A Blush of Rose
Summer has arrived in London and I've got a great collection of features coming to start the Summer Season.
Cannes Film Festival 2015 - Fashion - Ralph & Russo storm the red carpet in the most demure way imaginable.
Cannes is always a wonderful fashion highlight of the early Summer. As the weather becomes warmer it's important for guests attending to both meet the dress code and wear pieces that are light on the figure and feel fantastic. It therefore is a natural place to find many women wearing Haute Couture in a variety of different guises. As many of you will know I'm an advocate of the re-birth of the British Haute Couture movement and have believed in it for many years.
This season at Cannes the London based Maison Ralph & Russo showed the world that this part of the industry is alive and thriving in the capital and creating wonderful pieces that are the finest design one could hope to discover. Ralph and Russo won much acclaim for being the designer of choice of many actresses this season.
Charbonnel et Walker providers of fine English chocolates since 1875.
A bit of indulgence looking at the Chocolates of Charbonnel et Walker this summer and a feature on some of their new delicious treats that have joined the collection in the last couple of years. I've loved Charbonnel since I was a teenager and during the time when I've worked over in Mayfair I've been a very happy (not infrequent) visitor to their beautiful boutique in Old Bond Street Arcade. Recently they have brought back the celebrated floral 'Hat Boxes' that they have traditionally presented their chocolates in and these wonderful petit, ou grand, boites make for very special gifts.
I'm very pleased to report that the collection of truffles has been expanded and one of the new favourites is the Sea Salt Caramel. This is a delicious chocolate that melts in the mouth as you eat it. Lightly dusted with icing powder it's a fantastic addition to Charbonnel truffle family and now a firm favourite of mine.
Also, and possibly my favourite addition to the truffle suite of chocolates is the Raspberry Champagne truffle. Raspberry is one of my favourite fruits and, like many of us, I am very partial to a glass of excellent champagne and find that champagne and fruits actually combine very well together although we don't often find this in culinary dishes. Thank heaven for chocolate then. The flavour of the raspberry is fresh and natural, the chocolate is not too saccharine sweet at all and consistency of the chocolates soft centre is just right, soft and not too liquid. I've covered Charbonnel in the past several years ago and attended many of their events, notably with Miller Harris Perfumes and Appleton Estate Rum from Jamaica and I have a huge respect for the team and know how much time and effort they spend in developing the new additions to the Charbonnel collection. The results are deliciously evident.
A look at the Spring 2016 Cruise Collections and accessories - CHANEL and DIOR. Below images with kind permission of Chanel and Dior.
CHANEL whisked us off to Korea to unveil their Cruise Collection that will have us sailing into 2016, and it looks like it will be on a very colourful note. I was delighted to hear that Chanel had chosen Korea to show their collection in as the Maison has long had a very loyal base of followers here and I suspect there will be numerous families of third and fourth generation loyal Chanel clients as well as people who have discovered Chanel a-new and come to love the brand for themselves. And on with our look at the collection.
Colour play was evident early in the collection with the opening series of looks featuring fabric composed of many strips of bright colour. For me this was a wonderful bold colour surprise and I've really enjoyed looking closely at the permutations of design that Karl brought the fabric out in. Many people have observed that this is a reference to the traditional Korean Hanbok dress work by women. Re-worked for the 21st century Karl has upped the ante by infusing a greater number of colours together in a patchwork Kaleidoscope geometry of colour. It's a fantastic way to open a collection that will have clients banishing the winter blues and dreaming of summer, or simply enjoying the latest offering from Chanel's repertoire.
John Galliano Master of Couture in conversation with British Vogue Editor Alexandra Shulman.
Here are my thoughts and a summary of their conversation from the Vogue Festival in London in April 2015. My first surprise of the evening was walking into the building just behind Jonathan Newhouse. We arrived at exactly the same time and he is a good point to start my commentary on the talk as he has been one of the behind the scenes friends and contacts that has helped John return to fashion and resume a new chapter in his career. Below you can see the stage was set for the talk with some beautiful pieces from John's recent Haute Couture Collection at new House Maison Martin Margiela. As the lights dimmed a show reel played memorable moments from John's career featuring notably much of his extensive background at Dior. It's part of the past that brought him here with us today but as Alexandra was to help us discover there was much more in John's background to fascinate us. This was a fashion crowd and there was a notable feeling of warmth for John as he began to tell his story and so we sat, patiently listening and quietly learning.
All images below with kind permission of Ralph & Russo.
Here above is the Chinese Actress Fan Bingbing wearing Ralph & Russo to the opening screening of the Film Festival. Each year at Cannes she wears beautiful gowns, some are conventional, some take more risks. Often Fan favours classic long evening gowns often with a train. This look above from Ralph & Russo was a pretty strong statement of feminine beauty and showed the beauty of her figure perfectly and for me, I think this bespoke piece is an iconic image. The blush rose pink and the fresh green blend perfectly. The design is simple and elegant while at the same time the eye can absorb the intricate embroidery that reaches across the dress. The floor length sleeves are an echo of traditional Chinese clothing in a nod to the past perhaps creating a beautiful piece of early 21st Century Haute Couture.
