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Interview: Gemma Shiel of Lazy Oaf

Probing the '90s-obsessed, pizza-loving designer's mind and an inside look at the Autumn '14 collection, available today

by Nara Shin in Style on 25 July 2014

London, Style, Interviews, Autumn 2014, Menswear, Shopping, Street Style, Womenswear

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Don't be misled by the pink-haired, effervescent yet sensible Gemma Shiel. The creative mastermind behind the London-based label Lazy Oaf has a youthful energy that manifests in the saucy, playful apparel she and her team designs, but she's been in the industry for over a decade. With humble beginnings selling printed T-shirts in a market stall to opening a shop in Soho, London (the online shop came later) to collaborating with icons for the production of Garfield-covered bodysuits and more, Shiel's steadfast commitment to the brand's roots has led it to eventual global success. Each capsule collection Lazy Oaf produces leaves enthusiasts with overflowing shopping carts, as it's hard to leave with just one piece.

We spoke with the illustrator and designer to discuss Lazy Oaf's Autumn '14 collection (which hits stores today), the team's creative process and making fashion fun and accessible.

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What kind of guy or girl do you have mind when you're dreaming up designs for Lazy Oaf?

There's always two separate people, I guess. For womenswear, I'm always imagining sort of a dorky—I don't know, "dorky" is maybe not the right word, it's not fair. The girl who has the sense of the outsider. The girl who, at high school, floats around with all the different social groups; she's not really part of any particular scene. And she's into her own geeky things and likes fashion; she has a bit of a punk attitude, a bit rebellious. She probably has amazing hair. [laughs]

The boy inspiration—definitely hangs out with the girl. I guess it's kind of a reflection of the boys I spent too much time hanging out with. They're also the guy that's probably going to get you in trouble and break your heart. What your mum would call a "bad influence."

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Can you walk us through the Lazy Oaf creative process and the concept selection?

I work with my assistant designer on coming up with concepts that we can really engage in and have fun and be really tangible to our customers. We collect lots of imagery that's going to spark lots of ideas and excitement; that's the beginning of the process. It's important for us to genuinely love [a theme] and sort of be able to instantly gauge and know that it's going to funny, that we're going to get some of great illustration and graphics out of it, too. For me, it's really important if I can almost visualize the product straight away and how I want it to look. If I get that feeling from a collection or theme, I'm gung-ho to start the design process.

Normally we produce a lot of designs; we have to have a massive cull to get a fine-tuned collection that's really clear and has something to say.

Quite often, we just start with a massive wall of visual inspiration and sit there and draw and sketch and write funny things and we start putting it together into the clothing and see what works. Normally we produce a lot of designs; we have to have a massive cull to get a fine-tuned collection that's really clear and has something to say.

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What sort of designs got scrapped for your recent capsule collection, Space Oddity?

For the menswear—[designs] maybe a little bit too conceptual for Lazy Oaf? So we concentrated on the alien jokes and like having sort of a global presidential campaign. For womenswear, actually we got carried away with going down the '60s or '70s sort of kitsch road. The stuff I was designing was starting to look quite Barbarella-esque, like the film, so those were the bits that we had to cull and make sure that it did evoke "Lazy Oaf does space" rather than "James Bond shoots aliens."

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What was on the mood board when you were planning the Autumn 2014 collection?

Mostly it was full of strange pictures that I had taken from Tumblr—old computer graphics, etc. I went with the Microsoft Paint idea; classic sort of toolbars and icons and mixing it up. Instead of an arrow for the mouse, I've got pizza slices. Or what I imagine would be the first emoticon face: a grey, pixelated thing. Bits and pieces like that.

For menswear, it kind of went '90s G, I want to say. A bit of an "homage" to different designers that were big in that day, but I don't think I can explicitly say who they are. [laughs] Parodying the whole logo design, branded wear. And also, we always do something food-related, always.

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And for the Autumn '14 collection, you've tapped some not-so-traditional models.

We work with Anti-Agency, which has a huge array of interesting models. These guys are like the face of your brand, but beyond that, they're actually doing pretty cool stuff too. Some of them are musicians, a poet, skateboarders—they're enjoying their own subcultures. It's great for Lazy Oaf because we have a massive personality and that's part of it.

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Since the brand has become so global, have you noticed a difference in what customers in one country are buying versus another?

It's kind of interesting—in Japan and South Korea, we do really well and they love it when we go a bit crazy. I love that we've got customers who come to us for that, so I can carry on doing the really nutty stuff that I love doing. I think the US customers are a little bit more serious—they buy slightly more toned down stuff.

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Lazy Oaf's prices lean toward affordable—has that been a conscious part of your business plan?

We want to keep our produces totally accessible because they are fun and the whole nature of our brand is, it's sort of trash culture. And not that we have trash prices, but I want people to enjoy it and wear it, and not be one of those brands that are just like, "I'll never be able to afford to buy that." We're not super cheap either, so we're in a strange sort of market position where we're accessible. I can't connect with fashion brands that don't really have a sense of humor in what they do or what they've got to say; those things are important to me. We try and create a community; we do events in the shop so we can actually meet our customers and get feedback and they can hang out with us. And I don't really like the exclusivity in sort of shutting people out because you're expensive and premium. We like the same stuff [our customers] do, probably; we're probably sitting at home, eating disgusting things in our pajamas.

