Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Go for Dove!

Dove's campaign for Real Beauty, using "real women" had been a success, showing beauty in its glorious and voluptuous diversity. In another successful campain, Dove had given us older women, with - shock horror - real wrinkles for their Pro Age line. The name of the line itself is a refreshing change in embracing age as opposed to the usual heroic ("Age defying") or denial ("Regenerist") language.
Shot by Annie Leibovitz, the images show women looking their ages and beautiful too - nice change from the usual air-brushing!

Thanks to Alexandra Myers from Gray Models for sending me the article Wrinkles in Living Colour from Time Magazine and the link to You Tube.
To read more:

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Old Ladies Rebellion - the show

Today Fanny Karst presented her show, The Uninvited Guest, in the beautiful art deco setting of London's French Institute.

The cafe atmosphere of wine glasses and jammy dodgers on small round tables welcomed a sympathetic audience of fellow St Martin's former students, her pink haired lecturer, fashionistas of various ages and sexes and potential clients for her new creations.
Her white haired models beautifully navigated gracefully the treacherous stairs and sometimes stopped on the landing, continuing the cafe theme, for a chat and a rest.
Inspired by her grand-mother, Fanny designs for women "of a certain age".  At the tender age of 25 she brings skill, respect and flair to her designated target, creating clothes that look both comfortable and elegant in beautiful free-flowing, silky fabrics that she prints herself.
The clothes combine fluidity of movement and structure with well-thought through lengths for sleeves, dresses and skirts. The skirt below has a nice tails effect at the back, creating a smart and feminine line.
She uses open jackets to good effect, on silky tops or dresses.

I am not completely sold on her use of floating panels on dresses. Some work well in elongating the silhouette and bringing structure to the dress, some look a bit complicated and unnecessary. But overall, I thought the clothes looked good and moved well on the models. Contrary to the blank look of the usual catwalk clothes horses, the models here each brought their individuality and personality to the show and it was fun to imagine their various lives. I think I spotted a ballerina.
 Fanny Karst came at the end to take a bow and afterwards acted as a gracious and friendly hostess to the public. She looked every bit the talented grand-daughter who should make her grand-mother proud!
To learn more about The Old Ladies Rebellion and order your next party outfit:

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Isabella Rossellini - from star to snail

A very familiar face in the 1980s and 1990s, Isabella Rossellini seemed to have completely vanished from her usual stomping grounds: billboards and magazine ads and film.  I had followed her ignominious  replacement by Lancome as spokesperson for the brand on grounds that she was too old, ending a 10 year contract (1982-1992). Rossellini was quite vocal about her dismissal, 6 days after her 40th birthday: "I did not leave on my own. They hired a younger woman with raven hair to replace me." she told Vogue ( and was told she should be happy to have lasted that long in the business!

Ironically, her daughter, Elettra Rossellini-Wiedemann is now on Lancome's payroll! Interesting family dynamics at play, I'm sure.

I saw Isabella Rossellini by chance in James Gray's film Two Lovers, starring with Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw.  I had a bit of a shock at first as I had not seen her on screen for a long time and confused her with her mother, Ingrid Bergman as age seemed to suddenly catch up with her.  All the same, I thought it was brave to show herself unadorned and rather dowdy.

Isabella Rossellini

Curious as to what she had been up too these past few years, I came across short films that she wrote and directed. She also stars in them. The series goes under the "Green Porno" title and is both highly comical and quite outrageous. The films explore the sexuality of insects (and sea creatures in the latest episodes) and are apparently scientifically correct. It is interesting to note that Rossellini tends to play male roles in the short films and take great delight in their bloody demise. The films are quite educational and pretty graphic - expect lots of squirming and embarrassment but I think they can be great fun for children to watch.  Here is the spider:

If you want more "Green Porn", here is the link to the Sundance channel:

Friday, 12 February 2010

Boutique watch: MAY - T&F SLACK SHOEMAKERS

Opened in June 2009, Peter May's boutique sits at 61b Lancaster road, off Portobello road, at the more bohemian end of an increasingly gentrified W11. Its neat and elegant shop window contrasts with the hustle and bustle of the nearby market and captures the charm of a neighbourhood where creative types, market stall holders, yummy mummies, tourists and Afro-Caribbeans happily rub shoulders .
MAY specialises in dresses, drawing on Peter May's 30 years of design from his early days on the King's road to more recently creating The Dispensary's own line in Soho. Some of his designs go back 20 years and have become signature pieces, updated every season in slightly different versions. The shop also features carefully selected vintage pieces which nicely complement his designs. I saw some amazing (real) fur tops, including a glamorous platinum mink jacket for your perfect Golden age of Hollywood look.

