Snowy, Comfy, Chic

I spent the majority of my day with my editor, walking along snow-plowed sidewalks and through drafty showrooms to interview designers and their publicists. We later found ourselves in an elegantly trendy bar, sitting across from an up-and-coming photographer and his producer. As we toasted to new business plans, I wondered when it was that we all got “handlers,” be they editors, producers, agents or publicists.

Actually, I only wondered that as I was looking back on the evening. What I actually wondered as I raised my glass at that teeny table surrounded by red-textured wallpaper and pumping music was if I would ever again feel my toes.

In jeans, heels and a hand-carved, skull necklace from Bali, my outfit said, “I’m comfortably trendy.” The truth, as I sipped my Bombay Sapphire martini, was that I was actually about as comfortable as a yeast infection.

The men across from me, however, were wearing black t-shirts, black jeans, black snow boots and warm black jackets. They looked intensely…well, comfortable. I started to hate them.

The photographer proudly told me that he only buys clothing once a year (10 black t-shirts and 2 pairs of black jeans) and has been wearing the same Australian-made black boot for five years.

Please don’t misunderstand me–I love dressing beautifully. I love color and shape and change. I adore cocktail dresses and new shoes, but sometimes…sometimes I just want to be comfortable. Sometimes I, too, would like to sit in a bar in the middle of a Stockholm blizzard and be cozy in a soft black shirt, thick wool socks and snow boots.

I WANT TO WEAR A T-SHIRT!

So this is what I’ve found:

An illustrator, a graphic designer and a businessman. They’ve known each other for 15 years and just recently decided to join their talents and passions with a career lifestyle. The result? Unwind Clothing, one of yesterday’s top five finalists in the Swedish Rookie of the Year competition.

It’s a brand about possibility–the possibility to do something you love with people you love and have customers (like me) love you for it. The graphics are original to Unwind Clothing, and how you choose to wear them is original to you. All the garments come with rows of buttons and button holes that enable the wearer to alter every item by pulling up the sleeves, raising the hem or tightening the waist.

As if selling their clothing internationally weren’t enough, they produce music CDs, too. With every purchase, they include a CD with their newest selection of artists, which I think is really cool and got me thinking about another musician-promoting clothing designer:

Jessie Williams at Edge of Urge is based in Wilmington, North Carolina, USA. Her online shop carries brands such as Sam Edelman, Dolce Vita and Cheap Monday (another design label I saw here, in Stockholm). She also designs and prints her own t-shirts as well as promotes a new musician every month–whew, I think she needs a martini. This month, she’s promoting Bebis Ellison, who is *fantastic*. You can listen to her music and see her videos on the Edge of Urge site.

So put on your six-inch heels, zip up your flashy cocktail dress, cuddle up next to your fireplace and log onto these sites for the latest in individual comfort. You can buy their designer t-shirts and check out new music, all without leaving your cozy home.

As for me, I’m putting on a t-shirt. I’ll probably still wear it with heels and maybe even use a leather obi to cinch it in at the waist–but at least part of me is comfortable, and I call that progress.

Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Photos from: Edge of Urge and Unwind Clothing


Photoshoot with Roy Rossovich of designphoto.se

Neither of us have much experience with snow, so we thought the flurries in the air were pretty at first. As we began slipping all over the sidewalks, we thought it was kind of funny. Then, when the layer of snow on Caitlin’s coat became thick enough to fall off in large chunks, and Elizabeth’s eyes were burning from the freezing wind and horizontal ice-needles, we began to think maybe snow wasn’t so great after all.

Stockholm’s little storm might’ve been fun if we were inside by a fireplace with a couple of hot toddies. (I don’t even know what a toddy is, but if it’s warm, it MUST be better than falling on your butt in the middle of a Stockholm intersection.) However, we had no toddies, hot or otherwise. Instead, we trekked around the city to designers’ showrooms and through the snowy blizzardy horribleness to Roy Rossovich’s studio in Stockholm for a portrait session.

