It’s a tiara! It’s a tiara!

AUDREY HEPBURN starved with thousands of others in Holland during the second World War. Despite being neutral, the Netherlands in World War II was invaded by Nazi Germany on 10 May 1940, as part of Fall Gelb. On 15 May 1940, one day after the bombing of Rotterdam, the Dutch forces surrendered.

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The teenage Hepburn danced to raise money for the resistance movement in her father’s occupied land. Moving to London, and on from the horrors of war, she later recalled, “I remember the Fifties as a time of renewal and of regained security.  Postwar austerity was fading and although the heartbreak remained, wounds were healing.  There was a rebirth of opportunity, vitality and enthusiasm.  The big American musicals came to London; people packed the theatres to see the twice-nightly shows of High Button Shoes, South Pacific and Guys and Dolls.’

It was her appearance as the curious, restless, Princess Ann in William Wyler’s ‘Roman Holiday’ in 1953 which changed mass women audiences’ lives for the better, forever.

‘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. 

Audrey Hepburn’s looks were copied across continents, so powerful was her reputation and the pull of Hollywood. Skinny pants and polo-neck became the symbol of non-conformity when she danced a defiant modern jazz sequence in a moody, underground Paris bar in ‘Funny Face’. Clothing company Gap was given permission to use this sequence to promote its skinny pants in 2006.

Her interest in clothes, theatre, her sense of nostalgia and her relationship with the French designer Hubert de Givenchy created the legend which she and her films became.  Givenchy said of her,  ”She was capable of enhancing all my creations. And often ideas would come to me when I had her on my mind. She always knew what she wanted and what she was aiming for. It was like that from the very start.’

Audrey Hepburn frees modern woman to be more herself than she has ever been before, as she steps out from a yellow cab between New York skyscrapers 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 donut, wearing tiara and pearls, we are convinced that anything is possible at any time.

 

The birth of the Cult of Cool

AFTER months of misery the Fashion industry usually fights back and there is delight in dressing up and going out.  Paris, with its years of austerity, rationing and separation, during WW2, was revitalised by Christian Dior, Art director, dilettante, Europe’s other famous Norman.

With four years of Nazi rule Paris, ‘city of lights,’ was dim, but after liberation by the American forces there was the discovery of be-bop. It swept the city and black Americans stayed on, rather than return to the segregated USA.

On the streets the cult of cool was about to be born, and women wanted a designer to help them shake off the ‘horrible overalls’ and the boxy shapes of war-time clothes. They wanted to look sexy and feminine. It was then, in February 1947, that 30, Avenue Montaigne would become the world headquarters of Fashion.

Half a century before the internet Christian Dior, who had spent much of the war dressing the wives of Nazi officers and French collaborators, revived pre-war looks for post-war customers targeted at Hollywood’s world wide audience. He created feminised ‘flower women,’ happy to turn their backs on careers and military uniforms.

NewLookDior’s New Look, in 1947, made every other dress look outmoded. There was an electric tension – ‘wasp waist of jacket, weight of skirt barely worn by human beings, real old fashioned corsets to create shape,’ in direct contrast to the 40s look.

Christian Dior’s publicity machine was so effective that in a Vogue feature, proposing numerous routes through Europe by car by inventive motorists, Dior was featured by the magazine rather in the way Alexandra Shulman writes of Victoria Beckham for Vogue UK, April 2008.

Dior’s New Look was very good for fabric manufacturers, and especially good for his sponsor, Marcell Bussac. The ‘Bar’ suit, famously photographed by Willy Maywald. With its padded, static jacket and its heavy 80lbs, long, black wool pleated skirt, depended for its sculptural form on the 19th century skills of the corset maker.   Coco Chanel said of her rival: “Christian Dior doesn’t dress women. He upholsters them”.

Dior became the ‘master of marketing;’ selling perfumes, and realising the ‘importance of the public identifying with the designer.’ Dior had his personal and business journeys mapped and followed by the Media, becoming the first celebrity couturier. Recognising the importance of trade between the House and buyers by 1948, he and his team include Cuba, Finland, Holland, Mexico, and Sweden in their contact lists. When Bettina Ballard, the journalist who was editor-in-chief of Vogue, America in the 1950s, heard that designs were being geared towards department store owners’ wives she said, “I would not put it past Dior!”

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The recovery of the French Fashion industry was in the hands of Dior, who saved haute couture in the face of a ‘growing market of ready to wear, especially in the United States’. Paris was put into a position where it was also able to set the template for London couture and Fashion training. During the war there was the fear that American design would take over. So the Paris group, Chambre Syndicale, put together ‘Theatre de la Mode,’ a collection of dolls which were on display during the V&A exhibition in London. Said, to have been designed to raise funds for war victims they, really, were commissioned to raise the profile of Haute Couture.

