Crafting Luxury: Richard Brendon Part I

“What is luxury?” is a question I’ve been pondering for the vast majority of 2013 as part of my masters degree in Interior Architecture. To me (and many) luxury is not the ostentatious stereotypical element of design, it is a refined quality filled with a distinctive narrative, the handmade attention to detail and time (quality time in fact). Richard Brendon – a young talented Designer, strongly believes in this philosophy and has grounded his manufacturing process of ceramics in the very heart of Britain’s pottery zeitgeist – Stoke-on-Trent (a location renowned for the ceramics trade). In this photographic narrative we share the story of Brendon’s philosophy, meticulous attention to detail and artisan craft which perpetuates throughout his body of work.  Only when we navigate through this traditional, British manufacturing process can we then begin to truly understand the elements of refinement, dynamism and true luxury.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Richard Brendon

Power Dressing

>>I’ve always been curiously fascinated by the world of fashion since a very young age. As a curious creative child I would sketch dress patterns for my dolls, specifying materials, patterns and prints. This then manifested into a love affair with the V&A [museum] when I studied fashion at the London College of Fashion. Through my studies I was introduced to the curated fashion hall, learning intensely about the history of clothes, the craftsmanship & skill of couture gowns. Although my passion has since changed formats into a more spatial form of design I am still extremely captivated by the fashion world. Fashion, like interior architecture, has the ability to effect, adapt and mimic our own individualism. Like a second skin somehow we become one with it. It was my very own, personal experiences with fashion which compelled me to visit the Women. Fashion. Power exhibition which is currently running at the Design Museum.

Comprising of some of the most powerful & accomplished women in the world this exhibition (although I feel that this level of work goes beyond an exhibition personally) is not just some fickle feminist fashion statement, but an experience examining the very autobiography of fashion through history and also through the lives of twenty-five head strong women. Many I have admired for some time, the exhibition includes pioneers such as Camila Batmanghelidjh who founded and is Director of the dedicated charity ‘Kids Company’, esteemed Designer Dame Vivienne Westwood  and Interior Designer turned Lead Singer, Skin. This exhibition allows you to elegantly crash into both symbolic & influential stages in history which were imperative to the evolution of fashion. From the Suffragettes who fought tirelessly for our right to vote to the war effort which saw role reversals for women (which subsequently lead to changes in fashion and stereo-types to developments & introductions of new advantaging materials) we are reminded of the key elements in design both political & social which have helped shape the fashion industry and ‘us’ as women [and vice versa]. Co-curated by fashion expert Colin McDowell and Head of Curation at the Design Museum Donna Loveday certainly immerses you. Design by renewed architect Zaha Hadid it is clear through the elements encompassed within this exhibition that various elements of the creative industries can influence fashion and not merely fashion alone. I took the opportunity to interview Head Curator Donna Loveday on all things fashion, politics & power.

Camila Batmanghelidjh Carousel Camila Batmanghelidjh Carousel
Vivienne Westwood portrait Christian Shambenait Vivienne Westwood portrait Christian Shambenait

“Vivienne’s designs combine classic elegance with restless originality – rather like the irrepressible spirit of Liberty.”

— Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty
Skin - Skin –

“I love fashion. As a lead singer of a rock band my stage style is a very important part of my being, to me it’s interesting to develop the visual side. I’m not a typical fashion head, I’m definitely not a blank canvas. I came with personality, a hell of a lot of individuality and tons of attitude, this is directly affected by what and how I wear my pieces. ”

— Skin – Singer, Skunk Anansie

Q. Within the creative industry do you feel that the power of fashion is an essential component of the working woman’s wardrobe?

“Fashion can be an important tool of self-expression and empowerment, a counterpoint to the idea that fashion restricts or enslaves women, or is a frivolous distraction. For many women, fashion is an important part of what empowers them, allowing them to express politics, personality, creativity, and sometimes helping them to create completely new personas. For women working in the creative sector, they have to be very visually aware and this is something that inevitably extends to what they wear and how they appear. For many of the women in our exhibition, that doesn’t mean power suits but having a softer approach to corporate style and embracing the opportunity to be more creative with clothes.”

