So who’s all geared up for Thursday’s big retail unveiling? Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Gucci and Armani are all set to open stores at this year’s credit-crunch defying mall launch. But wait! It’s not Westfield London but another big retail splash that opens on October 30th. Alas, it’s on the other side of the world. Fashion Avenue at The Dubai Mall opens its doors to 70 signature stores and we’re talking a whole raft of upper-end designer labels, not just a token Tiffany or LV. According to the Global Luxury Brands survey conducted by market researches Nielsen, 59% of of United Arab Emirates customers surveyed said they wear designer brands to project social status and 43% think luxury brands provide significantly higher quality than other products. In addition, 31% said they currently buy designer brands, and they are the world’s biggest fans of Christian Dior, Givenchy and Fendi. Whether you agree with status-shopping or not, let’s hope their lavish spending can help haul the world’s sinking economy out of the doldrums.
“I have always divided people into two types – discerners and non-discerners. Discerners are able to put factors such as style, service and presentation together and make a value judgement of whether to spend £30 or not. Non-discerners buy just on price – they would go to a cheap restaurant just because it is cheap. What we will see happen is that the sector of people who buy on price will swell.”
Wise words from Per Una boss George Davies
A Saturday isn’t complete without reading Susie Boyt’s column in the FT. Ostensibly about shopping, it isn’t really, it’s about anything Boyt cares to write about that week. This week’s column is about her appearance on Irish daytime TV promoting her new book ‘My Judy Garland Life’.
I was asked to do live Sunday morning TV a few months ago and, oh my word, it was a hoot! The daytime TV studio is like a parallel universe. You arrive at the studio (which in my case was a freezing cold warehouse-like building in Leeds) and from the moment of arrival you are chaperoned by an assistant who sees to your every need. After the tea/coffee has been fetched you are placed in a ‘green room’ type area – actually a modular sofa arrangement in a corner of the vast ground floor. You are given some sort of release form to sign which inevitable says you are signing away the right to any dignity and they can reuse the footage in any way they see fit. Obviously you don’t read any of it, you just sign it to make it go away.
You are taken to make-up where you don’t really have any say in what they do to you so naturally it’s caked on nice and thick. Then back to the ‘green room’ and as the minutes tick by, a few more guests trickle in and with each arrival some small talk of the ‘what are you in for?’ variety ensues. Everyone is very polite and friendly and unnaturally jovial considering it’s about 8am and we are all virtual strangers. The funniest bit for me was when one guest came in and it turned out that we would be arguing against each other. Sofa rivals! Yikes. It transpired that this lady really was a proper expert in her field and had written a book and everything. Me? I was a former fashion editor so my expertise was based on opinion and experience but I certainly couldn’t tap statistics off my fingers like she could. Whatever, it didn’t faze me, I was confident enough with my knowledge, especially after we had a brief run-through with the producer and established that we could have differing opinions without descending into a bitch-slapping slanging match.
As our alloted time slot came nearer, we were escorted upstairs where we were instructed to keep our voices down. We watched on a monitor behind a curtain as the presenters wound up their slot on Fathers’ Day, then were ushered over to The Sofa quick smart to get miked up and introduced to Colin and Louise while the news headlines were being read. And then we were live! It was so weird! You get all geared up for this big event, the moment of truth, are you going to fuck up or will it all be a breeze and then, finito in about three minutes flat!
As soon as your bit is over, the mike is whipped off and you’re shooed unceremoniously out of the studio. We were thanked and taken back to the ‘green room’ where a brief post-mortem took place and then, really bizarrely, all the guests (except me) swapped business cards and – get this – even copies of their various books! You see, the daytime TV circuit is very much a promotional tool as Ms Boyt will tell you, and while you’re there mainly to talk to the viewers, it clearly doesn’t hurt to do a bit of pre- and post-appearance networking with the other guests. After all, who knows when you might need to contact a rock-climber or a ‘freemale’ in the future? After another short stay in the ‘green room’, my car arrived and I was back in the real world and ferried to the station. Next time, I’m aiming for the big time – Lorraine Kelly, I await your call.
