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One that never quite made it.

This is  from a few months back when I was going through my Silent Period. But I kind of like the images so I thought I’d post it. I’d been reading in Fantasic Man magazine that dining alone was all the rage. And there I found myself in my usual Italian haunt doing just that. Incredible as I’d stayed at that hotel more times than I can remember and never ventured into the restaurant.


A revelation. Simple, traditional food alla Cucina Reggiano but done well. Tortelli di Zucca, tortelli verdi, erbazone, vedure alla griglia. The classics. And just the sort of trouble free, comfort food you want to eat when you’re away from home and had a long day at work. The whole process sort of felt strange at first. Not having to make conversation, not having to decide between fizzy or still water, feeling like you stuck out like a sore thumb… Billy No Mates. But that only lasted moments, until the glass of Prosecco kicked in. Nobody cared – the restaurant was almost empty anyway. And I was fussed over a lot more than if I’d been with company. Being a Leo we like our egos massaged. Purrrrrr. Fuss all you like, darlings!

I read the entire contents of ID magazine (the issue that profiled Nicholas Ghesquire – I can’t remember which exact one it was) from cover to cover. I haven’t done that in years. Oh, Nicholas, you so pretty. And you make a lovely dinner companion. TTFN. LFN

Just touched down in Paris. Well, rolled in actually. Managed to use up those free Eurostar tickets I got after the Christmas Channel Tunnel Fiasco. Like a true Brit abroad I’m now ensconced in a Brit-owned bistro with free WiFi, drinking German Bier. In Paris. Ah, well, as they say, when in Rome...

Mirror, mirror_

I saw Robert Leacock’s documentary, “Catwalk”, a few weeks ago for the first time. It follows the model Christy Turlington around Paris, Milan and New York during the spring-summer shows. Izaac Mizrahi’s film “Unzipped”, from the same mid-nineties period, is probably better known but I somehow prefer Leacock’s. Janet Maslin who reviewed Catwalk for the New York Times would differ. Her review barely masks a scathing contempt for Turlington and her cohorts – Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Yasmin Le Bon and  Carla Bruni. Her review was entitled “Lots of Beautiful Models Admiring Themselves.”

I think Maslin totally missed the point. Fashion doesn’t need a narrative nor does it need to be satirised. Just take alook at Robert Altman’s ill-judged 1994 spoof, Pret-A-Porter. All fashion needs is a running camera at point blank range and it can take care of the rest. Karl Lagerfeld didn’t need a script for Rodolphe Marconi’s 2007 biopic on the septuagenarian designer. He fired out the soundbites and bon-mots like an AK47 on battery acid. Ra-ta-tat-tat, KABAM!! Nor did Valentino for the intimate, touching portrayal of his relationship with Giancarlo Giammetti in 2009’s The Last Emperor. Now that’s what you call a DIVA. Fashion has always been an easy target with its scurrilous reputation for behaving like a tyrannical, self-absorbed two year old. The irony is that people in fashion are often self-deprecatory, self-aware and in on the joke so it’s pointless to poke fun at them. Egos are worn like fur coats, tantrums thrown like tiaras. Fashion literally is a COSTUME DRAMA. Just sit back and observe, the theatre will play out by itself. No script. No plot. No faux audience applause. Just a carnival of the sublime and the ridiculous.

When Linda Evangeslista quipped that she and her supermodel friends wouldn’t get out of bed for less that $10000 (or was it $20000?) there was moral outrage. How dare they!! All they had to do was look beautiful or walk in a straight line and try not to fall off the end of the catwalk! How difficult could that be? Well beautiful women have often proven to be our greatest wits. Mae West, Marilyn Monroe… We just prefer to think of them as dimwits instead. Perhaps it helps us come to terms with our uneasiness about their beauty and the resultant self-doubt it can cause us. Just deserts. You might have flawless bone structure but you are utterly banal.

What I liked about Catwalk, and perhaps seeing it for the first time now has a lot to do with this, is that it reminded me of the time when I became truly obsessed with fashion. I used to rip out shoots of the supers from Vogue and, ahem, Hello! magazine and dream. Those girls were beautiful. Not to say that models today aren’t but there was something special about that period. There was a sense of freedom and possibility. Fashion was fun. A specatacle and spectacular. And the girls were so individualistic. Linda’s changing hair styles, Christy’s doe-eyed pulchritude, Naomi’s power stomp, Helena’s smouldering gaze, Nadja’s terrifying height, Kate’s waifish defiance. They were all infinitely memorable. Things are different now. People are more interested in what the models wear on and off the catwalk than the models themselves. Hollywood stole the limelight and now editors and stylists have more kudos. Apart from a few models I struggle to connect name with face of the current generation. Maria Carla Boscono, Gisele Bundchen,  Natalia V and Natasha V are notable exceptions in both personality and catwalk presence. There’s a backstory there that holds my interest.