The weather was less than desirable, but Roy’s studio, on the other hand, was SPECTACULAR! We had a great time shooting a few portraits before we all ventured out to lunch.

This is just a taste of what Roy does in about 5 minutes:

We have other plans in the works, too… short movies, more photos, something involving snow polo…

We will, of course, keep you posted.


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New Talent from Beckman’s College of Design

The Milan, London and Paris shows will be exciting, adrenaline-fueled weeks of top designers’ shows, perfume launches and lively parties. They will be packed with the names we drool over while reading Vogue magazine, and yes, that’s great, but for me, the really stimulating part of my job at A Welcome Guest and as associate fashion editor of The Yak is being one of the first people to meet new, young designers.

Fashion is, after all, art. Trends are commercial, and brands must earn money, but if the designers weren’t first artists, we wouldn’t be excited about the crazy new block colors in the Louis Vutton collection or the immaculately beaded tunic by Altewai.Saome or the…well, you get the idea. We’re dressing ourselves not for practicality (we aren’t just keeping warm or clean or out of the sun), but for the sake of decoration. We use our bodies as canvases on which to paint a picture, express a mood or make a statement.

Who better to live on the edge of art than young designers?

Scandinavia is full of such fresh talent, and the last weeks spent at Mercedes-Benz Stockholm Fashion Week and Copenhagen Fashion Week, and now back in Stockholm for Stockholm Fashion Week (yes, we, too, wondered why Stockholm had to be so difficult) has been filled with inspiring ideas. With the Beckman’s College of Design show, we had a chance to get even closer to the nest of creativity.

Students don’t have to think about marketability, so they are free to express themselves. They are even challenged to think outside the black and white box… have a look:

So what would I put in my closet?

Unfortunately, this was a student show, so none of these pieces are going into production, which means they aren’t available for purchase. They are, however, available to inspire our wardrobe and lift our hopes for a future of interesting designs. But since we’re dreaming, doesn’t every women want a skirt so big she could never sit down?


Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Photos by: Mercedes-Benz Stockholm

Diana Orving’s Dark Arabian Night

After being thoroughly impressed with what Copenhagen Fashion Week had to offer, we’re back in Stockholm for another round of shows. I’m still amazed by the differences in fashion design between these two cities separated by a mere one-hour plane ride. Stockholm designers tend to do one of two things: drape us in luscious layers of fabric or invent new silhouettes with dramatic tailoring and dark colors. Copenhagen, on the other hand, uses a woman’s curves, her skin and her desire to be seen as the foundation for their designs, never shying away from colors or sensuality.

Before we get started with Stockholm Fashion Week, let’s flash back to another interesting Swedish designer from Stockholm’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Diana Orving. She’s a lovely young designer. Really–have a look.

Her collection presented at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week was full of fabrics that moved and danced down the runway. The whole show had a sense of gauziness that went from revealing and minimalistic to overwhelming and smothered in cloth, and back again. The fabrics were light enough to flow, the pant legs were wide enough to billow and the sheets of chiffon trailed in the breeze. It’s disappointing to report, however, that the lack of female form and absence of color left me a little cold.

I liked the flat-front, un-hemmed pants in the collection, but I wasn’t taken with the dresses that seemed to be made from a single piece of twisted fabric. I must say, they were not unlike the beach cover-ups you find in the U.S.

Then there were the headdresses. While one or two created a sense of mystery and elegance, I thought the lot of them to be more of something you might find in a muted Arabian Night.

What started as a show dominated by long, warm-toned metallics gave way to yet another group of models covered in black and navy sheers. Only once was the collection broken by a much-needed sigh of red–and those two pieces were very beautiful and wearable–but mostly, Diana stuck closely to the Swedish fashion basics: black, navy and neutral.

