Monthly Archives: August 2016

How to look like Kate Moss

Kate Moss and Kanye West have joined Instagram in the same week. A curious move in 2016, given that your mum joined last easter. So what does it mean? Judging by the first posts that communicate very little, the two have had a change of heart or direction – West stayed safe with an arty image (a shot from Total Recall), while Moss first posted a picture of her in a field in shorts (which she then deleted) before posting a picture from an interview with Business of Fashion. Moss’s post might be new but a model on Instagram is not and this picture is (perhaps) illustrative of the power social media has in fashion.

Since leaving Storm, her agency last year, the model has been stealthily setting up her own eponymous agency. In a recent interview, she said of models including Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner: “They’ve definitely got another side with it, like the Instagram side, and they know their business, I think.” We know digital media is changing the way fashion and its people are presented but this has always seemed like a chicken/egg situation. Gigi Hadid’s fame would be halved in the absence of social media – Moss is already famous and doesn’t need to calibrate her brand.

Still, agencies are having to cope with a shift towards a system where models are hired for their social media presence, one where their personal brands are multi-faceted to the point of exhaustion: “Modelling is so much about … the constant demand for content. Models aren’t just walking the runways and appearing in campaigns. They are also managing a constant feed of content through social media and online,” says Imran Amed of Business of Fashion.

Since Kate Moss is Kate Moss, suggests there’s something to be learned from the move: black and white is the new lark, outdoors is the new indoors and trousers are still optional. West’s post, however – an image of the Johnny Cab’s cab from Total Recall – tells us nothing we don’t know about the artificial fragility of our world.

Beautiful things on your style

People are already calling it the fashion moment of 2016. In Galeries Lafayette, an upmarket department store in Paris, cult label Vetements, purveyor of elevated streetwear, is staging its latest rule-breaking collection. The brand is opening staid old couture fashion week with a show featuring genuinely unexpected collaborations with various other fashion labels – waist-high Manolo Blahnik boots, rejuvenated Juicy Couture tracksuits – and models with a haute level of scowl. But it is when stylist Lotta Volkova strides past on the catwalk, modelling a floral white and blue Vetements dress, with a dismissive hand holding the corner of a white clutch bag, that the front row’s iPhones are raised in unison. Because that’s the picture. Lotta Volkova modelling the Vetements dress that self-consciously references the Vetements look. In an industry that constantly seeks to label things “cool”, Lotta Volkova has just been crowned as the coolest woman in the world.

Volkova is arguably fashion’s most in-demand creative. She is stylist and muse for the Vetements collective, the Paris-based group of designers currently subverting the barriers between streetwear and high fashion. She consults for fashion houseBalenciaga – on the casting and catwalk shows – where Demna Gvasalia is creative director. She also works with her friend, the menswear designer, Gosha Rubchinskiy and a raft of other labels. She somehow squeezes in editorial shoots with the likes of Juergen Teller and DJs at her friends’ fanzine launches. Volkova’s is a seven-day working week.

A few days before her Vetements fashion moment, I’m sat in a cool-but-you-have-to-know-it’s-cool-to-realise-it’s-cool cafe in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, not far from the Gare du Nord, asking Volkova how she, as a 32-year-old woman, feels about appearing as a model on the catwalk. Since starting work with Vetements, Volkova has walked in every show alongside kids cast from Instagram and regular models with an edge. Between swigs of Perrier and sips of black coffee, she laughs fast and loud before snapping into her brusque-sounding answering mode.

“It came about really spontaneously and out of the blue. When we were prepping for the first show, we did not have enough models, so Demna was like, ‘Oh, you are gonna model’ and I was like, ‘OK fine.’ Of course I was flattered. But for me it was like a friendly gesture. ‘Try this black turtleneck and sweatpants, and I just want to see you in it’ and I put in on and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, this is the opening look.’ I was like, ‘Nawwwww….’” Her speech is peppered with a Baltic-accented vocal fry that is too compelling not to mention.

