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?

 

Fashion loves Controversy

Fashion loves controversy.  When the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ came out, in 2003, Lauren Weisberger was regarded as a disloyal spy, who had ratted on her employers.  The New York Times called the The Devil Wears Prada ‘trivially self-regarding’ and ex-colleagues of the fledgling writer, at Vogue, asked themselves the question, ‘Why should we publicise this thing?”

After script-writer, Aline Brosh Mckenna, had worked her magic, on the film version, (2006) and Meryl Streep had given a finely balanced performance as the brilliant Fashion editor, Miranda Priestly, then, perhaps, the interloping intern, Weisberger, was, partly, forgiven.

I did not expect my book to cause any such ripples.  How wrong I was. Christian Dior’s Wikipedia  page is currently running a line, quoting ‘Fashion Media Promotion, the new black magic’, saying that the designer was not the only Parisienne making clothes, for Nazi officers and collaborators, during the German occupation in WW2.  That anyway they were doing it to keep the French Fashion industry afloat.

Fans of ‘Gone with the Wind’ hate the idea that costume designer Frances Tempest thinks the clothes were not democratically designed and that a ‘particularly repellent Salmon pink’ was featured.

A curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art loathes my tongue-in-cheek description of Malcolm McLaren, as a Dior-scholar, and the irritating computer misspelling of Karen Dunst’s name makes one of her fans furious.

These petty squabbles and angst are a stroll in the park compared to the Vivienne Westwood  museum fiasco, filmed on British Style Genius.  We may all be too polite, and subtle, to raise it, but I’m still holding my breath!

Shocking confessions of a bibliophile

She surrounds herself with the talented ‘whose job is to translate her themes, concepts and especially her taste into clothes that bear the Prada name’.

My mother was wearing a full-skirted dress, patterned with tiny, white, dancing sailors when she told me about Elsa Schiaparelli, the Surrealist artist, who designed and sold Fashion.

On ‘Woman’s Hour,’ some time later, I heard that Schiaparelli’s,  Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition, 2003, catalogue was on sale.  I asked for it, as a Christmas present.  Large format, in  her signature  Shocking Pink, written by Dilys E. Blum, it became an influences on how I would write about Fashion, soon to be featured in ‘Vivienne Westwood and Anglomania at the Met.’

Now, as I set off on a crazy schedule of book signings, things have come full circle. That little gem of on-line journalism, Hint Magazine, tells of exciting plans to make New York Metropolitan Museum’s next  show,  live up  to the the sensation of  Alexander McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’.

News is that Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada will be  dual subjects of next year’s exhibition.  Both Italian divas are favourites of mine; probably because of Prada’s politics and my early introduction to Elsa, and her defining pink begonias.

The show will mix Schiaparelli’s surreal oeuvre from the late twenties to early fifties with Prada’s work from the late eighties to today. The high-tech angle is that Amazon, will set up an imagined conversation, with topics ranging from art to politics.  It will take on views from ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION  the new black magic,’ that  Schiaparelli ‘offered a unique take on fashion, favoring wit over traditional glamour.’   Is it zeitgeist or have I a follower in  Andrew Bolton, from the Met?

Below: the inventive genius Schiaparelli put on a spectacle, only loosely related to shopping, when she brought her aristocratic vision to Paris in 1927.

I will try to throw light on these questions at WATERSTONE’S signings: Manchester, Deansgate, Thursday 27th, October, 7pmLondon, Covent Garden, Monday 7th, November, 6pm. London, Oxford Street Plaza, Wednesday 9th November, 12noon to 2pm. Sheffield, Orchard Square, Thursday 17th November, 5pm.

Living in a Material World

Fashion is at the heart of transformation. We reinvent ourselves, creating and wearing clothes and sharing our passions with our friends and colleagues.

Students, many at university for the first time, had a magical experience when Fashion Design was at the heart of planning for the future.

