Thursday, August 30, 2007

Am shooting on location all week, with very intermittent internet access, so regular posting will resume soon xx

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Rules of the game

Every time I pitch up to TV Centre to be interviewed on BBC TV World or News 24 I manage to wear the wrong thing. For radio it doesn't matter what you wear: I've been known to wear a sweater over my pyjamas on Five Live late at night (so long as you don't sit in view of the studio webcam no one will know), but for TV it's a whole different ball game.

Obviously I know the basics: no manic Pucci that will distort on screen, either lacquer your hair to your head or pin it up, and try not to wear a top so low the newscaster keeps staring down your cleavage. This evening for Newshour on BBC World I popped on a navy V neck sweater dress: simple & chic I thought. And then had to pull my clip-on neck microphone up under my skirt to hide the wire & attach the pick-up to my neckline, thereby flashing my knickers to the studio. Zeinab Badawi, the consummate professional, was wearing a black shirt & skirt. No ill thought out dresses for her.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Urban welly wearing

In twelve years of London life it never once occurred to me (or anyone else, as far as I know) to wear wellies in town. When I arrived in Manhattan in February it was -10C, & I found it difficult to function outdoors. The wind chill had me diving into taxis: I didn't make it onto the subway once, for fear of frostbite striking before I had walked a hundred yards towards the station. Of course, the Stoic New Yorker just wraps up in an impressive range of woolly garments, down jackets and various furry accoutrements and laughs at wusses like me. But what really, really surprised me wasn't the diverse range of cold weather gear, but the wearing of Wellington boots not just to get to work but as day long footwear. And it turns out that this phenomenon wasn't just restricted to winter. I've seen women walking around in wellies as though they were normal footwear all summer. Have these women not heard of trench foot?

In London, muddy wellies lived in the boot of my car with leads & tennis balls for walking the dog on Hampstead Heath & going away at weekends. Still, given the number of rainstorms that have hit Manhattan this summer, I have decided that it's worth joining in, & lugging my wellies over the Atlantic. (I quite like the idea of prancing down Broadway in my purple Hunters & fur coat. I think I'll have to scrape all the mud off them first.) Of course if I could find them I'd be happier. I've searched the boot room at my parents' house in the country, (a hell hole filed with twenty year's worth of accumulated outdoor gear: walking sticks, boots, bobble hats, smelly Barbours, & knackered old Burberry trenches (from before the brand rehabilitation), looked in the attics, scrabbled under the stairs at my sister's, braved the damp in my garage, and even searched in her garden shed. They must be somewhere. Having my possessions (specifically my clothes & footwear) scattered across two continents is starting to become the major drawback of a Ny-Lon lifestyle.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Perfect design

I first saw these Cinque Stelle Cheese Knives by Ettore Sottsass for Serafino Zani in the Cooper Hewitt, America's pre-eminent design museum. Handmade in brushed stainless steel in the Alpine foothills, north of Brescia, Italy, they are beautifully balanced in the hand. I bought them for A & A's wedding present, along with a pair of Guzzini glass and chrome parmesan jars, also designed by Sotsass.


I've been broadcasting live on Eddie Nestor's BBC London show this morning. The burning question of the hour: A councilman's proposed amendment to Atlanta's indecency laws which would outlaw the wearing of visible underwear in public. What I find most interesting is that in London this is objected to on the grounds that baggy trousers & visible underwear are a marker of anti-social behaviour, whilst in the American Southern states that are trying to legislate on this issue (Kentucky, Louisiana, Texas), it's seen as a sexual, moral issue to have your underwear on show.

Me, I object to it purely on aesthetic grounds. I have absolutely no desire to see anyone's knickers or pants(underwear) peeking over a waistband. A coloured bra strap, a hint of lace at a neckline, or a glimpse of suspender(garter belt) and stocking going up a stair: these things could be considered pretty or sometimes sexy, but a greying elasticated waistband or G string could not.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Hamster on wheel

Coming back to London for concentrated periods plays havoc with my equilibrium. My calm days in Manhattan turn into head-spinning endurance rallies in London, trying to balance work, friends and dull admin. Shooting twelve hour days every weekday means I don’t have any time to go to banks, do admin, make ‘phone calls or do anything at all, or so it seems. Mind you, it's amazing how much one can fit in: I’ve only been back in London for three days but, with 7am starts & a refusal to accept jet lag, I've managed to go through & chase more clothes (what DO 8yd old girls wear?) for our 70 page shoot, fit in two meetings, my car breaking down, an MRI at the hospital, seven PR appointments, editing & packing my winter clothes for NY, a dinner party, a lunch, supper with Miss P, the handing over of chipmunk finger puppets to my goddaughter, and a vist to the Obstetrics Hospital to see J, D & baby Oscar George who is finally out of ICU after what sounds like the most traumatic birthing experience imaginable.

