Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Web fashion

The FT Weekend, always a good source of stimulating and interesting information, published their selection of fashion websites worldwide in their Arts & Leisure section.The list is interesting and well worth a browse and a few clicks of the mouse:  http://www.ft.com/
I would like to add a few interesting fashion websites that I have come across in the UK:

High vintage: http://www.vintageacademe.com/

Fabulous and flattering pleats: http://www.rayharris.co.uk/catalogue.php
Welsh fabric and clothing: http://www.melintregwynt.co.uk/

Beautiful and ethical tweeds: http://www.eloisegrey.com/

Fabulous glasses: http://www.olivergoldsmith.com/

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The power of the little grey dress.

A little dress can lift your spirits and give a new spring to your step. I experienced that boost recently during a visit in Paris where the sweltering heat and my hectic schedule were making me feel dishevelled, sweaty and generally quite gauche. I should mention that those considerations were secondary to the great pleasure I took in spending time with so many close and dear friends and family. Nevertheless, I felt distinctly inadequate next to my smartly turned out companions!
 The differences in fashion between Paris and London were also hitting me hard. Paris street fashion whilst usually more conservative and sometimes conformist, is also neater, better cut than London fashion which is freer, more creative but sometimes a bit tatty and not always flattering. Wearing comfortable shoes and serviceable clothes that had seen many seasons, I did not feel elegant nor sexy - I was badly in need of a "parisienne" injection!
Enters the little grey dress, courtesy of Gerard Darel . That brand which never particularly appealed to me has lately cleverly used interesting models and actresses as its public faces: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Robin Wright - beautiful, interesting and "older".
The  grey tunic picked up in the sale together with high-heeled clogs just did the trick: loose but feminine, embellished with "ethnic" chic embroidery, shimmering gently in its polyester fabric, it suddendly made me feel feminine and attractive. My gait affected by the height of the heels took a more leisurely pace and I felt ready to face Paris!

Monday, 19 July 2010

The Rebound

With the release of Catherine Zeta-Jones' movie The Rebound, we have an opportunity to see a story starring an "older" woman exploring issues of age, relationships, choices and personal fulfillment. I am delighted to welcome guest writer,  The Occasional Critic for a spot-on review of the film:


When did age become a number rather than an accumulation of experience?  What does it mean to say someone is forty, or twenty-five, or sixty-five?  Is the number relevant shorthand or does it lead to lazy assumptions about experience, insight, self-knowledge?  Numbers abound in the new movie by writer Bart Freundlich (yes, he is ten years younger than his wife Julianne Moore), starring Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is indeed forty and twenty-five years younger than her husband, Michael Douglas), playing a newly-divorced forty-ish mother of two, restarting life and career in New York after discovering the infidelity of her husband.   Freundlich shows his hand early on, numbers up, cards on the table, and then shuffles and re-deals with some thought-provoking insights along the way.

Attractive, articulate woman, two independent, sassy children, surrounded by supportive, accomplished female friends, finds a terrific job, cute apartment and …before you know it….a sweet, eager to please male child-minder into the bargain.  So far, so predictable.  The darker side of failed marriage, of lost confidence and self-esteem, of derailed goals and aspirations is left aside.  The Rebound plays out the story of “finding yourself” on a carefully edited stage-set – leaving one to wonder, “where are the cockroaches?” – both real and metaphorical.  Before long, Freundlich provides the answer:  the cockroaches are the people in your life who take away your voice and your volition; the people who invade and dominate and leave you wondering “how on earth did I end up so far away from the place I imagined I would be?”

 Providing a moment of pure visceral revulsion, Freundlich perhaps overplays the stereotypical suffocating older man taking Zeta-Jones out on her first post-divorce date (suffice it to say that it will be a long time before I eat salmon sashimi again!).

 Yet, he neatly maintains a quiet sub-plot that reminds us that the cockroaches in life are not gender and age specific: the 25 year old manny, Arum, played by (32 year old) Justin Bartha, has his own story of abused affection and misplaced trust. Perhaps guileless, innocent….young (!), he is seduced by a woman in need of a green card who promptly leaves him for the real object of her affection once her immigration goal is satisfied.   Slyly, Freundlich reminds us that we are all complex combinations of innocence and experience, knowledge and ignorance, naiveté and knowingness, and that none of these are the exclusive province of age.  