Accidental Heroes

The supermodels were self-obsessed and narcissistic but who wouldn’t be if the whole world constantly told you that you were beautiful? Its a redundant criticism. It was their job to look beautiful. And they shared the same insecurities about their bodies like us less prettier mortals. When Turlington remarks that only Naomi Campbell would look great in a particularly skimpy outfit as “nothing moved” – in reference to Campbell’s taut physique – you get the sense that even great beauties have their Achillies Heel. Carla Bruni perhaps struggled the most to come to terms with her superstardom. Her haughty presence revealed a lot about her upper class background and intellectual leanings. She poked the most fun at herself and her “sisters”. Apparently brains and beauty couldn’t inhabit the same body. Christiansen seemed preoccupied with ageing when she commented that models were getting younger and younger: “Twenty one!” Compare that with the stampede of 16 year old Eastern European steeds that now careen down the catwalk! Worries about weight and age plagued even these goddesses!

I think Maslin’s review of Catwalk belies an uneasiness at women being judged and praised just on their looks. However, these women were incredibly smart businesswomen. They knew that the party wouldn’t last forever so they diversified. After all, isn’t Carla Bruni now the first lady of France? The bottom line is that these women made a lot of money for the brands they modelled for. Why shouldn’t they get a fair slice of the pie without being viewed as mercenary? It seems totally against feminism to expect them to be insecure about their beauty and take a smaller pay cut because they didn’t really do that much apart from pout. I really wish I worked in fashion during those crazy days. Compared to now it was a blast, laugh all you may.

The Ugly Business of Being Beautiful.


THE PARTY”S OVER

click here to read Janet Maslin’s 1996 review for The New York Times.

Oooh, er!



What’s this? Oh, Natalie you are such a clever girl!!! And you didn’t even let on in your refreshingly frank interview in my current fave rag mag, Industrie. This looks so sexy. Finally, we boys have something to while away lunch breaks and drool over. This could quite possibly be the most revolutionary thing to happen in menswear for quite some time. Fashion girls love to shop. We all know that but boys love to do so just as much as girls, if not more... We’re all Bitches in Cloth at the end of the day. Don’t disappoint, Mrs. Massenet. We boys can be very picky…

visit

www.mrporter.com

ps. Some advice on pronuciation. Do we por-ter or por-tay?

Remember the Love Cats from my Christmas post? [Click here to view it] Well they GOT HITCHED! It was quite possibly the most beautiful wedding ever. I mean, Italy, sunshine, prosecco, friends, an incredible castle… what more could you ask for? The groom wore Prada and the bride wore YSL – flowing, white and just gorgeous. With pockets too. Oh, Mama, you and your pockets! She wore a crystal embellished Sportmax bolero over  the dress for the church and Jimmy Choo heels. What I loved about the dress was it’s lightness and the modern draping at the front which made it less formal.

I loved the way each table at the reception was named after a fashion house or a breed of cow. Lucy’s a fashion designer and Mattia comes from a family of dairy farmers who breed cows for the local Parmesan cheese industry. Prada or Aberdeen Angus? Witty. The gorgeous flower arrangements were a collaboration between Mr Eric Bremner and the Willow Shoreditch. Another match made in heaven!

At the end of the night… well, take a look at the pictures below. Now that’s what I call a modern, if slightly sozzled bride! HAPPY TIMES! CONGRATS Lucy & Mattia!  Happy safari.

[That isn’t Mattia in the pic, btw. Don’t ask!]


House codes_


Didn’t realise pre-collections were up already. Sort of gone off the fashion thing for a bit. Yet another round of random clothes – Natalie Massenet, founder of net-a-porter,made some interesting points about this in Industrie magazine❤❤❤. Something about the increase in yearly collections offering designers more flexibility and freedom to design. How did she put it? You could do the 1950s one week and move on to mods in 2, if that’s what got your juices flowing. Well, not quite like that and I’m with her on offering the consumer more choice. HOWEVER, quite frankly, we designers liked the old way of twice yearly collections. Spring-Summer, Autumn-Winter. Simple. Perfect. Symmetrical. Economical. Precise. And the chance to actually have a holiday rather than 2 days at Christmas. We had time to think, time to be inspired, time to… doss about, actually. But oh, those buyers had to go and ruin it all for us! Now they moan that they’ve got too many frocks to flog. EH?

