Friday, June 29, 2007

Family commitments

Both my sister & my mother, fondly known amongst my friends as Mrs Mad, have descended in some state upon Manhattan for five nights. My days shall therefore be filled with shopping, museums and eating. Forgive me if I am a little dilatory in posting.

Off now to worship at the various temples of retail uptown. Specifically the Holy Trinity: Barneys, Bendel & Bergdorf.

The Brodsky Touch

I highly recommend Lana Citron's latest novel The Brodsky Touch, which comes out on 17 July, and features her agent provocateur Issy Brodsky.

For a taste of Ms. Issy Brodsky, click on the following link to hear her read the first chapter of The Brodsky Touch. Or, if the Issy Brodsky Guide to Infidelity is more your cup of tea, check out the Bloomsbury website.

By Marlene Birger Sample Sale




PHONE. 0208 960 6161




Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Do clothes maketh the woman?

Ever since my sister and I used to parade up and down the landing at home, decked in the contents of the dressing up cupboard, we’ve always been obsessed with putting together outfits, and their effect on other people.

I’ve always connected looking good, (that means groomed hair, a lick of make-up, heels, suitable, flattering on-trend clothing), with how people rate both my professional status, and my attractiveness. Clothes and shoes are the arsenal in my personal battle with the world.

What I wear affects my mood, my savoir faire. I need to feel comfortable in, and flattered by my clothes, even if to an observer my heels and fashion forward outfit may be the opposite of comfort. Which is why the discovery this week that boys seem to find me as attractive in a short smock, flats, and hedge backwards hair as they do when I am all dolled up has come as a bit of a shock. Don’t get the wrong idea: I’ve never been an obsessive hair drying, inch of pancake wearing, celeb-copying, matchy outfit kind of girl, but I certainly always make a bit of an effort whether I’m wearing flat boots and a swingy dress for jumping around in a mosh pit at a gig, or eating at Cecconi’s in a swish little number.

The heat & humidity in Manhattan this past week, 95F at worst, has meant that minimal makeup and no hairdryer has been the way forward. It’s too hot to take the subway so I’m walking everywhere in flat pumps too. I’ve had four blind dates in almost as many days, and have schlepped off to each with my damp, just out of the shower hair pinned up off my neck, dressed in a £25 loose cotton, puff sleeve, scoop neck, short smock from COS that I bought in four colourways on my trip back to London in April. I could quite easily be presumed to be in my second trimester. Yet, all the men I’ve met seem to be smitten, and have all asked to see me again, one within 20 minutes of my arrival back home.

This throws my entrenched belief that I need my fashionable armour to be found attractive into disarray. I’m not quite sure how to rationalise this: perhaps I care less over here as to how I am perceived, perhaps I’m more relaxed as there is no pressure to settle down as there is in London, perhaps I look more approachable when I’m dressed down, or maybe it’s just as simple as that men just don’t care as much as I do about what I’m wearing and find a stylish woman as disconcerting as a grubby one….

Fashion comes in all shapes & sizes part two

The move towards a more fitted silhouette has been on the horizon for a couple of seasons: for every twenty trapeze dresses, there’s been a Christopher Kane bandage dress, or a Todd Lynn suit.

And so, of course, with such a drastic about turn in fashion sensibility, the new editions of the fash mags all have pieces on how to update your wardrobe for Fall. If you aren’t in the industry then these nuts & bolts service pieces can be very useful. However, my main reaction upon reading JJ Martin’s piece in July US Harper’s yesterday made me want to throw something (probably my already-feeling-very-dated-and-it’s-not-yet-July Chloé wedges). She tries very hard to suggest looks for women with shapes that aren’t fashion model standard, but fails miserably.

“A sexy set of legs and a thicker midsection demand a short tight skirt( or substitute a slim pencil skirt), and a blousy top with the new puff sleeves”

Is the woman insane? Does she ever REALLY look at bodies that differ from the fashion norm? Sure the pencil skirt is going to show off my legs but, take it from me, the cinched in waist that looks best with a pencil skirt is impossible if you have a ‘thicker midsection’. And if you have great legs then you’ve probably got a larger bust, and the last thing you need is blousiness up top – unless you want to look as though you are in danger of toppling over in a heavy wind. I do wish some fashion writers would do more than pay lip service to the idea that women have different shapes. (Although I must give a shout to US Glamour, who, to their huge credit, do occasionally shoot their swimwear on normal women.)

