Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Portuguese magic.

Braving the Icelandic ash cloud, we managed to reach Lisbon with great relief and delight.  Fernando Pessoa's words, caught at a street corner seemed most appropriate and we made the most of each day, taking in the timeless charm of the city and enjoying the Portuguese hospitality.
With perfect Spring weather, we roamed the hilly cobbled streets, stopping for delicious coffee and pasteis de nata, over-ordering in restaurants, having forgotten Portuguese gargantuan portions and stumbling across magnificent ruined palaces.

From past visits, I remembered fondly Ana Salazar and paid a visit to the store in Chiado. I must confess that I was disappointed and could not find anything I liked amongst the asymetrical, sleeveless clothes in clingy jerseys.  Reviews of her upcoming winter 2010/2011 are ecstatic so I might need to go back to Lisbon quite soon this Autumn.   I had better luck at Fatima Lopes' shop in rua de Atalaia, 36.

I was tempted to try dresses with interesting cutaway collars in different fabrics including a cool white and blue pattern.
A nice neckline, flattering high waist and fluid fabric...if only it had a couple of extra centimeters/1 inch in length to cover the knees... it would have been perfect!
The bright colour palette makes perfect sense in a sunny country, teamed with tanned skin but is more difficult to pull off on pale post winter complexions!

I'm not sure I'm crazy about Fatima Lopes' website which seems out-of-date and does not properly reflect the clothes.
If you want to check out Ana Salazar's collections:
For a glimpse of Portuguese delicacies:

Monday, 26 April 2010

Boutique watch: One Two Five

Notting Hill's fashion district has an intriguing new boutique featuring two very different styles of clothes under one roof: Vintage Academe and high-end "street" label Lot 78 sell very different things but seem to share the same focus on quality. 
Vintage Academe
Specialists in 20th Century fashion and haute couture, Vintage Academe select and sell high-end pieces in their own Notting Hill shop but also through Browns in South Molton street and Sloane street as well as online. This is not the place to look for a bargain but you might be able to pick up an interesting accessory that will set you apart, such as pretty evening bags under £100.
The clothes are of superior quality, with prices to match;  the kind of pieces that you would fall in love with, buy for a super special occasion and admire regularly to justify the price tag.
Balanciaga Haute Couture, black silk dress, £1250.
 1960s Yves Saint Laurent double breasted jacket, £675

Lot 78:
Walk across the shop and you will find (equally high-end) street label Lot 78, makers of soft as silk leather and suede jackets (£499 for sleeveless models to £630 for suede jackets), jerseys (£250) and unique sneakers in collaboration with Puma (only 400 pairs available) for both men and women.  Lovely Ollie Amhurst, who design and runs Lot 78, draws on his ten years working for Giorgio Armani and distributes his label in around 60 shops around the world. This is "street" fashion for well-heeled youth, preferably equipped with a comfortable trust fund or for older clients who want to bring a discreet edge to their wardrobe and squeeze into its neatly fitted lines.
The shop is located at 125 Ledbury road, London W11 2AQ.

 To learn more about each label:

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Holly Berry and the over 65!

Holly Berry is a designer/maker/sustainable fashion creator and weaver whose work was recently featured on BBC2 Mastercraft.  She recently posted an article on women over 65, illustrated with pictures of the pretty fabulous lady above, Anna Piaggi.
To read Holly's blog:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Ray Harris

A designer who actually likes clothes:
Ray Harris is a rare creature in the world of fashion: a designer of beautiful clothes for women, not twelve year old nymphets, not creatures from outer space with legs up to their armpits, no, just women. It is so rare that it should be noted. His clothes can be worn by women in their glorious diversity, in their different shapes, colours, sizes and ages. His respect for women's bodies and intelligence is apparent in the clothes. They enhance women's beauty, bring out their best features with clever cutting and pleating and don't submit them to the usual size 0 dictatorship or futility of disposable, instant fashion. 

 Ray Harris also distinguishes himself from most of the fashion industry in his belief in the clothes themselves, as opposed to the current approach of brand building to sell licenses for products made at the end of a long supply chain. He wants to make clothes, not sell sunglasses or handbags, and he wants those clothes to enhance people's lives. 

