Is this a shop or a party?

Townhouse shopping, courtesy of Ralph Lauren

Recently I gained a glimpse into the life of the elite shopper.   One of Net-a-Porter’s Extremely Important Persons (EIPs) invited me to join her at one of NAP’s private viewings in a suite in a luxurious London hotel.  For a shopper more accustomed to rummaging for my goods in car boot sales or vintage fairs, this was a new experience but not a totally unknown quantity.  Recently, the Financial Times’ How to Spend It magazine featured Les Suites in Paris that works on a similar principle, offering high end fashion in what feels more like a beautiful home than a shop and offering a limited and highly curated selection of goods to a clientele that feels more like a social clique than a census category. It enables the seller to get closer to the customer (especially an online one) but is it satisfying to the customer?  The answer, as ever, depends on what you are looking for.

Entering the hotel from the London rain we were escorted to the suite, wading through carpets waist-deep, breathing air heady with scented candles and bowls of roses.   On arrival we were greeted like guests to a party –  coats taken, ensconced on sofas and coffee brought as my EIP’s personal shopper talked and then walked us through the treasures on offer.

First, fine jewellery: exclusive, unusual pieces that may never see the light of the website, reserved for clients by private appointment.  I was interested to note that some of the most sought-after pieces by females were the watches – many of them large and masculine in look. 

Then there were the racks of clothes.  Not an excessive amount – perhaps six or seven rails of 10 pieces each with a broad range of labels represented to offer a range to satisfy all tastes and styles, from lavishly embellished Gucci and Balmain, to minimalist knitwear from Khaite or The Row and even the conceptual with a truly extraordinary trenchcoat by Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons (of which more later). There were no basics, no ‘athleisure’, no simple white shirts.  This was not a practical, capsule wardrobe, these pieces were stars in their own right and displayed for their individual tactile and visual appeal.

Each piece was present as a single item which meant that trying on was fruitless unless it happened to be your size.  This I found highly frustrating.  When I’ve attended shopping parties in vintage boutiques the whole enjoyment is that it is the ultimate dressing up box: a playpen for the fashion follower.  The selling opportunity works as people bond over trying the clothes and styling each other, customers helping to sell the stock.  By comparison, this felt oddly sanitised and staid. 

That said, I’ve always been an emotional and romantic shopper – the pieces that catch my eye echo stories, hollywood glamour, half-forgotten dreams that tap directly into a vein of desire.  This is not how everyone shops.  My EIP was in her element.  As a confirmed internet shopper, this was an enhancement of her experience, the perfect complement to the online browse.

This form of selling will appeal to a certain kind of shopper, especially those already acquainted with the range of labels on offer and those short of time who may need professional help in finding clothes for specific need.  If you are a browser and a rummager like me, delighting in the hunt for the rare and unusual, it is less satisfying – the work has been done, the prizes presented, the answers are at the bottom of the page.

Was I tempted?   The Junya Watanabe trench caught my eye on the rack and, though it was too big, was still something I could try on.  It was a genius piece of design, the back a swirl of sunray pleats (welcome irony in a trenchcoat) and it was reversible with a zingy lime green interior.  It was a ‘forever’ piece and an item of pure joy to pull out on the dreariest of days.

Would I go again?  Undoubtedly.

Who wears what? Musee Galliera has the answer

 

20160710_151316[1]

© Eric Poitevin / ADAGP 2016

 

Who wears what? This is the title of Paris’ Musee Galliera’s latest exhibition and it is as much of a feast for the eyes as it is for the brain.  Curator, Olivier Saillard is not one to shy away from a challenge and with this exhibition he showcases jewels of the Galliera’s collection spanning 300 years but what could so easily have been a dry run through history, has been presented to make us think about how and why we wear clothes (apart from the obvious).

