Monday, 20 December 2010

Colour Me Up

Most of the people we all know are addicted to something: cigarettes, chocolate, shoes, bad relationships... For some reason addictions are inherent to human beings and people who claim not to have any obsessive inclinations at all are either lying or potentially crazy and dangerous (Hitler and Stalin allegedly had no "vices").
I, for one, can't hide the fact that I'm addicted to several things like my iPhone, eating Japanese food, wearing heels which are inappropriately high, compulsively watching or reading anything that bears the label "Hollywood Classic" and... makeup.
Ever since I was 15 I've been making up, at first wearing discreet Dior pink and pearly tones suitable for a young lady, then progressively darkening colours and getting more and more extravagant, which accounts for my current collection of purple and burgundy lipsticks, glittering metallic eyeshadows and statement nail polish hues. Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I can spend hours speaking about makeup, I relentlessly pick up tips from makeup artists at shootings and my idea of a good time is to spend an afternoon at Le Bon Marché with Vanni, both of us looking for new products like a pair of hysterical circus freaks.

Could all this get to be too much? A couple of months ago, when I started thinking I couldn't live without tricolor manicure and false lashes, I realized the whole thing was maybe getting out of hand. So, willing to take up on an experiment and in true Vogue America style, I decided to give up makeup cold turkey for 8 straight days and keep a diary of the experience. Would it be possible to get off makeup?

Day 1: I stare at my bare skin in the mirror. Oh God I look so very... natural, so 2001, so peasant-like! I actually have to go to work, meet people and be a typically sophisticated fashion industry insider. Well, I'm willing to work the natural look, but not by being "really" natural! So I apply a touch of foundation and translucent Shiseido powder as well as a touch of lash curler and very discreet YSL mascara. I look at my bare nails in horror (no one has actually seen my nails bare for more than 10 years) and, since I still have almost an hour to kill (wow, making up every morning does take time!) I decide to do something about them. I know I still keep some very discreet Chanel Rose Satin polish somewhere in the fridge.

Day 2: Well, the first day was not soooo bad, was it? But I feel ashamed to have cheated on myself like that, I really should be taking this more seriously. I decide to be truly brave and not only do I just wear moisturizer on my face, but I also take off my nail polish. The bare look doesn't go at all with my petite robe noire and my pumps. Oh well. I make a face at myself and get out of the house trying not to think about it.

Day 3: Even if I have slept more than I normally do because I don't have to spend an hour creating my lipline and eyeliner, I don't think I look rested enough. If I could only use a bit of Touche Éclat the world would seem different. But I have to be strong.
To be honest, I thought things would be better by now and that I would feel more confident precisely because I was daring to be "myself". But truth spoken I actually feel less confident at work and more self-conscious when surrounded by other people. I start to reflect bitterly on the concepts of identity and self expression.

Day 4: I suddenly realize I'm spending a lot of time looking at women's faces on the street. Most Parisian women wear makeup, and I can't help but think everyone looks so much prettier and glamourous and strong than I do! I'm starting to dislike my un-made up face. I have nice skin and I normally don't think I'm ugly, but the thing is now I feel like I'm too exposed to others, like I had been given a sort of truth serum that has made me vulnerable. Is that what people mean by "being yourself"?
Day 5: I don't care about anything anymore, really. I could be dressed in a potato sack and I wouldn't mind. It would actually go better with my face and hair than the popelin blouse and high-waisted skirt I'm wearing. Whatevs. Depression.
Day 6: I'm starting to really hate this experiment. What gave me this idea in the first place? Am I gonna spend the rest of the year on Prozac on account of this week? I feel really tempted to quit, but there are just 2 days left; besides, who knows, something positive might happen? Yeah, right. Put on your coat, don't look at yourself in the mirror and get out of the house.
I must admit it's very difficult to quit makeup when at work you are continuously exposed to it. As I leaf through an Armani press kit filled with luscious lipstick hues, someone behind me is talking about the best way to apply golden eyeshadow. Then I realize I'm not thinking any less about makeup... If something, I'm getting more and more obsessed with it!
Day 7: I can't stand it anymore. I really need to cheat again... and cheat in style. So I give myself a Belle de Nuit bicolor manicure in purple and golden. I'm wearing no makeup on my face, but I don't feel as bad anymore: my nails look amazing! Just one day to go.

Day 8: I don't give a hoot about today, from tomorrow on I can feel good again! I have become aware of the fact that this "natural" look actually didn't feel natural at all. It felt (self) imposed and gloomy and dull. The natural thing for girls (actually for women of all ages) is to want to have fun, feel good with themselves and be special; and whatever makes them feel like that will be the natural thing. In my case it's playful makeup, and that's that.

