Sunday, 29 June 2008

Living in a glass house

Competition is a part of life; there really is no escaping it. From fighting the sweaty suits for a seat on the tube, to stepping over a colleague for that elusive pay rise – you really have no choice but to participate or you’ll simply be left standing and struggling to pay the rent.
I do however have a genuine fear of competition based on one’s appearance. Beauty contests, talent quests and bride of the year style events tend to frighten me. Actually I try to stay as far away from any type of competition or pageant as I possibly can. Considering I now write on a public space open to criticism and negative comments and the fact that I spent a good 80% of my childhood on the stage, I am unsure of how I can justify this phobia. Regardless, fashion competitions always seem to evoke a knee shaking, hand trembling reaction from me.
While some women say they dress for themselves, others dress for the man in their life. The most astonishing for me are those women who declare they dress for other women. The thought of dressing for a special event with the intention of being scrutinized and criticized by other attendees makes me super uneasy and somewhat squeamish. I have always dressed purely for myself. I dress for the fun of it and I dress because it makes me feel special. I know full well that the boyfriend does not appreciate every outfit I arrive in. I also know for a fact that now and then he thinks ”what on earth is she wearing?”, but if it makes me feel good, I wear it.
As you all know just recently, I attended the fashion race day of the year and lets be honest there was some hefty competition on that field. In the lead up to the event, I was very much looking forward to the style stakes including the royal crowd with their royal bank accounts, conservative suits and designer headwear. I knew I would be in the presence of many stylish ensembles, but in planning my own outfit, I didn’t allow myself to be swayed by what others would be wearing. If there is one rule I always follow, it is that my event attire is styled by me and styled for me. I may ask the opinion of a sales assistant, a flat mate or send a quick Iphoto to my Mum for approval but at the end of the day their comments will not reflect my final decision. If I like it, if I feel special in it, then in my eyes, it’s a winner!
When putting together my outfit for Ascot, not once did I consider that I may be ‘judged’. Naïve perhaps? Maybe…… We all know that women judge women, whether we are vocal about it or not. But choosing to be judged is another matter. Wearing a number and standing on a platform while a group of women in large hats judge who they think is the best dressed is quite unnerving for yours truly. This is not to say that I don’t completely appreciate (and possibly envy) those who have the courage and self-assurance to put themselves forward. A family friend recently stood at the top of the fashion dais at an exclusive race day down under and by my standard she looks simply stunning. She is however “a winner” in all she does, a true achiever and a champion at many things. This young beauty is old hat at winning fashions on many a field and has been Belle at many a ball. I think she would put Kate and Chelsea to shame with this outstanding black and white combination. Kudos to the ladies who line up to be judged. I could only hope for this type of confidence. This year at Ascot, I was happy wearing my frock minus the line up and wrist number. Besides, I would have got sun burnt up on that podium.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

End of an era

As of late July the in/famous Cornucopia on Tachbrook St in Victoria will be no more. Sadly, this treasure trove of vintage goodness is closing. At this point there is no exact date and no apparent reason, besides “I’ve been here for 40 years” (Jerry – Owner/Curator) so I’m guessing it's just time to go.

I’m a Cornucopia regular, however, this dusty, over crowed space is not for the impatient or shy consumer. You will need to a set aside a good hour or more to sort through the racks and racks of coats, suits, skirts and dresses - from personal experience, a lunch hour will never suffice. The coats are crammed so tight it actually requires strength to push them apart. There are so many chiffon shirts, that as soon as you remove the first from the downward slanting rack the others simply follow - onto the floor. The shoe shelves are a mish mash of what used to be some type of colour coded arrangement, oh and having a torch handy would also be an asset as light in this department is quite limited (just in case you had one hanging around in your tote).
If you fancy getting really involved, you best be prepared to ask for some major shop assistance. Hundreds of dresses from the yesteryear hang from ceiling rails and require a ladder, a hook, a grey haired man and a good 14 minutes for you to get even close. Accessories sit in a long glass display cabinet but cannot be seen for all the random bags, gloves, scarves and bric-a-brac that’s sprawled on the counter. The hats - well it’s nearly impossible to get your paws on those little gems, they sit on a shelf behind the accessories counter and only some serious go go gadget arms will get you a piece of that action.
Over all, it may sound like a less than attractive shopping experience but I’m not sure ‘user friendly’ was a term Jerry ever intended to have associated with his store. Simply put, Cornucopia is what it is, take it or leave it. An eclectic mix of second hand accessories to boot, true vintage beaded delights and quite a few diamonds in a whole lot of rough.

