Very pleased to see in the papers today that Mayor Bloomberg ordered a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit goods in Manhattan's Chinatown. I'm always disgusted by the number of thoughless, sheep-like tourists for whom this seedy section of downtown is a Mecca. There is nothing clever about buying ridiculous aspirational fake goods, the profits of which go to fund organised crime, drug trafficking, prositution, child labour and sweatshops.
The massive pre-dawn raid on the three-building strip along Canal Street resulted in the seizure of about $1 million worth of fake brand-name items, including sunglasses, watches and handbags with imitation Coach, Prada and Rolex labels from 32stores in what Mayor Bloomberg called "one of the most notorious knock-off shopping malls in the five boroughs."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Very pleased to see in the papers today that Mayor Bloomberg ordered a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit goods in Manhattan's Chinatown. I'm always disgusted by the number of thoughless, sheep-like tourists for whom this seedy section of downtown is a Mecca. There is nothing clever about buying ridiculous aspirational fake goods, the profits of which go to fund organised crime, drug trafficking, prositution, child labour and sweatshops.
I have many Australian visitors to this blog (hello Caz & Gervy in partic), so this piece of news is for you all.
Following in the steps of Stella McCartney's widely hyped line for Australian Target, WGSN reports that Zac Posen is the next international designer to create a discount range for the store. The autumn/winter range will arrive in selected Target stores from April 3.
Posen described the 20 piece mini-collection as "colourful prints balanced with more architectural and structural pieces", with the price entry level fixed at AUS$49.99. There is also, in a somewhat tacky celeb-tastic move, a $299.99 copy of the fishtail hem evening dress created for Katherine Heigl's Emmy awards appearance last year.
The collection also includes fitted high-waisted pants and asymmetrical skirts with matching suit jackets, cocktail dresses with brocade trim and elaborate shirts that echo the looks of his high-priced designer line.
It remains to be seen whether Posen's usual reliance on expensive fabrics and complex cutting can translate to a very cheap diffusion range - we all know what happened when Temperley made the attempt in the US. Still, the chance to reach out to an entirely new market in Asia-Pacific must have been irresistable and, with the predicted downfall in revenue for American houses, due to international currency fluctuations, Posen will have jumped at the chance for a slice of corporate cash.
Image: Zac Posen mainline AW08 style.com
If I don’t find a few hours get to the launderette tomorrow, I’m going to be going to the gym in a leather pencil skirt, and hanging out in a floor length evening dress in my local dive bar.
One of the most curious things about living in Manhattan is the lack of washing machines in the apartments. And I don’t just mean in Village walks up either. Even the ritziest buildings have laundry rooms in the basements - BA’s classy UES apartment is washer-less – although she does have a completely unnecessary dishwasher.
I do get that laundry rooms in buildings are quite social, and a good way to meet your neighbours but, frankly, I don’t want to bond whilst I’m sorting through a basket of dirty knickers. And I can promise you that there are no Nick Kamen lookalikes in my local laundry.
Whilst it’s true that many apartments are based on the shoe box principle, there’s no reason why a washing machine couldn’t be squeezed in somewhere. Hell, considering the woeful number of single women in this city who can’t even turn an oven on, I can’t understand why they don’t just ditch the cooker for a washer/dryer.
Lots of people rely on the cheap as chips service washes in the launderettes on every block but I’m not a big fan of getting my clothes shrunk to fit. Some women just send everything to be dry cleaned but, apart from the fact that most of my clothes aren’t tailored, the savage environmental and fiscal costs are a barrier for me.
So, I have to block off an afternoon every fortnight or so to go to sit in the launderama on First and wash everything. It takes at least four machines: two for my sheets, towels & whites, one for darks, & one cool wash for tights, wool and bras. It’s such a waste of time but my clothes are precious to me, and I can’t stand seeing them abused by bleach and boiling.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I could be all po-faced about the Sex & The City movie, pointing out that there isn't a lot to admire in a series that posited that a woman's main obsessions in life are shoes and finding a husband, that a woman must be judged solely on her fashion sense regardless of the arena she inhabits, that neuroticism is obligatory and anal-obsessed naval gazing is the norm.
But that would be to imply that I didn't enjoy the series, which I did, enormously. What annoys me is that SATC has become another stick with which to beat thirty-something women. In an ideal world, men would never be allowed to watch it, to avoid them taking it seriously (why do men seem to treat it as a documentary?)
Anyway, preamble over: here is the full-length trailer that was released on Friday. The movie is released May 30 in the USA.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Tatler has announced the promotion of Anna Bromilow to the role of Fashion Director with immediate effect; former fashion director Charlie Anderson has recently returned from maternity leave and has taken up a new role of Contributing Fashion Editor. Additionally, Olivia Falcon has been promoted from beauty editor to Beauty Director replacing Antonia Whyatt, and Deana Goldstein has joined the title as Watches and Jewellery Editor; Deana formerly worked with Lucinda Chambers, Fashion Director for Vogue.
Three things go towards making a successful red carpet look: the dress, the actress and the stylist who oversees to the total look.
Continuing with my bad styling theme for this year's Oscars, I present Kate Beckinsale:
1)beautiful actress, 2)interesting dress, 3) appalling styling.
This was a year of understated glamour, subtle embellishments and low key dresses at the Oscars. If there were trains, they floated rather than swooshed, colours were muted and breasts were contained. These were dresses for actresses rather than models, and what a refreshing change this made.
Sure, some commentators called this year’s red carpet ‘safe’ and ‘boring’, but we are in danger of forgetting one salient fact: these are professional woman who earn their living from acting rather than fashion, a truth that tends to get forgotten in today’s celebrity saturated culture.