So, yes, you can see Marie Antoinette’s tiny-waisted Boucher-blue silk corset; a marvellous selection of Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy Couture; Daisy Fellowes’s iridescent sequinned column by Balenciaga (see above); and a beautiful selection of couture hats by Givenchy and Christian Dior (who knew the French had so many specific terms for different types of toppers: trotteur, toque, casque, capeline, cache-chignon?).  But that’s not the point, at least for M Saillard.  He wants to make you think as well as marvel at the beauty on show.

Each room presents a different perspective on the way that our clothes define us.  So Marie Antoinette’s corset (below) can be seen as a relic – a physical manifestation of memory and all the more interesting and poignant for its imperfections showing signs of use.  Another room lines up couture gems alongside aprons, overalls, patched denim and workshop clothing.  There is the juxtaposition of client and artisan, as well as the question of what workwear actually means for different people.  For lucky Audrey Hepburn, workwear was haute couture Givenchy.

20160710_151307[1]

© Eric Poitevin / ADAGP 2016

M Saillard delves deeper into the role of the muse in two other rooms.  One is dedicated to the role of artists in promoting and displaying exceptional craftsmanship in clothing.  The other examines the role of the muse in modern day fashion, from Tilda Swinton’s connection with Haider Ackermann to Francoise Lacroix’s display of her husband’s genius on the red carpet (a truly stunning pink and lime green taffeta evening gown, short in front, long behind).

Finally there are the prototypes: the pieces that are really too eccentric for wearing anywhere but the catwalk itself.  Here we find a tangerine velvet ruched dress by Jean Paul Gaultier with some rather extreme conical breasts (AW 1984); a Maison Martin Margiela hair coat – literally a mullet haircut made into a coat (SS 2009); and a white flower-strewn dress by Comme des Garcons that completely encases its wearer in flowers (SS 2012).

20160624_131057[1]M Saillard’s genius curation always delivers a fresh perspective on fashion and on the clothes we put on our back every day.  However serious my intentions though, I can’t quite resist the impulse to choose something I’d like to walk away with, given the chance.  I’m still dreaming about a stunning Jean Patou black velvet evening coat – a marvel of 1930s couture with a sleekly wrapped body invisibly fastened offset beautifully with a wide shawl collar and bell-like kimono sleeves with the largest cuffs I’ve ever seen.  There is a reason that French haute couture leads the world – this show tells you why.  See it before 23 October.

Kerry Taylor: a Passion for Fashion 14 June

20160127_141255

On 31 May at Christies’s Hong Kong bureau, a Himalaya Birkin bag broke records by selling for $300,000.  This is not just any second hand handbag and though not all vintage fashion items will attract such interest or financial value, it is a reminder that vintage fashion is big business, especially for items possessing a rarity and exceptional artisanship.

In London on 14 June, Kerry Taylor auctions will hold one of their Passion for Fashion auctions (view the catalogue here).  Headlines will be grabbed by memorabilia from the Duke & Duchess of Windsor (including a lovely brown alligator handbag), Madonna (an iconic Jean Paul Gaultier corset, and Bjork.  For me though, the jewels are always the couture pieces and the wonderful flapper dresses and evening coats.  Here are some of the treats to come this time around.

Top jewel has to be an extraordinary collection of 22 Dior ensembles of which 15 are haute couture, including a black silk faille ball gown, probably from the ‘Ailée’ collection of A/W 1948 (lot 99).  There are also haute couture pieces by Balenciaga, Balmain, Chanel, Callot Soeurs, Courrèges, Cardin, Charles James, Dessès, Galanos, Gernreich, Givenchy, Griffe, Lucile, Lanvin, Patou, Poiret, Piguet, Jenny, Madeleine de Rauch. It is truly a tour de force of couture.

There are also one or two true icons of twentieth century fashion.  There is a whole ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Ballets Russes’ collection, A/W 1976-77 (lot 226).  There is also a rare ‘Incroyables’ coat from John Galliano’s degree show collection of July 1984, crowning an impressive range of his other work including pieces from ‘The Ludic Game’ A/W 1985-86, his A/W 1987-88 collection and ‘Blanche Dubois’ S/S 1988.

