Wednesday, 29 September 2010

In Bed with Vogue and Manolo Blahnik

I hope you are having a wonderful week! 

Hot chocolate with cream and chocolate sauce
After a long weekend in my beloved Paris (shopping, sights and sublime suppers), I'm now, sadly, feeling less than brilliant. The in-between-seasons-syndrome (a.k.a nasty cold)? When your head feels full of cotton wool, your body is trying to assert itself through every ache and it takes an hour to have a shower (which you have contemplated for just as long). And, despite my mind's fuzzy-state, I am struggling to switch it off from a multitude of tasks and topics. London living? Having said that, I have learned that sometimes, where possible, it's best to give up, tuck yourself into a warm bed and drink chocolat-chaud. So that's where I am now...
John Lewis bobble slippers
Whenever I feel unwell, I find myself drifting nostalgically toward comforting moments and memories: thinking of family, watching old movies, heating up rice pudding. One of my fondest such memories is the image of my smiling Dad, walking through the door to present the latest copy of Vogue to my sick-self. Following a childhood spent sketching dresses and pretending to run a clothes shop from my bedroom, there was no better cure. 

Vogue magazine, Best of British issue
A cover from a few years back...

A tremendous treat, Vogue was a symbol of hope, a divine distraction and a treasure-trove containing some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I would switch off from the 'ordinary' world and become adopted by the world of fashion. And sometimes, when I didn't have the energy to read, I would simply flick through the pages, lose myself in the reams of advertising and look forward to feeling strong enough to sketch again. Luckily, now that I buy Vogue for myself, I can devour one of the issues stacked up to the ceiling in my spare room. But (and I hope to scare off germs for some time), I have found the perfect 'back-up plan' for future sick/duvet days, or more excitingly, a Christmas present! On 8th November 2010 - this is a preview - Thames & Hudson are re-releasing Fashion Drawing in Vogue. How perfect. William Packer (painter, writer and FT art-critic) has collected 301 beautiful drawings from over 70 years of Vogue, featuring artists to include: Salvador Dali, Edouard Benito, René Bouché, and Pierre Brissaud. The preface is also written by one of my favourite artists, David Hockney. A gorgeous gift for the girl in your life. Or a treat for yourself...

Fashion Drawing in Vogue, William Parker and David Hockney
(Re-release date: 8th November 2010. Paperback. Price: £19.95).

While I'm here, I couldn't resist mentioning another book that I found in the impressive 'Fashion and Textiles' section of Thames & Hudson's website: Manolo Blahnik Drawings (with a foreword by Anna Wintour and contributions from prominent fashion editors). Enjoy this sneak-peek at such amazing artistry and arguably the world's most exquisite shoes:
Manolo Blahnik drawings, foreword by Anna Wintour

(Available now. Paperback with flaps. Price: £24.95).

Images: 1) John Lewis, 2) Starbucks, 3) Vogue's Cover Archive, 4) - 6) Thames Hudson.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Like the Sartorialist? You'll love Albrecht Tübke...

Last Tuesday, I attended the preview of Albrecht Tübke's 'Made in Italy' at the James Hyman Gallery. It was my first visit to this elegant, white-washed and surprisingly luminous space, ensconced beneath and between some of Mayfair's most striking and historical architecture. As a pedestrian in London, one of my favourite observations is the coexistence of past and present; of old-worldly English buildings/churches/archways with buzzing restaurants, stylish shoppers and innovation constantly surprising you. Here is a Louis Vuitton window-display, which I discovered en-route to the gallery:

Louis Vuitton window display, London
Savile Row is where the Beatles had offices, recorded and held their final live performance. It's world-famous for traditional British tailoring. And it's home to the James Hyman Gallery, which seems to sit amongst this grand history quietly and unassumingly (there is a sign above ground; it's number 5). Descend the steps to discover a modern and minimalist backdrop in which to display International Contemporary and Modern British Art. The James Hyman Gallery has attracted much attention for its photography exhibitions, showcasing Linda McCartney (2008), Brigitte Bardot and the 1960's paparazzi and most recently, French New Wave Cinema (celebrating A Bout De Souffle's 50th anniversary). Not to mention the very important artists featured here, including Lucien Freud, Henry Moore and Frank Auerbach

Henry Moore

For his first solo UK exhibition, Albrecht Tübke is certainly in good company. His photographic series 'Made in Italy' is extremely fitting (and fashionable) within a culture infatuated with reality/documentary entertainment and street photography, like The Sartorialist. The gallery's release of this exhibition was also timely, beginning just before London Fashion Week (the exhibition continues until 6th November). On meeting Albrecht however, I didn't believe he was doing this because it was a 'fashionable' thing to do. In fact, he has remained loyal to photography portraiture since 2004. First, he shot subjects in their own environments. Next, he took to the streets and through two further series, examined how people assert their identity and express themselves against, for example, the colourful streets of Florence. 'Made in Italy' gives his subjects more room than ever before, to show their true selves against a neutral background without distractions. No changes were made to clothes, hair, or make-up and each individual posed as they wished.

