Thursday, 12 September 2013

The Ultimate Fashion Week Survival Guide

Fashion month is not an expedition to the South Pole or the Amazonian jungle, granted. But it's far from your average office day, as you all know (and you all know it because fashion people will happily complain about how perfectly awful fashion month is to anyone that will listen.) The truth is, it's mainly just really tiring. Shows begin rather early in the morning and meetings end late at night, meaning you have to do all your work at night in your hotel room, coping with jetlag (I'm doing New York, London and Paris this season), not eating any nutritious food and basically having your mind occupied 100% by fashion thoughts. It can all turn into a nightmare pretty fast.
Which is why I'm bringing you this Ultimate Fashion Week Survival Guide. Note the word "Ultimate": this is not your average guide filled with nonsense like "My Alexander Wang bag keeps me grounded and feeling fabulous at all times during FW. I never get out of the house without it", which is what you basically find when you google "fashion week survival guide". We (fashion people) are not that shallow and, after all, surviving FW depends on much more important things than designer hats, gloves and shoes. So here are my Ten Commandments. Following them, or trying to (hey, we're only human) guarantees a little less stress and tiredness and a lot more mental health during this proving month.

1. Cling to your iPhone charger as if your life depended on it. Which it does, sort of.

Do not, I repeat, do not forget your iPhone charger home (unless you're pretty sure the Vodafone charging drawers are available in Somerset House). Running out of battery in the middle of a 14- hour workday can prove a bummer and a major catastrophe as you will not be able to answer e-mails, call people, tweet or instagram. Possible consequences: coming home at 1 am to 76 urgent e-mails to answer, not being able to locate shows, presentations, friends or drivers, and loss of social media popularity as nobody saw your pictures of the Burberry show. And yes, I speak out of experience.

2. Your new BFF's name is Dry Shampoo.

Having to wake up at 6 am to wash, condition and style your hair after having slept 3 hours. That's my idea of hell. Thank God someone invented dry shampoo. Just spray some of this miracle dust (Klorane is my favourite brand) with a little head massage in the morning and go out feeling fabulous. No one needs to know you're really a filthy pig who hasn't washed her hair in 6 days.

3. FORGET heels.

I cannot stress the word FORGET enough. And by FORGET I don't mean "wear heels in the morning and carry a pair of ballerinas for backup" or "wear ballerinas in the subway and change when you get next to Lincoln Center" or "take flip flops in your bag to change at the end of the day". I mean plain FORGET about them. There's a time and a place for heels. Fashion Week is not it. Heels might be cool for Victoria Beckham to take a bow on the runway or for Daphne Guinness at the Gareth Pugh show, but they are not adequate attire for us fashion proletarians running to the press bus, or from the car, or in the macadam at the Marais. They are physically and mentally dangerous. I've seen many a fabulous stylist fall face flat on the floor, subsequently losing all dignity. And everyone knows when your feet hurt you can't concentrate on anything else, and life just generally loses its meaning.

4. Try not to completely ruin your health by eating crap and drinking nothing but coffee.

The amount of nutrition-free food being passed around in every Fashion Week on the planet (remember that season we all lived out of Tyrrell's popcorn in London?) makes it pretty difficult to maintain a balanced diet. However, ditching Starbucks Frapuccinos and Pret-a-Manger cake for fruit snacks and green juice (I know, it makes me gag too, but I do feel incredibly energized after drinking it) will be helpful in keeping you feeling human, more or less. 

5. Sleep is underrated.

After a while the "work hard party hard" philosphy just doesn't work. GET SOME SLEEP! Go out a couple of nights every week, maybe party until the wee hours once a week, but try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night the rest of the time. Your body and mind will thank you. And I tell you, parading around the Tuileries gardens in your J W Anderson skirt and Sophie Hulme bag won't make up for the fact that after 3 weeks of sleeping 4 hours a day you're far from a pretty sight.

6. Friends will help you keep sane.

It's no secret that fashion is the refuge of clowns, freaks, weirdos and sociopaths of every kind. And they all get together during Fashion Week. The bitchiness can be unbearable, so get yourself a nice group of clever, grounded, lovely fashion friends (cool people are abundant in this industry too!) and get out there with confidence. 

