Archive for the ‘BoF’ Category

A Suitable Case for Treatment

August 7, 2016
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, from Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures.

I’m not a cougar but Christopher Breward’s latest book celebrating the glorious and everyday charms of ‘The Suit,’ makes me see how a predatory woman might feel!

On many of the pages I fall in love again and again!

Breward sets the suit in its commanding history as an important marker inspiring new ways of looking at the power-hungry, the lover, the elegant, through their lives at home, in trade, on travel and in the movies.

The suit has survived hardly modified over generations, worn by men and women, ‘politicians, estate agents, bankers, rabbis, courtroom defendants, wedding grooms’.

The author’s own wedding outfit, now in the V&A, was worn for a civil partnership ceremony  with James Brook on 18 August 2006.  Christopher’s from Kilgour on Saville Row with Jasper Conran shirt, while James’ tailored wool-blend pinstripe by Timothy Everest, for Marks and Spencer are included in the museum’s collections, reflecting the suit’s enduring appeal.

Taking his lead from Adolf Loos, the Modernist ‘suitophile’ who compared the garment to a classical temple, Breward considers its form, function and style across the decades. Thinking ‘the smart flashiness of the soldier’s get-up takes us only so far in understanding the evolution of the modern suit,’ he encourages us to consider the dinginess of English cities when ‘darkness inevitably rubbed off on the man’s suit and its status in everyday life.’

Romping through the centuries he notes how working men’s solid woollen jackets and trousers stood for stronger values than a nineteenth century clerk’s off-the-peg garb, although it it did represent technological advances.

Turning to advice given for successful dressing, he shows how pundits had often suggested conservative, appropriate, two pieces to make a statement, as  novel alternative modes of dress were appearing. In the midst of the flowery Hippies in the 70s and Punk-Goths in the 80s, the monochrome model survived in the service of industry and commerce.

When nepotism and old school ties were superseded by strategic and technological brilliance, as open routes to  lucrative City jobs, the suit became more valuable than ever as a leveller in the market place. Men’s retailers know that the price of a suit is geared to match exactly a week’s wage. So from the 80s on, from the high street to Savile Row, customers would be spending between £2,000 and £10,000 to be kitted out.

When the global crash came in 2008, it had been heralded by informal dress into the worlds of banking and high finance in the 90s and 2000s; seeming to reflect immorality and the rise of greed. Disgraced workers were seen leaving their offices uniformly wearing pastel sportswear on television news channels!

City slickers and bar bound lawyers insist the suit is a sign of distinction and power in the professions despite calls to dress down or man-up for our digital age.  Breward, now a tweeds and jeans-wearing academic, hopes the suit will persist for hundreds more years; for as long as the civilised values it represents are around.

Glass coaches, diamond tiaras and blue jeans

December 25, 2015

The new black magic

Fashion’s power probably reached its zenith when Kate Middleton married the heir to the British dynastic throne of the United Kingdom in April 2011.  Prince William had fallen in love with her, it is said, as she paraded down the catwalk at a charity Fashion show in their shared university town of St. Andrew’s, near Edinburgh, in Scotland.  The signs of the harem had transmitted themselves to the virile young royal.

There is a Cinderella quality to this story and clothes played their part towards this happy ending.  Not that Kate Middleton had set many fires, or brushed many hearths, but she now  rides in glass coaches and wears diamond tiaras.

Her days at boarding school mixing with the Home Counties crowd, and Sloane Rangers set, put her on the right track. She’s an interesting mix of American preppy and English Burberry.  Her love of the outdoors means she is…

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SUCH FUN!

December 8, 2013

Do any of us have enough ‘fun’?

The last time we can be sure we were glimpsing the idea of fun’s potential seems to have been the 1960s.  So now the word is the super signifier for that decade.

Used by Barbara Hulanicki on her ‘Desert Island Discs,’ by Miranda Hart’s fictional mother, often in interviews with Mary Quant; it expresses the possibility of freedom  and pleasure.

Fizzing with the excitements left over from the take-up of Modernism, in the 1950s, by the 60s for the first time in history the young had money to spend.  Quant, Hulanicki, et al were there waiting for their Art School educations to liberalise the rest and so we began to spend every night, ‘out’!

The moment when it was possible to be having the most fun is surely when Modernism morphed into to its ironic younger sister, the multifaceted, ducking, dodging, diving, diva, post-Modernism.

The revolutionary, tone-setting, Biba brought in well-designed clothes and accessories for a new object-of-desire-hungry demographic.

Brighton Art college graduate Fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki opened a mail order clothing company with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.  Their Postal Boutique was overwhelmed with orders for a sleeveless gingham shift dress featured in the ‘Daily Mirror.’

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Weaving and wearing the clothes, who’s that girl?

September 1, 2013
Doing what we do best - bodices, ruffs and crowns. Alexander McQueen Paris 2013

Doing what we do best – bodices, ruffs and crowns. Alexander McQueen Paris 2013

Fit for a queen!

