Friday morning, trend-hunting in Portobello. Overriding the vintage haberdashery and leg-of-mutton Victoriana is fur, fur and more fur. Coats, capes, hats, tippets – you name it, there it is in all its mink, fox or rabbit glory.
“Why so much fur?” I wondered aloud. “It’s probably just, like, popular?” offered one stall-holder – approximate age, 13 – after a moment’s thought. No kidding. “It’s the cold,” suggested another, heavily swaddled in coats, scarves and gloves. “It’s the Russians,” observed a third, “you get a lot of Russian girls and they’re into the vintage furs.” Who knows the truth but we’re definitely in for a fur-wrapped winter.
Wow, John Lewis is really pulling out all the stops. First the AW08 and SS09 ad campaigns with Karen Elson, then a fashion push in its online offering (fashion currently comprises only 6% of total sales, it aims for 30% by the end of the year). Online branded fashion and beauty ’boutiques’ are being rolled out with a total of 16 expected to be in place by the end of the year with Ralph Lauren, Bobbi Brown, Orla Kiely and Mulberry some of the names being bandied about so far.
On digging further, I’m told that the goal of this new push is to ‘reflect the instore experience online’. As well as translating the expertise that John Lewis prides itself on (Marie O’Riordan, ex-editor of Marie Claire, provides the trend tips), there is a focus on convenience. Customers can return their unwanted items to a branch instead of dealing with post offices (and postal strikes) and possibly – this is still being trialled – pick up purchases from a local Waitrose store. This is the kind of initiative that might get me interested as I’ve still not been bitten by the online bug.
Incidentally, Tesco has just launched its own fashion ecommerce site and Selfridges is aiming to follow suit with the full-on online fashion experience next year, so 2010 is really shaping up to be the year online fashion goes fully mainstream. But back to John Lewis. Still on the ‘expert’ tip, for the last year the store has been expanding on its personal shopping service. This month, the focus is on fashion guidance for graduates. Graduates going for job interviews will be invited to bring in interview-appropriate pieces from their existing wardrobe to be teamed with key items from John Lewis to bring them up to date. Tips on general professional presentation (nails, hair etc) are all part of the service. What a good idea. If there’s one thing the recession has done, it’s making retailers try harder and initiatives like this should help give John Lewis the edge over competitors. Let’s see what they come up with next.
The Fashion Summit 2009 is fast approaching on 17th November and I went to its reception drinks last night. What the eff is the Fashion Summit, you ask? Good question. In a nutshell it’s a two-day conference where fashion industry players from Sir Stuart Rose to influential bloggers will share their wisdom and discuss the future of fashion. I’ll be in attendance on both days and hope to blog about what I see and hear. At last night’s soiree, I chomped beef skewers with William Tempest (so lovely), Daisy de Villeneuve (hot-topic: fashion freeloaders), blog buddy Rebekah Roy and hubby Chris, Aquascutum’s Michael Herz and Courtney Blackman from Forward PR who also runs FBC.
Willliam Tempest and Rebekah Roy I also caught up with Martyn Roberts and John Walford, co-directors of Vauxhall Fashion Scout. John Walford managed to shut me up as he reminisced about the days when he used to direct Linda, Naomi, Christy and Helena at the shows and take Helena and Linda record shopping. Wow, what did they buy John? “Helena was all about the singer-songwriter and indie bands while Linda was more easy listening.” Ooh, like Neil Diamond? “No, not that easy listening. I got her into Nick Drake.”
Oh I’m in such a bind! My recent acquisition of various jackets, tops and shoes means I now have a shortage of bottoms to fill in the gap and I’m not quite ready to embrace the trend for GaGa pants however much Miuccia wants me to.
What I need: No more jeans but a tapered or slim-fit chino or a not-too-baggy peg pant (a demi-peg?) to go with my buttoned-up-to-the-neck denim jacket. Gap’s chinos had potential but weren’t small enough (I seem to be a UK size 4 in Gap. Wtf?) YMC has some that are on my list to try on. COS – nothing. Acne’s chinos were too tapered resulting in puffy-butt syndrome….Not chic. I’m rather drawn to these Net-a-porter Vanessa Bruno Athé trousers (above) but they’re fuller than I’d like and don’t exactly spell ‘everyday’ do they?
A cigarette chino is what I really want, one that stops shy of the ankle (remember, I’m short petite, so length is an issue). It really needs to be black, grey, khaki or dark beige although red could be nice. Uniqlo had nothing to offer and I don’t do high street as a rule, but if there is something of unusually good quality and well-cut then I’m willing to give it a shot.
Any leads? Budget is £100-£120 max … unless it’s amazing.