In the whirl of getting everything done it hasn't escaped me that London is achingly expensive, staggeringly cold and hard to get around without a car. My father’s loaned MX5 broke down as I was reversing into a parking space outside Miss P’s last night, and I am still in shock from the discovery that were I to attempt to arrive in the outer reaches of Muswell Hill for a dinner party tonight via public transport from Highbury New Park it would take 1hr45, & involve a ten minute walk either end, plus 2 buses and a train. By car this is about a 20 minute journey, tops. However a minicab wld charge £20/$40 – each way. Instead I have prevailed upon A&A to chauffeur me by bribing them with the promise of their overdue wedding present. Now I just have to find it within the piles of my stuff stashed under my sister's stairs.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Katie Grand named Creative Director at Mulberry

Following the resignation of design director Stuart Vevers, Mulberry has announced that fashion stylist Katie Grand will take the reins as Creative Director of the luxury brand. Katie worked closely with Stuart over the past year and will now oversee the design of Mulberry's men and women's clothing, bags and small leather goods; spring/summer 2009 marks her first full collection for the brand, while Stuart's last collection will be for autumn/winter 2008/09. Katie will remain in her role as Editor-in-Chief of Pop.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Forgive my absence...

Off to Heathrow tomorrow (that'll take all day, but I swear you don't get jet lag if you take the 8.20am flight), and then, after a quick spot of whippet puppy interaction at my parent's in the depths of the country, I'm back to London on Thursday to go through the rails for my shoots next week.

About bloody time too: Mango to stock size 16

Rejoice, international Spanish retailer Mango has finally seen sense: the brand's fashion ranges are now available in UK sizes 6-18, in a bid to make them accessible to a wider range of women. And, to publicise the move, Mango has signed the iconic US plus-sized model Crystal Renn. A generous size 16, Crystal has modelled for Italian Vogue and, during the height of the furore over size zero models, walked the runway for Jean Paul Gaultier during the SS06 shows

I would like to dedicate this blog entry to all those girls who have spotted a pretty piece in Mango, looked in vain for a size 3, only to be told by a dismissive, waif-ish Euro that, "oh zat only comes in sizes 1 & 2." This means that for years Mango have been ordering part of their stock only in a UK 8 (US4) & UK10 (US6). I always thought this was somewhat self-destructive, certainly in the British market, seeing as how 49% of British women are over a size 16 (US12), let alone a UK12. I am a UK12 with a size 16 bust but, as they cut small anyway, I have not been able to wear their clothes for years. (Not a great loss, but occasionally frustrating.)

Of course one understands that certain brands have a certain vision of their customer, but when you are a mass-market, High Street brand, this seems a little, well, picky
Top: Crystal Renn for Italian Vanity Fair March 2004
Bottom: Jean Paul Gaultier SS06

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ritzy rings for urban urchins

I'm not a big ring wearer (stumpy hands), but I do like one well-placed piece that I can wave around at will, and use as a knuckle duster if necessary.

Today I am lusting after two of these rings: the rock crystal & sapphire, and the lapis lazuli & diamond,(I think the pavé pieces are a bit much,) from Ritz Fine Jewellery's new Uni ring collection (Japanese for sea urchin). However at £2000 upwards, they are a little pricey for a girl who always loses all her good jools. Shame.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Post of randomness

After spitting coffee down my front as I gurgled with laughter, I felt I should excerpt here for your general delectation my fabulous friend E's interest section on Facebook. I wish I could write like her - and she's not even a flippin' hack.

"Belgian beers, different types of lettuce (sounds anaemic? - WRONG! lettuce is full of naems), the relative merits and dangers of drinking hair-raising coffee, whether or not it really is difficult to learn Norwegian. Also: poncey contemporary art, Why Publishing Is Going To Hell In A Handcart, the challenges of diminished chords and their tensions."

Busy like a bee

I can't quite believe I am going back to England so soon. I'm away for 17 days, with my shoots taking up twelve of those one way or another, and then Miss P's wedding will account for several more. It certainly will be no holiday: I expect to return as exhausted as I left.

And that is completely my fault for having been out every evening for the past week, although I attempted to calm down yesterday by spending the day with BA lolling about on the Soho House rooftop. Before my first bikini-clad outing there last Spring, I thought it would be all taut models frolicking in the pool and Sex & The City type action, but fortunately everyone looks refreshingly normal, if somewhat more glossy & groomed than they do down Gospel Oak Lido. (It's always reassuring to spot copious amounts of cellulite on a bronzed beauty's bottom.)

