The Vulgar is the most exquisite fashion show in London for an age. It’s also the most infuriating. Intentionally so

The Vulgar, a new exhibition at the Barbican, is the most exquisite original fashion show in London for as far back as I can remember.

I’m discounting Savage Beauty at the V&A, since that was first shown at the Met in NY.

The quality of garments, the elegance of their poise, the sympathy of the display with the Barbican building itself: all remarkable.

The curator is Judith Clark. Her selection of garments responds to eleven separate wall texts on different notions of The Vulgar by her partner, the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips.

From the off, The Vulgar assumes intelligence on the part of the viewer.

If only if all fashion exhibitions were so.

The tone is demure and the opposite of assumed vulgarity: grey walls, generosity of space, no clutter.

The exhibition is also profoundly infuriating, as I suspect it is supposed to be.

Phillips discusses taste, class and what is common.

The garments that follow are all those of luxury, whether historical garments for the upper classes of unknown designer, or pieces made by 20th and 21st century high fashion designers.

Hackles rise.

How dare you talk about what is common, when all around is overt display of wealth?

I was in show for over two hours, and it was only 90 odd minutes in that I saw its subversion.

Here’s the first display.

On the left is a fragment of a chasuble from 1480-1500.

A time of sumptuary laws, when the use of cloth was regulated by class and position.

On the right is a gold thread gown by Elsa Schiaparelli from 1937.

Starting from sumptuary laws casts meaning on the whole exhibition: fashion of luxury is inherently vulgar.

First section discusses classicism, and the vulgarity of taking from another age.

Two by Madame Gres.

Dresses I’ve never seen before by Karl Lagerfeld for Chloé, from 1984.

It’s great to see designers such as Pam Hogg and Sophia Kokosalaki in the show.

Hogg is on the left, then two Kokosalaki.

It’s remarkable how much the exhibition shies away from ideas of sexualised vulgarity.

A rare case is a section on Adam and Eve, titled The Fortunate Fall.

Vivienne Westwood and Walter van Beirendonck.

Some of the wall texts are exasperating.

“The Vulgar, like fashion, is always a copy.”


A section on copying.

The Mondrian dress by Yves Saint Laurent.

Maision Martin Margiela x H&M, next to Maison Margiela by John Galliano.

The middle hall is glorious.

Another view.

It’s this section that really hammers home the exquisite vulgarity of wealth and it’s display.

An outfit by John Galliano for Christian Dior from spring 03.

It is from one of the most extraordinary shows I have ever seen.

I can still remember that squared point of its drape.

I could look at the thing for hours.

See that flash of red?

So vulgar.

Across the way is another Galliano for Dior, this from Spring 2005.



By this point on first viewing, the show was driving my crazy.

Such presumptions of fashion being about wealth.

But then seen as a subversion, it is saying that the garments of the wealthy are vulgar.

As seen in the vulgarity of present day consumption, via Chanel’s supermarket show.

Upstairs is a rare moment in the show of non-catwalk subversion.

An ensemble by Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood.

It’s next to a Rudi Gernreich.

A total surprise in the show is Snow White dress by Charles James from 1938, made the year after the Disney film debuted.

I’ve never seen it before.


And so the show continues.

The message seems to be that although the work created within high fashion can be extraordinary, the societies that have demanded and consumed it are often reprehensible.

Incredible work done within vulgar confines.

There is barely any menswear in the show.

It’s the norm. In most cases, “fashion” stands for womenswear.

But in this instance, it is troubling.

Towards the end is a garment of constriction.

(Apologies for the blur)

It made me realise: this isn’t a show that is just about The Vulgar.

It is a show about the vulgarity to which women have been subjected, and by which they are then judged.

Throughout, Clark refers to other fashion exhibitions, wanting to make other points about the art of curating.

She talks in particular about The Ceaseless Century, a show at the Met in 1988 by Richard Martin about the enduring influence of the 18th century.

By doing so, she seems to be asking: why are women still subjecting themselves to these themes and ideas of luxury which come from times that were oppressive and without emancipation?

Fashion’s big trap.

That seems to be the biggest vulgarity.

