Monday, 30 April 2012

Brighton Vintage Fair Photo Essay, Part II

 A flash of this season's lilac, but vintage style.

 1950s Riviera chic - this is how summer should be.

 The scarab beetle design of this clutch bag caught my eye.

 The view from the glove section...

 More sunglasses than you can shake a stick at.

 Nice bit of Coronation kitsch, in time for the Jubilee celebrations.

 A very quick snap of a stallholder (her very sweet child is just out of shot).

 A flamingo would set you back just a few quid here. Brilliantly quirky.

 Another very quick snap, this time of a dapper bloke who went for a flat cap and waistcoat look.

These playing cards formed the perfect backdrop to some paste jewellery.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Brighton Vintage Fair Photo Essay, Part I

Vintage Fair Car Brighton
 The entrance to Brighton's Vintage Fair today, featuring a period car.
Vintage Fair Stall
 A visitor gazes at the costume jewellery on offer.

Vintage Fair Brighton Fashion
 These stallholders were brilliantly dressed and coiffed. I'm in love with the grey hat!

Vintage Fair Brighton Mannequin
 Rock around the clock... 1950s chic on a mannequin.

Vintage Fair Brighton Jewellery
 Trinkets caught the light at this stall.

Vintage Fair Ladies' Pastel Shoes
 My best photo of the day: vintage shoes lined up for prospective buyers.

Vintage Round Tortoiseshell Sunglasses
 The bargain of the fair: round tortoiseshell sunglasses for £5.
Dress: COS.
Lipstick: Accessorize.

Vintage Dress Flapper Print
I couldn't resist the print of this 1970s dress - Jazz Age flapper with a Clarice Cliff edge.

[All photos my own. Please ask before reproducing].

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Aquascutum: No Return of the Mac

 An early example of Aquascutum's classic trench coat in action.

[Image via the Financial Times].
The Autumn/Winter 2012 collection from Aquascutum.

This week we've lost one of Britain's most recognised heritage brands, as Aquascutum collapsed after a rich history of trading to the public since 1851. The company was known for its trench coat, which was actually worn in wartime trenches (yep, unsurprisingly that's how the name was developed), but soon the rich and famous were known for wrapping up in the same style, albeit with less mortal peril involved in a trip to the shops. 

After years of being known as a staple wardrobe choice but without the edge of new and contemporary fashion that major rival Burberry had, it's now been revealed that 115 people are to lose their jobs in the Corby factory which lovingly produced Aquascutum stock. The brand prided itself on being made in Britain, which is why it's particularly sad that its future looks so bleak, as it just emphasises why so many retailers end up outsourcing their production to a far-flung country in order to stay afloat. Whereas Aquascutum refused to fall in line with the trend, the cost of keeping everything authentically British will have made it an uphill struggle. In recent years we've also seen the resurgence of fellow UK brand Barbour, now the obvious outerwear choice for both the landed gentry and the average celebrity It-girl at a festival, but this success (or frightening ubiquity) hasn't spread to poor old Aquascutum, despite being run by Harold Tillman - a.k.a. the Chairman of the British Fashion Council,and later a head honcho of Jaeger, Belinda Earl. 

It's funny how the decline of the company also seems so typically British in its own way, as if it was a pensioner stoically refusing to change and adapt to modern life or to go into a self-promotional overdrive in order to survive. "Oh, I'm alright, don't worry about me, I'll muddle along," it would say as it secretly wondered how on earth it would get out of this mess, but being too proud and polite to ask for help. I do think that, given enough time and a group of enthusiasts, Aquascutum could have had its own gentle revival, without the unsubtle youth modelling a la Burberry, but with a campaign that did for the English chap what Tommy Hilfiger did for American preppy clans, or what Alexander McQueen did for wonderfully Scottish tartan. 