On-line shopping: my love hate relationship with TopShop

On-line shopping is an addictive past time. It's simple at 3am, when it's hot and humid and sleep is impossible, to idly flick through pages of frocks. And, of course, I always seem to end up at (by way of and all the rest). Although I have a love/hate relationship with the store, and I just can't abide the slovenly approach to PR as practiced by their press office, from 3710 miles away the odd piece starts to seem rather attractive. Although, as suggested in my post below, I should be buying pencil skirts and stilettos for next season, I have at least two more months of super hot, sticky weather in Manhattan and all I really want to buy right now are loose frocks. Still, at TopShop prices this isn't going to break the bank, and the postage is only £5 more to the US. (Although their system cancelled my order twice for no apparent reason, costing me a VERY expensive call back to the UK - hmm, a lot in common with the press office then.)

So I bought, gulp, five dresses, including these two:

Liberty Bell Sleeve Dress. Colour: Vibrant Pink. Code:10Y15RPNK £75

Tulip Flower Tier Dress. Colour: Yellow. Code: 10F31QYLW

Style comes in all shapes & sizes

As a fashion writer I pay huge attention to what I, and everyone around me wears on a daily basis. It informs what I wear, what I write and how I predict trends. This is, of course, a double edged sword. Whilst I like to think I am a good advert for my own personal take on fashion, I’m not sure my non-fashion friends appreciate always feeling like they are under the fashion microscope. I’ve lost of the amount of times friends (male & female), have apologised for their outfits in my presence. Which is pretty ridiculous as personal style is so much more important than being on trend. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a nod to current fashion stories, but I’m usually far more interested in the provenance of someone’s beautiful Kashmiri embroidered scarf, or genius plastic bracelet from Shoreditch Market.

This personal obsession with what I wear means that I can easily spend an hour throwing clothes around my room until it looks like a clothes bomb has gone off in there. However, once dressed, I rarely think about my outfit again during the day: I just need to feel right first thing. Of course, it would be easier if I had a classical ‘fashion’ figure: flat chest, neat waist, hips, but I don’t. I’m that rarity, an apple: lots of breastage, no waist, and great legs, As I once memorably described my figure in British Elle, I have a barrel shaped body perched on golf club legs.

Still, years of practice has meant that I generally know what suits me, even if actually translating that into a wearable outfit is more of a struggle. It’s been simple over the past year or so when all I’ve had to do to engage with feeling stylish is to pull on a loose short frock, but I fear their time is coming to an end. This coming season is all about pencil skirts, cinched in waists, a little volume on top, the high heel.

How not to dress in 2008

I know us fashion bloggers all like to provide pocket run downs of fashion how tos, complete with illustrative photographs. So, I thought this short guide to what the hip male will be wearing in 2008 might be of interest....

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Cyclone: an easy way to lose your dignity

The Cyclone Coney ISland

This, my friends, is The Cyclone, the wooden Coney Island rollercoaster. A mere 35 mins subway ride from the East Village, and built in 1927, it's one of the oldest rollercoasters in the US. The relatively small area that it occupies has meant that The Cyclone has become famous worldwide for its exceptionally steep and twisty ride.

Within a couple of seconds the cars reach the first 85-foot, 60 degree drop. I sceamed continually for the entire one minute and fifty seconds that it took to travel the 2,650 feet. Horrifyingly, the ride's top speed is 60 mph. At least I can say I've done it now. As can PS who was staying with me last weekend on a 3 day escape from London. I had to eat quite a lot of ice cream on the beach afterwards as an aid to recovery.

Picture above: Astroland - the Coney Island amusement park

Manhattan dating

NY life continues apace: hot, busy, hungover. A few hilarious dates. The most note-worthy? That'll have been with the irrepressible B who I invited to a party to celebrate the fabulous English fashion house Preen’s 10th year anniversary at the Soho Grand last Monday.

After pitching up 45mins late, he told me that my witty text messages were the reason I had secured a proper date. (Ooh prvileged me.) That would be an actual organised evening out as opposed to the ‘fancy a drink darlin’ SMSs round midnight that he had been favouring me with until I texted him back to tell him to invite me out at an appropriate time or bugger off. Then he wanted to know how many other guys he'd be competing with for my attention as he was a busy man and didn't like to bet on uncertain prospects. He then spent the rest of the evening delivering a cracking series of cheese-tastic lines, including the absolute winner: “I just want to steal some sweet kisses from your delicious looking lips.”

I do have the most bizarre time here. On Saturday night I ate mushroom quesadillas & drank too many frozen margaritas at a French speaking supper with JSL & AC at La Esquina in Nolita, a cavernous and dark bar that is so stealth hip that it is hidden downstairs through an anonymous steel door marked Employees Only in a taqueria. The brasserie is then reached by running the gauntlet of two separate bouncers, each radioing ahead through the Stygian depths as you approach the underground checkpoint, finally walking you through the busy kitchen to reach the bar/eating area. I spent the Saturday before taking the guys from a very famous 90’s rock band out to Soho House (not so rock 'n' roll but it's where they wanted to go) and then hanging out in their hotel room 'till 5am. (My mate is their label boss & asked me to entertain them as she was sick).

