Category Archives: Fashion
Geopolitics is really starting to mess with my autumn/winter wardrobe. While the UN conveniently sits in silence, government officials around the world can’t seem to shut up about what women should or shouldn’t wear.
India’s tourism minister, for example, has just advised that foreign women shouldn’t wear skirts “for their own safety”. Meanwhile a number of French mayors are nobly continuing to ban the burkini even after France’s highest administrative court ruled the ban illegal. These mayors care about women’s right to bare arms and are willing to break the law for it. Ladies, you should be grateful.
And I certainly don’t want to sound ungrateful. I think it’s great that politicians understand that women’s rights are often simply a matter of the right sort of clothing. It’s laudable that so many men are encouraging us to exercise sartorial safety. But here’s the thing: if you’re going to become the fashion police you need to take your policing a little more seriously. All of this advice is very confusing, occasionally conflicting and doesn’t seem terribly well thought out. Is a skort as dangerous as a skirt, for example? Is a sarong just as wrong? And can we have an official verdict on the burkini already before burkini season is over?
I’m sure a lot of women are as concerned about inadvertently dressing inappropriately as I am. So while we wait for the UN to get their act together and sort out some sort of official female dress code we can all abide by, I’ve put together some pointers on dressing while female. Please note, of course, that these are only guidelines and you should always double-check your outfit with a man.
Bikinis in Israel
While the French are saying non to burkinis, their sluttier sister, the bikini, appears equally out of fashion in Israel. A performance by singer Hanna Goor at a government-organized event was recently cut short because, apparently, her shorts were too short and she was wearing a bikini top. The culture ministry, shocked and saddened by what the public had endured, noted that they would work to ensure correct dress at future events.
As an editorial in Haaretz noted: “The modesty regime that the culture ministry is trying to enforce on events meant for the general public is the mirror image of France’s unconstitutional burkini law.”
Started from the burkini bottoms now we here, eh?
Bikinis in any country whatsoever if you’re not beach body ready
It’s irresponsible to wear a bikini unless you’ve got a six pack and a thigh gap. This may not be official legislation in most countries – but the media and advertising industry helpfully ensure that women are cognizant of these rules all around the world.
High heels in a professional environment
In May, a London receptionist was sent home from her first day at corporate accountancy firm PwC after refusing to wear heels. Around the same time a waitress at a Canadian restaurant was told she couldn’t change out of her heels even though her feet were bleeding. I have very little sympathy for these women. Yes, heels can be incredibly painful and result in debilitating foot deformities – but have you seen Jurassic World? If Bryce Dallas Howard can dodge dinosaurs and sprint through a muddy jungle while wearing 3.5-inch pumps, you should probably just get a decent podiatrist and suck it up!
My first fashion show ran on Mars bars and sleep deprivation. Ten years ago, I was selected last minute to take part in Fashion East which meant I had four weeks to create a collection from nothing: I had no fabric, no team, no idea of what I wanted to do. I never imagined I’d be creating my first show under those constraints, but of course I couldn’t say no. In the end it was an amazing experience, making it through the chaos and producing something I could be proud of.
At the time, my studio was a disused gym in a squat in Peckham, part of the!WOWOW! collective. It was a huge building incorporating an old tile warehouse, a nightclub, a theatre, an evangelical baptist church and my studio in the gym, which I’ve been told used to belong to Wolf from Gladiators. The only place warm enough to sleep was the sunbed. The whole enterprise was scrappy and optimistic; feral and lawless. I still work with people I met in those early days, such as Matthew Stone, who does my music, and Katie Shillingford, who styles my shows. They are people I can be open and honest with, without fear of judgment. We know each other too well to have to be polite.