As the fiscal aftermath of the writer’s strike continues to hit home for many in the industry, provocative fashion choices would have been in bad taste, and most of the red carpet attendees seemed to have taken this on board. That is if they walked the red carpet. This was the year when eschewing the crowds seemed cooler than ever, with several presenters, including Penelope Cruz only appearing in front of the cameras for the first time when they arrived on stage.
Several key styling truths seemed to have been ignored. Take Anne Hathaway in one of the only statement dresses on the red carpet, a somewhat over the top scarlet Marchesa creation: her stylist seemed to have forgotten that when putting a celebrity’s look together, it’s vital to shoot her before the event from every angle, including from the ground up. In several shots she looked almost pregnant, with billowy arms and rather too much blousiness going on.
Cameron Diaz needs to buy a hair brush, and engage the services of a make up artist: over the age of thirty acting all breathless and deshabillé at a red carpet event is no longer charming, it just looks kinda slutty. It would also have helped to have had her pale pink Dior frock fitted properly. The rolls of back fat squeezed over the bodice (on a slim woman) were an appalling slip up.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
If your tights drawer is filled with pairs that you, um, liberated from shoots, then it's probably best to check to see if they are giraffe sized before you go dancing in them, otherwise you will spend your evening hoicking your tights up from around your ankles where they will be wrinkling in folds, just like Nora Batty's.
Or maybe better still, get your assistant to tell a couple of the tights PRs that the model is abnormally short, say 5'6", and will require size medium, rather than size extra tall...(Only for the more amoral fashion editors out there...)
Image: Nora Batty from Last of the Summer Wine
Friday, February 22, 2008
This is the first time that I’ve been in the US for the Oscars, and I’m amazed by the levels of excitement. I guess the time difference in England means it’s difficult for people to get worked up about a show that happens in the middle of the night.
Back in London, I’m one of the only two people I know who actually stays up all night to watch it, usually snuggled under a duvet in my nightie and bedsocks, with lots of chocolate & popcorn supplies. The other is my film director friend, but she has a daughter now, and sleep is precious.
Until this year, I've always been a guest on BBC network radio the next morning to discuss the red carpet fashion, so I’m rather looking forward to not having to pay such close attention this time. And, even though I do have some copy to file for Monday morning, at least I have ten hours to do so, rather than the five I get in England because of the time difference.
There are so many Oscar parties here in Manhattan, but I’ve plumped for the Soho House one, darling. They are putting up screens on the sixth floor clubhouse, and running a red carpet viewing from 6pm. It’s member’s only, but two of my friends are members too so, between us, we have nine guests. The plan is to bags a corner where we can ensconce ourselves and do eating and gossiping.
I’m hoping that there will be something as beautiful as Reese Witherspoon's friled silk jacquard Nina Ricci dress this year.Apparently Olivier Theyskens actually made two similar versions of this dress to take to Los Angeles, each one with those intricate hand tucked frills. The hours of workmanship for each dress must have been quite extraordinary. (There’s a frilled dress with a similar technique, if you want to get up close to one, on show at The Met’s Costume Institute show on now.)
Oh cobblers. It was dark & I was tired & hungry when I left St Vincent's, so I hopped into a yellow cab back to the East Village, leaving picking up my bike until tomorrow. (It's still chained to a lamp post in Soho). There is a massive storm warning for tomorrow, with up to four inches of snow expected. Sigh. That's going to be fun.
Picture added afterwards: it really did snow!
Image: Taken from my bedroom window on my cameraphone - pls excuse the quality
I spent the day with an old colleague, a friend from Vogue House. We met when we were very young, willowy blondes, rushing around in black twinsets, pencil skirts & high heels, tending with the fierce dedication of youth to the important needs of the Very Important Men whom we assisted. Now she is something Very Important at a Very Important magazine and I, well, I write.
Today didn’t go quite as we had planned. Lunch was planned for 1pm at Mercer Kitchen in Soho. I chained up my bike around the corner from the restaurant, stumbling slightly over the cobbles in my heels as I stepped up to the entrance.
Seated on a rather nice corner banquette, facing into the room, I could see the truncated legs of other diners through the banisters as they came down the two flights of stairs into the basement room.
I thought I had spotted X’s glamorous legs when they suddenly disappeared; five seconds later there was a stupendous crash. The bottom of the stairs was hidden from view by staff, and I wasn’t sure what had happened. The whole restaurant was discreetly trying to look, but when no one appeared to get up, I became worried and got up to look, incurring disapproving glances from the next table who thought I was rubber necking.
I found X crouched on the floor, by a pool of blood, spitting out bits of teeth. The stairs had no treads and she had slipped down the second flight, falling head first and breaking her fall with her chin. Management, with prospective lawsuits swirling around their heads, called the EMTs, tended to her wounds and filled out forms.
The charming, over worked EMTs strapped us into a St Vincent’s ambulance, and took us to the ER. I now know for sure that American accident & emergency departments are not staffed by George Clooney and his ilk.
We spent all afternoon there. I was crazy with worry, but adopted a slightly scatty, babbling air, to try to cover up the extent of my concern.When they put X in a neck brace I started to get really worried. Fortunately her CAT scan showed a jaw fracture but no spinal injuries. She’s now been injected, prodded, sewn up, IV’d and examined, and I was relieved by our lovely friend O, who sat with her whilst the IV antibiotics & painkillers did their job. I had to eat. She’s been discharged and is, I hope, going to heal soon.