Gianfranco Ferré dies aged 62

Gianfranco Ferré died in Milan of a brain haemorrhage yesterday evening at the age of 62. One of the towering figures of fashion, he was best known for his extraordinary and beautiful variations on the white shirt. The Ferré woman was always chic, elegant and restrained, even when wearing his signature full skirted evening gowns.

Born in Italy in 1944, Ferré received a degree in architecture in 1969, but began designing accessories a year later. Ferré started his own company in 1974, and began his signature collection in 1978. His early architecture training informed his personal aesthetic, and he was often referred to as the Frank Lloyd Wright of Fashion. He once described his personal philosophy as, "I use the same approach to clothes as I did when I designed buildings. It is basic geometry; you take a flat form and revolve it in space."

In 1989 he was Bernard Arnault's surprise choice to replace the popular Marc Bohan at the quintessentially Parisian House of Christian Dior, and his appointment marked not only the beginning of the strong Italian influence in French fashion, but placed him at the vanguard of the renaissance in Italian fashion, providing strong competition to the traditional French hegemony. He remained at the house for eight years, leaving in 1996, and then concentrating on his own label in Milan. He won the Occhio d'Oro Award for Best Italian Designer six times.

Agent Provocateur founders honoured for services to knickers

Agent Provocateur Co-Founders Joseph Corré and Serena Rees have been named MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for services to the fashion industry. Hear hear I say.

It’s easy to forget that the reason there is pretty, sexy, colourful underwear on the High Street is directly due to the influence of AP. Until Rees & Corré launched the label twelve years ago, lingerie shopping was pretty much confined to one of three places: Marks & Spencers & other department stores etc for black & white basics, little boutiques or Soho sex shops.

AP’s confident and powerful celebration of a woman’s sexuality filtered down to the High Street: their genius was to make it perfectly acceptable for a man or a woman to buy a filmy fuchsia peephole chiffon bra without looking like they were coming over all smutty.

Betty Jackson was also named CBE for services to the fashion industry, and Brian Godbold, a former chairman of the British Fashion Council, was awarded OBE for services to fashion design.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Jimmy Choo to launch first fragrance

Will the perfume license madness never end? Luxury shoe brand Jimmy Choo has announced that its first fragrance will debut in the Spring of 2009.

Whilst I understand that Jimmy Choo has become a major luxury goods brand, and that Tamara Mellon’s recent equity sale necessarily means an expansion into related markets, I’m wondering about the relationship between shoes and fragrance. I mean delicate florals are hardly the first fragrance notes that come to mind when thinking shoes…


Ooh hoo – I’ve been tagged. I’m rather chuffed, seeing as how my blog has only really been in proper existence since March this year. Take a bow lovely, lovely Mrs Fashion. (For those of you who are rather confused, tagging is a way to connect different blogs, usually by way of a questionnaire.) Here are my answers to the burning issues of the hour.

Three Things That Everyone Thinks Are Gross, But I Think Are Cool

Big knickers

You may laugh but I bet most girls over a UK size 12(US8) have several pairs lurking in their lingerie drawer. Whilst I appreciate the work of the 1970’s feminists in releasing us from the bond of the obligatory girdle, (after all who wants to wear a panty girdle in the summer?), I say elasticated knickers are a bloody genius invention – not just because I have a bit of a tummy issue – but because a lot of pieces just look better over a smooth silhouette. Next season’s sexy pencil skirts for a start. And it's not just curvy women who harness the power of Lycra.

That Roland Mouret Galaxy dress that the press went bonkers over a few seasons ago? Constructed with super max, hold it all in power net so the dress practically stood up on its own. By sucking everything in, it was guaranteed to make any woman look amazing in photographs; it’s no wonder it was so popular. John Galliano also bangs on a lot about the importance of foundation garments for many of his pieces for Dior. Bottom line: if you are investing heavily in a designer piece, for Christ’s sake, wear the appropriate underwear. (Although I must admit that on occasion I secrete a properly sexy pair of black lace AP knickers in my handbag, and rush off to the loo to do a quick change should there be a possibility of anyone other than me seeing my undies.)

