Thursday, 31 January 2013

Red noses for a brighter day

I know it's winter, just as I know that it's likely to continue to be a winter for another month or two. It's just the way the world (and nature) work in these parts. But, even after all these years, I still get slightly depressed when I wake up to a grey and overcast day like today. The thing to make it all better today? And sure, a new pair of shoes from, say, Giuseppe Zanotti would be the best cure-it-all, but in the absence of a fairy godmother, the next best thing is... a little shopping, that benefits me and others, all at the same time.

Just like you can never have too many shoes, you can also never have too many T-shirts - part of the reason why I am so excited to be able to grow my collection with the new Stella McCartney capsule celebrating Red Nose day (on March 15th). The T-shirts themselves are playful and fun, with a series of popular culture icons from Marilyn Monroe to the Beatles and Kate Moss sporting fabulous red noses.

What I love most is that the collection is also available for kids, featuring the cutest giraffe :) The Ts are available in all TK Maxx stores, or online. I'm getting mine now. One of each, that is - I need many red noses to make me laugh with this weather :)

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Shoes of the week - Etro

When you think Etro, shoes are not the first thing to come to mind. In fact, perhaps, shoes are not at all or in any moment what come to mind. Etro is all about their prints, instantly recognizable, ethnic, traditional, with a bit of a different spin every season. This fall, the direction was a more daring and romantic feel, with velvet dresses and satin skirt suits in darker colours. Reminiscent, if you will, of what we've previously seen in the 30s and 40s. Which leads us back to the shoes, from which we had digressed. 

These 120 mm pumps are from Etro's fall line. The dark, rich colour, the laces around the ankle and the combination between the silky satin of the front and the warm suede of the back all point to this same old-school style that defined the runway collection. Still, the shape is modern and sleek. A contrast which makes them a great addition to any wardrobe, the perfect item to add a bit of a difference to a more contemporary or edgy look. Which is why they are my shoes of the week. Oh, and also because you can now get them, on sale, from luisaviaroma :)

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

SAG 2013 - only the worst

Yesterday, we documented the best and most beautiful looks from the SAG 2013 red carpet, and it was quite the line-up. The Sunday awards show certainly gave us plenty to behold. Unfortunately, it failed to stop only at the positive. As a result, today we have a line-up of a different kind. A reverse kind. 

Here are my 5 top worst dressed ladies of the evening:

1) Anne Hathaway - Oh, Anne, and you were doing so well! The gown she chose for the SAG is barely a couple of days old, as it was only unveiled last week as part of Giambattista Valli's Spring Couture line. It was a splendid dress on the runway and it pains me to put it on this here list, but, unfortunately, it failed to translate its beauty on the red carpet. On Miss Hathaway, the dress had nothing of its former appeal, looking drab, unfitted and somewhat deflated, after having lost all of the flare of the skirt which gave it a twist. The result is very similar to a girl who has yet to grow any breasts trying on her mother's clothes. Anne, do step it up next time, please!

2) Freida Pinto - Why, oh why? I complained that you were missing from the Golden Globes because I thought you would amaze us, but, had I known the kind of amazement you had in store, I would have spared on my enthusiasm. The Roland Mouret dress was a bold move of the kind we are accustomed to expect from this dark beauty, but this time, it flopped before taking flight. The bright colour makes a striking statement against miss Pinto's skintone, but with the fluid drape of the dress and its floor-length, it manages more to swallow her whole. Watch out for the pink human-eating dress monster!

3) January Jones - Maybe it's because I've grown so used to the elegant look of Betty Draper and I lack the imagination to see her beyond this persona, but I've always failed to understand her fashion sense. And this is just the latest example of it. JJ (*smirk*) used the SAG 2013 to don a fashion forward dress from Prabal Gurung's pre-fall 2013 collection - a laudable attempt. If only she'd let the dress as it was, namely short. Adding the extra material to make it floor-length managed only to transform an otherwise striking dress into a banal white and black combination, which swallows her up from the waist down and eats her up from the waist up. The look was also not helped by the bouffant do - was she going for a Jersey Shore vibe that I couldn't get?

