Favourite things….Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Givenchy’s

ONE magical turning point in Fashion’s fortunes was the release of Audrey Hepburn’s first significant Hollywood hit, ‘Roman Holiday,’ 1953. In Roland Barthes, Mythologies, his devastating take on consumerism and audiences, he describes Audrey Hepburn’s face as an ‘event.’ She had starred in only four major Hollywood films when she caused the French maestro and dilettante such sensation.

Barthes was proposing AH could represent meaning to audiences beyond those who watched her movies.  After her most significant films were released, in the 1950s and 1960s, she became an influence on Fashion followers in Britain and America, encouraging women to use home dressmaking in the class struggle.  As 21st century fans view Roman Holiday, Sabrina, Funny Face and Breakfast at Tiffany’s they witness the face that launched a thousand web sites and her popularity persists through digital media.

Audrey Hepburn stars in the second chapter of ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION’ the collaboration between me and wonderful, Fashion illustrator and teacher, Anton Storey. ‘Vacanze Romane’ is based on a postcard, I had lying around. It was absolute genius for Anton to put the words from the back of it, which happened to be in Italian, across the main image. Super commissioning editor, Madeleine Metcalfe, who put her faith in me, also adored this pic. It was pinned above her desk when I visited her at Blackwell’s in Oxford.

At the political heart of ‘Roman Holiday’ is the script by Dalton Trumbo, part of the Hollywood Ten, the 10 motion-picture producers, directors, and screenwriters who appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee in October 1947, who refused to answer questions regarding their possible communist affiliations, and, after spending time in prison for contempt of Congress, were mostly blacklisted by the Hollywood studios.

‘I’ve never been alone with a man before’ the fictional Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) tells the newsman Joe Bradley, (Gregory Peck). For the audience, there is dramatic irony, realising that an heir to a throne is wearing borrowed pyjamas.  He only realises who she is when he hears the news about her disappearance, next day.  In a scene between Joe Bradley and his editor they discuss angles and trends.  ‘Youth must lead the way,’ he is told.  In 1953, this was a topical theme in the context of access to a young princess. Her observations, on world conditions, would be worth a fee to the journalist, of $250, but her ‘views on clothes worth a lot more, perhaps a thousand’.  From that cinematic moment on, Audrey Hepburn would represent the dynamic interaction between Fashion and class structures.  It was to be both her on and off-screen character; a role in which she would demonstrate how position in society dictates how Fashion is consumed. 

SUCH DEVOTED SISTERS

RODARTE, the  American clothing and accessories label, founded and headquartered in Los Angeles, California by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, is going Goth on the catwalk.

Laura and Kate Mulleavy added to the vampire pantheon in their 2020 Fall collection in the dimly lit nave of St. Bartholomew’s church in Midtown, Manhattan, NY, providing a fittingly gothic stage as the Mulleavys sent their army of the ethereally chic, undead, out to stalk the night.

When designers work with influences from Art, Music and Cinema they are drawing on inspiration from Elsa Schiaparelli, the star struck twentieth century Surrealist clothes maker and  trend setter. She was however less likely to use images from the dark arts and more to be gazing into the galaxy. Rodarte

Midtown Manhattan audiences were wowed by the 17th look to parade into view.  It reminds me of a 1950s fine wool, black, shirt-waister patterned with white, miniature, dancing sailors, worn by my mother, Trixie Greenwood–Sparks, as she explained the wondrous life of the legendary Schiap.  Do the tassels look like comets?

Scent Noir

No.5 Coco Chanel is the controversial figure of Fashion.  It’s part of the label’s allure!

Students working on cosmetic floors of department stores all want to be selling the fascinating brand yet the genius behind it is a calculating, nonchalant, femme fatale!

In Thursday night’s feature  on BBC 4  a story, I thought was just a re-telling of a rumour, proves to be about her actual devious plotting and career building subterfuge!