WAY TO WEAR THE HAT! Diary of Midge Maisel, aged 26 and a half!

NOMINATED for three Golden Globes in the “musical or comedy” categories: Rachel Brosnahan for Best Performance by an Actress, Alex Borstein for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Television Series,  how come ‘Vanity Fair’ thinks the second series of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, “has little story to tell this time around?

Sonia Saraiya, VF’s television critic must surely know it’s all about the hats!

Saraiya is worried that the importance of Susie Myerson’s gender identity is not addressed! Also bothered by the plotting! If it’s set in Upper East Side, Manhattan, at first, she asks, how has it the chutzpah to take us to Paris and the Catskills, in the second series?

As an aspiring woman comic in the 1950s Midge Maisel (Brosnahan, raised in Leeds) needs a booking agent like Myerson  (Borstein). Susie is the gruff booker of the Gaslight Club in Greenwich Village where Midge’s career begins.  Borstein, the voice of Lois Griffin in Family Guy, is a joy from the second she appears on screen.

As long as they keep it coming, the team behind both series can do anything they like in my book!

With all the features of a Mark Kermode validated Rom-Com, The Amazing Mrs Maisel is made by a team of geniuses embracing the explosive freedom given by cinema technology and other inspired colleagues.

Letting us in on their secrets is Emmy nominated costume designer Donna Zakowska. She explains how she creates her magic: “In terms of the extras and other people, {I’m} trying to make it look as real as possible and then heightening Midge a bit.”

Explaining how she researched the looks: “Some of the colors from the ‘50s, a lot of the palette things—I looked at French Vogue from the period — are really very interesting color combinations. I worked a lot with combining, taking more heightened Vogue from the period and then bringing it down to a little bit more accessible level for the character.” Maisie hat

Midge, wearing a perfectly angled hat, persuades the parish priest to allow her friend’s wedding to take place away from a windowless punishment room! Who could resist that look?

Even without Amy Sherman-Palladino’s direction of the the peppy young housewife-turned-comedian Miriam “Midge” Maisel, I would still be madly in love with the show’s theatrical photography and rocket speed dialogue.

If this isn’t enough there’s mouth-watering, mid-century  neapolitan ice-cream, intricately detailed interiors; total turn on for film buffs, scopophiliacs, perfectionists and voyeurs everywhere!

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The Revlon counter at B.Altman’s department store in mid-20th century midtown Manhattan. 

Set designer Bill Groom is delighted to make magic for viewers, using every trick in the book through today’s technology.

“Amazon is new in the development of media, and they’re very open to ideas and solutions and new ways of doing things which makes what I do fun. This streaming world has exploded and has turned this into the second golden age of television, which I think is giving the creative people behind the scenes a lot of freedom, which in many ways makes the work more interesting.”

 

 

Music for China’s ‘Emerging Affluents?’

COULD ‘new solutions’, worldwide Politics needs, come from within the Fashion industry itself?

Chinese-born media magnate and  journalist, Madame Shaw-Lan Wang, has taken over the reins of the major French Fashion house ‘Lanvin.’  Will China’s, America’s and Europe’s ‘new affluents’ be ready to buy into the dreams of creative internationalism, this inspired move represents?

Madame Wang, a Taiwanese businesswoman and publisher of United Daily News, owns 75 percent of Lanvin and will put more money in; to back future projects and help reposition the company.

“Madame Shaw-Lan Wang has always believed in Lanvin and sees a future in its talented teams,” Lanvin explains. The label, which dates back to 1889, named after couturier Jeanne Lanvin, has long been synonymous with Parisian chic. It enjoyed a revival in the noughties, under former star designer Alber Elbaz, famed for his 2001 collaboration with H&M.

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Nicolas Druz, a close advisor of Madame Wang’s, who has been appointed deputy managing director, says Lanvin was looking at branching into new avenues such as “art of living” concepts. Hotel projects might be launched under the Lanvin name.

Lanvin is on its second designer since Elbaz.  Olivier Lapidus, a one-time menswear designer for Balmain,  known for experimenting with technology and clothes took on the role in July.  A renowned Modernist,  Lapidus, son of Ted, is transforming the oldest Fashion house in the world, under the influence of sophisticated, timeless, classical civilisation from the East.

In the mid-1920’s, the design house had recruited expert “nose,” André Fraysse, and launched an impressive spate of Lanvin perfumes and scents: Arpège, Niv Nal, Irise, Kara – Djenoun, Le Sillon, Chypre, Comme-Ci Comme-Ca, Lajea, J’En Raffole, La Dogaresse, Ou Fleurit L’oranger, and  among others, Mon Peche/My Sin.  Recently scents d’Eclat d’Arpege, Lanvin Man and Lanvin Vetyver have been trialed.

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21st century scents of success!