So last night’s Absolut pop-up shop launch in Shoreditch was fun, fun, fun! Seriously, it was full of great characters – and bloggers! – and we all know how the combination of dressing up and cocktails is a dead-cert ice-breaker. I arrived with my friend Bish from Bish Shops and we were greeted on arrival by a giant red sparkly Absolut Vodka bottle in the window, followed by a cacophony of camped-up revellers inside – upstairs and down.
Can I say the music was fantastic? I can? Thank you. The music was fantasic (if a bit loud, I am getting on a bit you know) courtesy of DJ duo The Broken Hearts who played the best foot-tapping swinging tunes and also rocked the chicest glittery red lipstick and managed to look head-to-toe perfect all night long. (Like, how?)
The shop was beautifully merchandised with all manner of fancy frockery – not forgetting shoes, hats and hair accessories to make Dita Von Teese cry a river of tears. Stylist Sophia Hedblom (below, all in black) was on hand for advice and general zhuzhing as punters took their twirl in front of the camera. Alas, I didn’t as I spend all my life trying clothes on for work but to be honest it was far more fun watching everyone else while picking the brains of vintage dealer James whose company Mint Vintage provided the gownage.
I really loved all the retro props and furniture including my favourite Studio 65 lips sofa (I actually seriously considered buying one once) and all the bits and pieces specially customised by Daisy De Villeneuve – how cool is this wee table – I’m so copying that!
Meeting my fellow bloggers was obviously a highlight including Top Bird from Wee Birdy, Kate from Make Do Style (who snuck off early, tsk) and Tor and Becky from Fab Frocks who were both as cute and funny as their blog (that’s Becky in the gold jacket – a couture ‘piece’ apparently). I also had a nice chat with Courtney Blackman, co-founder and vice chairman of Fashion Business Club and director of Forward PR (two swishy jobs? Now that’s just plain greedy. There she is in the red hat…with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen!). Meeting Daisy De Villeneuve was pretty cool – check out her (wearing colour-clash Issa) and her mum – shouldn’t they be modelling for Comptoir Des Cotonniers?
I must say, I’m not a huge drinker but I did enjoy glugging the cocktails – especially the peach and ginger ones. It seems a lot of other people enjoyed the free voddy as those lovely sparkly red Absolut bottles that were dotted around the place (presumably as not-so-subtle branding) had all mysteriously disappeared by the end of the night. Some people – you can’t take them anywhere.
If you’re planning to get some House of Masquerade action, you’ll find all the info here. It’s on til Monday (evenings only), stock is replenished daily and it’s free to get in, so round up a crew and make the most of it!
I was given a wee tour of The Shop At Bluebird the other week and was told that this weekend they’re having a bit of a rejig so whatever you do, don’t plan a big trip there as the shop WON’T BE OPEN! Artist-slash-interiors-guru, Carolyn Quartermaine has been enlisted to work her magic which I’m told will include shipping in truck-loads of flea market furniture which will be available to buy. Oh heaven!
On my tour I was reminded how fantastic the buying is here. You can come in for jeans-and-tee basics and they’ll have the best Acnes and Helmut Langs you could wish for. Or if you want to go for upscale day-to-night dressing they have the cream of the New York new guard from Proenza Schouler and Alexander Wang to Chris Benz and Zac Posen. I particularly love the mix of costume jewellery, especially the old-new pieces from Lulu Frost and Iosselliani.
But my favourite sight on this visit was the new limited edition offering from Moleskine. Just in time for the gifting season, Moleskine have produced these sexy patent diaries all gussied up in a snazzy package. It’s a million miles from the utilitarian minimalism (and um, utilitarian pricepoint) of the usual Moleskines but hey, they’re festive, right?
The Shop At Bluebird reopens on Monday (but best ring 020 7351 3873 first if you’re planning a special visit).
Pretty Face has tagged me to do the ‘Four Thingys’ meme. So here goes:
1. Four places that I go to over and over:
Borders for almost-daily replenishment of my magazine stash
The Brass Rail Cafe at Selfridges. A good place for thinking and writing
The Curzon Cinema in Shaftesbury Avenue. Sometimes for the movies, mostly for the Konditor & Cook cakes
Caffe Nero for the Hot Chocolate Milano
2. Four people who e-mail me regularly:
My D with scarily expensive ‘what do you think of this’ links to vintage furniture on Ebay.
