THE LONG LOOKED FORWARD TO

THE LONG LOOKED FORWARD TO

 Barcelona, 2015. When Jonathan Anderson won both male and female designer of the year at the British Fashion Awards last Autumn I was in Barcelona writing about Margot House, a hotel inspired by the Wes Anderson creation Margot Tanenbaum. (Herself something of a muse for young designers). The building looks onto the Spanish heritage brand Loewe where Jonathan Anderson has been creative director since 2013. The day after the announcement a buoyant Loewe employee steered me through its hushed and hallowed rooms, past the iconic luggage from its archive - the Amazona, the Flamenco - to the Anderson accessory that propelled the luxury store into the 21st century: the Puzzle bag. Anderson has hinted that when it comes to modernising an established brand you begin by erasing the familiar.  At Loewe he did this by changing the HQ, the logo and the coat hangers. The Barcelona outlet is part of the city’s famed ‘block of discord’, where Gaudi’s Casa Batlló is as stately as a gallion alongside the equally iconic Casa Lleó-Morera on the Passeig de Gràcia. The thoroughfare is the equivalent of a Madison Avenue or Avenue Montaigne and exactly where you’d expect to find a flagship store dedicated to the eponymous J.W. Anderson label that garnered these awards.  Instead the designer has opted for a 250 sq ft shop leased by the neighbouring Ace hotel on Shoreditch High Street in London’s east end. 

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TALENT

TALENT

( This profile was published in The Independent in 2000). When she was asked recently for her all-time favourite Christmas TV moment, Victoria Wood chose the celebrated Morecambe and Wise sketch featuring Andre Previn. ‘It was so well written’, she said. ‘And a rare example of a celebrity playing himself successfully’. Both the choice and the reason for it, reveal much about the comedienne herself. Victoria Wood has been playing the role of Victoria Wood the celebrity since the early-Eighties when, after many a false dawn, her television career finally pulled out of the siding in which it had stalled in the mid-Seventies. From the BBC series Wood & Walters onward, she began to secure a place in the nation’s heart and psyche - or at least her brand of comic writing found a home and settled down. The triumphs and the trophies followed swiftly. The most recent being yet another statuette from The British Comedy Awards, this month. Perhaps the greater accolade is that her Christmas specials have became almost as big a tradition as Eric & Ernie’s festive outings. Victoria Wood with All the Trimmings is this year’s offering. It’s a departure in that it features a cast of big names alongside her regular company, in parodies of films and dramas traditionally shown at Christmas. Pastiche and celebrity are themes that dominate the output of lesser comedians like French & Saunders, almost as a distraction from the weak writing and limited performances of the main duo. In Wood’s hands we can expect to see Bob Monkhouse, Derek Jacobi and Robert Lynsey attached to the standard of writing that made Previn’s appearance on Morecambe & Wise so appealing to her.

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去西年轻人

去西年轻人

For the Chinese male the journey from ‘yellow peril’ to menswear's jeunesse dorée  has been  a century in the making. Here was a demographic that no one had down as dedicated followers of fashion.  If Morrissey was right, back in the 1980s, about Bengalis in platforms then chances were the Chinese weren’t far behind. Or so we believed, those of us that never saw beyond the Triads and the takeaways. Now a wealthy, fashion-fed generation of Chinese men have become the leading consumers of high-end, cutting-edge menswear design. The timing is perfect: men are buying more designer brands than women; sales of menswear is growing at a faster pace than its counterpart. The ballpark figure for 2015 according to market research company Mintel is £14.1 billion.  And this, as the world is reeling from the events of the last decade in which China moved in on global fashion in the wake of its economic boom. The embrace of luxury goods by ‘the bling dynasty’ was a rebellion against the regulation Mao suit from the civil war onwards. Wasn’t it?