Jourdan Dunn is one of the most stunning British models around that we have and she also just happens to be wearing one of my favourite looks from the Spring and Summer 2015 Ralph & Russo. Centre above Sonam Kapoor looked stunning in blue at the Premier of 'The Sea of Trees'. The beautiful deep blue compliments her so well and the even the waves of Sonam's hair are echoed in the draping of the dress.
Above to the right Liu Wen wears a beautiful silver gown by Ralph & Russo to the screening of 'Little Prince'. Chic and neat this look illustrates perfectly the diversity within design in the world of Haute Couture. It's not always about big gowns. The delicacy of the artistry of the atelier can be illustrated in many ways and a precisely executed design with clear simple lines is equally impressive art.
Above to the right Fan Bingbing wears another one of my favourite looks from the Spring Summer 2015 Ralph & Russo collection. It's a very beautiful piece transforming the wearer, I feel, into a beautiful flower emerging from a flower. She wore it to the Chopard Trophy Party during Cannes week. Andie MacDowell, centre above looked absolutely radiant at the screening of her film Magic Mike in a dress that showed the superb ability of the Maison to create the finest embroidered detail. Above to the left Aishwarya Rai wore a classic Ralph & Russo gown working with a two colour theme. I feel lucky to have seen a number of these dresses in person and in particular have a strong recollection of the beautiful movement in the dress that Aishwarya wore.
What a great way to start Summer on the French Riviera? Lots of talented, very hardworking ladies of the film industry wearing some stunning clothes celebrating the creative talents of Tamara Ralph.
Ralph and Russo also have a stunning chic range of clutch purses themed in my favourite neutral colours that coordinate beautifully with the looks that they have brought out over several seasons.
The Rose design sits across the opening side of the purse and forms part of the clasp opening. As many of you know I love the Rose and the colour scheme Ralph & Russo are working with here, it's a perfect match to the blog.
Canny viewers will also note that the gold is in fact rose-gold that gives a natural warm glow and adds a special spark of life to the piece.
These purses are perfect occasion and evening wear accompaniments and would make great gifts for friends in their own right.
Pic of my chocolate selection at home in time for afternoon tea.
With a nod to it's own tradition Chanel opened with a look comprising the classic Chanel boucle tweed suit with the brightly coloured fabric shown in the blouse and fringe underlay if the skirt. The colours of the bold kaleidoscope pattern where echoed in the weave of the tweed and I thought this was a beautiful subtle way of welcoming in this new trend within the colour scheme. The more I look at this pattern, the more I like it and I can see why Karl to work it into a number of designs at the start of the show. We usually used the word 'moreish' in English vernacular to describe food but I find this fabric and design very 'moreish' in itself.
The accessories for this collection are really strong and there's are great amount of choice in the pieces that you can select to coordinate with outfits. In the opening look above to the right, the model wears a choker collar with beautiful light aqua beads and a circular geometric compass - like design. It's very beautiful and would work very well with outfits in other colours particularly white and black. Next above to the left is a shoulder bag/rucksack that will make a great travelling companion. Again this piece works great with many pieces from the collection but will also coordinate well with Denim or marine navy and white to create a fun juxtaposition contrast.
Above to the right the reflective lunettes are very cool and the frame detail gives them the unmistakable touch of Chanel. The model also wear a fantastic necklace that has continuing echos of the Chanel Byzance collection from a few years ago. It's a continuing theme celebrating a form of style that was very close to Chanel's heart and conscience and exploration of history and esoteria with her friend Boy Capel. Note the key simple lines of embroidery that run across the seams of the dress here. It's another echo of Chanel herself in her earliest days and her first simple steps in embroidery and design.
The collection continues with another very beautiful knee length dress working key Chanel traditional details into a the Korean Cruise season design. I really liked this look and I also was very taken with the bracelet above set with beautiful red stones and crafted in gold. The piece actually looks as though it could be in Rose-gold such is the shine that comes off the piece thanks to the stones. Long lines feature in the next two looks above to the right with the Multi-colored print being worked into great sleeveless piece and in contrast the floral emblem of Chanel's Camellia giving subtle detail to the coll billowing white gown above to the right. This is a great cruise piece that will be a welcome addition to the wardrobe on warm balmy days. Next above to the right a very pretty dress that returns to the mainstay looks of Chanel in recent seasons. This new-look tweed style suit has been a very popular option in the Chanel collections in the past few seasons and re-worked again this will delight clients and followers of the House again this season.