There were barely-there turtlenecks worn with nipples in full view and dresses with a few chiffon details–as to be expected with chiffon at the forefront of A/W 2011 fashion musts. I’ve seen more than my fair share of model’s nipples in the past three days, but it was nice of Diana Orving to add a new element to her see-through palate by introducing crocheted lace to hems and necklines.


So what would I put in my closet?

The sheer turtle neck was quite striking, but in real life I would pair it with a simple bra of the non-push-up variety. I’m a fan of color, so I would most definitely pick a jewel-toned undergarment–maybe a sapphire or ruby–but even brown would look classy. The long black skirt with the peacock-lace hem would go well with the turtle neck, but if you don’t mind, Diana, I’ll skip the head coverings and harem pants. Let’s leave those to the Man Repeller, shall we?

Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Photos by: Caitlin Andrews and Mercedes-Benz Stockholm Fashion Week

Goth+Mime: A Love Story

Once upon a time, a beautiful, willowy goth fell in love with a street-performing mime.

They moved to a very cold climate and had a baby.

Oh, how they loved that baby–a perfect representation of their union.

One day, they put the baby in a blender, just to see what would happen.

The result? Barbara i Gongini‘s A/W 2011 collection.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. The Barbara i Gongini show wasn’t violent, it was just…shredded.

The stage was bare, except for a series of spotlights and a pile of black clothes on the floor. A throbbing bass beat grew in the auditorium, turning to a roar that filled the air and welcomed the first model.

She walked a strange labyrinth, pausing in various spotlights as she weaved her way across the stage. One after another, these odd creatures filed out, faces absolutely colorless and bodies clothed only in black. Some of them stopped to perform–smearing themselves with black paint or dressing and undressing by the pile of cast-off clothing on the floor. One model even came out with a microphone and began to sing haunting operatic vowels.

Oddly captivating and… well… beautiful, every piece seemed to be either shredded to almost nothing or layered and puffed, practically swallowing the wearer.

Barbara pulled us into her atmosphere, drew us into the art, so that it became less of a showcase for individual pieces and more of a performance to demonstrate the mood of her newest collection.

What would I put in my closet?

Honestly, I haven’t a clue.

It was hard to know where one piece ended and another began, and I’m pretty positive none of it was really my style–but I actually think that’s irrelevant. The fashion world needs more designers like this, designers that leave you with your mouth slightly open, your brow furrowed and your head tilted to the side. THIS is what fashion is supposed to do. Otherwise, we could all shop at the Gap, right?

So what I’d really like to put in my closet is Barbara herself. Obviously a woman with something to say, she has an opinion about beauty and isn’t afraid to express it, and that’s inspiring.

Want to see what might go in YOUR closet? check out the web shop here.

Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Photos by: Copenhagen Fashion Week

Because We Look Better In It Than He Ever Did

He is a harmless voyeur that lives in No. 8.

He is a lover of female confidence, a fan of women in men’s clothing.

He is committed to his fiancé and willingly lends her his clothes.

He is an admirer of Francesca, who lives across the street.

He is a city man with a love for the country.

He is Pablo, The Man.


By Marlene Birger tells that story with her  A/W 2011 line, and don’t we want this man–this muse? Someone to love and admire us, yet let us be free. Someone who enjoys our femininity, yet accepts that we may run wild in men’s clothing. Someone who makes us the focus of his sweet voyeurism, but does not threaten…

Don’t tell me I’m alone in this?!

Well, even if it is only me, by Marlene Birger taps into my desire to be an elegant sex pot in men’s clothing. Highly tailored, there is nothing slouchy about her clothes–no boyfriend jeans here. The women in these clothes are saturated in so much womanhood that they dress like men and still ooze femininity with slicked-back hair, short dark finger nails and highly defined eye makeup. A man would never look this good! Men’s dress shirts were belted and worn over lace leggings with heels, and beautifully cut suits were sexier than they ever could be on Pablo.