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CALIFORNIA GIRL

CALIFORNIA GIRL

Long before the Chateau Marmont became Lana Del Rey’s muse and Sofia Coppola immortalised its faux gothic grandeur in Somewhere, there was Eve Babitz. The hotel on Sunset Boulevard is as central to the writings on her beloved Los Angeles as fires, earthquakes and the Santa Ana winds. I stumbled on her book Eve’s Hollywood the day before the 1994 earthquake. An Englishman abroad I looked beyond Hollywood to Heaven and begged to be buried in England as the city shook. A Babitz essay had a different take: ‘If God wants me to believe in him, I’ll do it, but only for the Pacific Ocean and sunsets. Earthquakes are only earthquakes. If God wants me to believe in him he’ll have to do better than that. I’ll wait under a door frame’. I waited under a door frame because ‘there is nothing to do but wait’. Outside, apartment blocks buckled and sidewalks crumbled. In the distance fortress Chateau Marmont, the first building in LA to be earthquake-proof, remained aloof. It’s foundations and secrets in tact. When the author A.M. Homes opted to write a book on the hotel in 2001, she made a beeline for Eve Babitz. ‘It was built for you know, peccadilloes’, Babitz informed her. 'If you want to commit suicide, if you want to commit adultery, go to the Chateau. It doesn’t mind brilliant talent, or romance, or lunacy’. It was from here that she witnessed Los Angeles ablaze during the Watts riots of the 1960s. It was here her former lover Jim Morrison jumped from a fourth floor window into the pool below. It was here a line-up of former lovers - Harrison Ford, Steve Martin among them - gathered for an auction to raise money for hospital bills weeks after Babitz herself was set ablaze.

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THE RADICAL TAILOR

THE RADICAL TAILOR

There is something both sultry and impish about the fashion designer J.W. Anderson. He’s the hybrid of a young t-shirted Truman Capote and actor David Bennett as Oskar Matzerath, the boy who never grows up in The Tin Drum. With designs that blur the lines between male and female he seems perfect to comment on the limited scope of menswear.  He said in a recent interview:  ‘It’s bizarre the ways in which society reacts: they find it difficult to comprehend seeing parts of the body on a man’. It was even harder to comprehend in the post-punk summer of 1977 when, at 16, I enlisted for a bespoke tailoring course at the London College of Fashion. Anderson studied there decades later. It was the springboard for the ‘unisex’ look - shift dresses and bustiers for boys - that gave him his signature style. 

So much of what the likes of Anderson, the Korean designer Juun J, and most of all Thom Browne are designing in the 21st century is all I hoped menswear to be back then.  Instead it stalled in a siding, despite the sartorial sparkle of the early 1970s and what followed in that high season of so-called street style. In that summer of bin liners and bondage pants, high street fashion was becoming increasingly tribal - although this wasn’t entirely reflected in what was widely available in the shops. 

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EXTRAVAGANT AUSTERITY

EXTRAVAGANT AUSTERITY

It was the historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay who coined the term ‘extravagant austerity’ when describing the asceticism of the puritans. Similar could be said of the minimalism being championed nowadays as an antidote to hoarding and consumption. Certainly when you look at the minimalists themselves. Some of whom - I’m sampling Macaulay again -  have a tone of mind  'often injured by striving after things too high for mortal reach’. For minimalists tend to be tech and web entrepreneurs. They’ve made their billions and cash has left a few of them feeling uncomfortable, even though their wealth is a perk of the goal they pursued rather than the goal itself.  Firstly, there are those whose lifestyles reflect the simplicity of their product. The late Steve Jobs cornered this one. The co-founder of Apple lived a sofa-free adult life and spent every day of it in the same Issey Miyake polo neck. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, forever in the same style of t-shirt, embraces sartorial minimalism to liberate himself from unnecessary decisions. He and Jack Dorsey - co-founder of Twitter - are  striving after things too high for mortal etc.  Zuckerberg has said: 'I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything, except how to best serve this community’.  ( The Facebook followers that document the minutiae of their lives online.) It’s been said of Dorsey -  a ‘minimalist' even as a child, when he opted for the smallest bedroom of his siblings  -  he wants to make the world a fairer, kinder and nicer place. Dorsey’s masterwork is a paean to minimalism. How perfect that a child with a speech impediment, who became a man of few words - according to those that meet with him - should create Twitter: 140 characters in which to signal virtues, flag status, and then add a hashtag to bring in back-up.  With one click #blacklivesmatter and refugees are welcome. In seconds you’re a contender -  and the world knows it. If Jack Dorsey hopes to make that world a fairer place, there are others that hope minimalism will make it a happier one. 


