Twice a year alternative fashionistas, brands, designers and enthusiasts from all over the world gather at the National Olympia for London Edge. The event is one of the only places which global alternative fashion brands can showcase their talents and collections. On January 25th January 2013, I was lucky enough to be there for the first time. Now, me being a hopeless newbie ran around wide-eyed shouting “Ooh!” and taking copious amounts of pictures. But, between doing this and discussing the merits of the cartoon Adventure Time, I got a good look at some really nifty stuff.
There was everything on offer ranging from studs and PVC to crinoline underskirts and nipped waistlines. Even for a noob like me there was a lot to appreciate. There were performances by the likes of a burlesque vixen which was everything burlesque should be; cheeky, fun and sexy. Then there were jive dancers that made me feel invigorated and simultaneously jealous, as their dresses were to die for.
By far my favourite was the athletic strongman. I am not biased, or shallow. His feats of strength and flexibility were astounding (as was his physique).
The main attractions though were the stalls, and there were a few of my own favourites like Hell Bunny and Iron Fist on show. There were also a lot of big names, that I was new to, making appearances like Phaze and Queen of Darkness.
If you love your plugs and piercings with a little bit of a unique twist look no further than Metal Mafia. The New York based company stocks affordable plugs in a surprising range of sizes and styles. They also have a covetable collection of belly button jewellery; my personal favourite had an adorable smiley face sporting a rather dapper moustache. I also loved a French toast piece that was also sporting majestic facial hair. Don’t you judge me! Their prices are so reasonable that even with the postage and packaging from America, they are more affordable than a lot of UK brands.
A highlight of the experience was talking to some of the designers about what inspired them to create their collections. Claire Leftwich-Winchester, designer of bespoke jewellery line Prong Jewellery, creates statement pieces from hard materials. Her pieces are chunky, spiky and beautiful. A lot of her work seemed Steampunk inspired and I also caught a glimpse of Gothic Lolita. Whether or not this was intentional is irrelevant; I wanted it all! She also creates nipple tassels that, while not necessarily an everyday essential, when needed they should be pretty. And at Prong pretty they are.
I asked Claire what made her want to start up doing accessories as she previously mentioned her work with textiles. She had been making clothes for so long she wanted to make an offshoot of her business that involved no sewing or thread. She wanted to make jewellery out of things that jewellery wasn’t supposed to be made of. This manufacturing process of using anything but sewing is what helped to set her apart. It was a genius case of uniqueness through avoidance.
Another such entrepreneur is Dani Rea, the designer behind rockabilly inspired jewellery brand Bubblegum Vegas. The collection on display at London Edge was nautical themed using the colours red, white and blue, stripes, anchors and sailor-tattoo hearts. I fell in love with it. I talked about everything with Dani and her partner Heather from the Powerpuff Girls, to the growth of alternative fashion’s influences oozing into the mainstream and onto the high street, and also why she started Bubblegum Vegas.
“I’d always wanted to be my own boss, and after completing my fashion degree in 2010 I knew that was a good time to focus on building up Bubblegum Vegas. My original aim was to reproduce the Rockabilly and Psychobilly inspired designs I made for my graduate collection, however I decided to start with jewellery to get my foot in the door, and also as a way to save money to put towards finally having a fashion line. I would describe my jewellery as ‘high-end alternative’ and my inspiration comes from traditional tattoo designs, and the subcultures of Rockabilly and Psychobilly. Because of my background in fashion, I’m a stickler for excellent quality. I spend a great deal of time on each design, making sure it’s perfect and making sure the manufacturing is done exactly as I want it, so that I have products that I am proud of and that my customers will treasure.”
From the perspective of someone who works and shops predominantly on the high street, London Edge has been an eye opening and valuable experience. The joining of creative minds and the celebration of individual style is vital to alternative fashion. For me personally it showed people creating and wearing what they love because they love it. It’s fashion with a soul.
Words: Natasha Dujon
This article originally appeared in the Feb/March issue of Rebelicious.