Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Home Sweet Home

I just found out about this fabulous all-female handywoman service called Home Jane.

Apparently the team of fully qualified and insured ladies will do anything from assembling your IKEA furniture and hanging your favourite prints to messy plumbing issues.

With no intimidating and confusing conversation about electrics and carpentry, it's definitely one number to store on your speed dial.

Très Jolie

Celebrity collaborations may be popular, but the outcome isn't always the height of style. Not so for the 'Protector Collection', designed by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, with Asprey.

The limited collection of fine jewels and silver objects was inspired by Angelina's consideration of the snake as an iconic guardian, a cultural symbol of family protection.

The individual pieces in The Protector Collection are limited editions, handcrafted at the Asprey London flagship store.

With all net proceeds being donated to the Education Partnership For Children of Conflict, the jewels make a thoughtful gift indeed.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Crisis? What Crisis?

I do love a witty quote, especially those bitterly acerbic ones that certain fashion designers just can't help themselves from giving out...

Here are a few of the more notable ones that I recently heard, regarding the financial crisis:

John Galliano: "Of course, I'm aware of the credit crunch, but it is not a creative crunch - not at the house of Dior, anyway."

Giorgio Armani: "If you react to the crisis, you can't produce high fashion... High fashion is like watching a beautiful film, it belongs to a different world."

Karl Lagerfeld: "This whole crisis is like a big spring house-cleaning - both moral and physical. There is no creative evolution if you don't have moments like this. Bling is over. I call it 'the new modesty' ".

Make Me Up Before You Go, Go...

There is a rumour that Kate Moss may soon collaborate on a makeup line with Rimmel. If true, the cosmetics range is sure to be as big a hit as her clothing collection for Topshop.

Mind you, the model does have 20 years' experience of the makeup chair, making her the perfect choice for creating a line of make-up essentials...Watch this space.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Madonna to play Wallis Simpson?

News reaches me that Madonna is keen to produce a film on the love story of Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII...in which she would naturally play the Amercian divorcée who changed the course of England's royal history.

Edward VIII's relationship with the twice-divorced American socialite created one of the biggest royal scandals of the 20th-century. After less than a year on the throne, Edward abdicated in order to be able to marry "the woman I love"...so not done at the time.

Whatever your opinion of Simpson, no fashionista could deny her incredible taste with regard to her vestiaire, which was the ultimate in 1930s chic.

If the project does come fruition, I shall be looking forward to the costumes, which are sure to include the most beautiful dresses to come out of cinematic fashion since Gosford Park, Marie-Antoinette and The Duchess.

Monday, 2 November 2009

...he believed nothing in life couldn't be overcome by a white tablecloth and a glass of Champagne

I just read the best quote about a late, well-known British creative: "[he] was a man who believed nothing in life couldn't be overcome by a white tablecloth and a glass of Champagne."

The British stiff upper lip, especially popular in times of doubt and depression, is well known, but when it comes to droll witticisms, the Brits aren't the only ones with a tongue in their cheek.

The great American originals Dorothy Parker and Diana Vreeland are two of my favourite demiurges.

Here are just a few of the fabulous words the respective writer and Harper's Bazaar editor uttered.

Dorothy Parker

Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
I like to have a martini,
two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host.

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

Diana Vreeland

Elegance is innate. It has nothing to do with being well dressed. Elegance is refusal.

Pink is the navy blue of India.

The only real elegance is in the mind; if you've got that, the rest really comes from it.

What do I think about the way most people dress? Most people are not something one thinks about.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Finance for Fashionistas

It is so very easy to pick up the latest editions of the international Vogues when one wishes to know the latest on fashion, but how often do we pick up the magazines' financial equivalents, and think about how to keep on generating the income that is funding those frequent runs to Christian Louboutin?

Gwyneth Paltrow's blog GOOP is a recent discovery, and while I was reading it, I came across an article that broke down the ABCs of economics into an easy, bite-size format: http://www.goop.com/?page=newsletter_vn&id=103.

It's recommended reading for all of you who wish to keep yourselves in Mr. Louboutin's vertiginous heels for a long time coming.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Fast Forward

There is a young designer in London called Mark Fast, whose star has been rising rapidly.

