Friday, 30 September 2011

Lessons from Milano

Christopher Kane was pale and interesting for Versus, mixing feminine shapes with a sporty edge - note the basketball court theme of the catwalk, and the linear approach to many of the looks.

[Image via the Guardian online].
Dolce & Gabbana couldn't stand the heat, so they got into the kitchen. Pasta earrings and citrus yellow were the dominant features here.

Granny Takes a Trip? No, it's Jil Sander's vision for SS12: paisley 70s meets 80s tailoring, with a touch of netting.

A rare blast of colour from the otherwise predominantly black, white and gold Gucci show.

I'm actually writing this in Paris (continental, I know), but it's time to reflect on what Milan Fashion Week brought us for SS/12. There was a definite eclectic feel to the designs here, with some trends overlapping the seasons and consumers being told that Gucci will be bringing them jewel tones (very AW/11-12 on the high street) and formal tuxedo shapes regardless of how high the temperature soars. Now that's a dedicated follower of fashion who sits in tailored pieces and ignores their feverish brow. In contrast we had hippy paisley and sterile white coats at the same Jil Sander show, whilst Just Cavalli continued the earthy feel with feathers but kept the colour palette softer for many styles. Let's have a re-cap: that's deep jewel colours with paisley and feathers. NOT ALL TOGETHER, PLEASE.

As for the other key players, Versus gave us some pastels with their traditional Christopher Kane edge, whilst Dolce & Gabbana went all domesticated yet again with their homely prints of onions and their strangely delectable pasta earrings. Yes, you remember pasta jewellery from playgroup? Well, now it's been given the accolade of high fashion, so get ready to dig out your old creations and hope you varnished them well.

It definitely felt as though Milan was delving into its creative past with these shows, and really looking at what works and what doesn't. Dolce's kitchen garden feel was much stronger than its previous Madonna-led ad campaigns, where we were asked to believe that the Queen of Pop likes to hold chickens and spend hours making meals for her family. This is much more genuine and much more Italian. I like it a lot. Pass me the onion print and get me an extra large helping of Farfalle pasta, pronto.

Monday, 26 September 2011

LFW: Knots and Finery for Ilincic (topped off by a wooly hat)

[Images from Elle UK].
A show full of contradictions, but not awkwardly so, Roksanda Ilincic's SS/12 collection gave us the modern formal dresser who cannot let go of her classic beret or her shocking pink hair. She likes classic shapes and flamboyant evening-wear lines, but she also needs to be noticed. A wallflower she is not. The orange rope belt in this image was a recurring element, as were the colourful hats. Meanwhile we had reliable, high quality fabrics in sumptuous shades - the grey and olive work well together.

This bell shape is now unforgettably associated with Mary Katrantzou's intricate designs, but Ilincic has taken it back for an olive gold gown that is more straightforward than the erratic nature of Katrantzou's kaleidoscope pieces. Ilincic's dress almost feels like it could have been adapted from a Regency ballgown with a bustle.

The same fabric is now reinvented as a sheath dress with a pintucked bottom section. Adding neon orange into the mix with shoes and another beret, the olive gold becomes almost mustard and we are seeing it in a different light.

A further, more basic piece is this pink number. There's a colour block overload (apart from those white shoes) which is palatable as the hair and wool take on the cerise shade in different ways to the clothing itself. This feels like a lesson in colour mixing and dyeing, but it's a lesson you want to get involved with.

Now our heroine is feeling like dipping her toe in turquoise, yet she can't let go of that cerise. As ever, the colours are pure and the aesthetics are clean. There is no fussy layering or embellishment, just a single layer to absorb.

That grey is back from image #1! And it's been paired with the second pattern of the collection, but this time it's mainly cream and more geometric than image #2's scattering of purple. Those fluted sleeves and fluid trouser legs add volume where our Ilincic woman wants to be noticed whilst in monochrome.