In a restaurant famous for its celeb clientele, I bet that was the most dramatic entrance they’ve ever seen.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Ten reasons why I love & worship my little sister:
1. She lets me sleep on her sofa when I come back to London. even though I am super messy and it drives her bonkers
2. Animals love her, and she brings out the best in them
3. She lent me the money for my plane ticket when my credit card screwed up
4. She’s not very well, but she’s the bravest person I’ve ever met
5. She colour codes her sweater and T shirt shelves, just like Benetton
6. She made me pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, just before I got on my plane
7. She’s incredibly loyal, supportive, enormously kind, thoughtful & generous
8. She loves Chinese takeaway almost as much as I do
9. She tells me when my skirts are too short or my outfit sucks – I trust her taste implicitly
10. She’s trained the babydog to roll over on our feet for tummy tickles
But the most important reason of all is because she’s my best-est friend, not just my sister.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Oh God it is soooo cold today. I looked out of the window, saw bright sunshine and assumed it was another warm-ish spring day. Nope. Got that one wrong.
I was running a little late for an appointment with the PR for The Gramercy Park Hotel, so I didn't have time to run back (Run? Who am I kidding? Crawl) up the four flights of stairs to get my ear muffs & a sweater once I was outdoors, realising that a silk cami, lightweight frock and coat weren't really going to keep me that warm on a bike.
By the time I'd got to Gramercy Park and was chaining up my wheels, I thought my ears might drop off from cold. Still, I whipped on my heels and tottered into the lovely warm hotel, past the ever present paparazzi (who ignored me, as usual). I was just on a reconaissance mission, but I swear if I had been reviewing it today, it would have got ten out of ten based purely on its central heating and open fires. (Actually it does get 10/10 for its fabulous and HUGE rooms, attention to detail, the the sexy bar and the exceedingly hot staff)
As I was unchaining the bike after our meeting, and changing from my foxy footwear (navy patent platform Mary Janes), into grey studded flats, the cutest guy stopped and said, "Hey cool transition. You look great". Ah. The power of the unsolicited compliment.
He carried on, and I whizzed past him at the next set of lights, narrowly missing a truck. That would have been seriously uncool, (transitioning from hot chick to strawberry jam).
One of my most intelligent readers, Suzanna Mars, commented on here earlier today that, "Blogging still hasn't quite come out from under the mantle of perceived amateurism. It also isn't largely understood and in many instances is seen as suspicious (as well as miasmatic)."
Her comment came back to me when I read a New York Times article which concerned a Target's PR's refusal to engage with a query from a blogger, and included this gem:
“Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets.”
I do find this utterly extraordinary on many, many counts. This means that in one fell swoop Target are refusing a dialogue with the internet in all its forms: streaming, blogs, on-line versions of print magazines, forums, on-line radio & TV stations. Do they have any idea of the reach, both potential and actual of the 'non-traditional media' audience?
In Target's case I find it more extraordinary in that their key shopping audience, the mother & housewife tends to be very engaged with the internet, both on terms of on-line retail and through blogging & forums.
If there is a more short-sighted example of corporate policy extant then I have yet to come across it.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
It was a Bank Holiday here in Manhattan (President's Day. No? Me neither.) yesterday, so I nipped up to the UES to visit The Metropolitan Museum's blog.mode:addressing fashion exhibition at The Costume Insitute.
It was not what I expected. It's certainly not an exhibit that has anything whatsoever to do with fashion blogging, rather a chronological display of some iconic pieces from the archives.
The darkened galleries have some truly exquisite pieces on display, from two 18thC panniered silk dresses to a Madame Gres goddess dress, through Galliano's deconstructed dress for Dior and a Theyskens frilled confection for Nina Ricci. Beautifully curated, the notes included direct quotes from some of the designers.
There is no open access standing collection at The Costume Institute as there is at London's V&A museum, so this is a rare chance to see a very small sample of what is held by The Met. This in itself would have sufficed as a reason to open up the galleries to the public but, in an attempt to appear all post-modern, they have centred the show around the idea of visitor comment, installing a bank of computers so that visitors can engage in a debate upon the merits of individual items in the show, with a new image posted daily. The blog is here.
Surely museums should be doing this anyway, regardless of the exhibit? Using this as the focal point of the show seems like a pretty spurious reason for getting out some glorious, but unconnected pieces from the archives.
I was also unamused to discover that no merchandising had been produced in conjunction with the show, which does rather prove my point.
There are currently over 80 million blogs in existence, and quite a few discuss fashion. You'd have thought that someone might have gone, hmm, I bet plenty of those fashion bloggers would like a poster of the show's publicity shot?
An American museum missing out on a revenue opportunity? That's news in itself.
Thank God the cold snap seems to have finished, and I can go back to just three layers under my coat, rather than five. I even managed to venture out on my bicycle yesterday: admittedly it was only as far as Blockbuster for Bones DVDs (my new obsession) but, still, it felt like a valid effort.
I never thought that I'd be a Manhattan cyclist, but I've taken to it like a duck to water, relishing the speed & ease with which I can get around the city. I am, however, on bike no 4, owing to their propensity for getting nicked from the lampposts to which they are chained. At $100 a pop it's not a tragedy, but what I do mind is that the locks that they saw through cost the same as the bloody bike.
I did learn a valuable lesson on Saturday regarding bike maintenance. I got on the bike to whiz down to Prada and within a block was huffing & puffing like a grampus. The bike felt heavy, my heart was pumping and my lungs were screaming. I was aghast at my unfitness.
Then I looked down: my front tyre was flat. I felt such a girly idiot. $5 later and the bike shop had reinflated both tyres and raised my seat. The difference! And I got the pyschological boost of discovering that I am not quite as unfit as I had thought.
So it seems like the end of an era: Dolcis, the British High Street shoe shop, which can trace its history back to a barrow trader in the 1860s, is to disappear from the High Street.
