Monthly Archives: May 2016

The fashion that you should know

You won’t see a pocket on a Jacquemus catwalk. Chances are, you won’t see a zip or button either. The French label, soon to be showing its eighth collection, has a specific MO: take something simple, a classic shirt or mini dress, and muck about with its silhouette. Tie a knot, turn it back to front, take a chunk of fabric out – et voilà. The absence of fastenings, though, has more to do with money than anything else: “When I started, I was super-poor,” says 26-year-old designerSimon Porte Jacquemus. “So I did what I could for very little money – and I haven’t changed that yet.”

Jacquemus was born in Salon-de-Provence in southern France. Moving to Paris as a teenager, he launched the label aged 19, just after his mother died – a seismic event that propelled him to where he is now.

The past is key to Jacquemus. He named the label in honour of his mother, citing her as his main inspiration, and the hazy landscapes of his childhood, playing in the fields, were writ large on a debut collection that paired boxy pastel dresses with little white plimsolls and matching socks. The Jacquemus girl, he says, “is not Parisian and that is important. She is French, and French girls are not elegant, they are raw, casual, spontaneous. She’s between a kid and an adult.” It’s a sentiment echoed in the colours – often primary, pastel or pink candy stripe.

Last spring, Jacquemus won €150,000 and a year-long mentorship as part of the special jury award in the LVMH prize, a score for any up-and-coming designer not just financially but also in terms of fashion kudos. Winning enabled him to get a studio, expand his team and get the label into more than 100 stockists worldwide. “At that point, I became an adult,” he says. There were, of course, anxieties over compromising, given the size of the LVMH conglomerate: “But they have allowed me to do exactly what I want.” Already his pieces have been worn by French pop singer Petite Meller, and Miley Cyrus, not that he cares. “I’m not obsessed with stars,” he says with a laugh.

Current season Jacquemus is easy to analyse, with patriotic blue, white and red running through geometrically cut mini dresses, jigsaw skirts and tops layered upon tops (the whole collection is playfully meta). Concept is crucial: he describes his collections as “stories” rather than clothes, and each tells a new and deeply personal tale. His most recent featured, among other things, a horse, a giant red ball being pulled by his cousin and a red tie dragged across the stage (thought to be a commentary on the ushers at Paris shows who are known ascravates rouges). It reflected a more emotionally charged period in his life. “Usually, the Jacquemus girl is smiley. But this time, things got a little darker…” The designer wants to stay true to his French girl audience but he also has ambitions, when things are “less fragile”, to take the label into menswear. As for pockets, as yet there are no plans for those.

Women slacks on fashion

A new fashion in slacks has arrived. The figure-fitting style of the trousers included in the autumn collections of sportswear is an attempt to prove that a pair of slacks can be attractive as well as functional.

Ask a man whether women should wear slacks and the answer is almost certain to be a firm “No.” Why is this? It is over twenty years now since women “commandeered” male trousers for their own use, so that masculine hostility can hardly be based on the claim of prerogative. It is based rather on aesthetic reasons: women surely choose their clothes to enhance their appearance, men point out, and only a boyish figure looks well in slacks. In addition, the criticism continues, women do not buy carefully. Few have the trousers specially tailored: generally they are bought ready made and fit badly.

All this cannot be denied, but the original reason for adopting slacks still remains. They give far more freedom of movement than a skirt and they are comfortable to wear. But although women have now made the word “slacks” an almost exclusively feminine one, their construction and line have remained essentially masculine. A woman wearing slacks, even if she is skilfully “made up” and wearing a womanly sweater, is discarding a part of the femininity she expresses in her costume. She sacrifices charm for comfort.

Now, for the first time, women’s slacks are trying to become feminine by following the movement of fashion towards soft curves. They are also, incidentally, following the revival of the Edwardian styles in men’s clothes. The pair of stacks with full roomy legs is now being threatened by slacks tapered from hip to ankle. They are made in many materials – worsted tweed, corduroy, barathea, or velvet – and whatever the material they have a figure-clinging fit, with rows of tiny buttons to fasten at the ankles, pockets jutting beyond the hips, or tabs fitted on the waist to hold a coloured sash.

