Crossing you in style, one day…

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…..

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!

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!


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?