Monday, 30 November 2009

Older sells?

Notably absent from fashion magazines, women over 40 feature in cosmetics and luxury product advertising. Somehow, we are supposed to buy clothes modeled by women half our age or less, but, when it comes to anti-aging face creams or expensive watches or handbags, advertisers have realised that we need to identify with the model... as long as she is a celebrity and fiercely airbrushed.

Celebrity sells.

The use of " celebrities " in advertising apparently makes sense. A study conducted by Ana Rumschisky, a marketing professor at the IE Business School in Madrid, measures the return on investment (ROI) of using celebrities in advertising. It appears that we are prepared to spend up to 20% more on the same product if a celebrity is touting it. The study was conducted amongst university students and revealed that men were prepared to pay 19% more for the same product (a luxury wristwatch) advertised by a celebrity than by an unknown model, whilst women were only willing to pay 13.4% more. A clear sign that women are a tougher sale despite their reputation as spendthrift!

Airbrushed to destruction

I might be a particularly tough customer but the older photo-shopped celebrity trick does not work for me. It might even have the reverse effect and turn me off a brand when it is too extreme. Whilst I am thrilled to see Laura Morante (born in 1956) or Juliette Binoche (born in 1964) advertising Lancome product, I don't need their unrealistic smoothness. They either makes me feel so inadequate that I should hide under a bushel or angry that I am being lied to: those creams and potions might be very good but they are not magic. To be fair, younger models are also ruthlessly airbrushed to perfection, creating unattainable ideals for younger women too.

I don't want to sound like a broken record, nor have unrealistic expectations from an industry which essentially sells fantasy but, such relentless airbrushing creates a virtual world of eternal youth and perfection from which I feel increasingly detached. We and people around us, have to live with the reality of our imperfect and aging appearance whilst our famous contemporary seem to never age or are condemned to disappear from the public gaze. I was happy to read Lancome's president, Youcef Nabi say in the French Elle Magazine of 13 November 2009: "At each age, there is a kind of optimum that we try to reach. Trying to punch above one's weight is illusory." Whilst she implies that youth will always win in the boxing ring of beauty, I find a refreshing degree of honesty in her answer. However, the pictures used by Lancome do not quite support that position. Just spot the difference between the stars "au naturel " (actually, fully made-up and artistically coiffed for the red-carpet) and their Lancome version above.

They look incredibly beautiful as they are, don't they?

Each time I see Louis Vuitton's Madonna campaign, I can't help but sneer.

The sight of alabaster skinned, corseted 50+ Madonna is such a work of fantasy that I can't help but admire its creator - Steven Meisel and his army of retouchers, but also despair. If such a well-known and powerful woman can only exist in the public eye as a photo-shopped youthful version of herself, we, mere mortal have no hope in hell!

If you want to read more about the study on celebrity advertising: Study on celebrity ROI by Ana Rumschisky

As usual, I have no connection with any of the brands featured.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dragana Perisic - A Designer from the East in East London

Grownup Fashion

Brick Lane and its adjacent streets are crowded and noisy at weekends but offer a peaceful sight on weekdays. Whilst some of the shops only open at the weekend, we were lucky to find Dragana Perisic in her shop on a beautiful autumnal Thursday morning. As her exotic name suggests, Dragana Perisic hails from Eastern Europe and brings her sensitivity, imagination and payfulness to the clothes that she designs. Refreshingly, she says that she designs for women over 35 - a rarity in our youth focused fashion industry. I take it that she means that she designs for women, not girls, values personality and accomplishment over the simple promise of youth - not that I would want to put words in her mouth! Please do not think that I am anti-youth - I had my share of it and love to see it around me. I just want women over 40 to continue to exist and for those advancing years to be valued, not hidden shamefully!