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BLURRED LINES

BLURRED LINES

Two key moments came together at the J W Anderson spring/summer 2016 menswear collection in London this year. For me, at least. It began with the soundtrack, the one piece of vinyl that remains in my possession in middle age and recorded in 1977: the mesmeric spoken word album ‘Private Parts’ by the avant-garde American composer Robert Ashley. Here it was cut and pasted between the opening sighs from Madonna’s ‘Bedtime Story’ and beginning with the oh-so familiar line - to me, at least: ‘He took himself seriously’. It could be describing Anderson himself, or at least his attitude to fashion, or rather menswear, or rather everything that followed on the runway that provided key moment number two: cropped and cuffed trousers, chiselled court shoes with winged ankle straps in the glossy reds and silvers of enamel paint. The term menswear sells short this approach to design but no more so than the outmoded androgyny and unisex. Both have been bandied about to describe the current catwalk trend for blurring the line between male and female fashion.

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THE SUIT IN POLITICS

THE SUIT IN POLITICS

When he dressed in a crisp white suit and set about documenting the 1960s counter culture, Tom Wolfe was said to be using the suit as a mirror to reflect the status of others so that he himself remained a mystery. There has been but one sighting of the white suit in British politics - when it represented the independence of former TV newsreader Martin Bell, during his brief stint as an MP. While the catwalks of fashion week play host to Rick Owens boy frocks with peep-holes for an exposed penis, parliament remains the first and final resting place of the traditional - some might say bland and boring - suit. The choice of colour being one or two shades of grey, rather than fifty. Fashion and politics have always made for strange bedfellows, particularly when it comes to menswear - on both sides of the house.

Whatever the achievements of John Major during his tenure at Downing Street, he is forever cast as the man in the grey suit. Even when it emerged that there had been a extra-marital dalliance with Edwina Currie, no one truly believed that there was anything else to him other than a vest and underpants that were possibly held up by braces. David Lloyd George once said of an MP that crossed the floor that he ‘has sat for so long on the fence that the iron entered his soul’. With Major, it was as though the slate grey of his suits had seeped into his hair, complexion and soul. At least that was the view of his critics, and the team at Spitting Image.

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A BOY GEORGE INTERVIEW

A BOY GEORGE INTERVIEW

Né à Londres il y a cinquante ans, Boy George a connu la gloire comme l'homme avant flamboyant de la Culture Club. Il a obtenu un succès en tant qu'artiste solo et un dj de club, d'être finalement reconnu comme un auteur-compositeur dans son propre droit avec l'acclamé par la critique Taboo scène musicale. Au cours des dernières années, une peine de prison et la toxicomanie lui ont apporté plus de titres de journaux que sa musique. Désormais libre, «propre» et sobre, il a réformé Culture Club pour un album et tournée pour trentième anniversaire du groupe.Culture Club réforment pour un album et une tournée. Pourquoi maintenant?
Comme je l'ai plus je l'ai accepté qu'il y ait une sorte de magie pour être dans un groupe. Autant que j'ai eu du succès en tant qu'artiste solo, il y a quelque chose de spécial à propos de Culture Club et ce qu'elle représente. Il était toujours en suspens pour moi, la façon dont il est tombé en morceaux. Les rares fois où nous avons ensemble et fait des choses qu'il a toujours été un peu à moitié. Je ne suis pas toujours dans le bon état d'esprit. Maintenant, je sens que je suis dans le meilleur état d'esprit, je l'ai jamais été de le faire. 2012 sera le 30e anniversaire. Avant que nous allons jouer à 40.000 personnes en Australie à la veille du Nouvel An. L'idée est d'avoir autant de plaisir avec elle que possible, mais ce qui est mon idée générale de tout ce que je fais en ce moment.

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