By Marlene Birger lets you “steal” your beau’s cashmere sweaters because, is there ANYTHING nicer than a good cashmere sweater that smells like your man? Soft and strong. Until now, we’ve only worn that sweater around the house, but now we wear it belted and paired with leggings for an out-of-house jaunt.

The line has a  Spanish equestrian feel with saddlebag-inspired accessories, a myriad of stunning hats and leather belts with suspenders. After the S’NOB de Noblesse and by Marlene Birger shows, I’m starting to think that not only do I need a bigger closet, I need to start riding horses!

So what would I put in my closet?

I’m a big fan of the form-fitting, tuxedo-type jackets, both the shorter version that goes nicely over a men’s white dress shirt and the longer version that looks hot over a short dress.

Over the button-down shirt, I’ll keep the collar open with long earrings and a chunky ring. I’d love to wear it without pants like the second model in the runway line-up, but since I don’t want people wondering if I’ve simply forgotten my pants, I guess I’ll wear it with flat-front trousers and heels.

 

Meanwhile, there are sales on their current line, so go to  www.http://shop.bymalenebirger.com/

 

Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Photos by Caitlin Andrews and Copenhagen Fashion Week


S’NOB de Noblesse: The Riding Habit That Went To a S&M Ball

I spoke with DJ Flip before slipping backstage and he told me he often collaborates with designers to create the mood they want for their collections. He takes their taste in music, fabrics, books and movies and puts together tracks that are “close to their universe.”

Apparently, S’NOB de Noblesse‘s universe is full of grimy basslines, rocking beats and sexy women…not bad.

The fabrics were lush and flowing, while the women harnessed. The runway was a clean white, while the music dirty.

S’NOB de Noblesse’s Copenhagen show continued with such contradictions as it combined fur with sequins, leather with flowing satins and powerful women with bondage.

A strong equestrian theme wove through the new collection with a frequently appearing accessory: the leather belt/necklace/way-to-keep-your-date-in-line. It was a sort of horseman’s S&M accessory, which they dressed up with crystal-studded neckwear and dressed down with feathers and fur.

Short dresses or evening gowns, clinging fabrics or yards of billowing satin–S’NOB de Noblesse never failed to accentuate the female form, a common trend I’ve noticed among Danish designers that separates them from the Swedish. Everything is a bit more titillating here, in Copenhagen–though the body may be covered, its feminine power is always on display.


So what would I put in my closet?

The piece I could imagine wearing most frequently is the long sleeve burnt-red dress with twists up the front. Sexy without being too flashy, the twists will forgive slight over-eating (let’s face it we aren’t all models), and the color is eye-catching without screaming “I’m wearing this so you’ll look at me.” I also really like it styled with gloves, as they did on the runway.

The horse harness accessory was a little hard to take in the beginning, but by the end of the show, I was sold. I’d wear the one with the fur and feather add-on, combining it with a long-waisted turtle neck and flat-front pants. Simple, but interesting–it would be the perfect piece to make a less-expensive outfit look more posh.

If you don’t mind, however, I think I’ll skip the horse hair shoes.

If you’d like to check out S’NOB de Noblesse’s previous collection click here.

 

Written by: Caitlin Andrews

Edited by: Elizabeth Andrews

Altewai.Saome Gets Technical

Altewai.Saome is a design team made up of  Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome of Sweden. I was backstage with them as they debuted their newest collection at Stockholm’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. With the help of their family and stylists backstage, the women were full of energy, smiles and determination as they hustled to ready the models for walking. (See the video on our side bar to the right!)

The inspiration behind the collection came when a typewriter in their studio fell to the floor–housing broken and parts spilling across the room. It was the messy birth of a very clean idea: the A/W 2011 line treats both the clothes and their wearers like deconstructed technology.

Chunky accessories with fringe and computer parts, beaded mittens, exposed zippers (1, 4), panels of stiff organza (1) and dresses that opened from panels at the front (2): it seemed as though the women were automatons, ready to expose their inner workings.