Real ethics:
The clothes are made by a small team, working in the shop itself and in another London workshop, not in a sweat shop across the world. Another shocking concept is Ray's belief that his team should be treated decently. For instance, contrary to industry norms, he refuses to use work-experience trainees as regular staff. The staff I met in the shop, not only know the collections but also clearly enjoy helping customers discover what can work best for them. Their help is valuable as the clothes are kept on shelves as bundles as to keep the pleats in shape - all you can see is shimmering fabric in magnificent colours, and the clothes reveal themselves when worn. What you see on the hanger does not always do them justice and you might need to be nudged to go out of your comfort zone and try something different.

Ray Harris clothes are designed to be mixed and matched, within his collections but also with other clothes that will benefit from his gorgeous colour palette and flattering cuts.  His clientele is loyal - usually women over 35 who are not trend driven but know what they like. He counts women in public life amongst his fans and his clothes can lend themselves very well to glamorous evenings as well as active daywear. I tried combinations of dresses and jackets and some of the resulting outfits were truly spectacular.

You could really make an entrance in that glorious pleated coat or whirl of a dress. Another benefit from those clothes is that they are very forgiving - you can hide a multitude of sins under the striking pleating and elegant cut! They are comfortable and allow you to move. With prices starting at £155 for a top, £220 for a jacket, £205 for trousers, £275 for a skirt or a dress and £310 for a coat, those are pieces that you will want to treasure and keep. You can also choose to accessorise an outfit with a necktie (£45) or a stunning shawl (£115).

Being short - sorry, "petite", some of the dresses or skirts were a bit long for me and possibly a bit too generous in sizing - a rare enough experience and quite a treat in itself! I left the shop with the feeling that I knew where to go for my next red-carpet moment but also, more realistically, with an eye on one of his short jackets in a striking royal blue. It fits just right and could be dressed up with a black skirt and heels or down with a pair of jeans.
Where to find his clothes:
Ray sells directly in his shop at 73 Westbourne Park road, London W2 5QH: +44 (0)207 221 8052.
His clothes can be found in the UK at L'Usine in Salisbury: +44(0)1722 328 518 and in Italy at Eleganza in Alassio: +39 0182 640 437
He also has a faithful following in North America where he clothes are available in the following shops:
  • Ceri in Boston: +1 781416 0900
  • Artisans in Maryland: +1 443 379 2266 
  • Clad In in Mystic: +1 860 572 8442
  • Elements of Style in Atlanta:+1 404 846 2182
  • Events in Style in Lambertville: +1 609 397 7900
  • Fair Skies in Maine: +1 603 431 1663
  • Julie: Artisans' Gallery in New York: +1 212 717 5959
  • Karen Allen in Great Barrington: +1 413 528 8555
  • Kati Koos in San Francisco: +1 415 362 3437
  • Kaye Louise in Boca Raton: +15617505155
  • One-O-One in Healdsburg: +1 707 433 2800
  • Pat Henderson Inc in Scotts Valley: +1 831 438 3839
  • Paula in Tustin: +1 714 838 0800
  • Perceptions in Concord: +1 978 369 6797
  • Smith Alders Inc in San Jose: +1 408 260 7555
  • Upstairs on 7th in Washington: +1 301 351 8308
  • Urban Style Emporium in Chicago: +1 312 335 1353
  • Casablanca in Lenox: +1 413 637 2680
  • Dreamweaver in Sarasota: +1 941 388 1974

Thursday, 15 April 2010

To harem pants or not?

I have recently suffered from a strange affliction: a rather unexplainable attraction to harem pants. They are not flattering, they can only shorten a short woman's legs, evoke nappies not a pert bum and somehow, I want to wear them! I know I shouldn't. I know they are verging dangerously into mutton territory. I know they would tell the world I am a fashion victim, falling for the trend of the summer when I should know better - I avoided them like the plague when they first came around years ago.  Nevertheless, I can see a new me in my imaginary mirror, a new silhouette that I can't resist, a fluid look on high heels with a cool-looking top... It looks like I am going to make a fool of myself very soon!

