Thursday, September 30, 2010


I'm falling down the impending winter rabbit hole with alarming speed. It was the rain that did it I think. That sense of being trapped inside and the thought of months of the same. Last year it was Depeche Mode that saw me through winter; this year I'm already unavoidably drawn to Joy Division and it's only just October. And like clockwork, before long I will be compelled to knit something and buy some decent Scotch. Maybe I should listen to Beyonce, start drinking Malibu and report back on any changes.

The weird thing about checking your stats is that you find out stuff you don't necessarily want to know. I usually don't bother too much - but when I do, it's bizarre to see some of the search terms that have landed people here and which posts they've been reading. By far, far, far my most read post of all time is the old How To Crawl Out of a Hole one. You're not all majorly depressed are you, or is it because you're intrigued by the pretty sidebar telephone? Save our souls.  I suppose if I will write S.O.S. Emergency on something clickable...Anyway that post has some great comments, I'm glad it's being kept alive.

And then there are the really, really old posts from years back that suddenly get a crazy number of views in one day. It's something I shouldn't think about but it freaks me out a bit all the same. That's why I don't rummage around in my stats too much - usually.

Today I was thinking about the Louise Bourgeois quote, "Art is a guarantee of sanity" which appears on one of her large scale pieces (pictured).  She said it was the best thing she'd ever said. I also read the last interview she gave before she died, in Another Magazine - and the interview with Helmut Lang who said he thinks about Louise Bourgeois every day. At the same time I was thinking about sublimation - in the sense of displacing destructive energy by channeling it into creativity. It's apparently the strongest, most constructive defense mechanism we have, according to some bloke called Freud. Then, (are you still with me?) I happened to read Jeanette Winterson's piece on how she displaces difficult emotions. " I will drive the thing round and round in my head and suddenly try and park it, well crash it, actually, into my relationship."

So that was Thursday. The only answer is to sublimate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010



{photo credits: 1: Jeanloup Sieff, 2: Ewa Rudling}

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I feel slightly as if I'm supposed to come in here and post a load of looks from the SS11 shows. I'm all for inspiration, but what I'm interested in at the moment is what I want to wear now and why. And maybe what you want to wear now and why. It has to be in context otherwise I'm prone to snoozing. What you wear depends on all sorts of things: where you're going, how you feel, the weather, what's clean, what the last film you saw was. I seem to veer further and further away from **Fashion** in and of its existence in a vacuum with every season, until this time round the bombardment of fashion week related emails and tweets has had the reverse effect - of making me blank it all out. Until Paris maybe.

What I want to wear is the same as it's always been. Well made, plain, almost nondescript, good quality clothes that don't scream look at me. Basically, I don't want people to look at me, then it's easier for me to look at them. I've talked about this same thing of feeling comfortable dressing in a quietly androgynous way so many times over the years. The funny thing about it is, sometimes people are really disturbed if you don't dress the way they think you should. They really want you to wear a foufy red dress, or even to know that you wore a foufy red dress to something they didn't even attend. I find it a bit strange, since other than when it was my job to tell people what to wear (which involved them feeling comfortable and happy in what they were wearing), I'd never dream of telling anyone how they should dress.  Especially if that person clearly had a strong idea of their own style, I'd kind of assume they knew what they were doing. I can wear clothes that are very beautifully constructed, made of fabric that feels good on me and it's my little secret. It's not for anyone else and I feel comfortable wherever I go. I'm not advertising to the world how much I love clothes, most people wouldn't even notice if they saw me. But then, those that do notice, those are the keepers. 

In a recent article Sally Singer said that people who dress in a pared back minimal way have to constantly update their wardrobes as proportions change so fast. "The fastest things to date are those classics, cause it's just proportions laid bare. There's nothing else going on." I worship Sally Singer but I totally disagree with her on this. A classic Crombie coat is a Crombie coat, otherwise it's something different. The line doesn't change. I see what she's saying though: people who get obsessed with the perfect shirt are going to end up with a wardrobe full of shirts that look almost exactly the same but have minutely different details.

