Thursday, 28 March 2013

The Tuxedo Reimagined

In the run up to summer invitations to formal events like weddings and summer dinners will inevitably start to roll in.  If the chilly beginning to this spring is anything to go by, summer could mean facing a string of evenings spent shivering away in an evening dress for the sake of event dressing.  It is therefore worth considering a warmer evening wear option and what better way to keep warm and elegant than wearing a tuxedo.  Quite apart from the trousers and jacket keeping you from freezing, a tuxedo worn by a woman stands out as a self confident and sophisticated choice in a sea of dresses and it is one of my favourite wardrobe staples.  Wearing a tux will also dovetail nicely into the monochromatic trend for Spring/Summer 2013.

Ever since Yves Saint Laurent claimed "le smoking" for women's wardrobes this elegant evening option has been reinvented season after season by designers.  Whatever the headline trends might be, if you scratch the surface of the designer collections each season you will inevitably unearth a reworked version of this wardrobe classic.  This season I found that there was a breadth of influences designers used in their reimagining of the tuxedo.  The result was a plethora of sophisticated and classy looks from which to draw inspiration when reimagining your own way to wear a tux, or to keep in mind if a new tuxedo is on your shopping list.  The following are a few of my favourite tuxedo looks for Spring/Summer 2013.

This season marks Hedi Slimane's first collection since he took over the reigns of Saint Laurent, the house of the designer that started it all. Slimane reimagined the tux with a seventies vibe of opulent pussy bow neckties in luxurious black chiffon, a cropped close fitting jacket, slim line trousers and wide brim hats.

Saint Laurent SS 2013. Source: Vogue

It is interesting to compare how other design houses infused their design DNA into the tuxedo this season. Christian Dior incorporated the signature peplum shape for which the house is famous into the jacket of the tuxedo.  Vionnet's slinky white version with a contrasting lapel drew on the draped silhouette for which the house is renowned.  Then there are lashings of unexpected pleated silver lamé at Victor and Rolf in the form of trims on the lapels of a tux jacket and wide legged lamé trousers.

Christian Dior, Vionnet, Victor and Rolf SS 2013. Source: Vogue

Balmain is arguably the house of the power suit.  Strong of silhouette, exaggerated of shoulder, nipped in of waist, lean of leg line - these are the style mantras of the Balmain woman.  Also with a relatively new designer at the helm, Olivier Rousteing gave us the tuxedo reworked with signature big Balmain shoulders, in monochromatic harlequin prints and with the option of modernising more traditional tuxedo jacket styles with less expected separates such as a cropped top and loose fit leather trousers.

Balmain SS 2013. Source: Vogue

Jean Paul Gaultier presented a very eighties style of tuxedo in his ready-to-wear collection modelled by dead ringers for eighties pop icon Grace Jones.  He continued with the theme in his couture collection featuring a tuxedo with power shoulders and tapered baggy trousers.

Jean Paul Gaultier RTW and Couture SS 2013. Source: Vogue

Lanvin's creative director Alber Elbaz is lauded as being a designer that understands the soul of a woman as he produces timeless, feminine designs that celebrate the female form.  An avid wearer of the tuxedo himself, Elbaz spent part of his career designing ready-to-wear at Yves Saint Laurent and this season he offered a much sharper profile than usual, of which his vision of the tuxedo was key.  Elbaz has said that the square was the shape he kept coming back to in this collection. In his hands the tuxedo was all about a strong square shouldered jacket with a boxy cut, paired with billowing trousers tapered at the ankle or alternatively, a sharp, angular skirt. There was also an eastern influence evident in the accents lent to the tuxedo by the use of obi belts, asymmetric cuts and kimono style jackets.  The result was a fresh and modern twist on the tuxedo that gives the wearer a strong yet still very feminine silhouette.

Lanvin SS 2013 - Source: Vogue

Pieces of the Lanvin Spring/Summer collection are currently available at Harrods including the white contrast lapel jacket and sleeveless asymmetric jacket featured on the runway.  Be still my beating heart!

Are you a fan of the tuxedo?  Would you wear a tuxedo as formal wear instead of a dress?

This is a sponsored post.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Navigating Winter

Hello God?  The central heating down here needs turning up a tad!  Since when did I move to Siberia?  Apparently it has been officially Spring here in London since Wednesday.  Spring?  Spring my shearling swaddled arse!  Someone tell that to the thermometer please!  It has barely been above single digits since oh, say December and this weekend it has been snowing in London.  Yes that's right snowing.  For the last couple of weeks it has been truly bitter.  A couple of weeks ago I actually put away some lightweight spring clothes into storage and dragged some winter clothes back out again!

