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Festival highlights the real face of fashion

Former model hopes Edinburgh event will show haute couture in a flattering light, writes Magnus Linklater

The world of fashion is ruthless, stupid, greedy and egotistical. It exploits young models and fools the public. But it is also beautiful, artistic, a major employer and a significant contributor to our modern economy. That is the way Anna Freemantle-Zee, a former model, sees it as she launches the fifth Edinburgh International Festival of Fashion. This is the newest addition to the city’s portfolio of festivals, which aims to both present the acceptable face of fashion and explore the hidden world of haute couture.

For 17 years Ms Freemantle-Zee, Dutch-born but now living in Scotland, trod the runway, modelling for Vogue, Chanel and most of the big fashion houses. She encountered the dark side of an industry, which she describes as selfish and self-obsessed.

“As a model I never really enjoyed it,” she says. “I had to learn how to put a mask on, it wasn’t really where I came from, and over the years I’ve learnt how to take it off again and be OK with what I’ve got.”

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Gigi Hadid: the smartphone supermodel

She’s got 22.6 million Instagram fans following her every move and desperate to buy whatever she eats, drinks and wears. Polly Vernon meets the 21-year-old social-media phenomenon

The funfair that twinkles for one night only – Friday, September 9 – on downtown Manhattan’s Pier 16 is an absurdly perfect one, a dream of what a funfair should be, but generally isn’t, on account of the lingering dodgy types and the nagging possibility of health and safety issues with the rides. But not this fair. This fair is lit by fairy lights, its wooden slatted lengths are studded by picture-perfect Wurlitzers. It has burger bars and juice bars and two types of tattoo parlour (one for real tattoos, one for fake), and it’s overrun not by bored teens looking for escape from school, but by a large crowd of very well-dressed women. They are fashion editors, fashion-related celebrities and style bloggers, and they are here not for the rides, and certainly not for the free burgers, but rather because Pier 16’s funfair is the setting for New York Fashion Week’s most anticipated catwalk show. (more…)

Quick fixes

This was the year of colour, texture and hygge — but, above all, of cheap and disposable ‘fast fashion’ for interiors

You can talk about fashion in interior design with a reasonably straight face now. You can even borrow the old language of clothing Fashionland — the seasonal fashion cycle. And that’s because there’s a regiment — no, a positive army — of people raised in that Fashion Culture who’ve migrated to housey-housey land. They’re employed by fashion brands who’ve decided there’s money to be made from cushions and occasional tables. They’re in housey retailers who’ve recruited a new kind of person to get some new action, and they’re in new hybrid retailers like the American-owned Anthropologie or our own Oliver Bonas (started in Fulham in 1993, and now grown to 58 stores), which do a bit of everything — clothes, jewellery, small furnishings.

You know where you are with people called creative directors. Creative directors introduce new categories with much faster stock turnover than, say, mahogany tallboys or extendable hardwood dining tables. They bring in a sort of paperback chick-lit range of interior goods: easy, affordable and up-cheering ways to get with the style programme without too big a financial — or space — commitment. Creative directors introduce fast-moving ranges of lighting, cushions (Americans call them pillows), throws, rugs, towels, bed linen, small furniture — teeny tables and bedside cabinets — pictures (ie, framed prints), novelty mirrors, scented candles and quirky vases.

 

All this stuff is made cheaply, Somewhere Else Faraway. It’s rather like the range of things bought in industrial quantities for grim mass hotel bedrooms to cheer them up and stop you thinking you’ve woken up in 1979. By definition they’re not that expensive, don’t usually involve installation costs and aren’t meant to last. Who’s going to agonise about throwing out today’s new cushion in December 2017? All these developments allow for a fashion cycle, and they’re material for excitable commentary by people who couldn’t tell a fad from a trend if it slapped them round the chops.

Sometimes, you have to admit, the stuff picked up in the excitable reporting is a straw in a big wind, an indication of something longer term to come. A change of mood. But often enough it just shows the cleverness of stylists who can pick on something that’s the furnishing equivalent of hilarious dogs on YouTube, absolutely compelling for long enough to get someone’s credit card out. A bit of fun that costs as much as a couple of drinks. Meanwhile the tallboy and table are at the back of the shop, losing all hope and self-esteem.

In 2016, you could see it all. The affordable straws in the wind of strong colour and luxury, of trad and serious retro (and, equally, the absolutely evanescent faddy stuff that’s in and out of your brain-pan as fast as a cheerful drink at All Bar One).

 

The positives — indicators of that mood change — included altogether more shapely and sumptuous seat furniture, because those cute little sofas with splayed legs don’t do the job. And increasingly you saw those sofas covered in the material of the moment, velvet.

And the greater use of solid colour of all kinds, not just as a “pop”, but as a real option, meant something too, in all kinds of houses — not just Farrow & Ball trad ones. Pink, for instance, meant more than fogey Germolene or art-school kitsch, and became a real option (it is, after all, “the navy blue of India”, according to the late colour junkie Diana Vreeland). And at the edges, antiques are creeping back — though there’s a new taste in them, a new way of looking at them and using them. (There’s a generation who don’t like the old stiff way, but antiques are incredible value and people are beginning to notice.)