Sadly, it’s closure means an end to a tradition that has been handed from many a stylish mother down to her fashion savvy, vintage loving daughter. It will, however, remain in history as one of the best of it’s kind in our fashion capital.

Try to get in before it’s all over to grab yourself a bargain in the sale and experience a true vintage shop like no other. Do, however, remember to pack a sandwich, a torch and arm extensions. You're in for a long afternoon of delightful discovery.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Volume speaks louder than words

What’s a girl to do when she stumbles across a ‘must have’ item in a foreign city on a non trading Sunday? Go back on the Monday? I hear you say; £20 Easy Jet tickets are not that flexible. Buy on the web? Says the pretty lady in the back; unfortunately that’s not an option this time. Take pictures of the window display and settle for reading about the label online? Sadly, the latter was my only option when I came across Gratacos and its burst of colour on my recent Spanish adventure – it’s just a shame I can’t read Catalonian.

Back in 1992 I was a huge fan of the bubble hem and often wore my bubble skirts as strapless dresses (very fashion forward for a 14 year old, I must say). I was super excited when the rolled hem made their big return during SS 06/07 and I’m wrapped that they have hung around for the past few years changing only slightly each season in shape and structure.

I’m seeing a strong Viktor and Rolf nod here mixed with some type of Chelsea Flower Show influence – is anyone else picking that up or is my imagination completely off the wall? Drop a mental Philip Treacy creation (if your post code's SW3 & just because he's the man of the mo) or place some type of fabulously high DIY design on your head and you’re off to the races in this purple and white combination.
I’m also loving the green number with a pair of patent red heels (is this a little too much colour?) for something a little different during ball season. Both are brave looks but with Summer finally here it's super fun to break out and be slightly extravagant.

Unfortunately, due to my monolingual abilities and my early morning departures I am unable to speak of history, fabric, design or price in detail. I will, however, endeavour to track down a Catalonian and report back – Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A story about a hat

One day shy of Ascot and I still needed a hat. What I really needed/wanted was a cloche and not just any cloche; I needed an authentic, 1920's, black, velvet (if possible), cute as a button, cloche. I was not settling for any type of flower fascinator with a spray of feathers, I wanted a cloche and I wouldn’t rest until I found one.

With that, I set out to scourer the dark, grey streets of London town. I visited every thrift, charity, vintage, second hand shop and market in my beloved city, alas, none of the above was found. With one day left to find this elusive commodity, I had just about lost all hope when it finally appeared. There it was in all its glory, I had found it. A stones throw from my office, displayed in the window of a tiny little second hand shop was a black, authentic, 1920's cloche (not felt but beggars can't be chooser right?). I snatched it immediately from the window display (this stealth move is often frowned upon by shop assistants) and took it to the point of purchase.

After a little inspection, the shop owner, let's call her ‘Olga’, declared that "On second thoughts, accessories from the 1920's are extremely rare and I'm not quite sure I want to part with it (inspects condition once again, pauses for effect) actually it's not for sale at all". At this point, I swallowed slowly and became very still. All of a sudden I began to sweat and then panic slightly - "But you must sell it to me, I must have it, I must have that cloche, if I can't have it I will have to change my entire outfit again, head to toe, 24hours prior to the event, that can't happen to me, I don't have the time or the strength for that, you must help me!". I fear at this point the middle aged, eccentric shop owner, wearing a smokers coat and an embellished turban of sorts began to fear for her safety. I’m guessing she decided the best way to deal with this crazy consumer was to negotiate. Olga decided she would hire the cloche to me for a swift 10er if I left her a £50 deposit. Was I in a costume shop? I decided Olga would hire the cloche to me for a quiet 10er and I would leave her only a £20 deposit (I needed that extra 30quid for pimms and champagne). Priorities ladies.

I then left Olga and her smokers coat, super chuffed; believing I had some how won “The Great Battle Of The Cloche” and set off for a fabulous day at the races. Deluded, I tell you, deluded.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

A dress and a date night

As a child I watched my Father open doors for my Mother, as a student I spoke a Latin prayer in a dining hall of 200 girls and now as a girlfriend I'm given flowers and taken out on dinner dates.
There's something so special about tradition. If only I could get him to wear a cravat - maybe that's pushing it too far.