As usual there is also a great showing of Japanese designers including de-constructed examples from Rei Kawakubo’s S/S 1983, A/W 1983-84 and A/W 1984-85 collections.

My choices?  I’m longing for the YSL lipstick print dress from 1971 (lot 211), a Lesage embroidered bodice for Dior(?) from the late 50s/early 60s (lot 133), a Balenciaga couture black Chantilly lace evening dress c1964 (lot 151), a Comme des Garcons grey flecked tweed suit AW 1986 (lot 299) and a 1930s Jeanne Lanvin conical hat (lot 96).

Aside from these, I’ll be watching the Chanel items, especially those currently less on-trend, as in the past these have gone for very competitive prices.  I will also be fascinated to see what price is fetched by an incredible Philip Treacy couture hat.  I expect it will be an object of heated bidding.  Though perhaps the record will rest with the Hermes Birkin a little longer.

A vintage Chanel jacket for £220? Who needs the high street?

20151025_155752

Vintage fashion auctions can be fascinating events, highlighting current and new trends and always delivering surprises. Much can be explained by the participants and dynamics in the auction room itself and I’d be willing to bet that last week’s Kerry Taylor action of Antique and Vintage Fashion and Textiles was conducted in a room packed with vintage dealers, collectors, enthusiasts and period drama costumers.  On this occasion though, the ordinary consumer would have been the winner too with some highly desirable items going for extremely competitive prices – the vintage Chanel jacket in the title being a case in point.

There was a lot of “true” vintage in this sale with clothing and accessories from the early to mid-twentieth century. These lots all seemed to sell steadily, despite some being challenging to work into a modern wardrobe. There was also a strong contingent of pieces by Japanese designers – Issey Miyake, Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto – most of which fetched prices at the upper end of their estimates, suggesting buyers that appreciated them as important elements of fashion history. By contrast, an array of dresses by Bill Gibb and Ossie Clark fetched lower prices or even failed to sell, suggesting that the recent hot trending of these designers may be fading.

The driver for many of the sales seemed to be a desire to acquire important or landmark pieces. So if you had gone along, attracted by the pre-sale estimate of £400-600 for an original McQueen dress from the controversial AW 2006 Widows of Culloden collection, you might have been disappointed to see it sell for £1,300 (though still, to my mind, a bargain for an original McQueen). Similarly a number of Dior gowns from the 60s fetched four-figure prices. Though not landmarks, they were still beautiful and highly wearable.

Some of the biggest surprises in the sale were more modern pieces from Chanel, Hermes and YSL. If you were a bargain-hunter there were some incredible buys here. A beautiful ice blue and black Chanel jacket sold for £220; a YSL gold lame evening column for £380; an Hermes collier de chien belt in white ostrich for £200 and a printed silk shirt for £150. At these prices, why buy a mass manufactured high street item of inferior quality and design?

It was not only a sale to please the collector and the bargain-hunter. There were also some wonderful pieces for prospective brides or those looking for interesting eveningwear. Wonderful 1920s flapper dresses and slinky 1930s columns sold for prices comparable with the high street. These were exceptional, unique works of artisanship but surprisingly accessible prices.

So what would I have chosen? Pre-sale, I would have gone for the spectacular YSL gold lame evening column – an absolute classic of the designer’s style and a perennial stunner. It exceeded its £200-300 estimate to go for £380 but was still a great buy at that price. In retrospect, I would definitely have tried to acquire a marvellous Margiela deconstructued tuxedo trouser suit that failed to sell, or perhaps one of the very beautiful 1920s flapper dresses.

So if you are tempted to try your luck next time, the next sale will be a “Passion for Fashion” on 14 June. Look out for updates and early catalogue viewing on the Kerry Taylor website.

And if, like me, you are perpetually enchanted by 1920s flapper elegance, you’ll be delighted to learn that this Autumn’s big exhibition at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum will be dedicated to this particular period of fashion history. I’m already dusting off my cloche hat in expectation of a treat.

The dream Christmas present: Givenchy haute couture coat owned by Audrey Hepburn

20151209_191945

What would you pay to own a piece of Givenchy haute couture once owned by Audrey Hepburn?  This was a question facing attendees at specialist auctioneer, Kerry Taylor’s Passion for Fashion sale on 8 December in London.  Amongst the stellar items on sale was a black silk evening coat made for Hepburn and looking as stylish and classic today as it did in 1960.

You would think it would be hard to find items more sought-after than that, but in fact it was not the top-seller of the sale.  The top prices were an interesting mixture.  Highest of all was a stunning Balenciaga haute couture bridal gown, sold for £60,000, far exceeding its £15-20,000 estimate.  It came from one of Cristobal Balenciaga’s last collections, from SS 1968 and similar models have been featured repeatedly in shows and fashion literature over the years.  A historic item, the price set a new world record for a Balenciaga piece.

Comme des Garcons items also achieved world records: £26,000 for a black knitted ensemble from the AW 1983 collection that had been photographed by Peter Lindberg.  This was quite extraordinary, especially compared with other pieces from the same era designed by Yamamoto, Miyake and Vivienne Westwood that fetched prices in the high hundreds or low thousands.  There was also a suit from the SS 1997 ‘Bump’ collection, its exaggerated bumps and lumps built into the clothing causing much controversy and comment at the time.  The suit, in pink and blue nylon gingham, sold for £22,000 and was similar to those shown on the catwalk and photographed by Inez & Vinoodh for Visionaire.  Just like Yves Saint Laurent’s controversial 1940s-inspired collection of 1971, perhaps this is telling us that collections that may be reviled the day they are presented should be judged on a longer timeframe.

On a similar historical note, there was a Schiaparelli jacket from her AW 37/38 collection, embroidered with a daisy motif encrusted with sequins and pearls.  It was a truly beautiful piece and fetched £24,000, far above its £5-9,000 estimate.  Not all the Schiap pieces in the sale performed so well perhaps because this designer, with her ground-breaking surrealist style, holds a very specific appeal.

There was also McQueen: one of the dresses featured on the catwalk in his SS 2010 ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ collection – his last. The python print/photo collage corseted dress fetched £16,000, far in excess of other, earlier McQueen pieces in the sale, mostly from AW 2004/5 ‘Pantheon ad Lecum’ collection depicting an ethereal, otherworldly glamour.

It was also interesting to see how individual designers performed across the whole sale.  Haute couture pieces by Chanel and Balenciaga dependably exceeded estimates, especially a black beaded silk capelet from 1924 one of Gabrielle Chanel’s earlier pieces fetching £7,500 (estimate £2-3,000).  Original Jeanne Lanvin dresses and Alexander McQueen also sold beyond their estimates, perhaps boosted by the recent prominent public exhibitions each has enjoyed at the Musee Galliera and Victoria and Albert Museum respectively. Yet this did not hold true for Yves Saint Laurent – despite two big exhibitions of his work this year, some of his classic pieces in the sale stubbornly stayed within their estimate.  Finally, it was interesting to see an original Martin Margiela piece far outstrip its £1,500-2,000 estimate.  The linen tunic from his AW 1997/8 collection, made to look like a hessian dressmaker’s mannequin is one of his classic designs and fetched an impressive £8,000.

There was also a reminder of how important provenance can be.  Why would anyone pay £2,200 for a second hand nightshirt?  Or the same price for a single glove?  Perhaps if the former had been owned by Winston Churchill and the latter by King Charles I you might.

What would I have bought?  Without doubt my first choice would have been the Audrey Hepburn coat.  A shimmering pink pleated silk Fortuny dress would also have been on my list – that was snapped up by a lucky buyer for £1,600.  I also had my eye on an ensemble from Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Russian’ collection of AW 1976 that included his classic peasant blouse, a tiered gypsy skirt and a black velvet waistcoat that sold for £650.  At that price, I’m starting to regret that I was not there to bid.

Kerry Taylor’s next auction of antique and vintage fashion and textiles will be on 23 February 2016 and her next ‘Passion for Fashion’ auction on 21 June.  You can see more online, including the sale catalogue and full results for the 8 December ‘Passion for Fashion’ sale here.

By the way, if you are wondering what a lucky buyer paid for Audrey Hepburn’s Givenchy haute couture coat, it fetched £17,000, which at least to me, seemed surprisingly moderate for a piece of fashion and movie history associated with such a well-loved star.  I hope it went to a loving home.

Vintage Fashion Gold Standard

20151114_105659

On a recent trip to New York I discovered New York Vintage, deep in the heart of Chelsea and Manhattan’s garment district, steps away from the 26th St/6th Avenue fleamarket where I had been happily browsing for $5 vintage hats.  This is a revelation in vintage fashion: an extensive collection of museum quality pieces, available for direct purchase (or in some cases rental), presented in a high-end but chic boutique environment.  It is probably the best vintage fashion boutique I have encountered – scroll to the end to see my top 10.

When vintage clothing of this quality and preservation is available, why settle for a mass-manufactured high street buy of dubious quality and origins? Even better, what if that piece came with a story and a few mysteries of its own?  High street stores have become adept at using celebrity branding to hype and sell limited edition products.  Shoppers seem willing to overlook the discomfort of a long queue in the rain for a chance to surge through the shop doors in a crowd and take their chances in grabbing a piece of celebrity magic at a bargain price.

The vintage clothing market is a world away from this.  Recently, when I admired a stunning leopard print coat on a very glamorous lady, she told me she had acquired it long ago from a vintage dealer she visited regularly and who briefed her on the age and background of the pieces she bought.  She had no plans ever to relinquish her hold on this coat – it was a highly valued piece of her wardrobe, as much for its story and uniqueness as for its look.

So does provenance matter?  A resounding “yes” according to no less authority than the Musee Galliera: “…Fashion is not just a matter of clothes as such: knowledge of their provenance or of when they were worn is often essential to true appreciation” they declare on their website20150614_155523Provenance is also an essential element considered by auctioneers – Didier Ludot’s Couture auction with Sotheby’s in July included a number of items owned by luminaries like Lou Lou de la Falaise and Barbara Hutton.  In London, Kerry Taylor’s specialist fashion and textile auctions regularly feature items with interesting provenance.  At their October auction, a 1950s Christian Dior grey satin and tulle dress once worn by Scarlett Johansson sold for £7,500.  Provenance need not always mean celebrity connections: at the same sale a 1940s Utility suit reached a world record price of £1700, bought by a museum, keen to acquire a pristine example, unworn and with the original shop tag.

20130622_102304_1If we all started buying vintage what is the role for costume museums?  Already the most adventurous costume institutes and museums are changing the way they operate, prioritising their collections to seek specific items but also using their holdings to educate the public about the value of Haute Couture and artisan workmanship.  The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Museum in New York even publishes a wish list of the things it hopes to acquire that includes 1930s couture as well as work by Azzedine Alaia; Alber Elbaz for Lanvin; Bouchra Jarrar; Nicholas Ghesquire for Balenciaga; Alexander McQueen; Givenchy; Haider Ackermann; Jun Takahashi for Undercover; Junya Watanabe for Comme des Garcons; and Proenza Schouler.

Now we hear that the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris will collaborate with H&M next year on clothing and accessories inspired by their archive.  The collection will launch next spring as the museum opens a new exhibition: Fashion forward – Three centuries of fashion.

So does this bring us full circle?  Vintage fashion moves higher up the value chain into curated collections with museum quality garments, museums move into the mass market attempting to attract young fashion enthusiasts through their doors.  If it drives interest in the skills, artisanship and sheer hard work that has produced extraordinary examples of dress over the centuries then that has to be a good thing.

So which are the best vintage boutiques?  Here’s my list but what do you think?

