Monday, 1 May 2017

From Race Track to Cat Walk

This posting sets a new Bedlam record - it's more than a year since the last blog. The little'n'often style of blogging never suited my War And Peace-scale literary leanings. Also, in the modish world of Social Media, there's so many mouths to feed. Instagram and Twitter tend to mewl the loudest these days. The Bedlam blog is all feast or famine, but here the table groans with good stuff. Engorge yourselves, please, on this banquet of a bumper instalment, rich with epic Tuscan flavour - one of the oldest #horse races in the world... the #Palio di #Siena.

As you may know, we have both a fuzzy emotional and a crisp, corporate connection with #NileRodgers #musician #producer #writer but first and foremost, friend and all-round-good-guy. His his consort and shining light, Nancy Hunt, visiting London, came to hang with us at the studio. It occurred to her that we might be the right people to help out their friend John Hunt (no relation) who was producing a movie about the Palio. During the global financial crash, Monte die Paschi, the Sienese bank that had historically sponsored the race was tottering. This is a readable piece from the pink paper on how integral MdP, the oldest surviving bank in the world, was to the life of the city:

This rumbling in the boardroom meant that just as John was ready to set up tripods, the event was in peril. Now people have made films about the Palio before but here John had an opportunity to be not the nuisance who had to be accommodated but the Deus ex Machina who was pulling the strings. John got together the hay to feed the horses, so to speak, and whereas before directors had to make do with shots from balconies around the Piazza del Campo, obscured by heads and hysterical hands, his cameras were positioned at the starting rope with a clear shot up the flaring nostril of the pawing beast. The lens almost mists with the warmth of their breath.

Not only did John have that unprecedented access but he and director Cosima Spender got to tell a story of particular competitors that could compete with any classical myth - a battle between the old warrior clinging to his laurel wreath by any means necessary and the young pretender, his protege, fresh out of ethics school, all shiny with principles. To describe it as Ben Hur meets the Godfather doesn't do justice to the thrilling result. We have seen it multiple times now, yet every time is like the first - I leap out of my seat with excitement as if the outcome is unknown. In other circumstances I would ascribe that to early onset dementia, but it really is so gripping and beautifully made that you discover fresh delights with each viewing.

So why were we required? John wanted to present "Palio" at film festivals and thought some bits and pieces tied into the film would help curry favour with those whose favour helps projects fly. We were invited to a screening in Soho, London and at the end I was mightily surprised and delighted to be presented with one of the #Pucci silk scarves from their Palio collection of 1957 that won them an international fashion award.

The bareback jockeys wear loose pyjama-style suits, that draw on the colours of each competing "contrada" - neighbourhood's - fabulous flag, the obvious first stop for inspiration.

We played with the Leocorno (Unicorn) graphic, and screen printed up and down Mark's favourite old pair of ripped jeans, years in the perfecting of rips' n'fit. It rather looked as if they had been run over by the famous Pirelli tyre track. Nancy was back in town and her eagle eye for style alighted  - "Nile would LOVE these!" she exclaimed, and I saw conflicting forces at battle in Mark's eyes. 
"Take them!" he blurted, and I was proud of him for not hesitating to make the sacrifice.
Nile has worn them so much that there's no doubt Nancy knows her man.
On stage with Duran Duran at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles on October 1st 2015
In the studio with London
And here sound checking at the New Orleans Superdome before his show with the late, lamented Prince:

If proof were need of their approving endorsement, when it came to the highly special business of picking an 18th birthday present for their adored godson Jasper - scion of the film's producer - Nile 'n' Nancy asked us to make him a pair, too. We hope Jasper is enjoying adding this own rips and patina, the scars of honour on his jeans. Here they are being made and here's young handsome chops in our studio at a fitting for his coming-of-age celebration denims (we might add his Mom & Pop deserve a present for bringing up such a splendid fella):

Another young gun and Bedlam's joint fave guitarist with Mr Rodgers is Noah, rocking the print on a t-shirt:

Meanwhile, fashionisto about town, Donny Slack went for it on the INSIDE of his Bedlam bespoke jeans - or "The Donny Slacks" as we like to call them:

Then we rolled it out as a lining, giving clients the option to choose their colour way. It's a fair bet to say it's been an odds on favourite . Simon le Bon went for a bright orange and pink sherbet fizz inside his suit, a strobe-tastic "Birdseye" from Hardy Minnis / Huddersfield Fine Worsteds. If that strikes you as a synthetic combination, stick your head outside our door at Bedlam Mews to behold nature already at it:
Nasturtiums and geraniums outside our studio

Orange & pink sherbet fizz on silk printed for us by our friends Hatley Print in Sussex:

Simon in his suit with his daughter Amber at the Frieze Art fair in London, 2016
Another Ka-pow! combination was chosen by another Simon, our client since the dawn of Bedlam.  He went for danger-danger red & black, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the red bellied black snake from his native Australia.

Mr Wesley used a black / orange combo in his own black flannel suit which he wore when, having kitted out the groom, we were privileged to attend the wedding of polo player Adriano di Gianvittorio to lovely Kirsten.  It made a joyful counterpart to the groom's silver and red as the celebrations rolled late down the corridors of Luton Hoo, a glorious country pile. It was a particularly apt design for Adriano, seeing as he is both Italian and an equestrian and this was inspired by the silks of that particularly horny horse, the Unicorn.

Clearly anyone with Italian blood was going to be predisposed to like the idea. When music mogul and festival promoter Ciro Romano came to see us for suits, he went for it too, in what I reckon is my fave colour way to date. Tickets for his Love Supreme Festival in Sussex are on sale now, if you'd like to help him pay for his next round of Bedlam?! It takes place in Lewes which as fate would have it is the home of our wonderful husband and wife printers the Hatleys, who roll our linings from their presses:
This year's Love Supreme line up includes The Jacksons no less, George Benson, and another client of ours, Gregory Porter:

Ciro & Marco with their backing singer

Thinking it was time to give another of the Palio contrada a sporting chance, we next took inspiration from the Onda (Wave) team flag. Our printers Dan & Louise Hatley, based in the Castle Keep at Lewes, rolled out a bolt of silk for us with the graphic that looks, again, so modern, like pharmaceutical capsules - maybe we should unfurl it in the direction of Damian Hirst, who has revived his Pharmacy Restaurant above his splendid gallery in Newport Street behind our studio? It won "Best New Building in Britain" for 2016 and Pharmacy2 is done up like a chemist's cabinet:
Here's our intern pretty Britte rising like Aphrodite from the waves of Onda silk:

When Mr Willis and his Missus wanted to show their son Louis that they were extremely proud of him , they asked us to make him a suit, which in turn made us very proud. We loved that Willis Jnr. went for the Onda print, thereby being of the same Palio category as his dad's (the red bellied snake above) but different in detail, two offshoots of the same seed. Louis, sophisticated beyond his years, went for mossy green against dark purple.
The feather in the hat of the Palio film experience for us was to be featured in their gloriously extravagant book celebrating all aspects of the race. To be placed in the same stable as the princely fashion house Pucci in the fashion pages of the book was an enormous thrill, but that is only in keeping with the spirit of this movie from first frame to last. 

Treat yourself:
For the film:
For the book go to:

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