28 July 2012

Queens, Big Heads and Humour

If I could speak like Helena Bonham Carter, you won't be able to keep my mouth shut! I'd talk and talk and talk just to hear my own wonderfully posh, cut-glass accent. I want to take elocution classes!!!

27 July 2012

Casta! Cast Her Faster!

"Laetitia has always bewitched us with her sensual and natural charisma: she is the perfect interpretation of  the Dolce & Gabbana woman of  today." - Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana

Dolce&Gabbana Fragrances's newest face is French actress Laetitia Casta, 34, mother of threeMs Laetitia’s unparalleled sensuality and femininity brought her to the attention of  Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana who chose her to embody the Dolce&Gabbana the re-launch of their 1992 fragrance Pour Femme. She joins the long tradition of other curvy beauties favoured by Dolce & Gabbana in their iconography, va-va-voom figures like Scarlett Johansson and Monica Bellucci
“It’s not so much a re-edition as it is a fine-tuning. We altered the bottle a bit. The brand has evolved since the 1990s, and we’ve matured a lot since." said Mr Gabbana of the new edition of the iconic scent, which is refreshed with Neroli and Raspberry notes thrown into the classic mix.

The sensual, sun-drenched advertising campaign featuring Ms Casta was shot by the famous Mario Testino in Sicily

Top notes: neroli, bergamot, mandarin
Middle notes: lavender, sage, pepper
Base notes: sandalwood, tobacco, Tonka bean

25 July 2012

Chi il Bel Sogno di Doretta

I'm really obsessed with this swoonsome Puccini aria right now! The best version is by Montserrat Caballe I think. I could listen to it over and over again all afternoon, and so can you: Turn up the volume!

Paris Notes

The Maillol sculptures in the Tuileries Garden.
The antique bookstore Alain Brieux, at 48 Rue Jacob.
The taxidermist Deyrolle, 46 Rue du Bac, with gardening tools. (pictured)
Unfussy lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon
Karl Lagerfeld's Edition 7L, 7 Rue de Lille.
Nearby the Musee d'Orsay, with the lovely Gauguins.
Pomme frites at Le Voltaire is a must.
Bright and early on a sunny weekend, we go to the flea market at Saint-Ouen, zooming into Marche Paul Bert, Rue des Rosiers. Quintessence has some wonderfully weird stuff. 
The peaceful time-warped Palais Royal.

18 July 2012

Fall 2012 Haute Couture


What is haute couture? Elitist, elaborately put together (900 hours of embroidery by hand for one item is commonplace) and super expensive, couture is a cradle for extravagant clothes made individually, and to specific measurement, for rich women. It is still looked upon as a source of trends, but increasingly, this role is being usurped by fashion from the streets. But the beauty of haute couture is that fashion at this rarefied stratosphere can afford to be creative, imaginative and individual, in a way that mass-produced clothes can’t. Haute couture approaches art, and is therefore inspiring; it allows the imagination to soar.

In the age of fast fashion, style blogs and social media, haute couture is probably more necessary than ever before, not only because it is fashion’s laboratory, but also because it is the means of preserving dying traditional crafts. Minute beading, hand-weaving, hand embroidery, feather work, fabric flowers, lace and millinery by skilled craftsmen, many whose craft is passed down through generations in the family, still make clothes the traditional way, preserving the magic of fashion. This season, the couture houses showcase these crafts in collections that were not extreme in form or design, but in detail and embellishment.

An important trend this season was pants for both day and evening, shown by every couturier. Raf Simons, in his debut collection for Dior, kicked things off with black cigarette pants worn with smoking jackets or under elaborately embroidered bustier dresses that looked like ball gowns interrupted at the top of the thigh. Other couture details included silks woven (not printed!) to resemble an abstract painting. Simons returned to the flared hip of the Bar Jacket and the hourglass shape of the New Look invented by Christian Dior in the 1940s. His innovation was to add exquisitely embroidered buds and crystal petals, or individually sewn wafts of feathers, to these historic shapes. Such embellishments gave a surprise element in trapeze dresses, bustiers and gowns that are deceptively plain in front, contrasting sharply with the dense handwork in the back.