I loved the celebration of pink this season in the cruise collection. It's a great colour that gives life to both men and women when they wear it and I loved the three looks above very much for their pay with both the colour contrast of pink and cream and also the fresh permutations Chanel jacket and English Tennis dress. Are there slight shades of Downton and 1930'S inter-war English sporting and college fashion. Yes, probably there are and it's a style and time that Gabrielle Chanel herself had a strong affinity for so I'm glad to see it back as nostalgia re-born and renewed.
In terms of day-ware I would certainly wear each of these looks. They're very flexible and made up of great coordinating separates. Each of the jackets and each of the dresses form a beautiful interesting piece. I love the weave of tweeds in particular and I find the fabrics absolutely captivating. Centre above is one of my two favourite purses of the collection. A delicate blush pink, it's a perfect size for an evening purse or a purse for a day occasion event. It's looks fantastic with this outfit and it's also a piece that you will be able to wear over several seasons and combine with numerous different outfits. Above to the right looking slightly more formal this look uses a fascinating weave in one of my favourite colours of tweed. Note the extra detail at the shoulders giving a slightly militaristic uniformed twist. Yes, you see, there is great strength in pink.
Playful colour bounces through the collection and above to the left this fantastic bright dress echos the traditional Hanbok beautifully for the 21st century. It's a great dress that women and girls will enjoy the world over. I love this pink dress and the adornments. Next to it a raffia style bag cleverly echos the threading process of the weave as it's woven into the celebrated Chanel suits. This funky look will coordinate with a broad range of looks and is very pretty set against the white trousers behind it.
The next two looks play with the theme of denim-esque trousers and light tops and jackets. Delicately accessorised with the Maison's jewellery they are very flexible smart/casual looks you could wear for meeting family and friends. Note the embellishments on the trousers. The next black jacket and trousers set will pleasure clients looking for an outfit that is very classically Chanel. I love it with the new-season twist of Korean style footwear and jewellery. Above to the right the sequined top shown in detail re-works the theme of colour strips from the earlier part of the collection moving the look forward to something more perhaps for an evening occasion.
Many people know Charbonnel as the home of the traditional Rose and Violet creams that date to the earliest years of the company in the 19th century under the eye of Madame Charbonnel herself. Charbonnel have added a mint cream, complete with crystalised mint to this to form a sweet trio of harmonious traditional tastes. Above you can see it sitting on the stand with a selection of truffles and two rose creams. Above on the stand I also included a Capuccino truffle and lastly two of my favourite Charbonnel chocolates the Pink Marc de Champagne hearts. Delicious and like all sweet offerings that melt in the mouth some thing to be savoured slowly and enjoyed.
The next series of looks stick close to my own favourite personal colour scheme that I've always used here at A Blush of Rose, Black, rose pink, magenta and white. They're a great combination and give a smart, clean and pretty effect. Above to the left is a beautiful purse in the long oblong-style with a quarter-moon shaped opening. With slight sports feel, this is a very chic piece. Again the theme of a Tennis outfit or sailing outfit appears in the next look and reminds us that Cruise season is a great time of year to remain active. I love this matching jacket and skirt outfit and would love to be on the court with it in 2016 :-)
The next look features great black trousers made from a very lovely semi-sheer fabric with traditional Korean design. A work of art in themselves paired up with a stunning asymmetrical top that partly sits above the hip and partly runs down towards the knee. The Camellia appears as a jewellery corsage just below the shoulder. Statement cuffs give the outfit a more daring feisty edge, not quite punk - still channeling the Lady-chic of Chanel. Next to the right a lovely classically Chanel piece. A light tweed sweater sits above white trousers matched with the cutest Chanel clutch in the classic 2.55 shape. This is a great look which will look fantastic on ladies across many generations of Chanel clients and I myself love it. Love the Rose-cross detail of the bag too.
As we move towards evening wear Chanel brings us to black and the stunning jacket and dress combination to the far right above. Leather detail on the collar, cuffs and pockets gives a very slightly more edgy nuance to the look and the statement necklace shows how string and adaptable the Chanel jewellery line is.
This series of looks above fascinated me. Drawing, I think, from influence of traditional Korean designs and perhaps the famous black paneled screen in Gabrielle Chanel's apartment in the Rue Cambon above the headquarters of Chanel. It brings the heart of her world to South Korea. The detail of the pieces and the craftsmanship that we associate with Chanel are simply fabulous. The two black dresses above to the left are beautiful pieces to wear for special moments during cruise season.
The jacket and shorts combination provides a great contrast piece and above you can see a close-up shot of the clutch-bag that matches with the outfit. It's a little work of art like the rest of the accessories in this collection. Looking to the right I've added a beautiful sweeping floor length piece that will make a subtle stylish statement. Next to it a shorter knee-length piece embellished with pearls and beads looks as though it brought the night time sky down to earth. It's a pretty piece that like many looks here will flatter women across the generations.
As the collection progressed on to the more formal and slightly reserved area of evening wear so all of the dresses and lines became long and elongated. I love the delicacy and intricacy of the designs in this part of the collection. The detail in the pieces is pure creative perfection with harmony and composure written into every piece.
