I know that there are so many possible posts and hashtags that could come with this, but sometimes there isn’t much you can say or summarize. The picture may mean different things to many people, but I hope it can reflect the sadness and anguish over such a thing happening in this world. This is also only an image for Paris, but in it there is also cries for help to all the other places where bombings and suffering is present because of terrorism.
The Durham Book Festival, open to all every October, plays host to many during its short time in the city. This year, this included the famed author of ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy, Phillip Pulman. For a few however the appeal rested elsewhere, with the unexpected addition of haute couture through the talk with Lauren Laverne and Laura Craik on how ‘Style is Eternal’, based on the exhibition currently still being held until the 8th of November at the Bowes Museum, in collaboration with the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent.
The Bowes Museum has connections with the France more than the French brand- the museum was built by an Etonian, John Bowes, and his French actress, Joséphine, who was very interested in the arts. The head of the YSL exposition reminded us that she must have been both charismatic and beautiful for John Bowes to buy the theatre at which she performed just to look at her. One must imagine that YSL must have felt the same way when one of his muses first tried on the new outfits he designed for his line…After all, were not all of Yves Saint Laurent’s muses all like this?
The YSL gowns were brought over from Paris after a lengthy interview with the head of the exposition and the people at the Fondation Pierre Bergé. Some of the most iconic pieces were displayed- the Schiaparelli dress, the iconic masculine collection that led to the birth of the female tuxedo or ‘Le Smoking’ as it was called, and the more tailored styles of the First World War. The exposition flows chronologically- from the earliest moments of the fashion house and YSL’s work at Dior to some of the more risqué ideas inspired by his love of artists like Mondrian and Picasso.
The story behind the creator of this fashion house has an interesting past. After winning the prize from the International Wool Secretariat Prize for his sketches, the sketches were seen by Michel de Brunhoff, the editor of French Vogue at the time sent him to Dior when he saw similarities in their work. Yves moved up the ranks in Dior, and soon he was submitting his own designs for the shows. Although Dior was only 52 at the time, he already appointed Yves as his successor, and he died later that year of a heart attack. The speakers at the Book Festival aimed to bring us into this world gone by where a huge fashion house is championed and headed by a young Yves, aged only 21.
How could the audience even imagine it now? It must have been even a little strange at the time.
Anyway, back to the history lesson.
From that moment on, Yves overcame the barriers that halted him in his career as a designer. He got fired from Dior while he was at war for France in 1960, and filed a lawsuit against his former employers and won. He and his partner Pierre Bergé set up Yves Saint Laurent YSL with money from an American businessman, J. Mack Robinson. Now, the historical aspects of the YSL story end here.
What did the speakers at the festival say about why was YSL the pioneer when it came to ‘eternal style’?
The phrase nowadays appeals more to those who are religious attendees at each Fashion Week, posing outside the doors to a hoard of photographers. Many less interested in fashion would say that it is more of an attitude than it is an appearance- as Laura said- the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that lets French women get out of bed in the morning looking as perfect as Lea Seydoux, instead of groggy and smudged from the night out before. YSL really tried to emphasize the role of ‘effortless’ dressing- a simpler, more luxurious way of indulging in fashion, shocking the more modest women of the time. His ‘smoking’ tuxedo was described as ‘mannish’ and the sheer blouses must have caused an outrage to a society still years away from the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign. Women became more confident in themselves, and a different form of empowerment came from YSL and his jackets.
He became famous, with actresses and models aspiring to be the next YSL muse, like Iman, Catherine Deneuve and Loulou de la Falaise. These women became icons in their own right, as previously models were only part of the show to display the clothes. YSL brought out their different personalities and backgrounds, and let them take part in some aspects of the creations of his lines. These models were tall, waify and elegant, contrary to previous models that were usually just thin and beautiful.
The era was aplenty with young designers trying to set their mark, but only YSL managed to achieve his dream at such a young age. Even though the liberty he had would now be unthought-of, simply because no one would let someone barely out of university head up a brand worth millions of Euros, the designs were spectacular, and YSL still holds strong as a brand today. YSL brought about a new type of woman- confident to wear clothes designed for men, now for women, and stylish enough to pull it off ‘effortlessly’, and make every other woman on the planet want to do the same.
The considerable effort that the Bowes Museum put into creating the exhibition should be commended- the exhibition itself is extremely well thought out in terms of the different categories and inspirations.
In a more modern narrative of the ‘YSL style’, the speakers enlightening points drew my attention to things I had previously missed so I cannot commend the Durham Book Festival enough for inviting Lauren Laverne and Laura Craik in just for that day.
Maybe a couple more of these fashion-related talks next year would enliven the interested students and listeners in Durham?
The September issues give the fashion world some time to step away from topical issues, political events, awards ceremonies usually interspersed among the issues running up to the main event. The majority of issues this year moved on from the 60’s inspiration onto the 70’s, with browns reigning supreme. Remember my review post about the Valentino collection last autumn?
However, this season I love the detail orientated pieces that come with some designers more experienced in the small, more fiddly parts. Because fashion is so much more production orientated, speed becomes a priority and details are pushed into the back seat, losing their center stage setting. That is why it is both surprising and exciting that they have decided to bring back some of that intricate Renaissance charm, most probably influenced by the rise of elaborate costumography in shows like Game of Thrones (on Pinterest). New styles just don’t take your breath away in the same fashion that the MET’s ‘China: Through The Looking Glass‘ is doing nowadays, already garnering more visitors than it’s famous predecessor, ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty‘ which has now moved to London, simply by it’s attention to fine craftsmanship and detail.
While the 2014 embellishment trend still stayed strong, a growing interest in some of the couture shows may have influenced the more popular brands to engage in embroidery. The fashion consumers were getting bored and restless with fashion that looks the same visually, and wanted to add an interesting accent to modern pieces, hence the rise in this technique. The popular twenty-something trendsetters looked too similar, with the fall fashions announcing their wide hats, slouchy suede bags and tall boots on the likes of Instagram and Lookbook. The trouble with looking at too many photos on a phone or a tablet is that you soon start spotting similarities, and some repetitive appearances start to bore you. Now that you can have a jeweled butterfly embroidered on your shoulder, or a snake twisting on the front of your jumper people actually will want to ask you where you got that unique piece from!
Embroidery is associated with the finer, slower crafts, and more colourful, detailed images bring attention to areas that you never knew could be accentuated- a tiny initial on a cufflink, some golden roses on black suede ankle boots, a collarbone neckline edged with stars that twinkle with golden thread. Bringing mystery back into fashion is exciting- designers do not have to try and be simple to stand out, and can use the well of inspirations hiding under their polished exterior. While high fashion will always be the inspiration, it is what trickles down to the more commonplace high street that interests me more, since embroidery requires more effort and time that stitching swathes of cotton and polyester together. So how will the big companies fare with this troubling trend that is going to be so popular for this season?
The time between each new post has definitely become longer, so I will endeavor to make it shorter in the coming weeks!
It’s always interesting coming back to old haunts after years, especially when you seem to link those haunts to your development creatively. Warsaw is so different from London and Durham- nothing seems to have changed, like the Wilanow Palace, and yet there are small improvements everywhere, like the numerous cafe’s expanding on Nowy Swiat (as seen on my Instagram) to people watch and sip coffee. You know you’re a bit of a nut when you’re happy your table spread is colour-coordinated with your bag…
Anyway, back to the palace. Created in response to the growing popularity of summer residences in the upper classes of XVII century Poland, it was first built as a small residence for the King Jan the III by Augustine Locci the Younger. It only grew to its current fame through the expansions that started in 1680 and would carry on until the death of the King in 1696. The popular concept of the French ‘entre cour et jardin’ was the main inspiration for the expansion works, as well as the summer residence at the time in Italy. Poland was heavily influenced by more classical ideals, both in the form and the decoration of the Palace, and was on par with the trends of the era elsewhere. While this may be a bit of a tedious history lesson, it stands out very much on the pictures, which may otherwise bring to mind other influences…
The smell of roses was quite headily overpowering, so I went inside to cool off under the polished marbles and the noble busts of the previous owners of the Palace. Famous artworks and sculptural feats also featured heavily once in the gilded halls. Obviously, as is with most palaces created around the time, lighting was a bit of an issue, since the living quarters were usually devoid of many windows, with the decorators preferring to decorate as much of the walls inside with murals rather than letting the nature in. The heavily embellished walls, ceilings, draperies and furniture spoke of wealth, and even in the private quarters of the King and his Queen, the decorations were dripping off the walls.
