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Sounding Off..., This & That

This A/W 2011,Topshop’s Mannequins blaze a style trail

One of the things I was greatly looking forward to seeing during my very short trip to London last week was the Topshop (Oxford street) window, and to be more exact, the Topshop mannequins.

My fascination with mannequins began when I was ten years old and saw the 80’s iconic film, ‘Mannequin’ starring Kim Cattrall and Andrew McCarthy.  In fact back in the SATC days when people would often debate who was the prettiest out of Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte (the popular choice) or Samantha;  I always thought that for anyone who had watched Mannequin and seen Kim Cattrall in her heyday ‘Samantha’ won that beauty (and body) race hands down.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this video and pause on that fur peekaboo moment-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=agxwOaTVnCY

The film Mannequin taught me the importance of a shop window and how the creative use of fashionably styled mannequins could attract crowds, generate press headlines, increase footfall and lead to high sales for a department store.  It also showed me how a dwindling department store could use their shop window to become  ‘relevant’ to the public again.  Then I didn’t know that decorating a shop window and styling mannequins was called, visual merchandising.

Due to Mannequin, I often use the a store’s window display to determine whether I enter a shop or not.  In London, with so many great high street, vintage shops, boutiques et al- stores really up the ante to make sure they pull out all the stops to catch and keep a potential customer’s interest.  Time after time, Topshop’s windows have cast a spell on me and even when my purse strings have been tightened, after gazing at their amazingly styled mannequins, I find that they cast a spell on me luring me inside.

Furthermore, if you are feeling strapped for cash and you can’t afford to buy a magazine to let you know what the trends are and you want a more entertaining experience than looking online- Topshop’s mannequins are styled to let you know what the seasonal trends are and how to work them.  In fact, I found them so inspiring that for the next couple of weeks I am going to write posts dedicated to A/W 11 trends and I will be using  mannequins (from various high street stores) to illustrate my point. And P.S if you haven’t worked it out already- that top shot illustrates that one of the key accessory pieces to invest in this season is a fedora.  Pair it with an oversized fur coat to add a touch of nonchalant glamour to your overall look.

Topshop’s attention to detail and their creativity is just incredible, I love the ‘cry baby’ effect of this mannequin.

Can someone please buy me this black leather jacket with silver spike embellishment please?  This is the perfect jacket to brave fashion shows, parties and festivals with as any queue jumper or pusher is likely to feel more than your wrath when they attempt to shove you out of the way.

Topshop mannequins show that black is still the most effective colour to contrast gold with.  I wonder if transgender icon, Amanda Lepore was the inspiration for the mannequins exaggerated lips as they sure remind me of her.

Amanda Lepore

The razzle and dazzle effect didn’t end there-

Another reason I love Tophsop mannequins is because of the makeup and hair styles they sport.  I’ll never understand stores that cut their mannequins heads off.  Topshop gives you the full package- the clothes, acccessories, hair and makeup, thus humanising their mannequins and making them more relevant.  In fact, I want to come to the Topshop, Oxford street store one night, sprinkle some fairy dust on my favourite mannequins to bring them to life and go partying with them. They just look so damn cool.

At this point a rather surly shop assistant told me that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the store.  When I apologised, she ordered me to delete the images whilst she watched.  This I did- or rather pretended to- I’ve been in the game far too long to not get the story I want dearie.  That being said, I guess in some way I can understand why Topshop don’t want to let their genie out of the bottle, a store with mannequins that look this good must be protected at all times.  So does that mean that with this post, I’ve let the cat out of the bag, oooooh…

Amanda Lepore image courtesy of contactmusic.com

Sounding Off..., This & That

Desperately seeking a fashion illustrator

Fashion illustration is not an art form that I have concerned myself much with in the past, in fact, I only really began to sit up and take note of fashion illustrators when I began writing for Glossy magazine about two years ago.  Reason being, the editor always found different ways to incorporate illustrations into each issue resulting in attention- grabbing front covers and quirky editorial concepts. But even then, I still couldn’t and can’t reel a list of my favourite fashion illustrators like I can with say, my favourite photographers, makeup and hair artists, journalists, designers and the like. 

However, with the setting up of this blog all that is going to change because I need one to design a header for my homepage.  I really don’t like the one I currently have because it’s a model template, which means it’s shared by thousands.  And I hate that.  There is a reason why I am a vintage junkie- I thrive on having one-offs and owning things that are one of a kind.