The news isn't surprising: the brand went into administration last month, and ninety stores closed immediately. Footwear company Stylo, which operates the Shellys and Barratts brands, has aquired Dolcis. They intend to run the stores for three months, after which ten will be rebranded as Barratts and the remaining 85 will close.
Dolcis is another casualty of the price squeeze in the middle market: fellow High Street store Ravel folded last year. With the advent of low priced, highly fashionable shoe ranges at Primark and New Look, which shift milllions of pairs a year, the market for shoes of similar quality but at prices 25 % higher was almost totally eroded.
It hasn't helped that the above clothing stores, along with most of the Arcadia Group (Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Principles), plus Zara, Mango etc all now sell shoes alongside their other retail offers, thereby reducing the need to visit separate shoe shops.
Fifteen years ago, this wasn't the case. Dolcis & Ravel were perceived as fashionable, part of the very limited shoe choice on the High Street but, as our access to fashion has become increasingly democratised, so our desire to buy more fashionable and cheaper footwear has increased. Dolcis was left flailing in the wake of a huge industry change, with no brand identity and an aging customer.
Image: Dolcis advert 1931. Available to buy from Prints-online.com
MAC have never run shy in their collaborations with musicians, designers, celebrities and models. The latest additions to the stable are the Heatherette team, Trevor Rains and Richie Rich, whose new, hot pink packaged, limited edition range (unsurprisingly called Heatherette) launches in April.
Inspired by life in a big city, it offers two looks: Good Girl By Day - Shine and Rise and Bad Girl by Night - Sparkle like a Superstar on Page Six, and includes lipstick, lipglass, eye shadow, dual-edge eye pencil, glitter, pigment, beauty powder, nail lacquer, and false lashes.
Personally, whilst I'm not averse to Sparking Like A Superstar, I can certainly think of classier places to do it than on Page Six.*
*The New York Post's salacious, and widely read, gossip column
Monday, February 18, 2008
I live in Manhattan, where single people neither cook, nor is there an expectation that they will do so. I find this strange as I cook a proper meal at least once if not twice a day in London. I brought my knives over with me, but discovered that the kitchens are so tiny here that it’s usually just simpler to eat out or order take out. (It’s not just Carrie Bradshaw who keeps her cashmere sweaters in the oven, in her (abnormally large) apartment)
Thing is, after several months here, I’m fed up with eating sub-standard takeaways (& they are generally extremely bad), or with spending most of my income in restaurants. (Originally I was excited at just how cheap it was to eat out here and it is, but do that every day and it soon mounts up.)
So, I girded my loins and decided it was time to cook for my friends, to bring a little bit of London to New York. As BA craves Indian food, like all English expats, and Americans J & F love spicy food, curry seemed good. I biked up to the Union Square Greenmarket, and nearly killed myself on the way home, wobbling down 2nd with my vegetable-filled calico shopping bags hanging off the handlebars.
I don’t use cookbooks, (they're for reading in bed), preferring to cook from memory, adapting recipes in my head to suit the season and the contents of my cupboards. I tied on an apron over my tailored black wool short shorts, kicked off my 4" patent Mary Janes, sharpened my Globals and set to work.
I poached mushrooms in fried onion-enriched coconut milk with coriander, made a chickpea curry, using mashed potato (it thickens the sauce) and tomato puree with garam masala paste, and composed my favourite spinach curry soup. thickening it with coconut cream to make it less soupy. Finally I stir fried chiffonaded curly kale in a very hot wok with chilli oil for a couple of seconds, melted butter to pour over warmed through naan breads and made raita.
Pudding was plum studded cupcakes (I made up the batter in the autumn & froze it), baked in the toaster oven, with vodka cocktails with mango or blueberry purees. (We were going dancing afterwards).
I'm glad I made the effort, as the girls arrived with Ketel One, pink & yellow roses and dressed to the nines. We lit tea lights, arranged the flowers, and ate the lot. Who says fashion girls don't eat?
Standing in the middle of the temple to retail that is Rem Koolhas’ Prada flagship store in Manhattan, I was struck yet again by the dichotomy between the brand image that Prada would like to present, and the consumers who actually keep the label afloat.
I was there to return a pair of shoes with a broken heel and, as I waited for ten minutes or so for the problem to be dealt with, I propped myself against a pillar and watched the shoppers milling about the store.
It was evident that nobody was interested in the women’s’ clothes, and that shoes, sunglasses and small leather goods were the biggest sellers. Most striking of all were the customers, who were dressed down with their designer label bags and sunnies clashing against Ugg boots, tracksuit bottoms, down jackets and parkas.
Of course this was the Soho store on Broadway, which is always going to attract rubber necking tourists but, even taking this into consideration, I didn’t spot a single customer who looked like they had an interest in Prada beyond the status symbols it could offer.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Oh the bliss! I flicked on the telly just now and was gobsmacked to see Jennifer Ehle in full Regency fig as Elizabeth Bennett in the BBC's classic version of Pride & Prejudice. Even better, it was as they arrived at Pemberley and Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) appeared dripping wet, burning up the screen.
Be still my beating heart.
(Turns out it's Jane Austen season on PBS. That's my evenings sorted then. It's the Andrew Davies Sense & Sensibility next.)
Popping out this evening for essential supplies (papers & chocolate), I couldn't be bothered to change out of my leggings and T shirt. I shrugged on my parka and, with my bottle-end glasses, no make up, my long blonde lhair piled inside a woolly hat and my scarf pulled up to my nose, I looked super scruffy and totally unrecognisable. However I obviously took it a bit far because, as I passed the bar on my corner, two boys began speculating about which actress was incognito beneath my disguise.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today I am not well. Unfortunately this is because I have a hangover, so I deserve no sympathy, flowers or chicken soup. This is what happens when one doesn’t drink for two months: two Tsing Tao & a couple of cocktails over the course an evening and I am royally plastered.
