Sunday, 18 March 2012

Floral versus Vegetable Print

More Australian shopping spoils (taken while I still had a camera).  Dying to wear this!  Still a wee bit on the nippy side in London though.  Will be perfect when it warms up to work the fifties prom dress vibe that will be all the rage come Spring following all those ultra feminine looks sent down the runway by the likes of Louis Vuitton and Dolce and Gabbana.

Though I'm not so keen on veggie prints a la Dolce and Gabbana.  I find them just a bit too much on the domestic goddess side for me.  As pure fashion spectacle I love this collection for the heady visual punch the vibrancy of the prints pack, but my admiration is purely driven by culinary instincts rather than fashionable ones.  Normally fashion posing as food is a marketing ploy that works a treat on someone like me, that is, someone who adores food and who usually thinks with their taste buds or stomach.  Rename a colour vanilla rather than off-white, sage rather than pale green, or bitter chocolate rather than dark brown and I'm usually sold.  I'm positively drooling with excitement about ice-cream colours for Spring!

But I have to say I definitely prefer my vegetables on my plate than in my wardrobe. I'd just feel like I was wearing the contents of my kitchen counter wearing something like this.  As a great lover of Italian food, I think the die-hard chef in me would always be itching to pour olive oil all over a dress covered with glistening aubergines, season it generously and stick it in the oven to roast.

Something about seeing vegetables depicted in print in all their ripe, raw and uncooked glory and I am instantly reminded of all the labour that goes into preparing vegetables for a meal rather than the sensual pleasure of eating them, of savouring a certain flavour, or enjoying the aroma of a favourite spice or herb. Instead the sensations conjured up are the interminable boredom of peeling skins, the monotony of chopping, the discomfort of the induced tears from slicing onions.  I can even hear my mother in my head chiding me a child to eat up all my vegetables or face going to bed without dessert.

And my feminist skin may just break out in a rash wearing vegetable prints.  What are Stefano and Domenico trying to say about women here?  Some underlying message woven into the silk that runs between the tomatoes, courgettes and peppers whispers "woman's work" to me as it sashays down the runway, in the same way that seeing tea towels printed with kitsch depictions of vegetables and other kitchen counter items does.  It's not that I think these print dresses look like tea towels, they just have the same psychological effect on me as seeing tea towels with their peculiar still life studies of domestic duties. 

They stir up guilt ridden memories of my mother, grandmother and aunts, all of whom became housewives due to the social expectations of their generation rather than choice, all of whom owned such tea towels, and all of whom owned more tea towels than they ever did dresses or lipsticks.  Tea towels that were always chosen carefully to be bright and jovial so as to bring cheer to the kitchen where they took pride of place, and where the women who bought them would spend the majority of their lives as wives and mothers. A family custom which, when I peruse my own vegetable printed tea towel collection, I am alarmed to realise I have perpetuated.  In fact if Dolce and Gabbana released a kitsch range of tea towels in vibrant aubergine, tomato and onion prints, I'd probably be all over it!

I do however, love the womanly silhouette that a fifties style dress cuts on a woman's body with its nipped in waist and voluminous skirt.  When it comes to dresses, I prefer prints with a lower calorie count and am particularly partial to florals.  This modern take on a chintzy print caught my eye whilst wandering through a department store in Australia.  I like the smudginess of it, somewhere between the pixelated blur of our electronic information age and old style painterly brushstrokes giving an Impressionist form to the buds and blooms. The metallic sheen of the fabric and shiny patent belt also adds a little edge to the old school fifties glamour.  A modern take on femininity is a look I can do.

And as it's Mother's Day here in the UK my thoughts are with my own dear Mother, who doesn't know I blog, who to this day baffles me with her undying love of collecting kitsch tea towels, who instilled me with a love of food, cooking and clothes, who sacrificed her own dreams and goals so I could realise mine, and who gets a new dress or item of make up from me at every opportunity as gifts.  One day, so help me God, they will outnumber the tea towels.  When you grow up to reject the type of life your mother had to make a new one for yourself the guilt as her daughter can be palpable.  There is the uncomfortable feeling that in rejecting the symbols of domestic life you associate with her oppression as a woman that you are somehow rejecting her. And yet those same symbols are regarded with strange affection as something that reminds you of her unconditional love. 

So Happy Mother's Day Mum and to all you mothers out there.  May life bring you all more dresses, lipsticks and flowers than vegetable print tea towels.

Digital floral print dress: Cue

Monday, 5 March 2012

Did You Katrantzou?

I certainly did!

After much earlier enthusiasm on my part over the runway trends for this last Autumn Winter, I have to say that nothing that the normally fashion savvy UK High Street offered all season translated into anything I actually wanted to buy.  And that was despite the sales reductions starting as early as September.  Everything seemed somewhat bland, expensive for what it was and the quality of many of my previous favourite high street labels had appeared to have taken a nosedive.