His jersey dresses, from £95 to £160 are come in a variety of lengths, from short sleeves to 3/4 or long sleeves. Belted in different way, they flatter the figure and can be dressed up or down with different accessories and shoes.

Another very successful style is the flared dress which comes in crisp cotton (£145) or sumptuous silk (£340). With more muted colours for the winter, black, grey, navy, we can expect bolder shades for Spring/Summer: in particular a couple of bright greens and possibly a radiant turquoise that was being measured when I visited the shop.

That style evokes parties, fun times and celebrations and brings to mind Dior's New Look. Peter May is happy to take on bespoke work and looks forward to a busy wedding season.

Christian Dior

Drawing of the New Look silhouette
Archives Christian Dior

MAY also features beautiful handmade shoes from husband and wife Tim & Fiona Slack Shoemakers. Their more mainstream line, AUDLEY, started in 1988 retails in 30 countries but they sell and show their bespoke and custom made line at 32b Lawrence Terrace (off Golborne road) with extending opening hours (Monday to Friday) from the week after next. The shoes beautifully complement Peter May's dresses and are stunning in their own right. I tried a wide variety of models from flat Derbys with contrasting coloured soles and piping to vertiginous strappy sandals, with a very comfortable heel despite the height. The shoes retail at around £250,  depending on models and are on sale at the moment. A bespoke service is available in a wide variety of wild and wonderful colours for an additional cost of £50.

You might also want to take the man in your life along if he likes bicycles as T&F Slack have developed a new side to their business. They make bespoke fixie steel frames, beautiful old-school leather cycling shoes to wear with or without clips and a limited cycling clothing line. Mr Mutton was dead impressed and I had to stop him from ordering a frame on the spot (£800 for a bespoke frame).

If you would like to know more about MAY:
To read more about Tim and Fiona Slack's shoes:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Make up wonders

The latest issue of the French Elle magazine to lend in my mail box promises to make me look 10 years younger whilst remaining true to myself. I like that. On its cover, 1980s super model Rosemary McGrotha at 51 proves that curves and good hair age well and if Elle can help me achieve her looks, I'm happy.

After 14 years away from the billboards, looking after her son in Florida, she is back as the face of Vichy's Neovadiol GF cream.  Those face cream names always crack me up: pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and creative spelling - Rides Correxion by Roc anyone?

Her uncomplicated and natural approach to aging contrasts with the comprehensive and well documented but rather neurotic pages compiled by Elle. The dossier is full of expensive recommendations and products, lest we forget that magazines aim to sell us stuff and mostly advertising pages. The magazine explores fillers, genetics, face creams, massages, food, cosmetic surgery, etc.  Their list of make-up tips stuck me as very useful and I would like to share it with you.

For a fresh complexion:
  • Avoid all-over foundation; apply selectively where needed on your face
  • Moisturising foundation or tinted moisturiser over thick coverage.
  • Cream blush instead of powder
  • Choose the right colour: counter the yellow or grey tinge of ageing skin and go for a lighter colour with beige, sand and biscuit undertone.
  • Use a brush to apply the foundation/tinted moisturiser.
By Terry, Blush Veloute, £26.
Laura Mercier, tinted moisturiser, £32.
By Terry, Liquid foundation, £39

A voluptuous mouth:
  • Choose a classic red, satin-like and moisturising lipstick over mat and dark colours. Elle recommends the new Guerlain product, full of exotic ingredients (Tiger herb!!?) - I haven't tried it but it seems magical.
  • Avoid lipgloss that seeps into the fine lines around the mouth.
  • Apply lipstick to the centre of the mouth and avoid the corners of the lips to avoid emphasis on the ageing droopy mouth.
Rouge G Le Brillant, Guerlain, $46 or €39

