Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose


I don't know if I'm alone in thinking this but whilst I accept that everyone says the French are eternally chic, is this the case? My early experience was no. The French (and to be fair, German) exchanges that used to come to my school were about ten years behind in style (and this was in the 90s making my peers and I 11ish and we STILL noticed, bitchy girls school that it was), had scrotty teeth, on occasion b.o and the only national stereotype they stuck to was being moody and loafing about looking superior or depressed whilst sneaking off for fags behind the sports hall. Albeit this was school and we've all made sartorial errors but as time passes I can't say I've ever gone to Paris and been paralysed by the amount of style, grooming etc. There are of course people you stop and gawp at, wonderfully flung together outfits that have a certain je ne sais quoi but I have seen that in every great city in the world and yet that whole Gallic myth of chic persists.

We can all single out famous French beauties, Coco (Gabrielle) Chanel leading the pack, Bardot, Deneuve etc and the new crew aren't too shabby either (Vanessa Paradis, the Gainsbourgs) but I don't think it represents the general population of the country as a whole.  We might as well say British style is epitomised by Vivienne Westwood meets Christopher Kane meets Dame Judi Dench meets Lily Allen. Gosh, the mind boggles!  The inspiration for this post was three-fold, recently seeing the film L'arnacoeur (Heartbreaker to the uninitiated) starring Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris, getting super excited about the forthcoming Gainsbourg bio-pic and the realisation that my go-to Summer style revolves around two breton tops (navy with white and white with navy stripes) accessorised with various scarfs, skirts and denim to bring variety but STILL!

The title of this post comes from an epigram by Jean- Baptiste Alphonse Karr in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”). Literally “The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.” Or "the more things change, the more they stay the same" if you like.  The big French fashion houses have changed immeasurably over the past few decades, yes they still produce some 'classics' (Chanel tweed and ballet pumps for example) but would these idols we hold up like Coco and Mr Dior recognise them? Do we just cling on to the old ideas they introduced? I think we do.

French style is still perceived as classic..navy blue, Breton stripes, an artfully placed beret and there's nothing wrong with that but just 'being French' is enough to be a bit cool and do you know what? I don't think it's the style, it's the language, something ingrained.  Heartbreaker, if done in English, would have been a schmaltzy cheese-fest but instead was champagne frothy and fun.  The girl who's just as hot as you at the gym but is French (even though she speaks perfect English), the boys will go for her...I did a mini survey about this amongst the boys I know and apparently a French girl is always an extra ten points (so is a Swedish one interestingly).

Sure you can move to Paris, bang on about how much you love Isabel Marant and nibble your way round Laduree but you still won't make it.  I'm always comfortable in Breton tops because everyone thinks they're classic and they are easy peasy.  They are the die hard opposite of the try-hard trendy so can inspire you to play around with your accessories a bit more.  Coco Chanel first elevated the humble striped top to style status. In the 1930s she designed and wore a striped top with palazzo pants - a look she had adopted from French sailors- but I'm never going to be French, even if I wear 100 of them. In conclusion, there's nothing wrong with aspiring to a bit of Gallic chic but I think they could learn a little from us too so let's not be so hard on ourselves. This might be easier said than done after you've check out these hotties..
Charlotte Gainsbourg shot for Paris Vogue 2007

Another image from that shoot because I LOVE the suspenders
Audrey Tatou (the boy loves her)
Vanessa Paradis for Chanel
My ultimate French style icon..Marie Antoinette

And as potrayed in the gorgeous Sophia Coppola film...sigh...

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Summer Loving

Any excuse to work a Grease number into a post is surely the start of a good day.  Aaaah, how we have enjoyed the London Season and we are swiftly sliding into holiday territory where everyone buggers off from the capital and pegs it as fast as possible to glamorous retreats near and far.  I myself will be absent for most of August spending a week or so without technology in Cyprus (major tan-age, eating, swimming, more tanning, hanging with the Boy) then to Biarritz avec ma famille et mes amies; slightly more stressful possibly but still, clearly, NOT work and therefore bags of fun even if it chucks it down.  Following that I will follow the Boy to Paris where he does Paris Art Fair and I attempt to break into the couture shows.  Without wishing to wish my jollies away, I am starting to get very, very excited about the prospect of Autumn/ Winter- tights, gloves, fabulous coats, I just find fashion in the cooler weather easier to get to grips with, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This post was meant to be about now, the Summer, the heat, NOT getting excited over the forthcoming cold and rain.  Here are some things to get hot under the collar about...

Judith Leiber (her of sparkly bags fan..remember that SATC episode where Big buys Carrie one? Or the gross cupcake one that is in the first movie?) is coming to Dover Street Market.

Christies is holding an auction of vintage Hermes bags. Drool.