The dress above to the left is stunning and I love the contrast of the sheer garment sleeves and the bejeweled embroidered bodice. It's a work of art. It's accompanied by my second favourite purse of the collection the replicate tortoise-shell purse which I believe is fashioned in glass. It looks lovely and you could match it with a wide number of pieces. The dress above centre has the serene air of beautiful simplicity about it that much of the collection has. The delicate emblem embroidered onto the black dress is gently pleasing to the eye.
Above to the left the diaphanous black gown edges closer to the traditional Hanbok style while at the same time playing with the form and giving it a fresh twist. The off - the shoulder dress above to the right is one of my favourite of the collection. It makes me think about how the Hanbok style also has some similarities with empire line dresses. There's a touch of Regency about this look to me.
The last two looks that I've included from Chanel for the Cruise 2016 collection are both playful colour pieces that closed the catwalk collection. I think it's fitting as Cruise moves into spring that colour and light shine forth again and these two looks both gave an interpretation of the Hanbok style using both colour strips and also one complete colour. It's a wonderful collection and a wonderful way to celebrate Chanel's friendship with Korea. Lovely.
Dior continue to forge a new path and a new direction with Raf Simmons and their cruise collection, for me, encapsulation the 'modern eclecticism' that the brand seems to be now looking towards. Key trends in this collection where mid thigh lengths and delicately emphasised waists. The colour palette was varied with checkered textiles sitting alongside mono-coloured pieces and whimsical patterning appearing in places through the collection. Hair was worn long and lose in a carefree dressed down style and make-up was minimal and neutral. It was a collection with multi generational appeal with a strong leaning towards the minimal.
The evening wear looks are truly special and this black trouser suit above to the left makes a wonderful statement that you could wear on so many occasions. It's light for the Cruise seasons but also so flexible in it's design. I also love the way that the Chanel chains interlace with the top right breast button of the jacket and form a delicate brocade of pearls and gold. Centre above is a beautiful tweed dress in the classic composition style of Chanel. Check out the exquisite box clutch purse that the model is holding, very reminiscent of the traditional Korean and Japanese Rosewood boxes.
Centre above the theme of the Camellia petal returns with a multi-layered dress - detail shown in close-up above. The classic military style coat is softened and shaped to a casual generous fit for women in the look above to the right right. I'm a fan of this, I think it's a great look and one many women would enjoy wearing through cruise seasons and probably into spring. To the right above a very beautiful light version of a suit, relaxed with billowing sleeves and the checkered patch-work material style so popular from Chanel in the past several seasons in their ready to wear and accessories lines.
The collection opened with a tartan tunic matched with shorts and a bucket-bag clutch. With the opening look of the collection I think Raf is making a statement about the fine tailoring of the Maison and openly saying that the Dior Atelier can still and does very much still create it pieces and collections in the classic style. Next come two light dresses in soft fabric that both use the low waist to accentuate and define the top of the figure while allowing freedom of movement with loose cutting at the base. Both are teamed with variations of a snake skin purse in different forms.
Next to it the white pleats of this next look have the effect of a tennis dress and for me this speaks of cruise season destinations in warm waters. The look to the right has a huge amount of fun about it and it would be great to go out dancing or clubbing or partying in as well as being suitable for some special occasions. It could easily sneak through into a Summer season wardrobe.
The look above to the left uses the same fun pattern again but in a different colour scheme. I think there's a hint of the 1960's and Psychedelia about it. It's another great dress to party in and enjoy on a special day or evening. Looking slightly more formal the next piece to the right of it uses a pin-stripe theme in the sheer blouse and contrasting shaped print across the skirt. This would be a great outfit for evenings. Centre above is a dress with a simple silhouette coming to just above the knees.
The two dresses above to the right also form simple silhouettes and are great occasion pieces. The white dress to the far right has a 1930's style look and would be a great party dress that you could team with a large number of jackets or wraps. I think it could also be worn with a hat as well as a jacket to day-time formal occasions such as weddings or other events.
I find it quite interesting that Dior have chosen this season to play with black or nearly in several different ways. The trouser suit above to the left at the start of the row has detailing around the shoulders that echo some off-the-shoulder dresses that I've seen in previous seasons. The tailoring here and in the other pieces above resembles the style of new look from the 1950's with the pocket detail reflecting the broad style of the skirts. Next to the right the navy-black dress with the halter next is a wardrobe classic that could, like a number of the pieces above be treasured in your wardrobe across several seasons. I love the floral detail in the bag that accompanied it.
The coat dress centre above continues the homage to the New Look with clear defined lines plus a faint echo of men's traditional tailoring. The long sleeve coat centre above will protect you well on those mid-season nights when the air can alas still become a little cold. Deep pockets will ensure that you can keep those hands tucked away in warmth. Lastly to the right above I wanted to show a neat-as-a-pin New Look style jacket teamed up with a multi-layered skirt. The cut out design of the skirt and the pocket detail on the shoulder. It's a very lovely collection with something old and something new all interwoven with together at the same time.