Cos has affordable versions that can be good for the experiment (£45 for the black model and £59 for the grey/kaki version)

Some wise advice on how to try out that style:
See more of Cos' collection:

Monday, 12 April 2010

A fashion portrait: Kathryn

The search for perfection.
Multi-talented and blessed with a breadth of interests, Kathryn can't be pinned down easily. She has traveled extensively out of her native Australia, is equally at home in London, San Francisco and now Brussels, combines the analytical mind of a trained lawyer (King's college London University and a PhD at Cambridge University) and the artistic delicacy of the true aesthete. Currently sourcing art, textiles and design objects for interior projects, she has worked on the Meta for Mallett project of contemporary collectibles, with a contemporary art gallery in San Francisco and produced her own design label "Bloom" as well as photography and printmaking.
Fine grey polo neck with extra long sleeves: Isabel Marant. Steel wire wrapped necklace: Colette, Paris.
All the pictures in this fashion portrait are from Arno (

The unifying principle in all Kathryn approaches is her search for perfection. This is after all, a woman who took, not weeks or months, but years to research the fabric to re-cover well-loved armchairs! Such a demanding approach is completed by her ability to turn around other projects at record speed, in particular if they draw on her superior writing skills and analytical mind. She is now channeling her considerable talents in a joint project with her equally impressive husband in Brussels, where they are transforming a 1900 "maison de maitre" into what will undoubtedly be the most beautiful apartment-hotel in town. The 3 guest apartments and the attached gallery at 33 rue de Suisse will:  "show-case furniture and art that is rare (collectible), recent (prototypes and new designs) or re-issued (newly produced classics). Permanent fixtures in the maison will represent the work of notable designers and artists."

Her research skills, eye for perfection and curiosity come together in the way she dresses. Clothes are a source of creativity, self-creation and reflection. Shying away from well-known labels, she favours the out-of-the-way gem, the victorious find that makes a shopping trip worthwhile. Self-knowledge and exacting standards meet in beautiful outfits in unique combination that only she could dream up.
Mustard wool crepe skirt: Ann Valerie Hash. Burgundy jersey drape top: Ann Valerie Hash. Silk chiffon shibori wrap: Akira Isogawa, Sydney

Portrait in Arno's pictures and Kathryn's own words:
Arno snapped Kathryn during her latest stop in London. The photo shoot took place as we sipped Champagne whilst Kathryn took beautiful outfit after beautiful outfit from her suitcase. It felt like playing a grown-up version of the dressing up games I so enjoyed as a child. Kathryn gave us some background on each item of clothing and jewelry, shining some light on the mysterious alchemy at work in her unique elegance.

First childhood memory of clothes?
As a child I was absolutely captivated by my mother’s wardrobe and particularly her impressive collection of scarves and wraps – it was an Aladdin’s cave of sumptuous colour and texture. The scarves were in a set of drawers that I could quietly open and gaze upon, sometimes touch and unfold. Watching my mother dress for a party was always a treasured time – to be asked my opinion on the dress or shoes, to feel a part of the glamour and sense of occasion. To be left with a lipstick kiss as she departed and always welcomed in the morning with a little treat from the party – perhaps a chocolate or sliver of cake from the party – transported in a nest of napkins inside a beaded evening bag!

For my own clothes – I recall three very important dresses – perhaps a reason why I continue to love wearing dresses now. The first was an evening dress made for me by my mother’s dressmaker when I was about 6 years old and flower-girl at a debutante ball. The dress was ankle length, egg-shell blue silk velvet with three quarter length sleeves and a round neckline. The neckline and sleeves were trimmed with white ostrich feathers and I wore silk ballet slippers. My hair was coiled in ringlets and piled up with escaping tendrils. I thought it the most exquisite dress in the world, as well as the most thrilling evening – surrounded by the debutantes in their white gowns like the corps de ballet in Swan Lake. My mother was the Matron of Honour at the Ball and wore an orange shantung silk sheath dress with orange feather trim around the neck. She looked like a young Maria Callas. And my father looked like a knife-blade of elegance in his black dinner suit – very tall, very thin, with dramatic grey black hair.
Black corset skirt: Alexander McQueen. Scarlet and off-white ruffle shirt: Machiko Jinto, London. Ox-blood shoes: Yves St Laurent. Coral and bone necklace: artisan jewellery from Chile