If you haven't got there yet- Selfridges' pop-up shop curated by creative director Alannah Weston, Elle Deco Editor Michelle Ogundehin and Paul Smith selling 'forever favourites' like Burberry trench coats and Levi's 501s? Plus 'well-loved' books and Hermes scarves? Sounds like the retail version of those 'top 20 fashion classics' articles we always relish and the shop of my dreams.  It truly is.

The Film Four Summer Screen at Somerset House. Go see the premiere of the new Cruise/ Diaz film, 'Knight and Day' which looks like a right giggle, ooze chic and geekiness in Woody Allen's 'Manhatten' or grab a Minnelli moment from the classic 'Caberet'.

Too hot to handle? You need sweets in the city, the best of those being ice cream! Yeah so fro-yo is great and doesn't have that much fat in but engage your tongue in some good old fashioned gelato! Covent Garden favourite Scoop opened up on Brewer Street this summer and was swiftly joined by Gelupo, Bocca di Lupo’s sweeter sister. We love the gelato stuffed cannolis and twisted take on ice-cream sandwiches in brioche buns. Then there’s Dri Dri, the brand new Portobello parlour opened by a Harvard Business alum, with the chicest cone-clad door mistress we’ve ever seen (now that’s good marketing sense). Flavours include Biscotto (cookies and cream), Nocciola (hazelnut) and Stracciatella (chocolate chip), with ingredients sourced from the finest suppliers and containing less fat than your bog-standard 99er.

And finally..now you have your Hermes bag, your outfit from Selfridges, you're in the mood for romance and maybe have a bit of a tan from sitting outside at the Summer Screen and you're full of gelato..you need a cocktail.  Head to the bar with no name.  Ashamedly, I had never been to this place that is in my hood and couldn't believe that such a gem lurked under my nose.  With its team of lab coat-clad bartenders this Islington hideaway seamlessly combines old-school charm (‘30s jazz, faultless service, the odd bow tie) with a full lab upstairs. Take the apple garnish that’s magically infused with the scent of hay, the Martini stirred with ‘dry essence’ or the tequila-based Gonzales with ‘honey water tuberose hydrosol’.  Just what you need on a hot Summer night.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Granny Chic

Recently a frightening thing has happened to me..I have started to become OLD. Now, there is nothing wrong in becoming old gracefully with style and class and hopefully a wardrobe of Balenciaga or Westwood at my back but going grey at 26 is not to be born. GREY HAIR and I'm only just past the age of having a Young Persons Railcard!! I should have realised it was a matter of time, Asian hair does tend to grey earlier and one of the downsides of being genetically endowed with black glossy locks is that the little buggers stand out more than they would do on a blondie.  Perhaps the appearance of these wispy, translucent follicles has also affected my brain, this week I have decided to start a pension, done lots of work on my tapestry and very nearly bought a tweed jacket with leather elbow patches.  On the flip side to this I've been to Shoreditch House, The Duke of Cambridge (London's only fully organic pub I believe) and discovered a fabulous Mad Men-esque cocktail bar in my hood and not got back home before 1am and it's only Wednesday.  There's life in the old girl yet!

In fashion however, age has been creeping in...The sphere where youth and beauty reign supreme has started to usher in a New Generation..except they ain't new, 15 year old Justin Bieber listening, Twihard reading nymphets, this is the old guard coming back.  Next season's Dolce & Gabbana advertising campaign, unveiled last week, stars Madonna (51). Hot label of the moment Celine – the campaign every model must have wanted this season – has chosen a veteran face from the 1990s superwaif era, Emma Balfour (40). Balenciaga stars Stella Tennant (39); Louis Vuitton, whose new collection was dubbed "And God Created Woman" by designer Marc Jacobs, featured Elle Macpherson (47) on the catwalk and stars Christy Turlington (41) in its latest print campaign.

                                                         Elle on the catwalk at Vuitton

Such common sense is completely revolutionary. Until recently, few in the industry would acknowledge that there was something a teensy bit shallow and moronic and possibly even dubious about taking a 16-year-old model with a head full of GCSE revision notes and dressing her up as a sophisticated femme fatale, arranging her supine on an unmade hotel bed, while dripping with diamond bracelets and thousand-pound handbags and wearing a bored-of-it-all expression. Extreme youth was part and parcel of the fantasy of fashion.

The new visibility of older models is part of a shift in fashion from fantasy to wearability. For the past 10 years, one adjective has reigned supreme above others in fashion. If it was good – whether it was a model, a dress, a handbag – it was "fabulous". Fabulous, in the Oxford English Dictionary, has two meanings: extraordinary, and also "having no basis in reality; mythical". Our obsession with fabulousness was always very much about a yearning for the impossible, a boomtime obsession with pushing boundaries. The word feels, now, like a compliment from another era.

