Last month I stumbled upon a Grime obsessed designer and intellectual by the name of Kara Messina. I was scrolling through my twitter and read a retweet with a link to an article about a designer who was currently working on a menswear collection to be launched on 280411. I started following both Y’OH and Kara after reading an interview which housed this image on March 18th. After various twitter exchanges on the beauty of Air Max 1s, I learnt that Kara Messina was a accomplished pattern cutter who worked in high fashion for 6 years, with a background working for award winning footwear designer John Richmond, as well as pattern-cutting for designer labels Basso & Brooke and Aquascutum.
Her skills as a pattern cutter allowed her to cut the collection herself so even the fit of the garments aren’t stereotypical to what’s around at the moment. She describes the silhouette as having a 90s feel to it “No skinny looks, Big Up oversize!”.
For Y’OH I’ve NOT used any checked fabric. There’s no point in rehashing another version of something that is already great as it is. Instead I’ve selected an existing cloth that has the potential to function as a “new classic”. Yeah it’s bold so I’m expecting some people might find it objectionable (hence the collection title) but it’s also a very beautiful fabric so if men can appreciate that, it can’t fail. What makes it so original is the context in which it is presented, which is streetwear.
So this is a designer who understands that it’s better to find your own niche rather than jump on to something that’s already been accomplished, similar to Missoni and their signature knitwear, Levi’s emphasis on denim, Nike’s emphasis on sport shoes. All brands just mentioned all respect their specialities, all have their signature ‘stock’ products which almost never change, whilst they may introduce a product to the market or reproduce a product under their brand, the question is: What gap is Kara going to fill, with no press shots of the collection, everything is pretty much a mystery unless you’re apart of her inner circle of creatives, family, friends, collaborators, and creatives.
Y’OH will consist of outerwear, shirts and non-jersey tshirts. The context of the printed fabric used in the collection is set to blow your minds. Inspired by comparing Hip Hop to Grime; Mens transition from youth to adult; 90s Fashion; Subcultural affiliation to brands and functional performance garments. The market level is in between luxury and streetwear and will be sold on the online Y’OH store. The collection itself intrigues me because Hip Hop and Grime are basically the father and son when it comes to Culture and Sub Culture. Also many of the grime kids go on to become pop stars on music that is much slower in pace and closer to Hip Hop. Whether this transition is so one can tap into the global phenomenon of it’s father or artists leave grime behind because they don’t believe in its commercial viability is unknown but when mentioning Hip Hop, or their progression, a whole host of these artists use the terminology ‘growth, progression, and transition’. Does this indicate that when MCs were making grime they were young, sub culture, but when they grew to adults -not indicative of age- and made Hip Hop, father culture?
Either way, I’m intrigued to see how well Kara straddles the line between the two in order to plug the gap, and whether she answers the questions raised in the form of her collection ‘Heads Ain’t Ready’.
The concept for the first collection “Heads Ain’t Ready” came about though contemplating the popularity of the checked shirt. The much-loved garment that is timeless and unrestricted in that it crosses over into different generations and subcultures (Hip Hop, Skaters…) The checked shirt is considered such a classic, that regardless of the number of colours, wearing it is almost like wearing black. It performs in the same way that it pretty much goes well with everything. Camouflage print also functions in the same way.
Judging by this in depth and revealing interview with Full Frontal Fashion, Kara seems to aiming to take something that is already a classic garment and innovate in a contemporary forward thinking context. Kara knows that trend cycles come around every so often, but iconic designs such as the checkered shirt shall forever remain -most notably the Burberry print which has lasted several generations and still remains a staple house in chequered shirt design, or its lesser known but cult rival, the Aquascutum print, or even the Lumberjack checkered designs and those by Pringle (Argyle) to an extent.
My interpretation of Kara’s collection would be what Ralph Lauren did ,in the early ’90s, with the Oxford (candy) Striped shirt. The Oxford shirt rivalled that of Burberry’s iconic check which was created in the 1920s, first used as a lining in it’s military trench coats. After Polo dropped the ‘candy stripes’, Ben Sherman resurfaced out of nowhere to become the brand of choice after RL and Burberry for a checkered -oxford style shirt.
The more interviews I read was the more the anticipation for the collection grew, I began to realise that Y’OH is more than a street label, it’s more than clothes, cuts, garments, and image. Y’OH is a philosophy of contemporary sartorialism, it’s not just about the aesthetics of an item, but whether its ergonomics are conducive to both user and lifestyle. Not only was Kara research trends, styles, cuts of clothes but she was going further afield by delving into cultural anthropology, semiology and semantic, social studies, esoterica and attending the free afternoon lectures at the LSE to see if there was anything she could apply for her craft.
I’m also a fan of the free lectures at the London School of Economics. My job is to find out what is missing and provide it. I am at an age where I don’t strive to be unique — or, to be more specific, to go out of my way to be different.
It was here that I began to respect Kara rather than just admire her for being an accomplished pattern cutter who was in the process of creating her very first solo collection which she had conceptualised, illustrated, designed and cut herself rather than outsource the work to outsiders, it’s a purely individual effort. Y’OH to me already signifies individualism and style before fashion, and the more importantly a lifestyle because Kara is at the helm of all activity and decision making, working to her strengths and showing strengths in outsourcing the sewing and assembling of the garments to local factories. it’s at this point, before anything has been seen that you respect Kara for supporting her local factory rather than taking the cheaper, less hands on approach and sending it to some sweatshop in a third world country. I’d support the brand purely on the basis that she cares enough for her local economy and the quality of her garments, as well as making the garments ready to order to make sure all items are fresh rather than piled up in an asbestos riddled attic being eaten by dust mites.
I see my work as providing a service, especially being a young female designing menswear. I am very careful to be thorough in my research. Hence images alone won’t suffice, and I spend a large proportion of my time reading cultural textbooks on subjects from music to advertising through to religion.
I support what Kara is doing because she’s immersed herself in a subculture that people often forget and leave behind when they progress into the charts. For me, this is not just clothes, it’s the resurgence of a culture, a rebirth of something which formed an integral part of my life as well as many others. This is the rebirth of that which, had I not had it whilst growing up, I would never have learnt some of the most valuable lessons, and I would never have had a creative outlet for all of my teenage angst, and adolescent rage. Had it not been for Grime, I would never of had a dream, I would never of had something to keep me on the straight and narrow because of my firm belief in turning a negative circumstance into something positive. Besides, the emphasis of the collection is transition, and Kara seems to be attempting to cater for the gap in between boys to men -a demorgraphic which grime caters to because of its unadulterated energy. Maybe Kara is saying that Grime is not just for one particular demographic with this new collection she has made the choice to build her foundation in the gap between the childs innocence of eye, Grime, and its much worldly ancestor, Hip Hop.
Will the Y’OH collection be the catalyst of change, if Kara has immersed herself in the Grime subculture will she become the Dame Vivienne Westwood of our beloved culture, will this encourage other creatives as well as those who have already been a part of the culture, in some shape or form, to take more of an active roll in pushing it forward?
I don’t have the answers, I doubt she has either, but I believe that the stars only align themselves once so if your in the London area on 280411 make your way down to Pure Evil Gallery in Shoreditch and see for yourself.
Here’s a lil teaser… I was thinking the same when I saw this it was cleverly put together by Beatrice Alessio
Stayed tuned because now I’ve dealt with the culture’s Vivienne Westwood in a part 1/2 feature, I will do a spread on Grime’s Annie Leibovitz in the near future…
Keep Grime Alive