This season the 28 year old Canadian focused on women’s courage in modern society as the theme for his show. Down the catwalk, he sent gorgeous women in various sizes, in an attempt to challenge the traditional notions of fit and idealized body shape.

This caused a scandal in the British press, and Karl Lagerfeld even commented that no one wants to see large women on the catwalk.

I completely disagree. Fashion is for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes.

It is, quite simply, for the woman who decides that she wants to spend the money to buy it. Without that woman, there isn't a designer who would still be in business.

And so I applaud Mark Fast's work as a celebration of the female body and the many worlds that surround it.

As he says himself: “You have to do what you love and keep your creativity close to your heart”.

Quite right.

Long Live YSL

Forbes has just named the late Yves Saint Laurent as the highest earning posthumous "celebrity".

Aside from the fact that I find it a weird topic for Forbes to be covering, I do think that $350 million in one year is an impressive amount for someone to have generated from the other side.

I hope that it will be put to a charitable use, towards research in the illness that killed him, and other maladies that affected many people in his entourage.

So Long Margiela

Like many brands with star designers, it has just been confirmed that Martin Margiela, a fashion revolutionary, is no longer designing the clothes that have his name sewn into their collars.

Following months of rumours, Renzo Ross has confirmed that the designer is no longer directly involved in the creation of Maison Martin Margiela's collections.

Apparently Martin Margiela is contractually obligated to be listed as the brand's creative director indefinitely.

But as Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune so wisely asks: "Considering that creativity is the lifeblood of fashion and every other Paris fashion house is tapping in to new talent, why would Maison Martin Margiela not try the same? Unless they believe, as many others might, that Mr. Margiela is irreplaceable."

True creative geniuses are irreplaceable. Many can try to mimic their unique and visionary handwriting, but so few will every actually manage to step up to the sartorial challenge, let alone surpass it.

Yves Saint Laurent held on to his label until the very end; even when the ready-to-wear line was sold to Gucci Group, he continued to design his Haute Couture collections.

It would have been nice to see Martin Margiela do the same.

Gucci on Film

Apart from the sequel to Sex and the City, another film I'm really looking forward to seeing is Ridley Scott's forthcoming portrayal of the rise, fall, and return of the Gucci brand.

Angelina Jolie has been cast to play the social mountaineering wife of Maurizio Gucci, who was famously convicted for arranging the gunning down of her husband in 1995.

Founded in 1921 by Guccio Gucci, the multi billion dollar fashion company was renowned for the family's temper tantrums, and was on the brink of decline when it was brought back, phoenix-like, to life, by Tom Ford in the 1990s.

I am sure that with Ridley Scott at the helm, the film will be one to watch, especially if the beautiful Patrizia Gucci's own immortal lines are quoted in the script.

Here is just one fabulous example: 'I’d rather cry in a Rolls-Royce, than laugh on a bicycle.'

Love it.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Sex and the City: The Sequel

I just don't know how much longer I can wait for the sequel to Sex and the City. The shoes, the hairstyles, the storylines...it's going to be another stylish hit for sure...!

Foxy Lady

Giorgio Armani has just announced that actress Megan Fox will be the new official worldwide face for Emporio Armani Underwear and Armani Jeans for 2010.

I don't really know what to make of that. On one hand I think it's great that brands now prefer to use "real' people to head up their campaigns, however much airbrushing that might cost them. On the other hand, I feel like fashion houses should stick with fashion models, who are naturally at the top of the profession when it comes to striking a pose.

That said, I do love women who look like women, and so Megan Fox does seem like a good choice...especially for a brand that was at the very origin of the billion-dollar red carpet relationship that now exists between fashion designer and celebrity.

Tom Ford For Women?

Tom Ford is a marketing and creative genius, and following his extremely successful eyewear, fragrance, and menswear lines, as well as his recent directing debut (as featured on this blog), there are strong rumours that he is about to launch himself into womenswear.

If true, this is a move that could only be applauded.

The talented Texan let slip during a promotional trip to Tokyo that he will indeed be returning to womenswear “very soon”.

He later confirmed told WWD: “You know it will take me 18 months when I start, because I have to hire the team, find the factories, put everything together and then get the stores ready so there’s a place for these clothes.”