My make-up artist friend with regular as-it-happens celebrity gossip
Poupeegirl, something I signed up to ages ago but can’t understand how it works cause it’s in Japanese! (Update…oh, they’ve added an English translation!)
Grazia Daily (wow, just found out they’ve linked me too!)
3. Four places I would rather be right now:
Ice skating at Somerset House
Sunbathing in Goa
People-watching in Central Park
Flea-market shopping in Antwerp
4.Four of my favorite places to eat:
Hugo’s in Queens Park for the sausage sandwiches and chocolate brownies
Diana’s in Notting Hill. The food is average but it has a certain charm, especially with every inch of its walls covered in Princess Di memorabilia
Busaba, Wardour Street. Yummy food but service could be better
Harvey Nichols Cafe. I could eat here every day.
5. Four people I’m tagging
6. Four TV shows I watch over and over
Mary Queen of Shops
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Everybody Hates Chris
(I don’t actually have a working telly, but this is what I’d watch if I had one)
Much as I’m championing the nineties revival (I’ve given up moaning about revivals, I’ve realised they’re part and parcel of fashion these days), I’m not quite done with the 80s yet. On my radar right now? Paninaro. In the mid-eighties a trend emerged from Italy’s monied classes for expensive preppie-inspired casualwear. Liberto jeans, Timberland boots and colourful Moncler ski jackets of the highest quality and price were sported by men, women and teenagers alike. Jeans were worn tapered and cropped at the ankle (the better to show off the boots when riding their Vespa scooters) and outfits were accesssorised with Rayban Wayfarers or aviators and candy-hued Invicta backpacks.
The trend arose from affluent Milanese teens who hung out in sandwich bars, particularly a favourite hangout called Il Panino. So fascinated by this posh streetwear trend that they even made a record about it, the style-savvy Pet Shop Boys introduced the look to the UK in 1986 – you can see the video here. Moncler, makers of those unmissable puffy jackets, was taken over five years ago by Remo Ruffini and is once more highly desirable. Ruffini has enlisted the help of designers like Giambattista Valli and (pre-Valentino) Alessandra Facchinetti to consult on its highest-end Gamme Rouge line while every other designer store I passed on my recent trip to New York had a shiny-shiny black Moncler in the window.
I love an off-radar fashion film and even better if it’s a documentary. Afro Saxons is a newly released film following four hair salons competing in the UK’s biggest Afro hair competition. Amongst the competitors are Thai couple George and Apple who are obsessed with Afro hair, Angela, a braid-artist and Wayne and Cyndia, leading junior stylists at the UK’s biggest Afro hair chain. Reviews are mixed but I’m willing to give it a chance – how can it not be entertaining with all that eye-popping hair-sculpture going on? If you’re interested you’d better be quick, it’s showing in very few cinemas until the end of next week.
My appetite for information and entertainment is getting me down! I simply can’t stop buying ‘easy-reader’ books, ostensibly to read in bed, which I do, for about a week until I get behind with my magazine-reading and then the pile of Vogues, Elles and Easy Livings (yes, I read everything) starts to obscure the book pile and I forget all about Helmut, Twyla and Poppy.
Matters weren’t helped this morning when D dropped a heap of Sunday papers on the bed. At first glimpse of the Observer O magazine in collaboration with Tank I rolled my eyes. “I’m a bit over all these half-arsed fashion supplements” I said grumpily, while turning the pages anyway. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. It was good! Boasting an interview with Helmut Lang, features on ‘the men who make fashion happen’ and Calvin Klein menswear designer Italo Zucchelli, plus a really nice understated design and matt paper akin to Man About Town and Fantastic Man magazines, this special mens edition of O impressed me far more than any of the previous 12. Alas, it does of course mean I’m reading about Helmut Lang rather than Helmut Newton and that’s before I’ve even opened the Independent on Sunday and yesterday’s FT. Sigh. So much to know, so little time…
[Double click on images to enlarge]
More hybrid fashion…I couldn’t work out if this is a visor or bumbag (fannypack) or both? I saw it at the spring/summer press day for Won Hundred. There was loads of nice stuff in a sexy-meets-utility vein – think silk dresses with heavy silver zippers and black lace racer-back tanks – alas I was running late so couldn’t take many photos. I did also manage this photo though…Happy Socks! Doesn’t it make you happy just looking at them?