Karl Lagerfeld showed a collection strong on the classic Chanel suit, marked by an easier fit and bolder shoulders. This might seem predictable, except that what appears to be the classic tweed texture and pattern on jackets and long skirts was actually embroidery on tulle, representing thousands of hours of handwork. Swing coats in pink and grey checks were made of woven then embroidered patchwork fabric. If the shapes were simple, the surfaces were not: a white tunic top and matching skirt beaded in a degrade design to form a border; an oversized coat was striped from collar to hem in thin gold braid. Needless to say, the bridal gown at the finale was a fantasia of white feathers and mink pom poms that defy description.

It was all severe elegance at Valentino this season, with sobre navy dominating the palette, in navy jumpsuits or sheer cut-out gowns. Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, impressed with their ascetic dark clothes with modestly high collars and long sleeves. These regal, if sanctimonious creations showed off the cut. The decoration escalated thereafter with a tulip-shaped cloak decorated with glitzy “tree of life” embroidery. The designers seem to like the medieval look of religious icons, and used couture crafts to turn  those historical references into outfits fit for a queen. Gilded unicorns, amongst other heraldic motifs were embroidered on jump suits and woven into richly patterned jacquards of jewel tones. Otherwise, fabrics blossomed with a garden of appliquéd thistles or florals, with gold beading and mink trim enriching severe jackets and cloaks. The liquid stripe on a tuxedo pant is made of jet sequins.

Couture technique is the key focus at Givenchy. Riccardo Tisci returned to simple lines, in only 10 monolithic gowns shown in a garden setting. The gowns looked like art installations, and had the stately feel of garden sculpture. After seven years at the house, Tisci’s signature is now obviously fringe. The beaded fringe was hand-strung to form a degrade pattern on a cape, glossy leather fringe was laced, and then hung in a gothic number. A geometric ethnic pattern on a cape was entirely formed by fringe. The black nappa fringe on a dress boasting intricate leather embroidery extended all the way to the ground to look like crow feathers. Lavishly beaded and fringed bell-shaped tops, a couple with mink trim, were shown with restrained column gowns, but these had oriental embroidery and tassels adorning the hips.

Giambattista Valli

A summer garden inspired Giambattista Valli to turn his society girls into flowers this season. A nursery worth of ruffles layered extravagantly made tops and skirts look like overblown peonies. On top of floral prints, which had the look of a Monet lily pond, fabric and beaded flowers were added to bodices and hips to reinforce the floral theme. The flutter of summer breeze is recreated with delicate lace leaves individually sewn on so they fluttered and shimmered. For accessories, gold ivy chokers draped over a shoulder or climbed up an arm, and a cloud of feather butterflies decorated strict upswept hair.

