“I design the clothes! I come up with the references and shapes and pieces, and the look and feel of the collection, then I work closely with a team who help to realise my vision. There is nothing revolutionary about this way of working. I’d love to see Ralph Lauren sitting at a sewing machine!!!”
Henry Holland answers his critics on Ponystep
Paolo Roversi’s son Francesco was in attendance at Roversi senior’s NY exhibition of Guinevere Van Seenus images. While the photos of Guinevere are certainly beautiful, it’s the ‘Paoloroid’ tee that’s piqued my interest. Clever and sweet.
My dear friend S has returned from her fortnight hols extremely worked up about the opening of Sex & The City. (Bless her, she texted me from St Lucia airport to ask me to book tickets for tomorrow.) Having been out of town, she’s missed the two weeks of Carrie & co mania in Grazia, the NY Travel guide S&TC-style in The London Paper and the ‘anyone and everyone was there’ hoo-hah of the London premiere (where my other friend A was perturbed to find himself wedged in a Nicky Clarke and Kelly Hoppen sandwich). So she’s still mad keen to see it and has insisted we dress up in our finest and find somewhere to sip champagne beforehand. Do cinemas even sell champagne? Who knows, the best I could do was suggest the 8 o’clock screening at the Odeon West End with a drink or two in Soho before the main event. I huffed and puffed but secretly I’m quite excited.
“London designers are crazy, there’s too much crazy crazy. When I wanted inspiration I’d often come to London, but the problem with London is you don’t know how to make clothes.”
Roberto Cavalli doesn’t mince his words at a talk at the London College of Fashion
After years of being a low-maintenance miss and laughing at the likes of Victoria Beckham for being coordinated to the hilt, I feel like changing tack. I’m starting to wonder if trying too hard could be a good thing. It’s partly to do with my musings of mutton dressed as lamb, the older I get, the more I ponder this age-old conundrum. Like, just because you’re old, why can’t you have fun with fashion and play dress-up? Why should it automatically mean dressing in Bottega and playing safe? SJP did it on Sex & The City and Madonna has always pushed the boundaries of fashion and taste whatever her age and now Patricia Field (not a quiet dresser herself) has even hooked up with good old M&S to bring her bonkers mutton-madness style to the masses.
So I’m spearheading a new campaign to make Trying Too Hard a trend. Bring on the head-to-toe designer labels! Say ‘yay!’ to Victoria Beckham’s earnest efforts at elegance via the over-coordinated shoe-bag-sunglasses look! Let’s applaude Nancy Del Olio’s daring ways with animal print and red! I think while the economy’s in freefall, we should try to keep fashion fun. I’m planning to make a concerted effort to match at least two colours in my outfits. Red bag with red lipstick? How very Paloma Picasso. Yellow belt with yellow watch? Subtle but fun. Pink T-shirt and pink socks? Why ever not? Go crazy people! When I was in Hermes last week helping a friend buy a tie for the Ivor Novello lunch, the very helpful salesperson was already ahead of the game. ‘Match your pocket square to your jacket lining!” He implored. “It will look so chic!’
While some vintage stores are bailing out, others are doing perfectly fine, thank you very much. The sublime but secretive Cassie Mercantile is a vintage clothing dealership with a showroom in genteel Holland Park. Owner Graham Cassie is a shy Scot who spends his days sourcing post-war Americana, love-worn army surplus and the odd spool of vintage haberdashery trim on his travels around the globe. He sells to upper-end designers on the lookout for inspiration as well as scooping up the perfect beat-up suitcases and just-threadbare-enough old flags to fashion into Japanese shop window displays. On my recent visit he wouldn’t let me get too snap-happy (frankly, he doesn’t need the publicity) but allowed these gems. Clearly, there’s some mileage in vintage threads yet.
“Sweet P’s shirt was so badly finished, it looked like Tippi Hedren had been wearing it in The Birds.”
Tim Gunn talks about Project Runway to The Metro
What is going on with London’s vintage stores, they’re all dropping like flies! First we lost Steinberg & Tolkien, then Cornucopia is about to go (though no date has been confirmed) and now The Antique Clothing Shop on Portobello Road is closing next month. Is it the competition from websites like Ebay that is forcing these places to close? Or high rents from landlords? It’s a real shame as I often get so much inspiration from browsing these dusty little dressing up boxes. When I got talking to Sandy at The Antique Clothing shop on Saturday she explained she’s been doing it for decades and just needs a rest now. I do understand but it’s still a terrible shame and in this case it’s a double blow as she’s closing her other shop The Vintage Home Store too. All’s not lost however. If you don’t get the chance to raid the shop between now and 20th June, the remaining stock will be auctioned in September by Kerry Taylor’s Auctions. But my advice is try and make it down in the next couple of weeks (note: it’s only open on Fridays and Saturdays) for some heavily discounted Victorian blouses, twenties wedding dresses and fifties silk scarves.