I have heard that Ford and his former business collaborator Domenico De Sole are seeking around $50 million to fund the collection and that Credit Suisse is a likely investor.

Jimmy Choo at H&M...Coming Soon

I am a huge fan of H&M's collaborations with contemporary designers and brands, and so am very much looking forward to the forthcoming Jimmy Choo collection.

It lands in stores on Saturday 14th November, and has been designed around the ultimate party wardrobe. I know it's the shoes I should be lusting after, but it's actually the read-to-wear designs that have caught my eye: suede mini-dresses, skinny leather pants and crystal-studded tops.

“The Jimmy Choo collection for H&M is full of fun, one-off items with an accessible and glamorous identity made with stylish materials, emphasised with colour and embellishment. I wanted to create pieces that would reach a cool and young customer with a fashionable and independent sense of spirit in this one-off collaboration.” says Tamara Mellon, Founder and President, Jimmy Choo.

And there's something for the boys too: a selection of ankle boots and bags, as well as a wardrobe of wool blazers, leather biker jackets, silk and cashmere mix sweaters, shirts and trousers.

All of which are accessorised with a wallet-friendly price tag...what more could one ask for?

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Fun of Fashion

So the word on the street is that a French politician is trying to get a new law passed, whereby all images that have been retouched would have to carry a warning, similar to the ones printed on cigarette packets, explaining that the visual has been altered and that the person in the picture does not look like that in real life.

It is hard to imagine opening an issue of Vogue and being reminded on every single page that the model's appearance has been altered and that would you therefore please be so kind as to not believe this is how she looks when she falls out of bed in the morning.

Anyone who flicks through a magazine and thinks that the way models look when they are being photographed for a fashion or beauty shoot, really look like that in everyday life, should perhaps carry their own warning to self: get thee to an optician to clarify vision, and to a university to clarify perception.

Fashion magazines are not paper documentaries or anthropological studies. They are printed collections of beautiful and glamourous ideas that are translated for our consumption via fashion spreads and articles.

In order to reach the most aesthetic ideal possible, they must surpass reality and attempt to portray a world of fantasy in which eyelashes are always thick and long, legs are forever slender, and imperfections non-existent.

Publications like Harper's Bazaar are fun and colourful escapes from the dreary, grey reality that is day-to-day working life.

So why would we want to ruin our own fun?

Stone Me

Following the example set by the great Suzy Menkes, who has taken to pointing out how many search results Google lists for the designers whom she reviews, I would like to draw your attention to the number of search results for the formidable Lara Stone: 27,600,000.

That number is probably equal to the amount of double-takes she causes, every time she walks down the street, let alone the catwalk.

Lara Stone first came to my attention when I saw her model at a Christopher Kane, London Fashion Week show, last year.

Literally busting out of a chunky, animal-print knit, she was obviously "larger" than the other twiglet models, whose stick-like limbs didn't look like they could withstand a fall from a Charlotte Olympia platform shoe.

Down the catwalk she strode, trying her best to keep her signature look of menace in place. But when a tricky heel threatened to undo her million-dollar frown, she couldn't help but break out into a smile, as if to say "tant pis".

Her catwalk wobble is one of her trademarks, along with the gap between her front teeth.

I simply adore her. I love her.

And clearly so does Carine Roitfeld.

Vogue Paris's February 2009 issue features Lara Stone exclusively throughout, cover to cover.

In the edition she admits that she often thinks, "Do not fall, do not fall."

She's just like you and me.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Scent of a Woman

If you haven't yet viewed Dolce & Gabbana's new fragrance ad, then do so right now by going to www.dandgfragrances.com/en/index.html#/advertising/ad_collection.

In what appears to be a sort of homage to George Michael's supermodel-starring Freedom video, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell, and Eva Herzigova, play themselves in a short "film" of the campaign shoot.

Love it.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Singularly Tom Ford

Apparently Tom Ford's debut as a writer, producer, and director - A Single Man - is amazing.

Starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, I hear that the film features an exquisite wardrobe, with equally stylish shots and a magical soundtrack that wouldn't be out of place at an haute couture show.

But then, what would you expect from this reputed perfectionist, than the most minute attention to detail?

I personally cannot wait.