12 July 2012


Chapter 12

A Hotel Bar, quite empty, because it is too early for cocktails. The bartender is polishing glasses behind the bar, and someone is whirring polish over the marble floor. Dana Lee, exhausted and nervous, is having a pre-cocktail drink with Ritchie. Her meetings with Adam, for they had too much of that obligatory mood to be called dates, were now almost daily, a part of Adam’s heavy-handed courtship. They confused and tired Dana. A part of her was seduced by the comfort, familiarity and niceness of Adam Tan and his world, but her heart held out for the mysterious Eli Kee. She had declined Adam's gift of a diamond bracelet, as being inappropriate. It was a beautiful bracelet and would have gone so well with her Ice Ball gown, but Dana didn’t want to encourage Adam in any way, or give a false impression of her intention. As Dana spaced out behind her signature dark glasses, a frosty glass of champagne in hand, Ritchie talked:
“B-b-bella came in you know. She asked ‘how’s Dana doing her hair for The Ice Ball?’ and ‘what’s she wearing?’ and so I told the little b-b-bitch to mind her own b-b-business and did she want to know what s-s-size knickers you wore too? And do you know b-b-bitch laughed? She wanted c-c-curls my god!
“And then she settles in, and wants a nice long chat with M-M-Mother Ritchie, and it’s Eli this and Eli that… Q-q-quite came out of the closet about this young man at last, and I said isn’t this young man someone of Dana’s? And bitch said she’s known Eli since she was a t-t-teen and ‘was that in the 1920s?’ I said and she said that Eli had said that you, Dana, were like a b-b-big sister to him… ‘And what are you to him, p-p-pray tell?’ I asked. And what do you think bitch said? ‘I’ll tell you a secret Mother’. Bitch is always calling me b-b-bloody Mother even though I’ve told her a hundred times ‘please bitch, sister is much more correct. Mother is too f-f-far-fetched you know’! ‘Sister Ritchie,’ she said, ‘will you promise me to keep this a secret?’ W-w-what do you think I said? ‘You know me,’ said I, ‘you can tell me anything, I’m the soul of d-d-discretion. Mouth zipped, fingers crossed, now c-c-confess you little s-s-slut’. And I kicked the door of the cabin shut.”
“What did Bella say, Rich?” said Dana, sitting up, removing her glasses for the first time that afternoon.
Ritchie paused for dramatic effect, threw back the champagne in one breath and announced: “B-b-bitch said that she’s going to marry Eli Kee!”

09 July 2012


"Heaven? Who needs it? I want 20 more years on earth. That's my heaven." - Ellsworth Kelly

06 July 2012


A new austerity prevailed at the recently concluded Paris Menswear Collections for Spring 2013, which was all about a stripped down aesthetic dominated by clean necklines, a loose fit, a lack of decoration and a monochromatic palette. This represents a complete break from recent seasons which saw menswear trends escalating towards the baroque in terms of elaborate detailing, heavy accessories and rich fabrics. Even a label like Balenciaga (left), which routinely shows challenging, conceptual fashions, showed just 21 pared-down looks which highlighted an easy volume in its tailoring in grey, black and white, with nothing more challenging than a big Hawaiian print to leaven the monastic mood.

It was plain sailing (and very plain clothes) at Louis Vuitton. Inspired by sea sports, Kim Jones was all at sea in his third collection for Vuitton (right). The most successful looks were actually the most traditional, like the deluxe double-breasted tailoring which were sharp yet relaxed. Pyjama-pants, sailor-style flares and wide shorts (micro to knee-length) were shown with scuba tops and patchwork shirts; Yellow hoodie slickers, T-shirts and sweaters, though undoubtedly luxe in fabric, looked predictable and safe. It was the accessories that saved the day: Unfussy and practical bags, shoes and sandals, looked utterly desirable.

The archetypal sailor of Jean Cocteau and Jean Genet is something of a house icon at Jean Paul Gaultier and this collection was completely dedicated to this figure (left). The sailor theme sharply clarified the designs at this collection which previously suffered from a wild heterogeneity of ideas and inspirations. Forthwith, Gaultier’s classic suitings shone — sharp jackets (some with short sleeves) and gilets were shown with high-waisted sailor's pants, a couple of precisely-pleated kilts, and a few overalls that looked elegant, not louche. Sailor stripes, a bold slicker red and sporty yellow supported the seafaring theme, which looked modern and chic, not clichéd or lazy.

Kris Van Assche used a strict palette of regimental blue and grey at Dior Homme (right). This superbly un-hyperbolic collection was anything but boring, serving up a clean-cut military discipline (the models looked like cadets with cropped, shellacked heads) in classic jacket in every variation: some cropped, some sleeveless, some boxy. These were paired with sweaters and shirts that were buttoned all the way up, and easy-fit pants, or shorts that had the look of a schoolboy. The military theme was subtly hinted at in the brass buttons that never looked costumey. Everything unnecessary was edited away, so that the cutting and construction of the jackets were brought to the fore, especially in a passage where the cutting lines were traced in a contrast piping. This collection presents discipline as charm, perhaps an antidote to an age of excess.