Despite a fairy-tale conclusion, a Conde-Nast travelogue voyage of self-discovery, a politically correct array of religions, roles and races, and an exquisitely maintained face and body on Catherine Zeta-Jones, The Rebound manages to be more than its glossy and sanitized package.  It reminds us that we must look hard at what and who we want ourselves to be; to give voice and articulation to that ambition; to value and accept the generosity of others and to accept life’s opportunities at any age. A reminder to dispense with the insulting labels of “toy-boys” and “cougars” and respect the personal qualities that are to be treasured wherever and at whatever age they emerge.

Watch the trailer: 

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Daisy de Villeneuve - queen of the felt-tip pen

Daisy de Villeneuve is not yet 40 but she already has an impressive track record.  Despite her young age, I wanted to feature her on this blog as I very much like her work and admire her talent and drive. Daisy's name is inextricably linked to the world of fashion but she has created her own personal take on it, drawing on a sharp sense of observation, a keen sense of style and felt-tip pens. Her distinctive style brings back to mind the hours I spent as a child and teenager, drawing fashion collection in felt-tip pen - my models wore lots of flared trousers and maxi-dresses in bright colours! 

Daisy photographed by Valerie Phillips

Born in fashion aristocracy from 1960s star model Jan and influential father Justin, she is an illustrator whose work you have certainly come across, be it at Liberty where she recently designed candles,
on the tube where you might have come across her travel wallet designed for Transport for London,

or in magazines where her work appears frequently.

Contacted through a friendly introduction, Daisy de Villeneuve kindly answered my questions on her own sense of style and how she sees fashion for women over 40:

First childhood memory of clothes? 
My mother has a huge collection of clothes from her days as a model in the '70's so I expect from seeing her wardrobe when I was little.

First piece of clothing you bought with your own money?
A white suit with navy trim from Whistles in the late '80's that I bought with money saved up from babysitting.

Significant fashion moment in your life? 
Going to Kensington Market when I was 14 & seeing all the stalls.

I would never wear...?

I can't leave the house without...?
Rep lipstick

Fashion icon?
My mum

Growing up in the midst of fashion aristocracy, who could be a fashion role
model for women over 40?

The model Carmen Dell' Orefice is extremely stylish at 79

How much does fashion inspire your drawings and how much you create your own
style for your characters? 

My drawings are all from my imagination but I will draw quite classic garments with fashion elements such as a stripy t-shirt which reminds me of Jane Birkin or Capri pants & I think of Brigitte Bardot.

What counts and what does count with fashion/accessories (brand, quality,colour, fabric....)
All of it counts, you can get a nice looking garment but the quality is dreadful, so quality counts at the end of the day.

Should a woman's choice of clothes change as she is getting older?
Yes. Getting older doesn't mean you can't dress well, but more elegant. Because I work from home sometimes I wear jeans & converse, a uniform left over from my art-school days. It was okay in my 20's but now in my 30's, I have to watch myself. I try & mix it up a bit, wear a nice pair of jeans & a blouse with brogues instead of opting for the scruffier look because it's comfy.

boutique - Matches + Browns Focus
shop - Merci in Paris
brand - Smythson
designer - Zac Posen

Fashion advice for women over 40? 
Dress to feel comfortable and be yourself. Don't follow trends, especially as you get older. 
Wise words that resonate with my own views - trends are there to be picked or rejected and certainly not slavishly followed once you know your own body and style.

Pictures provided by Daisy de Villeneuve, except for the photograph of Carmern dell'Orifice, taken from her Rolex advertising campaign. 
Look up Daisy's wonderfully whimsical website and enjoy more of her pictures: http://www.daisydevilleneuve.com/

Friday, 9 July 2010

And God Created Older Woman

The recent article The grown-up model comes of age by Lauren Cochrane in the Weekend FT seems to have been written for us! I would like to plug my own article from February about Older Models: muttonsguidetofashion:older-models where I was investigating the few model agencies that specialise in Older Models. The FT article is hugely encouraging as it highlights a change in thinking amongst (some) brands and designers.

The article focuses on Daphne Selfe who presented London designer Joanna Sykes' autumn/winter 2010 collection.
Daphne Selfe
The 81 year old model has a great self-deprecating attitude and is quoted by the FT as saying: “I was a very ordinary model when I was younger,” “I got to 80 last year and did rather a lot of modelling because people thought this [age] was interesting.” How encouraging is that! Maturity has enhanced Daphne Selfe's carreer in the toughest professional environment, so there is hope for all of us!

