Thursday, 28 January 2010

A familiar dilemma....

Busy with the day job at the moment - researching tinned mushrooms if you need to know, I am very happy to call on the talent of Charlotte Renon for today's post. Although she is at a different stage of her life, juggling her young family and her career, her drawing captures a universal female moment of truth.

Every woman above the age of 12 has experienced the plunge into the abyss, the desperate search, the ultimate irony of life: a desperate stare into closet full of clothes and the impossibility of getting dressed... The clothes are too old, too naff, too tight, too big, too drab, too colourful but also not elegant enough, nor sufficiently relaxed, not capable of projecting the right image for the day, the occasion or the moment.  Derided by men, the truth of that existential dilemma will certainly have the ring of familiarity to your ears.

More from Charlotte on:

Monday, 25 January 2010

Highstreet watch - Uniqlo and Jil Sander

Jil Sander's Spring collaboration with Uniqlo, is now available in the shops. With a slight improvement on the weather front, I went to have a look at the collection. I liked it. The billboards show the usual 20 year olds, looking intense and broody in black and white but I think that the clothes can also work on happy, active and relaxed 40+. Jil Sander's influence is obvious in the limited and chic colour palette, the streamlined and androgynous look but the starkness of the winter collection is softened in the Spring by lighter shades and supple fabrics.   In her own words: "In textiles, I looked for fluid behaviour that doesn't so much sculpt as underline movement." (Evening Standard, 5 January 2010).

I particularly like the "Short Tailored Blazer" in 100% polyester, which come in nice shiny colours - caramel and navy blue in particular. Polyester used to come with a health warning but I imagine this version is breathable. The same cut also exists in"tech-satin", a soft blend of cotton and a synthetic fiber, which might be less of a risk for hot-weather stewing.

Her Macs also look very good.  For those who have managed to resist the Mac craze until now, the "Double-breasted Long Trench Coat" is a good buy at £99.99.

The "Bonding stand collar coat" shown below also makes a very attractive light coat at £89.99.

I have not yet tried any of the trousers or T-shirts. I'll return for another trip with a bit more time and fewer layers to take off!

Here is Uniqlo's website for more details:

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The perfect Valentine!

Valentine - words as jewelry. 

Jewelry is relatively new to Valentine whose background is in costume design - she started making jewelry in 2005 and trained at Central St Martin. Born in London and growing up in France, Valentine uses her command of both languages in her word-based jewelry.  She works from her home studio, a cubbyhole of a studio actually, warm and cosy with just enough space for the tools of her trade.

Her style is pared down, playful and poetic. No room for frills or chichi as she goes straight to the essential but humour always plays its part along with surprise and a taste for the whimsical.

Valentine creates unique jewelery that she calls "tags", inspired by military dog tags. Those can be worn as necklaces held on a delicate silver or gold bead chain, or used as key tags.

Each tag is hand-made by Valentine, making it unique and individual, one letter applied at a time to make up words with slightly irregular spacing.

Made mostly in sterling silver, there is a small collection in 22 carat gold, "the most beautiful gold" and Valentine can make any model in gold on demand.  The tags come in two sizes, "slim tags" and "fat tags" that can happily be worn by men.

Just for you.
She also has a wonderful bespoke service where she designs tags in response to a questionnaire.  The resulting tag will surprise and intrigue as it captures Valentine's interpretation of your answers. The questionnaire is thorough and insightful and I am still working on some of my answers! Valentine's jewelry comes from words and the metal tag communicate a message that comforts, amuses, startles or shocks.

Playing with French and English words, she contrasts clashing ideas, tells little stories that can remain very private or invite conversations.

Worn close to the body, they draw you in as lean in to read the words. Or they can act as a private talisman, a motto for your life, a direction to follow.


 The beauty of the tags is that they provoke a reaction and literally speak to us. One will inevitably touch you or remind you of someone. The question is: who do you spoil first for Valentine's day, you or your friend?

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Wash at your peril!

I am indebted again to Alasdair who posted the ad on his own blog that I thoroughly recommend:

The actress in the US ad for Method, a company that makes environmentally friendly cleaning product is probably below 40 but I think the ad is well worth watching!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Meryl Streep wins Best Actress Golden Globe for Julia!

Nominated for both It's Complicated and Julie & Julia, she got the award for her portrayal of Julia Child, a well deserved prize!

Friday, 15 January 2010

It's not that great!

I was so looking forward to watching Nancy Myers' It's Complicated as I had enjoyed Something's Gotta Give and as it features Meryl Streep whom I admire. She is one of the very few actresses over 40 or even 50, whose name can open films and who seems to work continuously. Her beauty is not spectacular but she is instantly recognisable whilst wonderfully versatile and her expressive face doesn't seem to have resorted to plastic surgery (bar from a supremely skilled surgeon) or been botoxed into a waxwork of herself.