Discarding the beret, our heroine hints that she can grow up when she needs to, but those sleeves are probably a sign of disorder and freedom. They contradict the neatness of the main body and they interrupt the shape of the arm. I'd love to see the high street take on this shape - it would be a great antidote to the tired satin party dresses that people stuff themselves into every time there's a 'special occasion'. We need more Ilincic women, please!

Stand-out Shopping: Because we can't all afford catwalk prices

[Image taken from Oasis online].
As I've been blogging a lot about Fashion Week and catwalk shows recently (aside from the Look Show), I thought it would be good to redress the balance with some bargains from the high street. First up is this swallow keyring from Oasis, which is an excellent £4 in the sale.
Trend boxes ticked: Bird prints (massive at Miu Miu for this season) and leather lust (faux leather and studding).
Wear with: A plain but sturdy handbag, a 90s-style floral dress and some kick-ass biker boots.

[Image from Oasis online].
Yup, I found two pieces from Oasis that I wanted - their sale starts today, as I was kindly reminded in an email this morning, as does Warehouse's. This dress caught my eye for its draping, and it's now down to £30.
Trend boxes ticked: monochrome (it's always coming back, but particularly now because 60s colours are everywhere), fabric clashes (think Michael van der Ham now and Alexander McQueen's McQ line two seasons ago - it's another recurring thing), ladylike (Mad Men and The Hour have got us all craving nipped in waists).
Wear with: minimal jewellery (maybe a nice chunky ring, but no necklaces or it breaks the flow of the dress) and your hair up.

[Image from Topshop online].
I was lucky enough to see Simone Rocha's collection at LFW and it didn't disappoint. She's kept a lot of the same ideas in her Topshop diffusion line, with sheer arms against stiff shirts, but obviously at a cheaper price point. The salmon pink in this dress is very fresh and it certainly caught my eye. At £90 it's not cheap, but if you've got the cash then it will probably become a wardrobe staple for you.
Trend boxes ticked: androgyny (in the form of the shirt, with its high neck hiding any femininity and the rest of the fabric bypassing any thought of cleavage or hips), ballerina (the tulle-type sleeves in a sharp pink), fabric clashes (though this is a cleaner take on that look, with everything a little more clinical and neat).
Wear with: Chelsea boots or brogues, some ankle socks in an acidic shade, and strong eyebrows or lips.

[Image from ASOS online].
Paperself lashes are going to be massive. Stocked at ASOS and trialled for free on Fashion Week visitors (including myself), they are an excellent style statement which - if you're careful - you can wear again. This pair is called 'Clown' and it's a bit cheeky but fits in well along the lash line, with the little sections of chequerboard, zigzag and tent popping out nicely. Not one for a job interview, perhaps, but certainly something to consider for a night out.
Trend boxes ticked: the outrageous (think Nicola Roberts' new solo music, Henry Holland, early Gareth Pugh, Pam Hogg et al), ladylike with a twist (for example, the recent Dolce & Gabbana show in Milan for SS12 had chandelier-esque pasta earrings and onion print dresses).
Wear with: a manly shirt (or even the Simone Rocha for Topshop number) or a minimalist dress, with plain coloured tights and some metallic shoes.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

LFW: Frontline Style Inspiration

[All photographs my own. Please ask before reproducing].
Here are just a few of the people that caught my eye during LFW. Some of them are exhibitionists but others just genuinely seem to love expressing themselves through clothing and accessories. Firstly, I love this man's bag - it's practical, hard-wearing and very vintage-looking with its boxy shape.

The subtle gold heel on these knee-high boots is smart and eye-catching without being too trend-led. There's a lot of block heel detail coming in for this season and it's also a really clever way of making old footwear look like new. You can buy coloured coverings for your heels or soles on the internet (usually about £15 for a set) and do a bit of upcycling on some shoes you no longer wear.