What I’d have liked to have seen, maybe in a different show, at a different time:


ii) the 21st century empowerment of vulgarity, particularly in this age of the self-revealed body.

iii) fashion that is not by white designers, and not from a white western viewpoint – the only black face I could see in the entire show is presented as a figure of ridicule: the US Vogue cover of Kanye West with Kim Kardashian.

The only black designer I could see: Rihanna as co-designer for a pair of boots with Manolo Blahnik.

Maybe the whiteness of the exhibition is even more of an indictment of the vulgarity of what has passed for high fashion for the past however many centuries.

To be discussed.

It’s an excellent excellent show: go see, make sure you give yourself time to chew it all over.

It’s on at the Barbican from 13 Oct-5 Feb 2017

The construction of my new season Craig Green jacket, and why Donald Trump’s is like a minidress

It’s been ages since I’ve written about clothing on here.

The shows are now so intense, the rest of the year I tend to run away from thinking about menswear.

But yesterday I got this new jacket by Craig Green, from his autumn/winter 16 collection.

And I wanted to look at it in more detail.

Hey! Let’s get nerdy!

Said jacket in question.


It’s silk, quilted.

A confession: what I really wanted from the show was one of the insane quilted blankets the models dragged behind them during the show.

Let’s nick a photo from Craig’s website.





As I’m sure I’ve said three million times before, I’m obsessed with blankets.

I’d be happy if it they renamed it London Blanket Week.

But the quilt was apparently too expensive to produce, and so it will never reach stores.


(Ohmygod it’s been so long since I’ve written this sort of nonsense on the site I don’t believe I’ve ever typed an emoji before)

(Exactly the appropriate actions of a 42 year old)

So I got the jacket.

Let’s look at it close up.

The jacket, on the examining table.

i.e. my desk.


Those overlaid pockets.


An elbow tie moment.


(Yes, my desk does need re-glueing)

The back hem sits slightly lower than the front.


(Yes, I am wearing shorts with socks and sneakers – I was gardening earlier)

But the thing that gets me most with this jacket is the construction of the back.


From the beginning, Craig has taken from workwear jackets.

Hence the horizontal line across the back, which I’m guessing comes from a need to strengthen the garment through construction.

It’s as opposed to the vertical spine seam of the tailored jacket.

(You don’t need me to go and get a tailored jacket and photograph its vertical spine seam do you? Oh you do. Hold on a second. Here’s the tailored jacket I’ve been wearing most this year – by Hedi Slimane when he was at Saint Laurent)

(Excuse the creasing – it’s been around a bit)


That vertical line is what defines the traditional tailored jacket.

Here’s the inside of Craig’s.


Simple, right?

Yet it’s the horizontal back seam that I find so thrilling in Craig’s work.

It denotes an ambition which is humble, because it has its roots in workwear.

But it also more open to possibilities, because this seam offers a new path away from the cul-de-sac of male tailored clothing.

So much of the problem with male tailoring is the assumption of power that the suit jacket has come to denote.

As soon as a man puts on a tailored jacket, he is in some way claiming power and authority.

A man, wearing a suit, claiming power and authority.


So strange that this fabric in this cut stands for the maximum in virile masculinity, and yet it’s basically the same length as a minidress.


I digress.

Craig has been working with this back seam for a few collections now.

This summer’s nylon situation.


The inside.


This blue cotton event from one season or another, I can’t remember.


The inside.


It’s this back seam construction that makes his jackets such a pleasure to wear.

And allows them to be unassuming, even if they feature fashion bells-and-whistles (in this instance, the ties at the elbows and waist).

When I was talking about Craig with Andrew Bolton, curator-in-charge of the Costume Institute at The Met, he said that when he and his team first got hold of Craig’s pieces, they opened them up, obsessed with how they were constructed.

Such small details are the ones that really matter in the design of clothing.

On Friday evening, after about the 3millionth unit of alcohol of the approx 6million units eventually consumed, I got deep into conversation with someone about data.

He was telling me what counts for brands is the data of their construction; the data of their archive.

My head has gone through twelve million backflips trying to get to grips with this, and I’ll return to it again, somewhere.

But I think he means this: that the simple strength and decisiveness of Craig’s cut is data, much like the cut of Levi’s is data.