First piece of clothing you bought with your own money?
I was passionate about the quality of clothing even from a very young age. There are two purchases that are prominent in my memory – I am not sure which came first but the contrast illustrates an early and continued fashion idiosyncrasy. One was a pair of Fiorucci jeans, the other a cream silk shirt with enormous balloon sleeves that draped to the cuff in a splendid luxurious abundance. Perhaps I wore them together with ballet flats…which is certainly how I would wear them now. I recall saying to my mother when I was about 13 years old that I wanted all my shirts to be silk and all my sweaters to be cashmere!
Violet wool trousers: J & M Davidson. Green silk chiffon shirt: Allegra Hicks. Grey ribbon belt with diamante buckle: Lanvin. Ox-blood shoes: Yves St Laurent. Black glass pendant: Baccarat

Fashion icon?
Two women have been enormously influential in my appreciation for the art of fashion. The first, my mother, is a woman of extraordinary elegance, taste and originality. The mother of 5 children, career woman, ceaseless community leader - and one of the most creative colourists in fashion I have ever known. Fortunately my mother has kept in beautiful condition many of her gowns from the 50”s, 60”s and 70”s – a fantastic timeline of fashion history. The angel-skin pink/beige linen sheath dress with wooden bead and raffia embroidery worn for her honeymoon; the poppy red silk chiffon paillette beaded dancing dress with layers of petticoats to swirl beneath the skirt, the full length cream evening gown with Marilyn Monroe pleated skirt. It is inspiring that my mother’s love for fashion – which really is one of the many ways in which she express her artistic sensibility – continues to be as original and refined as ever. For my sister’s wedding, a silver-grey silk couture ensemble, brilliantly cut on the bias as though Madeleine Vionnet herself had held the scissors. Worn with grey pearls and diamonds it was simply elegance unparalleled. It took my breath away when I saw her!
Swirl print silk dress: Penny Harrison couture, made for Kathryn's mother in fabric brought out of China in the 1970’s by her uncle. Black crocodile belt: Ralph Lauren

The other woman of influence for me was a couturier Penny Harrison. I was lucky enough to be able to work with Penny in my spare time when I was a teenager, and from her learned techniques of hand-detailing – hand made button holes, pintucking, shadow-work embroidery, hand covered buttons. Husky-voiced, tall, steel-grey hair always in an elegant pleat, slinking Saluki at her heals, Penny was an education in commitment to beauty in all things. Shortly before she died, Penny made by hand my daughter’s christening gown: a butterfly-fragile dress in white voile, stitched in pale silver-grey thread and shadow-worked with my daughter’s initials.

What counts and what does count with fashion/accessories (brand, quality, colour, fabric....)
I love the role of accessories in dressing as an opportunity to display an aesthetic choice, an eye for point and counterpoint, the exclamation mark in an outfit. Accessorising distinguishes the merely “well-dressed” from the original dresser. This kind of dressing is impossible to copy, totally original and captivating. It takes a refined eye to understand how to place accessories within the overall balance of an outfit – always and accent and never too much.

Mustard wool crepe skirt and Burgundy jersey drape top: Ann Valerie Hash. Silver grey and green silk shoes: Prada
Brand – is never enough of itself! I definitely don’t shop by brand – I am attracted to the quality of the fabric, the fit, finish and originality. Clothes have to feel good against the skin, and even in the case of every-day wear, should be a little “coup de foudre”.

How would you define your style?
“Studious of elegance and ease,
Myself alone I seek to please.”
Fables (1738) “The Man, The Cat, The Dog and the Fly, 1.127, John Gay, English poet and playwright, 1685-1732.

I hope for elegance and originality, and this comes from more than clothing. It is also a question of cast of mind and recognition of inherent form and posture. The elements I am drawn to in architecture and art - linear formality alleviated by subtle elements of glamour and whimsy - are found in microcosm in my fashion choices. There is a thread that connects the wider aesthetic to the personal.
Necklace: Georg Jensen

Is your choice of clothes changing as you are getting older?
I think I have become more confident and adventurous in fact! My 16 year old daughter is definitely helping me along here. Not to wear what she wears, but to make strong choices and to be more confident about my shape. It is great to see my daughter’s originality as a dresser and to take pleasure in the different stages and styles in our dressing. I am under a solemn oath, however, to keep absolutely all my clothes for my daughter to wear when she is older!