I am writing this from my bed, as prone as one can be & still type. John Humphries is burbling away on the Today programme in the background (you can take the girl out of England…), there is a cup of steaming Earl Grey and I am about to heat up last night’s Chinese doggy bag.
The cause of my ills is threefold. Pretty Miss J was celebrating her birthday (again) at Tapeo 29, a great tapas bar on the Lower East Side, where I had just time for a large glass of a very good Tempranillo before marching through the LES, & down the Bowery to Chinatown for supper with lovely Lola.
The dressing up fairy had dictated that I wore my black washed silk Geren Ford mini dress with high heeled black patent & leather ankle boots which ensured good calf muscle exercise but very sore feet by the time I arrived to find poor L, my flatmate, sitting disconsolate and alone in HSF, the restaurant we were supposed to be eating in. We hopped it sharpish - way too odd being the only customers in a brightly lit dining hall, and went round the corner for Shanghainese dumplings and scallion pancakes instead.
After those we ordered so much food for the five of us that it barely fitted on the Lazy Susan, (squeaky fresh bok choy with lots of garlic, crispy duck, spring rolls, tofu and black mushrooms, sesame beef and more, more) so we turned up at Death & Co in the East Village, my favourite bar in Manhattan, with a rather large placcy bag of leftovers. Glamorous, me.
They make serious, serious cocktails here. No vodka on the premises. Ice in huge lumps hacked off with an ice pick so your drink stays properly cold and not too diluted. No carbonated muck. Just very strong, very good, slipping under the table cocktails. I recommend the Fresa Brava: jalapeno-infused Herradura Silver tequila, yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, strawberry. It kicks like a mule.
I think I might have a little sleep now.
Christ Giles gets my goat. He continues to show in a space too small to fit in the majority of the press, yet fills his front row with fashion irrelevancies. Last season it was David Walliams, Margo Stilley & Savannah Miller, this year it was Lily Allen, Bee Shaffer, Francesca Versace and Kimberley Stewart. And what do they all have in common? They are the spawn of famous people. And let’s fine that down: people who famous for having a career of several decades, not several seconds.
Today’s published sharply falling ABCs (magazine circulation figures) are being put partly down to the public’s dwindling interest in D-list celebs. Please, please let that be true.
I don’t normally use this blog to flag events, (Do I look like Time Out?), but London’s Book Slam, hosted by the ebullient Mr Patrick Neate, in my ever so humble (wring hands) opinion, is probably the best literary night in the world (hyperbole? Me, never). I first pottered along to Cherry Jam some years ago when my fabulous friend Lana Citron was reading from her new novel, and stayed to be shock & awed by Patrick Neate’s poetry, some very good folk music and more readings.
Now it’s become so popular it’s moved from Cherry Jam to a nightclub, Neighbourhood, off Portobello, and has got all shiny and grown up with a swishy looking website, an oh-so-popular podcast and literary & musical names to make you swoon, (Zadie Smith, Dave Eggers, Adele, Nick Hornby, & Kate Nash amongst others.)
Next Thursday, the 28th February
This month they will be celebrating the advent of an eerily early spring in the company of cultural correspondents including (in Patrick Neate's own words): -
JULIAN GOUGH, author of the hilarious and plain brilliant 'Jude: Level 1' and winner of the National Short Story Prize, no less. He's flying in from Berlin.
ZUBZ, one of African hip hop's most innovative wordsmiths, jetting in from Jo'burg.
JAMES YUILL, a singer-songwriter at the forefront of new folk. He sings, he writes songs, and he rights wrongs. He'll taxi it cross town.
SALENA GODDEN,punk princess, poetess and high priestess of exorcising excess. She's also the author of the forthcoming 'Springfield Road' and she may be on rollerskates.
Plus, back from a bout at her majesty's leisure (he's a taster), DJ ILS.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Poor New Woman. First they tired to rebrand it by calling it NW, so no one recognised it on newsstand, and now publication has been suspended for a month-long consultation process, following Bauer's long rumoured purchase of Emap's UK Consumer Media section, (which also includes Heat, FHM, and its commercial radio stations.)
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
This is the shoe of the summer. £20 at Topshop. Slightly unfortunate that it's going to look very wrong on a lot of women. Do not even think about it unless your legs are up to it.( No point in diminshing the allure of your assets.) There is nothing more unflattering than an ankle strap chopping up your silhouette, giving you tree trunk calves. (I include those fug ugly mid calf boots in the dodgy silhouette group too: I have one word. Trotters.)
Can anyone help me by telling me the names of some of those websites that let you put together entire top to toe looks by pulling pictures of individual pieces from lots of different fashion websites?
This is a genius piece by interview doyenne Lynn Barber of The Observer about the mechanics of British Vogue. (To gain maximum enjoyment, you need to know that Ms Barber is the other side of fifty, larger than a Voguette, grey and completely uninterested in fashion. She is also probably the best feature interviewer in the UK.)
I still find it hard to get my head around the fact that people other than my cheerleading family & friends read this blog. I know I'm a writer in the real world, but there I'm being commissioned to write pieces that editors know (hope) will be readable. My meanderings here are something else...SO to discover that this blog has been voted Best Fashion Insider's Blog at the 2008 Fashion Bloggers Awards was wonderful. To be nominated and voted for by my peers makes the FBAs even more special. Thank you!
So when, in addition, darling Nonsense on Stilettos and IndigoAlison gave me a Blogs That Make My Day Award I came over a bit Gwyneth at the Oscars.