Blind dates

Until I was commissioned to write a piece on internet dating I thought a blind date was A Very Bad Idea. Fast forward three years and, in between proper boyfriends, I’ve now been on 32 blind dates and counting. I like meeting new people (except at parties) and, at the very least, it’s always amusing in some way. Internet dating I’m still suspicious about, but if a friend dangles a new boy prospect, I’m so there. I’ve never met a boy I wanted to go out with this way but I’ve made some great friends. In fact on my very, very first blind date I met PS. He had enough nous to realise I was better friend than girlfriend material and, two years later, we are the firmest of firm friends.

Airline food

Perhaps it’s just the orderly little plastic trays and dinky glasses, and that flying makes me ravenously hungry, but I love eating on ‘planes. I went through a phase of taking delicate sushi meals in addition to my gallons of Evian on ‘planes in the manner of a fussy starlet and eschewing the hot meals, but I just ended up eating them as well. And the ice creams during the film (bless you Virgin), and those weird tasting Worcestershire sauce flavoured bags of pretzels. Yummy.

Three Things That Everyone Thinks Are Cool, But I Think Are Gross

Fashion parties

I really, really hate them. In fact, make that all parties convened in order to celebrate something by a PR: film premieres, product launches, fashion show after-parties. The whole damn kit and caboodle. Firstly I have an enormous fear of having to go up to talk to complete strangers. Secondly, they are no fun whatsoever. I know this sounds churlish as the patina of glamour surrounding such events makes them seem desirable but, trust me, no one is really, really enjoying themselves. Nine out of ten people are being paid indirectly to be there in some capacity, whether it’s the celeb on the junket tour for their movie, the D-Lister trying to raise their public profile, the PR making it happen, the hack snooping for a story, the model looking for a boyfriend, the modeliser looking for a victim, the magazine publisher or fashion editor there to ‘support’ the advertiser and/or designer, or the freelancer looking to network. And everyone secretly wants to have their photograph taken. The only people having a good time are under the 25 yr old assistants who can afford a hangover and whose peers are also getting legless on the free booze, who have no children or husbands, and aren’t jaded old boilers like myself. (Of course, I’d be mighty pissed off I wasn’t actually invited, but that’s another story…)


It’s not the connotations of the grape that I dislike, although it is the toe curling choice of many classy birds on the pull, & I know that it’s what properly amazing white Burgundy is made from, etc etc. But I just don’t like it very much. So there. (But I can’t resist a chuckle or two when I hear gormless girls saying they don’t like Chardonnay and promptly ordering Chablis (same grape darling).)

Lip gloss

It makes your hair stick to your lips, usually tastes disgusting, and boys hate getting sticky gloop smeared over their faces when they kiss you. A thoroughly counter productive ‘beauty’ aid if I ever I saw one.

I tag:
The Main Point
La Blonde C'est Moi
Gastro Chic

I would have tagged Je Ne Sais Quoi and The Glossy, but Mrs Fashion got there first!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Manhattan bulletin

Manhattan is sunny again, which is a relief: reviewing rooftop bars is no fun at all in the rain. The only flipside is that I have a week of concerted bar going to get through in the name of research. My poor, poor liver.

Aside from the detrimental health effects of my latest commission, everything else is good. JSL is bouncing around the apartment (he’s staying for a few days) looking like he is suppressing a lot of unholy glee at the news that his screenplay went into production in Spain yesterday. An adaptation of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, it stars Mena Suvari, Jack Houston, Caterina Murino, & Richard E Grant.

Last night I took JL to Soho House for the latest in the Grand Classics series: Kevin Spacey introducing Preston Sturges’ 1941 film, Sullivan’s Travels, starring Joel McCrea & the ravishing Veronica Lake; a pointed tragi-comedy about a director of musical comedies who wants to direct socio-realistic movies. Bumped into Poppy & Daisy de V, with their mother, & L afterwards. After supper I cabbed it to the Lower East Side to The French Diner, then was persuaded to 151 Rivington, a dark, deep & dirty basement bar, to meet more people. So much for a quiet Monday night: in at 1-ish.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Are White Rabbits the best unsigned band in America?

Take out your stopwatches a la Alice in Wonderland, and start counting the minutes until this new group hits the big time.

White Rabbits may well be the best unsigned band I’ve seen play live in years. I’ve made it to several gigs this month, amongst which were The Kooks at The Fillmore (still breaking over here, small venue, not as strong live as I had hoped), and Arctic Monkeys at the Hammerstein Ballroom – terrible sound, static crowd, enormously disappointing and, apart from CSS's stellar showing on Friday, was getting used to underwhelming live sets in this city.

Hopping along to White Rabbits on Saturday night at The Bowery Ballroom at the very last minute (I’m late, I’m late for a very important date) my expectations were somewhere beneath ground level. Unsigned band, tiny venue. The only reason I levered myself off the sofa of death was that I was invited by my friend A who has immaculate taste (but then she does own a properly good indie record label.)