Three style spots here: her bag, their bags and his suit. The woman's choice is quite rustic-looking and worn, with the shoulder straps being chunkier than fashion-led rucksacks. The leather should wear over time to create a really well-loved bag. As for the men? Their shoppers, in black and pink, are symptomatic of the wider trend for men to carry simple bags out of choice rather than necessity. Shoppers for men are going to be gradually introduced on the high street this season - I'm not sure how well they'll be received, but then cardigans were slow to be worn at first and now they're everywhere. The burgundy suit that our middle figure is showing off has also got a lot of style mileage; it's clean-cut, a nice retro shade, and it's slim. Good choice.

For a more outlandish take on fashion, this man has really established his own identity through clothes and styling. Even his beard is artistic and not a traditional cut for someone of his age. Picking flowing, loose pieces to wear alongside it, he clearly has an eye for shape, but he might take himself a little too seriously.

All-out darkness and tailored perfection in this ensemble. I do get the feeling that it might not work as well if you were popping to the shops for a pint of milk, but for a creative industry this is a great example of good dressing.

Simple deep red desert boots with grey suit trousers: this colour combination is really well thought out and it's so much nicer to see casual shoes mixed with formal wear, rather than the typical fashion-boy loafers (usually mock-croc).

The Japanese always seem to have an impeccable sense of style and these boys are no exception. In particular, the sea green mac is enough of a statement to stand out by itself.

Here's an example of the typical London IT-girl look, probably fresh from Hoxton or Shoreditch. I'm pretty tired of the 'I just woke up looking like this' vibe and the skinny schoolgirl figures, usually clutching a cigarette and an iPhone, but they were pretty hard to avoid at Fashion Week. I do like her hair, as I had my own pretty similar do last year and five years previously, but this all feels a bit too cleverly orchestrated to be real.

This is a much more natural look - clashing colours and fabrics, topped off with gorgeous blue velvet boots. The 7/8 length of the mustard trousers is going to be continuing as a trend for AW/11-12, so we'd better get used to those ankle-bashers.

In the courtyard of Somerset House, this girl was rocking her Yoko Ono glasses. I don't think she could actually see out of them, as she was peering over the top of the lenses, so we can safely put this in the 'fashion over function' category.

For a woman wearing such decadent shoes, she stopped at one of the exhibitions more conservative stands, which was a bit surprising. The heels on these sparklers have got to be 5 inches and upwards. I like how she paired them with cream knitted socks and she isn't afraid to let you see them. Maybe the key to wearing heels all day is a decent piece of hosiery?

There's always a photographer with a massive camera lurking nearby (I don't count, as mine is digital and therefore quite compact). This bloke took the biscuit as he clearly wasn't phased by fashion himself, but had an eye for spotting it on other people. Maybe we should call him a conscientious objector?

At this point I nearly started hyperventilating. Donna Wallace, Accessories Editor of Elle UK, was visiting the exhibition stands at Fashion Week (where I was interning with my boss). I recognised her immediately as she's always dressed innovatively whenever Elle does a feature on what its team likes to wear. This time she had what looked like Prada shoes, with a neon green Cambridge Satchel Company bag (just out of shot). I spoke to her later on and she was lovely. It was amazing to meet one of my fashion idols.

Lastly, what did I wear? Here's one of my outfits from my time at LFW. The dress is vintage, from the YMCA in Canterbury a few years ago (they had a brilliant vintage section but are sadly no longer running). The bag is a vintage vanity case, the buckle boots are River Island and the hat is Urban Outfitters USA. As you can see, I was quite shattered as this was taken when I got home on the last day, but I had a brilliant time meeting people, working hard to generate buyer and journalist interest, and absorbing the atmosphere.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Look Show : your high street loves you

I was very lucky to win tickets to the Look Show, held at the new Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford, last week. My tickets, courtesy of Warehouse, meant that I was also able to treat my sister to a peek of the high street's current and future offerings. The show opened with Sarah Harding, of Girls Aloud, modelling the Shivani Chavda collection for Warehouse, which uses gorgeous prints and vibrant colours.