Walls lined with frescoes and serene paintings by local and more famous international artists like Rodin, whose work was kept in a separate room, all intertwined to keep this rich Rococo tapestry alive. Although this was not a long visit, and the English listening guide was seriously defective, the overall impression of the Palace and the gardens are in perfect harmony. This could have been the overseas destination for Madame de Pomapadour or Marie Antoinette, yet more refined in taste perhaps than the Versailles counterpart. This visit made me realize that although the Palace of Versailles does make a huge impression on you because of the sheer size and expansive gilded walls in the Hall of Mirrors, smaller details are uncovered in a smaller, more concentrated areas. I like the fact that I could notice everything in the room, from the four figure decorations in the corners of the ceiling, to the little details like the birds in this ‘trompe d’oeil’ inside dome decoration in the paintings room.
While this may have been the first time i had visited the Palace, I do think it is more than enough for a one day visit, unless you are more interested in exploring the grounds, in which case I think that it can be a longer visit. The intricacy of the architecture and interior design should be enough to entice you to visit while you are staying in Warsaw, since this is only an hour ride by bus from Centrum. If it is more to your liking, you can also visit the Palace as part of a tour going around the famous monuments, buildings and museums of Warsaw.
A textbook definition of fashion would be one from a dictionary, such as Collins, where it is clearly said that fashion is “style in clothes, hairstyles etc., popular at a particular time”, while a definition from the Wikipedia is-“Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear or accessories. Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person. The more technical term, costume, has become so linked in the public eye with the term “fashion” that the more general term “costume” has in popular use mostly been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while the term “fashion” means clothing generally, and the study of it. For a broad cross-cultural look at clothing and its place in society, refer to the entries for clothing, costume and fabrics. The remainder of this article deals with clothing fashions in the Western world.
Most probably, whoever has just read the previous paragraph has just skipped through it, without actually thinking about what it means. What can we really say that we know bout fashion? It does not have clear guidelines, like maths or physics, but is more similar to art- it has no boundaries. For someone to say that something is fashionable, it has to be generally accepted in a certain time period. Without fashion, people would be nowhere, because fashion is one of the most important parts of culture. W would know nothing of the traditions of ancient cultures if not for the fashions that had appeared there, from which we could recognise the archaeological findings all over the world. Fashion ha not escaped any part of the world- where there are humans, there is fashion. It is in everything- no matter where you look, everything would have been formed to fashion.
With the clothing part of fashion, certain rules can certainly be recognised. Fashion does not have limits, whether it comes to financial or moral. Similarly to art again, it has a lot to do with imagination- the limits are simply those of the brain of it’s creator. Because of this, fashion has risen to power and allured with the most absurd of items. What is it that makes people buy clothes from Balmain costing $1,625, even if it is just a ripped t-shirt with holes with it made by Decarnin? As much as people understand that some strange things can be considered art, even they cannot see anything different from a t-shirt from Balmain and a ripped t-shirt from H&M. Surely it has to be the style it has created… Anything to say that we have not just been dwindled by high fashion into buying something we can make or get at a chain store. In this case, of course it is ridiculous, but if the same price were for one belt from Alexander McQueen, everyone would take it, because the brand and the clothing and even the detail are considered fashionable. They would have a guarantee that fashion is not laughing at them, but actually taking them seriously by producing amazing intricate leaf patterns and putting it into gold. There is a difference here between the two- one is the quality, the second the workmanship. How expensive would one t-shirt from Balmain be to produce? It would probably not even equal to 50p. For a cotton design, for the cut which is not complicated; all it needs is some artistic ripped holes. Yet people would be willing to pay $1,625 for such a t-shirt. This is one of the things that fashion can be and that could be added to a forming definition- unreasonable.
Yet if someone wanted a wonderful, hand-decorated, gold, leaf pattern belt, it would also be sold, because if fashion names something fashion, that is what it is. Quality, craftsmanship, materials and design in fact all don’t count. What counts is for someone to point and say that something can be a fashion and that something cannot be a fashion.
That is why collections of music stars can sell out quickly, even if they do not have any talent in design or choosing materials. What people want is not the actual clothes (it is hard to find a ‘bad’ by definition designer nowadays anyway) but to find a designer who is at the same time a performer and can put work into creating shows, with all the lighting and music; to making an attractive shop window; to be able to catch on to whatever could be stylish within the next month or so and exploit it, so the public can get an exciting surprise every time- that is why people would buy the clothes. So fashion must be exciting and clothing in fashion has to have a whole idea behind it to sell them properly.
But this can only happen through people who create trends- the so-called trendsetters. These people have been around since the beginnings of civilisation and their names are usually associated to fame, talent, an intriguing personality, beauty and great style. Such people have a natural way of moving masses and borders- they have created the world we live in today. Although fashion in the clothing industry has few men representatives, a few can be named, such as the first fashion designer and English man, Charles Worth. Charles created a company with a rich Swede Otto Boebergh, who gave him enough money to start his business. Charles Worth could be seen as the Karl Lagerfield of the nineteenth century- he not only brought out the first branded designs, but also created the idea of an eccentric fashion genius. The droopy artistic berets could be associated with an image of the typical fashionable Frenchman, which was exactly what Worth wanted. Without his gauzy, dreamy dresses, which were loved by both royalty and the cultural women of the nineteenth century, Charles Worth would not have been able to make a name for himself.
His most famous client was the last Empress of France, Eugenie de Montijo. She was introduced to Worth’s designs by fellow royal Princess Pauline Von Metternich, who was her close friend. The Empress is considered to be one of the first in history to be considered both influential and intelligent, maintaining the court as Regent in Napoleon III absence. Her sad eyes turn to elegant melancholy when she is seen in the designs of Charles Worth, who urged her to stop wearing crinolines and wear his lighter designs which allowed the body to move better. What Worth did, and what is copied today was extremely innovative. To select a woman who can lead the crowds to buy his designs was a daring idea, and who better to choose than the royalty? In the nineteenth century, there was no one more important, and Worth knew that and exploited it.
As well as the Empress of France, Worth designed for famous and scandalous courtesan of the time- Catherine Walters, known as ‘Skittles’. She was the last Victorian courtesan and one of the more shocking trendsetters of the nineteenth century. She was a very good horse rider and she introduced riding in a fashion called the ‘Princess’ for women, which automatically became the next big thing. For people to understand how successful she was, we could compare her to an upper class socialite who is followed by admiring crowds and hoards of paparazzi’s. If nowadays it is considered shocking for a woman to be without underwear, for a Victorian woman like Catherine Walters to go commandos was unspeakable. Yet that is exactly what she did, and C. F. Worth knew that no matter what terrible things a social star can do, it will always be in some way inspirational, and it was just another way of getting clients. He knew that his dresses mattered, of course, but it was also important what kind of a person would they be shown on.
If any of the designers of today would openly advertise their designs on high class prostitutes, they would automatically get shunned down. Yet for Worth it seemed that courtesans were exactly his type of clients- bold, new, expressive and willing to experiment. Catherine Walters was not the only one either, as Cora Pearl; the shocking high class prostitute of the nineteenth century also wore his designs. What Worth knew was that best way to encourage buyers was to shock them and Cora, whose famous acts in tubs of champagne and dancing nude on beds of orchids were exactly the way to advertise. Although Worth does not seem like it, he could be seen as the Marc Jacobs of the nineteenth century, whose actions were louder than his designs. Cora can only be compared to a mix of Dita Von Teese, whose strip tease is similar to her performances.
Worth had a wide range of clientele, and royalty and courtesans were not the only ones who wore his designs. One of the most esteemed actresses of the nineteenth century was Sarah Bernhardt, whose role in the first short black and white film as Hamlet was the perfect mark of dramatic acting. Sarah was also a social star; she did not like to keep herself to herself. She was known for sleeping in a coffin, because apparently it brought her closer to the dramatic roles she played in the theatre and later in films. She was also a muse to the secession art movement and to its most important creator- Alphonse Mucha, who inspired many creators during this time, probably C. F. Worth too. Worth was one of the first to use such a variety of clientele, which inspired later designers to do the same. Desire for fashion, not just for dressing, started with Worth. If he hadn’t been daring enough to show his designs in the shop windows, where would the window displays today be? Without Worth, there would be no window shopping, no dreaming over outfits in perfect displays.
Worth also introduced something that was later used by the greatest women fashion designers of the twentieth century- Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel. By really projecting the genius under the velvet beret, such icons were later able to take his ideas further and create fashion collections shown every season. Creating the idea of models who would present his clothes four times a year gave the structure to today’s fashion shows and seasonal creations. His contacts in the star world made it much easier to spread the word about his designs.
He imprinted his name very strongly in fashion, especially by making sure his designs and name was shown in the new and upcoming fashion magazines of his time. This also spurred the idea of unreachable luxury, which just made C. F. Worth even more popular. He knew that it only took a couple of esteemed women to appeal to the huge amount of prospected customers. With Worth’s creations, it can be imagined that a woman would be begging her husband to let her buy one dress- not just because it was richly decorated, but because it came from the House of Worth. It could be possible that women would add beads or lace to their dresses like the ones they had seen at the House of Worth, and then just sown on a tag with his name. It was probably the first example of feminine rivalry- whoever had the more elaborate dress, or, whoever had a dress from the House of Worth was well, worth more.
