Sunday, 24 February 2013

Once Upon a Time in New York (part II)

Lady C in Bedlam's cape and cap on Fifth Avenue at 57th, a lucky spot for us - Happy Year of the Snake to all

I am writing this on the trusty old lap top while our big computer undergoes major surgery at the Apple store. They are keeping it in after a dramatic hard drive transplant. Outside the snow is falling on London again while our boiler, having worked for the first day in a month, has decided that it prefers a life of ease and retired itself from service once more. Of course we render ourselves more psychologically than physically hostage to modern mechanical accoutrements. Yesterday we rode the Number 59 bus to pay a research visit to the most marvelous British Library. There on display was a manuscript for one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes" stories, transcribed in a neat hand in his note book. The dissemination of his stories was not held back by lack of binary code. So if you would like to supply your name and postal address I shall perhaps take to sending postcards from our travels and we can burn the computers for warmth.

But back to the account of our adventures in New York City. Having done a reccie round the Village on Sunday, Team Bedlam returned on Monday afternoon to progress through the streets in character. We went to present to Michael, the buyer-boss of Hotoveli. This boutique, on West Fourth Street, specialises in "hand picked European fashions". The vibe is cool and dark but the welcome warm and friendly. 

Ingmar, Redboy and Mr Wesley on the way to Hotoveli

Once Upon a Time in New York City

Michael, owner-buyer of Hotoveli with Mr Wesley in the Bumble Bee jacket and Redboy in the Tectonic Suit

Ingmar with Michael wearing the "New York via the Lambeth Walk Pearly Newsboy Cap
Michael is coming to London at the beginning of March and we look forward to welcoming him to the studio. If we can do certain pieces for him in a way that fits with his store's character then we would be more than willing to do that  - doing a piece in black never hurt a sales sheet.

The next day we went to introduce ourselves to HMS International Fabrics, parent company of Huddersfield Fine Worsteds (without whose support, you will remember, we could not have made the collection let alone such a fine one!)
The snow was still substantial out in Connecticut and the legendary lady we were scheduled to meet, Blanche, was still digging out her house. Stepping in to greet us was Vice President Edwin Nazario and he confessed he had not known at all what to expect. Ingmar, Mr Wesley and I trundled in with the giant red suit case. His delight at what we showed him was a shot of neat confidence - here is a gentleman who knows his core values when it comes to cloth and can differentiate dodgy from distinguished tailoring at a block's distance. He has worked with Armani, Versace and a host of household names. He taught us that in the USA one refers to a "Surgeon" cuff for a working cuff - so that doctors could set to work without getting gore on their sleeves. It seemed that he genuinely dug our stuff and his admiration for the workmanship was a true tingling thrill - we hope we know it, but it's always nice to have it recognised! He tried on various pieces before saying that when ever we were in town we could us their office as our base. So Earl of Bedlam will be happy to meet potential clients in the beautiful Crown Building across the street from Tiffanys at "the crossroads of fashion", Fifth Avenue and 57th Street. What an utter honour.

Mr Nazario in the Tectonic jacket

In the "Mr Harrop" waistcoat named for his British colleague
Admiring "Mr Willis"
In the corduroy suit now and henceforth known as the "Edwin"
Edwin and Mark looking over fabrics (and an opportunity to admire the leather cinch back on the "Arthur" trousers)
Joe cutting some swatches for our friend Chris Capone, grandson of Al

Afterwards we went across the road for a bite in the bar at the Trump Tower and can now add Arnie the barman there as one of our favourite characters. We have been using a sledge hammer to chisel away at Ingmar's reluctance to broadcast his family name by fanfaring it with vicarious pride. When we told Arnie, he revealed his mother's family name was also "Patton" and announced, many times, that Ingmar's great grandfather "saved the world! Young man, he saved the world."

Ingmar with Mr Wesley and Arnie, a Patton on his mother's side, Maitre du Bar at Trump Tower
Mr Wesley and I both dressed in Bedlam pieces so that we might solicit sidewalk enquiries - of which there were many - regarding the provenance of our fine threads. A Frenchman with whom we rode the elevator asked who made our lovely clothes and we duly handed him a card. "You are a feast for the eyes!" he proclaimed. Well merci beaucoup.

In the midst of all this activity I was trying to co-ordinate with the legend that is Cameron Silver so that he might pass his connoisseur's eye over the collection. His store on Melrose is deservedly the premier vintage emporium du monde and he has recently published a most beautiful and characteristically witty book celebrating ten decades of enduring, endlessly inspiring fashion.
Included by Time Magazine in their "Twenty-Five Most Influential People in Fashion" and, more importantly, a great and generous friend first met in Los Angeles, he managed to shake off his entourage and go off-schedule for half an hour to see us. He asked where we were showing, perhaps expecting "The Lincoln Centre" or "The Presidential Suite at the Carlisle" but both of those would have been a lie. Factoring in the geography of Cameron's itinerary I had a long shot light bulb moment. I called my honorary NY sis, the artist Georgia Bush and enquired if by any chance she was home and fancied hosting a trunk show. The energy and enthusiasm for which she is renowned and adored flowed without a breath of pause - "Of course! Come over! I'll open a bottle of wine, put out some cheese, do you need this, that, the other? What else can I do?"
Quelle amie!
It took us a while to hail a cab and as our driver weaved through tortuous traffic before hitting a clear streak on Seventh Ave I hardly dared look round for fear of seeing Cameron in the car behind us. We grabbed one of the fancy luggage rails from Georgia's lobby and got the clothes on it in double quick time moments before the concierge rang the apartment to announce a guest was on his way up. Here Cameron is asked about his new TV show "Dukes of Melrose" about to air in the USA:

Cameron Silver tries the "Tectonic" jacket
He likes!