7. Whenever you feel completely inadequate, remind yourself everyone else feels the same.

You get up in the morning, do your nails and hair (well, at least you dry shampoo it), choose a fab outfit consisting of black straight torusers, black cashmere sweater, brogues and a silk leopard trench coat. You go out feeling like a million dollars... and you get to the show venue. Then in your mind it's all "Jesus Christ! Why did I dress like this? I look like a loser! Leopard print went out of fashion last season! I look way too put together, not nonchalant enough. These black trousers make me look like a sausage. If I looked as skinny as that model over there I could pull them off, but of course I had to eat all that cake last night. Also my hair is getting all frizzed. How can this even happen when I haven't washed it with water and soap in a week? For crying out loud, I just realized I'm standing next to Caroline Issa dressed in Alaïa, she makes me look even worse! I'm so ugly I don't deserve to be here. In fact I don't deserve to live." Yes, that feeling is awful, especially considering you have to endure it every day for 5 weeks. But believe me, EVERYONE feels exactly the same. Maybe not Caroline Issa, but I'm pretty sure 90 % of the people at the shows do. Insecurity is only human nature. 

8. Never mind the bollocks... I mean never mind the streetstyle photographers.

I could do a whole blog post about streetstyle photographers. It would probably be titled "Why streetstyle photographers are dumber than a bag of hammers". Seriously. 95% of all streetstyle photographers - bar Bill Cunningham, Scott Schuman and a couple more - will take your picture only because the streetstyle photographer next to them is taking your picture. So if you enter a show and not one photographer snaps you, that's that. If, on the contrary, one of them shows interest, you will soon be feeing like Lady Di being papped from all angles. Some of the things streetstyle photographers look for in a person are, in no particular order: expensive outfits (who cares if they're borrowed?), ridiculous looks (a dress made of teddy bears? Snap away! Sandals in winter? Fabulous!) and it girls and boys (Alexa Chung dressed in tracksuits? Yes please!). I won't even go into the number of buffoons desperately posing for them. Do not try to be snapped by them and don't feel bad if they sneer at you (they actually do that sometimes). No one in the industry cares about them anymore anyway.

9. Save a little time to do some "real work" every day.

Because there's nothing worse than getting back to Paris after three hectic weeks in a state of exhaustion only to find that you still have to answer 578 e-mails and that a pile of articles needs to be written in the next 48 hours. Use the nights in which you don't go out to work a just a little bit and catch up on your sleep. It's really worth it. After all fashion week is about work.

10. Don't take it all too seriously. After all, it's only fashion!

Yes, we are taking part in a multi-billion industry here, but we're not saving lives, fixing the ozone layer or sending rockets to Mars. Try to keep some perspective. The world does not end because you missed a show, and no one deserves to be beheaded if a heel broke just before the model went out on the catwalk. As much as we like to think "everyone wants to be us", they don't. We're not the centre of the Universe. So lighten up, sweetie.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Hello July, hello Summer!

We have longed and longed and longed for it with despair, but Summer has finally decided to show its "joli minois" in Paris. This is literally the season I live for (Spring? Autumn? Merely transitional periods. Winter? A vile season fit just for hibernation) and to me it's synonym with all kinds of good things: sun, Spain, fresh fruit, gardens, animals, walking barefoot on the grass, swimming pools, surfboards, barbecue parties and friends. So welcome back summer, I love you forever!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Tumblr Love

I'm currently at Pitti in Florence steaming (real, sunny, sweaty summer at last, yay!). I'll obviously post about it all as soon as I can but right now I'm way too busy with work and eating, so in the meantime here's a little link to my new Tumblr gif diary, which you should check out right now as it's the most amazing Tumblr gif diary ever (and hey! It's not like every other person has a gif Tumblr). Let me know your thoughts!

Baci from Firenze.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Viva Las Vegas

If you haven't yet seen Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra you need to drop whatever you're doing and watch it right now. For Michael Douglas's amazing acting and for the rare pleasure of seeing Matt Damon walking around in skimpy swarovski-embroidered speedos, but also because it's a turning point in film history: this is the first time a TV company hs produced a movie that has the same quality as any traditional Hollywood feature, to the point of premiering at the Cannes Film Festival. Soderbergh had problems rising funds since the story was deemed "too gay" by studios (and they say there is no censorship anymore...), so he got picked up by HBO. I personally hope this is the beginning of a long line of movies with innovative plots that will give the industry a much-needed shake-up.
Behind the Candelabra has had a great impact on me for all of these reasons, but also because it has rekindled my love affair with the city that Christian extremists have dubbed "a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah". Las Vegas is truly fabulous! As Joe Pesci said in Scorsese's Casino, "it's a city made of money" where the concept of good taste doesn't exist. In Paris - where the constant focus on tasteful living and understated chic can get quite oppressive - I always feel like I'm committing some sort of capital sin when I express my love of (cue French people cringing) Dolce & Gabbana, Playboy magazine or long gel nails. What I think most French people don't understand is there's an art to "good" bad taste and tackiness too. And no city masters it like good old Vegas. So in case you had forgotten how great the worldwide capital of gambling is, here are 10 reasons to remember:

1. Las Vegas is the only place where it's acceptable for a man to dress like this.

Or this,

or this.