Morale boosting clothes?
COLOUR! It’s easy to wear uniform black – but really rather depressing! It takes energy to work out combinations of colour and pattern, but the process of putting it together transforms one’s mood from dark to light. Although I do wear elements of black and grey, I always add colour and play with scarves, wraps, belts and jewellery. I particularly love my chartreuse knit coat from J & M Davidson which never fails to be memorable and uplifting.
Amethyst necklace and ring: Tateossian
I would never wear...?
Cheap shoes! They are always poorly constructed and lack the subtleties of proportion that are possessed by beautifully made shoes. With the exception of Bensimon canvas plimsolls – inexpensive but a perfect expression of their type.

I can't leave the house without...?
My marriage rings – they never leave my hand.

Piece of clothing your can't bear to throw away although you should?
Oh dear – yes there are some of those. I find it very hard to throw anything away, believing that one day the perfect opportunity to wear it will arise. And of course the minute one throws something away it becomes just the thing one needs to complete an outfit! I have a stack of aged cashmere sweaters that I imagine will one day become gardening sweaters, trimmed with fanciful ribbons and Liberty print lining.

Favourite boutique/shop/brand/designer?
I love Dover Street Market – its such fun to visit and always full of inspiring and original pieces. In Antwerp recently I discovered Anja Austa whose work is origami-complex, feminine, beautifully detailed – each a piece of art. I also love Egg in London, hidden in a mews behind Kinnerton Street in Knightsbridge. I have some of the amazing knits of Daniela Gregis from Egg – pieces that can only be understood when they are on the body and can wrapped, pinned and tied in multiple ways.
Black silk chiffon tunic: Anja Austa, Antwerp. Coffee silk chiffon trousers: Tim O’Connor, Sydney
Black silk flower sandals: Miu Miu

Amongst my favourite designers – Etro and Dries van Noten as colour and pattern visionaries; Jil Sander for immaculate classics; Ann Valerie Hash for originality in a perfectly classical manner; APC for nostalgic sweetness and very wearable casual pieces; and Sofie d’Hoor for my all time favourite summer-dresses.

Comfort clothes?
I don’t really do “casual”… because I love dressing up...but comfort clothes are necessary for long-haul travel and yoga. I love the soft pure cotton jersey lounge wear from ME&EM in London. I also adore pyjamas – my favourite Frette pair sadly were worn to death and I am now a devotee of the nightwear from Olatz Schnabel in New York – divine colours for perfect masculine/feminine classic pyjamas and silk bias cut night dresses, beautiful enough to wear on a summer evening with delicate sandals.

When I am in the country and dress more casually I like to wear APC, Isabel Marant, See by Chloe and Margaret Howell. They all focus on good fabrics, pattern and colour and have a charm that references both the classic and the bohemian. It is important not to fall into the casual/comfort=sloppy dressing trap. Comfort and casual clothes are really an interpretation of my more formal style, but in a more robust and resilient form so that they can resist rain, mud and dogs! Three constants of the English countryside.

Grey wool narrow trousers: Prada. Fine grey polo neck with extra long sleeves: Isabel Marant. Steel grey flat lace-up shoes: Jil Sander. Grey ribbon belt: Lanvin. Steel wire wrapped necklace: Colette, Paris. Rutile quartz ring- Cartier

Tips from Kathryn:
  • Not succumbing to the banality of the mainstream or unsuitable fashion “diktats”, viz, leggings and low slung jeans unless you are a teenager. Of these, Oscar Wilde aptly said: “A fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.”
  • Continuing to seek out the original and to find new combinations of old pieces
  • Never wearing a “total look” by one designer – how unoriginal and safe. Enjoying the painterly possibilities of dressing – a fresh canvas each day to populate with forms, colours and patterns.
  • Looking forward to becoming “Auntie Mame” crossed with the Duchess of Devonshire as I get older – clipping peonies in my vintage Chanel tweed and dressing because of the pleasure it gives to me!
Fashion advice
  • Don’t work against your type in order to conform to a fashion that is popularized by those whose look, body and lifestyle are not yours. This is what I think of as the “Emperor’s New Clothes” trap.
  • Be adventurous and playful, taking pleasure in creating a canvas in your clothing and giving pleasure to those who see you. Be prepared to stand out in a sea of black anonymity – particularly in the winter – and wear something that is a relief from the ordinary and merely practical.
  • Seek out the unusual in markets and from little known designers so that you have elements to add emphasis to your wardrobe basics. 
To follow Kathryn's guest appartment and gallery development:
To see more of Arno's photos:

