Thursday, December 10, 2015

Couture Crochet in Selvedge Magazine

 I'm delighted to share my forthcoming story for Selvedge Magazine on the couture crochet of designers Katie Jones (London) and Helen Rödel (Brazil). 

It will appear in the Jan/Feb issue, with a "carnival" theme. (I love the cover.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Everything's Coming Up (Simone) Rocha

My story on Irish designer Simone Rocha has just been published in the "migrations" issue of London's lovely Selvedge Magazine.

Coincidentally, Rocha is one of the first wave of designers that Nordstrom creative director Olivia Kim selected to be part of her "Space" project, a small in-store shop that showcases up-and-coming designers as well as those not currently represented by Nordstrom.

See here if interested in browsing "Space" online for a closer look at some of Rocha's designs (NB: I am not in any way affiilated with the shop).

Monday, October 12, 2015

On Susannah Hunter, Stella McCartney, and Irises (Apfel and Flowers)

Last night I watched Iris, the documentary about Iris Apfel, who not only has an extraordinary collection of clothing and jewelry, but an extensive background in designing and manufacturing textiles. She specialized in seventeenth-century reproductions (swoon!).

This now 93-year old "geriatric ingenue," as she calls herself, has a line of accessories with HSN, based on her own vintage pieces. A couple of years ago Iris (unwittingly, I believe) made a bejeweled toucan brooch based on one she'd purchased at a flea market without realizing that its creator was Hanna Bernhard, a contemporary jewelry designer living in Paris. Iris promptly withdrew the toucan from her HSN collection.

But the Apfel doesn't fall far from the tree.

If the tree is used to make the glossy pages of Vogue, that it.

The night that I watched Iris, I paged through the new Vogue (USA) magazine, the one with lovely Lupita Nyong'o on the cover. In the back Index section (always a favourite for its collages), I saw a black bag with appliqued poppies on it. "Oh, good," I thought--"Susannah Hunter's made it into American Vogue."

Susannah Hunter, as gentle readers probably know, makes bags that are embellished with leather appliqued flowers. I bought one, many years back, when Saks sold them. (I actually returned it, because the leather on that model, anyway, was the crackly kind, and not to my taste.) Here are some of her poppy bags:

But when I looked at the Index credits, I saw that the bag was not by Susannah Hunter but by Stella McCartney for her pre-Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Here it is in context:

Is Stella's an homage? Does Susannah have TM rights for being the only designer to applique poppies and other flowers on leather bags? I don't know. 

But I do have a suggestion to round out Iris Apfel's bag collection:

By Susannah Hunter, of course.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Moving Up with the Middletons: It's Pippa, the Pearly Queen

In this week's episode of Moving Up with the Middletons, Pippa, the comely auntie, earns a title.

She's neither a duchess like her sister, nor a princess like her niece, but her dress at Charlotte's christening confirms that Pippa Middleton is the new Pearly Queen.

But wait! Don't pearly queens and kings dress in black that's been embellished from head to hem with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pearl shell buttons?

Of course, but if we look at Pippa's beautifully elegant and flattering Emilia Wickfield cream dress, we can see that its texture resembles (from my vantage point, anyway) strings of pearls.

And if we recall the bridesmaid's dress that Pippa wore to her sister's wedding, its only embellishment was a crisp row of covered buttons down the back, that looked, from a distance, like pearls.

So if that isn't enough to crown Pippa as the Pearly Queen, I don't know what is.

In other Moving Up with the Middleton news, brother James runs a thriving socks business--no; wait--he makes marshmallows--it's another brother who designs the socks. And in this lovely Mario Testino family photo, James just might be the only adult not sharing a full-on toothy smile because he's sneaking one of his own Boomfs.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Separated at Birth? Canada's Soccer Coach and the Sartorialist

Did anyone else notice how much John Herdman, Canada's (British) soccer coach, resembles Scott Schuman, the Sartorialist?

Before the game (Canada vs. England), my middle daughter attempted to make bread pudding for the first time. It's a favourite on the Canadian side of our family, and reminds me of my Scottish roots. The pudding succeeded beautifully, even though we didn't have any whisky to add to the sauce.