It wouldn't be Autumn/Winter without a glimmer of gold, and this dress - also from Warehouse - adds a classy edge. The slit sleeves are modern but the shift shape is timeless. I always think it's much easier to wear gold than silver in dresses, because too much silver can lead to the inevitable 'she's wrapped herself in tin foil' comments.

Keeping warm doesn't have to mean cutting out style, as Warehouse proves with this pink double-breasted coat on one model and faux fur stole against an inky blue maxi skirt on another. It's about adding a shot of pure colour to keep things fresh. Alongside the hot coat, this model's neon pink lipstick looks great - Barry M and Sleek do some brilliant shades if you want to recreate it.

As you can see, the models' hair was suitably autumnal, with a lot of backcombing and texturising spray making up the final look.

Forever 21 gave us a zig-zag maxi in scarlet, with a bright red hat to top things off.

This corset top is made into a fashion item, rather than something for the lingerie drawer, with the addition of a tan blazer and a white skirt. Very creative styling - love it.

Another example of inventive styling was at New Look, where this slinky yellow shirt-dress was given an under-layer in cream and a pencil-thin red scarf to accessorize. It's a much more interesting take on day wear than the dress alone, because it becomes part of a layered blend of autumnal colours.

Dionne Bromfield was an excellent choice for the guest singer. Not only was she flawless, but she seemed genuinely lovely and had been styled appropriately for her age in a petal-cut silver top and skinny trousers with heels.

The dark denim shirt has been everywhere in the past few seasons of menswear, but it is refreshed next to this tomato red cardigan and slicked back matinee idol hair.

I love the silhouette made by this model as she stopped for the cameras. Her teal jumpsuit ticks several trends: Studio 54 glam, new season colours and sharp tailoring.

Dorothy Perkins has often disappointed me in recent years for its uninspiring stock, but this model's outfit was a pleasant surprise. Pairing mustard shorts with a pale coral top and vermillion jacket with gold buttons is a winning combination.

I not only love this dress because it's burgundy, but also because it feels like something from a Romantic-era painting. The corsages and the pleats bring it more towards modern dressing, but it would work just as well with bare feet and a touch of fairy dust at the bottom of the garden.

Marks and Spencers opens with a strong red coat - its 3/4 sleeves mean that there's a fashion edge over function, but the forgiving shape will prove popular.

I am badly lusting after this M&S dress (£39.50), which uses ecru panels on a black tube structure. One of the biggest motivators for me to get fit and tone up my stomach - it's good for being flirty, with contouring detail, but not slutty.

M&S Menswear takes on the log cabin look with check shirts, plain chinos and outdoorsy imitation Barbour jackets - more quilted padding than you can shake a stick at.

Kimberley Wyatt (formerly of the Pussycat Dolls) was in closest celeb proximity to me, just across the aisle and down a few rows. I loved her burgundy shorts and boxy jacket.

Kelis was another celeb at the event, and she seemed to be going for a Vivienne Westwood feel with a corset-style red top and tartan trousers. I also love her friend's hair, which has been ombre-dyed purple at the ends.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Bear With, Bear With...

[Damien Hirst's skull piece to illustrate how ill I am - not quite dead, let's be honest, but feeling pretty darn rough].

Just a quick apology regarding my lack of posts during the most crucial weeks of the fashion calendar - not only have I been busy interning for my boss at London Fashion Week, but I have now come down with a heavy cold and a side-order of virus as a result of many long days and probably not enough Vitamin C. I'm hoping to be back to normal a.s.a.p, and I certainly haven't deserted the blog, but I'm having to spend a lot of quality time with a packet of Strepsils, Olbas Oil and some extra strength painkillers. It's not exactly glamour central here!

Will be back before you know it. I hope you've all enjoyed seeing the SS/12 collections in the media and on the catwalks, as we'll be discussing them a lot in the next few weeks.

Polly x
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