Albrecht Tübke exhibition, James Hyman Gallery, London

In Albrecht's words: "Through constant exposure to the multitude of public personae with which we are presented, we have become anaesthetised to the range of individuals that surround us. In this project, I am attempting to distil something of the essence of that individual."

Albrecht Tübke exhibition, James Hyman Gallery, London

Through the development of his art and academic approach driving it, perhaps Albrecht is commenting ironically on the photographs of those like Scott Schuman (who features in this series, see below). While wannabe fashion personalities may be searching for Scott and their chance to perform for his camera, Albrecht is hoping to find out who his subject really is. Can he scratch beneath their public face? I'd love to hear your thoughts, as always...

Albrecht Tübke exhibition, James Hyman Gallery, London

The Sartorialist, Albrecht Tübke exhibition, James Hyman Gallery

Albrecht Tübke's 'Made in Italy' until 6th November 2010, at James Hyman Gallery, 5 Savile Row, London, W1S 3PD. Tel: +44 (0)20 7494 3857.

Images: Thank you to the James Hyman Gallery (the first image is my own).

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My London Fashion Week: Mark Fast S/S 2011

Arriving at London Fashion Week yesterday and entering under the arches of Somerset House, I was excited and overwhelmed - not only by the occasion, fashion weeks are wonderfully exciting - but by the loud chatter, even louder outfits and the multitude of camera shutters and flashes trying to capture all who entered. Your guaranteed 5 minutes of fame at a Fashion Week? Wear something utterly outrageous. Now, I love most of the outfits caught by Scott Schuman's roving lens, but it's no wonder that many have tried to emulate his photo-blogging success, with copious crazy get-ups on display (and of course, some stunningly stylish ones too). I suppose those behind and in-front of the increasing number of non-official FW cameras are feeding off each other. Either way, it's London Fashion Week and our city's spirit of innovation and enviable edginess must be celebrated.

I'm afraid I didn't succumb to snapping others or wearing something totally outlandish myself. Instead, I wore some Acne trousers (trousers are back!), a lace-backed Topshop t-shirt (see the pic on my blog homepage), my trusty Chanel-inspired pumps, headband, boyfriend blazer and a very special, extravagant-but-I-love-it handbag. Not entirely fashion-forward (considering my company), nor particularly fashion-backward. As I have learned, you need to be comfortable at these occasions (ballet pumps and jeans), cool (laced t-shirt-back) and able to carry a fair amount (ok, so I accumulated some extra luggage along the way). You also need to see, not be the show. Glamour without excess à la Carine Roitfeld will be my chosen FW attire from now on.

Having received no offers by the blogging paparazzi, I made my way to Mark Fast's S/S 2011 show. It was great to see Carine on the front row; she had undoubtedly the most amazing spot on the left-hand side of the stage and was first to see models enter from the right. There is a family connection; her daughter Julia has taken the post of Creative Consultant to Mark's diffusion line, Faster

Back to the show. Knitwear and 'bodycon' were again at the forefront of Mark's S/S 2011 collection. However, there is nothing usual about Mark Fast knitwear. These clingy dresses were skin-baring through cobweb-like holes, body-contour stitching and fairly transparent material elsewhere. This time around, fringing and feathers (which he has used before) with bright colours, evoked springtime and bird-like imagery. The colourful dresses, presumably intended for the evening, were showy and reminded me of 1920's flapper costumes...with a modern twist. The black dresses were gothic-meets-caped-crusader and created a startling vision against the often-pale skin of the models and the eery beat of the music. Wear a Mark Fast dress and you will certainly be noticed; perhaps I'll wear one next year and get papped on my way in. 

Personally, I enjoyed the show and marvelled at each piece as though it were a work of art. I find Mark's experimentation to be lots of fun and look forward to discovering his diffusion lines (including one for Topshop). Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure the everyday person would struggle to find an occasion for dresses like these, or have the body*. But for attention-eliciting celebrities, I anticipate some attraction. Whilst I believe Mark's previous collection was more wearable, I think we'll be seeing much more of his creations in magazine shoots, on the red carpet/parties and, hopefully his creative flair will filter down to some more modest pieces for you or I. 

