Friday, November 28, 2008

Mulling Things Over

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us – shops have started staying open late, the Brown Thomas Christmas window has been unveiled and Christmas party invites have been popping into the mailbox. Along with the mulled wine and mince pies, comes the inevitable what-will-I-wear conundrum. In this Facebook age, it’s hard to get away with wearing the same dress to different parties because although there might be a diverse crowd at each bash, chances are they are all on Facebook and have seen the photos of you in the black dress with the red shoes already. Maybe I’m just being stupid and nobody notices what I wear in my various Facebook photos but I still feel the pressure to pull a few different OFs out of the bag for the festive season.

The high street is heaving with party dresses at this time of year but the thing is they all look kind of the same – satin or sparkly, above-the-knee, tight and a bit blah. I’ve seen lots of ladies in trousers on The Sartorialist recently and have got to thinking that perhaps that’s the way to go this Christmas. I did try trousers earlier in the year but abandoned the idea when the two pairs I tried on in Topshop just didn’t fit properly. That was during London Fashion Week and the canapés and free drink had combined to make me a bit too porky for the Tuxedo trousers I was desperately trying to stuff myself into. Disheartened, I returned to my smock dresses, tail between my legs. Three months on, I feel that perhaps it’s time to try the trousers again. I’m never going to abandon my wardrobe of dresses completely but it would be nice to seem nonchalantly sexy, like the chic Parisians below, in amidst the crowds of trussed up Christmas party goers.

Images from The Sartorialist

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Date with Mikhail & Mario

                                             Merce My Way - Mikhail Baryshnikov

Struggling to entertain ourselves on a 17 hour train journey from Riga to Moscow, my friends and I resorted to doing lame impressions of Carrie Bradshaw's Russian lover, Aleksandr Petrovsky, to pass the time ("Is that a banana in your purse or are you just happy to see me?", "Call me Bob" etc. - continue ad nauseum for hours and you get the picture). Yeah, we were pretty bored and going slightly insane as the crazy Russians around us plied us with vodka and red caviar. If this kept us entertained, you can imagine our excitement when we encountered Aleksandr himself on our last night in Moscow. Well, not Aleksandr himself exactly, but an exhibition of photographs by legendary ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov - who, as well as doing a nice sideline in arrogant Russian lovers on TV, is also a fine photographer. The exhibition, "Merce My Way", consists of colourful, blurry images that manage to capture both the movement and stillness in the work of choreographer, Merce Cunnningham. 

The show took place at Winzavod, an amazing collection of galleries, shops and bars housed in a renovated 19th century winery. The centre is now at the heart of Moscow's art scene. On our way in, we bumped into an uber-friendly Mario Testino, in town for Russian Vogue's 10th anniversary party, who greeted me like a long lost friend even though I have clearly never met him in my entire life. If Mario approves, it really must be the place to be in Moscow.

                                         Natalia V in Red Sq  - Mario Testino

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Strangers in Moscow

I have been off regular The Portmanteau duty for the last few days as I head east on my travels to Mother Russia. A combination of night trains and hostels have allowed me to spend a couple of days in one of the most expensive - and dangerous - cities in the world. From the outset, Moscow seems harsh and intimidating. It's quite difficult to navigate with no knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet and the Muscovites we encountered spoke little English and had no time for tourists. After being shouted at by nine different people at Leningradsky Station, I finally managed to purchase a train ticket. And when one of my friends almost got knocked down by the side of a road, a passer-by just shrugged and said "It's Russia". But if you get a good map and persevere, you shall be rewarded for your efforts. The usual suspects - Red Square, the Kremlin Wall, St. Basil's Cathedral, Lenin's Mausoleum - are all amazing and I was completely blown away by the interior of the underground which is so beautiful and a must-see attraction in itself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boys That We Fancy

People magazine recently crowned Hugh Jackman Sexiest Man Alive 2008, which I just don’t get. I actually don’t think that I’ve ever seen one of his films but I gather from his People interview that he’s Australian and unusually muscular so that’s enough to put me off. Michael Phelps also makes the list so I don’t think People were taking things very seriously. Anyway, here’s our Boys That We Fancy 2008 list. (Yeah we’re kind of obsessed with end-of-year lists this week).

Nick Grimshaw
Nick Grimshaw or Grimmy to his mates (and to us) is a DJ, we think. We’ve seen him on the decks at parties and he also pops up on our telly sometimes so I think he has that covetable job of DJ/whatever. He’s not the best-looking in the traditional sense but his soft squishy cheeks are pretty adorable and he just seems really nice and down-to-earth and like he might actually consider going out with you. The only downside would be his posse of really annoyingly pretty friends-that-are-girls. We’d get insecure at the prospect of him hanging out with Aggy, Alexa or Alice Dellal but I guess that’s the price you pay for going out with a DJ/whatever.