Suzy Menkes and her sparky writing, don’t you just love her?

Currently saying, “As the fashion carousel spins ever faster, the concern is that, while the stream of newness never runs out, there’s going to be a good deal more crash and burn among designers in the future.”

Although she’s a complete oracle, I can’t help feeling she’s a bit over anxious at the moment.

It’s sweet Suzy’s concerned for the artistry and creativity of it all.  But  Industry, including Fashion, is not just about making  people, who can afford the products, more democratic.  It’s about providing ever more opportunities to create, innovate, and sell: making everyone part of the process.

What we are currently seeing is an inventive work-force keeping up with changing technologies.  Sarah Burton, especially, as a woman designer is an example of democracy in progress.  Trained alongside Alexander McQueen she’s able to keep his legacy going with her professional team, and their devoted followers, working with new chances to enchant us.  If only Prince George had been a girl they’d have had the perfect collection to conjure with!

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/fashion/how-to-tell-the-fashion-future.html?ref=global

Crossing you in style, one day…

August 28, 2013
The sight of Peck and Hepburn on an Italian Vespa scooter made it an object of desire for style-conscious youth in Modern Britain. p.75  'the new black magic'

The sight of Peck and Hepburn on an Italian Vespa scooter made it an object of desire for style-conscious youth in Modern Britain. p.75 ‘the new black magic’

 

Tim Berners-Lee chose to name his universal computer platform, the ‘world wide web,‘ and opened up, more than just, the mathematically most enormous communications system.  He involved us with feminine notions of weaving and webs!

We can no longer survive without connections, passing references, most importantly, irony.  We need to know other things – the back story.

So to really enjoy the Audrey Hepburn Galaxy chocolate ad we have to be devoted fans of ‘Roman Holiday,’ (1953) ‘Sabrina’ (1954) and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).   We should see the ‘Galaxy’ recreations as homage to William Wilder, Blake Edwards and their production teams.

Scenes with Vespa scooters, open air produce markets, immediately evoke Greg Peck’s life in ‘Roman Holiday’; the chauffeur and the open top car, the lives of the Larabee brothers in ‘Sabrina,’ the music, ‘Moon River’ – ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’

The ‘Framework’ crew worked tirelessly to recreate the actress’s smile, with a team of four hand-animating, carefully, posed expressions in every shot.  Yet as CG VFX Supervisor, Simon French, explains: “It is amazing how unique and how recognisable a person’s smile is. When you see it in this detail, it really needs to look perfect.”

No film fan would think they had captured the spirit, the nuances, associated with the actress, but as a paid-for promotional vehicle it’s certainly absorbing.

And so, the clever team at ‘Framework,’ creating the Audrey Hepburn, ‘Galaxy’ ad, couldn’t help catching some of the star’s charisma to entice us to their shiny firmament.  Yes, and of course, there’s a ‘but’ coming!  What happened was that Marketing won out over Cinema Art for this technological miracle.

Why did they include, ‘Why have cotton, when you can have silk?’  No connections, whatsoever, with Hollywood or Hepburn!  Separating Mars chocolate from competitors bars was unnecessary, here.  Surely just having us identify with the the pleasure, the sophistication, the fun attached to Hepburn’s most successful movies is enough.

When I meet Luca Dotti at the V&A, in a celebration of his mother’s work, next week, it will not be a good idea to discuss all this Media muddle with him.  So I’m back with the poets saying, ‘had we but world enough and time…..

http://tinyurl.com/newblackmagic

It’s a jungle out there

April 27, 2013
1960s heavy metal bangle which I have in a one row version.

1960s heavy metal bangle which I have in a one row version.

It wouldn't have made any difference to the surprising outcome but I wish I'd been wearing this.

It wouldn’t have made any difference to the surprising outcome but I wish I’d been wearing this Jil Sander.

I may be getting my Media muddled but the ‘Jungle out there’ heading will be for this piece and a Pinterest board.

Sad story about Pauline Boty’s short life. Photograph posted on ‘Romantic Moment of the week.’  Here I’m playing with Time, through Postmodernism, with the TimBL technology which  delights us every day.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery

Yesterday I wore an Italian black ‘She’s So’ skirt and a typical Marithe and Antoine Girbaud jacket, with the Jensen bracelet seen in this blog.  Others looked like escapees from the 70s and not in a good way!  Still looks  don’t count if you’re wielding the power.

To say there was a culture clash would be overstating it!  My colleagues know how fast the world is changing  but they held on to their tightly defined parameters like security blankets and I feel sad for them.  Why wouldn’t I?  Kate is about to buy a Yamaha piano, not a bike.  I’ll be able to sing with her as well as with John Wilson, every Monday.  He and I are developing a strange strident German songspiel style which makes us smile!  We’re also doing a Bridget Jones version of ‘Without You!’ As soon as we’ve made a short film I’ll post it here  instead of this slightly manic Fashion moment.

https://vimeo.com/62944208

L’homme Parisien, post-Modern witches and the dazzling eclectic

March 10, 2013

ysl-slimane-2Saint-Laurent-Paris-Fashion-WeekWe’re with ‘Vogue’ on Hedi Slimane’s  SL show for Paris Fashion Week.