It was the first properly hot, sunny day we've had for a while, tempered perfectly by a cooling breeze. Consequently I have a rather fetching patch of sunburn on one shoulder and a rather ruddier complexion than I would choose. Still, the English papers, brunch & an incredibly powerful caipirinha consumed from the comfort of our sun loungers poolside made up for any lingering discomfort. As did the Pimms we drank later at Schiller's. So, this evening, after a huge bowl of pasta at Settipani in Harlem with my most erudite New York friend, Ed Epstein, & joined by Richard Temtchine, I am packing up my clothes, books and 35 pairs of shoes, ready to move to my new apartment the night before I fly to London.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Presents! (Sadly not for me)

I appear to have acquired responsiblity for several godchildren in addition to my somewhat absent place in the lives of the multitudinous offspring & step-children of my beloved friends & relatives back in London, and it has been gradually borne in on me that my role, now that I have buggered off to America, is to swoop down on them all five or six times a year, laden with presents from New York.

This is, of course, an ideal situation: I love buying presents, I get warm fuzzy feelings when I press gifts into their hot sticky paws, they love me unconditionally in return (who says money doesn't buy you love?), and I don't have to deal with the day-to-day horrors of toddler wrangling.

The only drawbacks are a)the cost and b)the breadth of my imagination. Fortunately most of the presents required for this trip are for little boys and I believe that today I found the perfect solution. In just one visit to the splendid shop of the New York Fire & Police Departments on Greenwich Avenue in the Village, I dropped $110.82 on seven T shirts of varying sizes from 3-12yrs old emblazoned with various offical NYPD/NYFD logos, and several sets of die-cast fire engines for the birthdays for which I will be in absentia. (I am partic fond of the NYFD toddler T shirts that say 'Stay Back 200 ft' on the reverse. Just my feelings when presented with a chocolate covered urchin.)

I just have to engage with the little girls' gifts now. I have my eye on some rather splendid fairy tale finger bobs from the most perfect toy shop ever: Dinosaur Hill in the East Village, a mere hop & a skip from my front door.

Barneys Warehouse Sale

Honestly! What a load of cobblers that was. I battled my way through the rain, narrowly avoiding doing a Mary Poppins with my brolly, to West 17th as I had been assured that this was the sale to end all sales. Perhaps I've been spoilt by too many private sample sales but this really did feel like the bedraggled dregs of the season, padded out with the ubiquitous sale racks of unwearable DvF (electic yellow wrap anyone?) and Marc (Hmmm. Been ordering in bulk from Chinese manufacturers, have we?) pieces. And it wasn't particularly cheap either. Discounts were around the half price mark, with the only competitive pricing being on denim - if you could face trolling through the piles of hideous egg yolk colour Acne jeans. Designer coverage for the label slut was good: I spotted Erdem, Lanvin, Balenciaga, Vionnet, Fendi, but not anything I had lusted after at full price, or would have bought at quarter, let alone half. Lots of this summer's wedges and tunic pieces (with which my wardrobe is stuffarama already and which will be dead for next summer), but nothing whatsoever that would have been a clever buy to take your wardrobe through to next season.

If you really must buy a pair of ropey old Manolos for $350 purely because you want a pair in your wardrobe, then the Barneys Warehouse Sale is at 255 West 17th, between 7th & 8th.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The cult of the designer handbag

I would rather tote my belongings in a paper bag than carry a logo splattered handbag or purse. I think they are vulgar, a blatant triumph of aspirational bad taste over common sense. My general rule is: you want me to wear your advertising, then you pay me. I'm a fan of stealth bags: those that are unrecognisable to 99% of women. I want to look chic, intelligent, thoughtful, with my clothes & accessories whispering not screaming.(There's nothing clever or inspired about walking into Gucci or Vuitton to buy a bag that every fashion climber or WAG wants to carry). The only possible exception is a bag from Hermes for reasons so obvious that I don't need to spell them out to you, my fashion literate readership.

Designer bags I do think cut the mustard include Bottega, Michael Teperson, Pierre Hardy & Janet Collin. (I must admit to owning bags from all four). They are beautifully designed and, above all, different from the run of the mill. But I also love my black calf, no label, slouch bag with huge tassels ($70) from Century 21 and my huge rectangular attaché bag in brown saddle leather from All Saints which I use for my laptop.(Press gift but think retail was about £150).