The age of austerity dawned in fashion months before George Osborne got his hands on the keys to No 11. In March, the Paris catwalks were full of grown-up clothes in sensible, wearable colours. Easy-to-do ponytails and walkable-heeled shoes are hot topics in fashion right now.  Next month, the all-important September issues of the glossy magazines appear. Current industry rumour has it that the cover girls for the American giants run as follows: Julia Roberts for Elle, Halle Berry for Vogue, and Jennifer Aniston for Harpers Bazaar. If this is true, Aniston – at 41 – will be the youngest cover girl of the big three. If older women can reappear in fashion, then anything is possible..and maybe I'll keep my grey hairs...

And finally...my favourite older model..at 79, Carmen dell Orefice.  Please may I age like her?

Lastly, shot in Paris, August, 1957 by Richard Avedon

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Get Mad (Men), Get Even!

How many times have wished that you had a drinks cupboard in your office? That your boss looked like Roger Sterling? That it was totally acceptable to go for a five course lunch with booze in the middle of the day and then nap on your office sofa afterwards? OK so largely, I admit these perks are for the chaps in my favourite TV show but the women can have it pretty sweet too on occasion. I cannot wait for the next series to launch over here but to celebrate that fact that it airs in the States on July 25th, a rather natty little gadget has been created that can help you oodle the hours away until it gets here; Mad Men Yourself.

Whether you want to be a shapely Joan, a blond Betty, a dapper Don and suited and booted Pete Campbell..or..and this is the best bit...put yourself in the picture..you totally can!!I largely chose to accessorize with a cigarette and cocktails, but there are heaps of dresses, jewellery, hair styles, even eyebrow shapes.  A dangerous thing to start playing on when one is meant to be working.  I better get back to my filing before Mr Draper notices...

Maybe you're waiting in a hotel room for an illicit affair...
 Remember that fantastic scene where Betty comes out onto the lawn with a cigarette in her mouth and her boy's BB gun? But hasn't she been a bit annoying recently..Not a problem..

And sometimes you just want to be one of the gang..

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Once more into breach..

The season is upon us for high class sporting events that we Brits excel at (sort of)! Time for Ascot, Henley, the blooming football, Polo at the Hurlingham, elephant hunting and the one that we limber up for twice a year..SALES!! Now this is the kind of shopping that, in my experience sends boys running for the hills but I revel in it.  If one is canny and doesn't succumb to Primark blindness ("everything's so cheap, I must buy lots of crap I don't need!") then there are bargains to be had.

Preparations must be made, are you going to do a marathon (Selfridges) or a sprint (lunchtime dash to All Saints)? From the comfort of your laptop (less sweaty but you can't try stuff on) or sharpen your elbows and don your flat shoes to bravely strike a path through the racks?  Both approaches have their merits. Net-a-porter and ASOS are wonderful but by golly you have to be quick off the mark to get the good shizzle. Zara can turn out some absolute winners and don't fall for that, "everything we have is out" chat..they have stockrooms and guess what they keep in there..yup, STOCK! Obviously this is the high street I'm talking about but high end sales are even more cut-throat.  In my opinion these are often best avoided and sample sales (often by invite only) are the right way to go here.

The key mantra to remember is FORGET trends.  Sales are a perfect time for buying basics, even expensive basics that you'll wear forever or a decent blazer or jacket in a classic shade.  As tempting as it is to pick up those gold sequin harem pants for £15 in Topshop, take a deep breath and buy the chocolate brown leather blazer from Zara that's £90.  That'll see you through Autumn/ Winter and the British Spring for seasons to come as oppose to accessorizing your tan for about seven days at the tail-end of August when you're out of the country.

Here's a little taster of what your money can get you at the moment, good luck comrades!
Chloe blouse from Net-a-Porter

A catwalk piece from Paul and Joe in timeless taupe.


Fab, high-waisted indigo skinny jeans from Topshop..can't get the picture for some reason

Great flats from ASOS that'll see you through until Spring next year and the tail end of this Summer

Black high waisted body-con skirt from Whistles.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Let's hear it for the boys!

Menswear very rarely gets me excited but how refreshing it is to witness the new D&G ads when we've been BOMBARDED by those bikini bitches from H & M over recent months.  Now I'm sure any male readers to my blog have welcomed the fact that there have been long limbed, honey skinned, itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikini wearers plastered all over the tube, buses etc but frankly, it was starting to get to me.  Three cheers then for these lovely lads that nearly made me walk into a post-box on the way to work the other day!  Being truthful, I don't actually go for the muscle bound type but hey, it's nice to see some male flesh on display for once.