Bright eyes:
  • Use an eye primer: to avoid buying another piece of kit, a cream concealer should be able to do the job of moisturising and smoothing the eye region.
  • Highlight the arch of the eyebrow with a light coloured cream eyeshadow.
  • Choose the right mascara to add length not volume.
Eclat de Teint, by Terry, £29

You might have noticed a lot of by Terry products on this page. I must say that I love them! It probably has a lot to do with their smell but I think they really work. Seeing a friend of a friend use by Terry's liquid foundation and paint her face fresher and smoother at each brush stroke in her pocket mirror, as we were having morning coffee comforted me in my choice: it works and she looked great.

To read more about Elle's anti-ageing recommendations: Dossiers-beaute
By Terry product is available at Space.NK:

Monday, 8 February 2010


Now that we have passed Mid-winter, we can start to look forward to more hopeful days when coats, wool scarfs and heavy boots are no longer required. Vogue's Spring/Summer 2010 runway report lists a number of trends that we should get excited about whilst The Sunday Times Style section (31/01/2010) bravely declare the end of trends - Claudia Croft writes:
"We make fashion work for us, not the other way around"
That statement could have been invented for 40+ women!
She pursues: "Freed from the tyranny of trends, what we are all chasing is the key piece.".
I depart a bit from her there as I will not be chasing the key piece if I feel the key piece is wrong for me. I will happily stick to some of my old favourites rather than try and adopt a style that won't work on my body, age and personality.

In any event, here is what she has picked out from the catwalk - some of those "key pieces" might be fun to look at and inspire us out of the sleat and cold!
Denim shirts:

That is definitely something I will look at, if only because I trot out my well-loved Gap denim shirt every year thinking that it is definitely the last time. I am not sure I'd pay Chloe or Dolce&Gabbana prices for a replacement though!
Beautiful leather clothes are always expensive. I have never fallen in love with anything in leather, apart from shoes and bags, to justify the high cost since buying a steel blue leather T-shirt in my twenties. That T-shirt, from Barbara Bui, never quite worked. It was quite an investment for a student and made me very caution ever since. But I know many 40+ women who wear leather beautifully and swear by their leather jacket or skirt.  TV executive Bonnie Hammer, featured in this weekend's FT praises her Gucci leather jacket from 2004: "It works for any occasion, and any circumstance, to edge up any skirt or black trousers."

Sporty  trousers:
Whilst I happily run around in gym clothes before classes, I am pretty doubtful that I will rush out and make sporty trousers my "key" piece for Spring. I remain to be convinced that sportswear worn as daywear can be a wise choice for a 40+. The spectre of saggy tracksuit bottoms acts as an effective deterrent!
Army Jacket:
That seems to come up at every season: army coat for winter, army jacket for Spring, and why not. Uniforms are flattering and an army-inspired jacket can look beautiful with a feminine skirt or floaty blouse. So, go for it!
Nighties and Bra Tops:
Frankly, that's one I would not touch with a barge pole. It is dangerous mutton dressed as lamb territory and brings to mind all the wrong associations. I guess Vivienne Westwood can pull it off but I am sure that I don't want to try.

Vogue's Spring/Summer 2010 also highlights the underwear as outerwear as well as the army theme. They add a number of other trends. I find that Bling has been around rather too much but Candy Floss colours, Raw edges to clothes and mostly bold Prints might be fun to look at :
To read the Sunday Times Style article: Sunday Times Style
To read more from Vogue:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The older model.

There are a few model agencies that have older models on their books, a very minor segment of a market that lives off young flesh. 

