One of the things I found hard to get my head around when I was working in India last month was the disparity between traditional design and modern fashion. The magazine I was launching was an international title which is nothing new, as the emerging markets are opening up of course all the magazines want a presence. Elle, Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire have been in India for a few years, Vogue launched last year, this year should see Glamour, Grazia, In Style and (I believe) Harpers Bazaar. What was confusing was that my initial editor (an Englishwoman) made a point of saying the magazine needed a 50-50 mix of Indian and International fashion and features while her Indian successor insisted that references to Indian traditions were kept to the absolute minimum. This meant no mention of saris, kurtas, mother-in-laws or maids if we could help it. As the very person this magazine was targeting – the single middle class, twentysomething working woman – her reasoning was that the modern Indian woman wants to be ‘international’. She travels abroad, she watches American sitcoms so she wants access to those brands and lifestyles that she has experienced in the western world. All very understandable, however I couldn’t help feeling that it was a bit of a shame.
Here is a country with such great history and culture, not to mention an amazing textile heritage, but to have any hope of succeeding outside India or appealing to the new Asian middle classes, designers have to move away from traditional Indian style and design with a more western-influenced eye. The same seems to go for Chinese and Russian fashion (example: Kova & T). Clearly, a balancing act is needed. The designers that inspired me when I was in Mumbai were those like Drashta which combined cocoon-like western shapes with the sequins and saturated colour we associate with India. Anupamaa designs simple kaftans and silk shifts in the most breathtaking fabrics, while Manish Arora is now a household name with his wacky Indo-Western psychedelic-pop prints. I’m not knocking Wendell Rodricks or Gauri & Nainika, their accomplished designs are certainly worthy of attention from overseas but will find it harder to stand out amongst similar fare from American and European designers. The ultimate challenge for designers from emerging nations is learning how to design for the western market while throwing in a taste of local flavour that reflects their heritage.
Pic: Drashta aw/08
My dear friend Z is travelling in Asia and wanting to get some dresses copied. In particular a MIu Miu dress that she describes below.
“ANYWAY I need your help! I’m looking for a picture of a Miu Miu dress I saw in loads of mags last year but lost the tear. It was in LOADS of mags – last summer I think – Red I remember, and in Vogue India in January (!) – the Gauri Khan cover. Anyway I can’t find a pic of it and wonder if you know what’s a good website to look on as I can’t find it on vogue.com or netaporter, or even if you have a pic of said dress. It’s strapless, prom shaped, made of different cuts of quite heavy fabric around the bodice, and then one fabric for the skirt. It’s pastelly in colour. It’s AMAZING. Does it spring to mind!?!?”
Ugh, no idea what she’s talking about. Any clues anyone? PS, the dress is pink, not red (as I first thought) – she saw it in RED magazine, but It’s PINK!
In the early nineties when I was a mere fledgling fashionista, there was a huge post-acid London club scene that started me on my road to style-surfing and people-watching. Girls would spend their Saturday afternoons scoring velvet catsuits from Pam Hogg or corset tops from Wit & Wisdom at Hyper Hyper to wear with teetering, towering uber-platforms from Vivienne Westwood. Boys would sport leather trousers from John Richmond with Vivienne Westwood’s orb necklaces, perhaps topped off with a second-hand mink coat. Rankin would pitch up to Love Ranch – a club in a naff venue in Leicester Square – with his tripod and black sheet and set up an impromptu studio where he’d take snaps of creative club kids to publish in his new magazine, a foldout affair called Dazed & Confused.
Fast-forward fifteen years to a rainy Wednesday night in a naff club next to The London Palladium. Sixth form club kids are pouring into Movida to celebrate Henry Holland’s new night, complete with nineties soundtrack – Alison Limerick! FPI Project! The place is packed tighter than a Wag’s suitcase. The girls have peroxide hair, ruby red lips, body con dresses. The boys have curly quiffs, painted nails, kooky headwear. Hang on, is that a photography ‘studio’ set up in the corner? Why yes it is!
Some things it seems, never change. Each generation thinks it invented clubbing but at the end of the day what does it matter really? Last night these kids on a natural high (no gurning faces in sight) had it going on with their hi-energy dancing and agonised-over outfits. All they cared about was looking hot, showing off and letting the good times roll. Isn’t that the coolest thing?
Cathy Horyn reports that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is organising a fashion bloggers discussion on Sunday March 30th at the Met as part of its Blog:Mode exhibition. The discussion panellists are Scott Schuman, Diane Pernet and Cathy Horyn. How cool is that? If anyone’s going please can they report back!
PS: Questions I would like to ask Scott:
*Does everyone at fashion week know who you are now? And if so do they try to take your photo?
*Do many people turn you down?
*Do you ever miss a shot?
*Are you doing a book?
PPS: Question for Cathy Horyn:
*Don’t those really loooong, serious commenters do your head in?