But although I am the first to decry the up-pricing prevalent in the luxury accessories market (we are asked to pay what the houses think we will pay to satisfy our acquisitive, venal natures, not what the goods are worth by any stretch of the imagination), it doesn't stop me from occasionally admiring a beautiful piece of design.

So, here I give you the Smythson Nancy in Taupe for Autumn Winter 07. The collecion comprises three bag designs, all handmade in a luxuriously soft calf leather, with an elegant vintage leather covered clasp, a framed opening, luxurious mauve satin lining and innovative hand pleating. It also comes in dark brown and black and a limited edition white in Los Angeles only.

The three bags, shoulder bag,smaller version and a clutch purse, and have been designed with practical, generous internal pockets allowing one to keep contents organized. The large Nancy is spacious enough to hold everything one could possibly need. However it is an eye-wincing £950... a price that is almost impossible to justify. Although, with luck, it is too subtle to appeal to the flash set, and therefore may be a good under the radar buy.

Balmain's iconic uniform for Singapore Airlines voted design classic

Airline stewardesses uniforms have always been a bit hit and miss, (SouthWest's leather boots & hotpants or EasyJet's hideous orange sweatshirts spring to mind, although I've always had a soft spot for Braniff's Pucci bubble helmet).

But the distinctive uniform of Singapore Airlines' air stewardesses has always been a success and the September issue of Wallpaper* has voted it a Design Classic, dedicating a whole section to the uniform, designed exclusively for the airline by French couturier Pierre Balmain in 1968.

With just a minor tweak in the collar in 1974, Balmain's design, based on the traditional Malay sarong kebaya costume, has been worn by Singapore Airlines flight stewardesses for 39 years. It's a brilliant design: neatly encompassing the requirements of Singapore's multi-cultural, religiously-mixed population.

Wallpaper* notes that part of the allure of the uniform is down to Balmain's insistence that it was fully tailored, not off the peg. To this day, a team of tailors carry out a minimum of two fittings per year and each crew member is provided with four new uniforms per year. Approximately 20,000 kebayas (for all ranks) are tailored annually.

Singapore Airlines are not the only flight crew to wear designer outfits: British Airways, whose staff previously wore Irish designer Paul Costelloe, unveiled Julien Macdonald's pin stripe suits in 2005, along with rather fabulous vintage inspired Stephen Jones hats and Tanner Krolle handbags.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Cretins. They are all cretins

Eurgh. Dating in New York is not my cup of Earl Grey at the best of times, & I'm just really not in the mood at the moment for getting gussied up & selling myself to relative strangers. I miss S still dammit, & would rather stick pins in my eyes than get involved with anyone else right now.

Then on Thursday evening I got a tiny pop up email notification in the corner of my screen. At the edge of my vision I could see it said " Member X, you have a new message from XXXX".

Yes, I admit it. I joined a pretty cool dating site about three months ago here in Manhattan. I've on-line dated in London, and it's as good a way to meet new people as any other. At least this way you get to find out if they can spell before you meet up/bother kissing them. The difference now being that in London I did it because I was bored with hanging out with my couple friends, but here I did it because I just plain missed male company. (And, no, that's not a euphemism for anything else.) Of course I was also curious to see what proper American 'dating' was like, seeing as how we don't do that back home. If anything else came of it, well & good, but that wasn't my primary motivation.

So, after ignoring the message for 20 minutes or so, I cracked and logged on to find an older English guy with a sense of humour. I replied telling him (nicely) that I wasn't dating at present, but if he wanted a platonic drink with a fellow Londoner, to feel free... He mailed back enthusiastically suggesting we meet this evening. I agreed. He never replied... Then this am, 3 days later, a slightly stroppy email asking if I did want to meet him tonight. I replied (nicely) asking if he had received my message asking him for a venue & time last Friday... He hasn't replied...Honestly. All this for a drink with a guy I don't even fancy.

Way In at Harrods celebrates 40th anniversary

Way In was THE destination for the groovy chick in 1967 when it opened as an in-store boutique at Harrods. The Colette of its day, it sold records, had a live DJ & a juice bar, and stocked the hottest brands, which included Bianca Jagger's favourite shoemaker Chelsea Cobbler. The London shoe company clad the hippest feet on the Kings Road, and their shoes are now in the V&A Permanent Costume Collection & in the Bath Fashion Museum. Chelsea Cobbler had my Aunt Amanda & her best friend Richard Smith at the helm, & my sister & I bought her this print from Getty for her 60th a few years ago.