It is disappointing that Tillman and his team, followed by Belinda Earl of the Jaeger Group, could not rescue the company, but I can fully understand that it is tricky to devise a strategy that keeps such a traditional brand's bare values in sight without destroying them in order to create something new. Perhaps Aquascutum just didn't want a Madonna-style reinvention, complete with leotards and stupid buzzwords. But, putting pride aside, it is incredibly disappointing that we'll be unlikely to see this iconic name still afloat when trench warfare is poignantly remembered in 2014 to mark a century since the outbreak of WWI. It seems that this company will be staying firmly in the past.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Top Spring/Summer 2012 Trends

As we're mid-way through the season, it seems fitting to look at the trends that have really made an impact in fashion and beauty. Here are seven of the best, giving you a week's worth of looks to road test:

 [Images via - please click to enlarge. 
L-R: Viktor & Rolf, Comme des Garcons, Meadham Kirchhoff].

1. Living Doll

On the Catwalk: Viktor & Rolf, Comme des Garcons and Meadham Kirchhoff all went for the doll aesthetic, fuelled by satin ruffles, frou frou skirts and very high necklines. Accessories included knee high socks, liberal amounts of glitter and incredibly long eyelashes, with Red Riding Hood-style capes seen at Vivienne Westwood to cover up. 

Wear with: tons of feline eyeliner, a sweet shop necklace and a quirky handbag, taking your cue from Olympia Le Tan's book clutch bags as seen on A-listers including Michelle Williams, who went for JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye as her arm candy.

2. Cut and Paste

On the Catwalk: paste jewellery was seen at Miu Miu (in the form of cameo necklaces) and Dolce & Gabbana (used to embellish bodysuits and dresses), whilst Christian Dior's Spring Couture collection included jackets and skirts with exaggerated and obvious stitching lines. Meanwhile, laser-cut fabric turned heads at Louis Vuitton, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino, among others. The rule of thumb: either less is more, or more is more, with intricate layers of jewels or stripped back cluster sections of lace-like fabric holes doing the talking. Either way it's a feminine trump card that is more ladylike than the doll look.

Wear with: white tights and a beehive hairdo, applying as much Ellnett hairspray as possible - it's used by countless hair stylists and models.

[L-R: Stella McCartney, Lanvin, Balenciaga].

3. Olympic Arms

On the Catwalk: the shoulder was a key focus at Stella McCartney and Lanvin, where athletic arms really shone and you could forget about digging out your sports bra. The sports luxe trend relies on lashings of satin, halternecks, the occasional basketball vest shape and plenty of baseball jackets. Balenciaga provided padded shoulders that American jocks could almost carry off with aplomb. 

Wear with: a hint of body shimmer and bronzer (not too much or you'll give it an Essex feel), alongside a neoprene rucksack, fluoro eyeliner and Topshop hi-tops if you're going down the casual vest route.

4. Serious Talons

On the Celebrities: Both Adele and Lady Gaga have, ahem, spiked interest with their pointed manicures. If you're looking to really go for something different in beauty then this is definitely a style worth considering, as you'll never be able to stand a boring squared-off row of false nails again. Grab a rounded set and file them to an inverted 'V' shape if you can't find cool enough options on the high street.

Wear with: a pair of killer heels and some chandelier earrings. This look is versatile enough to work with several different styles, from leather jacket and hot-pants to the little black dress.

 [L-R: Charlotte Ronson, Prada, Louis Vuitton].

5. The Life Aquatic

On the Catwalk: it didn't have to be sea-themed, but aqua was everywhere during the S/S 2012 fashion weeks, from Charlotte Ronson's cool USA chiffon vibe to the elegant lace-clad Rodarte girl and the city-dwelling Prada woman with her long coat hiding a sneaky crop top. Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton brought us aqua tweed and gorgeous triple-strap kitten heels, House of Holland introduced cloudy aqua denim amidst sugared almond shades, and we all suddenly felt the need for an injection of that pale greenish-blue. This may have been the tip of the iceberg as far as pastels go right now, but it was a bloody big iceberg; aqua is the colour du jour.

Wear with: take a tip from Prada and go for bright red, making the blue tones really pop in comparison. Don't forget an aqua manicure or pedicure (try Barry M's Blue Moon) and a slick of pale lip gloss.

