Thursday, March 22, 2012

Belgium Adores Laura Marling

22 years old, beautiful and love connections with some of the most eligible bachelors of the alternative music scene. Laura Marling has everything going for her. Some might forget how gifted the young singer/songwriter is. I can assure you, this Monday evening in Brussels, in the cosy setting of the Ancienne Belgique, nobody could even doubt Marling's astounding talent.

The British musician was born in Reading, England in 1990. At the age of 5 she began playing the guitar and at only sixteen she became a part of the London folk scene. With famous friends like Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons, who drew inspiration from American folk, she had the chance to learn from the best.
She started with Noah and the Whale as a vocalist, where she grew closer to singer Charlie Fink.
When you rely on the music Laura and Charlie produced during this period, their love affair was rocky. In 2008 Marling left Fink for Marcus Mumford. The stunningly beautiful Noah and the Whale album 'The First Days of Spring'(2009) can be read as a heartfelt lament on their break up.
The Black Cab session where they play music together is one of my favorite videos. I love Fink's voice, it's a shame that the last Noah and the Whale album is so uninspired.

Black Cab Sessions: Charlie Fink: Give a Little Love, Laura Marling: Alas I Can not Swim, 2007

In 2008, when Marling was only nineteen her first album 'Alas I can not swim' came out, followed by 'I speak because I can' in 2010. They were both nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.  2011 saw the birth of her third and latest album 'A creature I don't know'.
In the same year she received the Brit Award for British Female Solo Artist.

In Brussels Laura opened with 'Just a Card' and some tracks from this last album. The first magical moment was the superb version of 'Blackberry stone'. One of my personal favorites.

Laura Marling, Blackberry Stone, march 19th, Ancienne Belgique Brussels.  video: Uschi Cop

This execution was exemplary for all her earlier work that she played that evening. She managed to take these known songs to a whole other level. Although I had heard every song at least a hundred times, it felt like I heard them for the first time.
This was also the case with the closing song 'I Speak Because I can'.

Laura Marling, I Speak Because I can, march 19th, Ancienne Belgique Brussels. video: Uschi Cop

Marling brought with her a great band which included a cellist who really contributed to the dramatic power of the performance, for example in the new single 'Sophia'.

Laura Marling, Blackberry Stone, march 19th, Ancienne Belgique Brussels. video: Uschi Cop

Last but not least I bring you the first listen to a new song by Marling.

Laura Marling, New Song (Once is Enough), march 19th, Ancienne Belgique Brussels. video: Uschi Cop

I leave you with the set list and links to my spotify account for all Laura Marling songs and the album The First Days of Spring by Noah and the Whale.


The Mere Alchemist

Set list

Just a Card [A Creature I don't Know]
The Muse [A Creature I don't Know]
Salinas [A Creature I don't Know]
Don't Ask Me Why [A Creature I don't Know]
Blackberry Stone [I Speak Because I Can]
Alas I Can Not Swim [Alas I Can Not Swim]
Goodbye England (Covered In Snow) [I Speak Because I Can]
Dance Dance Dance (Cover Neil Young)
My Manic and I [Alas I Can Not Swim]
New Untitled Song (Once is Enough)
Alpha Shallows [I Speak Because I Can]
Ghosts [Alas I can not Swim]
My Friends [A Creature I don't Know]
Sophia [A Creature I don't Know]
Rambling Man [I Speak Because I Can]

I Speak Because I can [I Speak Because I Can]

Noah and the Whale - First days of spring
Laura Marling - All Albums

Monday, March 12, 2012

Highlights F/W 2012 Paris: The Belgian Special Edition

With over eighty shows, Paris Fashion Week is the world's most renowned fashion event. I found it difficult to choose just a couple of labels to review, but for me the Belgian designers were among the best. It wouldn't hurt the modest Belgians to be a bit more chauvinistic. That's why, proud as I am of our designers, I decided to do a special on the labels who represented our small country during this international gathering of fashion lovers. For next fall a certain minimalism could be discerned in the collections. Also the oversized trend really persists.

A.F. Vandevorst

A.F. Vandevorst, F/W 2012, Paris
'Le Film Noir' isn't far away in this brilliant collection by partners An Vandevorst and Filip Arickx. The black fedora hat has become a symbol of these dark detective movies which reached the height of their popularity in the 40's and originated from the German expressionists movement. Inspiration was also drawn from the German artist Joseph Beuys, who regularly wore similar head gear. The materials and colors used: grays, blacks, felt, rabbit skin are a reference to his art. The covering of the face has a direct link with his performance 'I like America and America likes me', where he spent 3 days locked in with a coyote. 

Joseph Beuys with rabbit, 1982
Joseph Beuys, I like America and America likes me, 1974
Vandevorst managed to bring together these elements and create a captivating show.