I think this has been the longest dreariest winter I've had to suffer in this country.  There is good reason why there hasn't been too many outfit posts on this blog this winter because style wise there hasn't been much to report.  It seems I'm not alone in lacking inspiration from constant cold weather dressing either.  Sabine of Psynopsis summed up my winter when she posted this recently:
This has been my world for most of winter.  Wrapped up in various layers of animal hide and knitwear, this is what I've been looking like most days, more sinister member of some dark species of urban yeti than fashionably dressed.  For months it feels like all I have been wearing has been a combination selected from about five percent of my wardrobe on constant rotation - that five percent being three wool turtlenecks, three Uniqlo Heatech thermals, five pairs of black wool cashmere blend tights from Calzedonia (arguably my best winter buy), two pairs of my thickest wool trousers, one pair of Ugg boots, all topped off with layers and layers of knitwear and either a wool or shearling coat.  Most days I don't look smart or stylish, I feel more like I am wearing my pyjamas, and I am bored I tell you, so bored.

Lately, every time I've been looking at myself dressed like this, I've been reminded of the image of a character from a late eighties movie I once saw a trailer for called The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey.  The film tells the tale of a group of medieval villagers embarking on pilgrimage to save their snowed under Cumbrian village from the plague, but somehow they end up tunnelling through the earth and travelling through time, ending up in modern day New Zealand.  What I would give to be able to tunnel through to the southern hemisphere right this instant.  This is Griffin, the child hero of the film - if the snow weary medieval crusader look was in we could be style twins.

Source: Cinema

Here is my current choice of hat, very similar to Griffin's - a knitted trapper hat with a fleece lining and a bit of faux fur trim.  Can I just say I cannot stand trapper hats, I think they are pretty ugly as a hat shape, but beanies just don't cut enough of the cold out for me anymore.  With our ever icier winters and the addition of the wind chill factor, I find the trapper hat is becoming an indispensable winter wardrobe staple for preventing my ears from aching in the cold.  Think I'm also doing a good impression of Marvin the Martian here.

What the current weather and the weather forecast does to me! Source: Imagur

I usually don't hit my stride dressing stylishly for cold weather until the temperature climbs over 10 degrees C.  Until then I'm stuck in a cycle of reaching for whatever keeps me warm over and above any other considerations.  Most of the winter looks and trends I had been drooling over all season,  while they look fabulous styled up in magazines, in reality they have seemed impractically chilly options for winter weather as cold as this.  As for spring looks - well just forget it.  At this rate it looks like I'll be shopping from my winter wardrobe until June!  Autumn/winter 2012 is the new spring/summer 2013!

Shearling Coat: Nigel Preston and Knight; Knitted Trapper Hat: Whistles; Cardigan: She's So; Harem trousers: Kaylee Tankus; Wedge Heel Shearling Boots and Shearling gloves: Ugg; Cashmere snood: Cos

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Flamenco as Fashion Trend

With the flamenco festival in Jerez now over, the London Flamenco festival is now in full swing here and this week I've had the good fortune to be able to see some amazing shows!  It seems that even fashion is tapping into the mood with flamenco "trending" again this season.  Flamenco is associated with some awful stereotypes.  People often think of the naff outdated costumes not seen since the sixties and seventies, with their stiff frills, polka dots and huge billowy sleeves.  Flamenco is also often confused with other dance forms (tango, paso doble, salsa, mariachi and even can-can dancing just to name a few), but as a flamenco dancer I do have to laugh when the fashion industry tries its hand at a reinterpretation.  Here is what WhoWhatWear selected as "Flamenco" in their guide to the biggest looks for spring.

Source: WhoWhatWear

I can't imagine anything worse than to have to wear any of the above outfits to dance in and some of these concoctions are by designers I usually love.  Now I know this is all "influenced by" and not meant to replace an authentic flamenco dress to dance the real deal in but you'd be surprised how many people extrapolate the fashion version to the real version, rather than the other way around.  And God Almighty spare me from ever having to perform in anything like this:

Source: WhoWhatWear

Blecchhh! The only thing that would be any use to me would be the earrings.  You may laugh, but in the past I have been asked to wear rubbish like this on the odd job appearing as a flamenco dancer.  This sort of thing is usually foisted upon you by ignorant wardrobe stylists who have swallowed this fashionable idea of flamenco and then regurgitate it on you in some even nastier, cheaper format to be worn as a bona fide flamenco costume, thus further perpetuating the myth at large that we wear crazy get ups like this to perform in.