Because I dress in such a low key way, I don't really need anything much for this winter (thanks Phoebe Philo and The New Minimalism). I could do with replacing a couple of things that I've literally worn to death, and I still haven't got on top of the dealer boot situation. But if I had to buy a few things, A.P.C. Madras has killed it as always with the winter collection, which is weird as you'd think Madras would lend itself more to summer. And either of these two looks from Steven Alan would have me sorted for the winter months.

{**Fashion** = said with jazz hands}

Saturday, September 25, 2010


*I've got a couple of new posts up on one about lovely Ingrid Holm of The Showmanship and her insanely poetic skills, and one about Elisa Sednaoui and Delfina Delettrez wearing swishy Louis Vuitton AW10 on Somewhere's red carpet. {You might want to turn your speakers down before clicking on the Only site.}

*Justine Picardie has a piece here that tells a little of her journey with Coco Chanel during the research stage of her book. I'm right in the middle of reading it and it's brilliant. Every page brings new details and insight into Chanel as a person. (And I'm not just saying that because Justine gave me tea and macarons.)

*Last weekend was Open House day in London and I finally got to see the Master Shipwright's House in Deptford. It's a private house but is often used as a location. Despite getting to work in some amazing locations when I was a stylist, this wasn't one of them and I was always intrigued. The house is surrounded by a very high wall and is only visible from the river, so I only knew what I'd heard about it. As the house is now up for sale (for 5 million quid) the owners opened it to the public and we had a good old nose round and ended up sunning ourselves in the garden surrounded by apple and pear trees, sunflowers, tomato plants and chickens. Everyone I know who went there couldn't stop thinking about it for days. There are loads of pictures of it on my flickr, though we weren't allowed to take pictures inside.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


D.V. hasn't visited us for ages, I know. Truthfully this is because it takes a ridiculous amount of time to look up the answers to your questions in my well thumbed copy of her memoirs. But since I have lost my voice completely, it seems a perfect time to commune with the lacquered one. If I can't speak, she certainly can. And I hope she's in a good mood with me since I asked English Heritage to put a blue plaque on her house in London. {No, it cannot be red. It would probably be the wrong sort of red anyway.}

For the uninitiated, here's how it works. You ask D.V. a question you would like to have answered. It can be anything, because she knows everything. (See previous ones here.) I will then scurry away and leaf diligently through D.V.'s memoirs until I find the answer to your question.
{Questions left on previous posts will be answered now.}


{photo credit: I can't find a credit but the image is called DianaAndy so it's probably Andy Warhol}

Monday, September 20, 2010


I've been the official "Text Fairy" (i.e. I write the press releases/bios etc) for Toujours Toi and Family Affairs for just over a year now. Since Nina blew into my life like a modern day Swiss Mary Poppins, working with her has been one of my absolutely favourite things to do. So I wanted to give you a bit of a window into The Process or rather, the super fun exchange of inspiration and information by electronic means. I think we can safely say it's Nina who is the magical fairy, since she's able to explain and transmit her feelings about her collections in a wonderfully creative way that I can just click into. It also helps that I love the clothes.

She will usually start off by sending me some inspiration images that she's pulled when thinking about the collection. There could also be songs, film clips - anything like that. We're usually on the same wavelength, so I'm more than happy when her references are anything from Roxy Music (ss10) to Annie Hall in the Hamptons and a Morrissey song (FW09) or a photo of the Marchesa Casati and a Roman Polanski film (FW10). SS11 is all dusty roads in the south of France, lavender, tomatoes and Brigitte Bardot shopping in Marseille. Just to name a few...It's also the way the disparate references work together that builds up a picture before I've even seen the clothes.

Apart from emailing, Twitter seems to have popped into this back and forth recently - ok, maybe it wasn't amazingly helpful of me to keep sending Nina ridiculous joke name suggestions for her new collection like Bananas in Pyjamas and Forest Gateau Plateau.

The other thing that really helps me to get a feel of the collection is Nina's crazy talent for naming each piece. The names are so evocative: for FW10 there is Modern Love, Siren Song, Le Mepris... I like to have a good look at all the names and then finally, I will look at the mood images and lookbook images over and over again, learning the names and where they fit.

Then I write away, just basically re-arranging what Nina's told me into a story - something hopefully coherent and neither too dry and dull nor whimsically nonsensical.