And its the data about Levi’s that gives it such connection to the generations that have worn its products.

It is the data of Craig’s work that is currently building his reputation.

And pointing towards calmer, quieter routes for the male jacket that the tailoring brands cannot provide.

Ohgod that got really convoluted.

Basically, I like the jacket.

Should you wish to buy said jacket, they’ll be getting it in black on the DSM e-shop soon (maybe they already have it in store)

Hey! Because this is the fast and speedy World Wide Web, I’ve been meaning for ages to post all my extraordinarily fascinating newsworthy pictures from the recent menswear shows that happened three years ago or something.

Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

Or the next day.


Here’s a nice record.


The first UK retrospective of Georgia O’Keefe for twenty years opens this week at Tate Modern. The work is expansive and revelatory

A new retrospective of Georgia O’Keefe opens this week at Tate Modern.

The first in the UK for twenty years.

I almost didn’t go to the preview – I have my own prejudices against O’Keefe, long held and entrenched.

Flowers; a claustrophobia.

It is as if the show was planned to move her away from such confines.

It allows her to be seen as expansive and contemplative.

It is a crucial decision of its curators to only dedicate a small space to flowers.

In it are only seven works.

Allowing other rooms to be filled with much else deserving of attention.

Not everything is perfect, and at the start I hadn’t planned on posting about it here.

But then I took more pictures.

And more.

And so here is a snapshot.

The first room is a recreation of the New York gallery 291, where O’Keefe made her debut in 1916.

Black Lines from 1919.

No.17 – Special from 1919.

Early on, curators Tanya Barson and Hannah Johnston strike to move O’Keefe from the assumed narrative of the erotic.

“When people read erotic symbols into my paintings,” a wall quote from O’Keefe reads, “they’re really talking about their own affairs.”

Another liberating curatorial act. From what I can recall, eroticism is never again mentioned in the show.

So the work can be looked at as it is.

Line and Curve, 1927

Black, White and Blue, 1930.

Mask with Golden Apple, 1923.

An extraordinary work, titled Farmhouse Window and Door, 1929.

A trio of still-lives.

Alligator Pear, 1923.

Two figs, 1923.

The Eggplant, 1924.

I’ll skip the seven flowers.

But in the exhibition’s run, they happen here.

Its clear I’m attracted most to the works that feel in some way expansive.

Soft Gray, Alcade Hill, 1929-30.

Black Cross with Stars and Blue, 1929.

Which has obvious parallels to Malevich, recently seen at Tate Modern.

I wonder if she knew of him?

Purple Hills, 1935.

Blue Sky, 1941.

The Black Place III.

And clearly I’m attracted most to those that are of pure abstraction.

The work that got me the most in the whole show was My Last Door, 1952-54.

Again, Malevich.

Pelvic Series, 1947.

Pelvis I, 1944.

Wall with Green Door, 1953.

A little known work: Kachina, 1931.


Sky with Flat White Cloud, 1962.

Sky Above the Clouds III/Above the Clouds III, 1963.

Such a great show.

Of effect both calming and stirring.

It opens this week, is on forever – until 30 October.

There’s a decent amount of menswear in the V&A’s new show Undressed – some pics

The V&A is previewing its new exhibition Undressed this morning.

It takes up residency in the central space of the Fashion hall for the next year or so.

The show is all about underwear, and most of the attention will be on the examples of corsetry through the centuries, many of which are eye-wincing and extreme.

But there’s also a decent amount of menswear in the show. On that I shall focus.

One of the first looks seen is an 18th century linen top and drawers. 

Look at that sleeve.

Those drawers.


Men’s socks.

The show is not especially linear, more by theme, but I’ll impose on it some order so this is not too skittish.

And warning: my pics from this show are even more fantastically amateur than normal.

Jaeger woollen top, supposed to regulate temperature.

Some breeches.

1920s linen shorts made for the climate in Egypt.

A jock strap.

I quote: “this jock strap was owned by a wealthy socialite and diplomat with a renowned and impeccable sense of style: Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle Junior (1897-1961). He was a skilled amateur tennis player.”

So there you go.


Chukka – Throwaway Briefs for Men.