6. Deco Decade

On the Catwalk: Whether you blame the recession's glance back to the Great Depression, the Great Gatsby remake or the fact that Downton Abbey will be placing its third series in this decade, there was no denying the historical link between Dolce & Gabbana, Alberta Ferretti and Etro was firmly set to Art Deco. Milan Fashion Week, in particular, went crazy for the 1920s, but many other designers payed heed to all things Jazz Age, including Ralph Lauren. Key quirks included geometric lines, burnished gold accents on dresses, thin headbands and t-bar or Mary Jane shoes. Even at Victoria Beckham, the drop waist dress could be seen to have a 20s origin if you looked hard enough.

Wear with: the Marcel wave. A notoriously fiddly hair do, this is one of the most iconic things about the 1920s. Curl your hair and set the kinks with curling tongs and metal hairdressing clips, ideally following some of the brilliant step-by-step guides on Youtube.

 [L-R: Mary Katrantzou, Rodarte, Erdem].

7. Heavy Petal

On the Catwalk: the queen of intense floral prints is Mary Katrantzou, who continued to use them in her work but also added newer influences like underwater and animal forms which sat well with the flowers that made her famous. Meanwhile Erdem, another London print king, looked to chintzy blooms that stood out thanks to vintage-style hats, giving everything an air of cool granny chic. Lastly, those California Dreamers at Rodarte - sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy - made us look afresh at Van Gogh's sunflowers for our floral cues.

Wear with: all black or white creates a blank canvas from which the prints can almost blossom. Try a black pencil skirt with a simple black beret, a plain white t-shirt and studded kitten heels, or black leather trousers and minimalist boots.

Of course, this is by no means a comprehensive list, as there's still half a season for micro trends to emerge and expected trends to sell pitifully (yep, it can happen). Just bear in mind that these seven are going to be sticking around for a while yet, so you'd better get used to it!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

It's Raining Clothes: 20% off at Urban Outfitters

Pssst: Urban Outfitters are having a one day sale! Get your virtual elbows at the ready for 20% off everything online from the UO Europe store, including free delivery when you spend over £75. 

If you're looking for the discount code, here's what to enter at the checkout: SP2.
You'll have to be quick as it's only valid from midnight tonight (11th April) until 8pm on 12th April, and if you're stuck for inspiration then here are a few things to tempt you from my wish list, to suit all budgets...

Vivienne Westwood Melissa shoe pink
Ethically made and bound to grab attention. Perfect if you're into making a statement.

Urban Outfitters Eastpak backpack floral
Channel Mary Katrantzou but with a more practical edge. As it's Eastpak, you know it'll last.

Black Boater Hat Urban Outfitters
Classic British style with a summer twist and a very retro hat band.

One thing to note: expect your order to arrive in an incredibly large box, even if it's tiny. The UO people like to cushion your purchases with a lot of padding!

Happy shopping...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Raf Simons for Dior: By Numbers

[Image via New York Times].

So, the news has finally broken that John Galliano's successor at Christian Dior will be Raf Simons. Although this was not totally unexpected, as many fashion insiders had assumed that Simons would be the natural replacement, especially once he left Jil Sander to allow its eponymous creator to take over, but then there's always room for surprises. Who knew whether LVMH would play it safe, at a time when there were so many contenders in line to take the throne? I do feel that they have made the right decision and that Simons will be able to modernise Dior without making it lose its identity. Here's a look at the takeover, and the successor's background, in numbers:

1 - the amount of compensation in Euros, payed to each of the two victims of John Galliano's anti-Semitic verbal attacks.
6 - the number of couturiers that the house of Christian Dior has had, including Raf Simons.
12 - the quantity of pieces in Simons' collection for Fred Perry in 2008. 
14 - years John Galliano spent at the helm of Dior.
21 - the age at which Yves Saint Laurent took over at Dior.
44 - Simons' age.
66 - years that the house of Dior has existed.
1995 - the year Simons started as a menswear designer.
1947-1957 - Raf Simons' favourite Dior period.
2005 - the year he became Creative Director of Jil Sander.
2500 - the number of mourners at Christian Dior's funeral in 1957.