Christopher Kane Lands At Topshop

Christopher Kane has designed a 39-piece collection for Topshop, which will hit stores on 18th September.

You can check out a video preview on the website, which features an ultra-blonde model dancing around in the dressier silhouettes.

The collection includes neons, rivets, power mesh and mirrored elements.

It is definitely one not to miss, being Topshop's biggest designer collaboration to date.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Lindsay Lohan vs. Kate Moss

So Ungaro has appointed Lindsay Lohan as its new Artistic Advisor, paving the way for a Fashion Off between the Princess of Trends and the current Queen of Style: Kate Moss.

So far, the announcement has not been met with overwhelming enthusiasm; more surprise, that a young actress celebrated for her rock n' roll lifestyle, rather than her thespian talents, is now dictating the creative direction of a formerly revered house, originally founded in 1964.

When Emmanuel Ungaro launched his brand, it grew to become a synonym for chic, its signature found in the collections' bright colours, animal and floral prints, and Oriental allure.

How is Lindsay Lohan going to fare in comparison to a designer who was trained by the famed Cristobal Balenciaga?

It is interesting that when Kate Moss launched her collection for Topshop, she was by contrast greeted with much enthusiasm and applause.

However this may have more to do with the fact that Topshop is somewhere you go to stock up on inexpensive reinterpretations of the season's catwalk trends; Ungaro is a maison de mode, to which fashionistas look for original and new ideas.

Lindsay Lohan's first collection for Ungaro will be showcased during Paris Fashion Week...until then, watch this space.

"Chic is a kind of mayonnaise, either it tastes, or it doesn't"

I do love Karl Lagerfeld.

He is the designer personification of outspokenness, never hesitating to speak his brilliant and very often controversial mind.

And when Karl Lagerfeld's not speaking it, he's writing it: a sign in his office loos reads "Pissing everywhere isn't very Chanel."

Below are just a few more of his wittiest quotes.

When Pierre Cardin banned reporters from his shows at a time when they were largely indifferent, Lagerfeld said: “That’s like a woman without lovers asking for the pill.”

Of an Azzedine Alaïa retrospective: “If you want to see a retrospective of Alaïa, just look at what he’s doing now."

"Chanel is an institution, and you have to treat an institution like a whore."

"I don't know Heidi Klum. Claudia Schiffer also doesn't know who she is."

On the world's oldest profession: "I'm rather pro-prostitution. I admire people who do it. It can't be much fun. Thank goodness for it. People need relief or they become murderers."

"Chic is a kind of mayonnaise, either it tastes, or it doesn't"

Dita Von Teese at the Casino de Paris

Until the 17th September, you can see Dita Von Teese and Gentry de Paris performing together at the legendary Casino de Paris, where Josephine Baker used to tread the boards.

Dita Von Teese, the queen of burlesque, will apparently premiere an entirely new performance, full of vintage glamour, opulence, mystery and old-world charm.

From Fantastic Man to Gentlewoman

This summer I discovered an amazing magazine called Fantastic Man. Like 10 Magazine, it has an intellectual and intelligent approach with regard to its fashion content.

Apparently Fantastic Man has been around for five years already.

It is so refreshing to read articles that review the industry's trends with a witty yet serious - and dare I say "high-brow" approach - rather than limiting itself to Top Ten Accessories lists and so on.

Fantastic Man is destined for a male audience, but now along comes The Gentlewoman, a new biannual style magazine for women, which will launch in March 2010.

I have no doubt that The Gentlewoman will focus on journalism of the highest quality, compiled with original thought in its writing, photography and design.

There's certainly nothing I like more than photographers, designers, stylists and writers who champion wonderful, stylish women.

For those who can’t wait: a preview of The Gentlewoman will appear in the Autumn/Winter 09 issue of Fantastic Man, out this month.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

When Balmain Met Madonna

You've got to love Madonna. She may be knocking at Middle-Age's door, but it's only so that she can bang it down and keep on doing what she does best: singing and dancing in a new look that ensures she is always ahead of the fashion game.

Here she is in Balmain, in a shot from her new video...she must be the only woman who can gyrate in a dress that short, without it riding up and displaying her designer lingerie. But then Madonna is no ordinary person.