Vitamin D V's Gaudi

Who ever said Navy was the new Black was most certainly not Spanish.

I've just returned from 5 glorious days in Barcelona (sucks to be me) and there is no doubt that the Spanish high street is alive and well bursting with all the colours of the Spanish Sol. The usual suspects, Zara and Mango made a huge appearance (I counted 6 of each in the city center alone) no surprises there. Super brand Custo (new to me - have I been living under a rock?) was HUGE in every sense of the word, taking multi colour to another whole level. Our favourite Spaniards, Massimo Dutti and Designal were packed with American tourists searching for something specifically Euro along with Londoners looking to pick up a few of their favs less 2 or 3 quid (these are my approximate estimations after many hours of price tag examination).

Although at first I was a little disappointed, finding the main strips simply a slightly prettier, less crowded environment to purchase Regent Street merchandise. I was super inspired by the brave use of colour, especially off the beaten track amongst local designers (more of that to come). I declared this plethora of colourful fabrics - the Gaudi effect, however, my travel mate put it down to the fact that excess Vitamin D gives you some type of colour braveness (she could have made that phrase up after our 3rd jug of Sangria). What ever it is, I dig it and I’m off to follow the Plaza Real rule and don some type of canary yellow blouse, eat small morsels of tapas goodness and practice my Spanish vowels.

Now, can someone fill me in on this Custo phenomenon? Because I'm not really feeling it.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Let there be light

I recently wrote of the pain I experience when I see large, decorative, interior items. The chest ache becomes unbearable, simply because these items cannot return with me to motherland. 1950’s art deco mirrors, the many antique, perfectly worn brown leather club chairs and lets not get into the numerous chandeliers that will never been mine.

Yesterday I stumbled across yet another large, must have item in the form of a gorgeous, mounted canvas by a very talented Parisian Illustrator know as Michel Canetti. After much deliberation and “how could this be done?” style conversations with myself, I returned to my small, dark, underground London dwelling 'canvasless' and sad.

Just when I thought all hope had been lost, a beam of light shone from the deep, dark, depths of the world wide web. I was informed that a) Mr Canetti specialises in advertising for women’s fashion, classing Louis Vuitton as a previous client (very nice) and b) has left his beloved homeland and now resides in the (equally as stylish) city of Melbourne – that’s right friends, Melbourne, Australia, home of the original Australian Fashion Week, the illustrious Kylie Minogue, the street of all streets Chapel and now Michel Canetti, one of France’s leading fashion illustrators – Bingo.

I’ve considered ordering on line, do you think my parents would mind storing two 42 x 58 cm mounted illustrations of women in big hats in our family home? Just until my visa runs out? All for the sake of the art right?

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Code Black

My friends will tell you that I have never been privy to the “what are you wearing?” pre event phone call nor have I ever removed fur (faux, of course) at the last minute just in case it was a little “too” much. I have no problem with pearls in a pub or 6 inch heels at a super market. I wouldn’t say I’m over the top, extravagant or even avant garde. I simply dress in what makes me feel fabulous and what I feel is appropriate. I am however very aware that my definition of appropriate does tend to differ greatly from the norm. As a result, I have developed quite a thick skin when I hear comments such as “what on earth is that on your head?” (it’s a peacock) and “don’t you ever wear a flat shoe?” (only on the bus).

I do, however, very much believe in the ‘dress code’. Call me old fashioned or a stickler for the rules but if a host asks you kindly in advance to dress in semi formal attire for their dinner party or in black tie for their gala event then clearly your Levis are not an option. I coordinate parties for a living and each day sees me go through the roller coaster of emotions that are involved with the planning, prepping, sourcing, managing and creating a fabulous event. From an intimate 30th birthday for 10, to a charity fundraising ball for 1000, 100% dedication from hosts and committees involved is required to pull off a successful event. Guests’ response to the dress code can sometimes make or break the evening.

I recently attended a dinner party in a lovely home owned by a friend of a friend. There was such hype prior to the party. Hand written invitations had been sent, wait staff had been booked and the dress code was set as ‘semi formal’. Guests were given more than enough time to source their required regalia.

Let’s be honest, my host had not asked for designer couture or Savile Row suits. Semi formal is not difficult to attain people. For some reason boys tend to do a lot of eye rolling, huffing and puffing when confronted with the semi formal code. Do they not realise cuff links, a collar and a pair of trousers is not a difficult combination?* For the ladies an LBD and a pair of high street heels will cover it (however readers of MOMTD will recognise that I may be a little more creative).