Schiaparelli, a pioneer fashion designer of the twentieth century continued with Worth’s idea of female models presenting designs and she was the first designer who organised a catwalk- an event with lights, music and a stage. She also wanted to add art to her shows- her friendships with famous artists encouraged her to use their work in her designs and her shows. These were not things that were a daily event in the twentieth century. For a concert, a light display, a play and fashion to be all thrown together and then recreated as a whole- that was unseen. Schiaparelli knew from her work with artists and actors that performance is a guaranteed way to bring people in. She brought in the stereotype of a tall, thin, young model who could present the clothes. It was no longer a case of symbiosis- the model with the dress, but of defining the dress in such a way that everything in the show, including the model, could not distract the viewer.
Tall, boyish models were also a huge asset- as it is the same in acting; anything will be more dramatic if someone whose gestures are bigger than those of someone small does it. Before, women had to hide their shape under corsets- with clothes that didn’t need this, Schiaparelli also needed models on who the material would not stretch, just go with the cut. Thin, tall, boyish girls were best suited for this role. Being tall has always been associated with power and royalty, which are exactly the kind of characteristics that women dream of. No matter what, women do want to possess some power- if not physical, then sexual. It was a different kind of sexual power that Schiaparelli wanted to release in her clients- she wanted them to feel confident, daring, and different. After all, it is the woman in red, the one who stands out most that both men and women look back at in the street.
Coco Chanel decided to instead to change the textures of women’s clothes. Instead of going for red, she went monochrome, emphasizing on mixing black and white in her outfits. She brought in jersey, a material which had only been used before in underwear, because its weave was difficult to handle. Yet, like a proper trendsetter, Coco Chanel proved that it wasn’t the case- that bringing in jersey and the famous Chanel tweeds was one of the landmarks in fashion history. Chanel created signature items- the tweed suits, the jersey, the piqued handbags which were hung on a chain. Every woman should wear her perfume, Chanel no. 5 at least once in her life. Chanel created iconic pieces because they were so simple- she did not need to create any more detail than was necessary. Her styles are the only ones that can be, in total, called elegant and practical. If a trendsetter can convince the audience that both simplicity and extravagance is fashionable, then they are capable of anything.
But women could not only use designers as their trendsetters, especially when a new culture was coming out with the music of the twenty first century. With the era of pop, fashion decided to fuse and be completely creative. Fashion designers such as John Galliano and Christophe Decarnin started creating designs which were not even considered beautiful- with their collections and with other fashion brands following suit, there is no other way to describe fashion nowadays- it is not beautiful. Influenced by extra-terrestrials and modernism, fashion has become eccentric. In other words, fashion can nowadays be called weird. It is no longer there to suit women’s figures, because for how long can the woman’s body be contemplated? Fashion wants to be an art. In the twenty first century, it is coming close to the binds of artistic minimalism and cubism.
If fashion is meant to be eccentric, there is no better icon that Lady Gaga. A woman, who used to call herself Stefani Germanotta, has created the biggest performance star out of herself since Madonna. Lady Gaga is not just a stage name- Lady Gaga is a phenomenon much bigger than Madonna’s devotees. With a university subject dedicated to her, Lady Gaga has excelled all other famous stars. Of course, her ranking system is based on the two biggest social networks- Facebook and Twitter. With 10 million followers on Facebook and six million on Twitter, Lady Gaga has burnt her way into the music industry.
She has created her own style, in which every item of her wardrobe is iconic. There is no one else who has ever before worn a dress made of toy Hermits, (a character from the popular Sesame Street programme) or a dress made of meat by Franc Fernandez. Lady Gaga, since her first song ‘Just Dance’ released in 2008 has shot to the top of the performing music artists. Unlike other singers, she has managed to keep herself in the charts with constant new outfits songs and music videos. Her appearances in public are usually with a waiting list, and even other popular music artists have taken a leaf out of Lady Gaga’s book and imitated her style. There is not a single star who was not inspired by Lady Gaga’s resonating music and original style. As Lady Gaga says herself-she wants to bring back the icon, the one that fans would literally kill to see and would think as their god.
Lady Gaga brought fashion onto a different level- just as classical art had in time turned to surrealism, such as the work of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, whose neo-Plasticism pieces are considered to be the most well-known abstract pieces of art from the nineteenth century.
Duchamp could also be used as one of the artists who turned an everyday item into a work of art. Lady Gaga had shown the eccentric and weird side to fashion the same way that these artists represented movements which stood out in their centuries. As the Lady Gaga phenomenon spreads in the twenty first century, everyone has started to see that she was not the only one who dressed differently to the ‘role’ she is assigned to. Most female singers choose glamorous, exotic outfits- a modern take on old style Hollywood. Lady Gaga in her interviews said that she wants to break out of this ‘role’.
Fashion is now not a way of showing how beautiful the body can be- the clothes we wear are meant to give out a clear meaning of what we do and dot support and emphasize certain characteristics. With the creation of the modern woman came a female love for power. This in turn encouraged women to dress the part for office work and management- and calling it ‘Power Dressing’. With this outfits started becoming less and less feminine- first introducing women to trousers, then to suits and the male dandy style, where even small details of traditional male dress can be worn by women (such as pocket squares or briefcases).
Fashion is a never ending process, which is best seen on women because women want to be more visible and their outfits naturally should stand out more. Because showing the body is no longer shocking and offensive, women do not have much more movement for maneuver in fashion. For a woman who wants to be recognized as the different, the special one, there is no better way than through shocking sexually- by wearing a daring outfit or exposing more skin. But what if fashion is bored of that already? Then Lady Gaga comes in.
Fashion nowadays is also a way of standing out by breaking boundaries. Since girls have already been dressing like guys for around one hundred and fifty years, now it is time for guys to dress up like girls. Designers such as Marc Jacobs are famous for wearing kilts instead of trousers, while young bloggers such as Bryan Boy are beginning to wear platform shoes, which since the theatre of the Ancient Greece have been unofficially banned for men. For a woman it is strange and unattractive for a man to be seen in her clothes, but was it not the same for men when they first saw a woman wearing breeches? It might be a matter of time before women’s fashions start passing on to the men’s wardrobe.
In fact, with the invention of blogging, people have started to recognize styles similar to Gaga’s- eccentric, new, different. Fashion does not only stick to the catwalks- it has walked down through the street too. Famous bloggers can now count that their style will be recognized and repeated, making them the trendsetters of the future. People who dress differently are now seen as the next big thing, because they usually manage to personalize their outfits without just adding jewelry, but by adding personal touches to their clothes- such as a vintage scarf or brooch or a different haircut.
Inventing something new in the twenty first century is next to impossible, so small changes, such as the way the items are worn are seen as innovative. While chain stores and mass market is the cheapest way of achieving a reasonably fashionable look that is not what fashion is there for. Classical pieces that suit the wearer are probably more valuable than the rest of your whole wardrobe put together. But how can we define someone’s personal style if his or her clothes are exactly the same as their neighbors? Identical smart suits or LBD’s make style, and therefore fashion, harder to achieve. Fashion can be ugly and beautiful, artistic and trashy.
This model of the classical style giving in to avant-garde can not only be seen in fashion. Harmony in works of art and architecture is a pretty important trend, but nowadays it is thought to be boring. As much as people were impressed by the classic styles in architecture in the nineteenth century, so now people are trying to make buildings and skyscrapers which defy gravity or re-invent it. The most important element of fashion is change, and that means that no matter how perfect one form is, it will be replaced, as an element of the fashion evolution.
Some countries pride themselves for not changing virtually anything in their architecture or fashion, because they think that they have mastered the art of composing timeless elegance anywhere. A country like this is Japan, where through the same traditions over thousands of years the styles have barely changed. This of course influences the style of the country, which is known for its technological advancement and otherwise quite modern lifestyle. The traditional kimono is worn on special occasions and national holidays. Its form has inspired Western designers to make body combat dress and outfits inspired by the kimono, such as the collection by Haider Ackermann for Spring/Summer 2011. Although a kimono is usually in quite light colors, Haider was inspired to use orange, a rich blood-red and black, which gave very distinctive contrast to the outfits. He created the modern female samurai, in delicate heels and a flowing dress with the contrasting kimono jacket.
At the same time in history women were interested with the East, another important area of life was getting tumbled into fashion. With Suzanne Lenglen playing Wimbledon in 1922, it was the first time the skirt her had been raised and women were allowed to wear tops similar to the t-shirt, with short sleeves. Lenglen was also a bit of a fashion lover- she wore a bandeau to make her hair stay in place with a diamond clip. She wore designer outfits on court by Jean Patou and what she wore was the beginning of fashion in tennis.
