Friday, 18 October 2013

#ESPspotlight REVIEW: LONDON EDGE / The LEdge, KENSINGTON OLYMPIA, 1 SEPTEMBER



My first outing at last month's London Edge / The LEdge 2013, was an excellent education in more ways than one. With no idea of what to expect from a ticket touted as 'a temple to Fashion, in all of it's wonderful forms' in the 'alternative Fashion capital of the world'; I desperately tried not to fill my mind's eye with piercings, on the spot tattoo parlours, flame-throwing, and gender-ambiguous cartoon heroes loved by pre-pubescent teens everywhere; before recalling that attempting to reign in my imagination was about as useful an employment of my time, as trying to convince myself that Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen wouldn't jump at the chance to host...well, anything, in some pvc, leather, and some bottomless studded chaps, if the opportunity were not presented to him. It wouldn't even need to be a Saturday night. I'd put money on it, if I were the gambling type...


Back to the event at hand, however; my adventure began with two perfect examples of front of house professionalism. The organisers earned a perfect score for the helpful, informative, and welcoming staff who greeted me on arrival; one of whom actually escorted me to the designated Press stand on the event's main floor, and introduced me to the lovely Carly Truss, Canoe Inc's PR maven for both events. Armed with my guidance info and a kind complimentary bag full of goodies, I hit the ground running with a keen eye on all, and an open mind about a brand completely unfamiliar to me.

My first stop of the day, Pleaser USA, Inc., lived up to their name, by being as gracious with a non-buyer as their collections were traffic-stopping. Clearly happy to introduce a newcomer to their label's unique style and background; they were a brand who understood the concept of public perception, and basic common courtesy - in stark contrast to the representative of my next stop. EXHIBITORS TAKE NOTE: When you send someone out to act on behalf of your brand, please ensure they fully understand that their rudeness, becomes that of your label; thus if they cannot leave their egotistical ignorance at home, then for the sake of your company's name and reputation YOU, should leave THEM behind.

A label in SORE need of new Public Representation...
In almost 14 years of event experience - on both sides of the fence - never once have I encountered anyone as rude as the representative for fashion label, One Direction.



At this point I should set the scene by explaining my standard procedure for event photography. Before I even lift my lens, I will always approach a brand representative and explain that I am reviewing the event, then request permission to photograph their stand and products for inclusion, before swapping contact information, so that the company can be sure of my legitimacy, and research me on the spot, if they so wish. Most are willing, for the simple, obvious common sense in the offer - they are receiving free publicity, from a voice with an audience of prospective buyers who may be unfamiliar with them. It really doesn't take Einstein to deduce that free marketing works entirely in the exhibitor's favour in most cases - except in ones like this, where arrogant behaviour only gets you named and shamed.

The pompous individual - old enough, but not smart enough to have known better - considered me with all the disdain he could muster, before replying: "No, you cannot photograph our stand - that's for Press only." Now usually, if any confusion remains after the procedure outlined above, then all that's required is higher placement of my Press pass for the oversight to be rectified - but not this time. In the most condescending manner possible, I was told: "You are NOT Press - what magazine are you with?" Before I could finish educating the ignoramus on what a 'blog' is, and the difference between online and print, I was rudely (and literally) 'shooed' off the stand altogether! To be clear, Suzy Menkes I am not, and never would, claim to be - my delusions of grandeur are restricted to the twilight hours of sleepy time only, but make no mistake: open disrespect, or anything remotely akin to that kind of behaviour is entirely unacceptable -  whether you are dealing with a representative of the media, or your regular Joe Public. Especially when your company shares its name with the group named the 'Official Biggest Boyband on the Planet' who also just happen to be 2012's 6th highest searched for celebrity in the world. The shocking encounter has now become a cautionary tale used as cocktail banter; with every single person I tell, reacting with utter disbelief that in this increasingly digital age, anyone could be so lacking in their knowledge of blogs, and what a simple mention, never mind an endorsement from one, can do for your brand - and that's before we even talked the importance of manners! Silly, silly goose.

