Border Guards: Pick'n'mix
Saturday 26 September 1998
Crossing Borders conjures up images of passports and refugees, but the phrase has been co-opted by a group of young creatives for the title of an exhibition that showcases their innovative work in fashion, music, graphics, photography and object design. All those involved refuse to be defined too strictly and there is also a synergy between them - their work crosses borders.
Crusader 21 (left) make urban combat clothes that are styled on the MoD forces kit for 2000 (the company name is cheekily hijacked from the MoD's own working title for its range). The clothes, with lightweight, high-performance fabrics and more tailored designs suited to city life, will be exclusive to the ultra-fashionable new Urban Outfitters store in Kensington High Street in west London, the location for the whole exhibition. "What we're looking to do," say the enigmatic trio, "is reinvent the combat trouser and the parka, but tailored specifically for scootering and cycling. It's as good-quality as anything you'll find in a motorbike shop but we want people to be able to wear the clothes to get to work in all weathers and wear them around the office."
Lomo sounds like it could be a restaurant, or a Japanese couturier, but in fact it's the name of a cult Russian camera. Contributions from the cult's thousands of international members have been made into a giant photographic wall for the exhibition (above right). Fabian Manheim of the design duo Fly is the UK representative for Lomo. Expect "uncompromising and relentless snapshots of everyday insanity", he warns. The only rules for using the Lomo, it seems, are to take it everywhere, shoot everything, and don't look through the viewfinder.
More visual stimulation comes from banners hung around the shop challenging the nature of consumerism, created by graphics outfit Yacht (pictured right, Chris Thomson, left, and Richard Ball), the talent behind record covers for Blur and dance label Hydrogen Jukebox. The duo borrow familiar iconography from the world of retail and give it a twist: in the huge plate-glass windows that look out on to Kensington High Street hang giant till receipts featuring all of the exhibiting designers; inside, a vast screen of yellow carrier bags project photographs of abandoned shopping trolleys and slogans such as "consume and devour" and "all major credit cards accepted". "We thought we'd toy with the idea of shopping and analyse what the consumer process was," says Chris Thomson. "The slogans are things you don't normally notice, but by being projected on such a large scale they are suddenly really in your face."
Luc Goidadin (pictured right, with shoes from his collection) describes his 1998 graduate collection for Central St Martins as focused on "urban fairy". "The idea of the collection was to create a mythical figure, a nymph, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream or the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch." For each garment, stiff shantung silk hand-painted with aqueous patterns is combined with soft cashmere in grey and burgundy. To finance the collection, Goidadin joined forces with drink company Evian, based near his own birthplace. "I felt that the notion of the fluid body with an urban edge was an association that would work quite well for them."
The eight groups showing at Crossing Borders have been brought together by quirky product design team JAM, responsible for, among other things, TV-screen stools, steel cabinets made from washing-machine drums, moulded foam CD holders and, earlier this year, the interior of the groovy Norman bar/restaurant in Leeds.
"The idea of the exhibition and its title, Crossing Borders, is to bring together designers from different disciplines who move outside their own areas. To mix different areas of design. They are all people we already have an affiliation with or who we'd like to work with in the future - they're all buddies really," says Anley. "The great thing about Urban Outfitters is that the architectural space is really good, it's got a great location, and a philosophy of finding intriguing pockets of design." At Crossing Borders, they will also be launching their new Bulb vase - made from an unfinished 40-watt Phillips light bulb - which, coincidentally, also has the same capacity as a cocktail glass.
Among the other exhibitors at the show, Inflate (pictured on the previous page) - the company that launched a thousand blow-up egg cups and with them the fad for air-filled homewares - is perhaps the biggest name. Latterly, its work has moved more towards rigid moulded forms. A few days before the show Crosbie claims not to have decided precisely what the group's contribution to Crossing Borders will be. "What we try to do is embody a moment in the run-up to a show," he says evasively. Apparently it will be inflatable, involve some sort of complex pattern and possibly contain lights.
Though normally associated with graphics, designing everything from T- shirts to title sequences, Fly, the German/Swedish duo of Fabian Manheim and Sophia Wood (right), will be creating a photographic short story comprised of "self-portraits without seeing our faces in them".
To accompany all the visual stimuli, Japanese composer Kenjiro (below) has created what he calls a "sound sign project" - a music machine incorporating 25 switches, each producing a different sound to evoke a particular emotion or physical state. Often found working with furniture makers such as Michael Young, Inflate and Tom Dixon, composing music for their shows, Kenjiro describes himself as "a mood maker" rather than a straight musician. "I'm always working with some visual medium or product. I'm trying to find a way in between music and visual media."
With Crossing Borders, Urban Outfitters becomes an official member of London's design fraternity and an essential stopping-off point for style shoppers, especially this week (100% Design is just down the road). If you're very organised, you could even take care of your Christmas shopping while you're there Urban generation Urban Outfitters exported its hit retail idea from the US to London in the summer, and instantly became one of this year's shopping hits. Its building-site aesthetic of stripped-back walls and exposed ventilation ducts forms the backdrop to an eclectic mix of gimmicky and groovy clothes and products. But as well as being somewhere to buy everything from the ultimate combat pants to sari-print cushions to Pez dispensers, Urban is also becoming somewhere to view the work of up-and-coming designers and artists. Crossing Borders is its biggest exhibition yet , timed to coincide with the 100% Design exhibition at Earl's Court (public day, 27 September, 0171-381 2993) and London Fashion Week. "Our customers aren't just interested in the products, but in what's happening in the design world," says the store's creative director Paul Stamper. "The collection of exhibitors that we've got reflects that. We've also given a lot of opportunity to new designers who aren't sold anywhere else. By showing them, Urban can become a place on the circuit to look in and find new things" Crossing Borders is at Urban Outfitters, 36-38 Kensington High Street, London W8 until 1 October. Telephone 0171-761 1000
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