These Silver kid platform shoes with perspex heels sold for about £25, and were shot at the opening of Chelsea Cobbler at Way In, Harrods in 1973.

I remember visiting Way In in the 70's & 80's. I was about 8 or 10, & used to think it was the coolest place imaginable. Unfortunately, in 2007, most regional department stores have more a imaginative trend buy than Way In. The fact that they have a Sharon Millen catwalk show taking place on 23 August pretty much sums up its decline from fashion forward destination into fashion irrelevancy. It's a shame they didn't capitalise on the brand heritage to turn it into a British Colette or 10 Corso Como.

Back to England next week

I'm very pleased to discover that our wonderful Art Director has gone with my recommendation, so I am shooting with Chloe Mallett for two weeks back in England. I've never been a fan of hiring women just because they are women, but I have to say it has been a revelation working with female photographers. I've shot with Julie Adams and with Wendy Carrig over the past couple of years and been blown away by the sheer ease of it all.

This job does mean however that I am missing the first four days of NY Fashion Week. Still, as a freelancer, I can't turn work down just because it coincides with the shows. I'm missing LFW too but, as this would have been my 21st season covering the shows, I guess I can deal with that. Thank goodness for &

(Yes, I do still style occasionally when asked, if you were confused as to why a writer was off to shoot fashion.)

Best fashion dis EVER

The Barrister back in London has emailed me what he believes to be the Best Line In A Film This Year.

"Have you seen 'The Walker'? It's not really worth the effort unless you like Woody Harrelson (I do) who acts all others off the screen (incl Lauren Bacall and Kirsten S-T) but he has the Best Line In A Film This Year.

You have to think it in a camp Virginian drawl. He is describing a meeting at a party with a senator's wife."

'Ah said to huh, "What a be-autiful fabric yo' wearin'. And how luckeh to find SOOO much of it."'

French Connection Autumn Winter 07

Until last summer wild horses wouldn't have dragged me into French Connection. Hideously over-priced & badly made womenswear, an over reliance on their smutty, puerile FCUK logo and a propensity to license the brand to infinity a la Pierre Cardin (FCUK alcopops & condoms anyone?) made French Connection a must-avoid store. But then summer 2005's collection tanked, profits fell, the company took a long, hard look at itself & realised that whilst they may have sold millions (literally) of FCUK logo T-shirts to every tasteless loser in England, they badly needed a credible fashion line to hold the company's reputation. The net result was a hugely sharpened and refined feel, with SS 06 looking good (I bought a silk sundress), and AW06's collection marking an almost unbelievable return to form.

From that collection I bought (at full retail, I'll have you know), a black wool bubble hem winter coat with princess collar, a blue & gold sequin banded mini tunic dress (yes THAT one - but I bought it in August & cld hardly be expected to predict that every celeb from Natalie Imbruglia to Heidi flippin' Klum would wear the bloody thing on the red carpet at Christmas), and a black silk micro tunic with appliquéd roses on the hem & neckline. The summer 07 collection saw British Vogue's Harriet Quick name-checking the store for her personal wardrobe in the July issue.

This winter these three pieces are on my shopping list:

The Isadora dress in merino wool & Tencel £60.00 (I think I may need both)
The sequinned Queen dress £160.00

French Connection sequin dress

And the Tabitha Mary-Jane £85 (In both colours, please)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I think I might stay in Manhattan, after all.

On deadline, but just can’t get my head around my piece. I had a lunch today on the Upper East Side, and another writer there had 1500 words to file for tomorrow morning too, yet she & I were the last to leave, at 5 o’clock, after picking over the bones with our host. Typical journalists.

Really I shouldn’t have gone out at all but when an invitation from my most erudite & charming New York friend appeared in my inbox to “a small lunch I’m having for Barry Humphries & Lizzie Spender on my terrace”, I felt refusal would have been, well, churlish. Fourteen of us (including ravishing Angelica Huston) ate delicious grilled vegetables, German sausages and salad under huge umbrellas in the 95F heat, before convening on the shaded side of the wraparound terrace to eat melon & chocolate cake & to listen to various of the bold-face guests tell anecdotes about other equally bold-face names.

After a week of vacillation and hideous introspection*, this weekend has been so packed with distractions that it’s hard to believe I was debating the wisdom of my flight to America. J’s Baby Shower was charming (certainly not a given when ten women are in the same room), filled with flowers, scrumptious food and genuine goodwill (& very tiny socks). Then to the roof terrace at Soho House to meet BA, & where SE was coincidentally working his way poolside through the Pimms in proper English boy-drinking-fashion. But, best of all, BA turned out to be a proper kindred spirit, a fashion industry girl with beauty, balls & brains who, like me, thinks that a supper of salad, French fries, ketchup & mayo, washed down with three raspberry martinis is a perfectly nutritious and sensible meal.