Ugly is one of the first agencies to take on "unconventional" models. Started in 1969, it is now the established agency to call for "character" looks, from taller to smaller to extreme body types, head to toe tattoos, thugs or twins. But beyond the "freak" show, cataloged in the "Specials" section,  they represent more mainstream types that are normally ignored by agencies,  including older fashion models as well as black and Asian models. Marc French who founded the agency in 1969 by putting an ad in the paper, has never had to advertise since. He very kindly answered my questions and his passion for his agency and his affection for his models was clear in our telephone conversation. His models are hand-picked and create their own look; refreshingly, he insists that he never tells a model to loose or gain weight or change her/his appearance in any way: "models who are comfortable with themselves make good models."
He observes that advertisers are becoming more daring and notices a general feeling of boredom towards "perfect" looks and an increasing appetite for weathered faces and distinguished looks. Ugly covers a great variety of fields from advertising to fashion, TV, film or theatre or editorial.  Ugly even had its own TV show: "Britain's Ugliest Models". His older models have featured in a whole range of publications from Harpers and Queen to the Italian Vogue... You might recognise Jenni Rhodes, shown below, from the Samsung ad and an Observer photo shoot published on those pages.
Asked which of his older models could be considered a star, he diplomatically insisted that he is keen to get work for all of them. However, he could not resist a gentle dig at Dafne Selfe who has deserted Ugly to join Model 1 and, according to him, is getting less advertising work than when he represented her.
Model1 is another good place to look for older models. Its Classic Women division specialises in that sector, representing celebrities such as Joanna Lumley or Joeley Richardson but also models such as Twiggy or Marie Helvin.  Elaine who runs Model One declined to answer my questions: as Model 1 run their own blog, she says that they are not interested in contributing to this one. Select Model Management, UK's number 1 model agency,according to their blurb, does not represent any older models.  Storm has a sprinkling of models over the age of 25 but you have to look very hard for them.

However, there is a new entrant in the older model market called Gray Model Agency. Created by Alex Myers and Dona Evans, the agency aims to redefine the modern mature woman and promote an age group that should be represented in its own right. Recruiting women over 50 with previous modeling experience, Gray can draw on Alex Myers' background in picture editing, graphic design and illustration and on Dona Evan's extensive modeling experience. Pictures of models from Gray Models:

Debbie Condon

Joanna Wooley

Alex worked as assistant curator to Charles Saatchi, then in publishing. She put together Phaidon's Fashion Today's enormous iconographic contribution and worked for most major newspapers. Dona was one of the original "flake models", featuring in a slightly risque ad for the famous Cadbury flake in the Sixties. Let's shed a tear and remember happier days at Cadbury's with the ad featured on you-tube:

To know more about Gray Models:
To know more about Ugly:
To know more about Britain's Ugliest Models:
Britain's Ugliest Models

Monday, 1 February 2010

Boutique watch: You Must Create!

"You Must Create" (YMC) sounds like a good life goal, but in this instance, it is the name of a shop located in London's Soho. 
The name of the shop refers to design hero Raymond Loewy's injuction: "You must create your own design". I could not agree more! It is especially true for women over 40 who have seen a lot of trends come and go, then come back again in a new guise.  We tend to know what works and what doesn't work with our body shape, colouring and lifestyle. We are in a good position to pick and choose from what we see in magazines and shops and what we have in to our wardrobe to create our own style.
YMC (Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins) design for both men and women in a functional and timeless style. The clothes are classics with a twist. The emphasis is on good quality fabric and interesting details rather than "in your face" pieces. They convey an understated cool that says jazz rather than X Factor, I.D.Magazine rather than Grazia. The shop itself is decorated with bizarre artifacts, from Victorian pictures of conjoined twins to blowfish lights. What could be creepy becomes intriguing in the shop's soft light and gentle atmosphere.
The collections are targeted at a younger segment of the population but I think that some of the pieces can work well on women 40+.  If I am completely honest, I probably like the shop more than the actual clothes. However, here is a selection of what I liked (the pictures below, downloaded from their website, are not terribly inspiring - the clothes look better in real life):
The "Ski sweater with hood" is available in black and green and currently marked down from £95 to £58 in the shop. 

The "Merino cardigan" at £125 looks good too.

The "Studded Pea Coat", is a good buy at £79 in the shop (from the original £265): well cut in soft felt wool.

The shoes, plimsoles and sand boots are pretty expensive for what they are (£70) but cute too.

Whilst the clothes are simple and informal, the accessories are quirky with necklaces costing £95.
The shop in Poland street is perfect for a visit with a boyfriend/husband/male friend/son as the men's collection is  good and provides an inviting and peaceful mini-museum of curiosities minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street.