The detailed beadwork resembled colorful, almost iridescent motherboards and microchips, and bibs of singed plastic half-circles resembling old sunglass lenses decorated tunics and dresses.

The intricate beadwork was handcrafted by artisans—but which artisans, we don’t know. The ladies refused to say anything more than “Italy,” despite my further questioning—“Near Milan?” Both sets of red lips simply closed tightly around their Coca Cola straws.

No matter. The important part is I can benefit from their creative inspiration…right?

The women stuck very close to their original theme, and every piece was like a walking work of conceptual art, though still very wearable, which made my job of choosing favorites very difficult…

So what would I put in my closet?

The white flat front trousers (1) with exposed gold zipper were exceptional. Cleanly tailored, they will be flattering on almost anyone.

The short white dress with the white plastic semi-circles at the hem (3) will be comfortable to wear, as well as wickedly sexy (just pull down the front zipper as you dare). I’d pair it with colored tights, long earrings and a simple heel.

Posted by: Caitlin Andrews

Cheap Monday Goes All Out


After the press waited in lines that reached down the street and around the corner,  we were primed and ready to go. As we took our seats, the atmosphere was more rock concert than fashion show.

Cheap Monday opened with booming music and strobe lights that lit the M.C. Escher-type staircase, and two huge projectors showed the audience all sides of the models as they strutted up and down the stairs and runway.

There was more color in this collection than in any other show of the day, and though they used comfortable fabrics that were meant to reference a future when humans control their avatars from armchairs, the cuts and drapes of the stretchy fabrics were intentional–not lazy.

Nothing was sloppy.

Nothing was boring.

There was, of course, this season’s requisite pair of sheer trousers in a structured organza and a few pairs of tight, shiny pants, but on the whole, the collection was cocoon-like in its comfort. Everything gave the impression of warmth, while still being interesting. It gave me the feeling I could wear anything from the collection and be glad I did.

What I’d put in my closet:

One of my favorites was an alternative take on the maxi-dress. Dark gray and cut on the diagonal, it looked like the wearer was climbing out of a toga-esque cocoon. It was worn over a brightly colored shirt so that a hint of color showed at the collar. Paired with combat boots and scraped-back hair, it was anything but slouchy.

The sheer trousers are also on my wish-list since yes, they’re transparent, but the stiff fabric and extra seams around the calf set them apart and made them everyday-wearable.

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Posted by: Caitlin Andrews

Noir et Blanc

Noir et Blanc‘s runway was dominated by geometric black and white prints that were somewhere between your grandmother’s afghan and an Aztec disco.

I can’t say I was overly enthusiastic about the repeating triangles, pyramids and waves, but the designers did have a few sequined pieces, which, personally, I loved. In the rest of the collection, the angular silhouettes verged on interesting, but unfortunately interesting isn’t always flattering. After all, isn’t that what we say about a bad blind-date? “It was… um… interesting,” which comes just after, “He was nice”.

The lines were either jutting and asymmetrical with over-sized jacket lapels, uneven hemlines and shoulder cut-outs, or the dresses were limp where they should have draped.

Excitingly enough, the makeup used in this show was actually something you might want to repeat in real life. Neutral lips disappeared into the face, which allowed the bronzy-pink eye makeup to really pop. The eye shadow covered the entire socket from below the eye all the way up to the brow, and then blended into a cheek color of a slightly less dramatic hue. It isn’t make-up you could wear to the office, but do-able enough to pull off in your bathroom and dramatic enough to be fun for a night on the town.


So what would I put in my closet?

The black sequined jacket that fell to mid-thigh. Noir et Blanc designed it with a deep v-neck and a cinched waist. It’s not always easy to pull off sequins, but this jacket is a different story–slightly gathered at the bottom and tied with a matching sash, it’s a cross between an evening dress and a sexy little bathrobe.

With good makeup and a nice pair of legs, this piece could definitely turn an outfit into a proud statement.

