Minimal metamorphosis


As our eyes prepared to focus on the spring/summer 14 catwalks of New York, Converse and Maison Martin Margiela treated us to teasers of their much publicised creative coming together. For their first confident stride forward, Converse Chuck Taylor All Star and Jack Purcell trainers were drenched in Maison Martin Margiela’s iconic white paint. Covering all canvas, eyelets, laces and soles, the old favourites are altered simply yet radically. All white everything. A palette and sole cleanser. For me, the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry best defined minimalist design as being “not when there is nothing more to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.” This is a makeover from a true minimalist iconoclast. However, what interests me most is that the white washing is just the start. As soon as the paint filled brush leaves the Converse classics, they naturally crack and shed their outer coat to reveal their original selves beneath. So simple and transformative, the hand painted act is the beginning of a unique dialogue between both brands. As they advance with age with each step forward and evolve in the everyday, they reveal their true selves in their own way. Wear and tear is rarely so intriguing and so obvious.
From well loved wallets to beautiful brogues, the gentle ageing of leather is a an ever absorbing process but it takes its time. The blank Converse canvas encourages change. Thankfully, after following fashion’s conveyor belt through from London to Milan and Paris, two pairs of ice white Jack Purcells were waiting for me at the office. A few weeks of pacy peddling, puddle plummeting and pavement pounding has seen a rich burgundy hue peek out from beneath the cracks on one pair (black, blue and an exclusive yellow are also hidden behind the white wash) whilst the other is still perfectly wrapped in its thick blanket of white. Minimal metamorphosis. Using a recent paint tin spill in the car park as the ideal backdrop, I couldn’t resist documenting their difference.

New new and old new. 
Converse and Maison Martin Margiela

The Meeting of Two American Dreamers

We both like to inject a bit of attitude and our personality into classics,” George Esquivel excitedly exclaims whilst standing at the centre of his hive of craftsmanship, a lively leather scented, three and half thousand square foot workshop in Orange County. His voice races as he whizzes us around on a whistle stop tour of his world. Between three and four thousand shoes a year are clicked, closed, welted, finished and furnished by his close knit family of craftsmen but there is a discernible delight echoing around the space today. Why? The reality of two American dreamers’ shared fantasy is taking shape before their ever eager eyes. After creating exclusive shoes for Tommy Hilfiger’s autumn/winter 13 menswear show, the pair have taken their collaboration to the next level. Forming a dynamic duo draped in red, white and blue, the result is a limited edition capsule collection of footwear hand made in California.
It all comes out of here,” Esquivel proudly proclaims, arms and smile stretched wide. From the quiet, unassuming, commercial enclave that his workshop resides to the temples to high society in the centre of Los Angeles, this is very much George Esquivel’s world. Having been warned that is was something of a Marmite metropolis, that I’d either love it or loathe it, Esquivel and team Tommy combined to be the skeleton key to a once in a lifetime exploration of the ever sprawling an wildly eclectic city. They combined to make it the perfect summer getaway and I left in love. Esquivel’s first excited words of many as he welcomed this fortunate group of bloggers and journalists were a declaring that he’d be taking us bowling. “It’s at the Rosevelt Hotel, it’s a two-lane, it’s a gaming parlour with a vintage bowling alley called the Spare Room, I actually made the shoes. Everyone is there. I received a text the other night that Brad Pitt and Angelina were bowling in my shoes, it was amazing. It’s so much fun. It’s what I call cool LA not crazy LA.” Like any good guide, Esquivel combined local knowledge with a constant flow of captivating narrative. His path into shoemaking alone could easily translate to the silver screen and be a box office smash.