Naturally a hip-length tailored jacket is not appropriate with this silhouette. The outfit is more likely to be completed by an attractive bolero. Black velvet seems to be the favourite material, and the slacks are worn with a fancy jersey of black or a strong colour, and with a wide cummerbund. The Londonus model in the illustration is in black velveteen with a ruby belt of angelskirt. The rounded bolero is edged with braid.

The style may have stemmed partly from the Edwardian trend in men’s trousers, but no woman with an opulent Edwardian figure should adopt it.

New Hair Styles Ideas

afIn this country we’re so hair conscious – we push the boundaries. There’s a particular link between the British teenager and hair: young people wear a style as a tribal badge. Maybe it’s because we’re such a small country with so many people squeezed in, you have to find a way to stand out. I feel we’re in danger of losing that tradition a little bit, and I’m hoping my show at Somerset House will give an insight into how hair has become a part of our culture.

It was a big part of my teens. I lived in a tiny Scottish village, but I was always into fashion. The 60s were such a stylish decade to grow up in, and because of television we were all aware of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I had friends who owned a hair salon and I used to help out at weekends to get pocket money. I found myself intrigued by the world of beauty and I loved the creativity.

I moved to London in the 70s and ended up working at a salon on South Molton Street. From there I did a shoot for Vogue magazine and this whole other world opened up, full of cameras and beautiful models and people making incredibly sophisticated images. I was hooked from day one. I couldn’t go back to 12 haircuts in a row after that. I have complete admiration for people who work in salons, it’s a wonderful talent, but it’s not my talent.

I guess the shell of fashion has changed in the decades I’ve worked in the business but the nut in the middle is the same. Though there is recognition of what we do because of social media, people still ask where my salon is. Creating an iconic fashion image is all about timing. It has to be done at the right time on the right person. I’m really lucky in my life because I work with the most amazing people, from the 80s with Linda Evangelista and the 90s with Kate Moss and photographers like Mario Testino and Nick Knight. You have all these talents together and you spark off each other.

Even when I work on celebrity styling, it’s basically still doing hair for a brand. As with any brand, you develop a relationship and you create an image, whether it’s for Cate Blanchett at the Oscars, Kate Moss at a product launch – each person has their own agenda. It’s the same as doing a summer Vogue cover: it has to say summer. You’re communicating an idea.

Though sometimes celebrities surprise you. Once Tilda Swinton was promoting a film and I’d almost finished when she suddenly said, you know what, let’s do something radical. We cut it off really short and she’s had it like that ever since. It became her thing. Tilda owns that haircut. That’s an incredibly satisfying thing to do.

My most popular style is the done undone thing. It’s become part of the mainstream and it’s a go-to look for many designers. Kate Moss’s Bardot look is a thing; the Princess Diana look became very popular. People still look to celebrities for ideas, but it’s just ideas and there may be a few of those in one look, so they end up taking inspiration from multiple people.

Make sure that your make up are removed at night

Igo out so rarely that just going out is amazing. I’ll listen to music while I get ready. Angry, nihilistic stuff like David Bowie’s Time is good if I’m going somewhere I’m nervous about. I’ve recently liberated myself from wearing body-hugging clothes. I’m trying to buy clothes that feel sensuous rather than styled. I’ve got into silk tunic dresses from All Saints or the White Company. I also love Dawn O’Porter’s Bob dresses. She dressed me in one called the Flack for the British comedy awards.

I would love to be dressed more, because I loathe shopping. I buy loads of clothes from Asos that just sit there until I try them on in a bad temper, right before the returns deadline. I kind of hate clothes; I still wear hipster-style jeans and I’m always showing my arse – totally undignified for a woman of my age.