4) Julie Bouwer - It's a leather gown. Leather. I understand risks, really I do, but it's a leather gown. Not on the red carpet. Not like this. No.

5) Jaimie Alexander - The Marc Bouwer dress is a sculptural beauty, so I understand her appeal for the dress. I understand where her passion came from. I understand the gamble. Talking about understanding, I don't think, however, that Jaimie Alexander understood the dress. She did not understand the attitude, the aplomb, the confidence you need to pull it off. The personality. Like this, it felt like the dress was wearing her. And she was the junior invited to prom and choosing a showy dress, only to have people raise an eyebrow.

Tuesday mystery

"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art."
Albert Einstein 

Monday, 28 January 2013

SAG 2013 - only the best

Award season keeps rolling on, and thunderingly so, if the SAG is the case in point. With a backdrop of gloomy weather, the stars had no easy task of shining on the red carpet, yet there was, thankfully, quite a bit of shining and some bright colours to liven up the mood. The Screen Actors Guild Awards are generally considered a trial run for the Oscars. I hope that's true of fashion as well, because I've seen some nice outfits on this red carpet and, if taken just one step up, as is the norm for the Oscars, the Sunday of February 24th will be a mighty stylish one. 

Here are my favourite 10 looks from last night:

1) Marion Cotillard - She's back! Thankfully! After that red/orange neither-here-nor-there dress she chose for the Golden Globes, this time Marion stood out for all the right reasons. In a sea of column dresses (which, don't get me, look great on the right person), her impressive Christian Dior white bodice with deep blue asymmetrical skirt was a delight. Different, but elegant, very French, very Dior, simple and stunning. I also loved how clean she kept the look, with perfectly coiffed hair and minimal accessories (although, if she'd wanted to achieve perfection, black was not the colour of shoes she should have opted for).

2) Helen Hunt - Another beautiful (beautiful, beautiful, beautiful) look from the stunning 50-year old. I am always in awe of women aging gracefully and how some are able to retain their stunning persona by simply being confident in themselves and not worrying about age. Helen Hunt's look tonight was the perfect example of this - her platinum beaded mermaid dress by Romona Keveza (a designer best known for her stunning wedding dresses!) and all its sparkle was only surpassed by the happy glow of the actress. This is what I think a sexy woman needs to look like!

3) Nicole Kidman - This dress may not be all that I know Nicole Kidman could be capable of pulling off, but I loved it for two main reasons: first, because I don't know many stars brave enough to wear a Vivienne Westwood on the red carpet (which is a real shame) and two, because it showed that the blonde actress had not forgotten that she's beautiful and sexy. Mrs. Kidman is one classy lady and her outfits are always chosen to reflect her delicate and natural elegance, but this look was the clear example that just a bit of oomph will do no harm, quite the opposite.

4) Jessica Chastain - Jessica Chastain and Alexander McQueen make a heavenly match. After 'that' dress from last year's Oscar ceremony, this must be one of the fiery actress' best look in the British designer. Channeling her inner Jessica Rabbit, Chastain chose a very va-va-voom red dress which clung to her body drawing a beautiful hour-glass silhouette. It was classy and sexy and beautiful, all the best words to describe any dress.

5) Amanda Seyfried - The young actress joined a long line of actresses wearing different variations on blue (including Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Lange), but, leaving this uniformity detail aside, her Zac Posen choice was right in all respects. The navy colour strikingly complemented her enviable waves, the shape was simple, elegant and perfectly fitted, yet made instantly youthful with her choice of a long, art-deco pendant. I like a woman who is not afraid of bringing her own personal touch.

6) Kerry Washington - As I've said on numerous other occasions, white is not an easy colour to pull off on a gown anywhere but at a wedding, and God knows we've seen our fair share of white lately, enough to declare ourselves satisfied for one decade to come. Nevertheless, I love that Washington chose it! There is no other coloristic choice that would have had a greater, more striking effect against her skin tone. Furthermore, the cut of the Rodarte gown and the slightly antagonistic details, like the delicate studs on the carpet and the lace accented small train, were a lesson in how to make sweet look edgy with aplomb.