Here's the press text I wrote for the current fall/winter 10 collection: Moon River.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I've been aware of the film Claire's Knee (Le Genou de Claire) for as long as I can remember, but apart from being amused by the name, I had never felt the urge to watch it. Then a few weeks ago someone (who is unlikely to be an Eric Rohmer fan) claimed to be obsessed with my knees - both of them. That was an odd evening. Odder still was last night, when a total stranger managed to stamp on my foot in the exact place I broke it a couple of years ago. Tonight seemed the perfect time to elevate my leg and finally watch Claire's Knee.

Jean-Claude Brialy! With a beard!

Aurora's OTT Italian accent is very distracting if your French isn't up to much.

I've always wanted to go to Lake Annecy.

The dialogue between Jerome and Laura is fantastic.

Jerome only wants Claire (or her knee) because she's totally disinterested in him.

I'm not sure if the actress playing Claire is particularly bland or her character is supposed to be like that and she's a brilliant actress.

The character of Laura is wiser than, and outshines all the others.

I just realised what those perfume ads were based on.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Well, what an afternoon. Just hanging out at Claridges chatting about Coco Chanel over tea and macaroons with hugely respected author Justine Picardie. As you know I don't go to many events - being a tad shy and awkward in real life, but Claridges + Chanel + books + Justine I could not pass up. I was so glad I went along as it was actually very intimate and informal, not the standard press conference I'd imagined.

Justine Picardie has written what is certain to be the definitive biography on Coco Chanel. More than ten years in the making, the excerpts from Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life that I've read so far are packed with detail. (Here and here.) I can't wait to get properly stuck into the book, which I immediately cracked open on the tube home after hearing Justine's seriously compelling account of her journey with it and with Mademoiselle Chanel herself. There were more than a few goosebumps and shivers down the spines of the select assembled group today as Justine relayed her story: of unearthing never seen private photographs of Chanel, (which are reproduced in the book) of poring over military archives and of spending time with Chanel's last remaining relative, Gabrielle Palasse-Labrunie. I am very much hoping Justine will go on to write the story of writing the story as it were. Rest assured it is full of serendipitous coincidences, of doors opening, of the residual all pervading presence of Chanel round every corner and of course, exploding light bulbs.

The films that have been made about Chanel in the past few years have focused on her love life - which granted, was extraordinary (I reviewed Coco Avant Chanel here). And before that there have been major biographies - notably (the title changes with different editions but it's the same book) by Edmonde Charles-Roux, on which that film was based. I read this book a couple of years ago and although I remember it being an interesting read, a lot was never explained, possibly because Charles-Roux was a close friend of Chanel's. Coco herself was responsible for obfuscating her origins and many, if not most of the myths about her were self perpetuated.

So to research a book of this kind takes more detective work than just sifting through the official archives and guessing the rest. It takes years of gradually disentangling what's true and false, gaining the trust of the keepers of one of the most iconic brands in the world, going to the places Chanel inhabited, searching for private letters in other archives, and getting so close to the woman that you can smell her perfume. Let me just clarify that: getting so close to Coco Chanel that you can smell Coco Chanel's actual Chanel No.5, not just that you can smell some Chanel No.5 in the air. *Chills.*


One of the exciting things about this book is that it contains newly revealed and verified facts about Chanel's life. Much of what has been written about Chanel in the past is based on legend, which is then further imagined. To have the clarity of facts before drawing parallels and weaving connections makes it a much more solid proposition. What I've always loved about Coco Chanel is how her early life, which she tried so hard to cover up and deny, informed the clothes she was to design, that went on to inform how women the world over would and still do, dress. The monochrome, the pure lines, the interlocking Cs, the use of mirrors to both obscure and observe, her obsession with cleanliness, sleeping in an almost monastic room at the Ritz (not the suite overlooking Place Vendome) in her later years after WWII - it's all there, going back to her time living at the Catholic convent with the "aunts" as she called them. Then there is the British connection: her great loves Boy Capel and the Duke of Westminster, her friendship with Winston Churchill - she would hunt and fish with them, appropriating the traditional tweeds for herself. There is so much there when you have the story. Finally, the one thing that really stayed with me from today was learning that Chanel suffered acute anxiety early on in her career, would often faint and in later years, injected herself with a sedative before bed to help her sleep. Nothing I've ever read before has betrayed this: that this complex and powerful woman who went to such lengths to portray herself as just that, was also vulnerable and suffered the consequences of, as she said, living too intensely.

{Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life is published this Thursday. There are a number of bookshop events and talks lined up where Justine Picardie will be speaking about the book. The first event in London is on 23 September at 7pm, Waterstones High Street Kensington. There is also one at the V&A on 15 October at 7pm. More information on Justine's blog.}

{Photo credits: cover: Chanel, 1920s - © Popperfoto/Getty, Chanel, 1937 - Horst P. Horst © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS.}

Sunday, September 12, 2010


This Fiat Cinquecento is clearly my Duckie's long lost Italian cousin.
Last weekend in Venice wasn't just about the film festival. Venice also concurrently played host to the Architecture Biennale, the literary prize Il Premio Campiello, the Regata Storica and probably some other major cultural happenings I've missed out.
There was an exhibition of Louise Bourgeois' works on fabric (with a token crouching spider thrown in) at the old salt stores (I might talk about that another time) and an exhibition of Stanley Kubrick's photography, which we ended up deciding not to go to once we got there. We hung out in the foyer bookshop for a bit instead. Turns out it is possible to overdose on art.
{Hayley's photo above}
In Venice you also have to drink a lot of Aperol spritzes (for energy) and eat a lot of gelato (for sustenance). I'm a big fan of a little bacaro my friends go to which is very close to the fish market. There aren't many places I'd happily scarf down a whole raw octopus or a huge plate of sliced raw fish. During this trip I was also initiated into the joys of bottarga: (A&A - it's because I wrote it down!) dried, grated fish eggs (eaten with pasta). Nomz.
(The results of gruelling taste tests show that Grom has the best gelato in Venice. This representation is not from Grom and is shown purely for illustrative purposes.)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


edit* 18.52 Saturday 11th September. Somewhere has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

So there I was at the premiere of Somewhere and Sofia Coppola was walking towards me. Her dress was Louis Vuitton resort 11 that was customised for her from the original in yellow to guess what, black. If it works, it works. Thomas Mars was at her side, looking adorable and a bit bashful. What surprised me was that all the teenage girls in the crowd who had shouted for Stephen Dorff, for the Italian actors, started chanting SOFIA, SOFIA, SOFIA, very loudly and very excitedly. Evidently 14 year old Italian girls have very good taste in heroines. Even Sofia looked a little surprised - apparently when Lost in Translation premiered at Venice the only person who got cheered was Bill Murray. Sofia kept waving and smiling. She was milling around for ages and eventually gave another little wave before going inside.
Then we saw the film. But it wasn't quite that simple. As I'd feared, our tickets failed to materialize at the last minute. And all the tickets were completely sold out. Through a mad scramble, a handwritten sign, some hanging around looking hopeful and hopefully adorable, we got one ticket, then I had a mental breakdown, then with about two minutes to spare we got a second ticket - both were thanks to my friend's quick thinking and some very kind strangers who could have sold us their spare tickets for hundreds of euros but only asked for the amount they'd paid or less.

Somewhere feels like a grown up film. For me there were two main differences from the other films Sofia Coppola has made. Both were due to the choices of Harris Savides as cinematographer instead of Lance Acord and in the approach to the soundtrack by Phoenix. Unlike all of Sofia's previous films the music is minimal. There is silence, there is the noise of the Ferrari, there's mostly only actual music when it would naturally be playing, for example at a party. Definitely a different approach to Brian Reitzell's and it took a bit of getting used to for me.

As for the cinematography they used 35mm film and the Zeiss lenses that Francis Ford Coppola shot Rumble Fish with. That gave the film the soft, hazy quality Sofia is known for, but often the camera was fixed for long periods of time, until it almost felt uncomfortable. I know a lot of people thought it was too slow, but I thought the uncomfortableness was intentional and I liked the space it gave. But there are all the Sofia trademarks: the sparse dialogue, the subtlety (my friend and I were wondering if men would react differently to Stephen Dorff driving round and round in his Ferrari than a woman would. Essentially I was wondering if men know that when women hear a Ferrari most of them automatically think, "What a prick.")

