On Vogue Festival and the masterclass economy

Vogue festival 2016 main entrance

As fashion and its industry become more fashionable than ever, it’s unsurprising that people want to know more about it. There’s a real thirst for expertise, insight, insider stories and an understanding of the inner workings of it all. And of course, to be part of it.

Enter the rise of what I call the masterclass economy, an uptick in conferences, workshops, panel debates and hands-on masterclasses that let you get stuck in. Apple’s new store in San Francisco is a good example, with a dedication to knowledge workshops that embrace and encourage creative entrepreneurship. And of course, London’s Vogue Festival is one of the pioneers in recent years of the more glamorous type of symposium.

Getting a good mix is crucial, both for consumer satisfaction and for profitability. For the fifth Vogue Festival that took place last weekend, there was the usual mix of tabloid-worthy A-list interviews (Kim Kardashian! Dolce & Gabbana!), panel debates (‘You Social Media: What’s Real Now?’), braid bars and make-up stations (sponsored by beauty brands who cough up thousands for the pleasure). Plus editorial fashion how-tos brought to life by Vogue staffers, with help from main sponsor, Harrods.

Vogue festival 2016
Vogue festival 2016
Vogue Festival 2016
Vogue festival 2016 Jo Malone perfume bar
Vogue festival 2016 Harrods doorman
Vogue festival 2016
Vogue Festival braid bar
Vogue festival 2016 merchandise

But also of value were the added extras. I loved the lecture from Robin Muir, Vogue’s one-time picture editor, curator of the recent Vogue 100 exhibition and author of many books. Muir gave his highlights of the treasures from the Vogue library, which is considered Europe’s finest archive of fashion photography. It houses two million+ items – prints, transparencies, commissioning letters and other ephemera – in old school filing cabinets, that beg to be digitised. (It’s happening, but slowly.)

In 1942 Vogue pulped its archive in a bid to support the war effort, yet ancient artifacts frequently reappear, unearthed from the estates of deceased contributors. While the library was once open to outsider creatives researching films, books or fashion projects, it’s now strictly for Conde Nast employees. This is Muir’s favourite image, a young Lucian Freud with his pet sparrow by Vogue contributor Clifford Cotton (below)…

Vogue Festival Robin Muir lecture Lucian Freud

Another Vogue Festival creative coup was the drawing masterclass hosted by illustrator David Downton (below). This is the sort of thing I could imagine Vogue Festival doing more of; hands-on practice taught by real experts. Even (Vogue fashion director) Lucinda Chambers’ summer styling masterclass was brilliant. Deconstructing the rails of Harrods high summer offerings, she extolled the multi-tasking virtues of Self Portrait lace dresses, Maje PJ trousers and Victoria, Victoria Beckham minimalist separates, as only she could.

Chambers herself wore an Atlantique Ascoli top correctly identified by me when I quizzed her afterwards. (Lucinda: “Did I buy it? Oh yes, I never borrow, I have to own it. But it was soooo expensive. You look chic too, what are you wearing?” Me: *faints*. Chic? Moi?!)
Vogue Festival David Downton drawing class - erin O'connor -photo by Darren Gerrish

Vogue Festival 2016 Lucinda Chambers styling workshop

Of the interviews I went to, Grace Coddington was the most entertaining, Juergen Teller the most inspiring and Gucci’s Alessandro Michele the most passionate.

I loved Grace’s honesty. She talked about being uncompromising which I liked as a takeaway. In my experience all the most creative people are uncompromising, which naturally can make them difficult to work with, but it also pushes the team harder. She also expressed a fatigue with the superficial Instagram-ification of fashion. On models, she lamented the numbers game that gives models their popularity. “I worked with Kendall [Jenner] in the past, and she was lovely but it was too quick. Before, you could develop a relationship with [new faces], now it’s all based on follower numbers. You don’t have time to have a relationship with these girls any more.” For a storyteller casting a shoot, she’s right that the girl has to be more important than her popularity.
Grace Coddington interviewed at Vogue Festival 2016

What a fantastic masterstroke to get Juergen Teller and ICA executive director Gregor Muir in the hot seat for Vogue Festival. This was my major highlight, listening to Teller talk candidly about collaboration, intimacy and honesty as an artist. He talked about his long-term projects with Helmut Lang and Marc Jacobs – surely some of the most memorable and iconic ad campaigns ever. Interestingly, he negotiated the Marc Jacobs one on the basis of also steering the layout, type and overall creative direction. It’s what gives them their offbeat impact and identifiable ‘Juergen’ look.

On art, he talked about his self portraits, which can be taken by anyone, whoever he’s with, but he directs them very specifically. The most important thing is the edit, thus he spends a lot of time on the layout. It’s all part of the art and his self expression, which of course is unique to him.

He also discussed some of the challenging work he has done that opened up a dialogue about his family, in particular the time he took a naked self portrait next to his father’s grave. “Photography lets you go to places you wouldn’t normally get to go to. It makes you push yourself into uncomfortable parts of your life and talk about important things.”

Juergen Teller at Vogue Festival

Alessandro Michele came on to the most almighty cheer from his fan club and gave us the low down on his journey, from his start at Fendi to his work with Tom Ford in London and then the famous five-day deadline he had to whip up his first collection for Gucci. He was charm personified and my overall takeaway was that cheesy old chestnut; stay passionate and just keep going.

This guy has passion oozing from his pores. His take on ‘Renaissance with street style’ has absolutely infused how we dress now and it all comes from a completely authentic place. While he sometimes struggled to articulate his answers, with the odd apology for the language barrier, it wasn’t hard to understand that his utter self-belief is what drives him. On the pressures of the business and relentless fashion schedule, he described it as “a beautiful pressure; it’s something that belongs to you, because you want to do lots of things.” Oh yes, I can totally relate!

Alessandro Michele at Vogue Festival gave us the low down on his journey, from his start at Fendi to his work with Tom Ford in London and then the famous five-day deadline he had to whip up his first collection for Gucci

One of the most intelligent discussions during Vogue Festival was the social media panel. ‘Your Social Media: What’s Real Now?’ touched on mental health, youth peer pressure, sexual double standards and social vanity. The panel line-up was superb – Sasha Wilkins (aka Liberty London Girl), PR Liz Matthews and psychologist Prof Tanya Byron, chaired by Vogue’s Nicole Mowbray. Conclusion: As social media has become pretty much the norm, it’s everyone’s responsibility to monitor what they put out there and how they’re represented. While I would have liked to hear more about brand collaborations and the recent hoo-ha around Instagram transparency, there were more serious issues to be discussed.

Vogue Festival 2016 Social Media Panel

While the most informative aspects of Vogue Festival were undoubtedly the talks and panels, let’s not forget the shopping component. The merchandise surpassed itself with exclusive ‘Vogue’ sweatshirts from J Crew, Bella Freud matches, a cheeky Smythson notebook and even Vogue chocolate. All in all, for those who wanted to submerge themselves in a world of Vogue, it was the perfect edit of information, inspiration, education and self-expression.

Vogue festival 2016 customised denim
Vogue Festival customisation by Susannah Garrod
Vogue festival 2016
Vogue festival 2016 Grace Coddington perfume
Vogue festival 2016 merchandise Smythson notbook
Vogue Festival 2016
Vogue Festival Jo Malone
 Vogue Festival merchandise
Vogue Festival J Crew sweatshirt
Vogue festival 2016 - Vogue covers

WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl; Darren Gerrish (David Downton workshop)
NOTE: Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my cookies policy here.
DISCLOSURE: Disneyrollergirl attended Vogue Festival as a guest of Vogue

On trial: Margaret Dabbs medical pedicure

Margaret Dabbs London treatment enriched nail polish
When it comes to pedicures I feel much the same way as some do about facials. No softly-softly pussyfooting around for me. I want the full reconstructive surgery or nothing.

So it’s off to Margaret Dabbs London to sort out my neglected heels and to get some advice on how to keep the results lasting longer. Margaret Dabbs is the queen bee of luxury pedicures but for the real deal, ask for a medical pedicure. Once installed in my cushy throne-like chair in the Margaret Dabbs foot clinic at SpaceNK, Westbourne Grove, the fun begins.

This starts with a thorough going over with their signature Professional Foot File, which has replaceable compressed crystal pads. Once a week with one of these guys and Parmesan-rough hooves should bother you no more. Use it on dry skin, starting at the top of the foot and work your way to the heels. It’s extremely satisfying and you’ll be left with the softest heels and foot pads you’ve ever experienced.

Should you need it, the podiatrist will also tackle corns and calluses. I had two teeny corns removed that I didn’t realise I had. In fact, they can be caused by wearing flats all the time (who knew this was a no-no?) or by ill-fitting footwear. Off came the critters using a surgical scalpel and a podiatry drill (sounds gruesome but I didn’t feel a thing). Next, the toenails get rigorously shaped and buffed to prepare the surface for polish.

Then come the products. Margaret Dabbs has an excellent product range that uses emu oil – super moisturising, deeply penetrating and known for its anti inflammatory properties. I loved the Margaret Dabbs Intensive Treatment Foot Oil – a lemon myrtle scented dry oil that will deliver soft, hydrated feet when used a couple of times a week.

Finally, the exciting bit – the new Margaret Dabbs London treatment-enriched nail polish. There are 72 shades, all named after flowers and boosted with Vitamin E and rose botanical extract to reduce inflammation and infection. I chose Poinsettia, a deep, juicy cherry red, but there’s no shortage of hot pinks, blush roses, powdery pastels and milky neutrals, should you prefer. And I swear to god, they smell of roses! I had a manicure too and I can report the rose scent lingers all day. Stinky chemical nail polish pong, be gone…

margaret dabbs medical pedicure
Margaret Dabbs London treatment-enriched nail polish in Poinsettia
After 45 minutes of hand and foot pampering, I was sent on my way with my own special Professional Foot File, a Super Shiner Buffer, plus the firm intentions to keep up the maintenance. Downside? I can’t think of any other than the price (from £85), which is the top end of the market. But you get more than a shape and paint, so if you’re serious about foot care but like a bit of prettification too, it’s well worth considering.

The Medical Pedicure is available in Margaret Dabbs London clinics nationwide. Disneyrollergirl was a guest of Margaret Dabbs London.


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
NOTE: Some posts use affiliate links and PR samples. Please read my cookies policy here.

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My picks from Vogue Festival and Photo London 2016

Vogue Festival 2015 -cover wall

Next weekend is set to be jam-packed with activity from a double whammy of Vogue Festival and Photo London. Vogue Festival in partnership with Harrods, is in its fifth year now and I think the line-up for next weekend is its best ever. I guess that’s to be expected though, when it’s also a celebration of 100 years of British Vogue. I’m particularly excited about the interviews with Grace Coddington, Juergen Teller and Gucci’s Allesandro Michele, all unique creatives who aren’t overexposed as media personalities. (more…)