Dead Threads
Refusing to waste another moment on the unworthy, I made my way to Dead Threads directly opposite, where I encountered the first of many staff with a brain firmly rooted in the 21st century. Drawn to their cuffs and bags, they were an interesting label to kick off my foray into alternative fashion





These guys had you in search of an Oliver Twist to your Nancy...
Fashion label Hell Bunny had you feeling like the welcome escapee from a Dickensian novel, on a dark, eerily foggy night. Or at the very least, an auditionee for Stylish Jack The Ripper Victim #1. Another friendly, welcoming team scattered across the large stand, only too happy to demonstrate a level of hospitality that could have taught more than a few vendors a thing or two.

Alchemy 1977 were next. Drawn to the stand by their spectacular decoration, it was clear that these guys took the dressing of their stand more seriously than any vendor I believe I have seen, at any event this year. Delving way beyond my personal comfort zone where Gothic Art is concerned; I was literally entranced by the care they had taken in their presentation, leaving me powerless to do anything but try to capture what I was seeing in the event's photo album, which you will find in the usual home of all things visual in the ESP Ltd. social media catalogue (below).
Alchemy Gothic 1977
The lovely young lady representing Kreepsville was as lovely as her merchandise was creepy - Halloween lovers, these guys are definitely the right call for your younger set, who love to scare, and be scared. Trick or Treaters, they're not called the 'Home of the Original Scare Wear' for nothing - they sent me in search of the pink frilly styles I've repelled since birth. Pink, Yes, Frills, NO. At least not until now...

The Contortionist was the only live act I caught during my visit. Disappointed not to be able to see more of the talent I had only heard whisper of, due to there being no printed timetable - I made a beeline for the only person in the immediate vicinity, that I figured had to be 'in' on the secret. Except even Mr Sound Man had no official schedule to work from; I was simply advised to keep returning to the stage "around the top of the hour...". If there was going to be only one show I could catch though, then I'm definitely glad this one was it...




Leaving the stage area more confused about general anatomy than I ever was in secondary school, I wandered into another fashion zone where, although still alternative, the 1940s and 50s styles were clearly for a softer palette than the hardcore trends I had seen thus far. Manchester natives Vanity Project (made by Limb) were full of festive tea party dresses covered in unusual prints, that included vinyl records and original movie theatre popcorn bags and more; while Collectif - one of the main event sponsors - brought the most glamorous of vintage eras back in the most authentic of fashions. Each member of staff was decked out in beautiful finery to the nines, and their very gracious champagne hour offered the opportunity to be served the fizzy stuff from a (short-lived) fountain of flutes (there may have been a small 'avalanche moment', but thankfully no clothing was damaged in the fall); while browsing and getting to know the staff behind the brand. Definitely one of my highlights of the day (and not just for the bubbly)!







I had spotted Loungefly a month earlier at Pure34 London. Unfortunately, they belonged to the multitude that I didn't get a moment to stop and properly take in, and so I made the most of this serendipitous chance. Even if I hadn't enjoyed getting up close and personal with the biggest Hello Kitty collection I've ever seen on British soil; comparing and contrasting the two events with an insider made this stop another highlight.
Loungefly Loves Hello Kitty (brand)
The next stand to stop me in my tracks was every Girl's dream, but every Good Girl's nightmare. Hades UK were the shoe brand inspired by steampunk, that caused a literal mental romance in my consciousness, between footwear and the best of H. G. Wells...
Steampunk Love...
These beautiful creations so enamoured me, that I managed to completely block out an unholy name that gave me the heebie jeebies (technical term). Every time I began to remember it, I caught sight of another design that blinded the label, until I saw nothing but steam-powered time machines on my feet, and historical excursions that Thomas Cook couldn't package in my mind. Dear Readers, I can but only helplessly admit that I was in love, and pray I will neither be demonically possessed, nor struck down where I type.
Instruments of Tortur(ous Pleasure)...
Tearing myself away from a collection seemingly intent on bringing my inner Heathen to the forefront; my next stop was on the one hand, a perfect distraction, but on the other, a painful reminder of the all-consuming joys that completing a wardrobe with the previous works of (evil) art, could bring. With Burleska, came proof that a young girl's fantasy could indeed come true - I could really be Xena Warrior Princess...in wardrobe at least (minus the frisbee thingy, unless we're talking keyrings that even I could never lose). There was even a 'Gorgeous Gabrielle' option for the more faint of heart.