So after a whole winter of successfully avoiding getting anything from Topshop (well okay, apart from a pair of metallic wedge boots on sale - but that is an all time record for me), I must reluctantly take my hat off to Phillip Green and his commercial nous in securing a killer collaboration that is guaranteed to get the most hardened against the high street to part with their cash.

I am a big fan of Mary Katrantzou's work and she first came to my attention with her collection of Baroque prints in Winter 2009/2010.  I love her combined use of print and sculptural tailoring to create stand out garments.  She did collaborate with Topshop around that time on a small range of printed dresses and tees, but I felt the offerings were a little lacklustre against the full glory of the mainline collection.  Full price Katrantzou runway pieces however, will easily set you back anywhere from several hundreds to several thousands of pounds.  So seeing that her latest Topshop collaboration really did keep to the aesthetic spirit of the mainline collection got my fashion adrenaline pumping!  Here is what I picked up and apologies for the grainy photos which don't do the vibrancy of the prints any justice - still relying on Mr V's iPhone and very short windows of internet and iPhone time to get snaps taken and posted.

It actually took me a while to cotton on that there was a collaboration coming out due to my recent prolonged internet hiatus, but one look at the press pictures of the collection was enough to convince me to pop by Topshop's flagship store on Oxford Street on the release day.  Miraculously, there was still stock on the rails after everything had sold out online.  In fact, there were even a few of that lampshade skirt dress, photographed on many a minor celebrity of late and which everyone was trying to get their hands on.  However one look at the length of it and the hip enlarging bowl skirt was enough to make me steer clear.  With my pear shaped body and stumpy little legs I would have really looked ridiculous in it.  More squat, overturned Ming Dynasty fishbowl than lithesome beauty adorned in sculptural silk print making a witty reference to said treasure (see here for a great photo of how it should look by Sabine of Psynopsis).

However, the other print dress in the line had a longer, more forgiving hemline, with a less voluminous skirt.  Then there was the delicate, deliciously colourful Florentine print, given a modern twist with an asymmetric smattering of decoupage style images on the skirt of paste jewellery flowers and burnished metal bangles.  As strapless dresses with tulip skirts are right up my style alley this one was always going to come home with me.  In an interview Katrantzou has said that one woman bought one of her lampshade dresses to actually use as lampshade to adorn the interior of her house.  I can totally see why.  This dress looks fabulous just hanging up on my chest of drawers, it is that ornate!

The riot of colour in the Spring/Summer collections coming out now has really got me in the mood to indulge in some non-black Spring purchases.  I'd been toying with the idea of getting some bright floral print trousers, and when I saw these it was lurve.  These trousers are so bright and colourful they make me happy just looking at them!  The shade of blue reminds me of ceramic paint swirling delicately to form intricate flowers on fine bone china and I find the tailored shaped and cropped length very flattering.

And it would have been rude to leave this jovial tee shirt behind given that it is sporting exactly the same floral print as much pricier pieces in this season mainline collection.

Then this silk print tunic, the darling of all the fashion editors, came back in stock online a couple of weeks later - patience pays dividends.  I'm not game enough to work the clashing prints thing to wear it with floral leggings as sported by the model in Topshop's press pictures, but the bright print is great to update my stalwart uniform of Black Rats leggings with biker boots for Spring and break up my all black habit.

A whip round of the internet showed that there were a few mixed feelings about the price versus quality of the pieces, from the evangelically positive and smitten to the downright outraged about the prices.  I can honestly say that I am very impressed with the quality of the print and the vibrancy and detail that have come out on the pieces I got.  Good print is hard to do well and that is why, when it is done extremely well, you can expect to be charged the earth for it.

My only bugbear is possibly in the choices of fabric.  Surely they could have stretched to a decent cotton for the tee shirt and silk for the strapless dress and trousers rather than the polyester used, and the silk for the tunic could have been a little finer in texture.  But then not knowing very much about print processes I can only postulate that it may well have been those types of fabrics that took the dye better, or that the climbing price of raw materials is indeed impacting choices made by manufacturers.  But apart from that, I love these pieces and am looking forward to wearing them a lot over the coming months.

Perhaps I got a wee bit carried away.  In fact I could have probably bought some real Katrantzou for what I spent! But these days buying into the decent designer collaborations is a choice between paying retail or highly inflated Ebay prices to the Ebay sharks. What made these pieces worth paying for and keepers in my wardrobe is that, apart from the strapless dress which is crying out for a dressier occasion, they are clothes that fit easily into my lifestyle and I know I will get a lot of wear out of them.  I imagine a Katrantzou runway piece would have remained enshrined and untouched in the closet for fear of smutching it and clothes are meant to be worn, no matter how good an imitation of an expensive lampshade they are doing!  I've already been sporting the trousers with a white tee over the weekend and the tunic has been out to our local pub for lunch.

Did you get anything from the Mary Katrantzou for Topshop collection?


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