After Suzanne came Alice Marble who was the first woman to win eighteen Grand Slams and the only one at the time brave enough to wear shorts to the women’s matches. After her short debut, designers such as Jean Patou and Teddy Tingling began working on women’s tennis clothes, with Jean Patou shortening skirt hems and Teddy designing the first tennis knickers, which were worn by Gussie Morgan in 1949. The skirts was the shortest it had ever been for women’s tennis and the characteristic lace knickers that were designed to be worn underneath were shocking and Gussie’s rise to fame and popularity started there.
Tennis is an interesting sport to design for, because a lot of the body is shown and outfits could be very colourful or white, for Wimbledon as it was Wimbledon’s official colour. In later years, Chris Evert started making colour outfits more popular on court. Her appearance in the pink mini skirt was what gave the start to some of the tennis outfits we see today.
Tennis is nowadays not only there for the matches and the Grand Slams. It is also there so players can advertise sports companies which sponsor them. Famous tennis players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic all have different sponsors and wearing their outfits for matches. Women’s tennis has in fact become a court catwalk, with the latest collections worn by tennis and fashion stars such as Maria Sharapova and the Venus sisters.
Women’s tennis is also an area where sports companies can collaborate with designers to create more unusual collections. The most prominent designer in women’s tennis today is Stella McCartney, who designs for Adidas. Stella is known for her simple, feminine suit collections and for Adidas; her designs were modern and inventive. Her white dress with the ruffles along the neckline worn by Caroline Wozniacki really did show that tennis is not just about hitting the ball, but looking good while you’re hitting the ball. Fashion in this sense is versatile- it is not just about clothes, but also what movements they enforced for men and women in history.
Stella McCartney is also one of the designers who tries to put a message through with her collections. Hers though is far more subtle- she supports ecology and saving the planet. She has said in an interview that “ I find it astounding, because fashion is supposed to be about change – I mean, we’re supposed to be about cutting edge! I can only think they don’t care as much as people in other industries. So, yes, I think people in fashion are pretty heartless. Why on earth would they use fur and leather otherwise?” She makes sure than none of her collections are with the use of leather or fur and she is strongly against other designers who use it. It is a positive reinforcement that for some, fashion is not just about consumption.
So what is fashion? Fashion has never actually been defined. As something that is based on change and trends, fashion changes too quickly to decide what it is and how it looks like. In the most basic sense, it can be said that fashion is just a combination of changing trends and all areas of culture, such as art, sport, clothing, architecture and media. Such a definition is weak and dry compared to how detailed and complex fashion actually is.
With all the shots of inspiration, history, new materials, techniques and styles being brought in and created every second of the day, fashion is too unstable to even get a definition. It is like trying to define time- we cannot do it, because time is always changing. If there is anything that fashion can be called, it’s a mix of change and inspiration. Every fashion designer has a different idea of what his creations should be and what kind of message they should hold, the same as an artist or architect or sportsman wants to achieve something different through their creativity and actions.
Life breathes fashion- and with every breath there are countless ideas on how to make it even more perfect, more forward. Fashion is a human way of chasing the future and chasing dreams, which make fashion altogether so desirable. Although nobody can define it, everybody knows it exists and is one of the strongest ways culture can get to the modern man and woman. Visual expressions are the easiest to take in, and by that, the most successful.
Fashion is so different because the ideas flow at the same speed that a human mind works- making sure that there is never an end to fashion. If fashion is a constant, never-ending surge of ideas, then it is by far one of the most excellent human creations in history.
This is a re-publish of a post that got deleted from my posts previously. I do think it is still a very relevant question!
Dear God I have not read fiction in a long time. After marveling at the book for quite a while (I love beautiful covers), I decided to pick it up properly and read it, back to front. Now as a bookworm will know, I had a very hard time putting it down owing to too many unanswered questions! This book is riddled with mysteries, from the very first time Nella sets her foot on the doorstep of her husband’s house, to the last time she sees her husband in the final chapter. I do not like giving spoilers, so I won’t try and litter this post with any either. Books have this over films- what you look over in a split second you may recognize with a lengthier description.The author possesses the gift of description, in as many words as need be, showing the exact surroundings, bringing in the smell of nutmeg and tallow candles, and bringing you into the world of the Guilds. This book truly is something special- Jessie’s descriptions of the characters and the wonderful setting in Amsterdam make it all come alive, raw and unfiltered, lit only by candlelight.
Maybe I am too much a child to expect a happier ending, however the plot does not go unsolved- there is sweetness in the solution the author finds. Jessie touches on taboos and boundaries of the Amsterdam elite, in particular dealing with the problems surrounding women and position, and men and expectation. Through Nella, heavily religious Amsterdam is seen through a fresh pair of eyes, and she discovers more underneath the surface of its stuffy rules. She sees secret moments looking out of her window and peeking into the offices and warehouses. There is a strong sense of foreboding throughout the book- breaking taboos is equally important to the author as is addressing them. Every character in the book hides behind a mask that Nella tries to take off with the help of the mysterious Miniaturist. The author shows how the city was more liberal in some parts, with women allowed to go outside without chaperones and great displays of wealth through merchant feasts and jewels, and how it was still Calvinist, with pious Church connections, influential priests and banned effigies of men. This contrasts with the actions in side the house, where nothing seems as it should be.
The book should be particularly noted for its imagery- Jessie paints a perfect scene that brings to mind more courteous times, when food was scarce and when a word out of line by the merchants could send a whole business rolling away. The period described looks to discovery- new lands were explored by richer nations like the Dutch Republic, bringing back unusual objects and spices, and yet the wealthy merchants described in the book are not ostentatious with their wealth- in fact, the Nella’s house is scarcely decorated, while the expensive decorations went to private studies and bedrooms. This all influences the girl from the countryside, bringing her new responsibilities that require more than she had bargained for. Perhaps as a reader I ask too much for some clearer explanations on some of the climaxes, however the style is faultless.
I would highly recommend this book to readers interested in getting to know old Amsterdam and who want to find a wonderful tale of loss and confusion in darker times. 8/10
Dear Mr Pratchett,
Many times I have leafed through your wonderful Discworld chronicles, expecting to understand why people I knew always loved your books. Then I began to search in them, to look deeper and to read every page like it was an adventure- I could feel the pages speeding up as my eyes couldn’t keep up with the story. The imagination to create such an intricate story- making you think of other imagined worlds, people and creatures, where nothing would be the same as it is in this world. Your brilliance may have been darkened by this human disease, however nothing stops anyone from creating their own reality, and putting it down on paper.
So thank you, Terry Pratchett, for showing me how much deeper I can go in literature, how much I can create and write about, and how what I will write in the future could influence a little girl out there who will grow up to love exploring literary worlds like I have.
For those who like going to see catwalk shows and reviewing the year’s trends, London Fashion Week is the holy grail representing the British Fashion Industry. However, press accreditation and possible jobs there are limited to just a few people, while the rest are already in the fashion industry. However, the London Fashion Weekend is held right after the main thing and is slightly more relaxed- with shopping and make-overs, it resembles an exclusive boutique, fashion college and designer stage in one, as everything is available here. There are multiple brand stalls, fashion talks and catwalk and trend shows throughout the four days. Not to say it does not have some serious downsides- for one, industry specialists are rarely there if you would want to talk to anyone other than designers, and the venue gets more crowded with each year, with anyone being able to buy a ticket and simply walk in. Some exclusivity is maintained through the VIP and Gold ticket selection, however there is still room for improvement!
Last time I went for all the catwalk shows and trend shows throughout the day, which was fun as I got to see the inside work behind the collections, and the designers that do show are well-known, and they put equally large amounts of effort into showing at London Fashion Week and at the weekend. This time however I wanted to focus more on the talks, and as I came down to London last minute the talks were the only event still available (lucky me!). The London Fashion Week venue is spectacular- Somerset House is one of the only remaining mansions on the banks of the river and it’s space has now been converted into two galleries, a couple of cafe’s, and, twice a year, the only location to find the latest trends and designers in London.
This year, Somerset House was extremely busy most probably due to the layout, where half of the previous talks could not fit even thirty people, which meant that some of the more interesting discussions (hello Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition talk) were a little too packed to get in. The time spent looking around the stalls and venues, where you can buy anything from patterned socks, jewelry and discounted designer scarves to a steam press (!) brought me back around to the next talk held in the wing.
Hilary Alexander OBE needs no introduction to the fashion conscious, however a brief introduction may be necessary. Fashion journalist, professor, broadcaster and writer for multiple magazines, her range of skills go beyond standard fashion experience. Yet she managed to take time out of her busy schedule to help the British Fashion Council with the relatively demure London Fashion Weekend and interview one of the best Scottish designers- Holly Fulton.
Now Holly is one of those people who hasn’t let go of their art college education, her love of fabrics, the mastery of small embellishment work… that passion speaks volumes more than what she says. She gets inspired impulsively- a little bit of research by her faithful team, her own discoveries through travels, the love of civilizations past and modern materials all come together on her clothes. Hilary worked through the inspirations of a couple of Holly’s collections, focusing on Mayan and Egyptian influences, although I do remember Holly mentioning the artist Eduardo Paolozzi as a key influence.