I’ve shown in Paris since September 2008, but I always felt like a tourist. Getting there was a mission – bundling all our boxes and bags into an Addison Lee to get the Eurostar, then fighting for luggage space. Stressful doesn’t cover it. Then in Paris, you’re dropped at a prep space and start to work. You don’t see daylight for three days and have no clear idea of where you are or where to go if you run out of thread. It can be quite fraught. The Häagen-Dazs stall at Gare du Nord became laden with meaning – going there meant we were on our way home! Ice-cream has never tasted so sweet.
Last season we showed in New York, which was different again. I had been offered an opportunity to do whatever I wanted – which was incredible – but it still felt foreign. So this season I decided to bring the show home.
As ever, the day of the show was fun but hideous, in equal measure. We had an incredible location at the V&A, but there were drawbacks: it was a busy Saturday in half-term and there were stringent rules to adhere to. You can’t use hairspray in the building, for example, so models got ready in an education room a 10-minute walk away, which wasn’t clear of kids until three hours before the show. It was quite an ordeal – but the payoff was amazing.
I wanted to play with the idea of coming home to London in the show, so an obvious reference to Britannia made total sense. It was emblematic and tongue in cheek. We also used chants from my local team, Sunderland, on the soundtrack. I loved the idea of hearing football chants in such a majestic venue, and at a fashion show. It felt quite confrontational; a call to arms. It also felt appropriate as my graduate show at Central Saint Martins was about Sunderland, and my dad and brother – both staunch supporters – were there, the first time they’d both been to one of my shows in years. There was an idea of tribes, and not forgetting where you came from; of being realistic and working with what you have. I was thinking about the blind faith that football supporters have, that what you are doing is vital and worthwhile.
I have been accused, in the past, of making uncommercial clothes. That has changed, thanks to a lot of support from Michele Lamy, Rick Owens’ wife and business partner, who has helped out with the commercial side of things since 2006. It’s been a steep learning curve.
We have very different backgrounds – I think we both find each other foreign and amusing. I remember telling Michele and Rick what being “on the dole” meant, for example, which they found fascinating. She has a reputation as a tricky character – she certainly doesn’t suffer fools gladly and has a highly tuned bullshit detector. She will tell you if she hates something, but also has a childlike sense of excitement when she likes something and it’s always reassuring to get that reaction. She’s a good divining rod – she can predict success at a wider level – whereas I am a designer, not a businessman, and the idea of simply selling things isn’t what gets me up in the morning.
Studying in London is so much more expensive now than it was when I did it – and even in 2003 I couldn’t afford to do the Central Saint Martins MA course. Still, I met Louise Wilson, who gave me such great advice: that the most important thing to do as a student is fuck up and discover who you are. There’s such pressure to be a fully-formed person once you graduate. I hope young designers still have the scope to experiment creatively the way I did. Naivety is a fragile resource. It gives you the ability to do things you’d never do otherwise. To do things just because they feel right.
The first few seconds of Spike Jonze’s new advert for Kenzo perfume lull you: a beautiful woman, bored in a black-tie world; just what you might expect from a glossy fashion ad. But then she sneaks out, into an empty hall – and then we’re off into the deep end of one of the most engaging ads we have had this year.
Margaret Qualley (Jill in The Leftovers) takes centre stage, a spiritual successor to Christopher Walken’s freaky dancer in Jonze’s video for Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim. Her hair’s out of place, there’s a cheeky glint in her eye and then, to the sound of Mutant Brain by Ape Drums (featuring Sam Spiegel and Assassin), she throws herself through the rest of the ad. It’s a riotous dance, choreographed by Ryan Heffington, (the man behind Sia’s Chandelier video), as she twirls, hops, punches and flies, lost in a moment that is as daft as it is cool. In short, everything you don’t expect from the sedate world of perfume ads.
It’s not the first time film directors have paired with fashion brands. Kenzo themselves worked with cult indie star Gregg Araki for last year’s Here Now. Here are four more.