Cut with precision

The cut is precise and the detailing is impeccable, lending the clothes a timeless quality which is enlivened by Dragana's skillful and whimsical mix of fabrics. For her winter collection, she uses wool fabrics that feel light on the shoulders but warm and cosy. She enjoys mixing a textured, white coated wool with a soft green herringbone cloth, playing on contrasts and complementarity.The Matrushka coat shown here also exist in grey and aubergine colours and retails at £490.


Dragana Perisic has a particular talent to create clothes that can be reconfigured and worn to suit the mood. A belt can be draped in different ways around the waist and create two looks out of a jacket or a coat. Pockets can be buttoned onto a graceful wool coat at different angles and produce distinct effects. The Brick coat shown below sells for £395.

A soft and luxurious leather bag can be worn through an arm hole or a with shoulder strap, perfect for the elegant city cyclist. The sides of the bag can be folded out, giving a glimpse of the colourful lining and clever inside pockets. The bag is designed to accomodate a laptop computer, with a welcome zip across the top to secure it from probing pick-pockets.

Grownup prices

Dragana Perisic's collection does not come particularly cheap. Coats and jackets hover between £345 and £500, comparable to better known designers such as Vivienne Westwood's Anglomania line or Zadig and Voltaire. I think those prices make sense in light the obvious quality and lasting nature of the design. Those are not throwaway clothes but investment pieces to be enjoyed for years. I hope the fabrics age well and confirm their enduring value as I have my eye on the "No collar jacket" (£345) that I find beautiful and versatile - I am saving my pennies!








What makes Dragana Perisic "Mutton friendly"

  • Sympathetic designer
  • Precise cut
  • Fit
  • Body skimming not clinging
  • Clever detailing
  • Mix of textures
  • Elegance not show-off
  • Quality
Dragana Perisic's shop is located at 30 Cheshire Stree, London EC2 6EH.
If you want to know more: Dragana Perisic's website
Please rest assured that, as usual, I have no connection with the designer featured.

    Friday, 20 November 2009

    Travels to the East...

    ... of London. We are not talking here of a great adventure on the Silk road, on camel backs, but of a simple tube journey to Liverpool Street to reach Spitalfield market, Brick lane and its side streets. Often described as a collection of villages, London does feel very different from one area to another and it is a great luxury to be able to take a mini-holiday in one's own city (of adoption).
    First things first
    As befits serious shoppers, I and my delightful traveling companion, A., had to start with a coffee break in the most wonderful Verde & Co.

    The "Grocers and Italian wharehousemen" as they define themselves gave us wonderful coffee and Bakewell tarts, and we lingered on high stools, surrounded by deliciously tempting provisions.

    Food being one of my many passions in life, I am straying from fashion to highly recommend stopping in this deli/cafe,  to enjoy their beautiful mix of fresh foods, well-chosen pantry items and antiques.  The "wharehousemen" were very welcoming and helpful too, serving a delicious cup of caffe latte whilst preparing lunch and taking deliveries of yet more tempting groceries. They are located at 40 Brushfield street, Spitalfields E1, across from Spitafield market.

    Tiny fashion
    A short walk away takes us to 162 Brick lane, London E1 6RU, a tiny, "hole-in-the-wall" shop dedicated to fashion for the under 5, another departure from the main theme of this blog, but it was hard to resist stepping in. 

    Oh Baby London claims to be "Clothing for lucky kids" and I can only agree. Their designs are fun, mischievous and reasonably priced. The T-shirt with a message might have lost its novelty and even appear desperately naff, but I liked the prison-striped playsuit boasting: "I've been inside for 9 months." Very cute and still acceptable on a tiny one! Being out of the baby market myself, I can see great gifts for those who are in that stage of life.  Check out their website.

    Grown up fashion
    I'll come back in a later post to the theme of fashion for the over 40 with a great shop in Cheshire street, run by Dragana Perisic, a lovely designer who is not afraid to say that she designs for the 35+ market and produces beautiful and inventive timeless clothes and bags.

    I have no connection, financial or otherwise with any of the shops and brands featured.