      Wednesday, 7 April 2010

      Reading material

      Stepping aside from fashion for a minute and looking at the glorious world of books, I have been intrigued by the growth of e-readers for a while. No longer the business traveler I once was, there is very little justification in my life for £200 Kindle nor the new exciting £400-600 iPad to read books as I jet across the world: a paperback does the job on my Ryanair flights!

      As highlighted by Alasdair Llyod-Jones in his Lowleveljetstream blog, a positive outcome of the iPad's arrival is the creative advertising response from its competition.  Here are the Kindle ads spotted by Alasdair created by photographers Angela Kohler and Ithyle Griffiths - very cool! Ad 1 stars actress Annie Little with song "Fly Me Away" written and performed by her.  Ad 2 stars Annie Little and model Ryan Curry with original song "Stole Your Heart" written and performed by Marcus Ashley.

      Read more from Alasdair's:

      Tuesday, 6 April 2010

      Elle's big girls

      The latest issue of Elle magazine to land on my doormat proudly announces a whole dossier on "Les Rondes" ie Big girls and features Tara Lynn, a 27 year old American "+size" model on its cover. Whilst we are all aware of the tokenish value of such stories in a magazine which normally promotes fashion's usual love story with thinness, I think Elle should be commended for their effort.  Bigger women are as absent from the fashion pages as are older women and it is refreshing to see them looking beautiful and elegant.

      The article also shows blogger Stephanie Zwicky (French size 52 - UK size 22 - US size 20):

      Model Johanna Dray (French size 48 - UK size 20 - US size 18):
      Singer Juliette Katz (French size 48 - UK size 20 - US size 18):

      Read the whole story in Elle magazine:
      Follow Stephanie Zwicky's blog:

      Thursday, 1 April 2010

      Crowdsourced clothing.

      With the explosion of online user generated content - Youtube videos, Facebook groups, and of course blogs, we are now witnessing the development of the "YouDesign" movement. The two areas where such "crowdsourcing" seems particular active are T-shirts and shoes.

      Threadless started in Chicago with a T-shirt contest. From an initial $500 investment in 2000 it is now a multi-million dollar business ($6.2 millions in 2005). Aspiring designers can submit a design and earn $2500 if their design is chosen for print, then another $500 per reprints. The resulting T-shirts are priced between $15 and $25 clearly seem suitable to a youthful rather than mature audience. In any event, I love the unconventional looking models.
      Another outlet for creative minds is Ryz from Portland, Oregon which runs a weekly contest to choose the best design for slip-on shoes. "Ryz" stands for "rise to the challenge". Again, the target audience strikes me as students rather than 40+ women although the shoes sell for $59.99, not cheap for canvas shoes and I can't say I'd want to be seen in them.

      For more feminine shoes, try Canadian web company Dreamheels. Designs are chosen in monthly online contests and printed on white high-heeled pumps. The website lets you see the shoes from different angles and vote for your favourite, which is quite fun. Despite my best efforts, I could not figure out how to buy the shoes nor see how much they cost. Also, there was no indication of what the shoes are made of - can printed pumps be made of leather? Past winners include "Sunflower" and "Koifish" that I find quite beautiful:

      French company Walking Resistance gives you a number of options for customised shoes. You can buy one of their designs (€70), create your own (€100) or send in leather shoes that you want customised.
      The shoes remind me of French shoe designer Freelance's Nighties style, shiny and colourful but not necessarily something I would wear these days.  However, I like their men's shoes very much:
      For more information or if you fancy designing your own T-shirt or shoes:
      I am indebted for this article to the NY Times which whetted my appetite for crowdsourced design: