Archive for the ‘V&A’ 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When nepotism and old school ties were superseded by strategic and technological brilliance, as open routes to  lucrative City jobs, the suit became more valuable than ever as a leveller in the market place.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.

Gathering Moss…

July 5, 2015
A match made in Britain...

A match made in Britain…

A debate on Kate Moss stirs strange passions.  Young women either love or, a few conservative detractors, hate her.  British ‘Vogue’ in May is ecstatic over the continuing success of our British Fashion models, whether from the landed gentry or the street.

Moss, featured on the cover, is placed with other contemporary model successes and the long-running story of the Brits as a ‘punk nation!’

For Harrods and House of Fraser in 'Grazia'

For Harrods and House of Fraser in ‘Grazia’

Writer Chloe Fox says, “we’re constantly challenging notions of beauty. Kate Phelan, the stylist and ‘Vogue’ contributing editor believes, “Our cultural heritage is hugely influential. We constantly challenge the norm and the fashion industry wants to harness that spirit.”

Kate Moss has hit the zeitgeist over decades, a heroin waif in the eighties, the face of London in the 1990s, high street sensation Topshop, and currently for Kering’s wild boy, Alexander McQueen.

A Business of Fashion story which is really a best kept secret is how the international Fashion industry has come to rely on her neat body, outsider ID and perpendicular cheek bones.

She has been modelling for the rising Italian star Liu.Jo since 2011, from when its already stratospheric success has continued, doubling its number of employees worldwide each year.  With La Moss as their ‘face’ they sell across the classes, from city department stores and on-line, to Europe, the far and near East and Russia.

Celebrating the Italian Fashion show opening at the V&A, this week, Colin McDowell, making the important point that it’s really all about the fabrics and the clothes, puts Italian Fashion’s centuries long success down to its heritage and pride-in-making.

A curious anomaly could be that it’s a British teenage rebel performer who is now at the heart of its continuing fascino.

First published in ‘What Would Roland Barthes say?”

Vivien Leigh – role model or victim figure?

October 15, 2013
Heroines from novels with green eyes.

Heroines from novels with green eyes.

Separating Vivien Leigh from  Scarlett O’Hara is almost impossible.

When she took on the role of the Pulitzer prize winning American Civil War heroine in ‘Gone with the Wind,‘ in 1937, she became the most viewed, the most famous actress of the 20th century.

In 1999 I was teaching in 6th forms in Yorkshire, and studying with Antony Easthope in Manchester.

Even so, one day, I caught Judy Finnegan and Richard Madeley on ‘This Morning.’ They were reviewing either the whole of the last century, or maybe it was just Cinema!

A viewer phoned in from around Cornwall.  She said Scarlett O’Hara was ‘powerful’ first and then ‘beautiful,’secondly.  So I had a Feminist role model to write about for a study on Film!

More surprising than this was the so called ‘confession’ from Richard.  He said he had carried a photograph of Leigh/Scarlett in his pocket ever since seeing ‘Gone with the Wind’ 20 years earlier!

‘Scarlett O’Hara and the post-bellum New Look’ became a chapter in ‘Fashion, Media, Promotion.’ I learned that the ‘post-war’ Latin tag usually referred to the American Civil War.  So people like my daughter, Sally, and my partner, Simon, thought I was better informed than in reality!  I chose it to go with the post WW2, Christian Dior, 1947 full-skirted sensation!

The V&A held a celebration of the ‘Golden Age of Couture’ in 2007.  There I discovered the tiny waist fetish and the massive audiences following Scarlett were part of the revival of Paris after WW2.  I also found actual connections between Vivien Leigh and Christian Dior.

Now I’m IT! On Wednesday 13th November at 1pm, in the Hochhauser Auditorium, Sackler Centre, I’m giving a lunchtime talk!  Here’s the listing from the V&A site!

Vivien Leigh – role model or victim figure?

‘LUNCHTIME LECTURE: David Selznick’s, ‘I’ll never recover from that first look,’ gives us a clue to Vivien Leigh’s stage-management of her initial meeting with important producer of ‘Gone with the Wind’, the 20th century’s most watched movie.

Her co-stars thought her ‘blind ambition’ cost her too much, and laid the plot for further exploitation of her enigmatic beauty.

A hundred years since her birth, Jayne Sheridan tells her story of brilliance and despair.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/2875/lunchtime-lecture-vivien-leigh-role-model-or-victim-figure-4246/

Tired of London? – Not me!

September 14, 2013

IN town, on Tuesday, heard Audrey Hepburn’s son, Luca Dotti  speak of his family life with the broadcaster, Gianluca Longo, at the V&A. We celebrated the publication of the book ‘Audrey in Rome’, containing snapshots of Hepburn during the three decades she lived in the Italian city.

So far London Fashion Week is thrilling me, more than usual.  The clothes, the looks, the colours are Modern, again.  Not in a Givenchy, Quant way, but now more reliant on cut and drape for drama than since the 1970s.

Will see how Burberry fits into the scene  and let you know if Christopher Bailey is able to suggest the epaulettes  yet catch the moment?  I really do care. Have an unending faith in the Fashion system.  It’s a marvel.

The women who led UNICEF with her own younger son, Luca Dotti, in their garden in Rome.

The woman who led UNICEF with her own younger son, Luca Dotti, in their garden in Rome.

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

Audrey Hepburn and the discreet charms of the LBD

July 26, 2012

Ever-lasting Elegance: Our fascination with Audrey Hepburn

AT this year’s Paris’ Haute Couture show, July 2012, Hubert de Givenchy re-styled his Little Black Dress. The original, made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, 1961, was iconic in its simplicity and made the LBD the wardrobe staple of today. So, what is it with our lasting obsession with Audrey Hepburn?

She represents simple elegance, ultimate femininity and natural beauty. She is an actress as well known for her style as her films, wearing classic pieces made by top Fashion designers especially for her. What’s not to love? But has anyone come close since?

Apparently not.  In 2011 she was voted by British women as the most beautiful woman of all time. Personally, I think it’s her wonderful expressive smile and her compassion. She won us all over as the Princess Ann in Roman Holiday appealing to everyone’s inner princess. She made the character of Holly Golightly into a new fairy tale figure.  How many of us have that picture of her with the cigarette holder,  smiling mysteriously, on our walls? Editors and stylists love her as well as fans? Her look is truly exceptional; recognised in an instant.

Indeed, on July 22nd  the Sunday Times travel supplement mocked up the image of Hepburn in sunglasses and a hat. That ‘Audrey sells,’ is  a given.  It’s an inner beauty which shines through and yet she’s more known for her commercial potential!  She’s helped liberate women’s sense of identity by being feminine, stylish, yet strong and distinctive.  Let’s hope her sons gave permission to the Murdoch vehicle to use her photograph to copy.  If so, then the newspaper group will need to send a donation to UNICEF!

Picture Ref: Audrey Hepburn and Breakfast at Givenchy’s: Fashion Media Promotion: the new black magic p. 92 : Wiley Blackwell

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urQVzgEO_w8

http://www.hud.ac.uk/research/researchnews/fashionintheageoftheimage.php 

Glass coaches, diamond tiaras and blue jeans

March 26, 2012

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?