Archive for the ‘Fashion shows’ Category

Rule: all white is tricky

In Actors, Celebrities, Famous people, Fashion shows, FIlms, Weddings on June 23, 2011 at 9:52 am

The white dress is a big fashion trend right now. In particular the white lace dress, which made the Dolce and Gabbana runway for this fashion season look like a cross between a convention of oversized girls taking their First Communion and a granma underwear parade.

But I can see the appeal. It’s a fresh idea and a welcome and witty change from the Little Black Dress to the Little White Dress and lady slebs have embraced it keenly (left to right: Kate Bosworth, Anne Hathaway, Blake Lively, Diane Kruger, LeAnn Rimes).

But there are very good reasons the LBD has become one of the all-time fashion classics. It suits everyone, is very forgiving, doesn’t show where you’ve accidentally dripped your dinner down the front and is generally hard to get wrong.

The only way you can really stuff up an LBD is to overaccessorise it. Or drop a lot of yogurty dip down the front.

But a white dress, which is the equivalent of carrying around a bill board saying ‘Hey! Look at me!’, takes a lot of chutzpah to carry off. Also a lot of dry cleaning. And a lot of control underwear, because any kind of white fabric is completely relentless about showcasing the tiniest boofle of flab. As you’ll know if you’ve ever spent time on a treadmill behind someone working out in white gym leggings.

The other risk with the white dress is of looking like you’ve lost your way on the way to the wedding reception. You may be surprised to hear that Elizabeth Olsen (sister of the more famous twins…), seen above, is not leaving the ceremony after just marrying the dude in the sand shoes.

He’s Sean Durkin, the director of her new film ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ and this is the two of them at its Cannes showing. (The film, a thriller about a girl getting out of a religious cult, sounds interesting and he won Best Director for it at Sundance.)

This bridal appearance becomes a risk when, as Ms Olsen shows here, you opt for a demure, full-length floaty version of the white lace dress. All that’s lacking from this picture is the lily of the valley bouquet. She’s even got veily things going on in her hair.

The other way to wear the white lace dress, to shift it from Here Comes The Bride, to The Girl Can’t Help It, is showcased here by Uma Thurman, also at Cannes, with fellow jury members, Jude Law and Robert de Niro.

Ms Thurman’s Versace frock is crisp Broderie Anglaise, rather than Olsen’s much more bridal soft lace and its fierce cut is worthy of Mad Men’s Joan Holloway.

Look at how she’s standing – caramba! – but it would be impossible not to sashay in a dress like that. It would also be impossible for most normal human beings to pull it off.

So that’s the challenge of the white lace dress. If you want to make sure you don’t look like a 21st century Miss Havisham, or a prissy 1960s bride (Rachel McAdams below, left), you’ll have to be up to looking like Uma Thurman.

I think even Uma looks a bit bridal in her all-white Chanel couture and Versace red carpet numbers, also at Cannes, below.

And I’ve put these pics in just because I love the body language between Uma and Robert de Niro. They so obviously had the best time judging together.

I want to be a Sozzani

In Famous people, Fashion shows, Fashionistas, Older women on March 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I’m half-thrilled, half-peeved that the rest of the world has cottoned on to my long-held belief that the best thing about the big fashion shows has always been the audiences.

They’re such good copy I wrote a whole novel about them.

I’ve spent literally months of my life staring at Anna Wintour’s skinny shins and watching with interest how cleverly she segued her brunette bob around grey into streaked blonde (although I’m not so keen on the current auburn arrangement).

In more recent times my interest shifted to the French Vogue team, first Madame Roitfeld and then the amazing Madame Alt (see earlier post ), so I was thrilled when I discovered the excellent blogs ‘I want to be Roitfeld’ and ‘I want to be an Alt’ (see my blogroll for the links).

But ever since I went to my first Milan show, in 1989, I’ve had another style crush.

Really, I want to be a Sozzani.

Franca Sozzani (right) is the editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. Her sister Carla (left) owns the chicest shop/gallery/restaurant in Milan, 10 Corso Como.

Although well over the age when women are supposed to cut their hair into ‘flattering’ layered bobs, they both still have very long, blonde, wavy, centre-parted hair. And it looks great.