So, all in all... Regarding the original objective of giving up my makeup addiction, this experiment has simply been an epic fail. Maybe if I had gone on for a month it would have ended up working, but quite frankly I doubt it. As I cheerfully retouch my lips with classic YSL Fuchsia, I am pleased to notice my obsession is far from pointless. Through the years, makeup has helped me be more self-confident and strong. It is not, as many want to see it, a mask that conceals someone's real personality, but rather a tool which helps to fully express it. And, as Baudelaire put it, "tout ce qui plaît a une raison de plaire".

Monday, 6 December 2010

Paper Planes

If you don't happen to be Spanish, you might not be "au courant" of the recent events that have been shaking my country: last weekend, just before one of the most important holidays of the year (there are lots of holidays in Spain, yes.), 100% of Spanish air traffic controllers decided to "fall ill" at exactly the same minute. As this is not a political blog, I won't go into the details of the matter (stuck tourists, thousands of people who had been saving up for a holiday unable to fly, state of emergency declared, the army taking over etc etc etc), but I can now officially say I think air traffic controllers (at least the Spanish ones) are the meanest, most selfish, most beastly little creatures I could ever imagine.
This air traffic controllers bussiness comes as the cherry on top of the cake: flying nowadays means having to queue for ages in airport check-ins and standing nearly naked in front of everyone whilst your bra keeps beeping as you are being searched. It also means dying of boredom in waiting rooms surrounded by rude bussinessmen in shiny suits, having to pay 10 euros for a packet of peanuts and sitting for hours next to hollering babies. Does anyone remember when planes were glamourous and comfortable, when people used to get complimentary glasses of champagne and elegant, fur-covered ladies as flight companions? Now it's worst than taking the tube. I really think flying is getting obsolete... From now on, whenever I can avoid planes, airports and of course air traffic controllers, I will. Instead, I'll choose to be treated as a human being; I'll choose the train.

... Or maybe even a ship. Anything for a fun, exotic trip. Bye airports, bye planes. Bye bye air traffic controllers.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Fashion Exposed

The new issue of 160grams is out now, and it's so good I just have to talk about it!
For our 9th issue, we chose to bare all and celebrate the brilliant personalities and bright ideas behind the fashion industry. Apart from the classic magazine subjects (a cultural agenda including new books and exhibitions about Cecil Beaton, Diaghilev, Mario Testino and Billy Wilder among others), the magazine features a complete trend report on the new ladylike style.

Shot by the amazing Niko Menu (who has worked on Givenchy campaigns and Dazed fashion spreads) and styled by my lovely friend Sophie Clauzel, the spread turns the ladylike style upside down with wild, saucy accessories and jewellery.
We also were able to shoot Incubus's frontman Brandon Boyd in Los Angeles. Photographer Ben Cope did a Mapplethorpe-like work, and Brandon told us about his new projects, career plans and his shrewd views on fashion.

Love Magazine's contributing stylist Jeanie Annan-Lewin collaborated with us from London, illustrating a complete report on contemporary British menswear. The new gentleman wears Jaiden RVA James, Christopher Shannon and Prada.
For our Fall Fashion story, we joined forces with the incredible Pierre Dal Corso and Jonathan Segade, shooting some of the strongest looks of the season, mixing established designers with up and comers.
René Gloor and I met up with Erik Halley, one of the most promising young talents of the industry. He has designed haute couture jewellery and headpieces for everyone, from Alexander McQueen to Swarovski, from Givenchy and Chanel to Thierry Mugler.
René also styled our rock & roll menswear beauty shot.
Besides all this, the issue features an article on contemporary Japanese fashion, a view on the history of iconic jewellery house Tiffany and the best make-up ranges and colours of the winter.
This issue is 160's biggest and most complete thus far, but stay tuned for our upcoming work...
You'll love Fashion Exposed!

Monday, 22 November 2010

I Want Flowers, not H&M!