Unfortunately and in line with most critique I have read, I was underwhelmed by the film, a rather lightweight affair - forgive the pun, punctuated by "embarrassed chuckles" as a means of conveying the "complications" of the situation, over-acted by the starring couple, Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin. Still, there were some funny moments and it is refreshing to see a couple in their late 50s/early 60s starring in a film, being amorous, sexy, in bed and having a much more interesting life than their rather dull offspring. In any event, Mery Streep has had a stellar past couple of years and her film wardrobe runs the sartorial gamut.

I can only marvel at an actress who can convincingly wear couture (The Devil Wears Prada),

overalls (Mama Mia),

a nuns habit (Doubt),


1950ies outfits (Julie and Julia) and contemporary chic (It's Complicated)!:

In Julie and Julia,  she is not exactly a fashion icon and appears as a giant, frizzy-haired, bespectacled and apron-ed creature. However, the clothes are spot-on and her matronly appearance is belied on occasion by her high pumps and the unmistakeably sexy glint in her eye when she is in the same room as the wonderful Stanley Tucci, her film husband.

In Its complicated, sharing the screen with slick but rotund Alec Baldwin and white-haired and numb-looking Steve Martin (botox?), she appears as a successful Californian entrepreneur.  Her wardrobe is key according to director Nancy Meyers who wanted a certain look for her star: "I tracked down Sonia Grande, the Spanish designer of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, who didn’t speak English. I met her with a translator, and liked her immediately. I brought her pictures of the look I wanted for Meryl." as told to Anne Thomson: Anne Thompson's blog on Hollywood

The resulting look is decidedly sophisticated - silk, cashmere and good taste, but also quite boring. Meryl Streep looks like a rich housewife, not a hard-working bakery owner - we'd need a trace of eggs and flour somewhere,  and her clothes lack charm and personality in my opinion.  The wardrobe actually ties in very well with the aspirational and rather fake feel of the film - it's not that great but you might want to catch it on DVD with a group of girlfriends on a slow night.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


No direct link with fashion but I'd like to recommend this blog on collections. Lisa Congdon from San Francisco takes a daily picture of a collection, or draws one - she is an illustrator.  Thanks to Alasdair for alerting me to its existence. A little bit of heaven for those of us who like everyday objects and see beauty in simple things! Enjoy her blog!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Highstreet watch - COS

I took a trip to the high-street with my eldest daughter, "the ruthless judge" to take advantage of the sales and replace an ill-chosen Christmas gift - too old and desperately out of touch. I had thought she might like the retro look but she didn't. I completely agree with her - the J&M Davidson bag and belt are definitely more suited to me than to a 16 year-old.

We first stopped at COS, H&M's bigger sister. When I first discovered their Autumn/Winter season, I liked the resolute look, the fabrics and execution, but I must say I was  rather put-off by the either exaggeratedly pointy or droopy shoulders, harshly geometrical lines and almost grotesque silhouettes that seemed to constrain rather than free the body.


This time, rummaging through the sales rails and the new stock, I found a couple of really nice dresses that I think can look very good on a 40+.  Good enough to buy one actually! The Chartreuse colour dress comes in a silky jersey with elegant silver tipped ties. I tried it in size S and it was quite big - always a nice feeling, and retails for £45 (it is not in the sale).


The purple woolen dress is in the sale at £32.50 but its black version sells at the full price of £65.  I bought the purple one - it is in the sale and a nice change from too much black in my wardrobe.


I would like to invite you to go to Cos if only to try clothes in their beautifully lit changing rooms. They bathe you in a warm glow that magically erases wrinkles, sun spots and unattractive signs of aging! On a different note, COS make all the right noises about closely monitoring their suppliers' working conditions and implementing their code of conduct.

JM Davidson make beautiful bags, accessories and clothes, available at their shop at 97 Golborne road, London W10 5NL, Tel: +44 208 969 2244.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A fashion portrait: Afsoon

A is for Artist.
I have known Afsoon for years and when I first met her, she was unmistakably an artist in her approach to life if not yet fully in her practice. Her home and her appearance have always been an outlet for her visual sense, her eye for shapes, colours and proportions and ability to mix the quirky and the classic.

Her clothes have always conveyed her artistic gift - unique, colourful, expressive of her personality and sense of fun. She wears clothes that you can't place - she lends her innate sense of chic to a flea market discovery from Montpellier,  a dress from her mother's coffers or a timeless find from a fashionable boutique. When I met her, she was just beginning to hone her artistic skills, linocut in particular, in between looking after home and family. With growing children, she is now able to fully be the artist that she wants to be. As many women artists, the way she works retains a domestic feel. Her work table has an element of the kitchen table, its warmth and gentle familiarity. But that should not fool you into thinking that her work is soft or lightweight - she is collected by the British Museum and recently illustrated an article on the current Iranian unrest in the New York Times.