The comparison between the two certainly shows some similarities! Holly is the kind of person that art college graduates love- she moved from sharpie patterns to digital printing, and loves to be hands on with her creations, usually doing at least some of the embellishment on her own. The actual designs are relatively simple- there is no need to focus on the sixties outfits when the busy patterns take the eye away from the shape and focus on the use of colour and geometrical shapes.
Her team are her eyes and ears when it comes to researching patterns and materials- along with Mary Kantrantzou and other young designers she would rather conform tough materials to her liking than give up and use something easier. In this way, she has used mother of pearl and wood, and changed cork floor tiles into small embellishments used for her designs. The younger fashions are certainly branching out further than just the UK- the designer answered couple of questions from the audience, including if the company was catering for the wider market. No fashion brand nowadays can sit contently on the laurels of a good collection- ethical trading and responsibly sourced materials are increasingly important for high fashion brands.
Stylion to Holly Fulton: Are you planning on expanding into a more affordable brand? I would need to expand the current line into a stable position before adding a more affordable line to the repertoire, however I would definitely consider it for the future!
When I think of couture I think of Dior, as the house has been synonymous with creating the glitz and glamour that we now associate with film award ceremonies, and the fabulous ball gowns of the past. Dior has been a key player in the world as one of the leading suppliers of high fashion ever since the revolution of the ‘New Look’ in the 1950’s. It has stayed as one of the most prestigious French fashion houses since the war times. Christian Dior’s vision stays alive in Tokyo with the incredible work at the Esprit collection. The exposition is a chronicle of the past, with old sketches from the studio’s showing the classic cinched waists and a-line skirts of the New Look. With the takeover by Raf Simons, Dior has fused the old with the new- ball gowns are worn with veil headpieces, and the shapes are more modern and simple.
The exposition presents the relationship that Dior has had with Japan, since many of the house’s collections have been inspired by the country. Japan has been a key source of inspiration for the fashion house, where the clean lines of kimono and the Japanese aesthetics have given rise to more than one collection, especially visible in the Dior Spring 2007 collection where ball gowns fused with origami, bird cages and dramatic make-up to show the world of the East.
The French lifestyle and fashion are key to understanding how the Japanese have such a strong bond with Dior. Japan, as a country that values elegance and simplicity has viewed Parisian fashion as the only counterpart in the western world that rivals the Japanese approach to the art of creating. Attention to detail, finesse and use of the finest fabrics are shared in both the high fashion houses of Paris and by the kimono makers from Kyoto and Tokyo (old Edo where the kimono art originated). Japan is the only country where the traditional attire of the 1600 has remained unchanged in form for the last 400 years. The patterns of the kimono have changed, however the defining rectangular pieces of cloth have remained the same throughout. The value that Dior puts on fine craftsmanship and classic shapes is parallel, and placing the Esprit Dior collection in Tokyo just enhances the relationship. The above dress (photo 2), inspired by The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai is a key link to Japanese art by the fashion house.
The above pieces are more french than Japanese- although the line is angular, the pattern of houndstooth and tweed with the large collar and bow are definitely more European. Dior first showed in Japan as early as 1953- straight after the war, the Japanese who had become more accustomed to seeing foreigner soldiers began to take an interest in western style fashions. It was no doubt that Dior wanted to hit the market where each woman competes for quality and exceptional pieces, just as with the elaborate kimono’s. Maybe the realisation that each company could be faced with the similar onset of the changing times, partnership made brands stronger and more authentic.
As well as creating their own fragrance (with the spokeswoman Charlize Theron’s dress to prove it, above), Dior also catered for the rich and glamorous on the red carpet and at other formal occasions. Creating many red carpet gowns may not have come close to the challenge of clothing the royal monarchy for a wedding in Japan in 1959. The crown princess, Michiko Shoda wore no less than three gowns, fusing traditional Japanese fashion with the latest trends from Paris. Many designers see dressing royalty as the highest honour (who could forget Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen on Kate Middleton)- not only serving a country, but also gaining the trust of the people for the brand.
Dior relies on the Japanese aesthetic all the way through the exposition and through its collections- you can see clearly symmetrical kimono jackets as a key piece featured again and again. One of the exhibits showcases this in the best way- no extra frills or unnecessary decoration, just pure white jacket prototypes (toiles), from the fingers of the petits-mains (or seamstresses) who make them.
As Japan is known for its remarkable customer service and exceptional quality, Dior had to include the wonderful women who make the spectacular pieces come alive. No one would question that these women knew what they were doing- throughout the whole time I was there, they were busy sewing new pieces and tying perfect ribbons on the Miss Dior perfumes in front of them. Miss Dior, although not a favourite of mine (unlike J’Adore) has one of the most playful and light commercials that bring in Spring every year. The exposition also catalogued the intensive research that went into the commercial and the spectacular petal dress worn by Natalie Portman.
For a fun climb right to the top of the building in Ginza, there was an array of Dior-related tomes, offering hours of browsing to the attendees on the silver and white sofas set around the floor. Not only that, but some key Dior proteges also created Dior bags inspired by their image of the brand. Here are just a few!
And for a final touch, one last photograph which I thought really summed up how magical a gown can be! I was very lucky to catch this exhibition right at the beginning, and I would highly recommend it for those who think they already know everything on couture and Parisian fashion. An opportunity to see the inside workings of a fashion house is rare indeed. I will be covering the “Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty” exhibition as part of my ‘Fashion History’ series.
Every couple of months or so, the fashion crowd shifts shades- from pastel to navy, just in time for the changing seasons and below tolerable temperatures. However, there are the new kids on the block who don’t think that wearing seasonal appropriate shades is important. Why not wear canary in winter? Who has defined it unspeakably illegal to try wearing burgundy in spring? These mischievous types decided that there are no more rules- and that seasonal dressing is as over as wearing goth make-up past Halloween.
Of course, nothing is wrong with those who decided that they’d rather stay safe and wear the colours that regularly come out in shops every year- pale pink, blue and white for Spring and Summer, then burgundy, mustard and forest green for Autumn, and then sometimes black and silver for winter, thrown in with some sparkles to keep in ‘festive’. Some people feel it is an ode to the seasons- when the gorgeous russet and yellow colours start turning the leaves, people feel like it is right to show that they are on track.
However, who says that these season purists are correct- after all, fashion is no longer about what fits in with the crowd, but what does not. Every fashion magazine tells you to be yourself, pursue your own style and be individual. All of them state that fashion is something to have fun with and express their individuality with. However they still do suggest some key trends and staples to help you find ‘your true self’.
So how is fashion meant to adjust? Now collections do not just come out two times a year- no, there are Pre-Fall collections and Resort, meaning that designer houses are getting a regular income from collections. These work better with the regular consumer, since the fashion shows usually show items that would simply be unwearable in the time they are shown. It does not help that many items seen on the catwalk are not even available to purchase until a later date, with the exception of Burberry, who let customers buy the products as soon as they are shown on the catwalk. as well as limited edition collections, such as Nike x Liberty, which come out twice a year or so and always have new designers to bring high fashion down to the masses.
H&M have been doing designer collaborations for many years now- their latest H&M x Alexander Wang collection was centered around winter-wear, but sportswear was also a key theme. Because there are so many trends going around right now, collections are more free- there are no restrictions when it comes to colour use. So in fact there is no need for seasonal collections any more- there is however a need for creativity. Nowadays the idea behind the collection is more important than being seasonally appropriate.
Nowadays designers try to put out an idea behind their collections- and it’s usually not just a story, but also a statement. Many have now presented collections inspired by tragic events in the news, and are affected by economic issues, meaning that the once lofty world of high fashion is hit in the same way that their consumers have been. Collections are down priced to suit the customers, so why would they also make the colours of the season something that limits their clothes?
Fashion buyers nowadays don’t care if their new item will be in the right colour- they want a shape and texture that suits them, and the majority do not have to deal with extreme temperatures either, so items can be worn all year round. Fashion staples have become the most commonly worn items from designer collections. Some do still buy the items that they will only wear for one night, but the majority wants basics they can rely on to look en point.
Individuality here does not come from signature pieces, but rather from the art of putting together items that do not need hours of preparation. This does not mean that the signature, outlandish pieces should start to fade- however it may be an idea to start creating more quality, basic collections which still hold the brand signature, without the fanfare and expensive tag.
The year does not truly start until September- the autumn leaves bring in new prospects and books, expositions, the beginnings of Doctor Who and that first cup of steaming tea when its freezing outside. It’s also the time for change- in particular for new starts, as it was for me, with leaving the metropolitan lifestyle behind and entering a slower pace in Durham where I can’t get around on the Tube. The move to the countryside of dales and moors is in order- away from the smoky grey bustle of London.