At Rick Owens, it was Owens Lite this time around. Owens’s refined his usual propositions into more accessible form. The gothic robes have become roomy coats, the ragged dresses have become ascetic tunics, the skirts look less ridiculous designed as kilts and flapping shorts, and paired with what looked recognisably like zippered blousons (almost Police Academy),vests and turtlenecks. There was even a traditional black suit! A new trimness prevailed, with very few excessive flourishes. This season’s trend for black socks worn with everything here became chubby leg warmers and the footwear, usually an exaggerated Flintstones platform boot was simplified into a clunky toeless slide - on platforms.

Shorts, which are everywhere this season, were the startling highlights at Raf Simons’s eponymous collection. Styled with black dress socks and black lace-ups, the daringly short shorts highlight the bareness and vulnerability of the legs on the pale models. The fact that the shorts were paired with beautifully austere, perfectly correct jackets and shirts brought home the point that they were, in fact truncated pants, shorn off where the jacket ended, and made more revealing with splits and slits. The simple colour blocking (a pale powder pink was especially memorable) of the outfits had a tenderness, and combined with a passage of fine floral prints made this collection a study of how the genders have balanced out in sexual politics.

The collection Veronique Nichanian showed for Hermès (left)was colour blocked in monochrome outfits of blue, griege, tomato, absinthe and black but the effect was a youthful, unambiguous masculinity. The collection has a brisk, breezy feel that mirrored the season’s general vibe of ease and simplicity. These were simply elegant clothes that you can stride out in with great confidence on a sunny untroubled day. The high luxury of the label and its fabrics was made fresh and light by subtle design and tweaking of the proportions, so that the menswear classics like blazers, windbreakers, parkas, and coats looked athletic, clean and cool without looking staid or boring. There were shorts here too, but these, sensibly, reached the knee.

Perhaps the collection that best crystallises the season’s key messages was presented by Lucas Ossendrijver for Lanvin (right). Ease is in the generous fit of the tailoring: the jackets have a softness and movement and the pants have fluidity and waft. Shirts with wide sleeves, and wide necklines, were cut big, so that they drooped a little at the shoulders, and bloused at the belt. The volume is anchored at the (very) high-waisted, for some shape and sensuality. The silhouette is admirably clean, as every item seemed reduced and precise, shorn of details and embellishments. The palette too is reduced to a monochrome black and white, with a passage of futuristic shine right at the end, a pinch of florals, and sparks of blue as accents. The athletic sandals, which owes something to traditional Tevas, have a space-age shine and elegance. The pleated pants do not look back to any era past, thankfully. Instead, this fiercely modern, forward-looking collection gives the new austerity a positive spin.

01 July 2012


“We want to make essential clothes, clothes where you understand what the value is and why you pay more. ’’- Jil Sander

Milan Menswear Spring/ Summer 2013

Where does fashion go when the going gets tough?
With the world in financial meltdown mode, with the traditional order in gender, politics and media gone topsy-turvy, with the planet’s natural resources challenged as never before, menswear for Spring/Summer 2013 is headed for the nearest exit. The Milan menswear collections took flight to a simpler, more innocent time: childhood.

All the key trends seemed to be inspired by the obedient schoolboy and the lost innocence of the playground: eye-popping colour, nursery school florals, the T-shirt, shorts, a simple, stripped-down aesthetic, and an easy fit dominated.

Jil Sander
Jil Sander’s much-heralded return to her eponymous label (after seven years) was a re-stating of her trademark minimalism, but softened. Sander’s scrubbed schoolboys were de-sexed in prim little collars, wide sleeves and billowing shorts. The deconstructed jackets and coats, though precise and boldly coloured, had the cosy fit of a granny’s cardigan. 