This is why when I was setting up my website, and I was told by the web designer that there was a Gold, Silver and Bronze standard package, I quickly told him that I would be having the Gold package and there would be nothing standard about it.  I then proceeded to take great pains in making my website as ‘me’ as possible, and in the process making it less like everybody else’s.  It’s still not even close to the way I want it but that’s for another post.

Moving back to the subject of my blog, here are the illustrators (in no particular order) that I would love to collaborate with in customizing my home page-

Phoks

To see and learn more about Phok’s work, go to www.phoks.fr

Nicole Jarecz

To see and learn more about Nicole’s work, www.njareczillustration.blogspot.com

Hayden Williams

To see and learn more about Hayden’s work, go to www.haydenwilliamsfashionillustrations.blogspot.com

Phok and Nicole’s images are courtesy of Glossy-mag.com

Hayden’s images are courtesy of Hayden Williams

Sounding Off..., This & That

Art’otel,Berlin- The 4* imposter

Last weekend I was super excited at the prospect of staying in art’otel, Lietzenburger Strasse with one of my friends who was coming from London.  The joys of catching up with my friend aside, I was looking forward to having my every whim and desire taken care of by the ‘4* hotel’.  Furthermore, I was to enjoy this luxury for free as my friend had got a weekend Groupon deal, which meant I could be her free-loading groupie.

Before I skipped out of my house to go to the hotel my flatmate, X, mentioned how silly the name of the hotel was but I ignored the derogatory comment- no one was going to rain on my parade, I was spending the weekend in a luxurious 4* hotel.

Now ladies and gentlemen of the jury I want you to keep this rating in mind, as I proceed to tell you the rest of the story.

As I rounded the corner, I was greeted by this silly and decidedly ugly ‘piece of art’-

At this point, I was still naively hopeful that my 4* experience was yet to come, so I was rather surprised when the receptionist gave me the directions to my room and did not offer to call a concierge to take care of my luggage.  Now don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances I am perfectly able to carry my luggage,  as a stylist that is part and parcel of the job.  But I wasn’t on a shoot, I was in a 4* hotel.

After a ride up the dingiest, smallest lift ever I made my way to my friend’s room.  Upon seeing my friend, I could see that she was not a happy bunny.  And how could she be?  With the Groupon deal, we were entitled to a free packed lunch, here is what this 4* hotel gave us-

And yes, you really did see that miserable looking sandwich-

I wanted to marvel at the various illustrations on the bedroom walls, like this Marilyn Monroe picture-

But not even the beautiful sight of Marilyn could detract my attention from the shrunken, sad-looking TV in this supposedly 4* room.  It was most decidedly not the ‘modern offerings‘ the hotel promises.

Upon entering the bathroom I saw the TV was not the only minature-sized object in the room, the towels could just about wrap a new-born baby and there was no bath.  Now in the days leading up to this visit, that was what I had dreamed about- singing ‘Kiss’, Julia Roberts/Pretty Woman style in my jacuzzi, instead I was greeted by this narrow sight-

And since when did 4* hotel beds get made like this?  Hello, did I unwittingly enter a time tunnel and travel back to my uni dorm, or am I am in a ‘4* hotel’?

I pity the couple that book their honeymoon in this room.

Art’otel’s strapline is, ‘original art, unique hotels’, and to illustrate their devotion to all that is ‘art’, almost every inch of the hotel is splattered with Andy Warhol images, which as the quote goes- was an attempt of the hotel ‘to adorn itself with borrowed plumes’.

 The thing is the hotel should be more concerned with its basic presentation, if it had been, less time would have been spent hanging up the ‘oh so cool’ image of Warhol photographing Debbie Harry, and more time finishing the paint job on the walls.  It is supposed to be a 4* hotel after all.

I really wish I had been in the meeting room when the interior designer was getting briefed on how to decorate the dining area.  I have a feeling ‘pop art’ was written in bold, repeatedly in his/her brief.  But even though I have no interior design training, I have a feeling that splashing bold ‘pop’ colours on the ugliest shaped chairs e-v-e-r does not equate to pop art.

And I really must commend the staff on their 4* way of setting and presenting a breakfast table.  At this point, I guess I should be grateful that the cutlery wasn’t plastic.