My childhood was pretty crazy. We grew up mostly in and out of motels, on welfare and food stamps. I’m the oldest of five so there were seven of us in the motel room and then my dad went to jail.” From running drugs in his youth to watching his father go to jail for murder and homelessness to a life backstage at punk gigs, Esquivel is not your typical shoemaker but it is fuelled by a familiar passion. He fell into shoemaking in the mid 1990s after a failed attempt to find the perfect vintage-inspired shoe. A muso, the designer was immersed in California’s rich punk and rockabilly scenes and needed shoes to match his unique aesthetic. “I used to buy vintage clothes and shoes but I could never find anything I liked in terms of new footwear,” he reminisces. He spent years scouring the state for an able shoemaker to realise his whims and fancies but to no avail. After arguing with one cobbler over a pair that didn’t meet his insatiably high standards, he was about to throw in the polishing rag but his shoe salvation arrived in the form of a bystander who, intrigued by Esquivel’s impassioned pleas, followed him out of the shop. “He introduced himself as a shoemaker and said, ‘I don’t know why but I like you and I want to make you some shoes.’” The man was Emigdio Canales, a retired master cobbler who operated a cottage industry shoe factory out of his garage. He quickly became Esquivel’s collaborator and mentor.
In the beginning, it was just a hobby, selling shoes to friends,” he modestly explains. These friends soon morphed into musical heroes. From admiring glances towards his own feet at gigs to requests from musical friends and ultimately to touring buddies, the good word of Esquivel spread. “The small local bands that I used to hang out would go on tour with the big bands, and they would often ask about their shoes and they’d hand them my card and say ‘Call George, he’ll sort you out.’” A business began to thrive. Esquivel has never stopped learning. From scurrying around shoe repair shacks to crafting shoes for the elite of Los Angeles and beyond, the collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger marks another confident step forward. As Esquivel’s tale bounces around your brain, take our hand and let us lead you, as he did to us, on a quick tour of his world as the fruits of his latest creative coming together began to take shape.


Much like Tommy Hilfiger,  George Esquivel is a great American dreamer. Stars and stripes pulsate through this authentic product of California. Artefacts of this technicolour world are scattered throughout his studio. Like two well crafted canoes, a pair of size fifteen dress shoes destined for the feet of a New Knick’s baller float on the wood floor are joined by a battered and well weathered trunk belonging to Sylvester Stallone that the actor had hoped would be transformed into footwear fabulousness, whilst a mood board of leathers provoke daydreams for the sole of Janelle Monae grace the wall.

Tommy used to have my whole wall. but as it went in to production it shrank. It started with ten styles, twelve colours and all manner of different leather options. There wasn’t a brief. the styles just evolved out of our conversations. We looked at what Tommy does, he does preppy Americana and we explored what we liked and it reduced down to a brogue and a loafer. It was then about making preppy but adding the soul of rock and roll, a little bit rebellious. For example, the perforation on the toe is a really cool design process that mimics the signature plaid pattern of Tommy Hilfiger,” adds Esquivel as an interested, ever analytical eye is focussed in on one his experts applying the described touch to the toe of a brogue. His love of the craft is both obvious and infectious.

Having first roamed onto Hilfiger’s radar as a Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund finalist in 2009, Equivel was one of ten designers included in an “Americans in Paris” showcase sponsored by Vogue and Tommy Hilfiger 2011 and a friendship blossomed. They are two kindred spirits, each dedicated to their own craft within Americana. Whilst Tommy Hilfiger is a sartorial star bangled banner gently blowing outside the college of preppy, Esquivel’s carefully crafted shoes are inherently Californian, rebellious and a little rock ‘n roll. It makes for a happy marriage. “He adds a fresh take to timeless pieces. His designs use unique details that give classics an updated look,” Hilfiger declares of Esquivel. “Tommy calls it the twist. We’ve both been transforming the familiar into the exciting in our way for years but it’s been fun putting our heads together,” adds Esquivel. Every pair is hand-crafted by skilled workers, adding unique and distinctive elements to the styles whilst each is assigned a one-of-a-kind shoe number that’s hand-written on the shoe and its hangtag to make these objects of desire even more desirable. Ten weeks after our visit to the workshop and as their collaboration hits stores global wide, Tommy Hilfiger and George Esquivel sent through my own limited edition brogue.

Delighting in the duality of new and old, expected and unexpected, traditional and modern, the two complimentary world’s collide beautifully in a collaboration that sees two prepster staples re-imagined. With antiqued washed leathers, hand punched perforations and contrasting hues, both the humble brogue and loafer are elevated to new heights. The Tommy Hilfiger + Esquivel logo has been burned into the leather using a hot branding iron. Soles and heels are polished individually using layers of polishes and creams. The results are unique but elegant, whimsical yet sophisticated.


