass around a heated tungsten filament and balloons boom like ideas from your brain.

 

 The whole combo emanates a modern version of Alice in the Wonderland. It looks like a dream, feels like a dream and probably wears like a dream. Ara Jo’s designs impose the state of hypnosis onto the wearer. The mystery of hypnosis can be dark and scary. But this is not what Ara is exloring. The collection is glitzy and flambloyant. The dresses remind you of a sweet dream that keeps you grinning for the day.

 

The bendy and the flexible material warps the space time continuum and makes you wonder – is this right? And no of course this is not right, it’s not supposed to. The inspiration stemmed from the dreary feeling of hypnosis. It is supposed to be surreal, it is supposed to be an out of body experience. The collection explores the feeling of a virtual-awake state. You can see but you can’t really see; you can move but you can’t really move; you can think but you’re not really thinking. Everything is trap in the space time of a hypnagoic state. Hence it is restrictive and flexi.

For a fresh graduate, Ara Jo has done pretty admirably. Her designs rarely sit in one place. The dresses have already been photographed by Dazed Digital, OUT (an American magazine) and I LOOK (a Chinese magazine).

The exploration of surrealism has paid of. Ara Jo was contacted by celebrity stylists who work for Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Sabrina Washington and the like. The birdcage dress shown above was worn by none other than the devout fashion lover Lady Gaga. When asked whose body would Ara Jo like to see the dresses on the most, she replied, ‘I love to see my collection worn by celebrities. I can see myself working in my studio, contacting celebrity stylists (or maybe being contacted by them?), seeing my collection on magazines…I really love being a fashion designer, I just love it!”

 

Kiwibiwi: What material were used?

Ara: I really like using stretch fabric. In the crinoline dress, the part of hoodie-which starts from head to the bottom-was made by mesh. The part of dress – I used crinolin and boning. I like boning work too because it really works to give a good shape. So, Mesh as stretch parts + Crinolin & Boning as stiff, shaped parts = an amazing look!!

Kiwibiwi: How many man hours went into making these dresses?

Ara: Omg, I’ve already lost count! I remember it took ages to finish the collection…. especially that short (crinoline) dress and the long black dress (not shown here, visit her site at Showtime). For the boning, I had to stitch down boning in every single seamline. I am sure I used over 50m of boning to make the short dress. So the long black dress? I don’t even want to think about it! But I was really lucky because there were some really experienced technicians at CSM to help final year students. I couldn’t have done it all by myself. I am really thankful to them.

Kiwibiwi: What project are you undertaking right now?

Ara: I have just finished the shooting of my new 2010S/S collection! The collection was inspired by Mermaids. I know the collection is bit late but I don’t mind. I am just so happy to see this amazing collection. I will update new photos in mid December, so visit my web and enjoy!

 Kiwibiwi: What’s your up-coming project?

Ara: As soon as I was finished with the 2010 S/S collection I started my 2010A/W collection. Time is tight so I have to get working so that I can show this collection during 2010 A/W London Fashion Collection.

Janurary Vogue a Disaster – An Open Letter to Alexandra Shulman

Everybody likes that thud that Vogue makes when it arrives on your doorstep every month. Not so much when I turned to the editorial and saw that there was an 8-page feature on this woman: Alex Curran. I turned back to the cover and checked – yes, it is Vogue, not Heat.

For those who don’t know, she is the £6 million pound a year footballer Steve Gerrard’s wife. Now, I don’t have much problem reading about a stylish person even if she lives under a bridge or prostitute for a living. But it astounds me that Vogue is interested in writing about a woman whose looks are replicas of New Look’s look book; whose style inspires no more than a cucumber.

Victoria Beckham was on the front cover of Vogue circa April 2008. In the editor’s letter Alexandra Shulman said that she had to contemplate hard on whether to incorporate VB in her magazine. Yes, she was anti-style back in her Spice Girls days. Yes, her purple wedding gown was a bit dodgy. But now she has reincarnate herself as a fashion designer and a fashionista. She went through the trouble of finding mentors for her collections (namely Roland Mouret and Marc Jacobs). She frequents A-list fashion shows and has designer friends such as Dolce and Gabbana. Forget about her long gone past – she IS a genuine fashionista now (at least to some).

For the harsh time Alexandra gave VB in her letter in April 2008 and for the enthusiasm in incorporating a style-less WAG in an 8 page special? It just doesn’t add up. What’s even worse is that Christina D’Souza was trying so hard to portrait Alex Curran as this Liverpudlian at heart girl, that she is down to earth and not your average partying WAG. It’s simply an epic fail. She wrote that Alex visited Dior for a wedding gown, a simple white dress would set her back £100,000. So Alex ‘excused herself’ and eventually found an Elie Saab gown which is more ‘reasonably priced’. Excuse me, is this Vogue? Or Money Matters? You don’t talk about a Dior gown in terms of price, and you most certainly don’t choose an Elie Saab dress because it is ‘more reasonably priced’. If I am Elie Saab and am reading this, I would have regretted selling that dress to Alex Curran in the first place.

Then D’Souza went on to insinuate that the fashion world is snobbish where no designers wanted to receive Alex at their after parties. Why isn’t she welcome? Would somebody tell me why!? 

Alex was ushered around locations during London Fashion Week with a team of Vogue editors. She wore a boyfriend jacket just like us – except that is by Chloe which is about 100 times more expensive than your average jacket and hence she deserves to be in Vogue? No, but wait, Alex likes to shop at Topshop too, Christina D’Souza tries to tell you now that ‘really, Alex is not your average wag’. Give me a break. She is every bit a WAG ok? She met a footballer at a posh night club. Her style is all about showing legs and boobs. She is blonde and dons Jordan-esque smoky eyes. So what’s Alex’s business in my Vogue? Myself and many devout Vogue readers turn to Vogue for inspiration. For their articulate articles, for their access to blogs/Elle inaccessible celebs and famous people who have something to say. Has Alex got something to say? Yes. But I don’t remember after reading that article. Because everything about her is just so unremarkable.

If I want to read about Alex, I’d turn to Heat. Heat is funnier, more vile, more gossipy and writing about WAGs is their expertise OK? If I want to read about Alex’s style I’d turn to Look. I don’t expect to open a copy of Vogue to read about a woman who buys a designer’s outfit because ‘the designer is from Liverpool’.

If Vogue is looking to connect to a younger generation. How about Shingai Elizabeth Maria Shoniwa  from Noisettes? . How about Rihanna whose style can do no wrong? How about Lady Gaga who literally inspired many collection on the runway last season (the underwear as outerwear look – the nude shade bra in Miu Miu and Prada) ? If you wanna support young talents – how about brilliant arts school graduates? Ara jo or una burke?

And when I turned to the middle of the issue, there are portraits of young ‘talents’ in the middle. Mmm, so who are these actors or poets doing on Vogue? Let’s read about them? Does Vogue care to elaborate? Am I supposed to read Vogue and go on google to search for an article about them? What’s the point of getting Vogue? Or am I simply supposed to rip their portraits off the page and worship them like jesus? 

It hurts to see this creme de la creme magazine becomes a weird hybrid of a mail order catalogue for poets and actors with editorials rival that of the heat magazine (if not worse because it was purely not vicious/funny/gossipy enough).

For a start, how about just don’t write about WAGs who are famous for no reason, who has no style, no whatever?

Alexandra, I tried to look for an email address where your devout readers can give feedbacks to their beloved magazine. But I guess British Vogue don’t care about what your supporters have to say. I hope you’d stumble upon this.