By the end of the weekend, after having our senses assaulted  my girlfriend and I lay in a daze on our ‘hard as nails’ hotel bed, when suddenly all the lights went out and wouldn’t come back on again.  On reflex, I almost felt like reaching out for a torchlight and alerting my home security guards to put on the generator.  But wait a minute, I was not in Lagos, Nigeria.  I was in Berlin, and in a 4* hotel no less.  After much fraffing about by the staff, my friend and I were ushered  into another room and our ugly journey began all over again.

If I could speak to art’otel, I would tell them that their service and accommodation are perfectly satisfactory…for a 2* hotel.  I really can’t believe that this hotel sells itself as a 4* hotel and hasn’t being reprimanded yet because I feel it is false advertising at its worst.

Andy Warhol would be turning cartwheels in his grave if he knew his name and images were being used to entice innocent guests into the ugliest and most pretentious hotel in the world.

This & That, Uncategorized

Berlin Cultural Treat- Visions & Fashion Exhibition

If you have a tendency to stare at a fashion or design image for hours on end, I advise you to carry yourself to the ‘Visions & Fashion, Images of Fashion 1980 – 2010’ exhibition  which is currently being held at the Lipperheide Costume Library at the Kulturforum at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin.

Visions & Fashion presents ‘artistic images that offer a new and fascinating perspective on the history of fashion and style from 1980 to the present’.  The exhibition is spread over two floors with one room focusing more on the original works of international photographers, illustrators, graphic artists and other independent visual artists.  These artists included Peter Lindbergh, Sarah Moon,  Helmut Newton, Tony Viramontes, Michel Comte, Eric Traoré, Lorenzo Mattotti, François Berthoud, Cem Bora, Gregor Hohenberg, Martin Mago, Carola Seppeler, François Cadière and Christin Losta.

 

On the other hand, the other room is a lot more editorial and billboard campaign based, showing classic editorial images from magazines such as iD and campaigns from brands like United Colours of Benetton.  Personally, I got more or a visual kick from the former as the second room portrayed more imagery that I was already familiar with. 

In fact, going round the first room gave me a bit of  a headache in the end, as I was trying to absorb too much of, well everything.  In fact, I finally began to understand the scene in ‘American Beauty’ where the ‘misunderstood weirdo’ wells up with tears in his eyes when he is trying to explain how sometimes, he ‘can’t take’ all the beauty in the world. Reason being, after a while, I really couldn’t ‘take’ all the detailing of the visual images I was trying to soak in- the amazing photographers I’d never heard of before, the shoot ideas some of the editorials were giving me, the shock of seeing Naomi Campbell when she looked like ‘Naomi Campbell’.  Yes, all the Supers were not able to use their super powers (try as they might through Dr Botox)  to evade the ravages of time, but out of all the Supers-as beautiful as Naomi Campbell looks now, I think that she has facially changed the most.

After I finished seeing both rooms with my ‘very hard to please’ friend (who shall remain nameless!), he complained that for an exhibition that was supposed to offer ‘visual interpretations of fashion in photography and drawings’ from 1980 to the present day- that the exhibition should have been curated better, so that more images could have been seen.  He did have a point, after spending €8, I was rather hoping that  a third room would magically appear to reveal more original works.  I also wished that at the very least, more personal TV screens would be added so that I too could sit down with my headphones and enjoy the diverse forms of visual communication by watching the video clips, fashion blogs and websites.  However all that being said, I definitely left the exhibition feeling inspired and with particular images branded in my memory, and at the end of the day, that was the point of the exhibition to use a designed image, so that ‘transient fashion’ could become a ‘lasting memory’.

The exhibition runs from June 30th to October 9th 2011.

My Fashion S/ash Life credits Suitesculturelles.wordpress.com for the images

Sounding Off..., This & That

Fragmented thoughts of the Fashion and Music Greats

On Sunday, 17th July, I attended the ‘Show and Tell: Pop Culture’ discussion, which was part of the Transmission 1, Berlin festival.  This discussion was one of the many forms of avant-garde entertainment, which made up the three-day festival that was held to launch Mercedes-Benz’s new digital interview magazine, ‘The Avant/Garde Diaries’.

I had no idea what to expect from this event but from the Transmission 1 program I gathered that it would be a talk given by Jo-Ann Furniss, Tim Blanks and Paul Morley, and these ‘high profile guests’ would ‘guide the audience through the symposium with the subject, ‘Show and Tell: Pop Culture’ and ‘give people an insight of the world of design, fashion and music.’