Haider Ackermann

Haider Ackermann, F/W 2012
Allthough Haider Ackermann isn't technically Belgian, I always include him in this category. He grew up in the Netherlands but studied at the Academy of Antwerp. Right now, he's being represented by the same Belgian management as Ann Demeulemeester. His collection was so amazing that I decided not to be fussy about the definition 'Belgian'.
This season Ackermann has really outdone himself. His signature draping made way for a more simple construction of the pieces. The result is an unconstrained elegance painted in a simply divine color palette. 

Cédric Charlier

Cédric Charlier, F/W 2012, Paris
Cédric Charlier lost his job as creative director of Cacharel last year, obviously it didn't stand in the way of his own collection blossoming. The pieces are very Belgian: classic quality tailoring with an edge. Very wearable, but I would love to see what Charlier is capable of when he shakes the shackles of the realistic.

Ann Demeulemeester

Ann Demeulemeester, F/W 2012, Paris
Ann Demeulemeester's distinctive style doesn't waver in this Fall collection. The designer picks up on the trend of oversized leather gloves but integrates them in the beautiful dresses. What amazes me is that the designer can stay true to this very characteristic warrior woman type, but always gives the crowd something new. That's what I call talent.

Dries van Noten

Dries Van Noten, F/W 2012, Paris
As always Van Noten awed the world with his magnificent collage prints. The colors were again splendid with punches of white, which made the whole collection lighter and easier to digest. High rised pants and oversized dresses with emphasis on a slightly lowered waist are reminiscent of the seventies. Lovely collection with some 'to die for pieces' like the shoes, what else did you expect from the Belgian master himself? 

Veronique Leroy

Veronique Leroy, F/W 2012, Paris
Over the last few years Veronique Leroy, as one of the least known Belgian designers, has really caught my eye. No different with this season, where I was pleasantly surprised by the youthful pieces and interesting proportions. Although the styling was a bit old fashioned, the clothes definitely struck the right chord. The combination of different materials and volumes looked incredibly interesting.

Anthony Vaccarello

Anthony Vaccarello, F/W 2012, Paris
'Bruxellois' Vaccarello doesn't make a secret of his Italian roots in this slick collection. Satin, gold and iridescent green make for a kind of glamour seldom seen in Belgian design. The most deserving was the contraposition of the sexy cut out tops and masculine suits. 

Now tell me us Belgians -'kiekenfretters', 'sinjoren', 'manenblussers', 'stroppendragers' and all the others- don't have a right to be proud of our fashion contribution. I'm curious about your opinion on these designers. Belgian or not, let me know which Belgian collection you like best and why. Spread the new Belgian pride!

The Mere Alchemist

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Highlights F/W 2012 Milan

I consider Milan to be the Godmother of all fashion capitals. Held in high regard by all fashion lovers, but let's admit it, at times a bit traditional, old fashioned even. This city has got a weakness for anything classic and slick. Nothing wrong with that, but I have a soft spot for boldness and experiment in fashion. That's why I took the liberty to make my own selection of the best collections of Fall/Winter 2012. The third part of my fashion week quartet! Enjoy!

Bathrobe Grace

Jill Sander, F/W 2012, Milan
It's with regret we see Raf Simons leave the German house of Jill Sander. The Belgian creator has worked six years to lend Jill Sander the youthful and trendy allure it has today. But the return of Mrs. Sander herself send Simons on his way. For this fall collection he was inspired by home wear. The long beautiful coats were held close by the models themselves or were left undone like bathrobes. The soft color palette was reminiscent of the glow of indoor lighting. This softness stood in high contrast with the black dresses shown at the closure of the show.

Cloudy Emerald

Piazza Sempione, F/W 2012, Milan
This collection makes me long for next fall and winter isn't even over yet! Piazza Sempione's clothes have a very down to earth feel and are truly wearable. The short parkas look both amazing and practical. These are pieces for women who still dare to be girls.

Sci-fi Heaven

Fendi, F/W 2012, Milan
Avatar meets The Matrix. In a fabulous way. Fake fur, leather, sixties eyewear, 19th century footwear, snake skin leggings, they all came together in an amazing cocktail at the Fendi show. I couldn't resist including some pictures of the shoes. Fendi got inspired by the 19th century for this amazing shoe wear. Must Haves!

Presidential with a Twist

Gabriele Colangelo, F/W 2012, Milan
There isn't a thing I don't like about this elegant, understated collection. The over-accentuated waists are very flattering and embrace the feminine figure. It wouldn't surprise me if Colangelo looked to Jacky Kennedy for inspiration. The simple and elegant dresses combined with 60's looking headwear scream first lady. 

Classic Quality

Bottega Veneta, F/W 2012, Milan
Don't worry I've got some solid beautiful clothes for you as well. Bottega Veneta delivered some exquisite tailoring this season with some surprises. Amongst them were the oversized gloves and the magnificent prints. That's what I call Italian Quality!

Today is the last day of Paris Fashion Week. Stay tuned for this last chapter of the fashion week series: Coming Soon!

The Mere Alchemist