We don't see nearly enough silk, sequins or fur on men in the rest of the world, which is a shame.

2. It's the only place where this is considered elegant jewellery.

Liberace does it better. That is all. 

3. It' the only place where it's acceptable for a decent(ish) woman to dress like this:

Or like this.

We, the women from all other cities in the world, have some serious catching up to do on feathers, gold and chinchilla.

4. It's the only place on earth where it's acceptable for a house to look like this.

Enough said.

5. With 300 sunny days per year, Vegas is the only city in the world where wearing fur coats when there's 30 degrees outside is in.

This might be changing though. I hear in Dubai the latest fashion for wealthy princesses is turning the air conditioning full speed and inviting your friends for a fur tea party. But Vegas has a unique brand of fur glamour though.

6. There must be something wonderful about Vegas when entertainment royalty such as Frank Sinatra, Liz Taylor, Mohamed Ali or Joan Collins goes there to celebrate birthdays and other milestones.

Who wouldn't want to celebrate his birthday amidst a cloud of marabou feathers and girls in sequined bikinis?

7. If it wasn't for Vegas we wouldn't have Showgirls, that utterly vile masterpiece of film history.

I've seen softcore porn movies with better plots and dialogue. But somehow this movie is iconic and addictive, so it must be good in an Ed Wood kind of way.

8. And speaking of showgirls, flooziness reaches a whole new level in Vegas. Which is obviously fascinating.

I must confess I've always been intrigued by Vegas floozies. I saw Casino when I was about 10 (yeah, probably a tad young, but it taught me a valuable life lesson: the house always wins) and I was enthralled by Sharon Stone's Ginger. That girl certainly got around: she knew how to properly gamble, how to tip casino employees to her advantage, how to get 100 dollars out of Robert DeNiro by just saying "I need to go powder my nose" and how to attach her hairpiece flawlessly. It takes a real skill to be a professional Vegas hussy. Chapeau.

9. Elvis's legend and his sequined overalls wouldn't have existed without Vegas.

We've got a lot to be thankful for.

10. Vegas has generally made an art form of tackiness and bad taste...

... so don't be afraid to apreciate the goodness in good bad taste and to indulge in it all. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Heart to Heart with Lou Doillon

A couple of months ago I interviewed the very lovely Lou Doillon (aka we met at a café and talked for two hours, mostly of our love of Leonard Cohen). The interview is featured in this summer's issue of Wonderland Magazine. I thought you might like to read it...

Sipping a café crème in her camel hair coat, maroon fedora and unruly bangs, Lou Doillon looks like the epitome of contemporary French chic. But as soon as she starts talking - in perfect English, “bien sûr” - it becomes clear that the singer is hardly the typical Gallic girl. “I feel very English whenever I’m in France, and vice-versa. At home in Paris I constantly bake pies and we only eat British food; I think that comes as a bit of a shock to my mother, who took up French nationality in the sixties and knows the Marseillaise by heart.”
The 30 year-old daughter of Jane Birkin and filmmaker Jacques Doillon was born in Paris, yet grew up listening almost exclusively to American music: “I used to sit at the back of the car on trips and listen to the tapes my father played. That’s how I discovered Nina Simone, Patti Smith and, of course, Bob Dylan. I remember the day I first heard him, I was amazed at the wittiness of his lyrics.” All of these artists have unconsciously influenced the eleven melancholy ballads that compose Places - Doillon’s first album. However, the singer/ actress/ model had only one inspiration in mind while writing her songs. “Unlike Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen had a real influence on my album. Dylan might be the best songwriter, but he is never kind. Cohen on the other hand is, as the French would say, 'bienveillant'. His lyrics are rather raw, but there is never any viciousness or reproach in them. As I was writing, I tried to remain as graceful as him… Although my songs speak about heartbreak, I ended up taking all the anger away from them, and thanking past lovers for the pain and the lessons they taught me.” 
A rather unusual point of view, considering today’s musical landscape. But then again, Doillon's upbringing and family are hardly conventional. Her parents separated when she was nine years old, and she spent most of the time with her mother. Doillon's close family also included Serge Gainsbourg and Charlotte, Jane Birkin's daughter by the legendary French singer. “My family had different and sometimes difficult relationships, but they had a rare kind of honesty about them. I had my father of course, but Serge was also very present in my life; none of them were ever scared of using their relationships to make their art. They didn’t believe in a simplistic interpretation of love where if you are in a couple you are happy and if you are loveless you are sad. Things are so much more complicated than that and feelings shift constantly.I think the French are able to understand and accept that better than other people.” Has that shaped her music? “A sense of vulnerability in love did, yes.” 

