Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Queen Isabella

I took a trip to Antwerp this weekend ostensibly to dj at a party - this basically translated as blaring a load of Britpop, Girls Aloud, and Mel & Kim and dancing around like a freak. “Blow by Blow” by Detmar Blow with Tom Sykes made for perfect Eurostar reading and after swotting up on all things Issie, I headed straight to Haunch of Venison for the launch of Martina Rink’ s beautiful book on the celebrated stylist. A mixed bag of celebs were in the house, many wearing Philip Treacy hats - Boy George, Meg Matthews, Rupert Everett and the famed milliner himself. I also took the chance to sneak upstairs to check out Joana Vasconcelos stunning fibre optic floral maze and Polly Morgan’s creepy / pretty taxidermy. With all this Issie action, it was definitely time to dig out my old copy of Vogue from December 1992 to revisit the seminal Anglo- Saxon Attitude shoot photographed by Steven Meisel , my all time-favourite Isabella editorial. These days, the Cool Britannia- themed photo shoot is an overdone concept but this was truly inventive starring Honor Fraser, Bella Freud, Stella Tennant and Lady Louise Campbell as the “London Babes”. It even managed to make Blow’s then assistant Plum Sykes look cool rather her usual Park Avenue perfect self. Sykes recounts how impressed Isabella was with her administrative skills, introducing her by saying “This is my assistant Plum. She is so clever. She went to Oxford and can send faxes really fast”. All the behind the image drams that "Blow by Blow" provides is perfectly complemented by Rink’s book, filled with personal reminiscences from Anna Wintour, Bryan Ferry, Sophie Dahl and many others and stunning portraits. ( I love the picture above of Isabella laughing with Philip Treacy). Get both for the most complete overview of a true fashion original. NOK

Monday, September 13, 2010

The News

Usually the day after a big bash, when all the best celebs have been trussed up by whichever designer whose store opening or show they’re attending, my other The Portmanteau half and I spend the morning sending emails about just how “crap”, “ridiculous” and “overdone” everybody looked. Not so last Thursday after the Chanel boutique opening in NY. Hosted by Karl Lagerfeld, obvs, the event attracted Alexa, Diane Kruger, Rachel Bilson, the Gossip Girls - basically all the peeps you’d expect. And everybody looked amazing. Blake Lively had, thankfully, put away her cleavage for the night and opted for a sparkly lilac and silver dress that was so different – and so much better – than the poor man’s Sienna/slightly slutty looks she usually goes for. Alexa actually smiled in a photo and reminded me of just how beautiful she is. But Diane Kruger – Lagerfeld’s muse – must take the prize for best dressed of the evening. The ruffles, the little boots, the hair (hairband included) – I loved it all. The only dud was Claire Danes who looked like a typical WASP in her mumsy jeans and jacket combo and her too-perfect honey-coloured hairdid. But I guess the weird thing about Danes is that she is, by her own admission, a WASP. She was born to affluent yet creative parents and attended the Dalton School so it sort of makes sense that there she is, turning up to Manhattan openings in Chanel jackets. It’s just strange to think of Angela Chase – who Danes portrayed beautifully in the best TV show ever (well besides Mad Men, Come Dine With Me and Sex and the City) My So-Called Life – heading off to the manicurist and booking bi-monthly touch-ups at the hair salon at Bergdorfs. Angela Chase’s dyed red hair, pale skin and oversized plaid shirts continue to be a style influence sixteen years on and is perhaps a look that the über-groomed Danes could do with channelling.

New York grooming is the subject of an article in this month’s Vogue. Vicky Ward writes about how, after moving to New York from London, she abandoned the opaque tights she was so reliant on and opted for all-year-round waxing and fake tanning so as to show off her legs in cocktail dresses, even when Central Park was enveloped in snow or the rain was pouring down on City Hall. And, yeah, I get it. I mean I love the easiness of tights; I love how your skirt can be indecently short and it doesn’t matter because you have two pairs of 80 denier on. I love tights for their cosiness, their forgiving nature as they bundle and pack up your flesh. But I also think New Yorkers are right: tanned, toned, bare legs are infinitely sexier and compliment most dresses far better than their covered up counterpart. As Ward points out, “many of autumn’s trends just don’t work with tights.”

Alexa – who divides her time between New York and London – has obviously picked up on the NY attitude to tights because I can’t remember the last time she was spotted in a pair. Carey Mulligan – US Vogue’s October cover girl – highlighted the differing attitude that Londoners have to tights when she turned up the Met Ball in a pair. Nobody turns up the Met Ball in tights - well actually Winona Ryder did two years ago and looked terrible – but nobody else. The Met Ball is a place for glamour and unachievable muscle tone and silly LED dresses; it is not an event for dull types who have boring concerns like feeling the cold or inadvertently showing their knickers. And by wearing tights, the usually beautiful Mulligan managed to look kind of dowdy. Think of it this way: have you ever seen Carrie Bradshaw – the apotheosis of New York style – in a pair of tights? No, you haven’t.