Treasured items… Kit Neale

From the moment I first stepped inside Kit Neale’s dazzlingly printed world, a cultural kaleidoscope that reimagines suburban and multicultural Britain, I have felt right at home. His studio, an enclave of effervescent energy on a quiet street located just off Columbia Road, is a busy universe filled with rails of reverie dancing around haphazardly placed trinkets, paintings and well thumbed magazines. Amongst the noise, the confident face of Felix quietly watches on. Shot by Jamie Morgan for The Face in 1984, the cocky twelve year old guards the memory of Buffalo as Ray’s revolution rumbles on. The book has pride of place in Neale’s space. “It is our bible,” he proudly proclaims whilst stroking the good book, ripples of reverence course through his slight frame. Here, he tells us the story behind it.


Kit Neale and the buffalo stance


When my family moved from Peckham to Gosport, a small town on the south coast, I missed London style. I had to order in The Face, i-D and Arena because it was my connection back to the capital, my escape. Ultimately, it’s what excited me. When I discovered Ray Petri and the Buffalo movement my eyes were opened. I was and continually am, drawn to this moment. I remember stumbling across this book in a strange little bookshop inside Old Street station. At that time I had no idea that such a volume of his work existed but squealed ‘Oh My God!’ when I realised what it was.

It sounds really cheesy but If I’m ever feeling uninspired I return to it. I think every Kit Neale collection will take something from atleast one image. I look at it, not for garment design reference but to channel the attitude. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mentioned his work in interviews. I’m obsessed. It is extremely well edited and his body of work is so impressive. It’s so far reaching. There can’t be many London menswear designers who haven’t referenced by Buffalo. I think London menswear would be quite different without Ray Petri. Kit Neale would undoubtedly be different without Ray Petri.Kit Neale


Nicomede Talavera SS14

As this is my first full season I wanted to move on from the Masters, to push myself and demonstrate just what I can do,” Nicomede Talavera excitedly explains as we’re both enveloped by the sculptural shake-up of the senses that is his spring/summer 14 collection. Confidently striding out from the Central Saint Martins classroom, beyond the realms of Louise Wilson’s omnipotence and the far-reaching ripples of applause that his graduate collection received, we meet a young designer ready to step onto a larger stage. Having watched him develop over the last four years, documenting his progression from eager second year design student to a fully realised label, he feels both familiar and forcibly fresh.
I’m proud of my MA collection but I do feel as though I could have injected more personality into it,” he confesses. Moving on from a measured masterpiece of monochrome modernity that teased with its textural treats and proportion play we now see the blossoming talent delighting in the juxtaposition of the everyday, tailoring, abstract graphics and minimalist colour blocking. Free to produce precisely what he wants, on his own terms, Talavera has a grin from ear to ear because this collection is him. He has grown into his talent.
As soon as I finished my MA at Central Saint Martins, I was exhausted and felt that I needed a break but a few weeks later I realised that I had worked so hard to build something, really enjoy designing and wanted to see what could happen with the label,” he confesses as we sip instant coffee in his Bermondsey base. As he turned the page on one enthralling chapter, spring/summer 14 marks the beginning of the next. There’s an undeniable promise that blank pages will be filled with all manner of exciting narrative in the coming seasons and beyond. However, like everything step he’s taken previously, Talavera approached the latest leap correctly. When it is all too easy to be swept away in an ocean of excitement, this young talent paused and took stock of everything before diving into the inviting waters of possibility. “One of the first things I did was write a business plan, it was so beneficial to place my label in the market place and work out just where I wanted it to be.” Having visualised the future of his eponymous label, Talavera is now carefully crafting it by taking elements from his accomplished BA and MA collections, pushing them further and taking them in entirely different directions.
I developed my previous research of Ellsworth Kelly whilst extracting fresh elements and at the same time I became fascinated by the business men of Canary Wharf, seeing them on the tube in their pinstripe suits, trainers and a backpack. I wanted to take the tailoring and sportswear influences of the modern man and it all worked back to Kelly and his own fascination with everyday landscape. I too began to see these squares,” he explains. The result sees him transform a canvas of sheer nylon oversized t-shirts and sleeveless tops with appliquéd leather graphic elements alongside re-imagined superfine suiting fabrics. Thankfully the sartorial awkwardness of crisp tailoring mixed with gym kits is waved away by the expert hands of Talavera. Flimsy synthetic gym bags morph into luxurious objects of desire as the designer continues his fruitful collaboration with Eastpak and dull, tired, bedraggled commuter chic comes to life and reverberates with youthful energy. This is the designer applying his filter over everyday sights, just like Kelly did.
I like to work from things that I see, whether they’re man-made or natural or a combination of the two… The things that I’m interested in have always been there. The idea of a shadow and a natural object has existed, like the shadow of the pyramids, or a rock and its shadow; I’m not interested in the texture of the rock, or that it is a rock, but in the mass of it, and its shadows,” Ellsworth Kelly confided to Henry Geldzahler in 1964 in a piece for Art International 1. Surrounded by walls of Talavera product, the influence of the painter, sculptor and printmaker is plain to see. His rails mirror the artist’s masterly interplay of form, colour, and space. Moved by shapes he found in reality, Kelly’s perception is inspired by an object’s external characteristics, taking interest in shadows and the texture of surfaces isolated from their contexts. Talavera’s eyes were similarly searching. “For me, inspiration will always come from what I see around me. It has to be grounded in reality. I’m drawn to subcultures, youth movements and ultimately street wear.” Nicomede Talavera had explained in our last meeting. Having previously looked to the sartorial sights and cultural diversity of his childhood home of Hounslow he now looks to the commuting rat racers. A true mixologist of menswear, Talevera balances tailoring with sportswear and artistic form with function. Take a gulp.