Hence why when it came time to film the new music video for Celebration, she called on the services on fashion’s new darling Christophe Decarnin, the designer behind the renaissance of the Balmain label.

Christophe Decarnin is also behind the return of eighties' power shoulders and attitude to the catwalk. His big and pointy-shouldered jackets and diamanté-studded evening dresses and gowns which reveal a maximum of leg, have brought back Gianni Versace-style glamour and sexiness to our attention.

Where Madonna goes, many more are sure to follow.

Sartorially Speaking

Make some room in your library for The Sartorialist, the bound version of Scott Schuman's stylish blog.

Scott Schuman started the latter as a way of showcasing photos of sartorially notable people that he saw on the streets of New York. The blog now features well-dressed individuals in Paris and New York, Rio and Beijing, Milan and Stockholm…and whichever city Scott is travelling in at the time.

I don't know how he does it, because even though I live in the world's style capital, I have yet to see so many uniquely voguish persons on the street, outside of Fashion Week.

Scott Schuman chose Colette for his first worldwide book signature, but you should be able to find it now at all reputable book sellers.

Muse in the Making

If, since birth, you had Carine Roitfeld, Editor-in-Chief of French Vogue, in charge of your wardrobe, perhaps you too could claim to be as stylish as her daughter, Julia Restoin-Roitfeld.

This 28-year old Art Director, who faced Tom Ford's ad campaign for his Black Orchid fragrance,
loves to mix up Balenciaga with Topshop and vintage silhouettes, for a feminine look that is cut up with black and leather rock accents.

Unlike her super-skinny mother, also a close collaborator of Tom Ford's, she is gorgeously curvy and isn't afraid to highlight her contours with short, short skirts and high, high heels.

As the daughter of a fashion designer and fashion stylist, you could be forgiven for thinking that Julia Restoin-Roitfeld might have inherited some kind of fashion rules handbook...if she did, she certainly doesn't follow them, preferring instead to break them: wearing navy blue with black, never dressing in a total look by one designer.

A fashion muse in the making.

Wintour of Content

This season, the first date you note down in your Smythson Fashion Diary should be a viewing of The September Issue.

This ground-breaking documentary - never before has Anna Wintour, quite simply the most powerful and revered woman working in fashion today, allowed a camera crew into her offices - sees the Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue giving respected filmmaker R.J. Cutler full access to the inner workings of the magazine's most important issue of the year.

Vogue's September issue has weighed in at over four pounds (in 2007), and reaches an audience of 13 million. The magazine has a greater influence over the international fashion industry than any other publication of its genre.

If you loved Robert Altman's Prêt-à-Porter (1995), and felt that The Devil Wears Prada (2006) was a saccharine version of what it really takes to work in the fashion world, then you will love The September Issue, which takes its viewers behind the scenes of this $300-billion dollar business, which can at times be arduous and emotionally draining.

Check out the trailer here:

Anna Wintour's trademark hairstyle and perma-sunglasses make her an unforgettable and easily recognisable fashion figure, and her headline nickname "Nuclear Winter" may be a good play on words, but all those who know her respect a priceless perfectionist streak.

She is particularly reputed for discovering - and launching the international careers of - new talent.

"People constantly make the mistake of comparing London with New York, Milan and Paris and that's not what it's about. London has its own fashion identity. You come to London to find the next Alexander McQueen or John Galliano," Wintour once said.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Beat It...

A word for Michael Jackson, whose music was not the only stylish contribution he left behind. Michael Jackson's sense of fashion might have been questionable when he appeared in public wearing his pyjamas, but who did not follow his every sartorial choice when he was at the height of his influence in the 80s? The red-leather jacket worn by Michael Jackson in his Beat It video was the look to have at the time, and it remains as coolly relevant today as it was back then...time being one of the true tests of style.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

The Couturier of Couturiers

Few designers have the honour of being labelled the "Couturier of Couturiers", but the revolutionary Madeleine Vionnet was one of them. Like the visionaries Gabrielle Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent would after her, Madeleine Vionnet pioneered completely new ideas that would write new chapters in fashion's history.

Madeleine Vionnet founded her fashion house in Paris in 1912, on the rue de Rivoli. She later moved it to avenue Montaigne, but both are iconic Parisian addresses.