Carey Mulligan at May's Met Ball

In the newspapers, there are lots of nice stories about the Mitfords as Deborah Mitford (or Debo or the Duchess of Devonshire or whatever) is publishing her memoirs. Now, I already know most of it but it’s always fun to read about the Mitfords. The Guardian had an especially nice interview today. Camille Paglia took issue with Gaga in yesterday’s Sunday Times, as I’m sure you have been made aware of. I liked Alex Needham’s response on the Guardian website because a) he pointed out that Gaga isn’t trying to be sexy (duh!), and b) he brought my attention to this amazing fax spat that existed between Camille Paglia and Julie Burchill. I was a child living in a small town in Ireland when the row occurred, so this was my first reading but wow! I have never seen such bitchy letters, besides perhaps those exchanged between a particularly loathsome letting agent and myself. LE

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Parlez vous Gossip?

Oh mon Dieu! Here is something to get excited about - the teaser for the 4th series of Gossip Girl – Sacre Blair! Boys du jour! Dan au pair! Vive le Chuck! Girls à la carte! Loves it. This is such a fun trailer. And just to make it even more thrilling, Clémence Poésy is joining the cast as a love interest for Chuck who is looking hotter than ever with the addition of a cane to his look.

I think Clémence and a cane are exactly what I need to get excited about GG again. For me, the series started to go seriously off the rails midway through Season 3 with the whole Chuck’s mother and the necklace confusion. Adding to the fallout were Little J’s nasty rat's tails hair extensions and the increasingly ridiculous “let's get everyone together in the end” scenarios. Things only began to look up when Serena's dodgy doctor daddy Billy Baldwin appeared on the scene towards the end of the series. As well as all the Paris drams, we can also look forward to a couple of eps filmed around Vogue's Fashion's Night Out with editors Hamish Bowles and Lauren Santo Domingo making appearances. Oh you know we still love you GG xoxo. NOK

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Watson, Schmatson; Haircut, Schmaircut

Emma Watson got a haircut. Now – as you might recall – we’re not the biggest Emma Watson fans here at The Portmanteau. It’s not that we have anything against the Harry Potter star per se; it’s just that we don’t get it. She’s a pretty-ish actor who stars in some films about witchcraft or something. Why all the hoopla and lucrative advertising contracts? OK yeah Harry Potter is apparently very popular (my attempt to engage with the movie franchise ended in a 3 hour snooze at the cinema) but this weird obsession with Emma Watson goes way beyond the normal attention paid to a young actor who has been in some high-grossing movies. Watson is feted as a style icon. I can accept that my views on Harry Potter are unpopular and I readily admit that I know very little about JK Rowling’s creations but fashion – fashion I know. And Emma Watson’s style icon status is wholly undeserved. She seems to have acquired the tag after doing nothing but turning up to premieres and parties in boring, blah, way-too-old-for-her ensembles. Or even if the dress isn’t too old for her, like this Rodarte number for example, she somehow manages to make it dull. A lot of it is down to the make-up and posing. She’s kind of mousy – sorry – so she should really learn to brighten things up with orangey red or bright pink lipsticks. Also forget about mumsy brown eye shadow – you were born in 1990 for crying out loud! I doubt she cares what I think though as she garners huge praise every time she goes anywhere. Even The Daily Mail has never said anything vaguely mean about EW and they don’t hold back when it comes to red carpet criticism.

Anyway, she got her hair cut. It’s really short. And everybody is saying it’s nice. Except it’s not really. I completely recognise the impulse to cut off all your hair; I hate too-long, Amish-style hair. I think those girls who are proud that they can sit on their hair are creepy, especially when their hair is straight and mousy brown. I want to run after them with highlighting kits and scissors. “At least cut a fringe into it,” I long to scream. But short hair – properly short like Emma Watson’s – is really hard to pull off. Vogue put together this slideshow of the best of the short haircuts and while some people do carry it off – Audrey Hepburn, Jean Seberg, Halle Berry, Ginnifer Goodwin – others, like Kate Moss, Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller, look way better with longer locks. And those people are really pretty and don’t have to worry about double chins and the like; things that prohibit the rest of us from cutting all our hair off. So yeah Emma Watson even though you actually took a sartorial or trichotological or whatever risk for once, you have still failed to win me over. LE

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The News

So calling this post The News is entirely inaccurate. Nothing about this post is newsworthy or even current and up-to-date, rather it is a little collection of stuff from the internet that I have enjoyed recently.