Coco Chanel’s revolutionary perfume concept was as audacious as her outlandish designer clothing. At its launch, in 1921, it was an instant hit but in the 1920s and 1940s the Number 5 brand was at the centre of a war between the celebrated designer and her entrepreneurial business partners, the Wertheimer brothers.

In the thrilling and dark development of the world’s most famous perfume friends and colleagues become enemies and adversaries!

During WWII, with the help of her high-ranking Nazi lover, Coco Chanel attempted to oust her Jewish partners – who had fled German-occupied France and were operating the business from New Jersey – to take control of the highly lucrative business.

On Thursday these shocking revelations were confirmed, with archive footage of Gabrielle herself and her secret staircase at the Ritz.  Directed by Stephane Benhamou, the Wertheimer brothers Paul and Pierre did not make personal archive appearances but were represented by animated cut outs!

“The No. 5 War,” documentary  premiered at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival in January 2017. Here director Stephane Benhamou told audiences that his long days burrowing in French archives, not only let him tell the story of one of the most popular fragrances in the world, but proved beyond doubt that Chanel was ready to exploit the Nazi race laws to increase her wealth and power.

Vestire il robot! Salva il Pianeta!

DON’T you just love the Italians with their sense of style and scientific curiosity?

Here’s a researcher investigating the most exciting developments in textiles and technology at the international fashion fair, Milana Unica, this month.

Designed to show what we –  or our robots – will wear S/S 2019, it keeps Milan at the forefront of the Fashion world!

Volatile fabrics such as layered tulle, muslins and iridescent organics, combined with multicolor satins and vinyl or metallized fabrics, inspired by Robotics and Second-Skin stretch tubulars are seen here.

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Milano Unica’s slogan for today is SAVE THE PLANET!

Art for Feminism and Fashion’s sake!

LEONOR Fini, the avant-garde artist who Christian Dior exhibited in the gallery he ran in early 1930s France, before becoming a Fashion designer; is inspiration Spring 2018.

Surrealism and the dreams of women; for Dior’s Maestra, Maria Grazia Chiuri.  Chiuri is said to be fascinated by how Fini used clothes and extravagant headdresses to “produce” her identity.

“She used her image to be regal and powerful. Surrealism speaks about dreams and the unconscious, and often about women’s bodies. It’s very close to fashion,” Chiuri tells us.

She uses Surrealist symbolism—the black-and-white checkerboard runway, and the bird cages and faux plaster casts suspended over it, to frame her collection. Stephen Jones delicate eye masks are in homage to Peggy Guggenheim. Guggenheim also  exhibited Fini in her 1943 show, ‘Exhibition of 31 Women Artists.’

Speaking of the difficulty women have to be taken seriously, Chiuri explains why solemn black is chosen by designers and MeToo campaigners. However her feminism allows her to move on, “We have to think about dreaming,” she suggests. “In a way, it [haute couture] is our business. But if you never dream, you don’t think that something negative can change.”

A day in the life of an ‘Elite Athlete!’

LOVED my breakfast –  homemade smoothie with frozen strawberries, natural yoghurt, oats, honey, frozen banana, protein powder and a scoop of creatine. It took so long I don’t think I’ll make it through the traffic! My gym is in Canary Wharf and I need to get across town.

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Not to worry! Put on my trusty Nike; bike across, work out with their anti gravity treadmill.  Consult with exercise medics, specialist physiothereapists  and their divine super conditioning coach.  He’ll love this look.

At Third Space I’ll unwind on their sprint tracks, and try out the aromatic juniper log glass saunas and hot yoga studios. Shall it be Tower Bridge, Soho, Marylebone?  Must check with Tony to see where we’ll meet for healthy low alcohol cocktails, later!

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Today I’m for complete total toning so I can escape to heaven in my JW Anderson collection! These Laboutins work best with toned legs and taut/toned core and don’t I know it!

All that effort for hours of controlled torture and lashings of Paparazzi!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUCH FUN!