*I suddenly wondered where the phrase 'hideous introspection' came from. Upon research it appears to be from ‘The Turn of the Screw’

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Cupcake action

I am rather proud of my cupcakes. (It's amazing what a girl can achieve, given a toaster oven, a few lucky guesses and some determination).

(I found the beautiful vintage green pressed glass cake plate for $6 at the East Village flea market on East 11th & A. A bargain, although not a very sensible one, considering I'll have to transport it back to London some day.)

Cupcakes & tea dresses

The scorching sun is back, and with it my good humour. I am off to an afternoon Tea Baby Shower for my photographer friend J in Chelsea this afternoon. I shall be wearing a suitable frock for the occasion: a pretty 1940's turquoise silk teadress with tiny white stars dotted all over it, and a sash.

I'm going to make a batch of iced fairycakes (US: frosted cupcakes) for the tea. I plan to celebrate my weight loss (the misery diet) by licking the bowl out. I think making them will be a challenge, given the lack of cooking scales in the apartment. (I presume this is because of the American reliance on cake mixes. I have never, ever used a baking mix in my life, and I'm not about to start. My mother would blanch in horror.)

I've been wallowing a little this week, feeling a bit disconnected in this odd city but a timely tea (you can take the girl out of England...) with J on Thursday in Union Square reminded me that I do know people in this city with whom I wish to spend more than five minutes. I do wish I knew more men though - not for romance, just for friendship. I have at least four boys in England that I consider to be best friends in addition to my girlfriends and I miss them - and their sardonic take on my life & loves.

Right: to the kitchen....

Friday, August 10, 2007

Knitwear heaven

The temperature dipped a dramatic 20 degrees in New York today, and so my thoughts turned immediately to my winter wardrobe. What I want, what I really, really want for when I'm not wearing next season's skin tight pencil skirts and vertiginous heels are some key oversized knitwear pieces. Particularly these two variations on the sweater cape by Stella McCartney. I'm in fashion love.

Striped wool & cashmere poncho cardigan $1095 IntermixTweed wool/cashmere Cardigan Cape by Stella Mccartney $995 Intermix

The Devil Appears to have Worked at Prada

Jezebel runs this first person account of working at Prada's Soho New York flagship store. Genius.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

New Season's bag shapes

I'm super bored with the slouchy bags of the last few seasons, and welcome the return of the box frame bag, which fits well with this winter's more controlled look. I have my grandmother's black crocodile frame bag in London, which is going off to be refurbished in time for the shows in September, and I picked this little number up a few weeks ago.

I'm not usually a huge fan of Lulu Guinness handbags, (although I've always secretly lusted over the black satin fan evening bag). But I did pop off to the Manhattan Lulu sample sale just before I went back to London to look for a birthday present for T, who dotes on her designs. Of course, I also found myself a piece for $100: this black suede and leather bag from her higher end Couture collection, (which normally retails somewhere around £500/$1000. Bargain.), was from last year's ‘Surrealist eye’ story, (the clasp is a unique piece of jewellery designed by Lulu and made with a fabulous British jewellery maker, Simon Harrison, in London,) but it's perfect to through to this winter. I'm afraid I actually bought two: one for my mother for her birthday too.

Manhattan: living in a sauna

Oh it is nice to be home. The past month has been head-spinningly busy. I left for London for a whirl of appointments and meetings on 20 July, came back to Manhattan for just two days before I left again for five days in Chicago.

After a concerted email campaign, I've found a new apartment in the East Village. One less thing to worry about. As to the rest, I do find myself missing hanging out with S rather too much. Bah. I hate losing friends. Especially when I have only myself to blame: I think I was rather careless of this friendship, and over-reacted to his honesty for reasons which had nothing to do with him, and everything to do with my past history.

Goodness, I am hot. After torrential rain and a thunderstorm that sounded like grand pianos falling down the stairs last night, New York's entire transport system has been comprehensively flooded, and the after-storm humidity means that temperatures are set to reach 100F today. Mozz (who is staying with me until tomorrow), and I are off to the Soho House rooftop pool now in an attempt to cool off.

This week is all about being by the water. Monday at Chicago's North Shore Beach, on the edge of Lake Michigan, under the shadow of the skyscrapers, and yesterday at the Brooklyn Beach, a mere 10 minute walk from Brooklyn Borough Hall. They've dumped tons of sand on the shore, and moored a huge pontoon boat thing some fifty feet high, with a 25ft open air swimming pool inside it. Doing laps looking over the East River to the towers of Wall Street is quite an odd sensation. We walked home through Brooklyn Heights and over Brooklyn Bridge.