Just to get that last bit of culture pumped into my mind I decided it may not be too late for an art show- and nowhere is better than the V&A, where fashion meets art and culture in a combustible mix. The photo exposition of ‘Horst: Photographer of Style’ was particularly fascinating- his vision in technicolor was even more startling than his more famous monochromatic works. In these he plays with shadow and lighting to create dramatic effects which bring to mind the classical sculptures of ancient Greece. Interested in studying the columnar architecture and the marble statues that looked dignified and poised, he studied the shapes and angles and took it as inspiration for his own work.
Particularly focused on draping the clothing around the body, his work evokes a different era, something that may even have seemed escapist at the time when the rest of the world was in chaos with the war. He brought the Parisian fashion alive with dramatic shapes and sultry eyes turned towards the camera. While others looked to the pages of Vogue for inspiration and otherworldliness, the man was behind the camera coming up with new ways to dazzle his audience. There is a definite sense of magic when you look at his photographs- he works well at outlining the defined lines that make the photo seem like an artwork. His connections to Vogue did not elude me- it was with the famous fashion house that Horst really grew into the photographer that many now aspire to be.
Strangely enough, his focus strayed from fashion- maybe he got tired from just showing beautiful women in elongated poses with doe-like eyes for commission! He loved to travel- the focus on symmetry in nature and his surroundings were also captured in startling chiaroscuro in black and white, from seashells to Fibonacci sequences in plant macro’s. Nothing escaped him- from the movement of the neck when a woman turned in her corset to the attention he paid to nature, historical artifacts and interiors.
In particular he liked to look into the houses of his glitterati- you see shots from the rooms of Baroness Rothschild and the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent, both of which he shot in colour, showing the beautiful colors of the carpets and divans set out on the viewing platform in the gardens and the delicate bamboo frame in the bedroom of the Baroness. These photographs show just how much people liked to travel and collect pieces from their exotic ventures- some items were from the Orient, others from Africa and classical Europe.
At the time when he began shooting for magazines modeling still was not a profession- fashion magazines had to look elsewhere for their beautiful faces that had to stand out in the detailed shots that were an elemental part of the magazine. That is why many of the models were famous aristocrats, who knew the people working for the magazine and would turn up so that they could get their face shown on the international market as the face of high fashion. Many nowadays would not approve of this order, however magazines would usually have trouble funding everyone of their models and it was easier to rely on beautiful form in this way. However, this era also gave rise to the pursuit of new faces- in particular one that Horst shot in 1946, Carmen Dell’Orefice, when he was completing his photographs from nature in his book ‘Patterns of Nature‘.
From his avant garde expression when it came to the body to his vivid studies of colour in Vogue, the Horst exhibition leaves nothing to hide. His work is exemplary and the V&A have taken their time in putting together his most revered work. In his own words,“I like taking photographs, because I like life,” he once said. “And I love photographing people best of all, because most of all I love humanity.”
Capturing the essence of Britain is something I have wanted to do ever since I was a child- from the old Victorian romance associated with the works of the Bronte sisters, to the traditions associated with summering in England. There was something about the long journey back to the white-washed cottage in Devon, after an excruciatingly long walk across the fields with the dogs that made these summer moments stick out in my memory. Maybe not quite summer loving, but special to me all the same. Along with the rest of the botanically-obsessed English ladies I visited numerous National Trust Parks, as my mother thought it was important to get to know the beauty of nature, and in particular, the magical English countryside.
Now, with harsh reality bringing me back from those warm flowery days, June still means work and study, just like for others my age. However, for those like me who still thirst for those unannounced picnics and feeding ducks in floaty white outfits that just scream summer, there are a few events here that certainly do herald the arrival of a ‘spiffing’ summer.
The first of these would be Ascot, or The Races, as it is more commonly known, the event of the year for many of the upper class of living in the UK. An experience worth having, since it is unique in its presentation and etiquette. Who wouldn’t want to dress up like Audrey and play out the pauper-turned-lady Eliza Doolittle in that perfect hat while sipping on champagne an placing a bet or two on the Queen’s racehorse? There is something very quaint and old fashioned about dressing up to the nines when others just outside the racetrack are sweltering away in jeans and flip-flops. It has become synonymous with the first main occasion to pull out the hat-boxes and dust off those feathery creations. Many more adventurous race-goers let their fantasies go and order fantastic millinery from the likes of Stephen Jones or Philip Treacy, with no shortage of themes or colour coordination.
The other, of course, is Wimbledon, the most traditional out of all the tennis Grand Slams, where tennis champions who get through the harrowing qualifications have to wear white clothing and play on grass courts. For British players, this is the tournament of the year, as there is no other like it. People flock to watch the champions on Centre Court, where men and women have been playing since 1877. From the almost laughable number of 22 amateur players to the 128 that play nowadays, the standard of play has not only gone up but has changed in many ways. All of this is watched by close to 500,000 people over the 13 days, not including how many people watch it at home as well. Wimbledon is also a place where fashion plays a key role- with its more formal requirements, people take it as an opportunity to dress up, relating to the sporty aesthetic on court. Pastels, white and stripes are key motifs for the public, while many of the female tennis players use Wimbledon to showcase the latest fashion from major sport brands like Nike and Adidas.
Many people now see these two events as the proper start of the British summer. If you are dreaming of moving away from the desk and throwing all papers into the bin, get away with the coming Pimm’s and strawberries and watching the most exciting sports events of the year.
My slight obsession with Prada started a few years back, when Prada first came out with the Saffiano bags the colour of blue eggshells. Their luxurious leathers and practical approach to the essential pockets and space showed me that Prada was more than just the leather goods boutique that it started out as.
Now with the help of Harrods, Prada has opened their retrospective in the Pradasphere with their most notable collections from the last years, as well as brand history displays and their famous accessories, like the iconic nylon backpack launched in 1950.
History is not what Prada is about at all though- ever since the takeover by Miuccia, the brand has become a symbol of Italian craftsmanship and the world of contrasts, which really appealed to me… As a person who wonders why sweet and salty have never been put together, going with opposites is ideal!
I think one of the reasons I have always wanted to be part of the big bad fashion world was because of people like Miuccia who were not afraid to risk their brand image to move in a new direction, and I think that now more than ever it is important to remember that although fashion is a business, it is also an art form, a way to express creativity. Prada’s fun collections- who wouldn’t want to be a 1950’s Americana housewife or a part of a girl gang- mean that women do not need to feel stifled by what they wear.
Maybe as a visual activism against fashion becoming a sea of clones people should take to their appearance in the same way- look to dressing up, either in pretty heels or not as a way of conveying ones own personal outlook on themselves and the world around them. After all, there have been so many times in history when women have shown that their clothing can change how others look at them, like wearing the fierce red lipstick during the war.
Even now I am worried about that red pout being too forward, too provocative. However, as I choose to express my silly attitude with pastels and riviera dresses, others would rather show their maturity with black and textures. Isn’t there always a hidden meaning behind what people put on every day? This item may help you get that dream interview or dazzle those at the next soirée. Yes, some will say that wit and intelligence should be enough to get you ahead, but does that mean that the clothing you buy is also as expressive? Every choice made with what you wear is something that will be scrutinised, especially in the fashion world where images are shown daily on every social media portal.
And I guess that is the reason that I am now a proud owner of a re-issued pair of forest green Prada shoes, based on their A/W 2012 collection. After all, there are only a few pairs and who wouldn’t want to be individual…
Every time the New Year heralds the first sign of spring (which happened to be last Sunday in London) my inner composed self stops thinking. Maybe its the fresh air -after being shut in with Diptyque candles poring over books the whole winter, I cannot go even one year without a complete mental style revamp- from the realistic London grunge student aesthetic to energetic Cali girl sunny brights. For some reason, having an iPhone this time has made my stalker tendencies of such sunny personalities even worse, and I won’t be kicking that habit anytime soon. Please don’t blame me, my own personality would be raving to moon and back if I could even step on one square foot of white sandy beaches and dip by toes in clear water.
However, there is one part of the Florida sunshine that I can easily try, even if I can’t go out in shorts and flip flops in March. For one, its eating healthy, meaning putting in more oranges and berries in to my diet than sushi and pizza, and the other is to buy some bright sports bras and pretty Nike’s and get in the gym. See, told you, Cali girl all the way. Little bit of a tan and highlights, and I could be smelling like Escada sunning myself on a beach in the Maldives somewhere.
So hopefully I won’t be the only person reaching out for a little sunshine from my duvet, and the pictures on the site here will bring you that little bit of sunshine and sickening peace and happiness to get you ready for the summer.
And for a touch of sun and fashion, follow Shine by Three by Margaret Zhang on Facebook and Instagram.
After a first few blurry photos posted up on Instagram showed me just how seriously Valentino took their embroidery this season, I quickly typed up my review based on those blurry images and a bit of help from Style.com up on my site.
I have always been fascinated by fashion inspired by art of the early fourteen-hundreds, and Valentino took those mythical creatures that appeared in the tales of bards and minstrels and turned them into the beautiful decoration on sheer dresses.