As you can see here, it has nothing at all to do with Donatella Versace’s long blonde hair. It’s from a different planet entirely.

The secret of the Sozzani beauty is proper fine bones – not just the face, the whole body. And although Franca is now twenty years older than when I first clapped eyes on her in Romeo Gigli raw silk cigarette pants, round neck sweater, flat shoes and antique chandelier earrings, she still looks amazing. Like a Boticelli angel in a Lanvin trench.

Apart from her exquisite little pointy-chinned face, rather like the world’s most glamorous elf, and most particularly those earrings (I would so love to see her collection…), what has always fascinated me about Franca is the quietness of her style.

For someone whose magazine features some of the wildest fashion pictures in the whole Vogue stable, she is European subtlety made woman. As luxe simple as the tagliatelle served with shavings of black truffle in autumn at Alla Collina Pistoeise (my favourite restaurant in Milan).

Not for her the fashion excesses of towering platforms, bug-eye sunnies and silly bags. Always a slight shoe, a simple shift/pants/skirt/trench, a tiny clutch – and wonderful jewellery.

I even love the way she sits. The very relaxed slumpy bad posture of the properly slim and properly posh, with one pipe cleaner leg twined around the other.

I used to try and copy it, turning myself into a human pretzel as the Prada show started. (Miuccia Prada shows in a very small space, with only three or four rows of benches, and I always found it the primo people watching venue. You’re practically on Anna’s knee there.)

So far she’s not as well known as Anna, Carine, Emmanuelle and Anna dell Russo (more on her another time…) and I secretly hope it stays that way.

All the pictures with beautiful natural light on this post are by The Sartorialist.

John Galliano

In Designers, Fashion shows on March 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I’ve seen many amazing fashion shows and several iconic ones (Alexander McQueen’s dance marathon springs to mind) in my time, but the one I desperately wish I’d been at was John Galliano’s show for spring 1995, at  Pin Up studio in Paris.

It was the one where Linda Evangelista was sitting on the 1950s American car in that yellow dress. The one that sprang forth from its nipped waist in a foam of tulle and feathers that looked almost alive.

I can’t find any pictures of it online, sadly, because that was way back before fashion shows were instantly available to view on line. Come to think of it, it was before all of us were even on line.

But what I have found is this documentary presented by the excellent Tim Blanks. This is Part 2, which features that legendary show – and the previous one at Sao Schlumberger’s house. It’s terrible quality, but so worth watching.

In the current context, it brought a tear to my eye. The incredible atmosphere, Madonna front row, all the supers at their ripe best walking for John for free and, of course…. the clothes. The amazing clothes, the hats, the hair, the make up, the shoes. The Galliano magic.

For anyone wondering what I mean by ‘the current context’: John Galliano has been sacked from the most prestigious job in fashion, as chief designer of Dior.

He is in utter disgrace after two separate allegations of drunken, racist abuse to members of the public outside a Paris bar, were followed by the Sun newspaper releasing a mobile phone videosold to them (for a huge sum by all accounts…)  taken by an observer of yet another such ugly outburst at the same venue.

I’m not going to put the link on here – it’s easy to find on Google. It’s a deeply upsetting thing to watch, with Galliano saying ‘I love Hitler’ and telling the people he was fighting with that they’d all be dead, gassed, their families and forebears too. Horrible stuff from anybody in any context.

So that’s the ghastly context that has had me revisiting Galliano’s finest hours. I desperately wish I’d seen that 1995 show – and, of course, his degree show from St Martins. The art college collection that was so extraordinary, that the owner of London boutique Browns and fashion icon, Joan Burstein, bought all of it and put it in her South Molton Street windows.

He became a fashion legend, literally, over night from that, although it took many long hard years living in his studio (without a fridge, I remember), to reach his current height of wealth, fame and prestige. The incredibly lofty heights he has just fallen from so hard.

Oh, John Galliano. London’s pride. What a tawdry end to such a scintillating career. Such a sordid sordid scene on that nasty bit of video, I felt almost unclean after watching it. Yet, was it almost predictable?

I don’t want to comment here on the whys and ifs of the events – the best coverage of all that is on under the post called ‘Karl’s take’ (doesn’t seem to be possible to put the link in here).