The Met Gala 2015 in New York and the Opening of the China through the Looking Glass Exhibition.
A big thank you here to the awesome Met Press Team. All below exhibition images are with kind permission of the Met in New York.
This year's Met Gala launched the China Through the Looking Glass exhibition with the usual customary fanfare and Red Carpet event. I've chosen my three favourite dresses that I saw at this event opening. They, for me, where the dresses that really complimented their wearers the best and frankly for most of us would constitute a beautiful evening or occasion wear look that many girls would find a beautiful addition to their wardrobe.
Below to the left a shot from Bauer Griffin of Sophie Vegara Axelle. She looks stunning and natural in this Marchesa Gown and it suits her long lines perfectly. This is a great example of an evening piece that would look very flattering on most figures as the floor length pleats elongate the figure. The applique embroidery on the bodice of the dress. Centre below Candice Swanpoel wore a beautiful Michael Kors dress in champagne lace.
Vanessa Hudgens below to the right wore a beautiful red dress from H&M with simple applique detail. It was a lovely addition the other dresses that where also on show and also served as a reminder that there are a great variety of options when you're looking for that special dress for the special occasion.
The Met this year decided to dedicate their annual show piece fashion retrospective to celebrating the traditions and design of Chinese history and culture and how that applies to women's wear. The exhibition title China Through The Looking Glass replaced the apparent earlier working title 'Chinese Whispers'. I'm glad they changed it - let's look on the bright side everybody! An Alice in Wonderland analogy is slightly nicer.
Chinese whispers evokes for me notions of gossip, miss- interpretation and heaven knows general negativity. An Alice in Wonderland analogy, yes that's much better and a better way to celebrate women. Many of the looks below show outfit detail from the back of the garments but we can trust that the out-fits face on look just as interesting.
Above the first look shown is an evening dress from the Valentino Shanghai collection of 2013. It's a great piece to begin the journey into the exploration of women's fashion from the East and this is a fascinating contemporary interpretation of traditional textiles and craftsmanship through modern eyes and the creative powerhouse of the Valentino Atelier. It truly is, as I believe fashion is, a piece of art to be worn but also to be admired by simply absorbing the power of it's creativity.
Next to the right is a stunning evening coat from 1925. The 1920's where a fascinating decade when fashion really broke free from the traditions of previous decades and numerous cultures including Egypt and China provided a fertile ground for inspiration for contemporary fashion. This art-deco style piece features long lines, clear geometry and the vibrant Red Rrose theme that magnetises the eye with the power of it's energy. It makes a strong statement and the unmistakable handprint of later Imperial Chinese style upon it. The design across the back of the jacket also shows the traditional Chinese tower design thereby signifying the strength of the woman who wears it.
Above to the right is the piece that illustrates where the inspiration for these two looks came from. It shows the detail of a traditional robe from the imperial Chinese Court. This is traditional Haute Couture. Hand made, high fashion from the East. In the Manchu Court the clothes where often made within the Imperial City for the family and the Emperor. The Royal Court often manufactured clothing for the members of the Imperial Household in much the same was at it prepared all the meals for banquettes and supported the machinery that ran a small self-contained city. Like Haute Couture in the West in Modern times, the Imperial Household helped to sustain and support the tradition of crafts. Now though fashion the Ateliers of Paris and London are more open and show their skills more broadly to the world. This piece is stunning however and is truly part of our global fashion heritage. It's a great to look at and study the detail.
Above to the left is the golden Guo Pei dress that is installed in the Chinese Galleries of the exhibit. It's resplendent in Gold that echos the Imperial Yellow of the Chinese Court. It was a colour usually only worn by the Emperor I believe and here it's remade into a dress composed of embroidered strip bands of material. Above the head sits a crown. Truly an outfit for an Empress of the modern age. Above to the centre is a beautiful gallery view of the Moon in water bathing the room of gowns in it's feminine soft light. It's a beautiful scene from a night in the Imperial Palace gardens. To the right above are three dresses from the silk export gallery. This room is beautiful and you can see that the wallpaper is also a silk hanging. This takes us back to the fabled humble silk worm that brought China fame across the world from ancient times and sowed the seeds of one of the most famous conduits of cross cultural diversity and travel in history - The Silk Road - running from East to West between Europe and Asia. People, ideas and culture moved fluidly along this route.
How breathtakingly cool is this? This beautiful traditional Jar with Dragon from the early 15th century was actually re-created in giant size made entirely out of flowers in the Hall of the Met Museum for the night of the Gala. Talk about a feast of the senses, to smell and see this extraordinary installation (not to mention all the great work that went into putting it together) was an experience that was pretty unforgettable. And personally I love dragons, always have.