Prada presents Castello Cavalcanti by Wes Anderson
For his 2013 film for Prada, Anderson cast his film favourite Jason Schwartzmanas Castello Cavalcanti, a brash racing driver zipping around a tiny 1950s village in Italy. With Giada Colagrande as a sultry cafe owner who catches his eye when he crashes, it’s more short film than traditional ad – a “Prada Racing” logo on the back of Cavalcanti’s jaunty yellow jumpsuit is the only branding in the 7.45-minute run.
Sofia Coppola for Miss Dior
Natalie Portman offers the promise of a rose garden in Sofia Coppola’s chic campaign for Miss Dior’s 2013 run.
Joe Wright’s Coco Mademoiselle for Chanel
Joe Wright paired with his Pride & Prejudice and Atonement muse Keira Knightley again for Chanel’s 2011 campaign. Here she drops the period costumes in favour of a slick biker look as she races through Paris.
There are small but crucial differences between fashion and the real world. Here’s one: in fashion, flowers for the kitchen table are not something that you buy on impulse from the stall by the station as an it’s-Friday treat. They are as much of a style statement – and as trend-driven – as your handbag, or your shoes, or the car you drive, or the restaurant you book for your birthday party. They must be carefully considered and finely calibrated to enhance your personal brand.
The coolest trend in flowers over the past few years hasn’t, confusingly, involved flowers at all. Greenery is what greets you when you walk into Céline’s Mount Street store. The vogue for palm leaves can be traced back to Céline’s ad campaign for autumn/winter 2011; their cult status was confirmed in 2012 when House of Hackney launched its now-classic Palmeral print. A cheeseplant or succulent on your mid-century sideboard is pure minimalist cool, the lack of pretty petals chiming nicely with your on-trend androgynous wardrobe.
The next big thing, for those already tired of succulents, is a polar opposite trend. Highly stylised arrangements in dramatic, downward-sweeping shapes are the avant garde choice. Your inspiration here is 16th-century Dutch still life paintings, so go for a mix of overblown blooms, bending to the table in melancholy glory. A prop – a shell, a silk butterfly, a bell jar, an earthenware jug – completes the picture.
This look is, granted, a little tricky to put together if you are sourcing your flowers in Marks & Spencer rather than the fashion industry’s favourite florist, Scarlet & Violet. If in doubt, fall back on the classics. A white phalaenopsis orchid is the little black dress of flowers, and all-white blooms are a failsafe chic choice. (Anna Wintour’s favourite is the scented white tuberose, fashion fact fans.) Pink peonies or blue hydrangeas are super stylish, so long as the bunch is generous enough and you stick to a single colour, with no greenery. Wild meadow flowers project effortless style, the floral equivalent of wearing a ponytail and flats on the red carpet.
What to put them in? (And, no, I don’t mean water.) Glass tanks are on the way out, superseded by milk bottles and bright pottery. You wouldn’t put on a great dress without putting a little thought into what shoes to wear, would you? Well, the same goes for flowers. As every fashionista knows, great accessories make the look.
Few beauty launches have been as carefully and strictly orchestrated asVictoria Beckham’s limited-edition makeup line for Estée Lauder. Before the unveiling, I had to sign two legally binding agreements not to share with a soul what lay behind the specially blacked-out windows at Beckham’s Mayfair boutique. My cynical heart was steeled for anticlimax; I didn’t expect to be then sitting on my hands for three months, desperate to rave about the collection.
Not that everything is a 10. The Java Sun bronzer (£48) is too dark and a tad too red for many, while the Lip Gloss in Moroccan Heat, a generic nude (£28), brings little more to the party than any other at a fraction of the price. But what is good here is exceptional.