Madame Wang  and her team should have fun testing out the markets for their innovative creations from among  Mexican Luxurians, Gen Viz, New Indian Tastemakers, FABs, Amortals and Hajibistas, Athena Women and Lagonistas!

 

 

Shopping and partly shopping!

Petite Robe Noire Guerlain Party in Paris
Petite Robe Noire Guerlain Party in Paris

‘Cuddle Up’

I’m just about in control!  But last week the urge to own sensational things overwhelmed me.  Not because my senses or my emotions were running away, but because successful creative people were selling me dreams. I always review Burberry. Christopher Bailey is a friend of our university and a truly caring, creative designer.  His use of music is sensitive,  of the moment;  making Burberry Prorsum the most ‘must-hear!’

So I want to know what everyone else is saying about him. Reading Cathy Horyn’s review of the Burberry S/S 2014 show in the New York Times – ‘separates, the new super-soft double-faced cashmere coats in pastels and neutrals, the cardigans and the proposal of a semi-transparent lace skirt’ nyti.ms/15y4AJU

Then I found myself being irresistibly directed to ‘Upon Reflection, Anne Fontaine’s Feminine Touch’ nyti.ms/15uJY54 

As the director of ‘Coco Avant Chanel’ her work is essential viewing for me.  There she is in the New York Times demonstrating how she would not be without her mirrored compact lipstick in ‘Grenade’ by Guerlain!  It’s key to her success, she seems to be saying!

It was meant to be an interview about her latest movie ‘Adore!’  I had to have the lipstick!   pinterest.com/pin/4130652155  How many other ‘Coco Avant Chanel’ fans rushed out or to Paypal to join the party?

Through Fashion, perfume and jewels, rather than anything more practical,  we believe we can lead lives of love, romance and glamour.  And of course, we can!?

Every time I open up the intriguing little compact and apply the enchantingly scented stick to my lips I’m transported to the idyllic worlds of blue trains, Shalimar, Paris and the chicest little black dress on the catwalk.

Love on the Orient Express

Behind Coco Chanel’s gift for elegant, timeless, design was a personal life of abandonment and insecurity. Her mythology is plundered, for promotional purposes, keeping ‘Chanel’ in the forefront of international Fashion marketing.  Her origins are shrouded in mystery. She hid her history. She was an orphan who decided to live in a castle, becoming an archetype of her own creation.

House of  Chanel is owned by Gerard and Alain Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer, who founded the company, with Chanel, in 1924, two years after he, and his brother Paul, had helped bring Chanel No.5 to the marketplace.

The English millionaire Edward ‘Boy’ Capel gave Chanel the money to start her own millinery business in Paris in 1910.  He died in a road accident in 1919. Chanel did not marry but founded the world’s most successful Fashion house and the Chanel connection goes beyond No.5. When the fragrance ad aired, Anne Fontaine’s Coco avant Chanel movie, starring Tautou as the young Coco, appeared in French cinemas, in 2010.

Opening with a dark-eyed girl on a cart, covered in a thick, bronze, tweedy blanket with a hand-knitted doll, we see the landscape from her point of view and the fabric textures in close-up. It was going to be about needlework?  Mais, non.  Distinguished, on the DVD cover, as a story of a woman whose love affairs defied convention, it really is rather more about sewing. It has all the hallmarks of French cinema and not just because of the subtitles. Sweeping views of the expansive, so Impressionist, countryside; clever, adventurous camera angles, drawing us in, to feel how the young Chanel is both exploited and exploiting.

Audrey Tatou’s deft involvement with the process of making clothes and observing humanity is at the heart of the film’s alchemy. It mixes class drama with professional aspiration to create a modern day transformation. Cinderella invents her own ballgowns and buys the Fashion house where they are made and shown.

It convinced me that Fashion designers put their souls into their output. It condensed the Fashion system into 106 minutes of doubly moving image text.  In spectacular form it sets the scene for an integrated cross-marketing campaign, where the Ad sells the film and the film sells the product.

When we thrill to the Chanel No 5 current television commercial we relive Coco Chanel’s life as a young adventurer. As Audrey Tatou moves through the corridors of the Orient Express in lithe gold satin, hoping to find her lover’s arms, Coco’s doomed love affair with Boy Capel is re-evoked.  As the actress rushes towards the beach and views passengers on a luxury ocean-going liner, ‘la mer,’ and the French, and Coco’s, infatuation with the sea becomes part of Chanel’s signature themes, associated with the voyage and the clothes worn for the journey.

Of course Coco Avant Chanel is a woman’s film. Directed by Anne Fontaine, and costumed by Catherine Leterrier, it has links with the Feminist tract, ‘The Subversive Stitch.’ Yet it speaks of elegance, observation, fame, the significance of Fashion and the power of dress to alter the way we see ourselves and are seen by others.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykBjfHOC-m8