Another one for my overflowing trinket box. Zoe & Morgan have designed a special necklace for Breakthrough Breast Cancer featuring a swallow with a pink sapphire. I’m quite fussy about charity stuff but this passes my ‘would I like it if it wasn’t for charity’ test. Plus Zoe & Morgan’s Zoe Williams once told me that she’s a rollerskate fan and her first ever charm was a rollerskate. I’m sold! £125 exclusively from My-wardrobe.com with 20% of sales going to Breakthrough Breast Cancer
I’ve been so mega-busy I haven’t had time to blog about my recent day trip to Paris. Zut alors! Ah well, it’s timely that I’m doing it now I s’pose. On this occasion we took things very leisurely. After petit dejeuner in Place Vendome, we went to Faubourg St Honore followed by a quick stopover in Les Halles (to worship the Keith Haring sculpture at the Saint-Eustache church) before finishing at the Merci cafe in Le Marais.
What did I buy? I was totally bowled over by the rockabilly vintage at Noir Kennedy in Le Marais. Brothel creepers lined one wall, aged Converse lined another and a choice selection of reconditioned baseball jackets (mainly with Canadian emblems bizarrely) caught my eye while I was looking for a just-shrunken-enough denim Levi’s jacket. I didn’t find the Levi’s jacket, mainly because D ushered me away from them (unbeknown to me he had already bought me one on Ebay for my birthday – bless). Instead I snapped up a green vintage baseball jacket which I’ve been wearing with turn-up Levi’s, stompy work boots, a little black sweater and an Hermes scarf. I was only allowed to take one photo but I was sneaky and took two.
Not wanting to shop for the sake of shopping, I managed to keep a lid on my spending (if you discount the food and coffees… €5 for a capuccino – yikes). I was sorely tempted in another vintage shop, Studio W whose bourgeois bags would look rather nice dangling from the shoulder of my Burberry trench, Lauren Hutton stylee. William, the owner, didn’t speak much English but we gleaned that this was a high-end vintage shop, something of a little black book secret to fashion insiders but not by the general public. He graciously let me get snap happy with the Lumix. We stumbled upon The Kooples as we were leaving Le Marais. It’s one of those of-the-moment French labels that channels sexy-grungy rock chick with a tailored edge very well. The Kooples is owned by the sons of the people who ran Comptoir des Cotonniers. We were told they plan to open five London stores by the end of the year which is pretty impressive considering we’re in the last quarter already. I liked the quality of their jeans but couldn’t be arsed to spend half an hour trying jeans on so settled for a wafer-thin white T-shirt with a zip at the back instead. Not cheap but the quality seemed worth it. I’ll give the jeans another shot when they arrive on UK soil.
Ok, as Mary Portas would say, “now I’m excited”. News just in of the second Hussein Chalayan for J Brand collection which launched yesterday at Paris Fashion Week. I’m particularly interested in the ‘Capri Pant in a stretch legging fabric with an ankle zip’ and ‘The Chino style pant in an easy loose fit’ (according to the press release). Wasn’t I just banging on about this the other day? Bring it on!
Question: what is a designer? Is it someone who has an understanding of the entire design process, who cuts their own patterns and pins their own toiles? Or is it someone who has an eye, is good at styling and can tune into the zeitgeist despite not having a design background? What I’ve learnt from the last few weeks is that fashion is subjective and there is no cut and dried answer. I sat through the Kinder Aggugini show, non-plussed at what I was seeing – ‘derivative… Galliano…not quite there’ went my scrawls while post-show I listened to Hilary Alexander and Michael Howells praise him as the next big thing. Henry Holland’s show (below) was pretty much laid into by Style.com’s Sarah Mower which was weird as she also has a role at the BFC to promote emerging British talent and Holland is one of her fledging designers. Mower’s beef with Holland was that his shows have become media circuses that revolve around his celebrity playmates and his design skills are little more than jumbling up a few eighties references without much finesse. Her concluding line was, “perhaps it would be cleverer to quit the runway altogether and throw parties instead.” Ouch.
Can a ‘designer’ who didn’t study design or train as a designer rightfully call themselves a designer? Well, that brings me to Luella. She came from a similar journalism background to Holland (although hers was Vogue to his Sneak) and if truth be told, it is the styling and clever pop culture references that keep her brand at the forefront of British fashion. There’s really nothing new in terms of design innovation at Luella and yet she is considered a real designer against Holland’s marketer-posing-as-designer.
And so to Lohan. Where to start with this? The girl is an actress who has made music and then decided she wanted to have a go at fashion. And who could blame her? The celebritisation of fashion means that everyone has had a play at ‘fashion designer’ and from what I know, her leggings line has sold well. But to install her as creative director of Ungaro, a luxury house of forty-odd years standing. Really? I didn’t buy it from the beginning and I’m glad it failed. According to WWD, it was “quite simply, an embarrassment“. Yikes, don’t hold back WWD!
A designer has to take the job seriously, they have to live and breathe the role and if they don’t it shows oh-so-clearly. Where do things go from here? I am really hoping this will be the end of the celebrity-as-model, celebrity-as-designer, celebrity-as-author trend. It won’t happen overnight but this could be the catalyst.
*new fave word