I think this is going to be a really positive move for Simons, especially after his move from Jil Sander. Whilst many people may be annoyed to not see Marc Jacobs taking up the position at Dior, I feel that Jacobs is already juggling enough with his work for Louis Vuitton and his own collections (the main line and Marc by Marc Jacobs, not to mention several perfumes). In contrast, Simons is ready to adapt to Dior's needs and he'll be able to devote himself to the brand. I'm sure that he will make an excellent Artistic Director and he will bring something new to the table, without the pomp and circumstance of Galliano - not to mention the scandal. Here's to the future, with Raf at the helm.

Shopping Shortlist: Snoopers Paradise, Brighton

 [All photos my own - please ask before reproducing].
The busy shopfront is a hint of what's inside.

Any long-term lover of Brighton will certainly not be a stranger to Snoopers Paradise (yes, there's no apostrophe - I've checked, grammar fans). This is a hub of collecting heaven, where thousands of pre-loved objects are crammed into stalls amid a labyrinth-like building. One minute you'll be on the hunt for some vintage buttons, then you'll become distracted by a selection of typewriters and some cookery books that are older than your parents. It's one of those rare places where you could spend hours without being pressured into buying, or crippled by the wheels of a pushchair or a small child's Heelies roller shoes.

 Even entering the place requires a touch of kitsch.

The one downside, as far as I can see it, is that unauthorised photography inside Snoopers Paradise is strictly forbidden (yes, I did take the images below without permission, but I couldn't find anyone to ask politely). When every stand has its own photogenic appeal, from the stacks of old postcards to knitting patterns, and the tables bulging with unique furniture, it's really hard not to grab your camera, but I can see that this would be a source of constant irritation. Underneath all of the attractive bargains, they do have a business to run, and it's important to remember that you can pick up many things here for small change, with gorgeous old photos going for 10p each and sewing patterns at around £2.

 The sun-drenched mannequins beckon you inside.

So, what of the charges that many Brightonians level at Snoopers, which is that it's a place for hipsters and not for the average Joe? Though I don't live in Brighton, I make a point of visiting the emporium every time I'm in the city, and I've never felt as if I'm being judged. You can be an avid collector of vintage pieces or just a bargain hunter and you'll be just as welcome. One advantage is that you won't find staff eyeballing you every five minutes or trying to give you sales lines - there's a central till point on both floors and that's it. You're left to your own devices, which is just what you need when there's so much to take in.

 There's always a mix of styles and decades on show.

Upstairs there's only a slight change of tone as you reach Snoopers Attic, where clothing and accessories dominate. Take your pick from the rails of tweed jackets, classic slacks, flight bags and shirts. There's also a really creative range of upcycled jewellery for sale, which uses watch components and turns them into necklaces and rings.

Reasonably priced clothing in the Attic.

Again, prices can start small, with vintage ties at just £4 each - considering you can get a brand new polyester tie for £4-5 in a high street store then this is great value. Obviously there are other pieces that are more expensive, especially if you're looking for a winter jacket or a tea dress, but nothing is marked up excessively, which is the important thing as Snoopers needs to remain competitive to keep buyers interested; otherwise it risks becoming a showroom rather than a business. 

If you find yourself down the Laines in Brighton then take a trip to Snoopers Paradise and you won't regret it. Just don't be surprised if you go in for a scarf and emerge with far more...

Snoopers Paradise
7-8 Kensington Gardens

Friday, 6 April 2012

Blogspot's Unnecessary Change

In the last few weeks I've been disgruntled to find that Blogspot (the blogging outlet I use) has implemented some serious changes with regards to UK-based blogs and their URLs. Much like Facebook's irritating enforced upgrades to user profiles and the confusing new Timeline, Blogspot has not asked users if they want to opt into the scheme - it just happened. Without wishing to rant about technical details, my URL is important to me and I like having control over it, but now suddenly readers are redirected to a domain. If you've been affected too then you may want to read on.