I happened to stumble upon this interview with Gucci’s CEO Mark Lee from last October where he discusses Gucci’s expanding presence in the Indian market. One of the points that came up was how luxury brands can sell to those with ‘new money’ who have the cash and the will to spend it, but can be intimidated by the store experience of top-end brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Lee admitted that “In Gucci, our focus is that there should not be rudeness or there should not be snootiness now. Do we achieve that goal every time? No. It is a big focus of mine and we should strive to exude that warmth because it does not need to be a cold or a snooty experience.”
I am becoming more and more convinced that the experience of shopping is what will become important as the recession continues. When we buy something, yes we are buying an item but how much more will we enjoy it if we had a nice time buying it? And won’t that make us want to go back for seconds? I’m already finding that if I’m in a browsing mood I gravitate towards shops where I enjoy the environment from the merchandising, to the ambience, the music and the staff. This is why I love shops like Shop at Maison Bertaux, Dover Street Market and Start. The staff are genuinely friendly and knowledgeable and although they are obviously there to sell the stuff, you don’t feel like they’re just trying to flog you whatever they can, it’s all very subtle and extremely seductive.
A friend who used to work at Maison Margiela in Bruton Place is a very good salesperson. She told me how she would get into a natural conversation with a customer which would often lead to a sale, purely because they didn’t feel they were being sold to. In a sense the selling experience is a little like networking. Networking has a bad image as it’s seen as an insincere “I’m only talking to you because I think you can offer me something” whereas it’s really a two-way exchange. The same goes for the buyer-seller relationship. The seller makes some friendly chit-chat, the buyer lowers her hackles, the seller finds out more about the customer and her tastes and may go the extra mile by clueing her in on next week’s deliveries or a new range they’re launching. The two parties bond and a sale is made. The seller gets her commission, the buyer goes home with a nice new Margiela dress.
Some say they prefer shopping online but for me shopping online is a totally different experience to shopping in person. Many’s the time I have passed a store, decided on a whim to pop in, and ended up buying something that caught my eye. If I shop online it’s usually for something specific. I rarely browse and then find myself buying something unexpectedly. However, I can’t argue that the internet is a much easier, quicker and more straightforward option. If the high street wants to claw backs its customers from the internet it will have to make the in-store experience more enticing and it would do well to start with its staff. Less snootiness, and more warmth is the way forward.
It’s not often you find out about events like Thursday’s talk at the Horse Hospital. Luckily for me I read about it on Style Bubble just in the nick of time and got my ticket request in fast. Alas, not fast enough as the next day an email pinged back saying the event was massively oversubscribed and entry wasn’t guaranteed, but to turn up anyway and they’d try to accomodate everyone. We arrived with time to spare which was good as it afforded us a nice fashion show in the form of the arriving punters. Having expected a pride of pushy fashion students and a few Hoxton hipsters I was happy to see a majority of veteran London dandies and friendly faces from the last forty years of fashion and clubbing. We had quite a lot of fun playing ‘guess who he is’ until the doors opened and we were all ushered in.
The Contemporary Wardrobe collection at the Horse Hospital in Russell Square is celebrating its thirtieth year as London’s quite astonishing fashion and street-style archive. The event consisted of a very cool fashion show, rare footage of a Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood interview together from 1993 and a talk between journalist Paul Gorman and Contemporary Wardrobe’s owner Roger K Burton. We heard about Burton’s adventures in fashion from his early mod days growing up in the Midlands to outfitting the cast and 300 extras from Quadrophenia to designing Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End shop.
After the talk, there were drinks and chat as well as lots of photo-taking of the exhibited skinhead, punk, hippie and rocker outfits. I managed to buttonhole Paul Gorman who gave me the lowdown on the assembled fashion faces who included Mr and Mrs Terry de Havilland, Top Man design director Gordon Richardson (how dapper is this man, Phillip Green, please take some styling tips from him!), Soho suitmaker Mark Powell, Max Karie from Shop at Maison Bertaux and Marian Buckley from FUK.
A word about Paul Gorman. If you’re interested in the history of music-influenced street style, I highly recommend his book The Look, Adventures in Rock and Pop Fashion, featuring never-seen-before (by me anyway) photos and insightful interviews with key fashion players. Check out his blog here.