7) Nina Dobrev - A breath of fresh, spring air. This is what Nina Dobrev brought onto the red carpet with her bright pink Elie Saab gown. Fitted to perfection, with subtle side laced cuts, the dress looked flawless and elegant, even if it kept its slightly casual feel. Dobrev's monochromatic approach to accessories and her simple hairdo only added to the beauty of her look, undoubtedly one of the most remarkable of the evening.

8) Naomi Watts - Form-fitting and beautiful cut? Check. Intricate detailing for a subtly sophisticated look? Check. Flowing locks and a bright pink lip colour? Check. Naomi Watts was, once again, a complete and utter vision of style. I adored her Marchesa metallic silver embroidered gown and was once again convinced that if there is one actress out there capable of switching it up AND always managing to keep her own style, it is this Australian beauty.

9) Jessica Lange - Proof number two that beauty and sensuality have nothing to do with age. Jessica Lange looked amazing in her J.Mendel dark blue dress with draped subtle detailing over the upper part and a flowing, light skirt. I may have complained that the colour was featured on many, but I feel that, for a woman in her 60s, dark blue may be a more flattering alternative to the drastic feel of black, allowing for a look that is on the lighter style of classic elegance.

10) Sarah Hyland - Prints are another difficult thing to pull off on the red carpet, as is such a tricky colour like the bright violet number Miss Hyland chose for the SAG awards. But her bet paid off and the abstract print was subtle enough to be eye-catching, but not overwhelming, while the sexy simplicity of the Dolce & Gabbana dress made for a sophisticated overall look.

Honourable mentions:

Jennifer Lawrence - I love that I did not have to wait long to see a Christian Dior Spring 2013 Couture dress in full action. This being said, I had really hoped it would have been one of the more striking gowns in the collection. Sadly, with its dark navy blue nuance (the colour of choice of too many a stars) and the embarrassing wardrobe malfunction just as the beautiful star walked up to receive her award, I just cannot be convinced that it was the best choice out there.

Kiernan Shipka - Simply adorable. The cute 'Mad Men' young star chose an Oscar de la Renta pretty petal-pink dress with silver and white embellishments and silver Oscar de la Renta silver nappa peep-toes. A choice with which she could hardly go wrong. The overall effect was stylish, yet age-appropriate and she looked completely at ease with her couture choice. Can you only imagine what this young lady is capable of in the future, if she can already rock Oscar like she just did? :)

Friday, 25 January 2013

Haute couture, haute plaisir - last day

Saving the best for last, is what some people would say, considering that the last day of Paris Haute Couture shows was headlined by none other than A-list favourite and the master of female body illusions, Zuhair Murad. The Beirut-based designer sent down the runway an allegory of extravagance and gold, with delicately embellished gowns for the strong, self-confident and sensual woman not afraid of the pleasures of a little bit of luxury. With a Baroque resonance, the dresses were superb in their detailing. On one, a richly embroidered bodice dissolved into sequined arabesques on a nude silk tulle train. Others drew their origins from ancient Greece, with fluid panels of light-coloured chiffon and silk tulle, set off with gold or platinum embroideries.

Rad Hourani’s first official couture collection paid homage to his approach to unisex fashion with an almost religious procession of boys and girls going down the runway in androgynous looks highlighted in their simplicity by the basic colours of black and white. Geometric and structural, the show was a statement of the power of equality and modernity, with sleek pieces like sleeveless tuxedos and futuristically crisp coats and jackets. As the designer himself said, “It’s a language I’m very dedicated to, I think it’s something very important in our society. Unisex isn’t just a garment reference—it implies that age doesn’t exist, religion doest exist, and so on. There are no boundaries.” 