Cameron in the cap henceforth and forever on now known as the "Cameron" with Lady C wearing hers along with the "Megan" jacket

Soon enough Cameron had to scoot off to his next appointment but before he had even left the building had sent an email to GQ magazine exhorting them to see us. Georgia had a little try on herself and with her fabulously fit figure looked catwalk ready in the Franzipants. Then we posed in front of one of her own creations, and you should check out more of her art

Hudson, Georgia, Mr Wesley and Ingmar in front of Bedlam's favourite canvas by our beautiful artist-hostess

In the evening, at Cameron's invitation we went to Soho House for a party to promote the release of "Versailles '73 - a fashion Revolution" We weren't exactly the life and soul of the event as fatigue and the peculiar sushi dinner we had before arriving gone done for our brio. Mr Wesley and I left Helen and Ingmar to represent Bedlam's interests and hailed a pumpkin home. Cameron was back to LA the next morning to attend the grand opening of the Tommy Hilfiger flagship store. And OMG guess what he wore?! You are our Pearly King Cameron. Catch him later tonight commenting on the Oscar gowns and gaffes. 

Cameron in Earl of Bedlam's "Cameron" cap

I was hoping a second installment would wrap our foray to America but it seems it will require a trio of dispatches. Best endeavours will be made to post that promptly. For now, good night. Bedlam hopes Daniel Day Lewis wins Best Actor during its course. He wrote me a charming and considered letter in reply to my own when I was seventeen or thereabouts so for that, and his formidable talent, I shall cheer for him. Hopefully Cameron will approve of his suit.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Hell for Leather takes off

The first Bedlam shirts arrived on the Friday - the collarless Tattersall check in country tan with the softest leather neck; the windsor brown striped bib front; the Bengal wine colourway; and the button down blue check. The next delivery brought the crimson cowboy all in ones. Then I drove into town to collect the labels showing all the fabrics used in the collection and the picture of us taken by Redboy (above). They were printed by Sussex-based Dan and Louise at Hatley Print whose neighbour works off Piccadilly and who kindly took them to work with him. Dan sent us this film of them rolling off the presses and I cried. So box of tissues at the ready, try to contain yourselves:

Then the ribbing arrived for the nubuck leather shooting/biker jacket and I drove to the East End workshop with that before popping to London Trimmings across from the Blind Beggar pub for last minute bigger buckles for the waistcoats.

On the Monday our intern Ingmar and his mama Helen Patton took the early train to Manchester to introduce themselves to the team at the Cooper Stollbrand factory regarding Ingmar's project to redesign his school uniform. They brought back our samples with them, sewing pearly buttons onto the Newsboy caps as they travelled. The next day we invited the Founding Fathers and Mothers of Bedlam to assemble together for the first time and, we hoped, to admire what has been made thanks to them.

Wednesday the Whitechapel workshop finished off the ladies' wear, calling to say the last pieces were ready to collect at 8pm. Back at our studio we opened the bottle of Bollinger that Helen had brought us as a "thank you" for having Ingmar. They were already on their way to New York and the next mornign we were, by the skin of our teeth, ready to follow them. For these reasons - the supernatural haste with which we put this together - as well as the leather detailing, we have dubbed the Autumn / Winter 2013 Collection "Hell for Leather". It is used to denote fast and furious focus on your goal, be that Mr Fox or, in our case, an order.

Early on Thursday morning Mr Wesley's old friend Stuart came to collect us in his Hansom Cab and drove us to Heathrow:

And with  a suitable send off we were on our way
Hot, or should I say cold, on our tail was a snow blizzard. My friend Francine had provided us with her apartment at Ground Zero, overlooking the Pools of Remembrance. From the lofty perspective we enjoyed they appeared like the portal to hell. We got settled and snuggly but outside the temperature was also hitting zero. On Friday, when you walked in the wind the ice chips felt like gravel in your face. It was the first time in all my years of coming here I felt New York had lost its nerve. While we went from bank to phone store to discount snow boot emporium, people scurried to close up early and hunker down. It is understandable when you consider a few months back the lobby of our building was under four feet of water. They have redecorated with opulent swank but a certain dank mustiness prevails. And of course there was the famous onslaught down town on that much recited date.

The gargoyle in our lobby

Francine did us proud with the accommodation, which was yet another example of the generosity that made the trip possible. We have named each piece in the collection after someone who helped us on our way, so accordingly the jodhpurs are the "Franzipants" and my own favourite tweed we made into the "Megan" for the lady who contributed to our air fares.