On the final day of Freshers’ Week, the University of Huddersfield was one of only four in Britain taking part  in  the European Commission’s 2011 Researchers’ Night, with others, from 32 countries in 800 venues, in 320 towns and cities across the continent.

Inspired by historic links between the university and the regional textile, and chemical industries, researchers ran workshops  and displays on the science of dyeing, a demonstration of wool spinning, the psychology of shoe wearing, and on designing and customising clothes.

Lecturer Karen Dennis who runs the social enterprise, Leeds-based, Ketchup, creating clothes from recycled materials, encouraged students to take existing garments; to transform them, taking inspiration from the high street and the catwalk.

“When I first started selling recycled clothes, people would say ‘Ugh! It’s old stuff!’  But that has changed, which gives me a lot of hope, and there are more and more companies in the field.”

She is determined to make an impact with the clothes-buying public, suggesting they look in their wardrobes and think hard about the contents.

“It’s about having fun,” says Dr Dennis, who wants to show that everybody is capable of being a designer.

Newcomers modelling their inspirations were amazed to be taking part in an international celebration of enterprise and creativity – making university life well worth the wait!

Image above from FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic  Launching at WATERSTONE’S, New Street, Huddersfield, Saturday October 1st, 11. 30 am till 3pm  and WATERSTONE’S, Deansgate, Manchester, Thursday 27th October at 7pm.  Dress code:  Glam, Goth, Gaga

Suzy Menkes and zeitgeist at the museum

Vivienne Westwood and Anglomania at the Met!

Secrets, hidden in my story of  Vivienne Westwood and museum culture, have been picked up by the New York Times!  Such fun.  Suzy Menkes, the most important Fashion commentator in the world, who  agreed to answer questions when we once met, at the V&A, writes magnificently on the passionate liaison of Art and Fashion in galleries across the globe.

Saying, ‘The explosion of museum exhibitions is only a mirror image of what has happened to fashion itself this millennium. With the force of technology, instant images and global participation, fashion has developed from being a passion for a few to a fascination — and an entertainment — for everybody, ‘ she  picks  up what ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic‘ is about.  It’s wonderful to know that someone, like Suzy Menkes, can feel as I do about Fashion and the people who work in it.

 ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic’   is about the promotion of Fashion and the collision of Art and Commerce in the service of Fashion.

It is also about how Vivienne  Westwood’s association with the anarchist McLaren confuses critics, and her training, which was not in a fashionable Art school, gave the Fashion establishment an opportunity to see her as an outsider, until she was discovered by ‘Vogue.’

Of course, the merging of Art and Fashion in galleries, visited by millions, is zeitgeist.  Suzy Menkes may not have seen my book, but I can dream, can’t I? Perhaps I’d know for sure,  if I’d taken up her offer and sent her that email!

 

 

Left:  Vivienne Westwood and Anglomania at the Met!

 


Spirit of the age and how!

Mary Quant suggested I travelled with her and  husband Alexander Plunkett Green, to interview them, on their way to Manchester airport.  It was the first step to finding out about Fashion, itself.  Enormously exciting, as the cab sped away from Chester, and I began scribbbling, frantically.  They  shared  insights into how to run a Fashion business in a downturn.  It was September 1981.  Since then the world has learned masses about Fashion’s importance to the economy, and Mary’s own book, Quant on Quant, was a huge help to me.  Now as I prepare to do signings in  Huddersfield, Manchester, and Sheffield,  I am grateful for their generous, modern, sixties spirits and recall the whole experience with terrific pleasure.  Students, who know of Mary Quant’s life and times, love the idea of my lucky break.

Above right: Mary Quant researches fabrics to make Dolly Birds’ lives more eventful

FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic –  Signings and slide show at WATERSTONE’S, New Street, Huddersfield, Saturday October 1st, 11. 30 am till 3pm  and WATERSTONE’S, Deansgate, Manchester, Thursday 27th October at 7pm.  Dress code:  Glam, Goth, Gaga