*One last point: while Mark has featured many 'plus-size' models before, I was disappointed to see only one this time (who, by non-model standards is really not 'plus-size'; second photo above). In using extremely thin girls to advertise this collection, Mark is perhaps intentionally not marketing it for the mainstream. I'm interested to see what comes next.

What are your thoughts?

Images: 1+2) my own, 3) Carine Roitfeld, via I Want To Be A Roitfeld, 4) Faster by Mark Fast, 5) Daily Mail (see Amber Le Bon, far left).

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

From Fashion Night Out to London Fashion Week

From Fashion Night Out to London Fashion Week, our city is more of a catwalk than ever. London Fashion Week is in full-swing for another day and a half, finishing tomorrow evening, Wednesday 22nd September. From the first show (Paul Costelloe) to the last (Ozwald Boateng) to London Fashion Weekend (from Thursday night), this is London's turn to assert and validate its prestigious place on the fashion map. One of the four ultimate catwalk destinations (alongside Paris, Milan and NYC), London is much-admired for showcasing new design talent and refusing to play it safe. You go to Paris for couture and Milan for big, powerhouse (mostly Italian) labels. And you go to New York for luxe fabrics but not, normally, ground-breaking designs; that's where London comes in. Certainly, there are similarities between shows. In recessionary times, designers aim to inspire but they also need to sell their collections, whether showing via the 'Big Four' or less prominent shows such as Chicago, Amsterdam or Singapore. They also desperately want to attract the most influential press (remember the Wintour incident in Milan?), buyers, visitors and, now, bloggers. And, not to forget, they're all searching for the "Next Big Thing". Nonetheless (and particularly as a Londoner) you can't help but delight in the diversity, eccentricity and artistic vision of LFW's designers. Particularly when so many are 'home-grown'. London definitely has a fashion-vibe of it's own.

1+2) Giles Deacon. 
3+4) Christopher Kane & Holly Fulton.

(If you're reading this on my blog, here's some idea of how Somerset House prepared itself for the arrival of fashion's elite): 

In case you're wondering, you don't have to be a member of the press or a buyer to experience LFW. You can enter as a 'visitor' and access the designer exhibitions, off-catwalk. Here are some more 'Did you know?' fashion week facts:
  • LFW generates orders in the region of £100m!
  • The event contributes £20m to London's economy in terms of direct spend.
  • Visitors arrive for their fashion-fix from over 25 countries, including the US, France, Italy, Russia, Middle East, China and UAE.
  • There are approx. 50 catwalk shows on the official schedule and a further 45+ shows off-schedule.
  • The exhibition, running alongside the catwalks, showcases 170+ designers each season.
  • In 1993, the British Fashion Council launched 'New Generation' (NewGen), to support emerging designers in seeking investment, a media profile and orders. Important for that innovative London 'fashion-vibe'...
Read about my LFW experience next: Mark Fast's S/S 2011 show.

Images) London Fashion Week
Facts) The British Fashion Council.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

London's Fashion Night Out: Charmed by COS

I'd like to tell you, belatedly, about Vogue's Fashion Night Out. At least, the parts I was lucky enough to experience. With copious shopping attractions, crowds and champagne for L
ondon's fashionable females (and males) to get through, it would have been impossible to see it all. A little like Disneyland for grown-ups (unless you're one of those busy beings who only shops online), it's easy to understand why this night proved such a success. For the second year running. The brains and formidable fashion presence behind the evening, Vogue was seemingly everywhere. From the branded totes and tees sold in participating stores... the contagious celebration of clothes and shopping, sweeping across London's West End. 

Meeting on Regent Street, my enviably trendy Mum and I set forth, arm-in-arm, determined to source the many items on our ever-increasing shopping lists. Whilst we would have loved to witness the big crowd-drawers such as Manolo unveiling his 'World of Manolo', or the kick-off celebrations held by Alexandra Shulmann and Giorgio Armani, we decided to escape the unfortunate rain, dip into shops which took our fancy and enjoy this special, girly time together. When and where else can you shop until 11pm, devour delicious drinks and nibbles, dance to the live band in your changing room (or the queue) and rest your weary feet on the sofas and chairs strategically brought in to keep you that little bit longer. The perfect evening; whether or not you succumb to the alluring array of A/W attire before you (we did) and whether or not you were more likely to succumb to those purchases following a few encouraging glasses of champagne (we were). The beloved brand at the centre of it all and bold  supporter of British retail? Very clever Vogue.

