And Brexit killed the suit, too

Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

One of the worst articles ever published by GQ appeared under the title, “The death of the suit? Thanks Brexit.” Who was responsible for this mess? Lou Stoppard. More precisely, readers were informed that “GQ’s Contributing Editor Lou Stoppard talks you through the jacket that is slowly replacing the suit”. Still, Stoppard got one thing right in the article and it was this: “You can link most current British phenomena on Brexit, or the lack of Brexit, depending on how you look at it.” Exactly.

The other interesting thing about the article is the publication date: Tuesday, 7 November 2017. The demise of the suit has been signalled for some time now and the Wall Street Journal, a former bastion of suit wearers, is finally on it. According to Suzanne Kapner today, “Men Ditch Suits, and Retailers Struggle to Adapt.” The reality of what’s going on here has got nothing to do with Brexit and everything to do with the state of the labour market. In the USA, where it’s very tight, business casual is on the rise and getting even more casual because management wants to keep workers and wants to keep them happy. If that means throwing the suit out the window, so be it.

“I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.”

Friday, 22 February, 2019

Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld (1933 – 2019). “Elegance is an attitude,” he once said. He was right.

Lagerfeld didn’t shun controversy. Unfashionably, he defended the use of fur in fashion. In a BBC interview in 2009 he claimed that hunters “make a living having learnt nothing else than hunting, killing those beasts who would kill us if they could.” He caused outrage when he called the singer Adele “A little too fat” and, while praising Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for her “romantic beauty”, he angered fans of her sibling, Pippa Middleton, by saying: “I don’t like the sister’s face. She should only show her back”.

Another target was Uli Hoeneß, a former German footballer, and president of the Bayern Munich club, who shipped hundreds of millions of euros over the German border into Vontobel, a private Swiss bank. He did the crime and he did the time in 2014. The Alpine aspects of the Hoeneß footy affair were deftly captured in this sketch by Karl Lagerfeld for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung weekend magazine in 2013.

Uli Hoeneß

And blackberries

Sunday, 23 September, 2018

“September. This is the month of quiet days, crimson creepers, and blackberries; of mellow afternoons in the ripening garden; of tea under acacias instead of too shady beeches; of wood fires in the library in chilly evenings.” — Elizabeth von Arnim


The philosophy of John Anthony

Friday, 15 June, 2018

“Any day you can get up, dress yourself and remember your name is a good day.” — John Anthony

John Anthony

The Good Hat: Ms Bowen and Mrs Trump

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 0 Comments

First lady Melania Trump wore a dramatic white hat yesterday as she and her husband Donald hosted French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron for a White House state visit. The wide, flat-brimmed creation was designed by Hervé Pierre and not since Pharrell Williams wore a 10-gallon item to the 2014 Grammys has a “tit for tat” (Cockney rhyming slang) created such waves. Social media users immediately compared the look to Beyoncé’s black “Formation” hat.

Talking of hats, in 1950, the great Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen provided an introduction to The A B C Of Millinery by Madame Eva Ritcher. Snippet: “For centuries, Woman has desired that her head-covering — be it cap, bonnet or hat — should in itself be a thing of beauty. A thing which shall at once express and flatter the wearer and be, gaily, in tune with her own time.” When she was right, she was right.

Bowen concludes her introduction: “My advice to readers who cannot hope to embark on the actual making of hats is this — take what you’ve learned from these pages to heart when you go shopping. No longer will you, in show rooms, find yourselves adrift, depressed and confused. Let this book be your guide to the Good Hat.” Chapeau!

Flotus with hat

The eighth Station: Bibs

Tuesday, 1 December, 2015 0 Comments

As the tide of the past recedes, it carries away much of what we thought was permanent. Gone with the undertow are the “bibs”, those apron-like uniforms rural women once wore indoors and outdoors. Unlike so much of modern work clothing, numbingly alike in its drabness, the bib was colourful, floral, cheerful. So what if the work that had to be done by the wearer involved drudgery? One could still tackle it in style.

The bibs

My mother’s favourite was the crossover bib. As a young girl she had fashioned them from recycled cotton flour bags, adding an embroidered decoration here and there and finishing off with some bright ric-rac trim as a flourish. The patterns had their origins in pinafores that relatives had sent back from England and the uniquely Irish result was a wrap-around coverall titled the “bib”. The word itself has its origins in the Middle English verb bibben, meaning to drink, from the Latin bibere, either because the garment was worn while drinking or because it soaked up spills. It was definitely the latter in my mother’s case as the bib was worn when bathing children, milking cows, washing dishes and countless other tasks that involved spills and splashes.

“I’ll take off the bib,” was my mother’s declaration that something significant was about to happen. This could indicate preparation for a trip or it might involve the arrival of an important visitor. Once the visitor had departed or when the trip ended with a return to home, the bib has donned and “the jobs” began again.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Tracing.