I've also seen women turn up for their first flamenco class in this type of clothing which is more suited to tangoing the night away at a milonga rather than sweating it out stamping.  Worse still, first timers sometimes turn up wearing stilettos which is just asking for a sprained ankle.  Feel free to try this kind of look at home or at a costume party - do not try this in a dance class, let alone on stage.  By the way, just to put the record straight, we don't dance in stilettos, or on tables, or with roses between our teeth, we don't usually dance with partners and red and black are not the only colours we wear!

If any of you based in the UK and have had the chance to see some of the shows at the London Flamenco Festival by younger upcoming artists you will see that flamenco costumes have evolved away from the more traditional styles into more contemporary designs, as has the art form - but you won't see anything quite as badly thought out as the WhoWhatWear suggestions.  So please WhoWhatWear!  Call that a flamenco dress? That's not a flamenco dress.  This is a flamenco dress!

It's not all bad though.  Flamenco was also a trend last summer but at least then it was a bit more grounded in the roots of Andalusian culture in which flamenco is steeped and I actually thought the looks served up were closer to the spirit of flamenco than the weird pastiche of frills, flowers, flounces and puffy sleeves being bandied about this season.

For me the first prize this season for a beautifully done collection goes to Ralph Lauren who clearly drew inspiration from flamenco, bullfighting, traditional Spanish dress and dare I say, a bit of Argentinian gaucho thrown in as well.  Now I wouldn't dare dance in these clothes for fear of ripping such beauty to shreds but boy are some of these pieces to die for, the bolero jackets especially, and very flamenco I might add, capturing the drama of it all, if in a very luxurious and high end way.  All photos from Vogue.

Source of all photos: Vogue

Ralph Lauren is normally not a label on my radar (or within my budget!) but these are just beautiful clothes and I'd wear any of these pieces with pride!  One could say that the inspiration is perhaps too closely derivative as to be staid but I think the cut, the craftsmanship and attention to detail of these clothes are simply stunning and very elegant.  Ole!  Elements of this collection would actually be a source of inspiration for me when I next go to get a real flamenco costume made.  More of the Ralph Lauren collection can be seen here at the Vogue site.

Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Dark Flowers

This weekend I had the pleasure of going to the wedding of one of my oldest friends. We did our PhDs together at the University of Cambridge in the Department of Engineering.  While walking the hallowed halls of one of the world's oldest universities may sound very glamorous, the reality was that my friend and I spent our student years toiling daily in chilly laboratories, mucking about in denim jeans, trainers and ugly fleeces we would mess up and ruin with chemicals and artificial clay.  Extremely unglamorous.

Years later and we're both ended up with careers in the City.  Our daily toil no longer involves clay or nasty chemicals.  We've swapped jeans, trainers and fleeces for sharp suits.  For the wedding we were invited back to the more romantic side of Cambridge to see her marry in the tiny chapel in her old college followed by a reception dinner in the beautiful college dining hall. Unfortunately my blurry champagne fuelled efforts at photography did not do the bride's dress enough justice to post a photo!  It was her second marriage so she threw convention to the wind and walked down the aisle in a dark gold Catherine Deane evening gown in a Grecian goddess style with a floor length, finely pleated skirt and gold chains embroidered into the bust and straps. She wore a lace shawl draped about her shoulder and a spectacular fascinator with white lilies and feathers.

I too decided to throw convention to the wind and as a guest wore a black dress with a black patent leather skirt and a silk chiffon bodice embroidered in English wildflowers.  From experience I know that a medieval college chapel and college dining halls are always places which are freezing cold when the weather is wintery, so I finally opted for this dress for warmth because it had sleeves and also a matching coat jacket.

Both are from Christopher Kane's Autumn Winter 2010 collection which was my all time favourite collection of his ever.  Since I was first seduced by the vision of all those dark flowers on lace and leather coming down the runway I have studiously hunted down these and other pieces over many trips to designer sample sales.  There are runway pieces in my closet.  I don't often get to post about them because there is not often occasion for them to be worn and my outfit shots are what I actually wear.  I don't buy from runway collections very often, or without thinking about it quite hard, but I do buy if I find a collection truly and timelessly beautiful, it speaks to my sense of style and only if I find pieces at a substantial discount at end of season.  I buy with the intention of treasuring and wearing them for years to come and don't really pay too much attention to whether it is in season currently or several runway seasons old.