Vionnet's avant-gardism saw her inventing the bias cut, her greatest contribution to fashion design. Cutting patterns along the bias forces the fabric to cling to the body and move with it - a "trick" John Galliano champions today - creating Vionnet's trademark look of draped, form-conscious clothing that was sleek, flattering, and body-skimming.

If you look closely at a Madeleine Vionnet evening dress, especially the beaded ones, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a red-carpet Versace gown. Such was Vionnet's talent for being ahead of her time: eschewing corsets, padding, stiffening, and anything that distorted the natural curves of a woman's body, her clothes were famous for accentuating the natural female form.

Vionnet was always conscious of women’s bodies. She dispensed with corsets and other constricting garments and used barefoot models to present her first solo collection. Not until Gabrielle Chanel's first collections appeared, would high fashion be so comfortable and liberating. Though simple, Vionnet's dresses were never plain; the use of a Cartier necklace as a halter strap is a classic Vionnet innovation.

This original combination of comfort and glamour made Vionnet's clothes a favourite among Hollywood royalty - Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Katharine Hepburn were all fans.

Vionnet's mastery of sinuous line, proportion and, above all, how to dress the liberated and dynamic female body, would influence generations of fashion designers, including Cristobal Balenciaga, who like her had an essentialist viewpoint. He considered Vionnet as a mentor.

In a long list of firsts, Vionnet was also the designer who created the one-seam dress, an example couturiers such as Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaïa and Yohji Yamamoto have attempted to develop ever since.

Opening her first boutique in Paris at 50 avenue Montaigne in 1923, she followed it by opening a store in New York in 1925. Her house grew to employ 1,200 seamstresses, and was the first to create prêt-à-porter designs from Haute Couture, for the American market.

When World War II broke out, Vionnet was forced to close down her house, but there were no regrets. She told journalists that there was no reason to feel sad, as she had already invented every silhouette she could imagine, and that there was therefore nothing left for her to design.

Vionnet's use of the bias cut and purist geometry set her apart and made her one of the most celebrated couturiers of her day. She strived to liberate women from buttons, zips, corsetry and show-off embellishment. Hers was the language of extreme sophistication, where decorative elements such as rose motifs and fringes, drapes and twists formed the structure of her much-coveted dresses, rather than being mere appendages.

Vionnet was in search of the perfect silhouette, in the best possible of tastes, acknowledging that: "Taste is a feeling that makes all the difference between what is beautiful and what is merely showy – and also what is ugly! It is transmitted from mother to daughter. But some people don’t need to be educated: they are innately tasteful. I think I am one of them.”

Saturday, 27 June 2009

There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In Her Shoe...

The wonder of Christian Louboutin's talent never ceases to amaze me. I have been collecting his souliers for years now, and they have proved through time to be the most hardy, reliable, and loyal shoes in my wardrobe. No matter how high the heel, how rough or diverse the terrain, there they are to pick me up and keep on moving.

I have worn Louboutins to picnics in the country, à la Isabella Blow. I once found myself at the same English country garden party as her; she was bedecked in a Philip Treacy head-dress, Alexander McQueen cocktail dress, and zebra-skin (actually, perhaps just zebra-print) Manolo Blahnik shoes, with the most vertiginous heels. Every other female guest was in Little House on the Praire skirts and forgettable flats, wary of boring down into the soft, grassy lawn, yet there she was in full fashion regalia, gliding over the grass and molehills, modelling the best of British fashion.

Louboutins have carried me through to sandy beaches, when even the prospect of sinking into the sand would not deter me from a little elevation; although, I must admit, I opted for a red-soled wedge espadrille, rather than a skyscraper, spindly heel.

And, of course, they have accessorised most - for that, read every - outfit in my wardrobe. Louboutins quite simply go with everything.

Part of a Louboutin shoe's appeal is its instantly recognisable sexy red sole, which came about after Louboutin used to paint the soles of his early designs with nail varnish to give them an extra edge.

While working on a prototype in his studio in the early stages of his career, Louboutin was inspired by a work of pop art, and searched for a way to match the shoe to a colourful sketch.