Anyway, dont want to give too many spoilers here.
Off you pop now, get a nice cup of tea and settle down to what exactly goes into creating the fairytale princess gowns created by Valentino.
And after you read the review if you do want to get a bit of culture in merry March, go see the Paul Klee exhibition at the Tate, which is on until the 9th of March.
There is a new interview up on my site, Sparkle* with the creator of one of the best British fashion blogs Park & Cube- Shini Park. The funny creator of the blog shares how she creates her posts, what drives her most in finding inspiration, and how she remembers the recent Fashion Weeks.
I have been working relentlessly on finding new people to interview on Sparkle*, so if you do know someone who you find as inspirational as Shini, or would love someone to get into the blogging or fashion stratosphere, please let me know through comments or by email!
For the moment though,I have to get back to sleep. Night blogging turns me into a blood-sucking vampire during the day…
Since it seems that Instagram is the chosen medium for image self expression, and I forgot to post the January pictures at the end of January, which would have made logical sense… I want to post them now. However, since it seems that being late is not so fashionable any more, let’s say that my workload has forbidden me from posting anything remotely close to fashion. (Let’s just forget about the actual fact I had time to take the picture in the first place, add some decent lighting and filters… But hey, no one is paying attention to the details.) So flick through the pretty pictures, and browse my favourite Instagrameeeurs for even more time procrastination.
In the mean time, I will get to Emily Bronte and ‘commment tuer mon essai francais en cinq etapes’.
1. Miu Miu booties in the issue of Glamour. If these come out in stores, I’m the first one to get them, first one to love them.
2. Inspired by an illustration from a Japanese work of art, I copied the image with detailed patterns for the fabrics.
3. The best candle in the world… Smells like a wood fire on a cold night. Memories from your childhood will filter through…
4. The Elie Saab gowns from the Couture Catwalks 2014 took inspiration from classicism, draping inspired by Roman and Greek outfits. This pleating in turn was inspired by the architecture of Ancient Greece and the columns which supported so many buildings. This was a favourite technique used by Alix Barton, later known as Madame Gres.
5. Soba for dinner. As a light buckwheat noodle, usually eaten during the hot summer months in Japan. Usually eaten with a light, sweet sauce and sliced spring onions. However, I’m strange, and eat in the middle of January.
6. Some of my old illustrations from Paper 53 are up on Pinterest for happy browsing. Still having that pale pink vibe.
7. Great mashup of two photos by Dubble, with one of mine from a crepe stand in Harajuku, and one from @akwkm, which has a pattern of Japanese stamps.
My favourite Instagrameeeurs:
@margaret_zhang – Perfectly executed lunch & fashion photos, with snaps from her travels around the world. Best written posts on Shine by Three!
@alice_gao – Beautiful minimalist photos with a united, pale theme with plenty of sunlight. Just the thing for lovers of the Park & Cube aesthetic.
@femme_foodie – If, like me, you can’t get enough of luxury food and great restaurants, follow Mai Pham, the Forbes Travel correspondent and lover of great meals and beautiful pictures with a focus on new flavours.
@kehauai – Ever since discovering Hawaii Instagrams, this lady has pushed my wishes of white sandy shores and turquoise coloured waters, and motivated me to get in the water enough that I actually want to go surfing again.
@mermaidlove808 – A buzz of colour with wonderful inspirations from the waters of Hawaii and food and fashion of Japan. Also, she has the cutest dog!
@keiyamazaki – Her breakfast pictures have become so famous that she has now published a book with her Japanese-Western inspired, diverse, yummy breakfast ideas.
@balletbeautiful – Mary Helen Bowers, former ballerina and creator of the Ballet Beautiful program posts photos of herself by the barre and her new born baby, Lumina Belle.
Hope you get to check out their wonderful snaps. Hope you have a wonderful Valentines day tomorrow!
This is the first show that really came through for the successor of the Alexander McQueen kingdom, Sarah Burton. Previous collections were based on the sketches made by Alexander McQueen before his untimely death in February 2010. To remember this great creator and pioneer when it came to mixing fantasy with fashion in RTW, I am posting a review I did privately of the collection by Sarah Burton.
Usually in the world of fashion, no one will remember a show if it had no impact. Most of the designers have become far too subtle, forgetting that when you want make an iconic collection, you need to do it with a bang. There were only a few ones this year in the Spring/Summer 2011 which were even close.
One of those few designers who had made an impression on his viewers every time was Alexander McQueen. Yet after his suicide in February 2010, there was an uncertain moment for the brand. Everyone was curious in which direction the brand would go and if it would actually exist at all.
Sarah Burton, the new head designer, surprised everyone by fuelling the spring collection with feminine details, elaborate embroidery and unexpected materials. She had been working with Alexander McQueen for fourteen years and her first show was an incredible success. It crossed the boundary that stopped women from really relating to McQueen and led the brand forward.
The show was shocking in a different way to what had been seen before. There was no theatrical show, which everyone was used to at McQueen. Instead, there were densely patterned dresses and gowns, covered with butterfly wings and feathers. There were suits embroidered with shining buttons, the patterns forming galaxies on the clothes. There were shoes with heels of plastic leaves, demonstrating just how original the designer can make a simple object through an innovative idea.
There was a big difference to in the finishing of the clothes- the hems were rough and frayed. McQueen had previously only made designs with defined edges- in this collection though; there were dresses where the shape was only defined by the contours of leather leaves, barely covering the fragile bodies of the women. Where tailoring would expect a hard edge, such as on suits and tuxedos, Sarah had also abandoned the finishing touch, leaving them more natural to the eye without sacrificing their excellent design. She focused on creating outfits which were purely feminine and delicate, even though the shapes might not have seemed so.
The combination of hair woven into delicate thin plaits and the fraying edges of the clothes showed that not all outfits have to be strong and defined. The elfish models brought lightness to the heavily ornamented dresses. This way, the outfits were not weighed down with heavy looking make-up or hairstyles. The looks could still be perfect, no matter if the edges were not finished and the models seemed to be wearing no make-up. In the end, this was the perfect canvas for such a detailed collection.
Nature and its adjective played a huge part here. It was surprising to see that the usually grotesque figures which modelled the clothes were replaced by ethereal beauties, with unblemished skin and long flowing hair. Their make-up did not collide with the clothes; it was fresh and young, while the clothes revealed a mature woman, who knows how she can show her beauty. With using these contrasts- the young and the mature, the looks were levelled out and for some- perfect.
The only remotely darker and more gothic part of the collection was polished and flowing, without disturbing the beauty of the whole. The black suits were perfectly tailored and there were both smooth ones and ones with intricate designs. As nature was an inspiration, the beading and sequins formed vines and leaves all over the fabric. The fuss free make-up and hair scraped on both sides into thin plaits allowed the clothes to take over the whole look, focusing the attention of the viewer right there. For these pieces, male clothing was an inspiration, yet it was equalled out in feminine patterns which enveloped the suit. Here again, we see the combination of two contrasts and the way that they were mixed to create the perfect designs.
Alexander McQueen had been known in his previous collections to use mirror images of some patterns to make a fabric more interesting and it had become his trademark style. How could the House of McQueen be without it for even one collection? Even here, the flowers and stripes on the dresses were split up like the image in a kaleidoscope. Even the dresses where butterfly wings formed the pattern, the geometrical angles of the looking glass were still there. Giving a striped background to the harvest pattern of the medieval mini-dresses was a way to freshen up the style. If Sarah Burton would have stayed with a smooth, one colour background, the dresses would not be as intriguing as they were.
The light and flowing outfits were weighed down by wide leather belts with heavy golden buckles and boots, giving it a more medieval warfare theme. They reminded me of the heroines of computer games, whose outfits were very feminine, yet also appropriate for warfare. These females were usually elves, and their powers were given to them by nature. This natural power has been harnessed in the collection of Spring/Summer 2011. The models were looked regal in the dresses. If the dress was not long, the pattern on the dress and its elaborate cut made up for the length and still remained majestic.
The gilded dress in my opinion was the best piece out of the whole collection. The way that only the embroidered pattern was what created the dress, with the medieval style bodice just used to keep its shape was marvellous. This was how true simplicity could be used to all its glory. The dress was balanced and light, yet at the same time gave a lot of movement in the skirt. This is not just a dress which is meant to make the wearer look more beautiful. This dress finds the beauty that can be is in every woman and brings it out onto the surface.
The shoes reached up to the ankle and were very original- their heel was like one long droplet of water. Although the heel was so thin, the shoe was still weighed out and proportional. The interesting detail is the gold hobnail at the front. Hobnails were put on shoes to increase their durability, so this must just be a way to make them more elegant and versatile. They complete the outfit perfectly and are also just one of the ‘tough’ accessories used. There were a couple of different designs on the shoes- one of white snakeskin, one with a repeated white flower pattern on black, and two others- black snakeskin and black leather.