— Donna Loveday – Head of Curatorial, Design Museum Curator of Women Fashion Power

Q. The feminism debate has been prevalent over the last 30 years, however more recently there seems to be strengthened similarity or blurring-of-lines between masculine & feminine dress. If fashion does indeed reflect society, do you think that we are heading towards more equal-rights for women or do you think we still have a long way to go?

“This exhibition demonstrates that there are an impressive number of high achieving women – but there is still a very long way to go, certainly in terms of opening up professions to women, traditionally assumed by men. Morwenna Wilson is one of the youngest women to feature in the exhibition. As a Mechanical Engineer and Senior Projects Director at Argent LLP leading on the design and delivery of several major projects at Kings Cross, she is a great example of how women are breaking through those ‘glass ceilings’”

— Donna Loveday – Head of Curatorial

“There is new shift in dressing to express power and authority, as more women wield power in many different spheres. Today we see the evolution of a new power dress code that moves away from avoiding mistakes, playing safe and following the rules. Professional women are engaging with contemporary fashion as a way to express individuality, a sense of style and project empowerment. The women in this exhibition demonstrate their individual approaches to fashion – in their own words”

— Donna Loveday Head of Curatorial

Q. Following SS15 Fashion Week and using the example of the Chanel SS15 catwalk show in Paris, do you think politics has a place in womenswear fashion?

“Politics has always had a place in fashion and will continue to do so. The exhibition reflects a number of key historical moments. During the 1980s when a number of designers were actively confronting political issues. Katharine Hamnett brought world peace and environmental issues into the fashion arena with her Autumn/Winter 1983-84 ‘Choose Life’ collection. This featured t-shirts emblazoned with bold slogans in capital letters, ‘Vote Tactically’, Worldwide Nuclear Ban Now’ and ‘58% Don’t Want Pershing’ – a design she famously wore to meet Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street. The same for Vivienne Westwood, from her subversive origins as an engineer of punk, she has evolved into an internationally successful champion of British design and identity. In the past two decades, she has campaigned fiercely for human rights and environmental causes, encouraging her fans, and consumers at large, to “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

— Donna Loveday

“Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty and who features in the exhibition states,
“What we wear does matter because it is an expression of our individuality. That is why clothes are so repressed still in so many parts of the world and uniform is imposed on so many people, often against their will.”

— Donna Loveday

Q. Over the last 50 years the power of fashion has profoundly influenced our society – from the liberation of the mini [skirt] in the sixties to the power dressing shoulder padded suits in the 80s to the girl power of the 90s – which decade do you feel embodies the power of dress the most?

“The clothes that women wore so often reflected how they were positioned in society. Decades of great change have left their mark on contemporary trends. During the course of the twentieth century, women have gradually taken complete control over how they dress. Prior to this, they had never had the freedom from rules and convention that they now enjoy. An immersive timeline in the exhibition presents a selection of political, social and cultural events from 1850 up the present that have changed women’s role in society, and which have had significant impacts on the way that they dressed. A diverse range of exhibits help to illustrate these key, liberating moments for women and for fashion.”

— Donna Loveday
Back view of a ribbon corset, 1904, The Bowes Museum Back view of a ribbon corset, 1904, The Bowes Museum

Q. Do you think that fashion is a choice for those at the pinnacle of their careers  or do you feel that women have conformed to the notion of the higher the heel the more successful you are (for instance)?

“Some women do feel empowered and more confident in high heels, for others, a lower heel or flat shoes works equally well. The important point to come through this exhibition is that women no longer feel the need to ‘conform’ but have a choice as to what they wear and how they present themselves. The exhibition expresses a positive message – that fashion can be an important tool for self-expression. Women Fashion Power helps to provide an understanding of the nature of power for women, how they choose to project power and how it is expressed through fashion. As Hillary Clinton declared, when interviewed earlier this year, “Now its sorted. Women can express who they are more…You have to be aware of conventions, but you don’t have to be a slave to them.” ”

— Donna Loveday

Packaging for Cream and White Bri Nylon Brassiere with Nottingham Lace Detail © Marks & Spencer Company Archive Packaging for Cream and White Bri Nylon Brassiere with Nottingham Lace Detail © Marks & Spencer Company Archive

Design Museum: Women Fashion Power –

29 October 2014 – 26 April 2015

IMAGES: Mirren Rosie | Design Museum

Creative Interiors: Sugar Sin – I Want Candy!