Lollapalooza round up

Lollapalooza was a great experience: to be at a festival in the heart of a city rather than the rolling English countryside felt other-wordly. Nice too to be in a bed each night than my battered old festival tent.

Alhough reporting on a festival isn't the most arduous assignment, I even managed to do some unexpected 'work'* at the rather fabulous Lollapalooza artists & performers CKIN2U relaxation & gifting suites at The Hard Rock Hotel. We left laden down with Skullcandy headphones, the delicious-smelling entire CK fragrance range, Calvin knickers & sunglasses, and even new super comfy plimsolls from PF-Flyers, and certainly refreshed by the vodka bar. We spent Saturday night at the private CKIN2U Blender Sessions back there, where I asked the on-site tattoist to touch up my tattoo. He declined - I think I may have been a bit tipsy by then.

As far as the Festival itself was concerned, rather than the being given free stuff bit, dancing like a fool at Daft Punk as the light came down, and the skyscrapers lit up was one of those transcendental experiences. Watching the Daft Punk pair, dressed in their traditional black leather jumpsuits (designed by Hedi Slimane no less) & robotic, LED enhanced helmets, perched on top of a pyramid on the main stage, and illuminated by a staggering light show, I did wonder about the urban myth - started on Popbitch –that Homem-Christo & Bangalter pre-programme everything, hire two guys to wear their robot outfits on stage, and bugger off elsewhere). Still, hearing brilliant mixes of Around The World & One More Time and giggling as they incorporated Stardust’s ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ into their closing mix, whilst we jumped around like Mexican beans in that setting in a huge crowd, it didn’t matter who might have been under those helmets.

We loved & danced to like fools: The Rapture (to get a crowd to dance in the 95F midday sun to your rocking tunes is an amazing feat); The Fratellis, Daft Punk, Electric Six,

We loved and listened to from a prone position (too too hot, too hungover) Kings of Leon, Amy Winehouse, The Cribs (“ We’re from Wakefield everybody”), Satellite Party, Rodrigo y Gabriela, LCD Soundsystem, M.I.A

Disappointments: CSS cancelled at the last minute, delayed at JFK. Modest Mouse, Muse, Snow Patrol (hardly a surprise there), Blonde Redheads, Sparklehorse.

*Meeting the US PRs for the brands I often write about - not often one gets to mix work & play in such pleasant surroundings.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Lollapalooza fashion

It's always chastening to be reminded that so many people couldn't care less about fashion and, judging by the Lollapalooza audience, lots of those people who let fashion pass them by were in Chicago this weekend. Whilst the British media would like us to believe that there is an umbilical link between music and fashion, the evidence at Lollapalooza would suggest otherwise.

There is no way a fashion company would send a trend-spotting team to Lollapalooza as they would at Glastonbury. Ninety per cent of men wore brown-ish knee-length combats, & the women chose one of three generic outfits: jeans or denim clamdiggers with a tight top, short shorts & strappy vest tops, or elasticated bodice jersey sundresses. Mostly accessorised with last summer's bug eye sunglasses & flip flops.

However there were a few people who had engaged with the idea of dressing up:
The girl on the right is wearing her mother's dress, bought in Hawaii in the 70's. Loving the Almost Famous vibe.
This lovely girl from Utah was one of the only people at the festival who had actually thought wearing shorts with something other than a T shirt. Her smock top & shorts are American Rag, and her sandals are Target.

This guy is wearing Original Penguin with quite some panache.
Kimberly is wearing her grandmother's pretty sundress (that makes me feel rather old!)

So, we didn't spend the entire festival slumming it: we managed to drag ourselves to the CKin2u Blender sessions at the Hard Rock. Cocktails. Rock stars. Models. The usual.

I only spotted one guy in skinny jeans in the entire three days we were there. (Scuse blurriness: this camera is not great.)

Okay - so the American Navy aren't really fashion people, but they do look great...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Going loop la loop at Lollapalooza

A grown up rock festival held in a huge city park ringed by skyscrapers, where bunny rabbits occasionally hop over your ankles, is a wholly new experience to an English festival journalist, who has been more used to greeting each festival day by crawling out of a sauna-like tent to queue at a standpipe to brush her teeth, than by popping into Starbucks for a double espresso on her way to catch the subway to the festival.