They have interviewed all the right people, including Joan Burstein (who answered with exactly the elegance and discretion I would expect from that wonderful lady). The site also has Galliano’s own official statement about the affair, which churned me up all over again. How terrible to know you have been sole the architect of your own destruction.

And I’ve talked about it so much to my fashion friends this week, my ear is hot from phone calls on the subject and I’m bored with my own opinions on did he really mean it or was he just being provocative and did they provoke him and what will happen next and will his own label close and is it the total end of him as a designer and what is he ON…? Only time will tell.

Right now I’m more interested in pondering whether the personality of someone with Galliano’s level of original creativity simply isn’t compatible with the big corporate machine high fashion has become.

Look what it did to Yves Saint Laurent. And more recently, to Alexander McQueen. Admittedly he came from a difficult childhood and his suicide followed that of his muse Isabella Blow, the death of a favourite aunt and right after he lost his beloved mum.

But it seems more than a coincidence that in the space of a year the two most creative designers in the fashion firmament have done themselves in. One killing his body, the other his career. Perhaps it is now It’s that the point where high fashion, high art and high finance meet is just not a comfortable spot.

It makes me wonder this:

Could Van Gogh have worked for Microsoft? Could Picasso have flourished at Pixar?

The Rules: The key to smart casual is quality

In Fashion shows, Fashionistas on February 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm


Up in heaven there is this queue, right? You have to stand in it for ages waiting to find out what your next incarnation is going to be and it can get really tedious.

Anyway, last time I was in it, I got distracted by this girl I used to know back when we were both slugs and while I was chatting to her, Emmanuelle Alt moved forward one place and was given the body that was really meant for me.

It’s the only possibly explanation why she has the hair, face, skin and most particularly, legs, I’ve always felt I should have had. I really can’t believe I’m not a leggy brunette. The kind good looking poets fall in love with.

The greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid was when someone told me I had a brunette brain. Unfortunately it’s in a blonde hobbit’s body.

If you don’t know who Ms Alt is, you soon will – she’s just been appointed editor-in-chief of French Vogue, replacing the legendary Carine Roitfeld.

Emmanuelle with Carine Roitfeld.

I’ve had the most massive girl crush on Emmanuelle Alt for years. Indeed one of the joys of attending the fashion shows in Milan and Paris for all those seasons was seeing what she turned up in every day.

She stood out even among the tribe of very tall, very thin, very cool people with floppy, black-hair – they look like a designer version of the Ramones – who are the French Vogue team.

And from the moment I noticed her she fascinated me so much more than the New York magazine girls, all gussied up and over groomed in join-the-dots designer outfits, like a tribe of High Fashion Barbies.

What I loved was the insouciance of Alt’s rock chic style. She has that most Parisienne of qualities, which the French have the perfect word for: she always looks degagé.

The literal translation is ‘casual’ but there’s more to it than that. It doesn’t just imply you look relaxed – you can be very relaxed in trakkies and ten year old thongs – but that you look great in a relaxed way. Like you haven’t made a massive effort. What? This old thing? I just threw it on…

There is a secret to this, quite apart from the fact that Alt looks like Patti Smith’s beautiful little sister.

Her style is a simple recipe of youth culture classics: skinny jeans, leather trousers, harem pants, Breton tops, simple t shirts, biker jackets, narrow blazers, pea coats, car coats, looped scarves… That’s about it. But the individual pieces she chooses are of the finest quality.

The jackets are Balmain or Balenciaga, the leather pants and fabulous studded boots are Isabel Marant, and so on. And while those wafer thin t shirts she loves aren’t so instantly identifiable, I’d wager none of them came in a pack of three. (I did read on a blog that they’re from APC, but can’t verify it.)

Alt is living proof that to nail that hardest of dress codes, smart casual, you must make your greatest wardrobe investment in the casual items. Don’t buy a designer evening bag, buy a designer T shirt.

And one other thing: she’s never seen in anything but terrifying high heels. Even with those legs, there’s always a price to pay for glamour.

Boots by Isobel Marant. Alt's husband is her creative director.

The French Vogue team heading for a show in the Tuileries. What's not to love?