Our team, alas, didn't succeed in making it through to the next round. I don't have any consolation whisky for them, either, but if I did, it would be Glenfiddich, neat, another Scottish delicacy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mad Men: Don's "The Real Thing"

I haven't watched the men and women of Mad Ave. for a couple of seasons, but I did want to find out how the series would end, so I read stories with spoilers. This post will contain spoilers too, if there's anything else to give away.

The stories I've read have focused on the tension between fiction and reality: how bold and clever and somewhat disconcerting it is to credit a fictional character for creating Coke's iconic slogan.

But I think that Don Draper is actually the perfect person to coin the phrase "It's the Real Thing."

This fall, you see, I taught a class on literary hoaxes, where we analyzed how Jimmy Gatz uses clothing to fabricate his new identity, Jay Gatsby; how "Clark Rockefeller," a character in Walter Kirn's literary non-fiction adopted an air of privilege to scam the author; how, in a Neil LaBute play, an art project is disguised as a mutual love affair.

Don Draper would have fit right in with these characters, he who stole another man's identity, who pretended (well, sort of) to be a faithful husband, who went through some motions of being an engaged father, though his mind was elsewhere.

As an ad man, Don lives in a world of creating and selling desire and fantasy. "It's the real thing" is a particular advertising triumph because it alludes to certainties without ever pinning them down. What is "it"? What is the "thing"? We don't know, but the language seems to reassure us that we do.

The slogan reminds me of Don, who has lived a false life since he was in the war; he is not the "real thing" but a poseur; an identity thief.  And, isn't that the purpose of advertising--to convince an audience, a client that some-thing is the "real thing" so that they crave it?

For Don Draper, the individual and the advertising man, then, the "real thing" is the fictional thing--the thing that will make our lives better if only can attain or achieve or know it.

So I read Don's spiritual awakening at a meditation retreat on California not as a personal breakthrough, but a professional one.  Like Edith Wharton's wonderfully conniving heroine Undine Spragg, who ends her novel with all cogs in her mind turning at full tilt, Don has brilliantly co-opted his "genuine" spiritual epiphany into businessspeak.

And, because that choice of adopting advertising language over sincere conversations is indicative of Don throughout the series, the show ends perfectly, with Draper mining his life for a pitch. The real thing--Draper's happy ending--is just another ad.

Friday, May 15, 2015

RSVP: An Invitation to the William Morris Gallery

Just the other week I received the loveliest invitation from Selvedge Magazine to attend their launch party for issue 64 at the William Morris Gallery in northeast London.

I adore Morris' prints--even wallpapered a foundational pillar in my office in a Morris-inspired print.

But, alas, I could not jet across the pond, so I'm enjoying the party from afar. Here is a link to possibly the prettiest gallery anywhere, and below are two images from an exhibit there by Yinka Shonibare, who, in this collection, updates photographs of the Morris family in African cotton batik.

Readers may recall his interpretation of famous paintings in similar wax cottons.

Cheers from here!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Frida Kahlo's UnderSee Collection: The Bathroom Gallery

The bathroom to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera's "Blue House" in Mexico yielded the most extraordinary time capsule when it was unlocked after 50 years. In this bathroom Rivera had tucked away Kahlo's clothes, her makeup, her artificial leg wearing a tall leather boot, with the instructions that the room could be unlocked 15 years after his wife's death. Instead, in a reverse fairy-tale manner, the door was opened after half a century.

After 50 years of residing in a bathroom, in the Blue House, the garments seem to have taken on their own aquatic feel--that's how I see them, anyway. Of course there are obvious references; this sea-green swimsuit to the right, for instance:

But look how the fingers of these gloves float like algae underwater:

And this corset, attached to a skirt, reminds me of a deep-sea diver:

 (This is the cover of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which also engages both fashion and the ocean.)

 Detail of a porthole?