It’s the furnishing equivalent of hilarious dogs on YouTube: absolutely compelling for long enough to get someone’s credit card out

There’s a whole range of new textures and surfaces, spurred by the recent fashionability of copper: new kinds of metal — some of them look OTT at first — and iridescents, antidotes to the ubiquitous stainless steel. Cheap chandeliers have been part ironic for years, but now there’s a reviving market for real ones, old or new or 20th century. Also Murano glass in singular shapes.

And, of course, hygge, subject of several books and masses of magazine spreads. Hygge isn’t so much an aesthetic as all about popular psychology — the idea of huddling together, Danish-style, of feeling safe and comfortable at home, of feeling warm when it’s cold. We envy the Scandinavians their cold, dark nights, their snow, their sheepskin and their simplicity, when we’re unnaturally hot and hideously divided. Hygge so isn’t about design.

The downside of 2016 has been the incredible range of cheap novelties it produced, particularly fakes of every kind of craft, with faults manufactured in — like pre-distressed painted furniture with the corners rubbed off. Craft is bad enough when it’s real. And a rash of manufactured eccentricities, including flock cockatoo lamps that look as if they’d reproduced the 1992 Art School Loft, along with some dubious upcycling where real factory fittings and transport storage, like fruit crates, end up as small tables. That road will be — thankfully — less travelled next year.

Stranger things: how Millie Bobby Brown became fashion’s new favourite

In just 12 weeks, this 12-year-old has become the biggest child star on the planet — and the world’s fashion elite are queuing up to dress her

Yet to binge on the sci-fi series Stranger Things? You must have been living under a rock. The most popular original Netflix series ever — bigger than Orange Is the New Black and, yes, even House of Cards — since its debut 12 weeks ago, it stars Hollywood’s newest “most wanted”. And I don’t mean the marvellous Winona Ryder. She’s called Millie Bobby Brown and she’s just 12 years old.

Born in Malaga to British parents, Brown has enjoyed a staggering ascent. In one short summer, her role as the mysterious Eleven has catapulted her from an unknown, with a clutch of bit parts to her name (including Grey’s Anatomy and Modern Family), to a global phenomenon, acquiring 1.3m Instagram followers in less than four months. Not since Drew Barrymore in ET has a child actress shot to stardom so quickly. (more…)

Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels could fetch $30 million at auction

From a set of tiny diamond rings she won at ping-pong to a huge teardrop pearl that once belonged to Mary Tudor, the jewellery collection of Elizabeth Taylor is to go under the hammer.

The storied gems given to the film star by her seven husbands and others she bought for herself with an unerring eye are expected to raise more than $30 million (£18.8 million) when they are auctioned in December, Christie’s said.

Much of the collection comprises gifts from her second husband, film producer Mike Todd who died a year into their marriage. Among the most famous are the extravagant jewels lavished upon her by Richard Burton as proof of love. (more…)

Signet lose sparkle as profits drop 24%

Anglo-US jeweller Signet, the owner of H Samuel and Ernest Jones, posted a 24 per cent fall in its first quarter profit today, hit by falling sales in the US and admitting that the future in the UK looked tough.

The firm, which trades as Kay Jewellers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry in the United States, said profit before tax fell to $38.6 million (£20 million) in the 13 weeks to May 5.

Although like-for-like sales were down 4.7 per cent in the United States, they were up 5.3 per cent in the UK, where Signet trades as H Samuel and Ernest Jones. However, the group’s Chief executive, Terry Burman, signalled that these sales were not sustainable. (more…)

Meet the face of the business behind the masks

Among the metal fabricators and sign makers on an ordinary-looking industrial estate on the outskirts of Watford is a workshop dedicated to blood, gore, monsters and cinematic magic. Behind the red brick and corrugated steel walls, a team of skilled artists and technicians work on fake dead bodies, prosthetic limbs, heads and face masks so realistic it is hard to tell that they are not real.

This hive of activity is home to Kristyan Mallett Makeup Effects, whose credits read like a who’s who of the film and TV industries including Harry Potter, Batman Begins and The King’s Speech, as well as television shows such as Downton Abbey, Holby City and Sherlock.

The company designs and makes special effects for actors, from adding a small scar to turning them into a flesh-eating zombie. Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio are among the stars who have been transformed by its technicians and artists. (more…)

Urban Decay scrubs up well for L’Oreal

L’Oreal has made a foray into the makeup market for younger consumers with the purchase of niche US brand Urban Decay.

The French cosmetic giant bought California-based Urban Decay from Castanea Partners, a private equity firm, for an undisclosed sum.

The brand was created in 1996 by Sandy Lerner in response to the gap in the market for bright, vivid makeup colours.

“If the cosmetics industry’s ‘big boys’ couldn’t satisfy her alternative makeup tastes, she would satisfy them herself,” the Urban Decay website says of its founder. (more…)

Men’s Hour? What’s there to talk about?

Radio 5 Live’s decision to make a programme just for men is puzzling — not least for men. So what’s the thinking and what do listeners want?

When Radio 5 Live announced that it was launching a new weekly show called Men’s Hour, which would be the “cheeky younger brother” of Woman’s Hour, the response from some women was immediate and scathing. The news was, as the show’s host Tim Samuels puts it, “manna from heaven for female columnists”.

“I checked the date but it was July 1, not April Fool’s Day,” wrote one, who complained that men have “whole channels shamelessly devoted to their interests. And aren’t we in the middle of Men’s Month at the moment, otherwise known as the World Cup?” (more…)