Peruse the rest of Lazy Oaf's Autumn '14 collection, available for purchase starting today, by visiting their online shop or brick-and-mortar store in London.

Images courtesy of Lazy Oaf

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Assembly Design's 00 Clock

Juxtaposing measurement and abstraction, a grid wall-clock with reversible hands

by Hans Aschim in Design on 25 July 2014

Clocks, Decor, Designers, Home Furnishing, New York City, Office

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Balancing a calculated academic approach with a very tactile studio process, the New York City-based duo Assembly Design (responsible for the imaginative furniture collaboration that debuted at this year's ICFF) is now exploring familiar territory, after collaborating with artist Tauba Auerbach to create a conceptual wall-clock for The Thing Quarterly last year.

Experimenting with gridded systems and the ways in which these arrangements create and recreate illusions, Assembly Design presents their latest offering: the 00 Clock. "The clock was inspired by the idea of infinite regularity and the potential for abstraction inherent in the grid (think: Rubik's Cubes, hopscotch, orthographic projection) and suggests that the experience of time is simultaneously measured and abstract," explains co-founder Peter Oyler. Keeping in tune with the theme of contrasting measurement versus abstraction and objectivity versus subjectivity, the clock's hands are reversible for a change in decor or to reflect a change in mood. White hands on a white clock are ideal for lazy afternoons.

For more information on the 00 Clock (priced at $75) and Assembly Design's growing collection wares, visit them online.

Images courtesy of Assembly Design

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Lomography x Nixon: Analog Russia

A chilling surf trip to the country's northeast coast, captured in film by surfers and photographers alike

by Hans Aschim in Culture on 24 July 2014

Analog, Cameras, Cold Water, Exhibitions, Gallery Openings, Lomography, London, Nixon, Photography, Russia, Surfing, Travel

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In the northeast corner of Russia lies the Kamchatka Peninsula. As beautiful as it is barren, the remote and harsh landscape is sparsely populated and surely an acquired taste for the small but steady number of adventure-seekers that visit year-round. The summers are cool and the winters see raging storms batter the volcanic coast (29 of the 160 are active) where snow is often accompanied by lightning. With the snowpack still melting and water temperatures hovering just above freezing, a band of photographers and surfers ventured to the ends of Russia armed with a host of analog Lomography cameras for the Nixon Surf Challenge. After sorting through the negatives, the best shots of the trip are on display as of today, 24 July, at Lomography's Soho gallery in London.

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"With more than 30 hours of flights on each end, the trip is one of the most intense I have ever experienced," says digital marketing coordinator, Benjamin Wu Tiu Yen. "We did not really know what to expect in terms of waves, the locals and more generally 'the life' out there." Wu Tiu Yen and the Lomo crew gave cameras to everyone on the trip. With a mix of surfers and photographers, skill levels and photography knowledge varied across the board—making for an intriguing result.

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"Surfers can have a really good eye when it comes to taking pictures, but they know nothing about technical aspects of cameras," Wu Tiu Yen explains. "In the end, the surfers were a group of friends having fun, so I'd say they are able to capture more of the authentic and genuine moments between them." For quick and easy point-and-shoot capabilities, the surfers were given Lomo's LC-Wide and Fisheye models. Shooting from the hip (one of Lomo's core values) doesn't result in usable shots all the time as Wu Tiu Yen notes, but you're bound to line up a banger on each roll, especially with the wide-angle lens giving even everyday settings (let alone a burly strip of land in Russia) a shot at photo gold.

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There's a noticeable difference in the work of the photographers on the trip, where experience and technical knowledge came into play. Photographers received more of Lomo's manual offerings—coincidentally, many of which have their design and manufacturing roots in Russia—a change from their usual DSLR setups. "You take it back to the basics with analog and really focus on the exposure, the aperture, the shutter speed—you can't erase anything and you can't really afford burning a roll," says Wu Tiu Yen. "You tend to take less risk and try instead to be sure you'll get the shot, but it's more rewarding when you manage to get a great shot on an analog camera versus a DSLR." Plus, there's no need to worry about batteries freezing with the cameras' robust, rough-and-tumble designs.

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Equipment aside, the location played a significant role in the trip. Camping on the beach together, with a fire always burning and pickup soccer games being played (as much to stay warm as to pass time during flat spells), the international band of thrill-seekers became a cohesive unit. And, in terms of getting great shots, this camaraderie and the overall attitude might be the most important part. Of course, the weather doesn't always cooperate and the ocean can change its mind as quick as a Russian immigration official, but when things line up, it's perfect when everyone has a camera.

The exhibition opens tonight at 6PM and runs through 14 August at Lomography's London gallery in Soho.

Images courtesy of Lomography and Nixon

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