The collection was in no way ecological. Instead, it used nature to create beautiful clothes. The snakeskin which was used on the shoes related to the wild side of nature and how it allowed women to wear its creations. There were furs, feathers, hair, all used to decorate the clothing and add even more to them. Nothing was spared, yet the use of them did not seem cruel. It was as if to say- ‘yes, man has used beautiful things from animals before. But this is just to add more beauty to their bodies, to what they wear. In this world, there is a difference between loving the planet and recognising what power it has and just being selfishly scared that we will stop existing if we don’t do something about it. This show in no way should be seen as a violation. It is more of a thank you, to help understand just how beautiful nature is.’
Gaia, the ancient goddess of nature and fertility played her part in the show too. There were outfits made of wheat stalks and straw, woven together to make the geometric shapes of dresses and bodices. For others it could be Demeter, the roman goddess of harvest, who had come to lend the materials for this collection. The dresses and suits were cut around the midriff and sown back together with a thin piece of mesh in between. This allows for hip movement, which is one of the main attributes to a woman’s body. No model would have been able to move as freely in the outfits if it there was no cut. The clothes that Burton creates keep the natural form of the woman’s body in mind, not even forgetting about little details like this.
Was Sarah inspired by Mary the Queen of Scots? Her patterned dresses have a high collar that the queen would have worn during her reign. The sixteenth century monarch seems to have a big influence on McQueen too, who used the high collars in the last of his collections. The thick brocaded fabric which was used for some of the outfits (such as the flower patterned dresses) was also worn during the medieval times.
Curiously, during this time, the church had incredible power over people’s beliefs. There was a fascination with anything which wasn’t human and ‘faeries’ were seen as the work of the devil. They are the exact image of a woman Sarah Burton has shown in the collection. In fact, after the middle ages, fairies were only mythical creatures which formed in the imagination of women, who wanted to feel different in their greying lives. For the modern woman though, watching the Alexander McQueen show, the women/fairies must have been sensational, showing just how close magical creatures can be.
The colours included for this collection were startling, to say the least. With typical shades that are used in the spring summer collections such as pastel or neon thrown out of the window, the House of McQueen has once again stood out in the group, keeping only fresh white to relate to for Spring. The other colours would have been appropriate for the autumn fashions, yet they were used here, and to a surprisingly good effect. Sarah Burton included brocade in rich hues such as amber, red, yellow, gold, dove grey, olive green and beige. As pheasant plumage was used, the shades there had to link in some way to the ones on the designs. She shows that high fashion does not need to relate to anything going on outside, but can just be brilliant and admired through the ideas.
The designer’s main focus was on craftsmanship, which she showed brilliantly in her show. The intricate work she put in to the feather dresses, where the feathers folded over so densely, it did actually look like a bird’s wing.
The same was for the leather leaf outfits, which seemed like a shroud of the woman’s body, barely covering it, giving it enough exposure to intrigue. A lot of the body was shown, the skirt was quite short and the dress itself was off the shoulders, yet it remained tasteful, which was hard to come by before in McQueen’s show. The same pattern was used for the shoes, where the models feet were encased in black leather and buckled up tight. The shoes with their rigid structure showed that women do not need to always have dainty heels to flaunt their beauty.
Sarah Burton revealed a woman’s secret- her clothes do not need to expose the body for them to be recognised. It would have been easy to call this collection boring and it must have been hard to get that golden balance- right between shocking the audience, which was the late designer’s tactic, and boring it with shows where one piece was exactly the same as the other. Yet Burton managed, and created a very deep collection for something that must have been done in some sort of a rush. This alone should be admired, but Sarah did even better- she showed a very deep meaning to the collection and turned eyes to an issue which had been forgotten.
What was interesting in the outfits was the use of hair and feathers and butterfly wings. Ever since the ecology craze, designers started becoming more and more lenient towards using synthetic fabrics and straying from any sort of natural materials, in fear that they would be accused of exploiting the planet. As many designers became more and more attached to creating modern, futuristic, safe clothes, Sarah decided to reinvent the best fabrics and textures seen in nature, sticking to plastic only for the shoes. Her butterfly dress with the wonderful high collar made of butterfly wings stood out, because the colours were not washed out or created synthetically. They were vibrant and beautiful and caught my breath when I first saw them.
The woman that Burton created in her collection is in complete harmony with herself- she accepts that she is both fragile and strong, that she can wear both delicate and tough fabrics, as long as the proportions remain in harmony. This is something wonderful that brought the collection out to me as at the moment, in most shows, the designers are fixed on swaying towards extremes.
A couple of the outfits were focused around, hair, furs, gold and olive green. These royal shades are used in the brocade of some of the thicker jackets with big sleeves and yet the look does not seem to be heavy. The whole collection is in some way focused around light- the light reflected from the golden threads, the one showing through gauzy fabric and the light in the white colour of some of the dresses. A lot of the collections involved movement and how it is shown, so even tight or rigid outfits had something to them that made them more natural. The golden green suits had hair, the dove grey bodice had a skirt made of ostrich feathers, and the heavily patterned mini dresses had ruffles on the skirts.
Relating to collar draping and ruffles which were a trademark of the sixteenth century and the French revolution, Sarah had woven the issue of freedom in the women’s collection. As McQueen was very focused on liberating women from stereotypes, this historical connection must have been one of the many metaphors of doing so. The pleating that was on the collars was also repeated around the skirts, which made the dresses seem less uptight and gave them a flow, which had not been seen previously.
By accentuating the silhouette and making it more like the ones seen in the fashions of the Middle Ages, Sarah Burton has revived another trend from that time. The emphasis on the hips and the flat chests were seen as a mark of a high class lady, which the House of McQueen would surely want to show in its present collections. Although crinolines were first introduced in the middle Ages, they were not the type that Sarah Burton used in the collection. The skirts which went out to the sides were more like the XVIII century panniers, which were wide to the sides and flat at the front and back. Could this be a second relation to the French revolution and the freedom women should have? The ones used in the show were more modern, because of the short length of the dresses in which they were used. Where the dress is longer than to the thigh, the rest of the skirt is in frayed strips of fabric, which move with every swaying of the hips.
There was a harmony to all the designs. Although there was still a connection to the alien world, it was more fantasy coming from nature than from other planets, like in the collection for last year’s Spring/Summer. A main inspiration for the collection was elves and women and how one represented the other. The outfits in this collection were more regal and were certainly more in the direction of a queen of this world, than of a different star constellation.
Although I am not a fan of using feathers in design, in this one show they were truly beautiful, and the way in which they were used was marvellous. The long skirts billowing with layers of soft down created movement that could not be reproduced by a machine. There is so much laser cutting and sharp edges in most designs that it is a surprise that someone has not gotten cut yet! A woman is not used to wearing clothes which only would suit a robot. She needs flowing fabrics or clothes which accentuate her figure. They are an ornament to her natural beauty and this is what only Burton has managed to do in her very first collection. This alone is admirable; as there are many other designers who still are stuck in a rut of creating the same clothes, no matter what season. The house of Alexander McQueen has stayed afloat and not let routine take over the collections.
The feathers which were included on so many of the designs symbolise the woman’s fragility. They are both to show her main weapon, an element of her beauty, and her biggest weakness, where one hit can shatter her like glass. If anyone was to imagine a woman, the best way would be to see her as a female swan, which is both delicate and courageous, just as a woman should be. Feathers were a main inspiration to another part of art recently- to film. The thriller ‘Black Swan’ about a ballerina with a split personality, who takes part in the production of Swan Lake (starring Natalie Portman) was probably the best film of 2010. The costumes were made by the sisters of Rodarte and were covered in feathers, which Sarah Burton must have referred to in this spring collection.
Although the jackets and tuxedos were perfectly tailored, the signature pointed shoulder pads from the previous shows were slashed at the seams, giving more movement in the structured outfits. These pointed shoulders were a signature mark of McQueen’s and they were not forgotten here either, making them the perfect finish to the jackets. This is just another way that Sarah Burton has updated the House of McQueen’s and it might just be the next big thing. The boring blazers which are so fashionable right now should get an update, and this is definitely one of the ways to do it. Who knows, this could be what such classics like blazers need.
With the ‘modern woman’, who has rights, is allowed to drink, smoke and have multiple partners, most designers have not paid any attention to the fact that she is still weak inside. This fake confidence only confuses women and they rebel, not exactly knowing against what. In this collection, it is shown that even the ‘modern woman’ can accept herself for who she truly is and remain strong. She does not have to pretend or lie about how she feels and that is shown through these clothes.
If other designers would go in her steps, they would see that their own synthetic collections are as boring and common as plastic. Theses futuristic designers create a robot, one which is free to do anything, to have manly jobs and tasks, without actually examining who a woman is inside. I would not be able to feel like a woman if I chose minimalism in its cruellest form, with boxy jackets, unnatural colours or ugly shoes.