Why the change is detrimental to UK bloggers
  • If you're using software such as SEOMoz to analyse the authority of a blog or website then you base your judgement on two categories, each marked out of 100: the Page Authority (how many links are pointing to the page, both internally and externally) and the Domain Authority (how good your actual domain is in the eyes of Google, whether that means Wordpress, Blogspot, Tumblr or just a simple .com for a website). Sites with good rankings include the BBC and national newspapers, which are ranking in the 90s. 
  • The DA for stands at 96, which is great as it shows that Blogspot is well regarded. Sadly, as is so new and hasn't found its feet, the DA is only 36, which isn't as good. Obviously PA is a much better indicator of how useful and popular a blog is, but the new domain hasn't considered all of your previous hard work in link-building and will have left your blog with a worthless PA of 1. As an indicator, my PA was in the 30s, which is respectable for a small-time blog, especially as it's something I run in my spare time. 
  • If a website or company was looking for bloggers to work with and stumbled across yours, they might not be aware of the problems caused by They would look at your PA of 1 and think that you weren't making any effort to build links or raise your profile, thereby losing you an important connection. 
How to (slightly) avoid the change
  • Fortunately you don't have to give out a whole new URL. Readers are redirected to the new one, which is helpful, but new viewers may just think you don't know your own blog address if you're giving them a business card that features a .com URL.
  • Type in the original blog address and then add '/ncr' at the end. I read this on another blog and it's a really useful tip - the letters stand for 'no country redirect'. This will take you to the old blog format, with the old address - great for you, but not so great for writing on a business card. Still, if you want to see things the traditional way, this is how to do it.
  • Short of taking these steps, there is little that can be done to avoid the onslaught of Blogspot's not so useful evolution. It's a shame that they haven't made this change optional, as those of us who work in Search Engine Optimisation (as I do) would gladly stick to our original domain in order to keep our hard-earned links. 
Ok, enough of the technological ranting. I hope I've explained the situation as it stands, so that other bloggers can learn about the impact of these unhelpful changes. 

Now, let's get back to fashion...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The World's Oldest Dress - Petrie Museum

[All photos my own.] 
A beaded dress from 2800BC.

Last week I was at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, assisting with a blogger event on the theme of #InspireTravel. I didn't expect to find many fashion connections, but suddenly in front of me was this amazing beaded outfit, which my colleague described as Madonna-esque. You can see what she means - those paltry chest coverings leave little to the imagination and the structure of the piece makes it look like an early attempt at fishnets. However it's an incredibly small mannequin that was used to pass off the pre-Madonna look, and that makes things slightly worrying. This would have been worn by a very young teenager or child who needed to secure a husband. And you thought high street childrenswear shops selling push-up bras was scary?

 An ivory comb - because even ancient women liked to look good.

It's crazy to think how long beauty rituals have been going. Acts like brushing your hair or teeth, and applying make-up, have been a part of human existence for essentially as long as civilised societies have formed. You could say that we've evolved very little in the sense that many of our carefully prepared cosmetic regimes are still as important as they were thousands of years ago, albeit without applying chemicals directly to our face - arsenic face powder, anyone? - just as Botox and specialised peels instead.

The world's oldest garment, c.3000-2300BC.

Apologies for the bad photo, but flash photography isn't allowed due to the delicate nature of this shirt. It's the oldest known example of a (relatively intact) piece of clothing in the world, which I found utterly fascinating. You could easily think that it was a peasant costume from a recent period drama, and not something that was sewn thousands of years before the Roman and Greek Empires even existed. 

How can something look so normal when it's so dated? I guess there are practical fashion considerations that really are timeless, such as the need for sleeves and also enough movement for the arms to be able to carry out full movement. The use of linen as a durable and breathable material, chosen for its effectiveness throughout the seasons. It's amazing to think that the needs of a person in a hot country are still met today by the simple linen shirt, which has never found itself as one of the modern world's throwaway garments. This is definitely the triumph of slow fashion.

The Petrie Museum isn't just full of clothing for trendspotters; it's a fascinating museum that showcases the finds of Flinders Petrie, a leading Egyptologist, and his team. Will it inspire people to travel to Egypt? Definitely. But if you can't afford a holiday then this is the next best thing.

Malet Place/Gower Street, University College London
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