I’m against lipstick, big time. Dark eyes need nude lips, so I just use a kohl pencil and lots of mascara. What I do is too accidental to be called a smoky eye – it’s more like a smutty eye. My mum taught me how to put on makeup as a teenager, and I’ve been doing it the same way ever since, although I have started doing my eyebrows. I tend to go quite dark, then think, “They don’t look dark enough”, add some black eyeliner, then I look in the mirror and go, “Jesus, I did not know that was happening.” I use a Mac foundation and, sometimes, Sally Hansen tanning spray on my legs.

I don’t take my makeup off before I go to bed. It’s too boring. I feel almost the same about brushing my teeth: ritualistic washroom crap must take about six years off your life.

Fashion favourite that you should know

How long is a good innings as an iconic beauty, these days? Thirty years, like Cindy Crawford? Sixty-five, like Sophia Loren?

How about 530 years? That’s how long Botticelli’s women have been adored, desired and emulated. They have been muses to Bob Dylan and James Bond, Andy Warhol and Lady Gaga. Botticelli’s Venus, rising from her seashell, is a poster girl not just for the Uffizi, but in teenage bedrooms all over the world. (She even appears on an Italian 10 cent euro coin.) Flora from the same painting inspired Elsa Schiaparelli in 1938, while the figure of Flora as seen in Botticelli’s Primavera was brought to life on the Valentino catwalk last year.

The enduring charm of Botticelli’s women – and how a painter who languished in obscurity for two centuries after his death came to set the bar for 20th-century beauty – is the subject of Botticelli Reimagined, which opens at the V&A in London on 5 March. The exhibition brings together 50 Botticelli works with 100 related works by artists who have interpreted him, from Dante Gabriel Rossettiand William Morris to René Magritte and Cindy Sherman. Martin Roth, director of the museum, hopes it will explain how and why Botticelli’s legacy has “suffused our collective visual memory”.

The Birth of Venus is “an endlessly quotable metaphor for youth and beauty”, Roth says. The original work is not included in the exhibition, being too delicate to be moved from Florence, but it dominates nonetheless. Two Andy Warhol silkscreens from 1984 permeate Venus with acid colours, turning a familiar image from a venerable museum work into a lurid billboard image. David LaChapelle’s 2009 photograph of a heavily made-up, deeply tanned, bottle-blond model recreating the Venus pose makes explicit reference to the idea of Botticelli as setting an aspirational standard for female beauty.

But the extent to which we have internalised the image as a template is most striking in an accidental homage. In two photographs from Rineke Dijkstra’s monumentally scaled but naturalistically posed Beach Portraits series, young girls pose on the shoreline unknowingly mirroring the posture and body language of Venus. One of the sitters, 14-year-old Erin Kinney, “was trying so hard to answer to a specific image – trying to look like perfection,” Dijkstra told the New York Times. “The girls were asked to pose on a beach, and they unconsciously assumed that pose,” says Ana Debenedetti, curator of the V&A’s exhibition. “Botticelli is so embedded in our visual culture that we know these images without even knowing that we know, in a way.”

There is a dancing quality to the way Botticelli’s women stand, their weight off centre, which is seen today in the one-leg-forward pose that actresses adopt on the red carpet. (The standard red carpet pose is designed to make one look thinner. The Renaissance concept of leggiadria described figures drawn so as to appear light and graceful. Plus ça change.) There is a stillness, too – “They are erotic objects, but peaceful,” Debenedetti says – which is recognisable in the tranquil half smile that is today’s standard celebrity look. They are blond, slender, with long hair. They illustrate an ideal woman of the 15th century, who turns out to look strikingly similar to our contemporary ideal. The exhibition includes footage of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea, “a hint to the idea of love and beauty. She corresponds to a very classic western ideal of beauty: her colouring, her curves. She is erotic, but also has a very natural, earth mother appeal. You feel like she would have beautiful babies!” Debenedetti says.