    Wednesday, 18 November 2009

    Iris Apfel - an inspiration!

    At the age of 88, Iris New Yorker Iris Apfel remains a style icon.
    Through the years she has accumulated a fabulous collection of clothes and accessories. Her inimitable style combines couture and ethnic pieces, vintage and Top Shop or H&M. She is featured in the November issue of the French Vogue magazine and an exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachussets pays homage to her fabulous sense of style: "Rare Bird of Fashion: The irreverent Iris Apfel" until February 2010.

    The exhibtion: Rare Bird of Fashion

    Never a slave to fashion, she has developed her unique look whilst running the legendary textile design business, "Old World Weavers", with her husband Carl. Traveling the world, she has amassed a fantastic collection of accessories that she wears with flamboyant style. A lifelong devotee to the humble jeans, she continues wearing them with aplomb in her Eighties.

    In an interview she gave in 2006, she makes it clear that she is not a fashionista and not a professional collector: she wears what she buys and has many interests beyond fashion. Sharing her life between Palm Beach and NYC, she is active and has clearly no intention of fading into a pastel coloured old-age.

    What clearly irks her is blandness and middle-of-the road choices.
    Read the Look on line interview
    When asked about fashion mistakes for older women, here is what she has to say:
    "I think they are trying to hard to look young. Coco Chanel once said that what makes a woman look old is trying desperately to look young...and it's so silly, why should one be ashamed to be 84? why do you have to say that you're 52? Nobody's going to believe you anyway...they get their faces done but their hands are still creepy. I mean it's ridiculous. Why be such a fool? There nothing wrong and I think it's nice that you got to be so old...It's a blessing."

    Whilst Iris Apfel's distinctive look is not for the faint-hearted, I think any 40+ woman can take a number of tips from her:
    Enjoy your age
    Have fun
    Mix low end and high-end fashion
    Accessorise wildly
    Adopt a signature item of clothing or accessory (in Iris Apfel's case, her enormous glasses)
    Play with fabrics and textures
    Combine classical with ethnic pieces
    Don't get stuck in the "look-du-jour"

     Pictures courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum.
    I would like to mention that I have no connection financial or otherwise with the Peabody Essex Museum!

    Saturday, 14 November 2009

    The Jackson Twins

    On one of those rainy days that London does so well, what better option but to take refuge in the comfort of a welcoming boutique. Stepping inside The Jacksons's beautifully styled shop at number 5 All Saints road in London's Notting Hill (W11 1HA), soft light and mellow music give an immediate feeling of relief. Bucketing rain, low skies and gloom outside are forgotten in this oasis of calm. The shop's corner location normally allows plenty of light to come in through the two shop-windows, but on a rainy day, it feels like a cocoon of peace and beauty.

    The focus of the boutique is the shoes and boots that the Jacksons design but it also features clothes of their own design or from other designers.  Their collection works across the age groups and has plenty to offer a 40+ woman: style, colour, wit, sexy but never slutty. It is not cheap, but worth the price, I think.

    Their shoes that are both comfortable, witty and unique with a focus on colour.  I should also add that they come in half-sizes, a godsend for those of us who fall in between standard sizes. I owned a pair of their Mary Boot in a gorgeous taupe that I wore to destruction. Its low heel and slip on design made them the perfect "running around town" boot. Their new edition of that model (£165) comes in splendid colours and dispenses with the laces that quickly fell apart.

    Their tall boots Milly boots are classics - their chic gaucho look is timeless, well-suited to the stormy and rainy season we are entering, perfect with a wide, floaty skirt and a long coat. They are priced down from their usual £260 price at £195.

    I love their Union Jack collection, which brings this most iconic of flags at your feet. Cool Britannia might have taken a bit of a battering lately, but the flag still looks good! Their flat version comes at £145 and £155 in patent leather. The high heel comes at £170.

    In the same theme, they also have a London bag, featuring both the Union Jack and Big Ben for the fanatical Brit fan.
    London Bag, £25.