With place cards, themed table settings and outside caterers, the dinner party was a charming event and I was honoured to have been in the presence of such a delightful environment. But by the time pre dinner cocktails had been served I had counted 4 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of trainers and can you believe 5 rucksacks/back packs - hand luggage at a semi formal dinner party? This had me very confused. Was there a secret holiday giveaway for male guests at the end of the evening’s festivities?

Despite being terribly underdressed, the 501’s and rucksacks thoroughly enjoyed themselves and had no problem guzzling the host’s champagne whilst devouring the 3 course gourmet meal. The fact that these men had not considered the host’s initial requests of bringing a little bit of glamour to her celebratory dinner made me feel somewhat sad. Due to their ignorance, the ambiance she had so badly wanted to create didn’t really come to fruition.

If a man organized a social, mixed game of touch football and the female team mates arrived in Louboutins and dresses that restricted ones’ movement they would surely have something to say. So tell me, how can a man slip under the radar in his Nikes when a pair of Oxfords are clearly the code of the day?

* Disclaimer: I have a handful of super super stylish ‘man’ friends (of both sexual orientation). It’s a shame they weren’t at this party in their brogues and braces as the host would have loved them.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

I have a dream

Last night I admitted to the boyfriend that I, Francis Girard, self confessed fashionista (ridiculous term but what else do I call myself?), 600 hits per day fashion blogger (is that a lot?), fashion week usher and back rower (standing at 165cm I may as well down load it when I get home) has never sat in the front row of a fashion show.

“Never?” He replied “Are You Sure?” Like as if I had somehow forgotten such a momentous occasion.

I’ve since decided that September 2008 is the year of sitting – it may not be the year of front row sitting but it will be the year of sitting. Baby steps. No more will I wear black trousers, a free fashion week polo and direct the who’s who to their seats. This year, I will wear what ever the hell I want and sit exactly where a nice girl (who is not me) directs me to sit. I will also smile at her and tell her I like her trouser and polo combination.

I also intend to look something like these ladies on my big day:

Monday, 9 June 2008

Great Expectations

I have no excuse as to why I only saw the movie of the year yesterday, maybe I was scared of disappointment, maybe I was scared of an inevitable ending or maybe I’m just over worked. Whatever the reason, Sunday afternoon saw me finally head to my local Odean (alone) for what was to be the most beautiful movie experience of my life time.

The pictures, the colour, the heart ache – the cinematography was truly something to behold.

For those who are yet to treat their eyes, be prepared for sheer beauty in all forms. Patricia Field certainly brought us a true delight.

Mud highlights included:

Running through the snow on New Years Eve.
The deep coloured attendants and the bridal bird.
The anger of the bridesmaid in black.
The closet.
The great loves.
The end.

Is it weird that I now wear pearls to bed? The boyfriend thinks so.
Ps. After my Burberry drama last month I was holding onto seeing the blue coat (above right) on the big screen as I had been lucky enough to ‘touch’ it at the infamous AW08 trunk show. Alas, it didn’t make the cut and neither did the tights or the white shuboots, they weren’t missed (esp the balloon arrangement) but I figured they couldn't be left out.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Industry Snobs

I don't work directly with fashion, I have done previously, but I don't currently. I have a lovely job where I can create, public relate and wear pretty skirts everyday but I do not work precisely with fashion.

Working in fashion is a career for the lucky few. Dedicated and passionate individuals (often on student wages) will go to great lengths to get their 'wannabe' red soles in the door. They beg and plead with respected publishing houses, borrow the perfect interview outfit (keeping the receipt to return it) and they steal email contacts from work placements for future reference. It really is dog eat dog out there in the fashion world. So when one of my "I work in fashion" friends recently told me she didn’t read fashion blogs, it had me somewhat perplexed. She states her case by saying; “I work in fashion all day and the last thing I want to do when I get home is read about it.” Scoff!

During my time in their world, not once did I become saturated, overwhelmed or bogged down in this ‘chameleon like’ industry we all love so much. Day after day I would spend my commute immersed in glossy pages being well aware that I would spend the next 8 hours consulting with the people behind these exact words and images. My evenings were spent downloading the latest shows despite knowing that tomorrow at 9 I would have to actually attend one, and I still lined up in the rain at sample sales regardless of the fact that I could receive a piece of the new collection FOC in a goody bag the following week.