Fashion magazines would have us believe that we should all be renewing our wardrobe every season with new runway looks.  I don't know anyone who can afford to shop like that.  When you spend this kind of money on beautiful clothes, these are not clothes that you just stop wearing and get rid of after a season, these are clothes you will eventually be handing down to someone special.

This winter has been such a dressed down, keep warm in piles of layers type winter that I was very glad to have finally had a formal occasion to wear this dress and jacket.  Fashion advice is always fixated on saying you shouldn't wear designer head to toe looks but for me Kane is one designer who deserves to be worn head to toe.  I really enjoyed wearing his vision of florals this night because this outfit made me feel more like me.  Here's to the next Kane themed event!

Linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Embroidiered Dress and Coat: Christopher Kane; Clutch and shoes: Alexander McQueen; Tights: MaxMara

Saturday, 16 March 2013

A Versatile Blogger Award

Some time ago I received a blogger award by Ruth of Origami Girl's Heroics, which I thought was very sweet of her.

Thank you kindly Ruth - I am very touched and it really cheered me up as at the time I was feeling really quite a bit down about this blog after all the Fashion Week stuff and wondering whether I should be blogging at all.  As part of receiving this award I have to share seven random facts about myself and pass it on to some other bloggers.  So here are my seven:

1. I have double jointed elbows. Don't think that's helpful in any way.  It actually makes flamenco dancing harder, not easier and it creeps Mr V out.
2. I am arachnophobic.
3. I am not and never will be a morning person.
4. I love a good fry up on the weekends - scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, the lot!
5. I have lived in eight different cities and five different countries, four of which were islands - see here for details.
6. People have a hard time working out where I'm from.  Over the years I have been asked if I am Mexican, Peruvian, Hawaiian, Mauritian, Tahitian, Portuguese, Spanish, Gypsy, Maori, American Indian, Indian and I'm sure there are several others I've forgotten!
7.  I am a published author - I have published three papers in scientific journals and two international patents.  Hardly glamorous stuff but, there is a lot of noise currently being made on the blogosphere about journalistic standards in the wake of the Suzy Menkes article about whether bloggers can compare themselves to the lofty heights of bona fide fashion journalism.  I'd just like to point out that writing about fashion is absolutely a walk in the park compared to the qualifications you need under your belt and the research you have to conduct in order to write and publish peer reviewed journal articles for scientific publications!

And here are my versatile blogger nominations:
1. Amber of Butane Anvil - for her sublime use of shape, colour, fabric and language;
2. Jan of Fort Smith Stylista - for sparklingly intelligent writing about various style topics and self image issues we all have and she paints her self portrait for posts in pixels;
3. Emalina of Kiki and The Gypsy - for the heady mix of gorgeous vintage pieces inherited from her grandmother, the evocative poetry and the fairy tale imagery on her blog;
4. Lisa of Dangerous Curves - for juggling her personal style journey with family life, teaching and competitive ballroom dancing;
5. Jean of Dross into Gold - for her boundless creativity in upcycling clothing;
6. Diane at Haute Flashion - for her great outfit shots which are always accessorised with interesting and matching backdrops!
7. And finally a special mention to a fellow Australian, Willow of Art, Clothes and Contemplations -  a beautiful young woman with a blog that is the antithesis of her peergroup (where often the focus is on churning out the next high fashion look from Zara/Topshop/Primark).  Willow reminds me of me when I was young.  Do you remember the magic of being seventeen?  Of that strange twilight age half way between leaving the innocence of childhood and becoming a woman?  (Or maybe that happens so much earlier these days?).  A time where romance is still to be found in having tea parties in country fields, in finding your own voice through writing, in discovering the literary joys of vintage copies of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and Alice in Wonderland, in discovering the beauty of vintage clothes and imagining the stories woven into their fabric and those that are yet to be told, in discovering how to create your own clothes and your own world to go with them.  If there is one thing I miss about being young, it is not the unlined, plump facial features, nor the cellulite free thighs, nor the firm glowing skin.  It is that wide eyed, open-hearted view of the world and the fascination with all that life has to offer, a readiness to see and take in its beauty which we sometimes forget to stop and do when we get older.  If you are becoming a little jaded with life in your old age this blog will un-jade you very quickly.