“Spontaneous” and “out of the blue” are phrases that Volkova returns to regularly. Those and the fact that she and her gang are “just doing what we laaaav”. Volkova’s rise to the pinnacle of high fashion was neither exponential nor intentional, but not wholly surprising either. Born in Vladivostok, Russia, in 1984, Lotta was exposed to rebellion early on. Her father had jumped on a train from Siberia when he was 16 to captain a ship. Her mother, a professor of physics at medical school, instilled in Lotta the idea of doing things her own way: “For her that was a rebellion against communism, against this pre-packaged life.” It is her mother, too, that she has to thank for her Led Zeppelin-inspired name (she’s named after the song Whole Lotta Love). “She liked the whole post-punk, early 80s, alt-rock era, so I grew up sucking in all those references.” It was also her mother who fuelled her love of fashion, taking 12-year-old Lotta on shopping trips to London and Tokyo. “I had Prada shoes and Dior by Galliano jumpers, she was wearing Galliano herself. She is tiny and has really big boobs and is blonde, but then she pretty much looks like me.”

Tartan myth style tips

After the stripe, the plaid or check is the easiest pattern to weave, something our earliest ancestors discovered for themselves as soon as their various cultures had attained the technological level of the loom. Costume historians have logged plaids, sometimes muted and discreet, sometimes joyously garish, in sources as disparate as an early Japanese print and a primitive Sienese painting.

The non-expert would be forgiven, however, for assuming, along with the rest of the world, that the plaid was uniquely invented in the mist-bound, granite fastnesses of the Scottish Highlands some time before the Emperor Hadrian took to wall-building. Indeed, there are some overly refined souls who hold that the kilted tartan in attack formation was the reason why he did and thank God for Latin aesthetic sensibility. In fact, as many historians have been at recent pains to prove, the tartaning of Scotland was the first major confidence trick in the resourceful history of tourism. And it set a pattern much emulated but rarely equalled. For a start, the chief copywriter, one Sir Walter Scott, was a cut above your average hack – and titled, too, with the good connections that always implies. His background briefings, copious and literate, created an irresistible mythic scenario and his personal stage-management of a Royal Visit to Edinburgh just after Waterloo was the archetype upon which all later well produced launch parties were to be based.

The celebrity endorsement campaign didn’t mess about either. There was, it must be conceded, a slightly slow start as the portly, flabby-kneed tail end of the Hanoverian line posed for portraits in Royal Stewart kilts and rosy flesh-coloured tights but Victoria changed all that. Once the campaign got a youthful, pretty and fecund sponsor, it got lift-off, too. For this sponsor was no mere cipher, content only to wear the gear, smile for the cameras, take the money and run. She had integrity. She really wore the stuff in private, and even had a special Balmoral tartan designed for the holidays and a particularly tasteful one in lavender and white just for herself and named Victoria.

In fact, the plaid never had the quasi-heraldic and clan-identification significance with which it was retrospectively invested. All that researchers have established is that a small cross check pattern, known colloquially as a “tartan”, was adapted for use in kilt, plaid (the shawl/cloak length of fabric worn against the cold) and hose around about 1660. Pattern tended to be employed for its decorative value and had no clan or family connotations. And it was peasant dress. The aristocrats demonstrated their status by wearing the latest court fashions from Edinburgh, London or Paris. It was only when the victorious Hanoverians banned the plaid after the battle of Culloden that it acquired a romantic glamour and political symbolism which the Jacobites were able to exploit. The concept of exclusivity, that a certain pattern could and should only be worn by a person entitled by blood or regiment to do so, was introduced when, in the late eighteenth century, tartans were designed as part of the new military uniforms for the Highland regiments. The earliest, like the 42nd Regiment of Foot or Black Watch, survived the period of Caledonian romanticism as approved “clan” tartans with fictional pedigrees as long as one of Sir Walter’s tales.