  1. New York Vintage, 117 W 25th St, New York – crème de la crème in my view, top quality and incredible stock. Paradise.
  2. 20151121_112904The Gathering Goddess, by appointment in W London or online – a beautiful and varied collection including mid-twentieth century US designers less well-known in the UK alongside beautiful 70s pieces from YSL, Chloe, Lanvin and others.
  3. Pandora, Cheval Place, Knightsbridge, London – really a designer resale shop and great for clothes from the last few years, especially Chanel and Hermes.
  4. Les 3 Marches de Catherine B, 1 rue Guisarde, Paris – No true fan of Chanel and Hermes should miss this place, the ultimate place for bags and accessories.
  5. La Boutique, 1045 Madison Avenue, New York – great range of stock from recent resale to real vintage and a broad range of designers. I’ve found wonderful Rochas (Olivier Theyskens) pieces here as well as a good selection of costume jewellery
  6. A Second Chance, 1111 Lexington Avenue, New York – specialising in Chanel and Hermes, a great selection of high quality stock, including some beautiful camellia brooches last time I visited.
  7. Michael’s 1041 Madison Avenue, New York – stock includes some real treasures – landmark Mugler jackets from the 1980s, a good selection of Comme des Garcons and some stunning shoes.
  8. Fara, 6 Upper Tachbrook st, London – in fact a charity shop but with Chanel, Hermes, Dior and YSL originals nestling alongside the 70s psychedelia. Great for a curious rummage.
  9. Bang Bang, Goodge st and Drury lane, London – good for pieces from the last 2-3 decades including the more conceptual labels – Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garcons.
  10. La Double J, online – truly inspirational website showing vintage clothes styled with flair and imagination. Gorgeous and never fails to lift the spirits.

And the markets….

  1. 26th Street & 6th Avenue in New York – a double whammy here with an outdoor fleamarket at weekends opposite a covered market with dealers housed in their own space selling high end vintage. While there I spotted some amazing Chanel and Schiaparelli jewellery.
  2. Puces de Vanves and Puces de Clignancourt, Paris – Vanves better for a bargain but as ever, arrive early.
  3. Portobello road, London best on a Friday early as possible.
  4. Hammersmith Vintage Fair, first Sunday every month at Hammersmith Town Hall. Divine.
  5. Aix-en-Provence, go for antique clothing and textiles, crafts, antique watches. Best on a Thursday from early morning to dejeuner.

Noir

20151025_155740

Black is a wonderful way of combining rich textures and an endless source of inspiration to designers.

John Galliano’s Autumn-Winter 94-95 show was made up from a single roll of black satin, shown in a ghostly Paris mansion.  It evoked a jazz age glamour and it marked the turning point in his career: two years later he was appointed to Givenchy and then Dior. (Read more here.)

Jean-Paul Gaultier’s Autumn-Winter 2010-11 collection for Hermes used black extensively to highlight texture.  Tuxedos, slinky satin columns, bowler hats and toppers all showed off a range of sleek black leathers offset by silver and gold hardware.

Paris Vogue’s September 2012 issue was entirely devoted to black, showing it styled in seductive lace and leather as well as in blown-out, abstract shapes reminiscent of the late eighties Japanese fashion of Comme des Garcons and Yohji Yamamoto.

Marc Jacobs’s last collection for Louis Vuitton, for Spring-Summer 2014 was entirely black, featuring beautiful gothic-style beaded jackets, ostrich feather showgirl head-dresses, biker jackets.  It got a standing ovation.

This season, J Smith Esquire’s beautiful millinery is offering more black gorgeousness.  His bespoke goat nappa and silk Opera top hat was recently featured in Damien Foxe’s always inspirational styling for the Financial Times (here) and there is more on his website here.

No shade is more versatile, more chic, more enduring.  Just don’t form a dangerous addiction.

So what will we be wearing in 2016?

sissinghurst 10 april 2011 016

And will it be Tudor-inspired?  More of that later.

Fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris have just showcased designers’ collections for Spring-Summer 2016.  Buyers have committed their budgets, journalists are determining the trends they will highlight, and designers are considering where they go from here to Autumn-Winter 2016-17.  So what will we see in Vogue’s March 2016 issue, and even more interesting, what might be the trends that emerge and persist into Autumn next year?