An article on Salon.com suggests our love affair with celebrity may be coming to a (long awaited) end. Sales of trashy American weeklies (Star, People, In Touch) are down while Rupert Murdoch has ditched his Pagesix.com website after only 3 months. Readers are fed up with the monopoly of no-listers (mostly reality TV graduates) claiming celebrity status and as for the number of celebrities encroaching on other careers – celebrity-as-model, celebrity-as-magazine-editor, celebrity-as-designer, well is seems enough is enough.
The celebritisation of fashion is the part that has pained me the most. It must be said that the noughties haven’t really given us much else, if we think about what the past decade will be remembered for fashion-wise what have we got? A load of revivals of previous decades – ’70s (think Sienna-style Boho and Kate Moss groupie chic), ’80s (Marc for Marc Jacobs’ indie fangirl , PPQ’s cocktail frocks), ’90s (House of Holland’s Nu rave), ’50s-’60s (Luella’s prom dresses and modwear), ’20s-’30s-’40s (any vintage romantic look) and on it goes. For a while we had the Atomic Kitten look – over-straightened hair, the low-rise-jeans-with-sparkly-top uniform – that was kind of new but do we really want this to epitomise the start of the twenty-first century? Or there’s the ‘challenging’ look – Prada/Marni-style sacky silhouettes in weird colours with a panoply of ugly shoes. Let’s face it, there’s not much in it. The fact is, the noughties will belong to the likes of Victoria Beckham, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton – vapid, no-talent celebrities who court paparazzi attention and use the fashion industry to launch their own brands and keep their faces in our weekly issues of Grazia and OK. Admittedly, the fashion industry has used celebrities too – a Vogue issue with a model on the cover is a rare occurence – and why else is Victoria Beckham the star of Marc Jacobs’ latest campaign?
As with anything, when something’s been done to death there’s no other way to go than the opposite direction. As even ASOS.com starts to distance itself from the ‘As Seen On Screen’ tag that spelt out its original get-the-look USP and heads up-scale with premium brand designers, the question is, what will take its place?
I haven’t been to a gig for ages so was quite pleased to see that both Wendy James and The Plastiscines were playing last Wednesday night. Wendy James was my style crush when I was growing up, she was a kind of sexier, poppier version of Courtney Love in terms of her pretty-meets-punk look and though her band Transvision Vamp was dismissed as mere eye candy for eighties adolescents, I’m not ashamed to say I actually still love all their tunes. Her new incarnation is The Racine World, similar guitar-led songs and the signature gravelly voice but rougher around the edges. For some reason, the gig was moved at the eleventh hour from Astoria2 to Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes. A weird choice of venue (people were actually bowling while the bands were on, like…huh?) but rather cosy and good for getting a front-of-the-stage view. As usual, I was as interested in the audience as the band…how breathtaking is this red-lipped angel with perfectly matched belt?
The support band were The Plastiscines, a quartet of heartbreakingly cool Parisienne babes – all heavy eyebrow-skimming fringes, super-skinny jeans and flippy floral frocks. The music isn’t quite there yet apart from their single, Loser, but they put on a great show. Again, good audience-watching including a bevvy of teenage beauties with Mandy Smith bouffant hair plus Pippa from The Shop At Maison Bertaux.
Do you ever feel as if your life revolves around the contents of your wardrobe? That if you could only find that oh-so-elusive “perfect” blazer/white T-shirt/stack-heeled boot then your life would be complete? I’m not someone who goes crazy for trends, when I’m window-shopping I’m not thinking “I need florals” or “I must update my wardrobe with a super-clutch” because I’ve always had my thing going on and it revolves around classics. But therein lies the problem. When it comes to classics it’s all about the finer details. Even though I have a stack of stripy tops, umpteen pairs of skinny-straight jeans and more mens-style trousers than I care to count, there’s always that sneaky feeling that there must be an even better version out there that I don’t know about yet.
Boots are a bit of an ongoing obsession. I love a stack-heeled boot but I can’t wear high heels for every day. I can do a cuban heel but I don’t want an obvious cowboy boot. The iconic Dior Homme gold ankle boots have always appealed but with my miniscule 37s they weren’t available to me. Or so I thought. On my way to The Shop At Bluebird this week I spotted some not-bad looking replicas in a King’s Road shop window. The shop is one of those bizarre places that sells faux-punk Blondie T-shirts and the like, souped-up versions of what I used to buy from Kensington Market in my teens but it’s not a look that warrants an entire shopful of them these days. Picking my way through the screen-printed madness, in the depths of the shop I found a shelf of said boots all in mens sizes. On further investigation it transpires these are a new mens range from Terry de Havilland. De Havilland had his first round of success in the 60s when he was the go-to shoemaker for the likes of David and Angie Bowie. He enjoyed a mini-revival a few years ago when the Primrose Hill set took to his uber-wedges but has since disappeared under the radar. Well, now he’s back with this new range, Archie Eyebrows , a dandyish delight of patent, python-print and two-tone. The best bit? A womens range is due in April, so the female version of those perfect gold boots can at last be mine. Looks like I can call off the search…for now.
Pic: Dior Homme A/W 2005