"But something was missing," Louboutin has said. "Thank God I had this girl with me who was painting her nails. Grabbed her nail polish - thank you to Chanel for that! I grabbed the nail polish and I painted the sole. I did not really choose the red sole. It's more like the red sole came to me and had to stay with me. It started as a happy accident, which I kept. I was very inspired by pop art so all my drawings were really full of colors. It didn't take me long to learn from my customers that the red soles were very popular with men. This red sole was a bit of a green light."

Indeed it has been a green light to many a woman's purchase in Christian Louboutin's appropriately red-soled boutiques around the world.

A woman can never have enough shoes, because, after all, "A woman carries her clothes, but it's a shoe which carries a woman."

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Icons of Style

Every day I read the international fashion press, and it seems to me that no sooner do we have a new celebrity in vogue, than we also simultaneously find ourselves with a new "style icon".

If you agree that by definition an icon is a sign or representation that stands for its object by virtue of a resemblance or analogy to it, then how is it possible that we find the latest reality TV star, who - and yes it is a cliché, but yes it is true - doesn't know the difference between a kitten heel and a stiletto, in the same sentence as the words "chic", "modish", "elegant"...?

True class and voguish sense are not an automatic side effect of temporary celebrity. They are the natural instincts of women whose style has endured and inspired, even when their era has passed. Perennially chic and effortlessly glamorous, these women's wardrobes go beyond the trends of the day; their dash and daring is original and homemade, not copied from the pages of a magazine. Their sophistication is innate.

My all-time favourite arbiters of style include:

Audrey Hepburn
Carmen Dell’Orefice
Cate Blanchett
Comtesse Jacqueline de Ribes
Charlotte Rampling
Daphne Guinness
Diane von Furstenberg
Diana Vreeland
Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel
Isabella Blow
Julia Restoin-Roitfeld
Kate Moss
L'Wren Scott
Lady Thatcher
Loulou de la Falaise
Marella Agnelli
Michelle Obama
Nancy Cunard
Princess Caroline of Hanover
Queen Elizabeth I
Sofia Coppola

....to be continued

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bag Lady

Yesterday I had the misfortune to find myself locked out of my apartment...distracted by the prospect of purchasing a very cute navy blue mini-sailor dress I had discovered in a local boutique, I had run out of the house without my keys, grabbing only my mobile, handbag, and iPod on the way out.

A locksmith thankfully managed to open my front door in a couple of seconds, but in the temporary panic prior to the great relief of being back on the right side of the door, I was forced to wonder whether I would have been able to survive the rest of the weekend with only a Chanel 2.55 bag, and the omnipresent Blackberry, for company?

A Chanel 2.55 handbag is many things: classic, perma-stylish, and most importantly, ever-chic. But a rucksack it is not. It cannot hold a change of clothes, industrial quantities of cosmetics, a varied choice of heels...let alone a silk sleeping bag, or anything else one would need to set up a fashionable camp.

Originally issued in February 1955 (hence its name "2.55") this much-loved accessory
was actually designed to hide Coco Chanel's love letters - she kept her lover's billets doux in the zippered pocket on the inside of the front flap. Her money, meanwhile, she stashed in the back outside flap.

Instantly recognisable, the Chanel 2.55 has become an iconic symbol of elegance and voguish sense, and remains one of the world’s most sought after bags - hence spurring many (poor) imitations. Like Tom Ford after her, however, who has always maintained that when you are copied by others, you know you are doing something right, Coco Chanel used to say: “I would shed tears the day no one copied me.”

The style elements that have kept this accessory at the top of the fashion charts include its famous quilting, inspired by the quilted coats worn by jockeys at the race track, horse racing being a sport Coco Chanel loved. The trademark chain, however, was an idea from the childhood she spent in a convent orphanage, where the nuns kept their keys on a chain tied around their waist. It was also a novel invention, enabling women to carry their handbag on their arm instead of in their hand, as was fashionable at the time. Coco Chanel realised that her clients might prefer to hold their Champagne coupes, nibble on canapés, and peruse their opera programmes, than hold onto their handbag.

As Coco Chanel said so succinctly: “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.”

In order to be unforgettable, one must also always be different, which is perhaps why I always remember to dash out of the house with a 2.55 on my arm...but the keys often get left behind.