Dusseldorf airport travellers
Dusseldorf airport travellers
If everyone wore a dirndl there'd be no ugliness!
If everyone wore a dirndl there’d be no ugliness!

IN Vienna’s streets there are no musicians.  Just attractive girl students in brocade breeches and 18thC wigs, handing out leaflets on Mozart and the Strausses. Not even Richard, at that!

Playing lead roles in the creation of a city, Fashion shops draw on the identity of designers and promote emerging talent. It hasn’t happened in Vienna. The sharply dressed Viennese couple, photographed here, at Dusseldorf airport, were shopping for clothes in Italy.

Observing the conservative internationalism of Vienna’s shopping quarters it seems it’s the dirndl and the waltz which stops Vienna becoming a Fashion city.  It’s trapped by its history.

In the plush red restaurant at Hotel Sacher there appears a couture dirndl in soft red wool, with broderie anglaise blouse, sported by slim, elegant, still blonde matron. ‘Wanderlust and Lipstick’ sells the whole kit, the Alpine coats, the edelweis motifs to absolutely everyone; worn for parties, weddings, national celebrations by all the young dudes!

Although Fashion is about status, money, and pleasure, in Austria’s capital, with its history of political upheaval and revolution, home of psychiatry and modern erotic art,  there’s a more measured, less frenetic, approach to our seduction to shop.

With the ‘glittering’ German designer Phillip Plein, Mondial, COS, Musette, Girbaud and True Religion on view and on sale,  script-writers hope that avant garde Fashion, represented by Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, will be setting the scene alongside a ‘steady stream of young designers’.

Yet  set up to please middle-aged, middle-brow tourists from home or abroad, not even Westwood’s post-modern ‘if only everyone wore the dirndl there’d be no ugliness!’ influence,  on her protegee Lena Hoschek can halt the old world, ‘Austrian-ness’ celebrated everywhere.  Hoschek’s clothes are probably not ironic enough.

Klimt does wonderful business in ties, scarves, trays and books outside the Imperial Palace in Belvedere but Austria’s lasting legacy for the Fashion world might be Sacha Baron Cohen’s camp, lederhosen-wearing travesty Bruno –  the world’s most foolish Fashion critic.


Manchester, Paris and Montauk

The singer and the song
The singer and the song

HAVING appeared in Paris, the night before, Rufus Wainwright told an enraptured Manchester audience  that Jean Paul Gaultier had let him ‘borrow’ the slinky black leather ensemble he was wearing for the show.

Making an entrance in sparkly ostrich feather cape over tails, he told us he would be giving us three opportunities to marvel at Gaultier’s work.   Removing the fabulous feathers after his first two songs,  then the coat and later a short bolero to reveal clinging body-hugging dungarees.   Sitting with some difficulty at the grand piano he described the designs as not too practical for playing musical instruments, adding that was probably why Madonna could  wear as much JPG as she liked!

Why, oh why, after a show full of talent did it devolve into a camp fiasco for a well-rehearsed encore? Well known Jewish singer, song writer, Adam Cohen and Wainwright dressed in short white togas with shiny blonde wigs looked uncomfortable and cold, even with oiled legs!  Backing singers Cristal Warren and Stella Blackman, accomplished soloists in their own right, were dressed as pantomime cut-outs, certainly undermining their contributions to the musicality of the show.  Maybe I’m not sure that ‘glad to be gay’ shouldn’t be tempered with patrolling by the style police. The image of Wainwright, above,  at the piano with the show’s stunning and subtle lighting plots is the one I’ll take home with me.

Audrey Hepburn and the Big Bang Theory

WITH crowned kings and queens and actresses wearing tiaras, no-one’s too sure about jewels as status symbols anymore. But as Sheldon’s girlfriend discovers her, diamond-studded, apology gift, the worlds of fantasy and reality collide.  See video below.

There’s more than just a tiara linking Audrey Hepburn, outside Tiffany’s in that hit 1961 movie, and Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler in my favourite sit com, The Big Bang Theory. I can hardly write this blog for wanting to view the Youtube videos below. That’s not part of the connection, although it may be.

Audrey Hepburn frees modern woman to be more herself, than she has ever been before, as she steps out between New York skyscrapers from a yellow cab in the early hours of the day. Gazing into Tiffany’s window, ‘nothing really bad could happen to you there,’ holding her portable coffee, taking a bite from a do-nut, wearing tiara and pearls, we are convinced that anything is possible at any time.

When Amy is offended by Sheldon’s dismissal of her scientific journal article and he is persuaded, by Penny, to give her a gift, he chooses a tiara. For him this will be far more confusing than understanding String Theory! Yet without the Hepburn film moments, from the 1950s and 1960s, none of us would be able to get the ironies in the situation, either.

Before Hepburn in Roman Holiday, when Princess Ann realised she could lead a more ordinary life, even if for only one day, and in B@T’s when Holly Golightly throws off mid American domesticity for the glamour of New York, we did not know we could question status.  From then on we could play with symbols, such as tiaras, to create our own individual personas through Fashion.  We now, no longer, have to be either feminine or Feminist.  We can be both!

Magic, Miniskirts and Modish Queens: an exploration of fashion over the royal Jubilee

Image  From a Press Release

“In 1952, when the lovely young Queen Elizabeth came to the throne bringing with her a revival in Tudor-style bodices and modest high collars, Marilyn Monroe was shocking the world by appearing in a calendar in just a bikini top and a pair of Levi’s.

Fashion Media Promotion: the new black magic  looks at how fashion, as an industry, has adapted itself over the last 60 years to always command an important role in the global marketplace. It explores how, through communication methods such as advertising, digital and print media and cinema, fashion has waved its magic wand and entranced the whole world.

Revelling in the nostalgia of some classic fashion firsts since the Queen came on the throne, Fashion Media Promotion explores, with some humour, the impact of quintessentially British designers such as Mary Quant, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood on both British culture and fashions abroad.

This insightful book will appeal, one trusts, to fashion students and lovers, film buffs and writers as it searches every corner of the fashion world’s monopoly, from the inspiration of Hollywood classics such as Gone with the Wind to a critique of Roland Barthes’ promotional work.

The book, published by Wiley-Blackwell, includes 60 original full colour illustrations. Images of Audrey Hepburn’s glamour, Mary Quant’s Mini-skirts to Kate Moss’s androgynous appeal really bring to life how fashion has evolved over the decades.

 “I have always been fascinated by how fashion links the generations and this has never been more the case than over the last 60 years. To keep us talking about it, fashion always has to find new ways to shock and thrill people, yet it also draws on past trends. Today a granddaughter might envy the clothes her grandmother used to wear in the 1950s.”

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!

Roman Holiday

Vanity Fair toasts  50th Anniversary of Breakfast at Tiffany‘s, 1962.   Gorgeous as it is B@T isn’t  the film which began Audrey Hepburn’s lasting links with Fashion, when Europe and America fell in love with her looks.

It was Roman Holiday in 1953.

Hepburn plays a maverick princess, out on the town, riding a Vespa, having on-street make-over, ice cream, river boat trip and a kiss from a gambling journalist.  The movie put Rome on the map for tourists.

Then, when Audrey’s character is transformed in Paris, ‘Sabrina,’ 1954, the real love affair with Fashion and Givenchy began.  Writing about B@T, Sabrina, Roman Holiday, and Funny Face I discover why Audrey has never lost her enchantment and reveal how Roland Barthes, reclusive gay French philosopher, was sexually excited by her image.

Image above right: ‘FASHION MEDIA PROMOTION the new black magic’:  Rome went stellar on the tourist map and Audrey Hepburn inspired ‘the look.’

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