This week of couture was wrapped up in style by a display of Herve L. Leroux's creations. Leroux is the man credited for making curve-hugging bandage dresses a hit before there ever was Max Azria and the Herve Leger craze. Even if he has been absent from the fashion forefront for over a decade, Leroux made a comeback in style (excuse the pun), with an array of glamorous, old Hollywood-ish dresses in powerful shades of yellow, magenta, bronze and petrol. Elaborately draped from silk jersey, custom-made for Leroux in Italy, the gowns oozed simple elegance and hinted at a possible return to the big league for the French designer. 

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Haute couture, haute plaisir - day 3

Today was, if I can say so, the 'hautest' plaisir of all, namely because I love Elie Saab and Valentino. Together with Oscar de la Renta, they are my glamorous soft spots. I swear to you, I cannot help but be completely swooning over all their collections and secretly wishing I was a multi-millionaire to be able to collect them all. But, sigh, as that is not bound to happen anytime soon, the couture shows will just have to do, and they are a treat all by themselves.

Elie Saab was a low-key, low-effort affair, with none of the drama and visual impressiveness of its fellow couturiers Dior or Chanel. No. There was only a simple U-shaped runway and the models walking slowly on top of it, like enchanted emissaries of a fairy-land. The Lebanese-born designer stuck to what he knows best, complicated embroideries with intricate beading and touches of sparkle on waves of lace - some might call this boring or playing it safe, but it's a signature. Saab is the master of this particular art and, in this collection, he took it one step forward to play not only with the visual illusions of decadent embellishing, but also with transparencies that reveal and cover the female body as beautifully as a charm. The result was a light fairytale world of princesses and an ode to femininity.

Gardens seem to be the leitmotif of many of the shows we've seen this week, but if Dior and Chanel chose to construct a life-size green-leafed background to showcase their work, Valentino did more - he took the concept and incorporated it into his work. Curlicues of fabrics were a fixture on most of the  pieces shown, from the dresses to the feminine suits, echoing the wrought-iron gates and fences of old-school public parks. One gray dress with embroidered birds was even paired with a black cape made from this kind of tubing, making the model wearing it look like a mobile birdcage. Black lace was arranged on one A-line skirt to look like a garden maze, and a procession of shimmering green leaves snaked up a sheer ruffled dress. This was also a very modern and sober(ing) interpretation of the feminine, with a number of sleek looks without decorations which nonetheless summoned attention and awe.

Gaultier, as always, was an exuberant dissonance of colour, cuts and patterns. The inspiration for his collection was the majestic and rich culture of India and, while this extravagant Indian gypsy style could easily draw onto kitsch, the French designer kept it elegant and memorable. There was an abundance of deep colours, gold threaded silk, heavy prints and intricate embroideries matched by slim shapes, fitted jackets and form-fitting dress.Throughout the show, Gaultier hinted elegantly to some of his greatest hits — the trench, the smoking, the sleekness of corsetry, cone bra included. And even if this collection is not bound to establish a new perspective on fashion, couture is, after all, about the power of good craft and the artistry of style, and there was no lack thereof.

The day ended with the Artisanal collection of Maison Martin Margiela, now in its second season of Couture runway. It was a spellbinding show of a different note that the other collections of the week. In a faithful continuation of its founder's spirit, the house unceasingly looks to reinvent instead of innovate the ways in which we think of glamour and dressing, bringing a certain playful experimentation and an edgy quality. Just take the last three looks, whcih were made from thousands of metallic candy wrappers embroidered onto pongee silk. Other pieces were just as interesting, fusing wistfully romantic twenties with the more utilitarian contemporary staples of a trench or a parka. A mix and match of styles that is not for the faint of heart and not exactly haute couture either, but offers wit that anyone can appreciate to its true measure.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Haute couture, haute plaisir - Day 2 in Paris

Day two of Paris Haute Couture debuted with high drama and the theatrical aesthetic of the Chanel show. Like in a gothic fairytale of a damned woods, the models strutted down the runway with organised chaos in their hairdos and dark makeup of some kind of harlequins of the damned. The dresses themselves were rich in details and adornments, with delicate Chantilly lace combined with traditional Chanel tweed, tulle, beaded and sequined flowers and eau de nil feathers - an assortment of visual inspiration, from the great English ladies of the 18th centuries and their drawing room tragedies to the lost swans of Swan lake and a feminine version of Doomsday. A massively impressive collection, which defied both trends and tradition to establish itself as what haute couture is supposed to be - the closest thing to art that fashion allows.