The Prada man was also dressed in a child’s androgynous clothes which had the graphic, flat pattern of paper doll separates. The tick-tock sameness, like an assembly line of uniformed students, is another form of retreat from the times into the order and discipline of a Utopian age. Square, oversized tunics, and cropped straight pants are decorated by wide white stripes; a contrast border outlines a clean neck or a cartoonish placket or hem; Sharp lines emphasise reduction and simplicity. There is a 1970s (the decade of peace and love) note, the wide stripes bringing to mind the athletic clothes of that era. The shoes were unisex athletic sandal from beginning to end, unsexily styled with black socks.  

Bottega Veneta
Tomas Maier's collections, usually gritty, had an ease that said flight-from-the-city. The overall trope seems to be the freedom of the open road, hinting at the all-is-well hippie movement. The suede fringe and exaggerated eyelet closings (lacing was used rather than buttons) for collars are childish features, and have a Robin Hood quality about them. Are we playing Sherwood Forest today? The matching fringed booties immediately recalled the happiness of playing at cowboys and Indians. Little boys grow up into jocks in the athletic separates, a hot teenager off to a game perhaps, with the sporty panels and zip-fronts. In the mix was a dreamy floral, in ensembles of gauzy floral print, that is as feminine as it sounds, rendering straightforward jackets a cute ‘play-date’ quality.

Dolce & Gabbana
Nostalgia and an escape to a more innocent era (here Cinema Paradiso 1950s) marked this collection. Domenico Dolce's and Stefano Gabbana Sicilian roots were shown in rose-tinted splendour in a recreation an entire village. The cast of urchins, salesmen, sailors and piano-tuner were actually drawn from Sicilian towns and villages. It said authentic and felt emotional, a rare and beautiful thing in fashion.
Although Dolce & Gabbana have carved out a business making clothes mined from fashions past, the appeal of this season has a lot to do with a rustic simplicity and innocence, obvious if you compare this collection with the gilded opulence of the last one (Fall 2012). The high-waisted, pleated shorts, the faded colours and antique prints, the oversized shirts, the awning-stripes and pyjama tops, the sailor tees, all spelt summer, sun and sea. The escape is from the formality of the city and the cares of the adult. The tightly belted hand-me-down pants, and three-piece suits do not say ‘slick banker’ but have that well-worn look of something worn by a country doctor.

Ermenegildo Zegna
The banker was also in retreat at Ermenegildo Zegna, the bastion of traditional masculinity. Instead of the dour shades of wool from their famous mills, the suitings were made in colour-saturated, glossy silks. Silk showed up in every look, from sensual knits to shining shantung suiting, to softly wafting shirts. The use of bold print was unusual at Zegna as well, not just the traditional pinstripes or checks but botanical, organic repeat patterns. The silhouette had the narrowness of youth, with tapered, high-waist pants, a nipped waist and strong shoulders.

Salvatore Ferragamo
Salvatore Ferragamo, another bastion of the classic, was doused in blinding Marvel comic colour. Creative Director Massimiliano Giornetti completed the looks with vibrant-coloured sneakers instead of sober leather, which had more than a dollop of Osh Kosh B’gosh.

Calvin Klein Collection
Creative director Italo Zucchelli recalls Calvin Klein’s heyday in anachronistic ‘youth cult’ looks that seemed to come straight out of 1982. The iconography of American sportswear, a Never Never Land of jeans, khakis, bomber jackets and some of the shortest shorts of the season (printed with pansies to boot!) seemed taken directly from the boys’ department. (See the three looks above.)

Conclusion: The flight from troubled times has taken shape in easy fit clothes that can be pulled over heads, like most children’s clothes, such as T-shirts. The majority of tops were in fact collarless and based on the tee – with short, wide sleeves for easy movement. A curious sexless note is evident in the many Eastern inflections, including tunic shirts, draped overshirts, and loose, pleated pants that hid the crotch, an obvious sign that the virile alpha male has gone on retreat.