New York designers know their customer.  A rich tradition of trunk shows and a strong commercial vein leave little room for wild experimentation.  Jo Ellison at London’s Financial Times highlighted the prettiness of collections from Givenchy, showing silk and lace slips; richly embellished fabrics at Proenza Schouler; 70s Stevie Nicks inspiration at Rodarte; a rose-themed collection from Carolina Herrera, and a Spanish feel at Oscar de la Renta.  Crisp shirts and simple shapes were mixed with a richness and embellishment as this season’s romantic theme continues.  Marc Jacobs first collection since consolidating his label’s main and subsidiary lines will get heavy exposure, especially in the US press – it was a joyous celebration of US culture and a riot of beautiful fabrics and colour.

London had its share of glitter and glamour too.  Gareth Pugh’s show featured showgirls and a Cabaret-esque 1930s glitz; there were beautiful floral printed and embellished romantic dresses from Erdem and Marques Almeida but there was also graphic and modernist colour from Jonathan Saunders and Christopher Kane.  Stylist magazine loved the variety of textiles: plastic and lace from Christopher Kane; Faustine Steinmetz’s glorious embellished denim (see more here); and Erdem’s feather-like frayed chiffons. The London Daily Telegraph liked Preen by Thornton Bregazzi’s ballet-inspired collection and Emilia Wickstead’s “playful and daring” clashing colours and prints.  One of the most-admired pieces was Giles’s astonishing fan-vaulted gowns in a collection that seemed to have been inspired by Tudor and Stuart court dress.  They were simply stunning, in construction as well as visual effect.

Fendi in Milan picked up a similar theme, showing dramatically ballooning sleeves, lavish collars and leather like armour: “an ode to the tudor rose” in Vogue’s Suzy Menkes’s words. Opinions were divided on Prada’s show.  London’s Financial Times and Daily Telegraph gave it a cool reception but Stylist pronounced the boxy 60s skirt suits “the hit of 2016”. It was certainly an eclectic collection, featuring flapper-styles as well as 50s and 60s shapes and some 70s wallpaper prints.  Gucci delivered another eclectic, colour and print packed show and its probably safe to say that both Prada and Gucci’s eclecticism will feature strongly in Spring’s trends: vintage-chic continues to run as a trend.

Paris gave us everything.  The more conceptual labels offered blue witches at Comme des Garcons, more wonderful 3D sculpting at Sacai and a theme of reclamation and utility at Maison Margiela.  Dries van Noten, Lanvin, Yohji Yamamoto and McQueen were all praised by Vogue’s Suzy Menkes for the sheer beauty of their collections, featuring respectively lavishly embellished fabric clashes, simply elegant black, frilled lingerie-inspired clothes, and frills, flowers and translucence.

So Autumn’s romantic trends look set to persist into next spring, though perhaps with stronger colour and more bold print clashing and eclecticism.  The magazines might also pick up on some of the ballet-themed collections to showcase frilled, translucent, lingerie-inspired gowns.  There will probably continue to be a vintage focus, perhaps especially with a more historical feel.  Grunge will also feature, echoing new label Vetements’s collection – influential now that its lead designer, Demna Gvasalina has been recruited to Balenciaga.

Continuity is only part of the story though.  One of the most interesting new ideas featured in this round of shows was the tudor influence at Giles and Fendi.  As innovative fabrics and technologies like 3D printing enable more architectural shapes, like the amazing Giles fan-vaulted gowns, I wonder whether we will see more in this vein.  I would never have expected to find myself yearning to wear a gown inspired by a ceiling support but fashion at its best inspires us with the unexpected, the innovative, the dramatically desirable.

Aix-en-Provence: The Fashion tour (Part 2)

P1000207

In Part 1 of this post, I suggested an itinerary for a fashion fan’s morning stroll around the fleamarket, depot-ventes and vintage boutiques of Aix-en-Provence, leading up to a stop to re-fuel at the Bistrot des Philosophes.  So now here’s the afternoon plan, with some serious boutique shopping, starting Big….