So sod it, I'm not going to try to be clever or esoteric about this. I'm just going to tag the people I speak to the most(in the real & online worlds), because (brush away tear), blogging is about the community, and you do all Make My Day:
Their Majesties, Queen Michelle & Queen Marie of Kingdom of Style (esp for this post)
Clever girls Susannah at Le Style Sauvage and Riz at Mode et Utopie
Fellow anonymous industry insiders Disney Roller Girl and Mrs Fashion
Probably the best fashion blog out there, Susie at Style Bubble
The erudite & always charming James Scott Linville at The Main Point
and last but not least, Down by the Hipster for being so thoroughly useful
Monday, February 11, 2008
I was supposed to be guest-listed for Mansion on Saturday, Manhattan’s new swishy super-club, which has opened on the site of Crobar. Unfortunately my jetlag got the better of me and by midnight I was practically face down in my supper.
I had pottered off to a post Fashion Week birthday supper at Bobo in the West Village. Bobo was briefly hip for a few weeks when it opened last autumn – until people actually tasted the food. With a new chef (make that two: Rick Jakobson & Jared Stafford-Hill) taking over five weeks ago, it’s upped the ante considerably. (There’s not a just a new menu, but a new front of house team too, including the very good Andy Vaughan as GM, newly arrived from Soho House.)
Hidden away on a junction in the West Village, with no signage - and no indication it's a restaurant, Bobo's two floors are shabby chic, lit by candles and seemingly populated by very beautiful, underfed people. (The restaurant has become a firm fashion world favourite, & is currently recovering from hosting Vera Wang’s Lavender label show and umpteen fashion house dinners during NYFW).
Where the old chef, Ducasse alum Nicolas Cantrel’s menu was supposedly Pan-European but read more as American Modern/schizophrenic before, the new carte shows considerable restraint and reads well, with a strong emphasis on seasonality and, frankly, deliciousness. Although our charming waitress said the restaurant was French, it doesn’t read much like any French menu I’ve seen in Paris of late, with more in common with London restaurants like Hereford Road right now.
Having seen the piles of salsify at the Greenmarket that morning, it was especially pleasing to see it here in abundance, especially in a delicate, but sharply dressed salad of winter vegetables. Plump and fluffy ricotta ravioli were well paired with trompette des morts and little pieces of cauliflower, whilst a simple plate of jamon de serrano showed that great ingredients don’t always need bells and whistles. I was eating with girls, so pudding was one textbook creamy and cool semi-freddo with hazelnut macaroon and coffee (I think – I was practically asleep by then), six spoons and a birthday candle.
I’m going back again when I’m not so bludgeoned with tiredness that I can't actually eat a sensible meal. I want to go through the interesting wine list properly, which seems to indicate a sure hand in the cellar on first read. It’s just a shame that so many fashion people eat there: food like this deserves some proper trenchermen.
I never thought I’d be the kind of girl who wore a knee length fur coat, but it’s so bloody cold, that right now it’s the only thing stopping me from contracting incipient hypothermia. All my other coats are somewhat truncated, and it was wear the fur or get frostbitten knees.
The weather in this city really is schizophrenic: it was 60F on Wednesday, and now weather.com says that it is -8C , feels like -17C. I’m finding this hard to comprehend. I mean, that’s seriously COLD (for a girl from London). And I have promised to go to Williamsburg today for a tour around the neighbourhood with my designer friend F, for a piece I'm planning to write. My usual working MO is to stay indoors all day: how could I have been so short-sighted as to arrange to go out on the coldest day of the year so far?
Sunday, February 10, 2008
New York's Page Six magazine* described Boots as 'the hip UK chain store' today. Boots may be many things, to many people, but the word to describe Britain's largest chemist/drugstore, known for dispensing old ladies' pile medication, prescribing hearing aids, and selling support stockings alongside Ruby & Millie cosmetics and Chanel scent is eclectic. Not hip.
*the USofA's homegrown version of The Sunday Times Style mag
I am a woman of habit: when I find a dish I like to eat, I make it every day for a week. With outfits, the same. Since I have arrived back in America I have worn a navy washed silk Geren Ford blousy mini dress over grey tights , heavy grey knitted wool over the knee socks and chestnut brown round toe stack heeled boots with gold zippers. When I go out I wear a sand mini trench by Nicholas K over it all, with a brown satchel strapped across my body.
These clothes are not black, these clothes are not soignée. They are young in spirit, and they feel like me and my life in Manhattan. Hanging in my wardrobe, though, is a visible reproach, a reminder that there is another life of sophisticated dates, dinners and dancing with which I no longer engage.
There are rows of black clothing: elegant, complicated, expensive pieces for a life I no longer lead.
There is a rail of pencil skirts in butter soft leather, fishtailed taffeta, broderie anglaise, tweed, even rubber. An evening dress of floor sweeping chiffon hangs next to an abbreviated taffeta tunic, a pailette covered shift brushes up to a beribboned velvet cape. Evening bags in satin, feathers, brocade are lined up on the shelf, next to sequinned hats, and plumey fascinators. Thirty, forty pairs of heels stand to attention, shoes trees in, polished and waiting. There are no flats.
I work in fashion. It is a given that I use my clothes as a language to signify to others my status, my aspirations, my personality. But I work from home now. My Vogue House days are behind me. I don’t need these clothes any more. In part I have bought, and continue to buy for the woman that I used to be, the women with whom I used to work.
And now the pieces hang, unworn. Unless one is Dita von Teese, a pencil skirt in the evening is difficult to pull off; likewise I am unlikely to go dancing now in a floor length dress. A Chanel tweed skirt is not ideal on a bicycle, and if I turned up at a gig in a silk voile cocktail dress I'd feel out of place. Still, these pieces crossed the Atlantic with me; to have left them behind would have been to admit that my life has changed, that I am different now.