And finally, these stunning cat's eye glasses. Certainly cats are notoriously suspicious of water, but aren't these glasses all the better to sea with?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Selvedge and New Lace (Miss C in the "Ageless" Issue)

I'm excited to have two pieces in Selvedge's "ageless" issue (#64), which was just published in London.

My first piece is a look at lace--in Chloe, Kenzo, Roberto Cavalli, and Bora Aksu.

The second is a "design file" piece about 101-year-old Italian designer Micol Fontana, who inspired the issue. She and her sisters designed the clothes for Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa, as well as Anita Ekberg's iconic black strapless dress for the fountain scene in La Dolce Vita.

And then I'm delighted to featured on the contributors' page, wearing a favourite straw hat.

It reminds me, just a bit, of this one:

But I'm even more delighted (and surprised) to be pictured directly below textile designer, knitter, quilt designer, and author Kaffe Fassett!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jane Eyre and the Other Mr. R (Eric Ravilious)

Updated below.

The minute I saw this painting by Eric Ravilious (1939; thank you, Selvedge Magazine!), I fell in love with it.

The image anticipates the carriage (2011) within which Jane Eyre rides to a bittersweet freedom from the deceit of Thornfield Hall.

I love the upholstery, the burnished wood interior, the bleached landscape. Oh, to be transported there immediately!

But I'd be running to this Mr. R.

P.S. I had a nagging feeling that I'd seen this image before; it just felt familiar. A quick internet search showed that I had--and even commented on it back in 2009. Good to see that my taste is consistent, even if my memory isn't.

And here's the book to which I was referring in the comments section; for Mater. When I worked in New York for a wonderful publishing company, we distributed Thames and Hudson books, and I scooped up this one, not knowing how it would be relevant some 17 years later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Mood Indigo: Dosa, J Crew, and an 80s Flashback Photo

In the mid 1980s, when I worked for Sarah Clothes on a hiatus from university, one of my favourite items from that designer was an indigo, collarless shirt. Actually, I didn't like it when I bought it, because the indigo was a deep, midnight blue, and the shirt felt stiff.  But after months of wearing and washing, the shirt faded to a soft blue in both colour and feel. and I loved it. Eventually I wore the shirt to shreds, quite literally, and still miss its easy presence in my wardrobe.

When I saw this dress for Dosa's Spring/summer 2015 collection, I was immediately brought back to that glorious mood indigo. This dress has the simplest, most utilitarian lines, and I love it for that. I'd wear it with a patterned canvas sneaker (how I wish I had known about last spring's Liberty of London Strawberry Thief edition of Vans before they sold out in my size) and run all over town.

Perhaps indigo is the technique du saison, because J Crew is singing the blues as well, with its "faded adire" print. I like this one too, but balk at the obviously too-sheer sweater front.The beauty of indigo is that it shouldn't need a cami underneath; its glorious colors and patterns should speak for themselves.

And speaking for myself, tonight I opened my precious Crabtree and Evelyn wooden treasure chest (a display item I purchased in the 1980s and in which I store all my photos from that era) and found this mug shot of myself, taken old-school style--holding a camera backward and hoping for the best (but coming up with glare). But even with that glaring flaw, there's the indigo shirt, mid fade . . .

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pattern Perfect: Valentino (and Miss C) in Selvedge 63

I don't think there could be anything more lovely than a Selvedge magazine cover. And when that cover is devoted to pattern, its charm multiplies.

This issue contains my story on Valentino's spring/summer collection, which is full of gorgeously rustic patterns--a nod to the Grand Tour taken by European aristocrats. I see a postmodern Lucy Honeychurch (who took her own Grand Tour in A Room with a View) in these clothes and, truth be told, I'd like to see myself in them too!

My story includes a quote from the always spot-on Maryam Montague, designer and curator at M Montague and proprietor of Peacock Pavillions, who knows a thing or two about pattern (have you seen her stencilled walls and staircases?).

My favourite dress (gown) for now is the one on the far left, the multi-tiered ankle-grazing beauty. Its perfectly mismatched patterns (two to each tier!) recall table linens and dining al fresco. I could eat it up.