Certainly, brand exposure and increased foot-fall would be highly attractive to stores too (desperately needing to move on from the retail-destructive recession). But to us, this night seemed part of a much bigger celebration: one of fashion, beauty, music and city life. Of course, New York had just held their own successful version in the previous week. But for our own 'FNO', any shop in London would have been crazy not to participate, given the opportunity. Whether or not we are emerging from the fearsome financial crisis might depend on who you speak to, but for the duration of Vogue's fashion night out, there was optimism in the air. Shops, shoppers and previously reluctant boyfriends were projecting a collective and knowing 'hooray' for British business. For the fashion industry and our talented designers, for new start-ups (like the Allen sisters' 'Lucy in Disguise'), for up-and-coming bands and for us, the consumers. Besides, in all our fun, it's us who are rallying around the 'shops-in-need', right? If you are reading this on my blog, see below for a video of Selfridges' FNO:

Back to Regent Street... if I told you that our search for a wedding outfit was soon replaced by our search for the best bubbles, it's clear that we had fun on our bar  shop crawl. To answer the champagne question, Cos was the clear winner. No surprise then, that groups of friends lingered there for some time, perching almost in the window-displays for lack of space in the increasingly popular store. Whilst I admit the refreshments (Ladurée macaroons also) might have captured our attention and taste-buds more than most, we soon couldn't help but notice the super-stylish designs and understated glamour hanging all around us. Effortlessly-chic, pared-down pieces which continue to excite fashion editors and should inspire us. 

Design, quality, a simple élégance (and the macaroons) could liken Cos to a French label such as APC; these garments would beautifully adorn the Parisian woman that I'm so in awe of. Like Seberg, 'Lady Cos' looks like she was born with a sense of style. And, being the 'big sister label' to H&M, Cos aims to rework catwalk trends, without the painful price tag. Personally, I love the whole Cos 'look' and while it's latest range is somewhat muted in colour, it's a statement in sophistication. But, for us London girls who do like to mix it up, I'd suggest one of this season's must-haves such as a gorgeously soft, warm coat, good ole' fashioned trousers or some trusty leather boots, with other, more eclectic items (perhaps some colour? a sheer blouse? fur, if you're into that?)

Clothes aside, Cos boasts an excellent website promoting artwork, interiors and linking to its magazine (did you know they had one?). Sophistication all-round. This is a lifestyle-brand in the making; certainly one to watch. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Images) Vogue & Cos.

I've been at NYFW (in my dreams...)

Hi all! I am SO sorry for my blogging hiatus since last week. Terrible, I know. For many reasons, this week has been a hectic one (unfortunately not because I was running between shows in NYC) but time has nevertheless sped ahead, leaving my disoriented and tired self trailing behind. However, on the plus side, I do have lots to update you on (and I will try very hard not to do it again)! 

Before I start filling you in on my week (to include Vogue's Fashion Night Out and an interview with designer Kanchan Panjabi), let's take a trip down the memory lane of my imagined week.

The fashion spotlight has been on New York Fashion Week 2010, which ends today. No doubt airlines are crammed to their fullest tonight, as editors rush back for London Fashion Week (starting tomorrow). Back to the Big Apple and it's been a week of eclectic collections: colourful, glamorous, understated, nostalgic, dramatic, ruffled, pleated, high-necked, covered-up, cut-out and the usual mix of long-coveted labels with promising emerging designers, such as Honor by Giovanna Randall (sketch by Giovanna, above). 

And, here is my selection of the NYFW trends for 2011. Hope you enjoy it! I'd love to know what do you think.

Flaunt those Florals
                   (Betsey Johnson, Tracy Reese, Dennis Basso, 
                  Monique Lhuillier

Clever Cut-outs
                                    (Caroline Herrerra, Rodarte, 
Hervé Léger, 

Colour Burst!
(Zac Posen, 
Carlos Miele, 
Chris Benz, Reed Krakoff)

Sheer Delight

                  (Jason Wu, Thakoon, Anna Sui, Vera Wang)

What's wrong with white (+ a little embellishment)?
(Carlos Miele, Carmen Marc Valvo, Jason Wu for Tse, Tony Burch)

My wearable wardrobe must-haves
(Michael Kors, Nanette Lepore, Milly by Michelle Smith, Mackage)

Before I go... 
I wanted to let you know about 
a little added-extra to my blog. If you visit my main homepage (here), you'll now see a toolbar at the bottom of your screen. Click on the tiny icons and from there, you can access City Girl (EC1) on Facebook or Twitter, or go straight to your own accounts. You can also visit my recent posts (or a randomly selected one), or even translate my blog into a different language (perhaps you're heading to Japan's Fashion Week in October?) On the left-hand side of my blog homepage, you'll also find picture icons leading to previous posts. Feel free to browse! I'll be back soon. I promise.

Images) Thank you to New York Magazine.
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