Drawing her inspiration from her Iranian heritage, she is constantly trying to recreate her past, a past that blends imagination and reality, folklore and history. Poetry, that great Persian gift, imbues her work. The titles of her series: Nostalgia, Persian Speaking Objects, Talisman and her latest, Fairytale Icons convey that sense that the past is never far away but can't ever be grasped. I find that her work goes beyond the exotic and speaks to me, a non-Persian, of the passing of time, the evocative power of everyday objects and the unexpected twists of life. I am the happy owner of a Roberts radio lino cut featured below, from the Nostalgia series acquired several year ago:


Shah's second wife from the Persian Fairytale series:

F is for fashion:
On a wintry late morning, I met Afsoon with photographer Arno ( click on Arno's website), at her studio, a beautifully proportioned square room with a vast window overlooking peaceful back-gardens and letting in plenty of natural light. In the warmth of the fireplace, surrounded by a curiosity shop of objects, sipping cups of winter tea and munching on Rococo chocolates, we talked with Afsoon of her art, her clothes and what inspires her whilst Arno snapped her in different guises.

First childhood memory of clothes?
A pink corduroy dress with lace collar and a silk rose attached to each cuff and to the collar, when I was about 5 years old.
First piece of clothing that you bought with your own money?
A pair of very pointy and curly-toed Kenneth Cole shoes, flat, in dark blue suede, which almost had a 1001 Nights feel about it.
Significant fashion moment in your life?
My first Nike sneakers! With the red swish on white leather, still the best.
Fashion disasters?
Attaching colour extensions to my black bob.
Fashion triumphs?
Keeping my look no matter what the magazines say.
How would you define your style?
Relaxed with a touch of excentricity. Also, a combination of a great designer piece and a second hand (sorry vintage!) addition, finished off with a pair of Converse or an old pair of Marni sandals.
Afsoon made a necklace  from bone key labels she found in Hungary where she was preparing her upcoming residency and exhibition. She still doesn't know what the labels mean which enhances the mystery.

What counts and what does not count with clothes/accessories?
Good quality fabric, a nice cashmere scarf or a well cut silk dress are much better than 10 polyester things. Also, certain colours that I have always loved, such as purple or orange. I don't care if it is by a famous designer; if I don't like it, that's it! Also, I cannot stand the sex-object kind of look that brands like Jimmy Choo push women into.
The green and gold plastic Buddha that she wears had a fashion victim swoon over "the gold, the jade" - proving that it is how you wear it more than what you wear that gets the look!

Whilst she enjoys mixing African beads, purporting to ward off the evil eye and plastic Buddhas, she also wears exquisite rings from Iranian artist and curator, Fereaydoun Ave who also does jewelry on the side.

Is your style/choice of clothes changing as you are getting older?
Not really. I still have dresses, jeans and jackets which I have worn for the past 15 years or so.
Comfort clothes?
Sweat pants and T-shirts, and  old French linen night dresses in the summer.
Morale boosting clothes?
A couple of dresses which I have had for years and I know I look good in them.
The first dress is from See by Chloe and the second is the copy Afsoon had made by a tailor, using fabric bought at Marche St Pierre, the great Paris fabric discount store near Montmartre.

I would never wear...?
Very high heels, overly sexy things, ridiculous underwear.
I can't leave the house without...?
A hat and a cotton handkerchief.
Piece of clothing you can't bear to throw away although you should?
It used to be a white duffle coat with red lining which I have had since I was 13 years old, but unfortunately, I lost it to a fire a couple of years ago. And a gold pair of leather sandals from the 60's.
The sandals from Dolcis, in that peculiar shade of gold that Arno described as "granny gold":

Piece of clothing your children/husband would like you to get rid of?
My son doesn't like a green pair of sunglasses which I bought in a market in France.
Fashion advice?
Wear what YOU feel good in, not what others tell you to wear.
Favourite boutique/shop/brand/designer?
Liberty of London, See by Chloe and Converse.

Afsoon's satchel bag from Ally Capellino, vast enough to hold her work tools:

T is for Tips from Afsoon.
  • Stick to your own taste and style.
  • Know what works for you and adapt the current fashion to your body and style, not the other way around.
  • Keep a sense of your history and heritage.
  • Don't confuse feminine and slutty.
  • Determine your colours and use them with abandon.
  • Enjoy patterns.
  • Go for good fabrics.
  • Mix and match cheap and expensive, old and new.
  • Put humour in your clothes.
To know more about Afsoon's work:
To see the NYTimes article she illustrated: NYTimes op-ed contributors