Posts tagged fashion

There’s something about Renée…

For me, PRADA really delivered this season. I thought it was an extremely strong show. Precise, uncompromising and decidedly MODERN – a word bandied about so much these days. In a season of blindingly bright hues the PRADA electric blues, oranges and greens seemed the most potent and daring. The thing I like about PRADA is you really get a sense of the woman, the narrative. The total package. Miuccia Prada would most probably have been burned at the stake centuries ago. She is a witch, a magician and she can see the future!

The reviews of the show have referenced Josephine Baker, Carmen Miranda and sultry nights in Latin America but I see something much closer to home, more Southern France circa 1932

When the model Jourdan Dunn took her turn on the catwalk she was the spitting image of Renée Perle, the Romanian model who was the mistress of the photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. The finger-waved hair, a certain air of mystery and exoticism, grace and poise. It struck me that the PRADA show was less about hot tango nights and more about summers spent in the French riviera during the twenties and thirties. The broad stripes that recalled beach umbrellas, the easy, slightly drop waisted shifts that brought to mind the newly revealing swimwear of the period. That’s the genius of PRADA – you can read so much into it but at the end of the day, walk into the stores and you’ll find rail upon rail of brilliantly conceived, immaculately constructed clothes that you can wear. The message rarely overshadows the product.

And I find that truly MODERN. New Oxygen©

catwalk images:, Olivier Claisse

J.H. LARTIGUE images:



A v.long post, I must warn. But this needs to be said_

That Louise Wilson gets about a bit, doesn’t she? She keeps cropping up in Sunday supplements and magazine articles, pushing her brand of tuition and guidance every which way. Straight-talking Louise knows a thing or two. Louise knows best and don’t we know it!

The Harder They Come: Louise Wilson

I’ve sort of fallen out of love with fashion a bit. Fashion, to me, has become unfashionable. The worldwide financial meltdown, the ethical, ecological, sizeist, ageist, racial and moral debates, the endless backslapping, the championing of a 13 year old blogger in an industry that now criticises the use of under 16 models whilst still balking at the idea of a size 16… I could go on forever. Too many collections, too many voices, too many opinions that sound the same. Too much lip-synching and paraphrasing. What is the point of pointless clothes that nobody wants to wear or has the money to buy? Or merchanise that gets whisked off the shop floor to make room for a new delivery before you can reach for your credit card?

Cathy Horyn premised the stress of running a global business and the constant need to deliver as a factor that played in Alexander McQueen’s suicide. A grain of truth in that, perhaps. Fashion has been eating itself from inside for quite some time now. Ugly. I’ve worked as a designer for the best part of a decade now and the change has been gobsmacking. Gone are the days of designing a collection, taking a break and recharging one’s batteries. Oh, no, the pantone ink’s barely dry before you have to reach out for another ream of paper and start churning out yet another collection. Pre-fall? Pre-spring? Winter-Spring? Autumn-Summer. Bummer. Makes you want to Resort to jacking it all in.

Looking at what’s been trudged down the catwalk lately reaffirmed why I put my own label on the back burner for a while and focussed on consulting for other companies. Things are in a sorry state of affairs when Victoria Beckham’s fashion line looks fresh and new.

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Anyway, back to professor Louise Wilson, course director of the Central Saint Martins [CSM] MA and her right hand woman, Sarah Mower of Back to London. Back to the future_

I hazarded a look at the show images of the CSM MA with the usual trepidation. Who’s trying to knock off Christopher Kane now? To be The Next BIG Thing? What’s this I see? I nearly fell off my chair. What, graduates having a direct dialogue with high fashion? Empress Phoebe Philo and her wipe-the-slate-clean approach having an influence? Graduates sat at a round table with the likes of Francisco Costa of Calvin Klein, Nicholas Ghesquire, Miuccia Prada, Hussein Chalayan and Helmut Lang? I totally agree with Sarah Mower in her review that the new graduates had left their elders trailing in the dust. It must be noted, the elders in question have mostly labels less than five years old. It seems that even that’s too old these days.There’s been a lot of believing in one’s hype lately. Of regurgitating the same old idea thinly veiled with stylistic skulduggery as newness. Don’t get me started on digital printing – that cheap trick of making a basic shape look more interesting than it is – and of the twinkle-twinkle of Swarovski, who seem to have monopolised  talent with their sponsorship and quasi-shameless brand-pushing. Granted the funding such sponsorship brings comes in very handy and designers such as Peter Pilotto have really pushed digital printing techniques but FUSSY FINISHED, to quote Polly Mellon from Isaac Mizrahi’s mid 90s documentary, Unzipped. Indeed.