  1.  P1000217From Forum des Cardeurs, walk back across the Place de l’Hotel de Ville and down rue Foch to rue de la Glaciere where you will find La Grande Boutique.  This offers three floors of wonderful fashion, with french brands well-represented with Isabel Marant, Jérôme Dreyfuss and Vanessa Bruno as well as Joseph, Rag & Bone and Raquel Allegra.
  2. Need a hat to go with it? Around the corner in rue Aude, you’ll find Berenice Chapellerie with a broad range of headgear on offer from a bowler to a bandana. I found love there with a beautiful Borsalino fedora, something that is already inspiring me to freshen up my style for autumn.
  3. P1000210Follow rue Aude down through Place St-Honore into rue Fabrot to discover Gago.  This is another very inspiring boutique, this time specialising in more conceptual fashion – Commes des Garcons, Sofie D’hoore, Jaquemus, Rick Owens and Alaia as well as a great selection of Celine handbags.  I found their window display a pure shot of fashion genius.
  4. From here, cross the Cours Mirabeau and head east to rue Marechal Joffre for a final depot-vente stop at Chinez Chic, a tiny shop but with a broad selection of clothes, shoes and accessories from Chanel jackets to Parisienne favourite, Robert Clergerie shoes.
  5. Need to sit for a while and contemplate?  For the anglophone or anglophile, find time to browse in Book in Bar, a gem of an English language bookshop at 4, rue Joseph Cabassol, a short stroll west from rue Marechal Joffre, across the rue d’Italie.  As well as a wonderful selection of books, there is also a cafe where you can enjoy the very English delight of tea and scones.
  6. 20150904_103358If you have completed this fashion marathon, then you need a serious drink.  Across the road, at the Centre Caumont, you will find an exquisitely restored mansion, now housing an art gallery and terraced cafe in pure Les Liasions Dangereuses style.  Before 7pm you can absorb the gorgeous interior and art; after 7pm the cafe opens as the ultimate rococo cocktail bar, Lounge Caumont: enjoy un verre as if you were the Marquise de Merteuil.  You’ve deserved it.

If, after all that, you still lack a reason to visit Provence, then I recommend a visit to Vicki Archer’s beautiful and inspiring blog.  I shall be relying on it to keep me topped up with Provence spirit while I winter in rainy London.

Stopped in my tracks: an inspired pairing

P1000210

Travelling between France and England, I’ve noticed a certain gallic flair for window dressing, based on an almost uncanny ability to juxtapose items to guarantee maximum desirability.  The picture above is of a window display in Gago, a beautiful boutique in Aix-en-Provence.  It showcases two quite stunning Sofie D’hoore skirts by pairing them together but alongside other items that do not detract attention from the main focus.  It is an eye-catching display, especially in a town in which most of the textiles on show in shop windows are linen or local toiles.

Window dressing like this is quite a distinct skill. Unlike a gallery display in which one might try to show the context for items or tell a story about them, the shop window is much more conceptual.  The item must stop the passer-by in their tracks, force their attention and make them curious to enter.  In displays like this, there is not even a context or story in support: the items have to stand alone as worthy of attention.  One way of ensuring this is to do what many high street shops do and reproduce a look that will be immediately familiar from street style shots, magazine shoots or pop culture.  It is a much braver thing for a shop to style something new and interesting in their window.  Dover Street Market always does this well in London but there are few other boutiques that manage it as inspiringly as those I’ve seen in France.

Gago, 20 rue Fabrot, Aix-en-Provence, stock includes Sofie D’hoore, Alaia, Celine, Comme des Garcons.  P1000217

And Gago is not alone in Aix – Le Grand Boutique at 3 rue de la Glaciere also offers an excellently curated stock, though more focused on French brands, including Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, Maison Michel, Raquel Allegra and Jérôme Dreyfuss.