For more on the fabulous folk from French Vogue, check out these genius sites:

It’s all wonderful stuff, but I particularly recommend the translation of Emmanuelle Alt’s Top Ten Style tips, translated from the French magazine 20 Ans, which I cheekily reproduce below.

But do look at the sites. They are fabulous.
Emmanuelle Alt’s Style Tips:
  1. Black plastic flip flops, easy, chic, and sexy.
  2. Black stockings by Wolford (because of the sublime campaign by Newton).
  3. Black trousers by Helmut Lang, because they are timeless and low waisted, loose fitting but not too loose.
  4. I don’t wear them [skirts] but from time to time a black Ann Demeulemeester skirt cut perfectly, barefoot, and the legs must be tan.
  5. Black coat by Costume National, tiny cut, totally modern.
  6. Glossies bra by Gossard, amazing, in either black or beige, like tights, seamless.
  7. Black short-sleeved tshirt by APC, because it is small, it looks like a tshirt from the 1970s and it ages well.
  8. Black sunglasses by Armani, like Bono of U2.
  9. Air King watch by Rolex because they do not make one better.
  10. Long black dress by Galliano, chic without being granny, sexy, pure with Manolo Blahnik heels.


There is a new Rules every Thursday in the Essential Style section of the Sydney Morning Herald and in M magazine with the Sunday Age.

Season’s greetings

In Fashion shows on January 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm


So I have carefully examined the Dead Sea Scrolls (UK Vogue and Grazia) and come to this conclusion about the next fashion season we are about to entre: it’s perfect for a period of financial restraint as there is absolutely nothing I want to buy.

That isn’t quite the same as there being nothing I like. If I had Natalia Vodianova’s figure and Gisele Bundchen’s skin there’d be a few things I’d want to buy. Most of them bright orange.

That is actually the one trend I can imagine myself referencing in real life (i.e. from a chain store). I think a bright orange towelling hoodie would be terrific fun for weekends. A jacket and pants not so much.

My stand out look of the whole season is this marvellous orange arrangement above by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin. It’s perfect. And if you looked like this model you probably would have somewhere to wear it, like a pool party at the Beckhams’ place. Or drinks on P Diddy’s yacht.

Among the ‘looks’ I wouldn’t be wearing even if I were five foot eleven, size six, caramel-skinned and a close personal friend of the Abramovichs, are the following:

Jil Sander

Colour blocking
It makes my eyes want to cry.




This makes at least four times in my adult life this terrible notion has been visited upon us. The first occurrence, I was 23 and old enough not to know better. I bought a neon lime green jumper. It was a mistake. (It was also 100% acrylic which didn’t help.) The only time this look has ever worked was at a rave in a field in 1990.


Nina Ricci

Fiddly details 

These make the models look wide. I don’t need any help with that. See also, Feathers.

Long dresses with flat shoes for daywear
This is what led to last summer’s terrible outbreak of long dresses in the city. So wrong. So dangerous on an escalator. Even if I weren’t the size and shape of a hobbit I wouldn’t want to wear a flowery moo moo on Regent’s Street. Or MacQuarie Street. Or Madison Avenue.


Puffy puff puff

 ‘Peasant Revival’ UK Grazia called it. I think Helena Bonham-Carter is a better description.



 Flower power

Be they oversized tropicals or mimsy English garden borders, I feel this idea has been around for the last five seasons. And it didn’t suit me for any of them.

Nina Ricci

Frilly frou frou
I can’t bear this. UK readers will be familiar with the Marks & Spencer range called Per Una, which is aimed at the painfully feminine middle-aged woman. Everything has a flipping frill on it. I want to torch the racks every time I pass them. It’s for women who like frosted lippie and nail varnish. And wear skin tone tights with sandals. And panty pads.

Apart from the previously discussed orange these are three trends I can see the point of:

Urban sportswearI loved it when Miuccia Prada first had the idea to incorporate high tech fabrics and ergonomic sportswear details into chic clothes, nearly twenty years ago (gulp, can’t believe it’s that long since I bought my first designer trainers…) and I love it now. It’s flattering, it’s practical, it has a nice narrow cut, you can stuff it in a suitcase.