Saying that he’s ‘master of the theatre,’ Jessica Bumpus saw rock chicks with immaculate styling and a rock edge aesthetic honed at Dior Homme, with Seventies billowy chiffon.  Liking oversized hats, with every look,  multiple neck bows, tuxedo jackets,  super skinny trousers with their ‘rock credentials.’ 

Cathy Horyn, banned from the shows, was tentative in her report, for the New York Times.  Viewed from streamed images,  her words lack the tones of a disappointed critic.  I think she really liked it, but isn’t saying! You wouldn’t either, if you weren’t invited, would you?

Business of Fashion loves the idea that Slimane has gone for “commercially lucrative” pieces but hopes the label won’t be too distracted away from its original YSL roots towards a sort of ‘All Saints Laurent!’

Reminding us of Yves Saint Laurent’s controversial 1971 Nazi-inspired show, seen as “a tour de force of bad taste” at the time, BoF thought Slimane’s collection might be a deliberate attempt by the ‘complicated designer to provoke negative reactions’.

For BoF, Suleman Anaya also asks the question about where YSL might be heading under Slimane’s baton. Is it another top luxury brand removing itself from the kind of high-concept fashion that receives ‘lavish editorial praise but performs middlingly in stores?’  Or is it going for ‘money in the bank for retailers.’

Isn’t this what everyone hopes will happen to all Fashion?  Slimane’s tactics can’t be  bad if YSL is also seen as a lifestyle brand for musicians and those who want to hang out with them.   To me Anaya is totally on the button as he winds up with the assertion “It’s tough, but it’s luxury, down to those heavily embellished (and surely expensive) leather boots.”

How is Slimane doing it?  It’s probably the seven years with Dior, designing menswear, which gives him the gift to capture traces from the extraordinary creative and vulnerable masters who preceded him.  It’s also  his schooling in Art History and  Tailoring.  His visit to the offices of Le Monde,  when he thought he wanted to be  a journalist is telling.   For  the creative spirit,I think, it’s all about wanting to communicate thoughts and feelings. It’s what makes Fashion’s heart beat.

 

Mary Quant’s late husband, the debonair lothario, Alexander Plunket Green, supporting his wife’s exceptional talent, told me that sharp, tailored, clothes, rather than peasant looks, are what’s needed to underpin optimism during an economic downturn. 

Slimane, as  a French  Fashion national/natural, is doing it all.  Re-interpreting Yves from beyond ‘peasant,’ through Punk, away from ‘grunge’ through to a democratised high street, to thrill Beats, Hippies, New Wave and Digital Natives.  Keeping us all wanting to join the parade. So why is the Fashion jury still out on Slimane?  The renaming to ‘Saint Laurent’ seems neat and his eclecticism,  dazzling.

 

As  an original Fashion victim, I want to look as much like the post-Modern witches on  Slimane’s Paris Week catwalk, as the cyber princesses in their fluorescent trenches at Christopher Bailey’s  S/S 2013 London show!

http://www.businessoffashion.com/2012/10/a-wake-up-call-for-ysls-pr-team.html

Gender debate

August 21, 2009

Oh no, the nasty dispute about  800 metres champion Caster Semenya has nothing to do with race but everything to do with that old chestnut, Sexism.

Her fellow countrymen are very confused.  On BBC 1 a couple of minutes ago the only person who was perfectly lovely and serene was the winner herself and her very beautiful mother.

Why should men want to think that women can run pretty much as fast as they can?

New York New York

August 21, 2009

Why do the Americans love success as much as they do? Recently in New York when I told someone I have a book,  in production, it was like telling a parent  or an  enthusiastic teacher.  They were thrilled for me.  Back in  benighted Britain I might be losing friends or family members as a result of my success and their meally mouthed meanspiritedness.

This book, ‘The New Black Magic’ which I must admit, I describe as the ‘most beautiful’ ever published,  makes them catatonic with jealousy.  They can hardly hide it and begin to berate me for some concocted misdemeanor, they have imagined, faces twitching  with ill-disguised dismay.

It’s probably not totally unadulterated love of humanity which makes our friends across the Atlantic warmly congratulatory.   A friend who sells  Time Shares in Florida  said that if I  told an American that I had written three novels, but had failed to have them commissioned, then they would  rather be talking to a recently promoted pizza delivery boy, than a potential, but as yet acknowledged, writer.

Now although I have Fashion  to talk  about to every woman, I meet, it may be particularly relevant to America.   The New Black Magic is partly a spin-off from  studies  on women  both there, and in Britain.  Yet  I could not have expected such positive responses in Boston, Rhode Island and NY.  It was wonderful to find that ideas of discovery and creativity are absolutely flourishing,  and  being encouraged, in the good old U.S of A.  The current economic fight back, so  noticeable, in  New York is evidence of this spirit.