I'm loathe to describe Lollapallooza as a festival, in the sense that the English would use it. The nearest English equivalent is a three day Party in the Park but with rockers rather than boy bands. When you take the need to camp out of the equation, it means attendees must either live in the vicinity or have the wherewithal to pay for accomodation. This immediately weeds out the more impoverised, and often more amusing & interesting attendees.

There is none of the sense of anarchy that underlies English, and some US festivals. No grown men dressed as pixies, no fairy outfits, no hippies, no dogs on strings. I've seen just two people with dreads. And barely a soul is smoking, discernably drunk or chasing imaginary friends. There is also no mud, a very pleasant change from Glastonbury.

Lollapalooza is about as alternative as a Buckingham Palace garden party. I'm writing this in the AT & T emblazoned aircon open access tent which is full of dozens of laptops with internet access, cell charging stations, Playstations, luxe sofas and plasmas showing sports and live feeds from the main stage. Treating the plebes like VIPs is a remarkably clever way to get your brand across to your target audience.

Most importantly, the music booking & scheduling is intelligent: a clever mix of the good, the bad, the new, the old and the evergreen. It is staggeringly hot though and dancing in the midday sun at The Fratellis was an (enjoyable) effort. We have spent rather a large part the following sets lying under various trees tapping our fingers & toes. Stand outs so far: MIA, The Rapture, & Electric Six. Pottering off to LCD Soundsystem & Daft Punk now. Then I shall be doing collapsing.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Having a magnificent time on the Magnificent Mile

Am in Chicago for Lollapalooza with lovely L. All is going splendidly, and will report back in more detail.

Highlights so far:
33ft high Anish Kapoor silver reflective bean, Gehry open air auditorium & big band concert & 2-5 acre herb garden in Millenium Park in central Chicago.
River tour of architectural monuments & skyscrapers which we spent prone looking up at the buildings & the sky.
Eating a scrumptious chocolate, fudge, brownie, cream & ice cream sundae for lunch.(Sod nutrition)
Broadcasting live to BBC Five Live radio show from my cell in the park on burning fashion questions of hour. (Random & very amusing)

Our accommodation. No blagging of luxe bed for us in five star gaff
The 5am start & resulting sleep deprivation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Camilla Rutherford

Looking for images on-line for a piece, I came across this image of actress Camilla Rutherford wearing 10 million quid's worth of Graff diamonds. I do think she is one of the most classic English beauties. Last seen in HBO's Rome, she'll be seen next in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, due to premiere at the New York Film Festival at the end of September.

It's true! It's true!

Because I have made little or no effort to ingratiate myself into the New York fashion & media world so far, bar obediently trotting off to a few parties and launches, and drinking the odd cocktail at the Gramercy or Soho House, I haven't really socialised with that many 30-something female New Yorkers, and those that I had met seemed pleasant enough in a work setting.

One always reads in the media about how desperate women in this city are to pin down a suitable marriage partner & babyfather, but it always seems so exaggerated. However, it's always fun to be able to do a David Attenborough (watch people in their native habitat), & last night I got my chance at a big dinner, sitting at a table with a group of late 20's - mid 30's single women. And oh my god, it's all true. These women, a very socially mixed bunch, seemed deranged. They talked about their dating habits, their dating rules (exact, set in stone time frames for calls/emails/kissing/sex), how they tracked guys down (tortuously), scoped out pre-vetted particular venues for 'suitable' partners, discussed at what age they should start thinking about sperm donation so that they could meet their Ultimate Goal, & talked about their bizarre requirements in men - even down to (and I really thought this was an urban myth), checking out which watch men wore to assess potential wealth/status. I was utterly gob-smacked. No wonder men here can't be arsed to be in relationships if women make it such hard work, and demand status/wealth and a billion other attributes from their putative partners. (Although I can see that men here can be equally psycho in their behaviour.)

When did all get so bloody complicated? Now I get why there are so many dating manuals originating out of New York. The English model (well, the one I & my friends follow) is starting to seem so much more simple.

It usually works like this: Go to party/pub/supper. Have a few drinks. Snog random interesting boy. (Generally considered to be a down payment on a shag at some point). Meet up a few days later, after lots of SMS/emails. Supper. Few more drinks. If you still fancy each other, go home to shag. Then either never speak again or fall into relationship. If latter, immediately eschew all other male/female options. (This rule generally applies to affaires too.) Failure to comply results in instant dismissal. Male subject wld preferably be able to pay the bills, & not live in fear of the bailiffs, but Patek Philippes, shiny motors & luxe pads are strictly optional.

The complexities of New York dating are enough to make me want to crawl under a rock and stay there.