From around 1970.
The exhibition is clever to pick up on the sexualised undercurrent of underwear imagery for gay men.

If you couldn’t get hold of porn, there was always underwear adverts.

Here’s one for Dean Rogers.


A shop promo figure for Y-Fronts, which sat on the counter of a men’s store in The Hague.

Some actual Y-fronts.

Some Disney print men’s bikini briefs.

“This pair was bought from a mail order advertisement in The Observer newspaper.”

Best caption ever.


A 19th century men’s dressing gown.

A Vivienne Westwood look shown on the womenswear catwalk, but this example was worn by a man.

And then, opposite, a Sibling knitted top and lounge pants from 2013, featuring toile de jouy images of the London riots.

And some Church’s slippers.

They’re all pieces I donated to the V&A.

This is obviously a tenth of the show or something.

The majority of it is women’s, which has its own multi-layered narrative.

But it’s great that from it, a menswear story can also be extracted. 

The show opens to the public on 16 April, runs to 12 March 2017, click here for more etcetcetc.

Three more exceptional shows from Glasgow International: Tamara Henderson, Aaron Angell, Claire Barclay

Three more shows from the excellent Glasgow International, which opened this weekend just gone.

Tamara Henderson at the Mitchell Library.

Her work is completely new to me, and I am now obsessed.

This is Garden Photographer Scarecrow.


I mean I pass out.

She works from stuff she remembers from dreams.

Close up with the scarecrow.

The back of its head.


Its arm.


I guess these are its knees.


A foot.


Opposite is Body Fountain Fetch.


Those pipes and daffs.


Surrounding them are cloth sculptures.


Close up on that T-shirt body.






It was one of those shows that you go round once, then go round again, see more, and again…

I was forever in there.



Spot the dolphin.






This one was my favourite.


Over at the begonia greenhouse of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Aaron Angell had installed some works.

He’s a particular fan of begonias, so the placing is apt.












So so major.

A begonia leaf.


Over at the disused Kelvin Hall, Claire Barclay.

Another artist new to me.

A long view.


From the side.


Close-up on that slick.




So so so good.

There’s so much talk about the market at the moment, about its imminent collapse, its collapse that has already begun.

It’s as if this talk of market was the only story.

The work at Glasgow International points towards another way.

Which is a focus on work of lasting worth, often unsung, rather than that of obvious fame, infamy or novelty.

Four artists completely new to me: Cosima von Bonin; Tamara Henderson; Claire Barclay; Liz Magor.

One artist who suddenly made sense: Mika Rottenberg.

It was such a contrast to come back to London and see the new conceptual art show at Tate Britain, which is so confined to a male, expected idea of art.

In Glasgow, I’d gotten used to seeing stuff that to me was of broader reach.

Which is how things should be.

If you can get to Glasgow, go go go. The directors programme of shows is on until 25 April.

Tate Britain’s new show Conceptual Art in Britain should be renamed Male Romanticism in Britain

Tate Britain is previewing today a show it’s calling Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979.

More accurately, it should be called Male Romanticism in Britain 1964-1979.

Since the majority of the work is by male artists, and most of it is essentially romantic.

The land art of Richard Long.

The elevation of words by Art & Language.

The recording of location by David Tremlett.

All valid work, but all romantic.

And very, very male.

ringn’66 by Barry Flanagan, 1966.


A pile of sand, which seems a pretty romantic gesture towards material.

Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges) by Roelof Louw.


Anyone can take an orange from the top of the pile – a romantic gesture.

Maybe its because printed text seems so obsolete nowadays, but all of the work of Art & Language looks romantic to me.


The work of Bruce McLean is new to me.

Pose Work for Plinths questions plinth-based sculpture, taught to McLean in the 60s by Anthony Caro.


Another by McLean.


Keith Arnatt’s Self-Burial seems now a deeply romantic work about relationship with land.


The very title of The Pilgrim’s Way by Hamish Fulton makes it romantic.


It seems so strange to still be describing Richard Long in terms of conceptualism.

His work is so deeply romantic it overrides any attempt to call it conceptual.


Alongside it is The Spring Recordings by David Tremlett.

A series of cassettes, each featuring a recording from the 81 counties of the UK.