Anyway, I digress. Back to resort collections flowing into Style punto com. Sarah M. where are you this season BTW? You always do YSL. Always! Anyway. YSL. I’m not going to go into whether or not I liked it. Who cares? However, I thought the update of the Pop Art/ Picasso-inspired pieces from the 70s via a bricolage of lace and print was well sly! [SLY. YSL. Geddit?] Just joining the dots . . . . . Fashion etymology, so to speak. BRICOLAGE. I’m quite liking that word. Sort of an upmarket collage, no? Hmmph.

OOOH, actually reminds me of a post I never got round to doing on Hannah and James and their tent at the Salone Mobile in Milan earlier this year and the article based on Bricolage in the FT “How To Spend It” Magazine . Coming right up. I’m breathless. Quelle horreur!

EARTHLY delights


for he’s a jolly good carver

Miguel de Almeida encapsulates the modern designer. An accomplished graphic designer with quite an elegant eye, Mr. de Almeida also loves to cook. And cook he can! We’ve known each other for years now – he is the other half of one of my dearest friends. An invitation to a “light supper” at their elegantly – this word applies quite a lot to Mr. de Almeida – appointed flat is a good-hearted ruse that transpires to be more of a culinary tour de force. Portugal-born, London-based Miguel has also written a book on cooking inspired by the multicultural influences of food in the capital from the perspective of an outsider. He is currently working on his second book, a coronary-inducing, finger-licking ode to the dessert. The tasting sessions chez Miguel are legendary. Forget calorie-counting and just give in to the great big waves of sugar rush. What marks Miguel out is that not only is he an accomplished cook and talented designer he is also a brilliantly sensitive photographer. Mr. de Almeida also happens to be one of the loveliest people I know.

I recently sent him some questions by email. Here are his responses, unabridged.

What inspires you to cook?

My passion for eating and sharing my dishes with the ones whom I love the most. I also strive to share the Portuguese cuisine, which is often overlooked, to a new audience.

What informs your cooking style?

Firstly, my own culinary heritage. All the meals that I watched my grandmother cook became engraved in my mind. Secondly, the incredible daily produce and varied cultural references I find and use in the city in which I live, London. These are the main factors that contribute to my style which is relaxed and homely but embraces global influences.

Pastéis de Feijão – Traditional red kidney bean cakes

Do you look to other sources for inspiration apart from the culinary-related? Could you list them if so?

I enjoy looking at the work of food photographers Jonathan Lovekin and Con Poulos which influence the way I like to photograph my dishes. As a graphic designer I draw influences from an array of designers and artists like Glaser, David Hillman and Bill Viola to name a few.

Your main profession is graphic design. What similarities do you find between graphic design and cooking?

I believe the cooking process is extremely similar to that of the design process and vice-versa. For instance, following a recipe is like following a design brief as in both processes there is an end product that is achieved by going through a series of steps, which involve research, experimentation, creation, finessing, presentation.

What stylistic tricks, if any, do you use to enhance the look of a dish before photographing it?

I believe when photographing a dish, we should focus primarily on the food, therefore I place my food into very simple crockery pieces, mainly in white, so that we can see clearly the colours and textures of the food. No photographic tricks, gels, colourings are used. I photograph my dishes with a Canon 500D equipped with a 50mm macro lens, which are all lit with natural light.

If you could compare yourself to a fashion designer who would it be?

I have always loved the work of Jil Sander and Alves/Gonçalves who are a brilliant Portuguese duo.

Octopus Rice and slices from Tomar

What food trends do you predict?

I predict that we are going to see a continuation on the present notions of artisan, hand-made, local, home-made food due to the ongoing economic crisis, a time when we go back to our basic values. I think more and more people are going to start growing their own produce, home-cooked meals instead of splashing out on restaurants, sharing their knowledge between friends and family. With all “doom and gloom” people will always find reassurance at home.

What are your opinions on current trends and could you list them?

Global “tapas/mezze” style sharing – We have seen attention on this type of serving, simpler, humbler approach, bringing people together which I think is fantastic.

Cocowater – Nutritious drink for summer although too hyped by celebrities

Nordic cuisine – Unfussy, fresh and balanced cuisine packed with oily fish, and berries – it is great to see herring become popular again.

Tea is cool – Drinking tea/hosting tea parties where we show-off our baking abilities on a tight budget – maybe it is time to move on from the cupcakes brigade.

Do you see any similarities/ disparities between food and fashion?

I believe trends are set by creative masters, whether they are renowned chefs or Couture designers. The general population regard food very differently from fashion but increasingly both are marketing led. I think in both fields, we can find products that serve a mass market or a very specialized and prestigious audience. Although food has a intrinsic survival quality about it, both share sensorial stimulation through shapes, colour, texture. Both fashion and food have a capacity to influence how people experience their lives through materiality or sustination.

Mig xxxx

Baked pears in Port, mixed spices and quince

visit

westcoastcooking.wordpress.com

all images subject to copyright. Miguel de Almeida