Dress up white
This is one of those rare things in fashion – a new idea. I like the idea of a white dress for formal, not just for strolling along the Croisette. A bit like a First Communion outfit for a grown up, in the hands of Dolce & Gabbana, it looks sexy not creepy . Of course white can be very unflattering and it’s a magnet for tomato sauces and you could look like a tragic Miss Havisham, but I still like the idea.

This is very selfless, because sunray pleats look absolutely flipping awful on me, but on the right person they are gorgeous. A properly sophisticated femininity.

An old rose by another name…

In Fashion shows on December 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Did you all have a lovely Christmas? I did. And thank God it’s over for another year ha ha ha.

And did you all have lovely presents? My best one was given to me by my lovely brother, Nick. It’s a copy of the collected Molesworth books, signed personally to me, by the legendary illustrator Ronald Searle.

I cried when I opened it. I keep going to check it’s still there, as I can’t quite believe I own such a special thing. When I’m a bit more together in the New Year, I’ll scan the inscription in and put it on my other blog, which is all about books.

Meanwhile, here is your mid-week archives special. I’m not sure when it dates from, probably around 2005.

Loewe autumn/winter 2007

One of the great challenges of covering the European fashion shows for a daily newspaper – apart from trying to see whether that black fabric is leather, PVC, or duchess satin, from the 8th row in a very dark disused factory behind a very tall person wearing a large hat – is naming the colours as you see them.

The outfits come and go incredibly fast and if you don’t get the exact shade down in your notes right then you certainly won’t remember 12 hours later when you are back in your hotel room tapping out a 350 word story for a fast approaching news deadline, having seen five other fashion shows in between.

Especially as you will (if you are me) have spent the previous 35 minutes weeping down your mobile phone to technical help trying to make your global roaming work. And you might have had a glass of wine or two with dinner. Hic.

Naming colours is part personal code and part reportage – the idea is that the scribbled note will trigger your own memory, but you also want other people to know what you mean by ‘bilberry’, in relation to a pair of satin knickerbockers and to be able to summon up an instant mental image of the particular shade of rich greeny blue known as ‘teal’.

I have often thought about this process as I scribble ‘donkey’, ‘cocoa’, ‘mud’, ‘snuff’ and ‘tobacco’ in relation to various shades of brown (and believe me you needed to speak fluent brown in Milan last season), but I’d never discussed it with anyone else until the Loewe show in Paris this March.

A lot of the clothes in this rather unsatisfying collection were in a very specific dirty pink. It reminded me of the colour of old plastic dolls’ legs, the kind with matted hair you find in charity shops, but that was too long to write down. It also was a little like unwashed 1920s corset. A 1950s shop window dummy. Greying sticking plaster.

After the show I was discussing this ticklish shade with a fellow fashion journo and she called it ‘Calamine lotion’ which delighted me. A perfect precise description of a dusty flesh pink with lots of white in it, which made you feel a bit queasy. And quicker to write than the dolls’ legs thing.

Some fashion houses do supply notes on the garments they are showing which are very helpful and I always love reading their names for the colours – the more fanciful the better – but what I had never thought of until now is comparing them to what I had written.

The notes for the Loewe show called that dirty dolls’ legs pink ‘old rose’ which I thought was pushing it a bit. Very old rose. Very old unloved rose. Very old and possibly smelly unloved rose in the bottom of a damp cardboard box in the back of a shed behind an empty house where dead dogs could lurk.

Other colours detailed in that show’s notes were: chestnut, caramel, peach, Havana, chalk, bronze and moss (and black, of course, but that hardly merits notation, it’s just assumed). Looking back at my notebook I had called them: tan, toffee, biscuit, tobacco, putty and, yes, moss. I don’t know what happened to the bronze. I must have been blinking when the ‘bronze ribbon dress’ sashayed past.

Considering how subjective colour appreciation is, I’m actually quite amazed how close my descriptions are to the official ones. ‘Caramel’ and ‘toffee’ are clearly the same colour, as are ‘Havana’ and ‘tobacco’, although ‘putty’ is a slightly duller shade of grey white, than the more pristine ‘chalk’ and must have reflected my sinking feeling about the clothes in that collection.

Although it could have been worse. Flicking through my notes I have found one show where I described a colour as ‘baby poo’.

Ointment Pink



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