DE$IGN and $TYLE and NERD$

Tuesday, 25 March, 2014 1 Comment

Thus spoke Google: “That’s why we’re so excited about wearables — they understand the context of the world around you, and you can interact with them simply and efficiently, with just a glance or a spoken word.” Along with monitoring our health and fitness, wearables will give us real-time information, and for those programmers who wish to create wearable experiences for their existing apps to see how they appear on round and square devices, Google began offering its Android Wear Developer Preview last week.

But is the hoodie-wearing brigade well placed to offer consumers stuff to wear? Of course not. Just look at how Jan Koum, the newly-minted billionaire CEO of WhatsApp, dresses. But while they might be inelegant in appearance, the nerds are very clever and that’s why Google yesterday announced a partnership with the Italian eyeglass frame-maker Luxottica, which owns the Ray-Ban and Oakley sunglasses lines. Remember what Patti Smith said? “My sunglasses are like my guitar.”

Note: Apple has stolen Angela Ahrendts from Burburry, to be the company’s new head of retail. She’s got a distinct sense of fashion and lots of experience running a company with lots of style. And the interview there was conducted by Joseph Rosenfeld, who styles himself as “Silicon Valley’s must trusted Brand Strategist for high-profile individuals.” Instead of hoodies, his (male) clients might be nudged towards wearing leggings.

The great Oktoberfest clearance sale

Sunday, 6 October, 2013 0 Comments

This evening in Munich, the 180th Oktoberfest ends. The organizers are very pleased with the statistics: 6.4 million drinkers and 6.7 million Maß beer drunk. And then there’s the business of Tracht, the traditional attire that was worn by peasants in the Alpine regions during the 18th century. Back in August, in an article titled […]

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Angie wins the great debate by a neck

Monday, 2 September, 2013 0 Comments

The sole TV debate between the two top candidates in Germany’s upcoming general election, Angela Merkel and Peer Steinbrück, was won by a necklace. The fact that it was worn by Chancellor Merkel and that it incorporated Germany’s national colours speaks volumes about her cunning. This was understated national pride stylishly displayed and it made her un-telegenic opponent look even drabber than usual. In his desperation to win votes from the squeezed middle, which he plans to strangle further with tax hikes, Steinbrück even discarded the emblematic red tie that Germany’s pseudo-socialist leaders wear with stupefying conformity. He could have countered the necklace with a discreet lapel pin that showed his true colours, but his imagination didn’t stretch that far. Steinbrück is toast and Angie’s necklace now has its own Twitter account.

Schland Kette

It’s show time!

Thursday, 16 May, 2013 0 Comments

Gatsby anticipation is in the house. We’ve got a ticket for this evening’s 7 pm screening and great are the expectations. Meanwhile, the spin-off industry rumbles on and no (precious) stone is left unturned as it seeks to cash in on the film of the book.

Tifanny brooch F. Scott Fitzgerald was a customer of Tiffany, the American jewelry emporium, and in The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan gives Daisy a string of pearls worth $300,000 on the eve of their wedding, a nod by the author to the fact that Tiffany promoted pearls as a female rite of passage during the Jazz Age. To honour the film, Tiffany has introduced two lines of Fitzgerald-themed jewelry: The Great Gatsby Collection features replicas of 30 pieces seen in the film, while the more modestly priced Ziegfeld line is a 14-piece collection that includes a sterling silver Daisy Heart Locket; a pair of 18-karat gold and black enamel cuff links decorated with a “GG” monogram; a sterling silver ring set with black onyx carved in a daisy motif; and a tassel necklace of tiny pearls — redolent of the Champagne bubbles of the era — that would have been the ultimate accessory during a late-night orgy in Gatsby’s Long Island mansion.

For the rest of us, there’s the soundtrack with songs by Lana del Ray, Gotye, Bryan Ferry, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Karrnnel has style

Saturday, 19 January, 2013 0 Comments

Last February, Vogue magazine published a piece of puffery titled “A Rose in the Desert” about Syria’s first lady, Asma al-Assad. Written by Joan Juliet Buck, with photographs by star snapper James Nachtwey, the fawning article praised the Assads as a “wildly democratic” couple who had made Syria the “safest country in the Middle East.” A year later, Vogue returns to form with with Storm Troupers, a fashion shoot by Annie Leibovitz that features the US National Guard delivering aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy accompanied by, among others, supermodel Joan Smalls showing off a Proenza Schouler leather jacket and skirt.

The Saskatchewan-born fiddle player, Karrnnel, has a better sense of taste than Vogue. The video for his “101” composition was was shot in and around New York City and, “In light of recent events and with gratitude for the people we met and neighborhoods we spent time in, a portion on sales from every download of ‘101’ will go directly to the Canadian Red Cross Hurricane Sandy USA Fund,” his website states. Now, that’s style.

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