Next to it is a dress by Roberto Cavalli from Fall 2005. Capturing the colours of traditional Chinese blue and white porcelain perfectly this piece. The proportions and shape to the dress are in perfect reflective harmony with the dynamics of the porcelain jar that it echos. The design is also classic Carvalli and it's a truly timeless piece that has made it's way into a museum retrospective. There is something so striking and mesmerising about the simple blue and white design that draws the eye again and again.
Above to the right is exquisite detail from the back of an evening dress from Fall 2011 by Ralph Lauren. This slightly hazy shot gives the perfect look to set off the dress to maximum effect. The dragon detailing down the back of the dress is stunning in it's intricacy and wraps across the back of the woman wearing it with sensuous movement of the dragon weaving around the spine of the lady. It's a classic that could be worn today and into the future. It really is the epitome of sexy chinoiserie chic that many of us have loved around the world across the last century.
This series of dresses above take us through more moods and phases of the collection. The first look above to the left is an evening dress from the Jean-Paul Gaultier collection from Fall 2001. This is a dress that tells a story and the illustration of a woodland or garden scene that plays out down the back of the dresses wearer is beautifully charming. This is a light and delicate piece that have a sexy aura of magic about it also. It's blue-black colour also adds to further mystery of the night. Perhaps the little figure on the bridge is a young girl at the start of a great journey.
Next to the right the Quiproquo dress from Dior Couture in 1951. Covered in Chinese character script to me it symbolises the multiple meanings that we can all find when looking at pieces of fashion. Some people may look at it and see an allegory of women being complicated but I don't buy that. I think it can also be seen, given the context of the date, as a quiet statement about the importance of educating women and the importance of women in the world and what they can contribute. John Galliano's dress for Dior in Spring 2003 is next above to the right and this traditionally inspired piece wraps around the figure. Embellished with traditional designs and detailed with leather fringing this is daring and modern at the same time as being a powerful embodiment of Chinese history. Absolutely fascinating.
Above to the right is another stunner from John Galliano during his time at Dior. This dress is from the Fall 1997 collection and for me this is the perfect sexy 'Dragon Lady' cocktail/black tie dress that would see you feeling fantastic, sexy and confident. I believe this piece is in silk print and the pearl detail that runs across the dress and is also present in accompanying necklaces has a beautiful precision in the way that it finishes off the outfit. Matched with a little back purse you could wear this dress to an event for many years into the future. Legends don't age.
This is a fascinating exhibition and it celebrates a long history of women's fashion and inspiration that has come from China. I think it's a very positive representation of both the rich heritage of textile production that has come from China and also a demonstration of how Chinese heritage continues to influence the rest of the world. As a Classical Studies grad' I'm well aware of how important Chinese trade was to ancient Rome where silk was a luxury commodity that for some of the elite was seen as a necessity.
To the right the image of the Lady and the Dragon is potent in it's symbolism of women's strength. The image is a still from 'Daughter of the Dragon' a film from 1931.
Lastly to close the look at the collection above to the right is a shot featuring 3 richly embroidered beautiful outfits and what I believe to be Chinese print screen. The detail is sumptuous and while it may be luxurient to our eyes it's important to also remember that for many of the different regions within China such detailed embroidery was worn by many people either as day to day wear or a 'best' outfit for people who took pride in their traditions and textiles. At the far end of the shot you can see a contemporary outfit that encorporates the designs.
John began to tell us about his background and his early years within the real of fashion. Like several designers I can think of his love of fashion began with a love of illustration that he developed at Art College. After leaving an all boys Grammar School he relished the vibrant Co-Ed environment and his college tutor in the Life Studies Class encourage him to put a Portfolio together and apply to the Foundation Course at Central Saint Martins College in London.
John spoke about the Central Saint Martin's that he knew as a Student that was much more fluid in it's course structures that the college is today. Students where actively encourage to move between departments such as film and fashion; learning a wide variety of skills and John pointed out that this was invaluable experience for him later on as he progressed in his career. It's also encouraged an atmosphere of cross collaboration between fellow students in different disciplines. Another crucial part of collage was time spent at a club called Taboo. John is still in touch with friends from college.
Alexandra asked if a more formal education would perhaps be useful in learning how to form your own label? To which John replied that CSM was a great place to go to create but. The last two days or so of the degree where used to play a Business Game. For young designers this is a game that they need to learn quickly. For John luck struck at the right time and his first collection was bought by Mrs Burnstein of Browns and his first client was Diana Ross. Ms Ross wore an Encroyable hat from John's debut collection.
John said that his advice for students at college would be to learn as much as possible. At Maison Martin Margiela the House aims to show the students the whole process. John was bubbling with enthusiasm and his enjoyment of seeing the students arriving and seeing how they work. He goes with them to flea markets around Paris and enjoys their company.