I've nominated you all because you are all fab and I love visiting your blogs.  There is no obligation whatsoever on my part to follow the award "instructions" because I know that these posts take time and we're all busy (I know because I've still got a backlog of Liebster awards I still feel guilty about not following up on - sorry Emalina! Terry! Posts still in draft!), but if you are keen to share the love here is what you are supposed to do:
  • Nominate some other new bloggers, I'll leave the number up to you
  • Let them know you have nominated them
  • Share 7 random facts about yourself (feel free to share more or less as you see fit)
  • Thank the blogger who has nominated you
  • Add the Versatile Blogger Award to your post.
Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 10 March 2013


Even though it isn't Mother's Day until May over in Australia it is Mother's Day today in the UK, so my thoughts are with my mother, far away on the other side of the globe to me.  If there's one thing I miss more than the sun living in the UK it is my family, especially my mother.

I've already written about how wonderful a woman my mother is on this blog before.  Here she is dressed up for an evening event in Penang wearing a black lace Karen Millen dress I gave her for Christmas year before last.  My mother never had a lot of money to spend on clothing either when she was growing up or when I was growing up as she was a full time Mum.  So I always try to buy her nice clothing for her Christmas and birthday presents.

Too old for lace at sixty seven?  I think not!! Here is another picture from an old post of her in a grey satin and lace dress also by Karen Millen.

Happy Mother's Day Mum - love you!  Don't let anyone ever tell you you're too old to be dressing up in gorgeous dresses.

And if you're a mother out there a big Happy Mother's Day to you too.

Taking a back seat this week to show off my mother on Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.

Take My Picture

TAKE MY PICTURE from GARAGE Magazine on Vimeo.
A big thank you for the very insightful comments on my post on not getting to attend London Fashion Week and the Susy Menkes fashion blogger circus article, I normally don't get around to replying to comments directly on this blog but this time I did actually reply to each of you.

Since writing that post my attention has been drawn to this film by Garage Magazine which I thought I'd share with you. Although published recently it was shot before the Menkes article came out.  If you've never been to a fashion week and aren't sure of what Menkes was referring to then this film is really worth a watch.  It is mostly the fashion industry insider point of view of the fashion blogger/street style phenomenon and features the fashion journalist Tim Blanks candidly sharing his thoughts on it.

I have to say the hysteria captured on film here of Paris Fashion Week is a lot worse than what I witnessed at the last London Fashion Week I attended, which was now a long time ago.  I was gobsmacked!  Clearly things have gotten even crazier since then and I understand now why they have clamped down on blogger numbers. 

Towards the end of the film I also found myself nodding at a subtitle page which interjects the action to ask: "Has fashion generated it's own generation of reality TV stars?" Blanks appears to think so, and appears to lay the blame squarely on reality TV and the facebook phenomena before going on to express his view that the process makes monsters.  Even seasoned street style bloggers like Tommy Ton and Phil Oh seem to yearning for the good old days when there were fewer people to contend with.  And street style never looked so staged as seeing Anna Dello Russo strutting endlessly up and down and in circles so everyone can get a picture.

I'd love to hear what you think of this video!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Fashion Week Blues

An old pic from London Fashion Week
London Fashion Week may well be old news with all eyes on collections on Paris already but I still am getting the odd image post feeding through on my Google reader to remind me that I didn't get to go this time.  During this last London Fashion Week I was actually, for once, going to have the good fortune to be in London with some free time.  There was no clashing flamenco festival or pressing work commitment so I thought I'd apply to attend and visit the design exhibition as I have done in previous years and do some write ups on what to expect next winter from some designers.  Well my application got rejected so sadly you won't be getting any London Fashion Week news from me, either belatedly or possibly again in the future.

I was quite disappointed I couldn't go. There is still nothing like rejection of any kind to make you feel rubbish about yourself, about what you've done and like tossing in the towel every time it happens.   The application process asks for blogger stats and so it was clear that it was going to be a numbers game where the numbers were pretty highly stacked against me.  This isn't a big blog with lots of followers or gazillions of hits and I would need to find another twenty four hours in my day to take this blog to pro level or keep to the kind of scheduling that would merit any kind of commercial sponsorship.

The times I'd been to LFW in the past had always been on a buyer's pass assisting a friend who had a boutique to give her a second opinion on what she was buying, but she has since sold up, so bye bye buyer's pass.  I first attended way back in 1997 before anyone was even blogging let alone blogging about fashion!  It was fascinating to see how the whole process worked from the inside - it's essentially an extremely glamorous trade show for the benefit of the designers to showcase their work and before the rise of the fashion blogger it was a pretty closed shop in terms of who could attend.

Blogging seemed to open that world up, in a very positive way at first by making that world more accessible to the masses. But then the explosion of fashion blogging has become a bit overwhelming and now it seems the fashion industry is closing ranks to being an exclusive closed circle again.  I was told by someone who attended LFW that they seem to have clamped down on blogger attendance in comparison to previous years, so I guess if you are not high on the popularity stakes or don't fit a certain type of blogging mould then you're not going to make the grade to get into that circle.

While I totally get that you've got to put limits on numbers for crowd control and the priority is always going to go to whoever has the biggest audience for commercial reasons, the last couple of times I attended LFW I did wonder if the designers and their work were really the focus of bloggers anymore.  There seemed to be more bloggers outside Somerset House rather than inside, either lining up to take photos of each other or vying for the attention of the street style bloggers.  If you haven't borne witness to this phenomenon then have a read of this article in the NY Times "The Circus of Fashion" by fashion bigwig Susy Menkes to get an idea of what goes on and how the fashion blogger is now gaining a reputation as a kind of fashion Frankenstein.  Jeanine Jacobs chose to respond on IFB decrying the criticism as unoriginal.  I have mixed feelings about it myself.

After reading the Susy Menkes article and all the comments after it (worth a read in itself for the debate) I now actually feel kind of ashamed to be a blogger.  Having personally witnessed that particular circus up close myself I have to say that Menkes is right on many counts.  Even Jacobs' bristling riposte admits that Menkes is right.

For some time now there has been an increasingly competitive fashion blogger arms race to see how outlandish your outfit can be, how many designer labels and/or trends you can clobber together in said outfit and how many times you can get your picture taken strutting around between shows.  It has gone beyond people dressing to be original in order to push style boundaries and become more about chasing fame.  And the tactic works.  The scrum between photographers and bloggers to get photos of the street style stars with camera lens and mobile phones competing for the best view is a testament to that.

When I do the rounds post fashion week of some big name blogs, there are more photos of said blogger getting papped in their fashion week outfit than of anything they actually saw coming down the runway or at exhibitions and their posts on collections can often be thin on the ground in terms of thoughtful write ups.  So I have some sympathy for Menkes sniffily implying that bloggers lack the fashion nous to be able to provide any meaningful contribution to fashion critique.

Rank amateurs at the fashion game we may be but surely we are not all fame whoring, peacock strutting, attention seeking and shockingly badly dressed with nothing to contribute?  Even though I would like to think I am excluded from Menkes snider broader brush descriptions such as the "cattle market of showoff people" I feel like some of that negative taint got slopped on me anyway.  To give another quote from her that hit the mark - this on the credentials of bloggers to judge fashion:
"...judging fashion has become all about me: Look at me wearing the dress! Look at these shoes I have found! Look at me loving this outfit in 15 different images!"
Touché!  I'm sure some of us will cringe in a bit of self-recognition at this, I certainly know I did and on reading this I suddenly felt pretty vapid for having a personal style blog at all.  But I can't help think that there is a bit of a mixed message being sent out here.

We've all seen the types of bloggers for whom most of these barbs from this doyenne of the fashion world were probably meant for, but ironically those same bloggers also seem to be the ones who get the stratospheric stats to be successful, who in fact end up being the darlings of the fashion industry with their crazy outfit pictures in all their gaudy glory splashed across magazine spreads, who receive countless invites to glamorous events, who get oodles of free stuff thrown at them and who get front row seats at fashion shows.

However snarky the mouthpieces of the fashion industry like Menkes might get about bloggers, fashion is showing itself to be a two faced beast here, because while it might criticise blogger behaviour, it is clearly in some part responsible for fuelling it by publicly courting bloggers with big followings purely in the interest of increasing sales.  For all the lofty claims that fashion is about blue sky ideas about how the body will be clothed, it is an industry padlocked to the uncomfortable reality of the business world, where ultimately the bottom line matters and the generation of profits is essential in order to survive.  The fashion PR machine knows it might reach thousands of potential consumers by getting a blogger to wear their merchandise (either through gifting or by paying them), or by having them tweeting or instagramming from the front row of a show.