I think we should not go over-board though as tokenism is rife within that most fickle of industries. As + size models periodically appear in pages full of skinny waifs, the occasional wrinkly face might also make an appearance in fashion magazines. A rather more serious indicator of possible lasting change is the comment from Martin Raymond from trend forecasting agency The Future Laboratory: “Brands used to be obsessed with youth. Now they are realising that people in their forties are the customers and they’re addressing that.”

Thank you! Finally someone is listening!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Infinite Variety - a photographic exhibition

Whilst we do not intend to stop traffic and trigger volleys of whistle calls from building sites, a little bit of attention is welcome and does wonder to lift one's morale! However, most of us have experienced the feeling of invisibility of advancing years. To counter such disappearance and invisibility, I would like to recommend an exhibition which just opened at the National Theatre in the foyer of the Olivier Theatre. The exhibition which has already traveled to venues such as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, Capital Centre for the Arts at Warwick University, the Cheltenham Literary Festival and most recently the Salisbury Arts Centre is on until mid-August. Curated by actress Harriet Walter with the assistance of picture editor Alex Myers, the exhibition shows pictures of a wide variety of women of different nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and types.
 Jane Birkin/Charlotte Rampling and Annie Lennox
The title of the exhibition was inspired by Harriet Walter’s 2006 performance as Cleopatra in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Anthony and Cleopatra – “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.”  A respected stage actress, Harriet Walter is also known for her roles in films such as Sense and Sensibility, Atonement and The Young Victoria and most recently in the ITV television drama Law and Order: UK.  She is currently appearing on stage at the National’s Olivier Theatre in director Marianne Elliott’s production of Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women.
I attended the Questions and Answers session which featured Harriet Walter, journalist Joan Bakewell who referred jokingly to the weight of her nickname "the thinking man's crumpet" and photographer actress turned photographer Jill Kennington (pictured below).
Asked what could be done to make older women more visible in today's youth obsessed world, Joan Bakewell made the point that older women are "part of a generation which is so abundent. You are part of a huge social change." Harriet Walter added: "I am going to make you very visible. We can't hope to turn heads like we used to, and that's fine - men are looking for a mate. " But she extolled other qualities that older women have, "a slower-burn visibility" that makes them ideal sitting companions at long dinners. She also broadened the type of visibility older women get to visibility to one another, to children and grand-children, to a lasting network of friends.
 Jocelyn Ross
I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition and took great pleasure in seeing beautifully wheathered, real, faces that express personalities, character and qualities. Those faces tell stories and question the viewer; they are the repositories of whole lives, a window into human experience and prompt us to want to know more about those amazing women.

Infinite Variety
National Theatre – Olivier Theatre
Thursday 1 July – Sunday 15 August, 2010
Monday – Saturday, 9:30am – 11:00pm
Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00pm (when there is a performance in the building)

Friday, 2 July 2010

Time for hats!

Summer has finely arrived in London and that means one thing: hats! Sun damage has already done its job on my face, but a hat will help limit the number of further sun spots! Street markets have stalls full of them and my local Portobello market sells them to throngs of tourists who don't seem bothered by the fact that their "souvenir of London" will have been made in China or Turkey. When I asked the stall holder for British made hats, he struggled and admitted that there was none available on his stall.
Bought for a fiver, they will be made in paper for a large part, but also straw or string. The stall holder refused that my middle daughter who was acting as photographer, take more than 2 pictures, and demanded payment for more. So here are the 2 pictures!
At the other end of the spectrum, there is a multitude of beautiful hats which bring a glamorous finishing touch to a summer outfit for a few hundred pounds/dollars or euros. But there is always a middle ground -  a real Panama hat, such as the roll-up Montechristi from web company The Panama Hat Company, hand woven in Ecuador and blocked in England will set you back £139.

The Panama Hat Company also carry other styles such as the bi-colour Ladies Tasky at £55. It comes in one size only which is a bit of a risk.
The Ladies cloth and panama hat (£19.50) is a clever conconction that allows easy transport as the cloth top can easily be squashed into a suitcase. it also comes in one size only.
So, whatever your budget and taste, there should be a hat for you on a market stall  or on line, but I have to say nothing beat the fun of trying on hats in front of a mirror with a friend which whom to share horrified laughs or admiring glances.