A Blush of Rose
March 2015 - Spring times ahead.
CHANEL Reverie Parisienne.
It's always a wonderful time of year when we see Spring start to emerge and freshening up your make-up purse is a great way to usher in the fresh new season filled with energy and life.
This season Chanel are offering a beautiful palette of colours in their Reverie Parisienne collection. Hitting the counters in time for the first bloom of springtime this suite of beauty is inspired by the Gardens of Paris that are loved by Parisienne's and people all over the world.
I'm opening this look at the collection with an exploration of this season's lip colours. The collection recalls the contrasting beauties of Rosebushes and Fountains, stone statues and the city landscape that form part of the tapestry of Spring and Summer in the capital.
The lip colours for this collection open with the lip gloss Crazy Fuchsia above to the left. It's a very pretty shade and works ideally for either nights out or a more daring day-time look. Be carefree, be bold and be sexy. I've really enjoyed wearing it. Next moving the left from Rouge Coco are Etourdie in raspberry with a touch of silver to play further with light and Desinvolte in a soft Coral kiss for the lips. As with all Rouge Coco lip colours I love the way these play lightly on the lips and moisturise through the day.
Rouge Allure velvet first in the coolly elegant plum La Romanesque and then in La Pettilante composed of a firey passionate red make another successful due. A pair to contrast with your moods or different looks. The second gloss of the collection, Fleur d'Eau plays with coral to bring a warm touch of passion to the lips. Rouge allure is waiting to reveal it's beauty in the garden of delight and the two colours Insaisissable in passionate coral and Badine in delicate sweet dusty pink recall the delights of opening flowers.
It's spring time in Paris and as we know there's a very sensual echo of plant and petal formation int he full pout of the lip. There's plenty to explore in the make-up collection this season and I have been thinking of my favourite gardens and walks in Paris as I've been enjoying wearing the collection each day as Spring has emerged.
Eye shadow palettes are always an exciting feature of any beauty collection and I know that there are many fans of Chanel Duo's and Quad's in particular. Many girls out there have collections. Chanel bring together some great combinations. Below to the left are Tisse Paris and Tisse Fantaisie. I have Tisse Fantaisie and I'm very in love with it. This eye-quad comprises a golden tinted sea-green, a rosy coral, a brown with copper flashes of brilliance all illuminated with a light satiny white.
Both the Palettes can combine with any eye colour so just pick what appeals to you the most. Tisse Paris is composed of slightly cooler shades with two Rosewood shades blending with a slate gray and a sheer ivory tone. As with all quads they are flexible you can use on or two colours or orchestrate a beautiful symphony of colours around your eyes to delicate or striking effect by using the full compliment of four.
This seasons blush is a delicate duo toned palette sculpted fittingly in floral relief in harmony with this season's theme of the Parisienne Gardens. The blush is called Angelique from the Joues Contraste powder blush range. Light and delicate this is a captivating addition to your beauty collection and as with all Chanel compact products it's cased with a high definition mirror that I think is a beauty essential in itself. Complete with it's natural hair brush this powder blush is light and easy to apply and gives a light glow to the cheeks. Angelique is a great colour that again will be a strong addition to any beauty collection and be a product that you can rely on. I'm not easily persuaded but I love the quality and depth in their beauty collections.
A make up look is never really complete without paying the necessary due attention to the nails. I've been wearing intense Fushcia of DESIRIO (in the centre) for a look at it see my Instagram page here. It's a bold bright colour that looks energetic and sexy while still being sophisticated. Chanel pair it with La Romanesque from the Rouge Allure Velvet series, as a fan of both I'd happily agree. Furthest to the right is the Rosewood tinged TENDERLY. This subtle nuanced shade is soft delicate and versatile. It's a lovely gentle colour for spring and summer. To the left is PARADISIO a light pearl hued sea-green reminiscent of the Tisse Fantasie eye palette. It has a reflective mirror effect created within it's formula and for me this conjours memories of fountain pools in gardens as well as the expansive waters of the sea in summer time.
I think this season Chanel are inviting us to find our own enchanted corner of Paris tucked away in a garden secluded in mystery.
Beulah - The Inner Beauty collection for Spring - Summer 2015.
While preparing to welcome Natasha's new arrival in Spring 2015 work continued a-pace on creating a beautiful new collection from Beulah. The Beulah ladies strive to add a message of hope as the theme of each collection that they bring out and this season the collection took it's cue from the simple ethos of the pure truth inside all of us. Fashion has a lot to do with self esteem, confidence and exploration of identity. Quite weighty subjects you may feel for a humble fashion blog but what we wear is a key part of how we express ourselves to the world every day and we mustn't forget the role that fashion plays in all our lives to heal and lift the spirit.
By speaking of inner beauty Natasha and Lavinia are channeling the strength that we all possess inside ourselves to bring out the best we have within us and express that through natural radiance and fashion. It's a message with a beautiful quiet strength of it's own and one to reflect on.
Natasha and Lavinia have developed their growing fashion brand into a well respected label borne out of their desire for social justice and a need to make a positive impact and aid change and transition where it was so badly needed to support victims of people trafficking in India. Helping women through fashion thus takes on many forms and layers of expression.
Below images with kind permission of CHANEL.
As each season passes I find the breadth of the design duo's repertoire expanding as they explore new shapes and new ideas and I find myself being drawn to more and more of their styles. Above I've opened my look at their collection with a very beautiful white lace dress that is a perfect look for parties and events through the Spring and Summer season, the Amara dress. It's a stunning, yet simple piece that has the look of understated elegance that we know of Beulah honed to perfection and I think it's a piece many women will treasure through several seasons. A dress to love. Next to it is a clean lined elegant White blouse and 'Dusky Pink' skirt combination that would suit a variety of formal and semi-formal occasions. Again, the Beulah team are playing smart here with the design as this look could also be worn with a jacket for christenings/weddings/race meetings or simply left looking stunning as it is in the Lookbook shot above. These first two pieces are top of my 'wishlist' for next season.
Next to the right are two beautiful dresses in dusky pink that are both stunning one-piece items that you will be reaching for during the next season. The sleeveless Ines dress with the drop waist peplum skirt is a great look for work or play as is it's neighbour the chic and savvy Tulip dress. They are both fantastic day into evening dresses and have the classic Beulah trait of being elegant, complementary but not ever attention seeking. The simple elegance of all these designs will serve to bring out the Inner Beauty in all clients who do wear them and take them to their hearts.
Next the Ilira dress and the Leiela dress both in mint. Another two dresses that will make seriously versatile additions to the wardrobe and are perfect as stand alone occasion pieces or will work wonders moving from day int evening. They will take your neatly from the office to after work rinks or from lunches followed by shopping to early evening engagements seamlessly. Natasha and Lavinia well and truly have mastered the art of shaping a collection around women's needs to suit a variety of different occasions.
The collection takes a step in another direction and plays with print and bold colour in the next look above to the left. The two floor length Juliet dresses are in the Flower Spirit print in firstly Red, giving a hint of energy and passion and then in delicate Blush. These are both 'must-have' pieces for the holiday season with a hint of Morocco in the 1970's and long A-line design. From these still shots you do get a good feel of the movement in the pieces and these are looks that will have a broad appeal amongst the the growing following that Beulah are building. This is a collection with very strong appeal. What I also like about it is that it has what I call multi-generational appeal so within a family you can envisage several different women wearing the clothes all looking sexy, beautiful and fun.
Next to the right the Selene dress in powder Yellow is a very pretty piece that will flatter and look the part at a wide variety of events. I love the V neck design tapering down to the banded waist drawing the eye to the definitions of the curves of the female figure. It's very flattering and very wearable. The pleats falling down from the waist give a lightness of movement and natural slight swing as you walk in it. The sheer sleeves echo one of Beulah's most famous designs, the Sabitri dress and a demure touch to the outfit as shoulders and arms are discreetly covered.
The Lily dress in Blue Rose print makes a bold statement next to the right and captures all the feminine energy and zest that Natasha and Lavinia's collection are known for while still remaining that little bit understated and frankly not too showy. You will draw admiring glances in many looks from this collection for all the right reasons and to paraphrase Gabrielle Chanel your clothes will make people notice the person, the inner you when you meet them. Above to the right a beautiful tulip dress in Navy is another discreet, demure wardrobe staple that you could easily wear to work, to day events with it without a jacket or for drinks/dinners and parties in the evening.
Above to the left is a very beautiful look for an event the Isla top and the Dahila skirt.
This look is pretty stunning and lightly envelopes the wearer sitting gently on the figure. It's a beautiful piece of design and the sash-tie bow at the front makes it a special piece to treasure for special times. Navy always makes a strong impact and suits so many women so I was pleased to see Lavinia and Natasha playing with it in a number of looks. Two Beulah classics
sit side by side here in navy, the long line Painted Lady dress and the flowing skirted Sabitri. These two contrasting designs have returned with new permutations through several seasons and the Sabitri in particular is a style created at Beulah that the duo have become known for. Both the Isla top and Dahila skirt and the Navy Sabitri are looks that would find a happy home with me.
Moving next to the right is the stunning Fleur robe dress. This would be wonderful to wear on warm nights and again with echos of Morocco it gives a comfortable glamour look. To the right the Isla top in white combines with the Cleo trousers in Navy for another formal/semi formal outfit option. It shows well how this collection, as with Beulah's others of the past, contains a number of interchangeable separates that can form a neat and chic capsule for the season. And once again I personally think you'll love the pieces enough to keep them through several seasons.
To close my look at this season I've chosen two pieces here on either side that tick all the boxes if you need a beautiful formal dress to wear this season. To the left is the Porcelain dress in Teal. A perfect floor-length piece that will set you up smartly for a number of events. To the left the 'twin' perhaps of the look that I opened the collection with, the Amara dress in Black. This is an essential look for the coming season and I think like many of the other designs on offer from the Beulah team this season; it will become treasured in your wardrobe.
Jeanne Lanvin retrospective at the Palais Galliera - Paris.
As befitting a modest lady, this exhibition is a quiet celebration of the life and work of the woman who founded the what is now the Oldest Haute Couture Maison in Paris, the House of Lanvin. Albert Elbaz current, Artisitc Director at Lanvin, has worked closely with the Palais to bring the history of Jeanne's couture to the global audience that will pass through the Palais' doors.
Jeanne Lanvin was one of the most talented and best loved couturiers practicing through the twentieth century. Alongside her contemporary Gabrielle Chanel she championed the new mode of dress for women that abandoned the corset and allowed women liberation of movement and even simply breath, while creating opulent Haute Couture that would serve the needs of her clients. Below alongside the portrait of the lady you can also see three looks that typify her commitment to giving women liberty whilst also creating the most intricately crafted dresses.
Below images with kind permission of Beulah and credited to Katrina Lawson Johnston.
All images below with credit to Pierre Antoine (C).
I like the portrait above of Madam, it shows a thoughtful, slightly pensive face full of earnest intention. I can imagine her greeting her clients in her salon or Atelier with a similar, almost shy, smile. The first dress to the right of Madame is 'Scintillante' from 1939. It's a classic 1930's gown that would probably be worn in the evening unless called upon for a very formal day event. This is the classic shape that comes to mind for many of us when we think of evening gowns of that era. The midnight blue of the dress is off-set with silver brocade detail in circling the waist and formed into spheres around the shoulders to create a jacket. This shot by Katerina Jebb beautifully illustrates that lightness of the skirt and conveys how the dress will sit on the figure of the wearer and move as she walks. It's a beautiful piece that I think many women would wear today as vintage.
Next to the right the 'La Diva' dress from 1935-36 is another classic 1930's design fitting softly over the figure and in a beautifully eye catching shade of blue. The dress features embroidery detail of many silver sequins and the bright shine of these features set against the bold colour of the dress add to the effect of luminescence. This is easy wear Haute Couture with plenty of artistry shown in the composition of design and the finishing detail (see below) but without the rigid structures of the past to constrain the figure. It's a gentle piece to carry you through the evening. Lastly in the range above the very pretty 'Marguerite de le nuit'; named for Jeanne's daughter. This dress has a strong look of contemporary about it and I think that many women would enjoy wearing it today. It's a piece that Jeanne Lanvin brought out in 1929 and for me is an early precursor of the 1930's cocktail dress that still retains much of the elegance of classic 1920's design. I think that this piece also shows how some influences of the 1920's re-emerged later in the 1950's and 1980's.
Below La Cavallini dress from 1925 with it's broad waistband, simple bodice and full light skirt is a wonderful example of the liberation of fashion in the 1920's. Not only is the structure gentle to the figure but the bold bow design is also quite a daring style statement for this period in history.
Here are some wonderful images from the cabinets of the exhibition. It's a wonderful tour through the archive and history of such a great House and a wonderful introduction to the style repertoire and influence that Jeanne Lanvin had and continues to have to this day. Above to the left is every Fashion historians dream scenario; a beautifully well preserved dress with a portrait sitting close by of a woman who owned and loved that very dress. I shows that for many clients Haute Couture isn't just an affordable luxury it is a part of their personality and the clothes themselves form parts of collections that have a deep personal significance for their owners. It's a definitely a moment in a collection when you take time to pause and reflect.
The next shot from Pierre Antoine, centre above, is a great blend of styles through the 1930's and the 1940's. The central piece is a show-piece evening gown and again the structure and design are very sympathetic to the natural curves of the woman's figure. Layered in red and white ribbons of material this dress would suit a broad range of clients and be a treasured part of a woman's collection. Typifying an age when women's lives where becoming more hectic and demanding in all sphere's of life this look is easy to compliment with accessories.
Either side of this dress are dresses that feature more detailed applique detail and in contrast to the central look they are fashioned in neutral earth tones. Terracotta and Tuscan umber create a palette of warm climates and these looks recall far flung destinations such as Morocco and Arabia in their long lines and clean forms. The circular form the Art Deco is very much in evidence here and I can see these pieces as perhaps early pre-cursors to the long-line looks of the 1970's and the later work of Yves Saint Laurent. Here fabulously intricate beading detail shows the height of the Haute Couture craftsmanship of her Atelier.
To the right the last look above is a beautiful dress and jacket suit, with gloves that again shows the mastery of Jeanne Lanvin's craft. Once again the symmetry of Art Deco appears here again in the perfect repetition on line and design to create a precise and intricate demonstration of Haute Couture. I love this look and feel, like with many others in this retrospective that many women would wear this now as a vintage piece of design that would easily find a comfortable place alongside contemporary fashion.
Alexander McQueen : Savage Beauty at the V&A in London.
This is a beautiful exhibition that began life in New York at the Met Museum and has now traveled over to London. I think it's one of the best exhibitions that I've ever seen. You don't have to be a fashion expert to be captivated by the creative genius that is frankly all-evident. This is one of a handful of shows that I've seen and went away thinking that I would come back with my sketch book. I also felt that I learnt a lot more about the work of Alexander McQueen during my very slow progress through the series of rooms and more than many other exhibitions I was left with the strong impression of his work on me. Literally like something had imprinted and left a lasting impression.
For me his work does contain a lot of emotion. Some pieces from the early years are undeniably dark but I personally find this a raw state of savagery, if such a thing can exist. I think that the mood in the early collections that is very dark and graphic is possibly an expression of inner feeling from McQueen rather than any broader outward dislike of the world and his surroundings. It's like a cry coming out and shows tremendous sensitivity. The design detail and technical ability throughout is astonishing and the work in itself is a masterclass of design and design development.
Above to the left is a beautiful dress that could be worn as bridal or evening wear. The combination of halter neck and cut away shoulder makes this pieces from the 1930's feel like a piece that could move seamlessly in time through the twentieth century. The train of the skirt cut into two pieces forming an acute angle is another nod to the Art Deco world that the dress was born from. The open back speaks of the liberation of women's fashion between the two wars and with beautiful simplicity reveals the beauty of the woman's figure forming a point just above where the base of the spine dips into the curve of the waist. I think it's beautiful, simply stunning and I would wear this piece. It's my favourite look of the collection.
Centre above is a close-up shot showing the exquisite embroidery detail in silk from the Lanvin Atelier. The Roses are beautiful and I love the shade of Ivory placed together with a deeper shade of light caramel. It's a dream creation and also shows powerfully how Jeanne Lanvin herself was very influenced by the nuances and technique of eighteenth century European fashion. The delicate tucks and folds of the silks, the stitching and attention to line and form are all there. This piece also shows the special significance that the Empire line had for Lanvin and from here it isn't difficult to trace it through other works here in her collection.
Above to the right are two dresses in midnight blue that are real party girl outfits. I see these two dresses as having been witness to some great nights out and setting of the beauty of their wearers to great effect. There is a lot of play with shape and geometry here with the first dress using a tessellated pattern echoing that found in nature perhaps from flower petals or from the scales of the skin of a reptile. The second dress standing a little behind has a slightly more formal structure and line with layers sitting on top of eachother. Both dresses descend to a sheer silk fringe at the base of the skirt revealing the legs below the knee and also giving the dress plenty of lightness in it's movement.
To close my look at this exhibition here are some more still shots from Pierre Antoine. I chose the hat above for it's unconventional look and also I think it works well with the two outfits shown next to it that where part of the image further above. Here you can see more detail of the embroidery and the gentle sash tie at the waist of one of the dresses. The hat for me has traces of traditional textile design in the crafting of the rim of the hat that looks like reed-work. The lose fabric of the crown is reminiscent of the styles still worn today in some parts of the world. To the right detail of one of the shoulders of a garment with the outfit shown in reflection from behind to show the viewer how it hangs on the figure.
Finally a sweeping shot of a dress from one of the cabinets showing echos of the traditional style of dress from the eighteenth century in France and elsewhere. The beading at the back of the gown is captivating in it's accuracy and detail and also on a practical note it adds just a little weight to counterbalance the lightness of the fabric, thus keeping the train of the dress anchored as the wearer moves.
This is a stunning retrospective of the largely influential lady who remained modest. It's the first time Jeanne Lanvin has been celebrated in the city that she worked in and I hope that this exhibition inspires more coverage of her work around the world. She is a truly great fashion figure who'se work reached across the decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when fashion changed so radically. They where momentous times to be living and working in and for fashion, I believe the greatest times of cultural change so far. With thanks to the Palais Galliera team and the House of Lanvin.
Below images credited to Katerina Jebb (C) Portrait of Jeanne Lanvin by Harcourt (C).
Even with spacious palace halls to fill it's not easy to do justice to one woman's career and contribution to fashion by simply filling these halls. I'm very glad to see that Jeanne's early career as a milliner is given plenty of space here as was her work in creating hats and clothing for children. Far from being a formulaic designers of women's evening-wear, Jeanne Lanvin had a broader vision where Haute Couture was not just a luxury item but a broad ranging craft that she could create for a diverse Parisienne clientele and for many in the world beyond. The presentation of the pieces is thoughtful with plentiful use of mirrors to allow people to examine the detail of the garments and plentiful space for the visitors to move easily from between the displays.
Above this dress detail image from the Palais Galliera with credit to (C) R. Briant and L. Degraces.
All below images with kind permission of the V&A.
This exhibition draws the viewer emotionally into the world of McQueen. The artistry and craftsmanship of the Haute Couture and Ready to Wear pieces forms the language of McQueen's communication and expression. It's the tangibility that he brought to his designs that fascinates me. To the right one of the most famous images the representing the collection is the Duck Feather dress from the Horn of Plenty collection for Autumn-Winter 2006-07. It was modeled by Magdalena Frackowiak. It's a powerful and touches on the power of raw female energy found in nature. I see a lot of the natural world in McQueen's designs.
One of my favourite collections from the House of McQueen under the eye of it's founder is The Widows of Culloden collection for Autumn 2006-07 shown in Paris. It's an historically emotive theme that he chose. Ever conscious of his family heritage and also with strong sympathies for the lives of women and the pain that they endure; this collection is one that I think will be referenced for many decades. The collection was dedicated to the memory of Isabella Blow who played such a key role in Alexander McQueen's career and gave such a great contribution to late 20th century fashion.
The dress to the left in white tulle and lace completed by a veil and also antlers. The almost ghostly bride is turned into a widow on the hills where stags and deer generally roam day by day.
Within the exhibition there is a dedicated room that is called the cabinet of curiosities so I would call this image, above left, of Romantic Gothic pieces, a Cabinet of Wonder. It's so beautiful and the glass cabinet in the form of a medieval jewel casket adds to the romanticism of the setting. Note in the background the faded mirrors echoing unpolished silver of a ballroom forgotten many years ago. It's certainly a composition filled with romantic energy, charm and life and contained within the box each dress holds it own narrative. I like the mixture of floor length and knee length here and my favourite look of the set is that furthest to the right. This yellow dress was part of the Autumn-Winter 2010-11 collection.
The cabinet to the right above focuses around romantic naturalism, again for me nothing quite savage here, passionate and expressive yes, but all under the most beautiful form of control. The dress from the Spring-Summer 2007 Sarabande collection second from the left is, to a conventional eye, super feminine with the wearer cloaked in flowers. It's a beautiful gown and again one that you wouldn't be un-surprised to see on the red carpet today.
Above is one of the first panoramas of the exhibit that you see when you enter. This series comprises a number of looks that span several collections and I thought it was a great introduction. All of the work is beautiful and much admired by the audience, again many people stopping for quite some time to look at the detail. What struck me most about these pieces was that I think there are many looks here that people would wear today or tonight to an event or simply for pleasure. This work feels very contemporary and in the moment rather than an archive of work from the past couple of decades. I feel that this is part of the energy of the collection that is engrained in the design. These clothes have life within them.
Above to the left is the Romantic Exoticism gallery that was also one of the places where I lingered the longest during the exhibition. For me the combination of silk embroidered designs and light chiming music-box style theme music gave me the strong impression of the world of ancient China. Some of these pieces have a fragility innately in them I feel and conjure an image of women that is almost doll-like. The colours used here are also soft and natural and have a quiet beauty. To the right above the installation view of Voss shows the cabinet where one side is composed of mirrors. Inside this cabinet is a red and black Ostrich feather dress modeled for McQueen by Erin O'Connor. The upper part of the dress is made of microscopic painted slides providing a strong colour and texture contrast within one piece.
Below are two more pieces from the exhibition adding a touch of moonlight and sparkle. The stunning dress covered in stones is a piece that will ensure a woman lights up a room just as she should. Next to it the two pieces that are beautiful head-wear. Powerful and majestic in their symbolism that celebrate the strength of women and their radiant light.
My favourite room contained looks from the Widows of Culloden and The Girl who Lived in a Tree collections. As soon as I walked in I saw two pieces that I knew I would wear and as I slowly made my way through the room and studies each piece my thoughts didn't change. The piece called Ensemble from the Girl who Lived in a Tree collection was one of my favourite looks from the whole show. With a bodice composed of red jeweled beads that came to a beautiful waist and a full ballerina skirt this is a high glamour number that would create a great impression. Like many of the looks, it could be worn today. Below is one of the most striking looks of the Romantic Nationalism gallery. Quite literally this is a full evening gown super-charged with both theatrical energy and the most precise and sensitive eye for detail and composition. The headpiece does honour to the strength of emotion in this outfit. Set with Swarovski Crystals this outfit as one looks fit for a master of ceremonies or a guest at a Venetian carnival ball.
Below is one of the iconic McQueen images that I remember seeing when I was growing up and first becoming aware of fashion, the fashion world and the industry it supported. This is the spray painted dress from the No. 13 collection from the Spring and Summer 1999 collection. Here the model (yes models do work very hard for their art) Shalom Harlow is spray painted in the manner of a car. Feet tied, she is bound and helpless and routed to the spot as the machines begin their work. Standing back and looking at it, as one would with performance art, it appears like a moment of sacrifice. Far from being a production line however; fashion is alive with new concepts and my take on the message here is that the woman is a vehicle for change. Women's lives are really still to formulaic and constrained, we can feel like we're on a production line but don't give in to this feeling. We are all strong and we are all unique. I think that this is McQueen's message.