I can understand that particular industries are difficult to escape - flight attendants not wanting to travel on their days off, brick layers not wanting to DIY on their lazy Sunday - I get that. However, not wanting to read and stay up to the minute on an ever-changing and fickle industry? This, I don’t understand. I mean, does my friend not realize how quickly she could miss a trend simply because she chooses to shut off after work? In a cut throat industry like fashion, such a dangerous attitude puts oneself in a very vulnerable position.

Scoring a position in a competitive industry is a golden opportunity. If you are lucky enough to break into the industry you should be sponging every new bit of information, taking advice and considering all opinions in order to stay well informed and on the ball. Frankly, I believe that if you don’t have the passion, the love, the all consuming, think about it every minute of the day obsession with fashion; then you need to get out and let someone else with bigger dreams fill your designer shoes!
Final Note: On the QT, I think this friend of mine may have a problem with "outsiders" writing on a topic she has a degree in and a head office staff number. Considering fashion is such a superfluous business, maybe I should remind her that industry snobbery is a very unattractive quality. Or maybe I just need a new hobby?

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

When accessories become more important than where you sleep...

Just 12 hours shy of my birthday celebrations, a last minute costume change found yours truly with a lovely dress, a sweet pair of shoes but no belt for the party of the year. What’s a girl to do? Panic and shop - In that direct order but never simultaneously!

As luck would have it there is a tiny little gift store attached to a florist just 100 metres from my flat. Every now and then I enter this treasure trove to explore its very specific vintage items; half a dozen handbags sourced from the States and a scattering of vintage ornate belts that are draped around piles of books and potted plants. It was here that my birthday outfit came together. My eyes quickly averted from anything else in the store when I spotted the perfect brown and gold belt with the most outstanding buckle. It was a sign and being so close to home, this piece had to be mine! Coming in at a steep £97 meant that I had to take a good 12 seconds to contemplate my purchase (insert pause for effect) but swiftly, and with a shaky hand the transaction was cleared. Just under a week’s rent debited from my account and my birthday outfit was complete.
At 97 quid I do hope to get at least a good few years wear out of it and if this vintage phenomenon continues it may become another one of those “give to your daughter” pieces, anything to justify the extravagance right?. Let’s just hope my waist appreciated and enjoyed being wrapped in a week's worth of rent for 6 hours last Saturday evening. Any ideas on where I may rest my weary head next week?

Feliz Cumpleaños

I spent Saturday evening soaking up birthday love from all my family & friends. I did so in a special blue floral number handed down from my lovely Aunt. She recalls wearing it to a number of charity functions in the late 1970's. I can imagine her swanning around with Farrah Fawcett style hair, snacking on cheese and pineapple whilst drinking Harvey Wallbangers. My personal touch came with a vintage gold bow buckle belt (overpriced - to the value of one weeks' rent therefore deserving its very own post later in the week). My £12 thrifted shoes caused an extreme amount of discomfort but the abundance of French Martinis and Moet that were lined up in front of me seemed to dull the pain. Here's a selection of my favourite shots taken by a variety of people I love - the person behind the lens is often what I think makes the picture so special. Happy birthday to me in my pretty frock.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Flash Floods and Mondays

What a roller coaster of emotion this weekend was. Firstly, I was guest of honour at a lovely soiree in Notting Hill to mark 30 years of stylish living (outfit details will follow, watch this space). Secondly, I woke to the very sad news that at 71 years young International Fashion Great Yves Saint Laurent has passed, what a huge loss to the world of fashion and couture. Finally, as I sat feeling slightly melancholy and taking in how his legacy will undeniably remain, an invite to the Dior Sale Preview appeared in my flat. The Irony considering Saint Laurent worked for Dior for many a year was just a little too much and seemed to push me over the edge. The sadness came as such a surprise, reminiscent to that of a flash flood, big, fat, fall on your breast type tears were rolling, a face full of black mascara (clearly not water proof) and an uncontrollable runny nose. Was I grieving a man I'd never met? Was I over excited by the presence of the invite? Was I being a crazy emotional girl? I suspect this sudden case of depression was a combination of all of the above, the aftermath of the incredible amount of French Martinis consumed at my soiree, the realization that I’m 30 and the fact that it's Monday.