Xena Eat Your Heart Out...
Girly Gabrielle...both by Burleska



















The sweet, wholesome innocence of Innocent World brought me back to the present, by showing me just how far apart the goalposts are, when it comes to alternative fashion in the everyday sense. This was a brand that would not have been out of place at Hyper Japan - in fact, the brands would be a perfect fit; and yet they were equally at home in their current surroundings, a fact that I found quite amazing.

The stand that took the prize for the longest name, also took a bigger one for most intricate works of artistic adornment in the building. Once you got over the name, Bertoldini Giuliana Di Benetti Alessio (The Original Atelier) and his breathtaking works mesmerised you. Whether accessories, headpieces or jewellery, there was not a piece on display, that didn't command your attention, or make you long for a gilded invitation to a costume ball...
Bertoldini Giuliana headpieces
Every piece told a story, and all you would need to do, was look closely at one for a matter of seconds, before a voice in your head began reciting: "Once, upon a time...".
Bertoldini Giuliana Headpiece
Completely in another world; opposite the longest brand label name in the world, was a sci-fi fan's dream, as Legend Stuff provided comfortable fashion options for the real-life Big Bang Theory fan. Heralding every Superhero you could imagine on clothing, even Yours Truly flashed back to a few of my childhood favourites - even greater proof of the audience that an event like this can reach.


Manic Panic dressed up in one of the best things about the 80s...
Manic Panic were my favourite cosmetic stop of the day, where I chatted away with the lovely Meghan Gearino, visiting from the brand's flagship in Ye Olde US of A. Talking me through some of the novelty products available - my personal favourite being the cassette tape 'Pretty In Punk' eyeshadow palettes - be sure to keep an eye out on your favourite blog for more in-depth info on the label coming soon...

As I had somehow managed to bump into a different member of Prong Jewellery staff at several turns, from the moment I arrived at the venue, it seemed only logical to stop at their stand once I came across it. It was the awesomely beautiful handmade pieces on display at House of Hirudinea's temporary home for the next three days, that held my attention captive. Though the stand was the most modest I had seen all day; the obvious care and attention to detail that went into each piece of clothing, jewellery, and accessory, was enough to outdo some of their most elaborate competitors.

Completing the rounds at a few more of the ground floor exhibitions, I spent the final 40 minutes of the day taking in the The LEdge on the Gallery floor above (with time to spare). Taken aback at how few stands were exhibiting on the upper level, in contrast with all that was going on below, never mind in the exact same spot a month earlier, when so many stands filled the level that there seemed to be little room for visitors, I first visited the skateboard park that had been erected for the younger alternative crowd. After watching the goings on for a short while, it didn't take long to wander through the spaces occupied by skateboard and scooter labels Maui, Osprey and UrbanBeach-Surf.


Who knew tents could be this FANTASTIC? Not Me!
FieldCandy were a fitting end to the day, as I spoke with an excellent group of brand representatives who did their label so proud, that I almost forgot my hatred of all things muddy, long enough to consider copping a gorgeous tent - clearly caught up in the shock of two words that I never thought could go hand-in-hand. The closing bells were enough to save a fleeting reverie from becoming a reality, and off I set, homeward-bound; leaving Olympia's National Hall better educated than when I arrived

I cannot say that the underlying message of The LEdge committed itself to my memory, but London Edge 2013 most certainly did, in more ways than one. Through the event, I learned of the countless degrees involved in Alternative Fashion. Unlike anything I have encountered at any of the events I have covered this year, Alternative Fashion is unbound and free. The fact that so many different aspects and style types, who have nothing to do with the other individually, can coexist so happily under one roof prove, that London Edge is a summit with a welcome mat for any, and everyone who repels the restraints that contemporary fashion conforms to.

Catch the next London Edge / The LEdge outing in February 2014. Visit the website now and connect with their Social Media Catalogue for everything you need to know about getting involved...

For the the day in pictures, visit the Event Photo Album on the ESP Ltd. Facebook Page, and connect with ESP by Liking the page and sharing the photos.

If you were at either event and want to share your thoughts, your regular stage is set, and awaits you in the Comments Box below...

Until the next!
ES ;)