The launch party that opened the exhibition at the V&A was one of the most anticipated of the early summer season and gathered a broad range of faces, many of who had worked with McQueen during the course of his career. So, as you can imagine, it was quite big party. Below to the left Suzy Menkes was glowing and in great form as the evening kicked off.
I loved her outfit, she and Stella Tennant wore my favourite looks of the evening.
To the right Alexandra Shulman and Mario Testino worked with Alexander McQueen. Stella Tennant is one of a number of models who walked for Alexander McQueen who attended the evening. I think this evening had something of the atmosphere of the reunion about it as so many of the designers contemporaries and friends where there to celebrate his work.
Philip Treacy was among the guests who's work was also featured in the exhibition alongside McQueen's pieces just as when the collections where assembled and designed. His work was intertwined with McQueen's at the heart of his collections. Above the Red gown from the Romantic Nationalism collection was crowned with a Philip Treacy hat embedded with Swarovski crystals.
One of the Supermodels most closely associated with the work of Alexander McQueen is Erin O'Connor. Erin spoke at the V&A about her work with Alexander McQueen and it was fascinating to hear some her thoughts and feelings about McQueen the designer and the clothes that he created.
Erin has strong lasting memories of McQueen's kindness and his bold vision. Amongst usual whirl wind of fitting as any hour pre-show, supported by his legendary team, Erin also remembers a man who didn't place the idea of his promoting his brand before the attention and respect that he gave to women.
Erin explained her approach to her work with McQueen and how her background and study of dance and movement lent itself perfectly to modelling for him. Erin's method involved very much living in the moment and the presence of the character during the show. I would describe this as embodying the muse, the persona that McQueen perceived for the particular piece(s) that he chose Erin and her contemporaries to wear. Compared to shows in more recent seasons the collections brought out by McQueen himself and other designers in the 90's and 00's where choreographed in a way much closer to performance pieces.
McQueen entrusted Erin and her peers to literally give a life and identity to the pieces that they wore through movement and expression. This was beautiful but I think crucially it also allowed the clothes to shown in a way that demonstrated the movement and presence in a way that has been lost in recent years. Just as McQueen sought to give strength to women through each design; so he also communicated this message through the expressive strength of the women who modeled for him. Erin studies ballet in her early years which provided an excellent grounding for her career as a model. Essentially what we see in McQueen's shows is performance art of the best kind. Sensitive, intuitive and in harmony with the collections created.
It may be less interesting possibly for models to do the straight up and down walk but also I personally think now that the audience and future clients are also losing a great opportunity to see the clothes 'in action' so to speak. This freedom of expression is rarely found now either in Ready to Wear or Haute Couture. Fashion must live and be alive. That's what I think.
This dress is so intricate at first glance it may look like an Haute Couture piece but it's a superb piece of Ready to Wear. The embroidery detail is astounding and the many, many layers of lace of the skirt create the unmistakable presence of luxury. The hint of Ivory in the colour of the lace adds to the atmosphere of vintage and age and gives further weight to the emotions of tragedy. Is this savage beauty, again I feel that there isn't so much savagery here personally. I see an echo of strength in the antlers f the stag and the widow walks forward with her head held up, veiled but present in everyone's eyes. The choice of white that can symbolise both marriage and sometimes death provides a juxtaposition, dual energy I feel, in the message that can possibly be interpreted by this piece. It's stunning and one of the many looks from the show that I spent a great deal of time observing and understanding.
Above to the right is the Razor-Clam shell dress from the Spring-Summer 2001 Vos collection modeled by Erin O'Connor. This dress is composed of Razor-Clam shells layered vertically and was shown to the audience at Paris Fashion Week in the expressive mode of performance art. Erin, as I will talk more about later in this piece was directed by McQueen to rip the shells off the dress as she walked. For me this was a demonstration, an acting out of the living forces of nature, powerful and strong. The female force both as a cradle of life but also with the power to destroy. Powerful but for me maybe with a wild strength.
Below images with kind permission of the V&A credited to David Bennett.
Alexandra Shulman and Mario Testino
Philip Treacy and Harriet Verney
Erin O'Connor, Poppy Delevinge,
Annabelle Nielson and Kate Moss