St├ęphane Rolland has often said he approaches each of his creations as if it were a sculpture. Yesterday, he proved to all that he has certainly managed to perfect his craft and vision with an almost monochrome collection so architectural, with lines so clean that they appeared to have gone from sketches to runway without any middle process in between. The shapes felt natural and organic, of refined fabrics like silk and organza, a contemporary view of Da Vinci's concept of simplicity as sophistication. It was a beauty to behold.

There was nothing simple, however, about the Armani Prive show. This was a massive display of creativity matched by a historian's enthusiasm for the beginnings of the 20th century and the riveting mixed heritage of the confluence between Europe and Asia. The gilets, the zouave-like pants and the fez-type hats that every model had fitted to her head, as well as the bold colour palette of rich reds, oranges, and saffron brought to mind the viziers of days of yore. Yet still, the striking silhouettes and the abundance of sleek pants and masculine details were reminiscent of the woman of the 20s and 30s, the strong figure on the brink of emancipation, rebelling against convention and setting out to build her own path. It was eye-catching and beautiful, yet another masterpiece from Signor Armani.

A difference exercise in creativity was Ulyana Sergeenko's new collection. Having stepped out (literally) from a book, her creations were inspired by the great US literary benchmarks of 'Gone with the wind' or 'Huckleberry Finn'. And, as is always the case with the Russian's sense of style, visible in both her persona and her designs, the end result was unapologetically theatrical and of a different era. While, overall, the collection may have seemed like a mere ensembles of costume for a period movie, what pleasantly surprised was the attention to details - the buttons on the back of the gowns were made of porcelain and hand-painted with the characters of Russian nursery rhymes, while beautiful crocheted embroideries drew attention to delicate silk blouses. It's this sense for the subtle that could make the difference for this designer in the future.

Perhaps not exactly what you would expect from the description 'haute couture', but Bouchra Jarrar's collection insinuates itself into your mind and alerts your senses with its casual sensibility and practical modernity. The collection featured a string of gorgeous coats for a wearer with great personality, each with its own detail of difference - an asymmetric closure or collar, an inventive scarf or a a striking bit of fur thrown in for good measure. The cuts of each of the clothes were riveting and the overall feel was one of impact and subversive lust.

In stark contrast, Alexandre Vauthier was all things dark, mysterious, slim and sleek. The night lady that preys on the unsuspecting, the strong silhouette of sexuality revealed and a modern homage to a hauntingly beautiful feminine presence.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Haute Couture, haute plaisir - Day 1

Drum roll, please, because that magical time of the year is here. And no, as much as I did enjoy Christmas this year, it's certainly nowhere close in magical terms to the beautiful weeks of Paris Haute Couture. With a drab weather outside and no hope for an early spring coming around, tell me please, what could be more beautiful, more satisfying or more exciting than to behold the magic of a true interpretation of spring's lightness of spirit by the most masterful of couturiers?

And so it began, proudly aligned with the stars on my birthday this year, the best present of all. And I confess, I am, since yesterday, mesmerized and giddy like a little girl in a fairytale dollhouse. Christian Dior was the first show I saw and it set a great tone for the week, with its fresh outlook on spring classics. This was a collection of subtlety - the subtle merging of minimalism and joyful exuberance, of sharp lines and romantic embellishments, of modern cuts and classic style. I appreciated the deceptively simple lines complemented by the refined reinterpretation of Dior florals, the gentle evolution from the dark colours in the beginning of the show to the strong palette of any rebirth of nature and then onto romantic pastels, as well the marriage of strong masculine elements with the fragility of the feminine.