Posted by: Caitlin Andrews

Location: Stockholm, Sweden

A Fantastically Demented Collection

The Josefin Strid show began with shirts and skirts so cleanly cut and non-descript that the word “Amish” came to mind. It was a parade of beige and camel so simple, it was practically seamless. There wasn’t a single high heel in sight, and the models flirted with the word “doughty,” but that was before Josefin Strid turned everything inside out with a pair of beautiful red knickers.

Blood was everywhere. In the beginning, it was a thin red belt symbolizing narrow slices in flesh, followed by a few waistbands in red grosgrain — hinting only slightly at the violence within the collection.

I was kneeling on the ground with my camera and saw that the stockings of at least one of the models had a long red scar up the inside of one leg.

Slowly, the Amish feel slipped away as Josefin began sending more skin down the runway in sheer trousers, sliced-up shirts and cut-away skirts.

A backless skirt revealed elegantly sexy red satin briefs, and barely-there sweater dresses were mere window dressings for blood-red bras. But bare skin wasn’t a seduction here. Josefin Strid wasn’t selling sex as so many designers do. No, with her Autumn/ Winter collection, Josefin was giving us an uncomfortable violence.

It wasn’t easy, but it was smart, and it was daring, and I loved it.

In nine days, I have an appointment to see the collection up close, try it on and order it custom fit. I have three words for you:

RED SATIN UNDERPANTS.

 

JOSEFIN STRID A/W 2011

I just wanted to give you a taste of this morning’s fabulously violent Josefin Strid show.

There’s much, much more to come, but first I must be off to the Noir et Blanc show…

POSTED BY: Caitlin Andrews

sheer anticipation for JOSEFIN STRID

My invitation is ready, my outfit selected, and I’m so excited, I’m vibrating. Tomorrow, I attend Josefin Strid’s Autumn/Winter 2011 show at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Stockholm.

Last year, Josefin Strid’s Autumn/Winter collection was draped in  gothic sheers, and in previous seasons, Josefin worked with tulle and transparent fabrics. She was Black Swan long before Hollywood ever was.

I, too, have always been a lover of things sheer and flowing. Tulle and chiffon make a woman feel both gorgeous and cutting-edge, and while I may have shaved and grown my hair, moved hemispheres and changed occupations, mountains of tulle have remained a part of my wardrobe, and so for me Josefin’s dresses were an instant hit.

Last year, I lived in a place with no autumn or winter, so I couldn’t wear Josefin’s line–no matter how much I coveted it–but this year, with residences in both Bali and Europe, I’ll be making room for this young designer in my closet.

The word on the street is this new season’s pieces are inspired by a sadomasochistic piano teacher…

Josefin Strid is smart and daring, willing to give us pieces that catch both eye and imagination, and with her training in tailoring and pattern-making, she produces garments with brave attention to detail.

She has impressed me in the past, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for me now…

You can visit Josefin Strid at www.josefinstrid.com, and then come back here tomorrow to see photos and descriptions of her newest collection.

Posted by: Caitlin Andrews

Photo Credits:

1, 4, 5: Josefin Strid http://www.josefinstrid.com 2: skirt by Jessie Williams at Edge of Urge http://www.edgeofurge.com 3: skirt and top by Titik Susanti 6: skirt by Titik Susanti, coat by Katmandu

A Welcome Guest Gets Its Own Column

In addition to being your cyber-guide to behind the scenes of all things beautiful, A Welcome Guest will be going into print!

AWG was just hired to write a fashion and trend column for The Yak, Bali’s stunning lifestyle magazine. It’s a 200-page, glossy publication known for covering “the lighter and darker sides of Bali — Asia’s fashionable playground.”

In diary form, complete with photos and the occasional interview, we will be bringing what’s hot and fabulous back to one of the world’s hottest destinations.

So as we gear up for our official February launch in Copenhagen, we’re here in Bali wondering…lighter or darker, which will be more fun?

You can visit the magazine’s website at www.theyakmag.com.

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