As I made my way to the BCC, Alexanderplatz on a rainy, dismal Sunday afternoon, I wondered if my brain could really take in any sort of ‘insight’ into, well, anything.  But the staggeringly impressive achievements of the live speakers are what kept circling around my head, giving me the strength to fight my Sunday blues.  Snippets of their CV’s read something like this-

Jo-Ann FurnissEditor-in Chief of Arena Homme + between 2004 and 2011, features contributor of Style.com, The New York Times, Dazed and Confused, The Face (one of  my favourite mags from back in the day)and Vogue Hommes.  She has also worked with brands that include Louis Vuitton, Mugler and Giles.

Tim Blanks11 seasons of covering men’s fashion week for Style.com, with a recent branch into womenswear, show critic on Canada’s iconic tv show, ‘Fashion File’.  This man has sat on the front row watching and commenting on some of my favourite designers- Alexander McQueen, Dior, Givenchy, the list goes on and enviously on.

Paul Morley- Shame on me, I had never heard of him before but I was told that he was a legendary music expert and journalist who has interviewed the famous and infamous likes (respectively) of John Lennon and Pete Doherty.

I have many thoughts on what I thought about this ‘Avant Garde’ discussion but the primary ones are-

– It carried on for two hours which was  a bit too long to be sat on a not-so comfortable chair in a hot room; and the main reason it did so was because of a GaGa fanatic, who thought he had been given the perfect platform to drone on about Gaga’s influence on Pop Culture.

– Paul Morley ‘bogarted’ the discussion, which meant that the discussion focused too much on music.  Jo-Ann had mentioned at the beginning that this was the first time she had led a discussion in this way, and at end, I wish she had taken more control, so that the audience could have had more of a fashion input from her and Tim Blanks.

During the two hours many subjects were covered, some of which were- Pop Culture: Past, Present and Future, tabloid influence in British Culture, social media and new communication technologies.  However the following viewpoints were what I found most interesting-

 Pop Culture

Paul Morley said-

  • The 50’s, 60’s and 70’s gave way to the dawn of  Pop Culture, and was about the emancipation and discovery of oneself.  Fast forward to the now and pop culture has been absorbed into the world and has been commoditized.  Facebook, Twitter and Google are all products of Pop Culture and as a result we have lost a sense of taboo.

New Information Technologies

Paul Morley said-

  • We now have easy access to information but this has taken away the fight to earn, treasure and keep that information.
  • We live in a world where we are being presented an illusion of choice, so we don’t feel we need to rebel.
  • Due to digital developments, we live in an age where we have more choice and ways to access information.  Sites like Amazon offer an, ‘if you like this, then you will like this’ service and this takes away the fun of finding out information for yourself and ultimately removes the human experience.

Jo-Ann Furniss said

  • She ‘hated‘ the ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this’ approach as one can’t ‘assume’ what a person likes based on a few preferences.

Social Media

Paul Morely said-

  • It was great that everyone can now give their opinion but the problem with that is, it takes away hierarchy and elitism.
  • New communication technologies like Facebook and Twitter encourage the compression and rupturing of the English Language, as we are compelled to reduce the expression of our thoughts to 140 words or less.

Jo-Ann Furniss agreed to the latter point saying-

  • Just saying the words, ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’, sounds like baby talk.

Kindle vs Book

Paul Morley said

  • If you remove the book, will writers still want to write for Kindle?
  • When I write, I write with a model in mind and that model is a book, I don’t want to write for Kindle.
  • I am in the process of writing a book and I really want to finish it quickly for fear that the book will no longer exist.

The Internet

Tim Blanks said-

  • The internet made him feel like he did when he was 16 years old, because when you think you are alone on a particular subject matter or view-point, you can log on and see other people who support your choice, for e.g. through a music fan page.

Tabloid influence on British Culture

Jo-Ann Furniss said-

  • Over the last 15 years there has been a steady decline in the British press due to the rise of people’s desire for gossip.
  • Bearing that in mind, maybe the Rupert Murdoch issue will do some good as it shows that we as a nation, still have our sense of morality and outrage.

Celebrity Culture- The rise of the ‘famous for being famous’ trend

Jo-Ann Furniss said-

  • I blame the Spice Girls for this as they showcased that anyone could be famous without needing to have any talent.

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