Friday, February 08, 2008
After a morning dealing with my backed up post, I foraged desperately in the kitchen for lunch. But as month old yoghurt and a couple of butternut squashes weren’t looking that appealing, I hopped to Queens on the V train, drawn by the siren call of inexpensive Indian food. (I’m fed up with paying Manhattan prices for my grocery shopping: real estate prices here mean that everything pretty much seems to double on this side of the East River.)
Unlike in London, where council housing was built on bomb sites and on the foundations of Victorian housing stock throughout the inner city in the aftermath of the Second World War and the '60s slum clearances, (next to Harrods as well as in Dalston), Manhattan’s accommodation doesn't have an ethnically diverse occupancy. (In London I have Somali, Bangladeshi, Indian, Chinese and Ghanaian familes on my street, and my local supermarket stocks food from all these countries.)
In the past thirty years, or so, recent immigrants from Asia & Central America have eschewed Manhattan, preferring to settle in the other, more affordable four boroughs in their own ethnic areas. Chinatown remains the last bastion of ethnic culture on Manhattan, yet even here rents are being squeezed. From the top of Central Park down, Manhattan can feel curiously, disconcertingly, white compared to London.
Walking through Jackson Heights, I see one other blonde in the two hours I am there. The area is split between Hispanics and Indians, with banks the only representatives of big brand America. There are gold jewellery shops, Asian supermarkets, sari & kurta boutiques, Mexican food carts and Indian beauty shops. Sometimes I feel distinctly out of place, as though I am a tourist in someone else’s culture. But that's not to say I feel unsafe here. Quite the contrary. This is one of my favourite places in New York.
I head to 74th Street to Patel’s Grocery Store, and immediately am back in my comfort zone. I could be in any local supermarket in London here and it feels more familiar than Whole Foods with its anally retentive organic crunchiness. Loading up with paneer, coconut milk, masoor dahl, basmati, chana, amchoor, haldi, jeera, I sneak some imported-from-the-UK Patak’s pastes in too for lazy moments, and then chat with a old lady from Gujarat about the freshness of the coriander whilst she picks me out a bunch.
Being surrounded by food inevitably makes me ravenously hungry and I slip next door to The Jackson Diner for chili-spiked saag paneer, dahl makhani, raitha and sensational fluffy, butter drenched garlic naan. I read my guilty airport copy of Hello, feeling thoroughly English and completely at home. It’s food that links us to places, far more than geography.
I am back home in the East Village just three hours after I have left. It does me good to be reminded that New York isn’t just yellow cabs, the Empire State Building and shopping.
Page Six.com reports today that Kirsten Dunst, the current face of Miu Miu, has checked into rehab at the Cirque Lodge in Utah, most recently home temporarily to Lindsay Lohan. She’ll be joining the new face of Calvin Klein, Eva Mendes, who checked in just last week.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
So having slept all afternoon like a hibernating dormouse in a nest of cashmere shawls on my bed, I spent a glorious hour dancing between the bedroom & bathroom having an almighty primping session, the likes of which I haven’t indulged in since my birthday at the beginning of December. I'm not really engaging with NYFW, as I'm still not wholly well, & fashion weeks are a recipe for illness (you are continually hungry, tired & sore of foot)so only going to events where I personally know the PR, or designers.
I wore this dress with my black suede and patent ankle boots, and 120 denier black Wolfords. And felt mighty glad of it when I arrived at Aziz, a Moroccan lounge in Midtown, for the Nanette Lepore after-show party. I always forget how badly the majority of fashion people dress, especially in New York. Waaaay too many sequins for my liking and everyone in dull colours. I may have looked like a rainbow threw up on my dress, but at least I was making a nod to current trends. I’m so used to London where people really do follow fashion in a quirky & individual way that it’s easy to forget that it just doesn’t filter down so quickly in America.
Fashion week parties like this are always fun. They aren’t full of celebs and models; they’re more of a way to reward the hard working teams who put the shows together, so they are always most amusing with lots of hair letting down. We drank delicious Belvedere white cosmos and did some dancing. The party ended at midnight (as fashion parties always do – the venue is happy to host parties in the 8pm-12am period, but then they kick everyone out for the paying customers).
I actually sloped off earlier to head downtown to what is supposedly Manhattan’s most luxurious, newest and hottest lounge/club/whatever, 1OAK (stands for One of a Kind). (More of this later.)
The wonderful English men’s shoemaker Oliver Sweeney is intent on taking America (and rightly so), and to that end was throwing an exclusive Fashion Week cocktail party there (until midnight!) along with a young English bespoke tailor.
Who just about nixed his chances of being included in the feature I am writing on English tailors in America for a Very Large newspaper with his stunningly rude behaviour last night. The truly lovely Oliver Sweeney PR took me over to meet him, and we talked about his business and Savile Row. Then the owner of 1OAK came over with some badly dressed, but important guy, introduced him, ignoring me (even though we had already met), and then the three men drew together, with the tailor literally turning his back on me: he & I had been mid conversation and I was just frozen out, & left standing there outside their circle like a muppet. I waited a few minutes to see if he was going to turn back to sign off our conversation, but no.
I was so angry that I left the party. I had trekked down to Meatpacking from Midtown for his American launch and, frankly, journalist or no, expect some politesse. Not impressed sir. You’d better learn some manners if you want to grow your business.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
i'm jetlagged, hungry, not yet unpacked, but very happy to be home. I got in at 11.30last night, but didn't hit my bed 'till 2am, as the combination of customs, a tortuous wait for baggage and an exruciating ride home took forever. My fault tho - owing to my new found notions of thrift, I decided to book myself on the door to door shuttle van ($24), rather than taking a cab ($70), which meant the journey took an hour instead of thirty-five minutes. Still, it's not like I was in a hurry.