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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Fanfare, freedom and fun

Since watching Roman Holiday* I can’t help feeling it must have had an influence on Queen Elizabeth II.  Everyone watched popular movies in the 1950s.  I’m sure the Palace had masses of screenings for Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Or maybe they slipped out, incognito, to the Odeon,  Leicester Square.

Roman Holiday deals with celebrity and public image.  Through the eyes of the young, fictional, Princess Ann we see the difficulties and restrictions of being a head of state; always in the public eye. In the opening scenes Hepburn’s character is compared to the British royals of the time; to the British Queen’s younger sister Princess Margaret, who was something of a dissenter; preferring unpredictable commonplace experiences rather than the strictures of public service. The film’s opening scenes include montaged, actual, footage of state visits in Europe and a voice-over tells  how they improved trade relations.

In 1980 when Princess Margaret visited a Haberdashers’ School in Cheshire, during a tour of the Science rooms, she told me, as a journalist, how her children would rush up and down carpeted areas to create static electricity before coming over to give her a slightly electrifying kiss. This liking for simple everyday experience was felt as an emotional need by the princess in Roman Holiday.  As a reverse Cinderella story audiences are able to empathise with the heroine’s longings even though her life was far removed from theirs.

After Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn was seen as the movie actress to be cast in parts dealing with transformation through Fashion.  She was not perceived as a Hollywood starlet plugged into the general 50s dynamic.  She carried her own romantic mystique a more elaborate, European, mythology with her.  Although she was seen as a Hollywood product, a Paramount Studio property, she only ever owned homes in Europe. Far from socialising with the movie glitterati she used her influence to fight for children’s rights.  At 16 years of age she danced, in secret, to raise money for the Dutch resistance to the Nazis.  Remembering the subterfuge and fear of the time, she said, ‘the best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance’. Princess Elizabeth drove army vehicles as part of the war effort in England and married Prince Philip a serving naval officer. Their lives were lived in similar times and contexts.

The admiration audiences felt in the movie for Princess Ann, when she gave up the fun and the freedoms of being with the charming American journalist, Gregory Peck, to return to her European regal duties is the same respect many  feel for the current Queen of England.  She would  probably much rather be an aristocratic horse breeder than the person having weekly political meetings with twelve different Prime Ministers, even if one  was Tony Blair!


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http://www.hud.ac.uk/staff/fashionintheageoftheimage.php

Glass coaches, diamond tiaras and blue jeans

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 not tempted to wear frilly fussy looks.

Her parents are friends with the people who run Jigsaw and Kate did a short stint as an accessories buyer with them.  There’s  an image of William  and Kate, in jeans, to make the point  that Fashion is for everyone in ‘the new black magic’*.

Some of the changes leading to the daughter of airline officers marrying an heir to a European throne have come through Fashion’s revolutions. They began when everyone wore versions of Christian Dior’s haute couture looks in the 40s and 50s.  Then, Audrey Hepburn’s transformations in  films  Roman Holiday and  Sabrina, from princess to pauper and back again, blurred edges.  The films made European and American women see the power of clothes to alter status.

In the 1960s Mary Quant made fun clothes for dukes’, doctors’ or dockers’ daughters.  Miuccui Prada dresses new generations  of  upwardly mobile professional women just as Coco Chanel did in the 40s and  50s.

Kate Middleton  may live to regret showing off her underwear in a daring see-through creation during the  2002 charity Fashion show at St Andrews university.  This was said to be the moment Prince William, paying £200 for the ticket, became besotted with her.  But the sparkly Audrey Hepburn little black dress she chose when she and the prince were on a break will be recalled with much more affection.

I don’t think she could  have got it more right with the classic silk jersey wrap dress by the London based ‘go-to’ designer Issa she wore for the engagement announcement nor when she appeared in Sarah Burton’s angelic, composed, First Communion lace outside Westminster Abbey.  Will she ever wear jeans in public, again, I wonder?