I felt totally energised watching these images. Perhaps they’re more in synch with what I believe is au courant. Perhaps… What really blew my mind was the focus of proportion and cut. The fundamentals. And then the plethora of techniques, detail, finish, use of colour and the unexpectedness of it all. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve seen all season. Controlled, confident, assured and an overall lack of the superfluous. And also, the return of womenswear to the fore. Relatively young as my career might be I’ll be the first to admit that what I’ve gained in experience I’ve lost in freshness so its good to see something that sharpens the eye and points the way. Bravo graduates! And Bravo Louise! A job really well done. Fait accompli.


A dear friend of mine, Stuart Bourne, works for the acrhitects Stanton Williams and art directed their book Volume, celebrating their first 20 years. Why relevant, you ask? Well, Stanton Williams are the architects of the new Central Saint Martins campus in King’s Cross, London, uniting all the various branches spread about London in one space. There’s been a lot of tutting about how it will affect the course, how Soho is the lifeblood that makes the fashion school so good. Well Soho isn’t Soho anymore and change is good, is it not? This is an industry that demands change after all. Added to that, the cross-pollination of different disciplines and line-blurring that characterises modern design surely makes this a logical step forward.

With the architectural nature of the new MA show and the architectural influence of the most relevant shows of recent seasons – focus on line, balance and the essential – it sort of brings things round full circle. Back to the beginning. Back to the future. Adios. LFN

catwalk images courtesy of

Louise Wilson, 10 Magazine, Issue 34

Stanton Williams, Volume, Black Dog Pubishing 2009

Regular readers will know that I’m not a fan of uploading ad campaigns or editorial. This isn’t what this blog is about. When I do so its because I genuinely like the piece or it relates to something else. Like this Chanel jacket you see here, from the Spring-Summer 2010 campaign. I like it A LOT.

I have a love/hate relationship with Chanel. Individually, I love the pieces. As a show I sometimes find it plodding and contrived, bordering on the twee despite the creative chutzpah. Recently, however, their ad campaigns have been amongst the strongest. I wonder if Karl Lagerfeld still shoots them? They tell a story that is unmistakably Chanel’s and in a time when most brands are distilling their core values Chanel is arguably up there, stronger than ever.

This jacket is worth doing time for. If I was a girl and if I could afford it I would definitely be popping down to Rue Cambon. Hell, if I could afford it I’d buy it anyway. Collector’s item. Museum piece. Hang it on the wall and drool. It sums up the house ethos perfectly – a nonchalant approach to luxury. Who was it that said [Yves Saint Laurent?]  “Wear your furs like a t-shirt, and your t-shirt like fur”? Or words to that effect. The message is still the same.

The collection was inspired by a romp through the farm yard, albeit a custom-built one in the middle of Paris. A couture barn dance. Not your typical farm hands, indeed. The pictures speak for themselves. An incredible amount of detail and texture done with a light hand. And the cut at the back… New Oxygen ©

“Handmade in England” – has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Seldom written these days, unfortunately, so it’s with great pleasure that I introduce to you Norton, MacCullough & Locke_

Messrs Laurelli, Gn and Manchée joined forces a year or so ago to create a brand in the vein of 1920s bespoke luxury. Dominic Laurelli headed design at Saville Row’s Swaine, Adeney & Brigg after a stint at Alexander McQueen. Lester Gn’s masters graduation collection featured impeccable tailoring and umbrellas. David Manchée spent many years at Swaine, Adeney & Brigg hand crafting trunks and custom made briefcases for the company and a roster of top level clients that included Hermes. These guys know their stuff. These guys know luxury.

The Devil is in the details. What I find refreshing about the brand is it’s subtlety. There isn’t a monogram in sight. Leave that to Louis Vuitton and Goyard. The pieces scream “collectables”. They are for keeps. Every little detail is so beautifully considered and brilliantly executed. From the super-soft skins, expensively muted palette, luxe components and perfect proportions. For a young brand it feels like it has been around for ages and that’s the clever thing about Norton, MacCullough & Locke – classic but contemporary at the same time. Ageless + cool.

They have already garnered an impressive client list including the Berkley Hotel in Knightsbridge, London and their services are in demand everywhere and in between Hong Kong and Scandinavia. I can see big things happening for these guys. Very big things.

An accessories trunk a group of friends and I commissioned for a very dear friend’s birthday.

Beautiful, no?


The madness is about to begin. Let’s see in the womenswear season with some lovely images from Halston – one of the most highly anticipated shows. Where will London-based Marios Schwab take it? Will Liza approve? Questions…I really hope he pulls it off and brings direction and energy to the brand. They both deserve it. Another Balenciaga success story in the making?

Its Carmel, Miss Snow if you’re nasty…


Paris: The Lean Black Line, The Cloud of White Fox_

Reading Carmel Snow’s report on the Paris Haute Couture from the  1954 September issue of Harper’s Bazaar invites a wry smile. For instance:

“In general new materials are at their inventive best…Wool and Orlon woven with a puffy surface. Jerseys ribbed exactly like corduroy. Acetate and wool shot with a gilt thread..