Detail photography alongside Nicomede Talavera’s Andy Malone shot spring/summer 14 look book

From coated nappa leather cracking delicately to textural pinstriped suiting reinterpreted as long sleeved tailored tops and unexpected silk cargo pockets, the collection is rich in tactile treasure. Each piece has a sculptural quality. Everything has been masterfully realised by the creator’s hand. Even the zips, so often uniform and ubiquitous are anything but here. “I contacted Lampo, a luxury zip maker, because they sponsored my BA collection and they expressed an interest in working together on an exclusive zip which was amazing. I looked to the work of Robert Morris because I’ve always been drawn to his square work, it was layering and de-layering, simplifying yet bold,” he animatedly explains whilst thumbing a puller. They provide the perfect functional finish to the outerwear and collaborative Eastpak accessories. Each and every detail has been carefully considered.

Looking through the Andy Malone shot look book alongside my own detail shots once again and having inspected the quality of the garments first hand, it is remarkable that this is Nicomede Talavera’s first full collection. There’s no limit to how far this talent can go. As ever, his own Van clad feet are fixed firmly to the ground.  “I’m looking to grow the label naturally, not to force it in the market before we’re ready. For this season, we’re hoping to secure two exclusive clothing stockists, one London based and one in Asia,” he declares. I’m in no doubt that he’ll do that and more.

Details… Miller’s Message

The phrase was theorised in a statistical book on the failures of children in council estate environments back in 1971,” Matthew Miller explains. Appropriated for autumn/winter 13, the slogan graces a ribbed jersey crew neck (available at Other and Peggs & son) and feels particularly apt on North London Derby Day. Wrapped up in a red and white scarf and enveloped by nerves, this fan and jumper wait in hope.


We have known each other for a number of years and have been working together for the past four,” Saif Bakir reminds us as he talks through the continued evolution of COMMON. Having met in the classrooms of LCF, a fruitful friendship between Bakir and Emma Hedlund has harvested a dynamic label that celebrates contractions, delights in dualism and cherishes clashes. “Our design process is very much integrated. On many occasions we end up thinking about the same thing or draw reference from same source of inspiration. It could be because we know each other so well or also because we both know what Common’s aesthetic is all about,” he adds. Whether it’s well tailored telepathy or just plain COMMON sense, the merged minds of Bakir and Hedlund create designs that are beautifully balanced, bouncing between minimal and maximal, tailored and casual, simple and complex. “A fusion of London edge, Paris chic and Scandinavian minimalism,’ is how the pair themselves describe the heady cocktail. Drink up.

Very few debut collections cause such a well deserved flutter as COMMON’S did for autumn/winter 12. Without doubt, the Lars Jonsson collaborative sparrow print exquisitely applied to bomber jackets set pulses soaring but it was the their mix of design cultures and desire to showcase local manufacture and craftsmanship that really captured our imagination. From this accomplished debut, the princely pair have pushed forward with a trio of collections that continue their narrative. “We want our collections to be able to sit together as one,” adds Bakir. Their story is one under constant development and refinement and spring/summer 14 is the latest chapter to captivate. Entitled Let The Games Begin, the collection introduces us to a vibrant squad of athletic daydreamers clad in a hyper modern team uniform.