The only pure, sweet character in the film is Cleo (Elle Fanning) - all the others have an element of the grotesque. It is definitely a less sweet film - I've read a couple of reviews saying it's just like Lost In Translation and although yes, it's about the relationship developing between a man and a younger girl and it's set in a hotel (or two), there the comparison ends - oh, actually there is one other little thing at the end but I don't want to spoil it. If you tried to describe the plot of the film it could sound cheesy: bad boy Hollywood actor living at The Marmont, women, pills, pole dancing twins - forced to confront himself by the arrival of his 11 year old daughter. But the way it's handled is so light - you just watch it unfold. For me it was the way Sofia showed the emptiness and boredom of his life without judging it that was the big success. That and her talent for subtle comedy: turning the supposedly exotic into the mundane with the use of small details like the squeaking of a pole dancing pole. There are cameos by half Sofia's family and friends: Gia Coppola, Jacqui Getty, Robert Schwartzman. And some private jokes as well - I'd be willing to bet most film reviewers don't see the humour. Oh, and maybe only hardcore Sofia geeks will get this: but guess where Benicio Del Toro shows up?

{photos - my personal photos. Please don't use any of these photos without asking me first - thanks. (The guy in the velvet suit is the director of the festival, Marco Muller.)}

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


A couple of weeks ago if you'd told me I'd be able to go to the premiere of Sofia Coppola's new film, Somewhere, at the Venice Film Festival I'd have given you a strongly sceptical look. Even an hour before the premiere itself, on a boat heading towards the Lido (where the film festival is held) the idea that we would actually get to see the film seemed increasingly unlikely.
But. Sometimes - very rarely, the stars all align and you get a break, thanks to lovely Venetian friends going above and beyond the call of duty and thanks to unbelievably kind total strangers. By the end of the night I had been awake for 22 hours, running mostly on adrenalin, had claimed I was having a mental breakdown at least four times, and was now floating around in a state of stunned disbelief mixed with contentment.
I think we'll start with the red carpet. This is something, along with getting autographs that I've never really understood the attraction of. But for Sofia, obviously, we staked out our spot right at the front by the doors, trained our lenses and stood firm, still uncertain if we would see the film ourselves.
People began to arrive and I would say the taste level of the attendees was higher than most premieres but maybe I'm biased. Some great swishy dresses, thanks to Louis Vuitton, which also hosted a party for the film at the Palazzo Polignac on the Grand Canal afterwards.
Along came Zoe Cassavetes, a bonus surprise appearance by Clemence Poesy, Bianca Brandolini. The Italian contingent was obviously very popular with the crowd, though Laura Chiatti's make up artist was probably quietly dumped in a canal later on for the black lipstick debacle.
The guys from Phoenix (who did the soundtrack) were greeted with silence by the Italian crowd who didn't know them - I was tempted to shout "Branco!" so they didn't feel left out, but controlled myself and maintained my serious photographer stance. Earlier on I had been postulating as to whether they would fully tux up, as Thomas always does when he accompanies Sofia to premieres. You can see they sort of nodded to the idea, and Christian Mazzalai was too cute in his velvet jacket and bow tie. And yes, I'm sorry, they all had extremely beautiful women on their arms. (And of course Thomas arrived later in a tux and by Sofia's side.)

Then came Roman Coppola and girlfriend Jennifer Furches, sweet Elle Fanning in a dress very reminiscent of one of her costumes in the film - all smiles and excitement. Stephen Dorff bounded around looking slick and keeping it together; they both came right down to the crowd, signing everything and chatting. I don't know if all premieres are super friendly like this because I've never been to (or wanted to go to) one before.
And then, in the distance, a small figure in black appeared.
{my personal photos - please don't use any without asking me first. Zoe Cassavetes in LV, Clemence Poesy, Laura Chiatti, Deck d'Arcy, Laurent Brancowitz and Christian Mazzalai of Phoenix, Roman Coppola and Jennifer Furches, Stephen Dorff (Johnny Marco), Elle Fanning (Cleo)}

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Thought not.

Well, if you are, you might already know I'm going somewhere special this weekend that I'm very excited about. I probably won't have time to post but I shall surely be dispensing some totally witty and informative tweets somewhere along the way.