The party season starts here…

Top marks to Topshop for their latest innovation “Dress Me Up” dress hire. Kicking off in the Topshop flagship today, it’s a short n sweet retail concept that allows customers to hire – and possibly buy – a one-off dress for the party season. Between now and 6th December, you can browse the rails and drop the hangers all over the floor try stuff on before booking your chosen piece to hire between 7th and 23rd December. All dresses have been donated by designers and celebrities* and can be hired for two nights for a pretty reasonable £40 although a bigger deposit will have to be left in case you run off with them of damage. All dresses will be auctioned at the end of the event. (Can I just say before anyone gets any funny ideas that I have first dibs on the Richard Nicoll. Thank you.)

As much as I like the idea, I’m most impressed with Topshop’s choice of charities set to benefit from this initiative – proceeds from the hire fees and auction will go to Help The Aged and Age Concern. I love that Topshop, the brand that’s synonymous with youth, has decided to raise money for our elders. Nice one Toppers!

In a similar vein but without the fanfare and charity donations, is Dresseduptothe9s, a site where you can hire high-end dresses or rent out your own posh frocks to make some extra pocket money. It all makes perfect sense to me, why not give your dresses a second life if you’re not going to wear them but don’t want to throw them away?

*PS, word is that Lady Gaga has donated a dress to Topshop …. Let the bunfight commence.

From the vaults: Elaine Constantine

Back in the pre-Mert & Marcus days before ultra-sophisticated fashion, when it wasn’t all about It bags and It shoes, Elaine Constantine was one of the most in-demand photographers around. Her peak was the late nineties when every other photographer tried to imitate her energetic, brightly-lit compositions. Her commissions included ad campaigns for Jigsaw and endless editorials for Italian Vogue and The Face with Big, Arena Homme Plus and US Vogue coming later. Youthful energy – complete with flowy hair and open-mouthed laughter – was her main trademark and the one that brought her to my attention. Her shoots involved a mix of models and ‘real people’ (often her friends) crowd-surfing, dancing, cycling and having pillow fights – in essence, simply having a good old time. The result was a hyper-real, action-packed style that wasn’t often found in fashion photography. These days, sadly it’s all about pandering to the advertisers, so statue-still studio shoots take precedence over location shoots which also keeps the budget reined in.

Books etc

This is turning out to be quite the month for books. I have just opened my Ebay copy of Kate Spade’s ‘Contents’, a book I have wanted for years but is now out of print. The concept is simple; photos of the contents of people’s handbags follwed by the identity of the owner and a list of said contents at the back of the book. A voyeurs’s dream. Aside from the lovely unstyled quality of Dan Bibbs’ photos, it’s a telling historical study. These snaps were taken in the days before everyone had iPhones and BlackBerrys. Oh how things change – just look how many leather organsisers there are!

Writer/cultural critic


Another visual treat is Audrey Hepburn, International Cover Girl. This was a review copy that I was sent on spec. Now I like Audrey as much as the next person but I’m not obsessed so I expected a pretty nice coffee table book of the ten-a-penny variety. But actually no, the book is stuffed full of cover shoots from 1951-1993, most I’ve not seen before. Not only is it a great insight into Audrey and her many styles of eyebrow (count ’em) but it’s also a good opportunity to study magazine covers through the ages.