A TRAVELLER’S GUIDE TO PARADISE

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Down Jamaica Road at mid-afternoon, round ‘Sam’s Gents’ on the corner, the approach to Paradise is sheltered by a rank of maples. Here, by the docks, you’ll find a suburb on a raft of buried rivers: the largest, the Neckinger, empties into the Thames nearby. This neighbourhood, hemmed by Bermondsey Wall and St Saviour’s Dock, was once a needle’s eye through which the world arrived in England. It was here that the Mayflower’s passengers gathered before crossing the Atlantic, and where the first tunnel under the Thames was dug.

Over time, alluvial silt made these wharfs unsuitable for modern craft. Shipping moved towards the sea, while trade vanished into the stock markets. The river and its bankside lights were used by German bombers on their way to Westminster, and after the war wrecked mansions made way for public housing. If you look hard enough, you’ll see prams full of grocery-bags by the stairs, gaps sawn in the fence, St George’s crosses tied to TV aerials.

I wish you could see him too, here in snug, post-Brexit London. After months at sea, Prince Lee Boo came to Paradise Row in July 1784 with Captain Henry Wilson of the East India Company. Wilson’s ship, the Antelope, was wrecked near Palau a year before, and his crew, stranded on the island, befriended the king and his family. As they left for England, a young prince travelled with them to see their strange country. His father hoped he would become an Englishman. He tied knots in a rope to remind him of home. When they arrived, he went to school with the neighbours and saw an early hydrogen balloon flight.

It was an era of new things. History records that the prince wished he could tell his father ‘the number of fine things the English had got’. But in December, Lee Boo contracted smallpox; no treatments worked, and the prince died two days after Christmas. You wonder, what would the prince say if he were here today? Tarred and straightened, Paradise Row has become Paradise Street. Doors are closed to the August heat, and dust gathers on battered cars. Boys smoke in the shade of a ruined palace across the block.

But he is here. He’s never left. In every era princes have passed through this city, arriving from every continent – on the M3 and M20, on the tarmac at Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton. They’ve brought their tastes and tongues, and their fathers’ ideas of Englishness. Like you and I, they’ve come and found Paradise on this side-street, this very nondescript estate. Look at the stranger walking his dog, empty-handed. Doesn’t he look familiar? Wouldn’t you like to say hello?

This story was originally published in the September 2016 issue of Vulture Magazine entitled “An Anthology” in partnership with MontBlanc

Words by Theophillius Kwek

IMPRESSIONS FROM “THE VIEW FROM HER(MES)” IN BEIJING

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If Paris is a delicate, emotional young man, then Beijing is his refined, cultured relative. Forward-looking but not forgetful, gregarious but not pretentious. It is in this cosmopolitan city where French luxury brand Hermès held its annual Womens’ Universe: a presentation that showcases the vast array of product offerings, alongside artistic interpretations of its ready-to-wear collection. Reimagining the spaces of Beijing’s prestigious Minsheng Art Museum, the exhibition, entitled “The View from Her”, is a modern expression of femininity and emancipation, carried through with the sophistication and elegance that one would expect of the French maison.

Typical of a Hermès Universe event is the immersive interspersal of dreamed fantasy and reality. For the main ready-to-wear segment, American dancer and director Lucinda Childs choreographed a performance that encapsulated both her postmodernist tendencies and the house’s keen appreciation of the avant-garde. Set against a backdrop of screens with different recordings simultaneously playing, the viewer traverses moments of reality that seem abstract on first glance. It is only when one realises the use of repetition in the human body, that one truly comes to appreciate the intricacies of Childs’s choreographic masterpiece.

In a time where artist collaborations have become almost commonplace within the fields of fashion and luxury, much can be said about the creative integrity of artistic products, and the power players behind the industry’s top brands. When art is employed in a token way and there is no link with the brand, it becomes more of a gimmick or stunt. Yet, there exists a delicate balance of commerce and craft within the French maison, as creative director Bali Barrett espouses: “I’m interested in a wider spectrum beyond fashion, and Hermès is really responding to that need for me. Fashion is about clothes and about luxury, but it is also about the spirit, which I think is very important. In that sense, it is very nurturing. You meet different kinds of artists. It is not about the product, but about an entire universe and artistic collaborations. I get to express things through the eyes of other creative individuals. It is not a marketing trick, but one that is in the genes of the house for a while. An appreciation towards working with a community of people, and of aesthetics.”

The French art critic and poet Charles Baudelaire coined the term ‘modernity’ to make meaning of the fleeting and ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis. In it, he related the responsibility that art has to capture this phenomena. While Baudelaire was more concerned about society and art than style, the same theory could be applied to what was presented to us at “The View from Her”, where an eternal, universal truth can be found in ordinary experiences of modern city life, and a simple movement of repetition alludes to the timeless beauty amid constant flux. What Childs and Barrett did was not to re-imagine the ‘eternal’ but to seize upon the salient details that capture the mood of the moment. And perhaps, it is this added layer of cultural sensitivity and innate respect for craft that makes the brand of Hermès so strangely alluring.

This story was originally published in the Dec 2016 issue of Vulture Magazine

Words & Photography by Clifford L. 

A GATHERING OF INTROSPECTIVE DREAMERS

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“The AW16 collection was described as an army of introspective dreamers, it was probably the most romantic season to date. Garments processed through washing and ageing techniques, exploring ways of protection in both a physical and emotional sense, embroidered silk blankets, padded upholstery like leather cushioned garments – all gave a romantic dream like energy. All brand imagery to date has been focused on a mass or group of people – a lot of the time,  the masses of bodies are unreadable as individuals. This has always felt right and relates directly to the ideas of uniformity and workforce that is at the core of everything we have ever done. We to decided to shoot the AW16 collection uniformly as groups in 5 – exactly how they were uniformly presented in the catwalk show.

We started taking inspiration from maps and drone studies of the UK from above, they all had an epic and distant feeling that felt right for the AW16 season – I loved the idea of viewing things from a perspective that is very rarely seen. The was something great about the idea of the campaign to be shot directly from above – we took inspiration from National Geographic books, and wanted the whole thing to feel like a kind of scientific study, but in a romantic dream like way.” – Craig Green

Fall ’16 BEATS

A seasonal curation of tunes and beats that keep us going

ONE NIGHT ONLY

 

In celebration of our new issue and 4th Anniversary, Vulture hosted a party on 3rd September at Cherry Discotheque in collaboration with multi-label platform The Salvages. The evening also featured a special live performance by UK artists NuBrain who were hosted with our hospitality partners Lloyd’s Inn. Our 17th Edition features a special guest curation by London-based designer Craig Green, alongside other creative luminaries including Sterling Ruby, Earn Chen, Elliott Power, Katie-Roberts-Wood, Jean Luc Godard and Frederic Sanchez. For more outtakes from our event, kindly visit our Facebook page for more photos.

Photography by Wei Long H.