Ole Scheeren
Architects are hot – the job is creative and yet requires a kind of masculine good-at-maths-ness that we just don’t possess – and Ole Scheeren is the hottest architect of them all. We admire his stunning work, such as the Scotts Tower in Singapore, but most of all we admire his amazing bone structure, imposing stature and well-cut suits. Marriage rumours surround him and long-time girlfriend, actress Maggie Cheung, but she’s been quick to dispel them so hopefully that means we’re still in with a shot.

Jarvis Cocker
We’ve fancied Jarvis since his earliest Pulp days and luckily for us, he hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. The trademark corduroy jackets and glasses are still present and the lyrics from his latest album, Jarvis, are as intelligent and eccentric as any of Pulp’s offerings. He’s been off the market since his 2002 marriage to French stylist, Camille Bidault-Waddington, but that just makes us fancy him more. The thought of him taking his little son Albert for walks on the cobbled streets of Paris is just too hot to handle.

Chuck Bass
I would like to make it clear that I do not fancy Ed Westwick (who incidentally is number 7 on People’s Sexiest Man Alive 2008), who plays Chuck Bass, but I am madly in love with the character. Yes, I know that he wears too much make-up in season 1, I know that his thighs are a little chunky and I know that he’s an unscrupulous womaniser but I still adore him. Chuck is the best-dressed man on television and he is the inspiration behind the silk scarves that litter men’s shops this season. He was initially only supposed to be a minor character but has developed into an integral GG player and hopefully there is even more of Chuck to come in season 2.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2008 Magazine Covers

The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) announced their favourite US magazine covers back in October. New York (magazine) was the big winner, scooping the top award - Cover of the Year 2008 - and the fashion cover award. The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and GQ were all featured too. Click here for the full list of winners and finalists. We have been obsessed with mags since the days when we were forced to pool our pocket money in order to afford American Vogue and have our own list of favourite 2008 covers.

First up is Audrey Marnay on the cover of Lula. We love Lula and are eternally grateful to Leith Clark and the gang for letting us into their dream world twice a year. This season they gave us a choice of covers – we could opt for eighteen-year old Ali Michael or French super, Audrey Marnay. Both covers had a harder edge than previous Lula offerings but we had to plump for Audrey in the end. The red hair, strong eye make-up and haunted expression combined to make her the most interesting cover girl of 2008.

Fantastic Man is the ultimate antidote to the lad’s mag. One for well-dressed men or indeed anybody who cares about beautiful pictures and people, such as previous cover boys, Stefano Pilato, Tom Ford and The Sartorialist, Scott Schuman. Our favourite though was photographer, Vinoodh Matadin. The black and white portrait is simple and classic – just like the magazine itself – and the typography and layout are supremely elegant. FHM it is not.

The autumn issue of POP tapped into my love for hot nuns and put Agyness Deyn, Jourdan Dunn, Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova, Amber Valletta and Oluchi Onweagba on 6 different covers styled by Miuccia Prada and shot by Sebastian Faena. It’s hard to pick my favourite but I think I have to go for Agy. I rarely find her sexy but the Prada lace jumpsuit and red lipstick make her the hottest nun in the convent.

There has to be a booby prize and there could only be one winner this year - Keira Knightley on September’s American Vogue. The outfit (although Balenciaga) is incredibly ugly and terribly confusing - it looks like a velvet dress...tucked into a belt...tucked into another belt...all over a denim skirt? Don’t get me started on that fluffy hair and what’s with all the bling? The only explanation is that Anna Wintour is getting revenge for Knightley’s low-selling June 2007 issue.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Transatlantic Trip-ups

I’ve been back on home turf for almost a week now but I've only just stopped moaning about my jet lag and the time difference and all the other hideous effects of long haul flights! In my defence, I did suffer more than most due to the violent food poisoning I contracted on my last night after dining at supposed Hollywood hot spot, La Poubelle, but I still marvel at celebrities’ stamina. Yes, they travel first class but they have to step off the eleven hour flight looking as refreshed as ever unless they want to face the wrath of the tabloids.

When Kate Moss arrived at LAX for a holiday a couple of weeks ago, The Daily Mail remarked, “Her complexion was blighted by spots and a cold sore appeared to have surfaced on her upper lip.” Whoa there – I mean I arrived home in a Venice Beach hoodie with cracked lips and crazy frizzy/greasy hair - flying is hard work, you know. Victoria Beckham was also papped at LAX recently but her look was slightly more put together - a weird Sherlock Holmes-style ensemble that looked somewhat ridiculous and seriously uncomfortable. Obviously I don’t recommend sacrificing style completely and I feel obliged to point out the hoodie incident was a once-off but I think that there should at least be an nod to comfort when flying.