Again, a deeply romantic gesture.


Unless I missed something, the first work by a female artist appears in the fourth of five rooms.

Untitled by Sue Arrowsmith.

A series of photos of a frame in various states of being painted.

(Apologies for the reflection of me in the glass)


What’s interesting is how this take on conceptualism includes little antagonism.

At least retrospectively.

Now it mostly seems polite.

It’s not until the final room that there is any sense of push.

Homeworkers by Margaret Harrison, from 1977.


The Twin Towers by Stephen Willats, also from 1977.


It’s the sort of show that makes you feel there must be another story that went on.

But if you’re interest is in male romanticism, then its perfect.

The show opens tomorrow, click here for more etcetcetc

If you’re going to visit, maybe wait for a couple of weeks till Pablo Bronstein’s Duveen galleries commission opens…

More from Glasgow International: Liz Magor, Alisa Baremboyn, Matthew Smith, Monika Sosnowska etcetc

Here’s more from Glasgow International, the biennale by any other name which is opening this weekend.

The great boon of the festival is its intent to introduce artists who may not have been exhibited seriously in this country before.

At the Glasgow Sculpture Studio is an excellent show featuring Liz Magor and Alisa Baremboyn. For both it’s their first institutional show in the UK. Magor is Canadian, born in 48. Baremboyn is based in NY, born in the Soviet Union in 82.

In a display of fantastic professionalism, I’ve left all my notes in my room, so I’ve no idea what any of these works are called.

Liz Magor.

Alisa Baremboyn.







Come on, show your face.

OK don’t.

It’s such a strong show.

I’m now evengelically Magor.

I say her name about every fifth word.

What else?

Matthew Smith at Koppe Astner.

The work as a whole is called Smile.

There’s 27 of them.

Based on the saw in Roobarb and Custard.

Roobarb used to go into his shed and get sawing.

They’re so so major.

Upstairs at Mary Mary is Emily Mae Smith.

More Mae Smith.


Monika Sosnowska at Modern Institute.

A close-up, because I went during the opening.

A lot of people.

So imagine this massive, filling a room.

You get the idea.

Outside were some other works they were quite beautiful.


And yes that is a dog taking a shit in the background.

I hadn’t realised quite how much mid-performance.


At the other Modern Institute gallery, A Petition For An Enquiry Into A Condition Of Anxiety by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan.

The desk speaks.

That guy at the back.

I loved the room by Kate V Robertson, apparently in the old courthouse.

An exceptional show by Kevin Hutcheson, a Glasgow artist who died last week.

Another work.

More artists new to me.

Derrick Alexis Coard at Project Ability.

And the total unknown: Louis Michel Eilshemius, a favourite of Duchamp, at 42 Carlton Place.

So there you go.

And I’ve barely begun.

The amazing Glasgow International opens today. Some pics of what I’ve seen so far

I’m in Glasgow, where the Glasgow International festival is opening.

It’s a biennale by any other name, a programme of curated exhibitions and other shows happening over a 17 day period.

And it’s properly major.

Sheila Hicks at Tramway.


The work is called Mighty Matilde And Her Consort.

That’s Matilde.


This is her consort.


There is also yarn in the tracks.




I mean amazing.

Alexandra Bircken also created a work responding to the train tracks that run through the floor of Tramway.


Its wheels sit in the tracks themselves.

Another by Bircken: Combinations, made from zippers.


Lawrence Wek has created a digital film about transforming the old QE2, built in Glasgow, into a new home for the Glasgow School of Art.


A boat that sits outside the screening area.

It’s housed in a construction made by Martin Boyce, who also has made some screens that intersect the space.


The show at Tramway is curated by Sarah McCrory, the director of the festival, and it looks at labour, manufacture, craft and production.

All of which swoops into extraordinary clarity in the films of Mika Rottenberg.

I’d already seen bits of Squeeze at Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York, but here in Glasgow it all suddenly clicked.

Lettuce workers in Arizona.


Holes appear in the floor, through which they put their arms.


Fully in.


Their hands are washed by workers in some strange ever changing box structure.

Workers soothing workers.

Scenes as the box changes.


More box changes.




This happens.




I could go on.