So, as you know I’ve been raving about this amazing sweet shop I discovered whilst on my lunch break and finally I get to tell you all about it. I always like stumbling across new and interesting places but nothing prepared me for this. Remember rhubarb and custard, pear drops and cola cubes from your old skool sweet shop – well look no further than Sugar Sin. Yep, my eyes were glazed like an interior designer in a sweet shop, full of sugary sorbet colours. I knew I had to share this hidden treasure so I got talking to Josefin and Anna, the Director of Sugar Sin. This space definitely speaks volumes! I love the black and white liquorice striped floor – very Alice in wonderful and its clear jars of all sizes encasing sherbets, gum drops and apple fizzing flying carpets. The special touch for me was the little hot air balloon which, for me gives it a little whimsical feel. 

HOP: So tell us a bit about yourself, how did Sugar Sin evolve and what is your background

SS: We’re two Swedish sisters with a crazy appetite for sugary treats. Growing up with the Swedish sweets culture, which is built on pick n mix, we are used to finding a huge selection of pick n mix in every shop (Swedes are the world’s biggest consumers of assorted sweets). All too often, our house became a battle field when we fought over our favourite sweets. When moving to London about five years ago to study, we quickly realised that we couldn’t find the same selection of sweets and pick n mix as we were used to back home. Every time we went back to visit we stocked our suitcases full of sweets (even checked in extra luggage to get enough room for the goodies). After graduation we decided to do something about it and decided to set up our own sweet shop where we could share our love for sweets with Londoners. However, this was the summer in 2009 so it took a long time to turn it into reality. Our background is retail and marketing – although not directly related to confectionery we’ve always wanted to start our own business.

HOP: How did you come up with the concept, both for the shop interior and design

SS: We wanted to offer Londoners a sweet paradise, where they could come and explore different taste sensations all under one roof. At the same time, we wanted to lighten up the whole health fixation and turn sweets into something fun, put a smile on peoples faces and brighten up their day…especially the grown ups! The whole idea of Sugar Sin is to offer high quality products unobtainable in other confectionaries. 

In terms of the shop design, we wanted to create a contemporary yet nostalgic place that allowed you to take a break from your everyday life – a combination of modern life, fantasies, and our childhood memories. We wanted to explore the contrasts of black and white (which, for us, can symbolise both a contemporary yet classic approach), and combine these with bright colours. This also applied to our choice of materials where we, for instance have worked with tiles, timber, and plaster walls. We wanted to ensure that we created a place that was eye-catching, extremely inviting & warm yet captured the essence of the our brand identity (a magical wonderworld). 

HOP: How did you choose the colour scheme

SS: We absolutely adore colour however, since quality is very important to us (we almost only stock sweets with natural colouring) we wanted to make sure that our colour scheme didn’t come across as artificial. Hence, we chose to use warm colours associated with quality sweets that would attract both genders, black or white. Since sweets take up a lot of colour in themselves we chose to go with a simple palette with the walls to reinforce the focus on the product.

HOP: What are your 3 favourite (Sugar Sin) sweets in the store

SS: The original Swedish fish, raspberry/liquorice skulls and crick. 

HOP: What do you like most about the stores design

SS: It’s very hard to say since we were very involved with the building process ourselves, (we were there every day, doing all the things that we could e.g plastering, sanding, tiling, painting etc). It’s also very hard to love one thing more than another. Right now Anna’s favourite things are the tables and mine [Josefin] are the bubbles, but next week it could be something different. It’s changing constantly, especially since we’re still putting up a lot of new decorations. 

HOP: When did the store open and do you plan to sprinkle more sugar across the UK

SS: We opened on Monday December 19. Right now we are focusing on the finishing touches, the product mix and our own branded products. We definitely want to open more shops in the UK and maybe abroad but like everyone else ‘you need to start somewhere’ and for the time being all our time and effort will go into making our shop at Long Acre as great as possible.  

HOP: What has been the reaction from the customers

SS: We are extremely happy with the reaction from others so far. A lot of different people (all generations) are coming in and telling us how much they love the shop…and the sweets. We couldn’t ask for any better and it makes us very proud. 

Sugar Sin70 Long Acre, London, WC2E 9JS – 0207 240 9994