Yesterday really was the day for decrying being a single traveller: humping my 100lbs of luggage onto the check-in scales as my trolley tried to escape in the opposite direction, being asked (in all seriousness) by the customs guy where my husband was (I replied - that'll be the imaginary one then), and then having to scrimp on a cab as I was alone. Sigh.
Added to which, I live in a fourth floor walk-up, and it took me another 20 minutes to lug my three bags up the stairs, as I cldn't bear to wake poor L from his beauty sleep at 1.20am. (He had offered, bless him.) Gah.
But regardless of all that, I am thrilled to be home, even if I have been asleep all afternoon rather than working/organising my life. ( I have four HUGE piles of post to open for a start.)
Now I really need to go unpack, so I can find something suitably fash-on to wear tonight to some NYFW parties this evening. And where did I put those fake eyelashes?
Monday, February 04, 2008
Today I’m feeling…confused. And not feeling the love for the corporate on-line world that is trying to infitrate the blogosphere. Received an email from some random guy at askmen (huge, nothing special, testosterone-filled, on-line mag) offering to trade links with my tiny fashion blog. Odd.
They also wanted me to link to a news-y piece they were running, pegging Catherine McNeill as the upcoming model to watch. Apart from the fact that I ran a similar piece on Miss McNeill nearly a year on ago this blog (just before Testino put her under contract), why does a mid-market on-line magazine, aimed at men, with overtly male-friendly, women as objects, content, think I’d be interested in sending my readers to read an uninformed piece of page filler? My intelligent & informed bloggers are hardly going to consider them as an expert source of opinion, especially when it's not her work in the fashion industry that they are interested in...
(They didn’t help their cause when, following my jokey reply, pointing out they were a bit slow off the mark on the news front, and attaching a link to my own year-old story, the guy replied all miffed, saying:
" Yes well im sending you our feature page on Catherine McNeil with the possibility of a link exchange, no need for unnecessary insults"
Right. That's obviously what I was doing. Personally insulting him. Obviously.
Surely it must have occurred to him that if (ethical) bloggers are going to link to features they need to be pertinent, interesting, relevant AND up to date?
(And now here's a proper insult for him: Dimwit.)
Saturday, February 02, 2008
I'm continually amazed at how much work people put into the blog community. Props of the day to Jen @ Maholo Fashion, who is running this year's Fashion Blogger Awards. The list of blogs nominated, and those you can vote on, makes for fascinating reading. It's also a little daunting to realise just how many splendid fashion blogs exist. So, if you read me regularly, I am super grateful, now I see how many of us there are out there! LLG xx
Ps Thank you everyone for nominating me for Best Fashion Insider's blog! Wow! I'm dead chuffed. And I'm in great company too.
Friday, February 01, 2008
Oh I am in two minds. I've had this Jaeger £100 voucher, (we were given them at a press day), kicking around for well over a year now, and I still haven't found anything I actually really want to buy. The collection seems to never quite hit the nail on the head, and most of the okay-ish pieces are about £250, and I'm certainly not spending £150 on something I'm not that bothered about. If I don't use the voucher, I'll inevitably lose it so I was thinking that maybe I'd buy this bag which is knocked down to £99 in the sale.
I've already got my black Janet Collin Vivienne bag which is huge, so a smaller black bag could be useful for when I'm not carting my life around with me. Plus it's got no branding or logos on it, which is a very good thing. Hmmmmm. Of course, the real reason why I'm umming over this is in case something amazing appears down the line. But I've checked out the SS lookbook and I see nothing there...
The sheer volume of releases and new product info that lands in my inbox each day is daunting. I do read everything I get sent, but unless the sender has specifically asked for a response or for my advice, I just do not have the time to individually respond.
Which is why I do wish people wouldn’t stalk me for a response: it’s pointless and aggravating. If the product is good enough, I’ll write about it or shoot it eventually, either in the real world or here on my blog. I'm also not fond of releases that have a whiff of hubris about them: if the product is good enough, let it speak for itself.
Thank you. Grump over.
It's been strange being back in London, but not really feeling well enough to do much more than eat my way through a Creme Egg mountain and play with the hound. I've seen relatively few friends, confining myself to the odd supper or lunch in people's homes, with just a couple of outings.
Last week I hopped across town to Soho House's East London outpost, Shoreditch House, for a drink with a friend of a friend. He writes the tell-all, very funny and faintly obnoxious anonymous Cityboy column in The London Paper. I got to hang out with the charming, urbane and generous man behind the construct, rather than Cityboy. Thank God.
SH was crawling with, ahem, celebrities, although I use the word lightly, given that we are talking about Daisy Lowe, Mika and the cast of Shameless. Ms Lowe, in a mini crini and thigh high socks, was being filmed for some BBC documentary at a PR supper in the private dining room.
Cityboy pottered off into the night, & I went onto dinner in SH's Kitchen Dining Room with an old schoolfriend, where we were served some of the worst restaurant food I have eaten in London in years: gluey cauliflower soup (minus the listed truffles), soggy pizza, over cooked broccoli and uncrispy school dinner roast potatoes. The menu was curiously absent of anything that sounded delicious for either carnivores or vegetarians. I thought the whole thing shameful. And expensive.
We perked up when my NY ex-flatmate, the glam stylist Miss JD, appeared as if by magic at our table, fresh from the meal with Miss Lowe. A lovely surprise. And then we bumped into fashion photographer Chloe Mallett whom I shot with last Autumn. A quadruple friends bonus of an evening, which sent me off home with a welcome skip in my step because, if I had flogged across London purely to eat that rubbish* food, I would have been stomping home (via the chippie).
*High class reviewing term