    The boutique features beautiful dresses that I will come back to at a later date. As we are entering winter, I'd like to mention a relatively reasonably priced coat from Saltwater, the Cornwall and London based clothing label: The Shetland wool princess coat comes at £249 in "grass" and "donkey" colours.
    The "donkey" version is accessorised with a scarf from Cash Ca (£45), the delicious knitwear company.  The "grass" version of the coat, hanging in the window of The Jacksons brings some most welcome colour to the dull Autumn days!

    The Jacksons shoes are also available from JW Beeton, 68 Ledbury road, W11 2AJ.

    I would like to add that i have no connection, financial or otherwise with any of the brands mentioned.

    Tuesday, 3 November 2009

    Daring or daft?

    An article in the French Elle dated 16 October caught my eye.  Titled: "At 40, we dare...", it ended up not only disappointing  but actually completely letting me down. The article looks at specific items of clothing and examines whether a 40 year old could still pull them off. Those items are: bleached jeans, leather jackets, mini-dresses, high-top sneakers, shorts, printed T-shirts, leather trousers and heavy work boots.


    Those are some of Elle's pictures illustrating the article.

    I don't know about you but when I look at those pictures, I can't help but think: this 40 year old looks very much like a 20 year old: fabulous genes, expensive plastic surgery... Wait a minute, this is actually a 20 year old, not a 40 year old woman. So why is she illustrating this article about 40 year old women? Am I to conclude that it would be too shocking to show a 40 year old wearing high top sneakers or a printed T-shirt and that those clothes are really too dangerous, too daring to even be photographed on anybody beyond the age of 25??? Those photos are ridiculous! If you are going to write an article about 40 year old women, show 40 year old women! After all, it is 40 year olds (and beyond) who are going to read the article, not 20 year olds!

    In any event, why were these items selected? Are they supposed to be so inherently "young" in the eyes of a (probably) young journalist writing the article that a 40 year old could not wear them? Are they so daring, so out-there that a 40 year-old would not touch them with a barge pole? I can see the point for some of them - mini-dresses (a subject already covered through the miniskirt in these pages), shorts (which can be treated in the same way as miniskirts with leggings and caution) and leather trousers (dangerous at any age if the cut is not perfect). With regards to bleached jeans, why anybody of any age would like to wear them is beyond me.
    Another picture from Elle:

    Am I daft?

    Frankly, I can't see why printed T-shirts are obvious no-go articles for 40+, nor high-top sneakers,  leather jackets or heavy work boots. I might be an extreme dresser in the eyes of French Elle, but I think leather jackets can look incredibly cool on a 40+.  Look at Annie Lennox:

    Printed T-shirts can look daft at any age if what is printed is silly or ugly. If they are baggy and shapeless, leave them to hunky surfer dudes. When printed with something relevant to you - fabulous concert you went to, beautiful art work or a significant place, well cut and worn under a smart blazer, why on earth wouldn't you wear them? I have one that I love for its design, that I bought in NY City from a street trader, which in all honesty is not of the greatest quality but reminds me of a good time spent there and that I'll wear in small doses with great pleasure.

    High-top sneakers or heavy work boots... it all depends on which ones and what you wear them with.
    Emma Hope's sneakers look great at any age, perfect for a woman over 40 as they are elegant whilst cool and versatile. They come in amazing colours and could be worn beautifully with jeans or long skirts:

    Heavy work boots, why not?  They project a certain look but I don't think that look is particularly young. I might be missing the point there, but they could look awful on a young or on an old woman. I can picture them working well with a cool Marithe et Francois Girbaud outfit, autumn colours or just jeans. They could also look heavy, "butch" and a bit ridiculous, paired with the wrong clothes at any age.

    By the way, Elle's main advice on how to "dare" those difficult clothes on a 40 year olds seems to be: buy expensive!

    For those who want to read the article in the French Elle:
    A 40 ans on ose