Giambattista Valli, on the other hand, walked a different road - a collection of sculptural shapes with basic colour schemes and a fresh reinterpretation of the traditional. Valli opened with a stream of classic-cut coats and dresses with a contrasting monochrome visual which felt at the same time dramatic and simple. As the show evolved, so did the aesthetics to a perhaps confusing mix of rigor and an edgy view of the floral patterns associated with spring. This couture collection felt as if it was speaking to a newer, younger generation, which wishes to break away from tradition in a respectful way and craves for a "live in the moment" philosophy in an ever-lasting environment. Contrasting, yet completely appealing.

At the other extreme, Alexis Mabille was a show of frilly playfulness, of girlish craftmanship and whimsical interpretation of couture. The collection was a vision in pink, with the delicate and otherworldly silhouettes of dolls dressed in waves upon waves of sheer chiffon, lace, satin and layers of veil. While beautiful in its attention to details, the collection felt like it was lacking a common aesthetic backbone. But, as it is the first time Mabille is playing at the grown-up table, we'll call it acceptable and await with interest the next game.

Drawing inspiration from the mazes of Tokyo streets and the sobriety of the Japanese society, Christophe Josse presented a collection of intricate embroideries and refined trimmings that adorned a mostly duo-chromatic ensemble. A balancing act of unconstricted lines and an ascetic aesthetic, it was the very apotheosis of simplicity and calmness. 

A bit of Asian inspiration was also visible in Maurizio Galante's work, from the use of traditional Japanese fabrics to the kimono-like details of some of the ensembles, fused together with a bohemian and subtly negligent aesthetic. The clothes spelled freedom and individuality, with an almost antagonistic mix of fluid silhouettes with stricter geometrical cuts and embroidery. An interesting match altogether, without a doubt, but somehow very deja-vu and, as such, not quite what I would call memorable.

Perhaps the most electrifying show of the day was, however, Iris van Herpen's. And a very literal interpretation of the word it was.“Inspired by a childhood dream, a desire to understand control and re-create lightning,” the Belgian designer made a visual impact with her 'Voltage' collection and its presentation which featured a living sculpture with what looked like purple lightning passing through her body. The dresses were a testament to imagination and innovation, with complex designs which seemed to have come from a half-nightmarish future and created the illusion of independent movement. A true sight to behold.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Shoe of the week - Walter Steiger

Walter Steiger's 'Punchy' sandal is the perfect definition of a paradox. It's a delicate and minimalistic sandal on the leg, with a high and somewhat intimidating unmistakable heel. It's convex curve speaks of aggression in a kind of gothic-like atmosphere or, perhaps, in an animalistic way, much like a claw seeking its prey. 

The 'Punchy' clearly packs a punch by its sculptural nature, as well as by its complex sensuality and sophistication. No surprise that it was one of the footwear of choice for a Vogue Germany editorial with Salma Hayek - a powerful woman needs an equally powerful shoe. Walter Steiger delivers above and beyond.

A bit of a special day

Yes, the picture gives it away, today is my birthday :) And today, on such an important day, relaxation and partying are on the menu, along with some pretty fashion thrown in for good measure. Oh yes, and some Paris Haute Couture, as the Fashion Week begins today. Oh, the simple joys of a birthday :)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Jessica Chastain in 'Art Meets Fashion'

If you remember, one of the most disappointing looks at the Golden Globes was, for me, the unflattering dress chosen by Jessica Chastain. And that's because, ever since last year's Oscars and her brilliant Alexander McQueen gown, I've had a secret girl crush on the actress. I love her exquisite natural look, the beautiful shade of red of her hair, the uber-light skin tone and her daring and colourful style choices. Which is why I was so disappointed at the Globes and, then, so thrilled to see her on the cover of W magazine. Better said, on the covers (yes, plural) of W magazine. 

Chastain, sometimes called 'the ultimate muse', lived up to this title as she played muse to four of the most important visual artists of this generation (George Condo, Rineke Dijkstra, Chantal Joffe and Mickalene Thomas) for the W's 'Art Meets Fashion' edition. The results are as different as can be, and, as the actress admitted, the entire process was both interesting and fun: 'I love the feeling of giving myself over to another strong point of view. It’s the best kind of trust - the belief that an artist will take care of me while creating something unique.'

Enjoy! :)