They describe themselves as purveyors of honky tonk calypso, but this doesn’t even begin to describe their (seriously credible) sound. With two lead vocals, plus frenetic piano playing, and extraordinary layered percussion (two drum kits, maracas, bells, tambourine,) it all melds into a glorious, uplifting noise. Although it’s hard to keep track as the band members hop around the stage swapping guitars for maracas, and drums for keyboards and goodness knows what else. A band this comprehensively talented makes their live performance an absolute joy. The anoraks will appreciate their musicianship, the girls their (extremely) good looks, the press their charm & manners – and everyone will love their live infectious energy and chutzpah.

Their debut album, Fort Nightly, has just been released here and, on mutiple plays so far, I reckon it’s one of the albums of 2007 already. If you’re in London, they play at White Heat @ Madame Jo-Jo's & at Water Rats in June, and they take to the Q Stage at Glasto. GO, go go….

Dancing, drinking & raining.

The condensed nature of this island, combined with cheap cabs and a 24hr subway system makes an evening with four or five engagements a breeze. In London, where it takes an hour to get anywhere, and a cab costs on average $30 a ride, an evening can feasibly only contain one event, unless one has a very large expense account or bottomless pockets.

Take Friday night: I had my first ever frozen Margarita (delicious) before a private view at Pierogi in Williamsburg, dropped into the US launch of Moleskin’s chic - & useful – City Guides at the Art Director's club (loved Zadie Smith's personalised version), and then lovely L & I went to see Brazilian dance rockers CSS play at the Fillmore @ Irving Plaza. I'm glad we caught them at this tiny 500 person venue: they play Wembley Arena, supporting Gwen Stefani this summer. The set was so frenetic that even the Concession stand girls were dancing on the tables during the encore. We loved them: an energetic, funny, sexy dance rock hybrid with a huge dollop of latin sex.

High as a kite from dancing endorphins, we checked out The Park in Chelsea for a piece I’m writing on rooftop bars,(beautiful garden, good drinks, lovely manager) told the not so cute boys hitting on us that we were lesbians, and then finished the night off with way too many Martinis in the Games Room at Soho House. Crawled home by way of Pop Burger.

It is therefore all the more admirable that I managed to haul my sorry ass down to the Bowery Ballroom to see White Rabbits play last night. More of the astonishingly good Rabbits later.

After a week of complaining about the weather, it’s now bucketing down. I have a supper tonight in Nolita with TvB, a French photographer who is in town to shoot for US InStyle. Guess I’ll be taking a cab…

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Coincidences & connections

What a week. Apart from sweltering in the heat (although I have been told countless times that I am experiencing a delightful New York spring, and that when summer comes then I’ll reminisce fondly about the mild weather back in May), I have been glued to my keyboard during the day, and managing to drink my bodyweight in vodka in the evenings.

I finished David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten, a first novel so brilliant I despair of ever writing anything so interesting, elegiac, evocative and just so damn good. It deals with coincidences and passing connections across the world. It was an apt book to read here: my life in New York consists of a chain of my own (rather more banal) coincidences & connections.

On Thursday JSL asked me to join him & Elizabeth Wurtzel for supper at Fish, in the West Village. Elizabeth is now studying for a JD at Yale School of Law and is in New York for the summer as an associate at an NY law firm. She’s both fiercely intelligent and very attractive. By happenstance alone, sitting at the next table were three of my NY English friends, (including T, a model so gorgeous that men’s jaws drop when she walks by).

Other connections this week: P, the sexy boy I met at A&A’s wedding emailed to say that he had stumbled across this blog through Google; another reminder that any person one mentions on a blog will eventually read your comments. Good thing I was (rightly) very complimentary about him. Elizabeth wrote this cogent & timely piece in the Wall Street Journal on the implications of speaking one's mind about other people's characters on-line.

On Saturday I had a blind date with M, a photographer whom I met on line. We discovered that not only does he shoot for the magazine for which I was an editor for five years, but that I had actually produced several of his US based stories back in 2000.

We met for coffee for a couple of hours at The Bean. It’s the first date I've been on where I was equally dating the datee’s dog, but I think I passed muster with the dog. I had got off to a bad start in an email complaining about minute, over-pampered dogs in Manhattan, expecting that one day I would accidentally impale one on a stiletto whilst marching down Madison. He then mentioned his Chihuahua. He's not my type, but he’s great company, and we hatched a plan for a story driving a Bentley on an iconic drive in the US (Bentley have offered me any of their cars to drive/write about if I have a suitable travel story in the US).