Beckham has wisely skipped foundation (if you can’t do a proper shade range, as Estée Lauder already does, then some looks worse than none) in favour of a universal illuminator called Morning Aura (£68), a gold-flecked 2-in-1 moisturiser and primer that goes on beautifully and looks glorious on the skin. The reintroduction of Lauder’s much-missed Modern Mercury powder highlighter(£48), loved by Beckham, who’d taken to scoring hers on eBay, is another nice touch. But, overall, the eyes have it. Eye Metals (£36) are dense, metallic shadows in cool brown and dark green with superlative colour payoff to give grownup, sophisticated sparkle to lids. They’re especially good worn over Eye Ink (£36), a highly pigmented black gel-powder that adds a deep, smoky undercoat. If shadow isn’t your poison, bypass the faff with the excellent Eye Foils (£28), two translucent, idiot-proof liquid eyeliners with high-shine metallic flecks that give an instantly eye-widening party look to otherwise bare lids.
The weighty compacts in gold and ribbed black leather are sleek, stylish, expensive – and not a million miles from Tom Ford Beauty’s packaging. And I wonder if Ford is a fitting example of where this might go. I asked Beckham if this was a one-off passion project, or the start of a career in beauty. “I hope it’s just the beginning,” she replied, making me wonder if we’re not far away from a full product line and a fleet of department store counters. Based on the quality so far, I say, bring it.
In one image, Nicole Kidman gazes soulfully into the lens, her pale eyes smudged with eyeshadow. In another, Kate Winslet sits at a table, leaning into her cupped hand, a dark cardigan around her shoulders. And in a third, we see Uma Thurman laughing as her hair is teased into place, a chunky rib-knit roll-neck framing her jaw.
It could be a series of candid studies taken for Vanity Fair, or an expensive advertising campaign created to appeal to an aspirational fortysomething woman like me. But it’s none of the above. This, somewhat curiously, is the latest incarnation of the Pirelli calendar, annually produced by a tyre company and which also includes Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Julianne Moore and Lupita Nyong’o among its roll call of subjects.
It marks a change in direction for the calendar which historically has used provocative images. What’s more, it follows last year’s U-turn which was heavy on jokes and again, a roster of women who were more diverse than ever before, which suggests this new direction might be here for good. Both are in stark contrast to previous Pirelli calendars where nudity was the norm, and an acceptable form of soft porn has been celebrated in various guises by acclaimed image-makers such as Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, Norman Parkinson and Terry Richardson and Mario Testino. This year, 53 years after it first launched, we have Peter Lindbergh championing a very different form of sexuality.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve become so inured to the incessant parade of celebrities in a public state of déshabillé, that I’d barely bat an eyelid if someone walked down the red carpet stark naked. In a refreshing take on the beauty of the female form, Lindbergh has instead elected to photograph some of the world’s most respected female actors, mostly fully-clothed. Last year there seemed to be more nudity and the result this year looks set to be equally sexy in a glorious, grown-up way.
“The idea of beauty today is a bloody mess. It’s really awful,” explains Lindbergh, whose name is attached to the prestigious project for the third time. “For the calendar I shot in 2002, I photographed naked models and I thought it was really boring. Talent is more important than nice body parts.”
It wasn’t so long ago (if you’re of a certain age, like me, 1994 still feels relatively recent) that Elizabeth Hurley shocked us all in a Versace dress held together with safety pins, revealing a risqué glimpse of fleshy bosom. Yet at times, even in a supposedly more advanced society, we are witness an abundance of nudity, on and off the red carpet, sometimes to such an extent that it makes headlines.
Lindbergh has also made a welcome stand against the current obsession with heavily retouched imagery, and says the “idea of the calendar is to show what real beauty comes from and not what people impose on you to believe is beautiful”.
His subjects are largely women beyond their youthful best but all possessing a certain, knowing allure that feels intelligent and attractive. There’s the odd shoulder on show, and a bare leg or two, but the focus of this Pirelli portfolio is simply a portrait of womanhood.
There’s nothing illicit or improper about baring all these days: naked bodies are two a penny. The allure of a stolen glimpse of nude flesh has long gone. Quite frankly, getting your kit off is no longer sexy, and Pirelli just made me want to buy their tyres.