There are some of us out there who have a genuine enthusiasm for what fashion designers have to offer and still want to voice our opinion even if we aren't being paid or sponsored or given free stuff.   But even then Menkes takes issue with bloggers voicing the view of the public at large on what fashion is producing, claiming we have forgotten the principal she abides by as a fashion journalist:
There is something ridiculous about the self-aggrandizement of some online arbiters who go against the mantra that I was taught in my earliest days as a fashion journalist: “It isn’t good because you like it; you like it because it’s good.”
I think the point she is trying to make here is that there is too much subjectivity in blogging and not enough objectivity.  Granted, many blogs, including this one, are essentially about our personal and subjective tastes.  But do you really learn skills to give you the ability to discern what is objectively good and not good by studying fashion without subjectivity colouring this?  I would have thought, as in any creative field, that at the end of the day the audience would be the best judge of a show, no matter how skillful the producer.  There is also more than enough fashion "journalism" in the mainstream fashion press which amounts to little more than hyping an overpriced here-today-gone-tomorrow trend or item in order to satisfy advertising contracts to make me question if Menkes can really claim the moral high ground on this one.

In the end we the public buy and wear the damn stuff we get shoved down our throats every season as supposedly being good - why wouldn't we have an opinion worth listening to?  Even if it just happens to be a subjective one?  I would have assumed that eventually it is this personal opinion of the fashion consumer that would eventually drive (gasp!) - actual sales! We may not have degrees in art history or fashion, but to quote one eloquent commenter, Respectfully (from Australia) on the Susy Menkes article:
"Why should we only ever receive an image of a show filtered through an editor? Why shouldn't we have the choice to make up our own minds by seeing the images ourselves? We're the ones paying the bills! We're buying the fashion magazines, clothes, bags and shoes."
Sadly if fashion is going to close ranks and only include bloggers who will toe the party line in exchange for sponsorships, paid travel and free gifts then we are effectively getting messages filtered through an editor rather than an independent view.  The breadth of opinion is bound to narrow towards something palatable to the fashion industry which is the aim - to reclaim some control.  Fashion blogging was initially so exciting because it offered a broader representation of women, offered inspiration that catered to a wider range of budgets and lifestyles, and had more relevance to the majority rather than pandering to the minority.  For some time now the only type of bloggers who I see being brandished in the fashion press as "influential" are very young, thin, beautiful and increasing extremely wealthy young women who seem to be able to spend the equivalent of my annual salary on one outfit or buy Manolo Blahniks in every colour without batting an eyelid. 

I'm not interested in being papped by street style bloggers, nor do I realistically expect to ever work in the fashion industry or make a living out of blogging, but I would have thought there would have been more interest out there for a blog attempting more considered writing on the process we all must go through daily in dressing ourselves.  I'm more than happy to throw my two cents worth out there in the blogosphere on things I find beautiful or have bought with my own hard earned cash, I enjoy the blogger camaraderie and frankly, I could blog away quite happily without having to do any outfit shots.  But maybe that's where it's all gone wrong for my blog.  A lack of burning blogger ambition!  Rather than trying to write something interesting I should be donning some outrageous outfit, sticking a stuffed swan on my head and fervently strutting up and down outside Somerset House on the zaniest flatforms I can cope walking on in order to gather the attention of street style bloggers.

While dressing up is part of the fun of Fashion Week (where else do you get an opportunity to push the envelope and not feel out of place?), I've always thought more of it as an event where you get to see some beautiful, interesting design first hand and can talk to designers about their work.  Whenever I attended I would spend all my time inside the exhibition.  If I wanted to do a post for the blog I would always ask permission to take photos of designers' merchandise, I tried to ask what designers were trying to say through their designs and tried to write thoughtfully about the designs I was enthusiastic about.  Some of the designers actually told me in person later that they really appreciated the things I wrote about their creations.  I was hoping to do some more of that this time.  It was not to be and I wonder if it ever will be again.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Going Green

Jill of Everything Just So has invited me to participate in the "How I Wear My..." series she runs with Adrienne of The Rich Life. The theme for March is green.  How topical!  I usually associate March with St Patrick's and the love of all things leprechaun, and Pantene had also announced that their colour of the year is emerald.  As a result I've been taking stock of everything green in my closet at the moment.  I've realised that there is not a huge amount of green in my wardrobe.  Apart from some pale mint garnered from last year's pastel trend, most of what I own in the richer, darker end of the green spectrum is what I've got on here.

