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 for the images

Personal Style

Remembering Amy Winehouse through Images and Song

With Amy Winehouse passing away on Saturday, 23rd July 2011, the world lost a true icon who in her tragically short 27 years, managed to surpass her field of music to become a cultural tour de force.

It is hard to believe that Amy received worldwide fame and numerous prestigious awards, when she only released two albums- ‘Frank’ (2003) and ‘Back to Black’ (2006).  I must confess that it was the latter album that made me aware of who she was as an artist.  And I feel very lucky that I got to see her perform live in Camden.  Living in London at the time, it was so refreshing to see a British artist whose sound was as memorable and unique as their visual appearance. 

When doing research on Amy Winehouse on the Web, it is amazing how the negative press far outweighs the positive.  We live in an era where the media and public build you up, only to wrench you back down and grind your reputation to a pulp.  Unfortunately, due to the demons Amy was fighting and her out-spoken nature, she was an easy target for the press.  I don’t feel the need to delve further into the personal battles that Amy fought, as that was not what fascinated me about her. Furthermore, all one has to do is to google ‘Amy Winehouse’ to read the lurid details and speculations.

I am far more interested in the songs she sang with that voice and the memorable visual journey she took moulding her personal image.  The below images are my favourite Amy Winehouse pictures and how I want the world to remember her, and whilst you are looking at them, I’d like you to listen to that voice.

True fashion icons always have a journey and never just fall into the looks that make them become ‘fashion icons’.  At the start of Amy Winehouse’s career, she looked much different-

Here we see a much more voluptuous -looking Amy with no tattoos, beehive and cat’s-eye makeup.  Her choice of pastel colours, floral print and plastic jewellery are also interesting, ‘edge-free’ and almost ‘child-like’.  However, there is still the trademark Amy ‘bosom doth overfloweth’ look.

The release of ‘Back to Black’ unleashed Amy’s new image, like her music she had matured and used her visual appearance to give the world an insight into her personality and her musical influences-

I absolutely adore her ensemble in this image- she managed to carry of so many cultural references at once- the ratty oversized beehive hair-do, cat’s eye makeup and tight, short outfits were an ode to the girl groups of the 60’s (like The Ronettes).  Amy was definitely a champion of the ‘underwear worn as outerwear’ trend, and the titillating showing of her cleavage and push-up bra is offset with her cartoonish (child-like) hand bag.  Her red patent ‘heart’ bag, looks like something Bettie Boop or Minnie Mouse would kill to get their sketched mitts on.  And then her overtly feminine image is juxtaposed with an assortment of very masculine ‘in your face’ sailor tattoos.  That is what I love about Amy, you couldn’t put her in a box.

I also found it interesting to learn that Amy had an emotional approach to her styling, as she once confessed, ‘The more insecure I feel, the bigger my beehive gets’.  This explains why sometimes it looked like her slight weight would topple under the weight of her exaggerated coiffure.

Fashion houses are always quick to ride the shirt-tails of the new ‘It-thing’ and in 2007, Karl Lagerfied sent the models in his 2007 London Chanel pre-fall show down the catwalk with high hair and dramatic eyes in her honor. “She is a beautiful, gifted artist,” Lagerfeld said at the time. “And I very much like her hairdo. I took it as an inspiration. Because, in fact, it was also Brigitte Bardot’s hairdo in the late fifties and sixties. And now Amy has made it her own style. For me, it was a double clin d’oeil. It is Brigitte Bardot and Amy Winehouse.” Fast forward a few seasons later, he had crowned another young British artist as his muse-Lily Allen.  Such are the transient tastes of fashion and all it holds dear.

After her award-winning album ‘Back to Black’ was released, Rehab became the most popular track at fashion shows. The track played at Comme des Garcons and Dior – two wholly different brands with different target audiences-showing how special the song really was.

I haven’t done the research but I’m sure with the release of the album, black eye-liner sales soared.  After all I remember going to the MAC counters and insisting they give me the necessary war paint to create ‘Amy Winehouse eyes’.  That’s when you know a music artist has made it, when they can command sales in record stores, make-up stores, vintage shops and the like.

I was also a fan of Amy’s colourful use of headscarves.

Amy also like to show her softer side by wearing essentially ‘cute summer dresses’.  But she always made the look her own by donning heavy statement, gold, rap jewellery.

In 2010, Amy was enlisted by, one of her favourite brands- Fred Perry– to design a collection inspired by her style.  The collection sported her signature look including polo shirts, skinny pencil skirts, capri pants, mini dresses and twin sets.

She was also photographed by some of the most renowned photographers in the world, including Bruce Weber– 

Unfortunately in the last few years, the world got accustomed to seeing Amy Winehouse in unfavourable situations (which were made public by the press) like- in various state of undress, clutching onto blood-stained ballet shoes and with various bruises.  But she could also look like this-

And the final image is my favourite ‘retro made  modern’ Amy Winehouse ensemble I’ve seen so far.  It shows that she didn’t always wear revealing short, tight clothing.  When she felt like it, she could ‘fix up, look sharp’ like the best of them.  I can’t tell you how much I love that 50’s leather circle skirt

Which is your favourite Amy Winehouse image and song?

My Fashion S/ash Life credits-,, and

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, 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, 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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