As someone who has worked through several decades in the industry John's observations on the changes particularly relating to social media where fascinating. More Poignant though, from the perspective of Haute Couture maybe, was the noticeable shift away from the use of theatre in shows. In a former piece covering a talk by Erin O'Connor she observed the same change in the industry and how the dynamic for expression by the model wearing the clothes is somehow much reduced. Models are walking for the Instagram moment. It's not just one or two que spots on the catwalk where the photographers line up in banks. John's only comment, with the humility that many of remember of him across his career, is that a little theatre in fashion goes a long way these days. Models simply don't have the freedom of expression that they had in the past. But always positive John embraces the change where he can and relishes the new era of clothes being photographed on the catwalk from many angles.
Alexandra asked John about drawing and how his process and working rhythms flow these days. John said that he works organically and still uses a narrative - he likes to know who his muse is and begins many of his collections in 2D drawings still. The next stage is draping fabric on a girl and then he goes back to drawing. He still believes fundamentally in having the fabric in his hand and also Music is key to his creative design process. He took time to explain the detail of the wedding dress at the end of his first collection for Maison Martin Margiela which was actually a man's coat transformed and re-worked. You could read a million different things into this but I like John's interpretation of how this classic piece of tailoring that was a staple of Margiela could be re-incarnated so to speak in the new era of the House under his guidance. It symbolised the marriage of John Galliano and Margiela. In the last couple of years he has also experimented with adding objects that he found in flea markets to the pieces.
Some of John's favourite things are his Sea Shells that he loves to collect. From here he creates shapes and works with embroidery and also tries to incorporate elements of recycling. In his jacket-dress creation he envoked the 18th century Trompe l'oeil in the 18th century sleeve cuffs. The cuff and the pocket become one in a miraculous fashion re-working and John also spoke of his use of Red as a shot of light. Red, white and black where the three signature colours of the debut Haute Couture collection that showed in London Men's fashion week in January 2015. A great play on gender and the interchangeability that often occurs between men's and women's fashion.
One of the really fun parts of the talk was hearing John's enthusiasm for his Toille's. These are the mock-up's of the designs usually in white linen and in any stage from very early cutting and pinning to a replica of the fully finished outfit. John believes (and I agree with him 100%) that to show the toille is to show the creative process - complete with numbers and notes it's the DNA building blocks of an Haute Couture or Ready to Wear design. All Fashion Houses evolve and grow and so their surroundings change. Margiela today is housed in a building that was a convent, then an Industrial Design School and now the home of Maison Martin Margiela. John spoke about how the environment influences and gives a new dynamic and energy to the teams working there. John met Martin early in the process of beginning to work for the House and he still works in the same pyramid way as before at the House of Dior. Haute Couture is the parfum from which all flows from it.
John clearly relishes working at a new House with it's own identity and where as he put it 'would not be pushed into a corner' he truly is free to create here as John Galliano for Maison Martin Margiela and he is very happy in his new home. He is conscious of the commercial side of the business and is happy to balance commercial reality with creative freedoms. He always has a collection plan. John told a funny story about the first collection plan including Day Dresses. In the past Martin had never designed Day Dresses, but John modestly said 'I make nice dresses' - much to the amusement of the audience as you can imagine :-) - so these became included in the collection.
John loves Wedding Dresses and especially working with Actresses as they give him ideas too. John in himself is bursting with life and vigor, he's an early starter these days. He's at the office doing fittings by 9am and when he leaves at 5 or 6pm he goes home. No more work emails around the clock. This is a tip he passed to Alexandra and I hope she takes it. It's good when we enjoy our jobs but you need to be able to switch off and relax.
Back in the Atelier John still wears the customary White Coat when working on Haute Couture. He commented that you notice people's faces more when everyone is wearing white coats and it's a great leveling of all the team across the House. Everyone should be treated respectfully and the same.
Haute Couture inspires and informs all the other lines of the House and it's therefore John's job to turn Haute Couture into big business. It may seem like a huge feat but John's done it before. He transformed Dior and made it un-stoppable and he's more than capable of working the magic again. John's said it himself, he's proved that it can be done. One of John's oldest friends and greatest supporters is Kate Moss. Fresh from therapy he designed her Wedding dress and he has made about 20 dresses for her. It was a crucial part of his re-connection with the industry and Kate has always stuck by him. He said "I can't imagine another bride who would ask someone who has come straight out of re-hab to do their dress" " I love to make women look beautiful it is my goal".
John's advice is to surround yourself with strong people, have belief in yourself and the people you feel supported by, the "Rocks in your life". Following this approach John has taken people with him from Dior to Margiela. There is a mixture of people he has known for years, sometimes 20 and interns and students on placement in his atelier. He likes to keep things simple and created Kate's wedding dress on the kitchen table. Getting out of the office and keeping your connection with life and the person you dream of dressing are things he advocates strongly.