Unlike our previous collection, we wanted to create something that felt lighter and brighter, we were influenced by an active season and lifestyle. We looked at friends and colleagues around us and we were inspired by their active way of life. We then looked into sports and drew inspiration from American sportswear and youth culture. We loved the idea of creating our own team colour and uniform.
Our mood board was based around Rubins colour pallet mixed with images from Luke Smalley body of work including Gymnasium and Sunday Drive.  We took note from Smalley’s colour palette in Sunday Drive in particular. There were clippings from reference fabrics; perforated fabrics, Lightweight tech cotton, Mesh, Loop back Terry, Bonded neoprene, Boiled wool. Trims like heat seal tapes, press studs, water repellent zippers. During our design process we looked at textiles and techniques used in technical sportswear. We wanted to create the same effect and utilise some of the benefits these high-tech material. We also looked at different finishes in garments such as heat-sealed seams which we applied in a more decorative way making it part of the aesthetic of the garment as seen on our taped seam trouser Jurg…”

SS14 Mood (1)
“From looking into youth culture and American sports we then into street art and current artists. We stumbled upon some of Rubin’s work and we were immediately drawn to its modern, futuristic and abstract shape and style, it felt so right and perfect for want we wanted our SS14 collection to communicate. As Rubin is based in Brooklyn, NY we started off by sending him an email and he showed immediate interest in a collaboration. There was a constant exchange of mood boards and ideas during the following weeks. We sent him a colour pallet to work from but he had free reign to sketch and create two walls for us, which we later reworked into the current print.”


“The highlight colours were then picked up from Rubin’s signature use of pop colours. The result is a mix palette of muted, saturated colours of chalk white, cream, bronze and matt black combined with highlight of bright orange, azure and chroma green. We combined Rubin’s artwork with this season’s colours and stripes. The outcome is a futuristic print for a hyper modern team uniform. Rubin’s complex and futuristic shapes works perfectly with this seasons theme and mood and are a great complement to the modern and technical fabrics featured throughout the collection.”

Ultimately, it’s the label’s real sense of collaboration in COMMON, both between the dynamic between the design duo themselves, their relationships with Swedish manufacturers and creative talent that they work with each season that really excites. From the Lars Jonsson collaborative sparrow print to Hans Krondahl’s reimagined gallop design a creative coming together has pushed the label forward. For spring/summer 14 Common shines an abstract spotlight on street artist Rubin. Now, his majestic murals surface regularly in NYC on the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx but his journey began in Gothenburg. Inspired by Beat Street, the concrete projects of Sweden were his first canvas and his latest are COMMOM’s uniforms.

Throughout Let The Games Begin, Hedlund and Bakir balance their modern, sartorial elegance with sportswear fused and and technical focused elements. Muted minimalism is matched with vibrancy, simple lines with complex geometric shapes. Delve deeper into this season’s duality with the Patrick Lindblom shot look book (just previewed on Highsnobiety)…

SS14 Sketches



Look book shot by Patrick Lindblom courtesy of Highsnobiety

Collecting fans and players along the journey, this COMMON collection will continue to drive this enthralling label forward. Let the real games begin…


Peach Blown Vase, 1886, Hobbs, Brockunier & Co.
Peach Blown Vase, 1886, Hobbs, Brockunier & Co.

Oh ceramics! Smashing!


Although I have to say I’m a little surprised you are starting this column new themes in contemporary art column with ceramics.

Oh really?

Yes! I was expecting Internet stuff. Fluorescent GIFs and Vine videos. Slimy animations of gunge? Gradients!

No, none of that. Well, not for the moment anyway.

Okay.  Let’s hear it then. What is so contemporary about ceramics?

Well, several artist…

Peach Blown Vase, 1886, Hobbs, Brockunier & Co.

Artist Designs Glow in the Dark Harry Potter Books with Pop-Up Illustrations

artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (5)

artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (3)


Art student Kincső Nagy designed an amazing glow in the dark version of the Harry Potter books, complete with interactive illustrations throughout. The Hungarian designer created simple covers for each book in the series, and the laser-cut illustrations come to life once the lights go out. Inside, readers will find illustrations that pop-up, fold out or open and close. The project was completed as part of her art degree. You can see details of the book below.

[via Behance]


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (4)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (5)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (8)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (1)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (2)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (3)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (5)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (4)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (2)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (9)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (1)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (6)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy


artist designs glow in the dark illustrated harry potter books (7)

Book Design and Illustrations by Kincső Nagy




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