And so I think we must look to the jet-setting Olsens for inspiration on fashionable flying. They are photographed at airports more often than at parties and have the whole just-stepped-off-a-plane-but-still-look-like-myself thing down pat. Yeah sure some would say they look a little bedraggled but give me that over the über-groomed VB any day.

Plane Stupid

Olsens at the Airport

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas Shopping with all the Trimmings

In these dark, depressing days of credit crunch chic and the recessionista, shops are doing all they can to get us through their doors, especially in the run up to jingle bell time. And if they’re offering free wine and burlesque dancing to entice us inside, we’re more than happy to oblige. This week sees Paper Dress on Curtain Rd throwing a soiree to celebrate its new late night openings. Paper Dress is one of my favourite vintage stores – simply on account of its close proximity to the office; I am lazy in the extreme when it comes to shopping. This Thursday from 7pm you can browse the party frocks and furs to rockabilly tunes, have a drink and get 20% off.

London also loves pop-up shopping experiences at this time of year – basically, these establishments want you to feel the pressure to get there before they're gone forever – the “BUY THESE SHOES NOW OR YOU MIGHT JUST HAVE TO KILL YOURSELF” kind of vibe that Grazia specializes in. My favourite this season is Swanfield Inn. This group of designers are setting up shop near Brick Lane in the weeks leading up to Christmas and providing a delightful shopping experience, with silent films projected on the walls and the designers themselves on hand to offer advice, as well as tea and cake. I paid a visit last Sunday and am glad to report that I did not feel panicked, pressured, hot or bothered once - my usual reactions to shopping. My favourite discovery was jewellery designer Karin Andreasson's nautical themed necklaces and bracelets. Yes - I think we have established that I'm not the best shopper. So basically, if a store isn't offering alcohol and/or baked goods along with my purchases this festive season, I think I'll be doing my shopping online.

Jewellery by Karin Andreasson

Saturday, November 8, 2008

My So-Called Style

I was watching old episodes of My So-Called Life the other day and thinking that the clothes didn't seem so dated - because these days, the whole of Hollywood seems to be taking its style cues from Angela Chase and co. - although, sadly, I have yet to see anyone sporting a poodle hairdo and tank top combo a la Brian Krakow. When they aren't scrubbing up for appearences on Oprah and book signings at Barnes and Noble, the Olsens seem to wear little else but oversized check shirts. In the case of MK, she literally wears nothing else - more often then not teaming her shirts with opaque tights or bare legs. Indeed, with her messy hair and biker boots, sometimes my dear MK seems to be heading into Rayanne Graff territory. Check out this pic of MK and her plaid clad beau Nate Lowman doing his best Jordan Catalano impression. I love 1994.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

LA Luxury

While in LA, I've been enjoying the finer things in life - lunch at Asia de Cuba at The Mondrian, cocktails at The Peninsula and some of the best cakes ever at Sprinkles in Beverly Hills and Joan's on Third. All of this luxury is a far cry from the Spar sandwiches and cheesy beans on toast dinners that I enjoy in Dublin and I feel the need to adjust my wardrobe accordingly. The beautifully crafted Cloud Cake (an amazing creation consisting of a cupcake topped with marshmallow and coated with chocolate) at celebrity haunt Joan's on Third deserves a special outfit but in keeping with my new penchant for luxury, I don't want to just hit H&M or Urban Outfitters and pick the first cute dress I see.

Instead, I want something whimsical and unique to match my frothy cocktails and fancy confectionery and I've found the answer in Miss KK's amazing feather necklaces. Miss KK is an LA-based designer whose handmade creations instantly transform a plain black dress into something infinitely more exciting. She doesn't have any European stockists yet but is in talks with people in London and Paris. In the meantime, you can buy the necklaces from Miss KK directly on her website and she ships worldwide.

Cupcakes at Joan's on Third

Miss KK's Feather Necklaces

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Under the Influence

There was a real treat in store for me this week - a treat that combined my love for coffee table books and the Olsens. Yes – the big day finally came – the release of their book Influence. I had high hopes for this and I have to say that they did a pretty good job. The book is a series of conversations between one or both of the twins and someone who has apparently inspired them in some way. The big fashion names are present as expected: Karl Lagerfeld, Giambattista Valli, John Galliano etc. but I found some of the other interviewees more interesting: Alexandre De Betak, Lazaro Hernandez & Jack McCollough, and Peter Lindbergh in particular. As well as many beautiful images (the Olsens seem as obsessed with Polaroids as The Portmanteau), there are lots of insights into the Olsen’s lives – we learn that Ashley is a fan of Jane Austen and Picasso and would like to live in France. MK prefers Plato and Basquiat and doesn’t feel the need to get married. Fascinating, I know.