Another great question for John was what does he look for in the people that he hires? He looks for energy and people who look him in the eye. He looks for people who will fit in and give him a special 'feeling', At Margiela he has a small tight team and they are looking ahead to the future with excitement.
Below I dropped in a couple of shots I took from around the festival, it was a great weekend at the Royal Geographical Society and I really, really enjoyed talking to several members of the Vogue team.
Masterpiece Art Fair - with Van Cleef & Arpels
Masterpiece Art Fair has established itself as one of the premier features of the London Summer Season events. This unique event gathers a diverse range of exhibitors and I was delighted to be invited as a guest by Van Cleef and Arpels, a Jewellery House I've enjoyed talking with for several years, to view and try on some of the pieces from their exhibit. It was Van Cleef's first year at Masterpiece in 2015 and their stand was one of the great draws of the show. A number of companies sponsor the event now in London including Royal Bank of Canada and in 2015 the event has generated huge amounts of publicity.
Van Cleef & Arpels made their entrance to the Masterpiece fair with a large stand twinkling at the fair's guests. As ever Van Cleef & Arpels where very kind hosts and on a warm summer evening walking round the fair it was nice to spend some time talking to them and looking at the selection. Van Cleef & Arpels bring out one High Jewellery (known as Haute Joaillerie) collection each year in the July, Autumn and Winter Seasonal Haute Couture week and present a collection every two years at the Paris biennale.
Above are three different pieces that show different areas of the Maison's expertise. A beautiful necklace studded with diamonds and emeralds is the Acapulco necklace from the Pierre' de Caractere (stones of exceptional character) collection of 2014 complete with detachable clip. This piece like many Haute Joaillerie pieces can be worn in different ways. Next to it is a watch that will make you feel even more lucky than before with it's four leaf clover design. It's has a simple clarity that charmed many of us guests. Next the Beautiful collier or necklace in English made with hundreds of articulated gold joins and diamonds set into the ribbon like sashes of the necklace.
The pretty ballerina brooches above where one of the highlights and main draws of the whole exhibition by the Maison. They where part of a new set of pieces made just before the exhibition. The ballerina in pink to the left above is dressed in beautiful white diamonds and pink sapphires. It was one of my most popular instagram shots yet and Van Cleef & Arpels liked it very much and it this shot generated a series of copies. Above to the centre the next dancing lady dressed in yellow and white diamonds and full skirt is as beautifully elegant as her co-dancers and the warmth of the yellow stones brings out the energy and happiness of the character. Next to the right the dancer dressed in diamonds and blue sapphires is en pointe with arms extended in gesture, striking the perfect balance of harmony and beauty.
For Masterpiece 2015 they presented a series of pieces from different collections curated to give an overview of the best skills that they have to offer. We all love diamonds and sparkles and even those who don't seek to wear it can't help but be captivated by the artistry and and workmanship that go into the pieces. For me there is this double draw. At first you see the colours and beauty and then 'see' deeper to the hours of work and time spent in crafting the pieces from the early stages of the gouache drawings and stencils to the clever mock-ups made by the Mains-d'Or .
Above are some of my first selfie's in jewellery - I hope to have more :-) - I tried on the pieces that I was most drawn to which where a beautiful pair of ear rings with deep blue aquas and diamonds set as the pollen filled centre. Above to the right, my personal favourite necklace of the exhibition illustrating the high craft of the atelier workshop of Van Cleef & Arpels composed in a feather-like art Deco style with hints of Egyptian inspiration. It's a beautiful piece that would suit a great many people. It fitted me like a glove as you can see and I would be delighted to borrow it to wear for special occasions.
Sitting in one corner of the Place Vendome at number 22 their salon is literally a corner stone in many ways of the High Jewellery industry internationally. I'm lucky enough to have visited them on several occasions and today the business is headed out of Paris from this location. The Maison has grown to be one the most respected names in the industry. They are the official jewellery to the Princely Royal family of Monaco dressing HSH Princess Charlene and the late Princess Grace of Monaco.
Above and below are a further selection of wonderful pieces from the Alhambra (four leaf clover shaped) and high jewellery collections. Diamonds and pearls in combination are always a great draw and Van Cleef & Arpels also make great use of semi-precious stones which cleverly expands the range of colours and textures in use the maximum possible effect. I was delighted to see Van Cleef & Arpels at this year's Masterpiece Fair and be their guest and hope that they return next year.
Classical and ancient art is always interesting and as an ancient history student it fascinates me to think of these objects becoming part of peoples collections at home. The below pieces where wonderful discoveries at Brun Fine Art.
Here below are a selection pf pieces from the stand of Ronald Philip that are classic traditional items to add to your home and collections. There are lots of things big and small that you can give a home to and use as part of your everyday life should you wish. It's entirely up to you. These are items that you may find in museums and private collections while others like them to be used in and continue having a living purpose.
It was a fantastic experience to be at Masterpiece this year and I look very much forward to visiting again in 2016.