Uncertainty, frustration and longing fill her lyrics, which are perfectly complemented in the blue notes of an accompanying piano and the hints of a western guitar. Her low-pitched voice, far removed from Jane Birkin’s fragile soprano tones, vibrates with despair. “I’m not a 20 year-old girl anymore. I’ve screamed, cried, laughed, smoked and drank a lot in my life. I guess my voice reveals those extremes. Etienne Daho, my producer, once told me it reminded him of Karen Dalton, the American folk singer. I have been listening to her a lot since.” 
Daho - one of France’s most respected singers and music producers, who has worked with the likes of Françoise Hardy, Air and Vanessa Paradis - was the first person to hear Doillon’s songs. Under his wing, Places received critical acclaim upon its release. It was also an unexpected commercial success, selling more than 200.000 copies. But the singer remains somewhat puzzled: “I’m a newcomer. So far I’ve only sang 10 gigs, and when I listen to the album I still can’t believe those are my songs. Maybe that’s because I work very fast. The writing process takes over me when I’m in a dark place. I never really look for writing because as soon as I do I can be sure nothing will come out.” 
Music is simply the latest of Doillon's creative outlets (she's also worked as an artist, designer, model and actress), but it's definitely her favourite. “It allows me not only to reveal myself in all my vulnerability and brokenness, but also to understand myself better. Songwriting is a very unconscious process, sometimes I don’t know where what I’m writing is coming from. Etienne says it takes three or four years to understand your own songs; it is probably true. We’ll see!” However, her plans still involve all kinds of different projects. “The need of expression is so powerful... Why explore it in just one way? I think more than caring about getting really perfect at one thing we should aim at being curious and exceptional and simply enjoy ourselves. After all... we only live once.” 

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

New on AnOther Magazine: Keith Haring, The Political Line

Everybody knows Keith Haring: his t-shirts printed with radiating babies, red hearts and barking dogs became iconic in the mid-eighties as he started selling them in his Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan and are nowadays recognized by one and all. Yet few know about the artist’s longstanding political engagement, his activism and his fight against racism, environment destruction, homophobia and AIDS. That is why the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris and Le Centquatre gallery have joined forces to present Keith Haring: The political Line. The exhibition a comprehensive retrospective featuring nearly 250 works explores the messages of social justice, individual freedom and change conveyed by the artist through his canvases, sculptures and graffiti.

Haring was exceptionally aware of the international political situation, something he attributed to having grown up during the boisterous 60s. Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, he took an early interest in art and began studying at the Ivy School of Professional Art of Pittsburgh. However, he soon grew frustrated with commercial art and decided to move to New York’s School of Visual Arts. It was 1978 and Basquiat, Rauschenberg and Warhol (who would become his close friends) were at the forefront of the city’s art scene. It was during these years that he started doing his subway paintings, which he humorously dubbed “urban guerrilla art”, working frenetically and risking arrest every time he took the subway downtown. These quick drawings, which became part of his everyday routine (some of them have survived time and are visible in the exhibition, even if Haring wished them to be ephemeral) were made in chalk over publicity billboards. Sketched quickly in one lean line, they would shape the artist’s visual identity, gradually turning into the clean, naïve characters inhabiting his canvases.

Even through the use of pop art techniques (Coca-Cola logos, dollar bills and Andy Mouse, a crossover between Mickey Mouse and Andy Warhol, are recurrent in the exhibit), Haring could not hide the conceptual nature of his work. His figures were drawn with an almost irritating precision and their touching candour expressed paradoxically dark and complicated realities, conveying his message in a very comprehensible way. With cartoonish charm, a painting in the exhibition depicts the United States as a muscular character with an erect penis and a tank where his head should be. Another canvas features capitalism as an oversized pig merrily devouring humans. Where one painting represents media as a Technicolor monster trapping humans with its many tongues, another reflects upon the atomic menace using only black, white and red. Haring’s political engagement drove him to work mainly in the public space (he famously painted the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie in 1986). In his opinion, art should be accessible: “the public has been ignored by most contemporary artists”, he wrote in his journal, “but the public needs art. Art is for everybody”.