But on Saturday we woke up to crisp mountain top blue skies and set off to Any Old Iron on the Lower East Side to prep for the party being thrown by le patron, ex pat Andrew Clancey, to launch our collection and to celebrate his store's third birthday.

It's located on Orchard Street between Rivington and Stanton and Andrew gave us the window. In it we placed the "Mr Willis" suit in tribute to someone we are proud to call a client and friend.

Then we got to unpacking the trunk and steaming the creases out of the clothes while Ingmar sewed yet more buttons onto the caps - they are the perfect fusion of our "Gangs of New York with an Oliver Twist" ethos, the Manhattan hat decorated with London's pearly buttons. Andrew tried on the double breasted overcoat which we have named "The Clancey" in his honour as he was the first person to stock us. We must point out that the samples were made in standard sizes so he appears to be handless in this photograph. Shortly before guests were due to arrive, Andrew's doggie Monkey decided to have a particularly stinky bottom-end issue. We opened the door, squirted air freshner like it was in fashion and blamed Mark to save Monkey's blushes.

Mr Clancey in the Harris Tweed overcoat named for him in his store "Any Old Iron"

We hung the Ventile macs -  now named the "Mr Wesley" - on their pegs, the Olive Green with tomato lining and Worcester Sauce piping; and the Cinnamon lined in café creme with milky piping:

The "Mr Wesley" macs made of super water resistant Ventile

Trousers and jackets went up on the rail. Here are some shots of those taken by Benjamin Amure a few days before we left. Ben is famous for his studies of jazz players in the London clubs and we've got to know him through our musical ambassador Theo Jackson

The "Mr Willis" close up. John G. Hardy "Alsport" tweed and real horn buttons

The "Mr Wesley" Ventile macs

The "Taffy" jacket, the "Mr Willis" suit jacket and the "Dolph" - all in the John G  Hardy "Alsport" tweeds

The "King of Threads" cords in black and Country Corn and the "Arthur" trousers with leather cinch back

The "Jay B" single breasted overcoat in Harris Tweed with red piping and velvet collar.

Much cheering greeted the arrival of New York City's "Face" of Bedlam, in keeping with the red headed pale skin theme, DJ (and photographer) Redboy. We got him into the "Tectonic" suit, done for the first time in a grey pinstripe and the button down shirt before getting him to give the grey herringbone single breasted overcoat with red piping a spin.

So with personnel in place it was time to greet the guests. Andrew said he had never had so many RSVPs to an event. I said ah, well, I had noticed some of the names on the list and knew for a fact that they were drunk and in London. If twenty people showed up I said we would be more than satisfied, and more Bulldog gin for us. From the moment we opened the door it was thronged with people apparently genuinely interested and leading creatively fulfilling lives, not just after a free drink. Here is your invitation:

One of the first to arrive was my dear friend Jeffrey Hall with whom I used to dress the windows of Bond Street many years ago. He is now in charge of the look of Brooks Brothers stores and flew down from Toronto to be reunited at the party. Then Ingmar's mama Helen stepped in with her friends and decided it was only fitting that she should own the coat named for her. It was also given a whirl by team GB sprint modellist Kim Wall who did us the honour of attending - and how perfectly a propos that such a fast lady (in the politest possible sense) should be present at the "Hell for Leather" party. Kim settled on the pearly cap to take home with her.

Helen Patton in the "Helen" coat, Wolf in the "Clancey", Redboy in the "Tectonic" while Ingmar stitches pearly buttons in his Bedlam tee

Kim in the "Helen" coat in Harris Tweed with deep patch pockets and plaited leather buttons

Jeffrey "Mr Brooks Brothers" Hall tried on the Dolph jacket named for Baron Sweerts de Landas Wyborg

Redboy showing his delight at the arrival of New York City's own Countess of Bedlam,  author Michele Jaffe

On the right, Sarah who designs the costumes for our mood board favourite "Broadwalk Empire", amongst other shows

That'll be me in the "Megan" jacket 'n' him in the "Bumble Bee"

Kim Wall in her pearly cap

The party rolled on til Andrew rolled down the shutters. Cheers to everyone who came and to Andrew for making us feel famous and for clearing up. We must say thank you too to Terry and George that we met in the lobby of our building and who not only did us the honour of turning up but also donated cases of Playboy energy drinks to keep us all peppy

The next day we celebrated Jeffrey's birthday early with a little reconnaissance around the Meat Packing District and got to meet Jeffrey Kalinsky of the high end boutique that bears his name.

I stood outside the brownstone in the Village that was home to a character who bears my name - Carrie from "Sex and the City".

We checked out the Odin store in Soho, checking prices on pieces, before stumbling across Jeremy Scott's fantastical car. I got to know him when he was making fantastical outfits for Björk. His wit is equal to his glamour. The inside is quilted like the lining of our cape.

The inside of our "Marina" cape, hand quilted crepe silk satin

Meanwhile in China Town they were celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Snake. We had dinner and picked glittery confetti out of our noodles before walking home through the snow. We're now going to take a comfort break before returning with the second half of our Once Upon A Time In New York City story.