And I didn’t even watch yet her newer work, NoNoseKnows.

The festival is extraordinary for bringing such important work to a city with such a density of art students.

It’s stuff they need to see, and would never normally get the chance.

Over at GOMA is a show by Cosima von Bonin.


It’s so major.





And then last night Marvin Gaye Chetwynd instigated a performance at the School of Art were stuff went down.

Like this.


Hold up.

Back it up.




The exit of Hedi Slimane from Saint Laurent is uniquely respectful, a story played out to its natural end

The past few months leading up to Hedi’s exit from Saint Laurent have been fascinating to watch.

Since the story first broke at the beginning of the year, it’s as if the industry has been on tenterhooks of an imminent shock jolt.

And a juicy, bitchy news story.

It’s true: most fashion splits involve a sense of hurried announcement (Raf Simons leaving Christian Dior), or deeply revealed divisions (the removal of Alber Elbaz from Lanvin).

There’s something very different about Hedi’s exit from Saint Laurent. It has been choreographed with a rare sense of respect from both sides, from him as creative director, and Kering group as conglomerate owner.

It became apparent at the Palladium show in Los Angeles, which I attended in February.

I was there to write a story for the Financial Times.

For me, it was high pressure.

The show was on a Wednesday night in LA, the deadline Thursday morning in the UK.

My nightmare was that right after we’d gone to print, the story would break that Hedi had quit, rendering my story redundant.

But it became clear that this was not going to happen.

The people around Hedi all seemed calm.

There was to be no drama.

This was not a creative director working at the end of his tether.

It was the work of someone still deeply committed to the brand (you can watch the show here).

The same story happened at the womenswear shows: that tension of a news story about to break, and then the reality of a show of unusual designer commitment.

A show titled La Collection de Paris, held in silence at the new YSL couture salon.

I wasn’t at the women’s show, so can’t comment on it, but you can watch it here.

The show was of such force, many wrote as if it were a new beginning for Hedi at Saint Laurent, rather than his farewell.

The show was on March 7th. Hedi’s contract expired 31st March.

Between the two dates, what followed was a graceful tying up of loose ends.

The advertising image he chose for the April issue of Frieze made it clear this was a goodbye.


And then there has been the advertising campaigns for the fall/winter collections, released already even though it’s two or three months until the clothes reach stores.

First the advertising for the Palladium collection.

Then the campaign for La Collection de Paris, featuring Cara Delevingne.

You’ve seen them all already, I don’t need to repeat them again here – if you’ve not seen them, head to their Twitter @YSL.

By working fully till the end, Hedi ensured that he controlled the imagery of his work.

And rather than pushing him out in a bitter pique, Kering have realised its in their best interest to let Hedi tell his story at the brand right to the final sentence.

Everything is tidied up, all is finished.

Showing the respect that Hedi has for the house, and the legacy of Saint Laurent himself.

And now it’s done.

Onto the next.


We had a CHAPTER 10 with Ben UFO and Prosumer on Sunday night. Some of the records played, and fashions worn

Sunday night we held a CHAPTER 10.

It was so amazing.

Ben UFO.


Much jolliness.

I played records when people were putting their coats in the cloakroom and stuff.

Here are some of them.

Antimatter by Butch.

Also by those nice Butch people, The Message.

Hous-O-Matik Hom-O-Patik by B.A.D.S., mixed by that nice Spencer Parker.

Rights For Men by Spencer Parker.

Swift Box by John Tejada and Tin Man.

One of my favourite records in the entire universe – Acid Alcohol by Generation Next.

Obviously Tutonic by Mr G.

Oooh the fashions that were seen on gentlemen who attended the world of CHAPTER 10.

The jacket from Prada SS16 look 19.

Vetements POLIZEI T-shirt.

(I was in my Vetements DHL obvs)

Pieter HH T-shirt (though it was worn by Bas of Pieter so not sure if that counts)

Platform shoes. Or maybe boots. I saw them at 6.07am getting into an Uber so memory is a bit sketchy.

Complete nudity except for spectacles, shoes and socks.

A chicken outfit with feathers stuffed down the sleeve for throwing.


Our next one’s May Day bank holiday Sunday…