First up is the Jezebel video that features Rachael Zoe saying “literally” about 500 times. Literally. Well not actually literally, but you know what I mean. Yeah, I sympathise. I say “literally” all the time too. When I hear it pop out of my mouth I acknowledge it and say, “Oh I just said literally – sorry,” thus adding about 6 extra words to my sentence and ensuring that people stop listening. But it’s a word I find hard to eradicate. Like “like”. And “whatevs”. There is hope though: when I was in school my friends and I got into the habit of saying “physically” out of context. “I am physically freezing.” “I physically really don’t want to go.” “I think I’ll just like physically ignore him until he actually gets the message.” Yeah, we were really annoying. Anyway, I never say “physically” anymore. Not even when it would be appropriate. So there you have it: it is possible to rid yourself of an annoying verbal tic. Behold the Zoe on Jezebel.

Fashion blogs tend to be sexless. Often bloggers post images of themselves enjoying their perfect day, which usually includes a cup of tea, a wander around some vintage shops and a perusal of a particularly nice coffee table book. It’s all very pleasant, which is fine, but you do sort of wonder if that really is anybody’s actual, like physical, idea of a perfect day. Like literally. Surely these people’s lives are more interesting than that. I mean I think they are; they just aren’t willing to blog about it. Understandably. But now – thanks to Miss V from Men I Wish I Hadn’t Slept With – we have a fashion insider who is willing to share all. I was alerted to this blog a couple of months ago by Harriet Walker from The Independent and in the intervening time, Miss V has begun to get some nice media attention. She’s been featured in the Indy and in Time Out. Miss V doesn’t really focus on fashion at all but she does raise important points that must be considered by those working in the fashion industry, the pros and cons of having sex with a male model, for example. As an overall read, it’s entertaining in the same way Bridget Jones was funny before she became the ultimate loser thanks to the movie: embarrassingly honest and easy to identify with whilst providing a little peek into the London media/fashion scene.

My favourite Mad Men-related story comes from No Good For Me, who played Fuck, Marry, Murder with the Sterling Cooper office. Laura Jane got to the heart of the matter when she said she would fuck, marry and murder Don Draper. Which makes sense. But then I also wouldn’t mind a bit of Roger Sterling or Ken Cosgrove. Hmm. Anyway, it’s a good game. LE

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Listen Up

It’s not the clothes that stop me from shopping on the high street – in fact my little River Island sundress that cost 25 quid garners as much praise as any of my more expensive pieces – but rather it’s the squish. The sweaty messiness of people trampling over me to get the last pair of size 7 espadrilles, the interminable wait at the fitting rooms and the tropical climate that means I have to take off all my clothes just to have a quick look around. But I could actually deal with all of this; I could grin and bear it if it weren’t for the music. The banging, tuneless so-called dance or techno that H & M and Mango pump out. Nope, sorry, that’s where I draw the line. I immediately retreat from the humid swamp of a high street store when aggressive trance blares from the speakers. Yes, I know that Urban Outfitters is overpriced but I can browse to the strains of Lady B. And over at Liberty what’s that I hear: ah yes a remix of Noah and the Whale’s Blue Skies. Perfect for trying stuff on to.

It’s not that I’m a snob though – just last week I was in my local Poundland (Quick aside: Poundland is amazing. Everything is a pound. Toffifee, kitchen paper, pregnancy tests, Pride and Prejudice on DVD. A POUND!) when I heard a song that sounded like a happier version of Vampire Weekend’s Oxford Comma. “What’s this amazing song?” I asked the checkout girl. “Dunno,” she shrugged. You don’t get great customer service when everything is a pound. But anyway my point is that if Poundland can manage to play decent music that makes me want to dance around the aisles then surely H & M can work on their playlist.

The peeps at Urban Outfitters are slightly more helpful than the Poundland staff and have put together a LSTN feature on their website where you can listen to the tunes they’ve been playing recently. And a girl who worked at Topshop lovingly collated a blog that featured the store’s playlists. She left Topshop last month and the blog is now defunct but it’s still worth having a quick look through. LE

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Old School

We take models very seriously at The Portmanteau. My other The Portmanteau half did the best project on models in second year – I don't recall what the relevance was to our Civics class but it was A-MAY-ZING. Anyway, we have our all-time favourites and it’s always good to see one of them coming back. Back in the Carmen /Gisele / Frankie days at the turn of the millennium, there was an alternative to the bombshell brigade. All these bronzed babes were balanced out by the Belgian intellectual guard - Elise Crombez, Hannelore Knuts, Anouck Lepere, An Oost, Ann Catherine Lacroix. My favourite of this lot was Delfine Bafort. From 2000 to 2002, there was no escaping her – she could do punky and androgynous or goddess glamour. Here’s how we remember her - beautiful in Corrine Day’s 2002 Hidden Treasures’s shoot for British Vogue and on the catwalk for Marc Jacobs Spring 2002 – incidentally one of Joanna Newsom’s fave collections ever. Delfine seemed to fall out of favour for the rest of the decade but she’s back on the radar big time right now– she opened Mark Fast’s Autumn / Winter show and was photographed by Laurie Bartley in swimsuits for Harper’s Bazaar’s July issue.
So who would we like to see next in line for a comeback? – I say bring back Iris Palmer. NOK