Sunday, September 18th

Hello and greetings from London!

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I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table, notebook open and laptop up, staring at the screen and ruminating over a captivating opening line for the past fifteen minutes. Though I’ve been journaling since I was in grade school, it feels odd to post my thoughts in a public setting like this. Which leads me to wonder who you, reader of these musings, may be. Are you a Red Carpet Green Dress (RCGD) campaign hopeful for 2017? A devoted Westwood follower? A friend, classmate, or fellow textile enthusiast? Or simply a being floating in the vast cosmos of the Internet, seeking information on an unrelated topic and somehow stumbling across this page? All are welcome.

Well, it’s been 9 days, 218 hours, or 13,127 minutes since I stepped off Virgin Airline flight #12 and onto rain-slicked British turf. Arriving at Nido Collection, a courtly West Hampstead student accommodation, I am greeted by RCGD campaign director Samata Pattinson beaming in a blue jumpsuit illuminated by a bouquet of crisply wrapped flowers in hand. Is this real life? Is this real life? Yesterday, I was sitting on the floor of my apartment in Rhode Island, surrounded by a group of close friends and sharing a dinner of golden curry, quiche and Eastside Market strawberries. Today I’m in the country that C.S. Lewis, C. Darwin, William Blake and William Morris, Julie Andrews, Tilda Swinton, and Sherlock and Watson call home. Along with the likes of Alexander Mcqueen, Christopher Kane, Stella McCartney and of course, Dame Vivienne Westwood.

I had the weekend to recuperate from the jetlag. I did a bit of exploring around Chinatown Soho and Piccadilly Circus. Strangely, many of the roads were blocked off and there were throngs of people gathered along the streets. What a mess, I thought to myself, that London closes half its streets and permits its citizens from walking through. Does this happen every Saturday? Five minutes later I learned that a Tour of Britain cycling race was about to take place and to kindly step off the road as to not be flattened. Then on Monday at 9:30am, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed I was off to 9-15 Elcho Street, Westwood Headquarters.

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Complimentary towels! Courtesy of the kind staff at Nido.

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Welcome night event for all the new Nido residents. Somewhere in that crowd is a smiling 21-year old Talia.

The subway trains here are so cute.

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Look at those adorable colors and plushy seats! I feel like a kid at Disneyland whenever I step inside. Those poor New Yorkers back home using trains that look like shipping containers made from aluminum foil. They just don’t know how good Londoners have it here.

Receiving me at the Westwood Headquarters was the Brigitte Stepputtis, German-born designer, fine artist, and Head of Couture at Vivienne Westwood for 20 years. On the tour of the building I met design assistants, patternmakers and machinists, peeked inside the PR offices, and passed through the archive closet filled with clothes from the earliest collection to the most recent show. The company is comprised of so many diverse personalities; fine artists from Spain, costume designers from Berlin, interns from Cyprus, Israel, Austria and Sweden. Being surrounded by so many lively, open-minded people with unique stories about their background and journey to London has been the highlight of my time here.

Little doodles around the studio like these make me laugh. Despite the industrious nature of their work, these insanely creative people at Westwood remind each other not to take life too seriously.5

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So, the subway is referred to as “The Tube.” Lining up is “forming a queue.” Muslin is “calico.” And I was made aware that “popsicle” is a ridiculously funny American way of saying “ice lolly” by a fellow intern who burst out laughing when I expressed cravings for a sweet afternoon snack. As a Gold label intern, I report to the studio manager who works with the pattern cutters and machinists and fabrics specialist to translate ideas from the design team into replicable pieces. 

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Here we are, laying out pattern pieces of a corset from an archived style. All Westwood interns are required to make a corset before completing their internship. A “rite-of-passage” if you will. As the only intern with a print design and weaving background rather than sewing and pattern-making, this project shall prove to be an interesting undertaking.

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When the weather is nice, we sit on the outside patio for lunch! In the distance is Battersea Bridge over Thames River.

With the majority of my week spent in the studio, I perused the Web to find local athletic clubs to join during the weekend. Thus, my Saturday morning was spent in East Putney at the Ashcroft Technological Academy gym, passing, setting and hitting amongst thirty other volleyball enthusiasts. I don’t have a decent photo other than this one during a break between matches, but rest assured competition was fierce.

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Volleyball is cool. However my deep affection for food outweighs all. And London had some pretty neat street eateries.

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Exhibit A: Brixton Market. Colombian arepas, fried plantains, and xiao long bao were happily devoured.

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Exhibit B: Marshmallow dessert stall at the Topshop Showspace in Old Spitalfields Market. When she pulled out the blow torch, I started laughing. I didn’t end up purchasing one. But never underestimate the power of luxury marshmallows as a crowd formed behind me, eager for a taste of a “blueberry and gin” or “raspberry and champagne” toasted treat.

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Exhibit C: Taiwanese popcorn chicken and noodle soup at Copeland Gallery Craft Market in Peckham

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Exhibit D: My weakness, a spicy Caribbean veggie patty also purchased at Copeland Gallery Craft Market. Oh Royal Caribbean Bakery NYC, how I miss you!

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Nestled around Copeland Gallery were tiny alleyways with haunting, Brett Helquist-esque murals.

Saturday evening, I attended the runway show of American designer Jeff Garner of the sustainable luxury label Prophetik with RCGD founder Suzy Amis Cameron and her niece Audrey. Suzy champions a plethora of sustainable initiatives and puts a tremendous amount of effort into supporting emerging artists. It was a treat to meet her friend Mr. Garner after the show and learn about the various natural fibers, reclaimed materials, and non-toxic dye treatments incorporated in his work.

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*Furiously sketching in the corner*

As I run the risk of turning this entry into an essay and my eyes frying from the glare of my computer screen; thank you for allowing me to ramble through this incredible first week. This upcoming week I’ll be speaking with Hoxton Radio Fashcast broadcaster Stefanie Jones about the RCGD campaign, attending a few London Design Biennial lectures at Somerset House, hunting for last minute Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime tickets, and sprinkling in more volleyball.

Smile, show gratitude, take responsibility, and be open to new experiences.  ← Constant repeat in my brain.

Cheers,

Talia

Part 2 is now live…click here.

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