There was a time way back in the nineties when I wore quite a lot of darker green shades as a university student studying environmental engineering.  Some of my favourite items were a pair of baggy denim jeans in a rich shade of jade, a dark green denim jacket, and a forest green courdoroy shirt, a racing green mens cardigan.  Coincidently I also had an Irish boyfriend at the time!  Perhaps I was trying to wear not just my heart, but also my chosen profression on my sleeve.

As the years passed my interest in green seemed to trail off.  Rather like the chorophyll fading from the leaves with the dwindling hours of sunlight as summer turns to autumn, the green has gradually been seeping out of my wardrobe with the passage of time.  My green bits and pieces were eventually given away, swapped for olive and khaki, which in turn were also given away to make room for more black.  I just recently gave a away a lace trimmed, midnight green satin slip dress as well as an emerald halterneck to my sister.  What has not been given away often never sees the light of day.  Languishing somewhere in the back of the closet waiting for warmer weather is a beaded teal skirt, an embrodiered camisole in pistachio silk, and a much ignored spaghetti strap babydoll top in a rich, deep green silk chiffon.

Given that my birth stone is the emerald perhaps I should reconsider green as a colour I should wear more of.  An old friend of mine dressed exclusively in shades of green as it was the colour of the heart shakra and therefore also the colour of love.  It was his little way of spreading some love in the world (and it certainly made an easy ice breaker for him with strangers).

I'm more prone to associate green with healthy things I should be eating more of, and as for being green, Mr V and I do try to do our bit.  Part of that is trying to support local farmers' markets when we can.  Every so often, on a Sunday morning, we like to get to the market in Brixton to do our vegetable shopping and meet like minded friends to compare veggie purchases over a coffee at the San Marino cafe.  One thing you don't have to convince me to do is eat more greens.  Winter is cavolo nero season - now there is a wonderfully dark green vegetable if there ever was one.  I love cooking with the stuff and tonight's dinner was roast pork belly, served up with deep green cavolo nero leaves wilted into stewed cannellini beans and shared with friends.

Maybe it is because the Pantene endorsement of emerald has heightened my awareness of green but now I'm seeing it everywhere. Am I thinking people are wearing it more? Or am I just subconsciously on the lookout for it because I expect Pantene might have started some sort of trend going.  My green turtleneck here for example, which I found on sale at Hobbs recently, I had the choice of another black one or a green one.  I ended up taking the green to the till thinking of emerald as the colour of the year.

When I turned up to meet our friends at the cafe this morning, to my surprise, they too were wearing shades of green - a blue-green cyan scarf, a deep olive tweed jacket and green patches in a multicoloured patchwork scarf.  There were several people in the queue for coffee also wearing green.  A young woman with a bright green coat, a child with a lime coloured gilet and several khaki parkas spring to mind.

Even Mr V, completely unprompted, had also reached for a teal striped jumper this morning.  Cue theme of twilight zone...


Green has so many varied connotations, being the colour of the natural world it is associated with the tranquility of the countryside, with fertile land and with the zeal of environmentalism.  It is also associated with naivety.  It is an interesting coincidence that when I moved to the Big Smoke of London and also away from my environmental career that green seemed to recede in my wardrobe like the shrinking area of the Brazilian rainforest on a global map.  I wonder perhaps if I was trying to say something about shedding old shades of myself.  I wonder also if I didn't lose a bit of love for things that should be important along the way too.

But green can also symbolise ressurection and regeneration and maybe there are the green shoots of recovery starting to sprout just in time for spring.  Like the plants that struggle through cracks in the pavement, or the snowdrops and daffodils now breaking through the frozen ground, green has been creeping back almost without me noticing.  As a result of buying this green wool turtleneck this winter, I would say that the colour I have worn most often after black and grey has actually been green.  This cropped crocheted cardigan was one of the survivors of my green cull and of late I have been reaching for it automatically as the natural companion for a green turtleneck.  And today after popping into H&M on the way home from the farmers' market, I came out with a jacket for spring, in a fresh shade of pale mint green.

Cropped Crochet Cardigan: Max Mara; Wool turtleneck: Hobbs; Jade pendant: Shu Han of London; Mr Vs striped jumper: Cos; Friend's tweed jacket: Kew

Linking up this week to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.


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