Balenciaga’s giant puff of white fox, abloom with a pale rose… News because it’s more hat, and more allure, than we’ve known recently…”

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Funny Fact: Carmel White married a society lawyer called George Palen Snow so I guess you could say she was as pale n’ white as snow or just call her Snow White. Hilarious, no?

It all seems so quaint and outmoded now but flicking through the pages I realised how closely linked Couture was to general fashion for the masses. It wasn’t just a laboratory of ideas and overblown fantasies to help shift a few tubes of mascara and bottles of Eau de Piss in the duty free at Stanstead Airport. The clothes featured were fantastic but they were also real – real, expensive clothes for real, expensive women. And the not so expensive but nevertheless just as real women emulated those outfits or aspired to owning the real thing. It all seemed attainable. Couture was relevant. Nowadays ready-to-wear has more influence. Prada, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, none show couture but their influence is irrefutable.

Snow-White’s many, many dwarves_

Richard Avedon, Louise Dahl Wolfe, Diana Vreeland, Alexey Brodovitch, Truman Capote, Jean Cocteau, Lauren Bacall… The list of photographers, artists and tastemakers Carmel Snow discovered, worked with or supported is endless. She coined “The New look” in reference to Dior’s 1947 collection. Genius? Most definitely. Its hard to comprehend how vital and influential she was but in her time she was every bit as powerful as Anna Wintour, if not more so. Carmel, we salute you.

PS Miss C was apparently fond of a noonday tipple or two. We like that in a girl round these parts…

I like the idea that a dressmaker’s mannequin holds a memory of every garment draped over it. The markings are like tattoos recording the passing of time, each gossamer line like a thread of silk, a strand of hair… A fibreglass and cloth Joan of Arc. Each rip is like a war wound_

Hedi Slimane takes great photographs. Period. I love the play on transparency here. The subject of a lot of his photographic work is skinny teenage boys. Whatever floats ton boat, Hedi. Actually, I think hair is the strongest link if you look closely and bypass lazy generalizations. It acts almost as a veil around his subjects. Subtle but integral to the image_

Helmut Newton


Schirmer/Mosel, 2000

Helmut Newton’s “The Naked and The Undressed” series are my favourite photographs of his. The 80s poses of the models caught mid-movement must have been a technical nightmare to shoot. The humour is cutting as identical images of the models clothed and unclothed (still fully accessorised, mind you) are juxtaposed. Naked, the models seem lifeless, like mannequins in a window display that had yet to be finished.

I was chatting to some models at a shoot last week and it was interesting to hear their thoughts on nudity. It seems that once they hit professional mode it doesn’t really matter. One of them reasoned that she’d never see most of the people on a shoot again anyway, less so any passers by that spied her changing outfits by a wide open window. Whenever I fit a dress on a model its strange how they almost stop being human to me. Suddenly the garment takes precedent. Tired of standing in heels for hours on end? Tough titty, standing flat ruins the line of the dress, sweetie! Ouch, did I just pin you again? Wont be the last time, haha! I’m not a sadist, really. LOL

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Vogue Paris’ obsession with the Helmut Newton oeuvre is quite clear – hard-edged, hard-nosed 80s dominatrix rock chick couture maven. The “L’éternal Fantasme” editorial from the November 2009 issue pays blatant homage to Newton. His “Big Nudes” series from the 80s centred around two shop mannequins called Georgette and Suzette photographed at different locations in Paris. Faux flesh The line between real and fake was blurred even further when Newton shot both live model partnered with fake. In cold blood_

L’éternal Fantasme

Réalisation_ Julia von Boehm

Photography_ Cédric Buchet

Vogue Paris, November 2009

Through a glass darkly…

I thought I’d post some pics I took last year at the factory of one of my clients. I’d never been to Turkey before then and I loved it. I was surprised by how incredibly cosmopolitan it was and also by how liberal it felt. I’ll be doing some posts about the process of fashion, following from the earlier mannequin post. The shows seem o take precedent above all things and there is so much more that goes into designing  collection, trips to desolate factories included.

Let’s start from the very beginning, a very good place to start_

So sings Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. I thought it would be a great way to mark the end of couture fashion week by paying homage to the humble dressmaker’s mannequin, that unsung hero/ heroine of Haute Couture and fashion, really. Where would we be without our Stockmans and Kenneth & Lindsells? After me, doh, re, mi… Or, more appropriately,  pin, drape, tack…  Sew, a needle pulling thread… LOL

They say that the camera never lies. Not true. What you see isn’t always what was. Also, what you don’t see can sometimes be as beautiful or interesting. At a lookbook photo shoot for one of my clients last summer I spent a few idle moments taking photographs of the studio space – Spring Studios on Curtain Road, London.

The light was perfect – natural, bright and crisp, streaming in through the expansive windows_

[salt + pepper – blk – white – gry]