When I was a kid, one of the most popular things about birthday parties (apart from making questionable cocktails with Coca-Cola, Fanta, bread crumbs and crisps) was breaking the piñata. There was a whole ritual around the piñata: we all had to stand patiently and excitedly behind the line while a kid hit it with a stick, and when all the sweets finally fell down to the ground there was a sort of avalanche of little monsters who would not hesitate to kick, walk over or bite other kids in order to get a couple of "Chupa-Chups". I was invariably one of the fallen soldiers in combat. I always got back home all scratched up, bruised and humiliated, my only trophy being one icky aniseed sweet that some other charitable kid would have given me as a consolation prize.
The thing is, I'm afraid that's pretty much what's going to happen when H&M's doors open tomorrow at 9:30. I can already picture it: hordes of hysterical females of every age and shape that would terrify Attila himself charging uncontrollably towards the collection designed by a man whose name didn't mean anything to them two months ago.

I can distinctly remember mentioning this designer-mass market collaboration to a group of girls last summer, and I can also remember the looks I got when I said the word "Lanvin": the exact same looks of uncomfortable tolerance and slight disgust I would have got if I was a sticky green creature from another galaxy. Well, those girls will be part of the convulsive crowd that will step over my head tomorrow morning in the quest for an asymmetrical dress. But that's if I decide to risk my life over Lanvin for H&M, which is, by no means, the same as plain Lanvin.

I am still most confused about this collection: when the idea was first unveiled, my immediate thoughts were:
1. Another stupid collection of apallingly made designer-lookalike clothes.
2. Wait a second, if Alber Elbaz is involved in this it surely cannot be as bad as all that; it must be different! (I've been Elbaz's fan ever since his YSL period).
When Lanvin's PRs sent me the images of the whole collection, I was rather impressed; the clothes look rather lovely, I would no doubt wear all of them! Très mignon! Then everyone started discussing the collection, and later the various ways in which they could efficiently eliminate their female rivals on the day the collection would come out. I think that's what made me lose interest...

... Until the day the film came out...

(I know you've all seen this film but it's actually rather cool. I only wonder whether the scenes with the girls wearing the same dresses are a cheeky prediction of what's actually going to happen in every single party during the next few months)

... And then the show: just when I had decided Lanvin for H&M was not worth it, I get all these images of the industry's top professionals ripping off each other's hair and ingloriously fighting over... H&M dresses. Then, suddenly, all of my ever-so-cool industry friends are desperately stating they simply can't live any longer without possessing several pieces of the collection. Before I know it I find myself seriously considering the possibility of actually queuing for three or four hours at dawn in the frozen streets of Paris in order to have the privilege of getting a wristband and enjoy 15 minutes (not one more) of "shopping" (aka berserk combat).
I spent the whole weekend weighing this possiblilty. Then some of the images of the first ever designer-H&M collaboration came to my head: the designer was Karl Lagerfeld, and among other devastating landscapes, I remembered seeing two horrid women up on a table literally wrestling over a chiffon dress until they tore it apart. Then it dawned on me: what's the point in a chic dress if the person inside it is the exact opposite of chic? Elegance is not about the clothes, it's about the person, and even the most stunning dress won't hide the fact that some people are slefish little beasts. Also, I can't forget the fact that, as cute as the collection might look, Lanvin for H&M is not Lanvin, it's just a collection of H&M-quality (sic) clothes that happen to have been created by an exceptional designer. As much as I might prefer Lanvin to flowers, I definitely prefer the simple, authentic, truly elegant pleasures to the built-up, pretentious imitation of chic. I want flowers, not H&M.

Monday, 15 November 2010

African Queen

Three days ago, one of my best friends, Alicia, moved to central Africa. She's planning on staying in Benin for a year. A couple of days prior to her departure, we were brunching together and talking about this and that when she casually mentioned she had to buy clothes for the days she would spend on the jungle. Showing a Zoolanderish level of ignorance, I immediately said "just get hold of a lovely silk blouse, a beige YSL skirt, some chic boots and a vintage hat, darling. You'll be fabulous". The way she looked at me, partly amused and partly worried, told me I had just said something colossally stupid.
You see, after a lifetime of watching too many fashion magazines and Hollywood films, my idea of the perfect jungle attire is this:
That brunch got me wondering: have the fashion and the cinema industries distorted my vision of reality that much? Anyone who knows me is aware that the word "practical" simply doesn't exist in my style vocabulary; and neither, it would seem after a thorough analysis, in Hollywood's.
Ava Gardner spotted this look in Mogambo. It wasn't until today that I realized wearing heel sandals during a safari is maybe not the best idea. You probably get tarantulas walking on your feet by doing so. I also wonder about the parasol, although it's probably a good way of avoiding tarantulas falling on your head (something Alicia told me had happened to her once).
In Red Dust, an earlier version of the same story (starring Clark Gable as well), Jean Harlow honoured Kenya by walking around like this. To be honest, I can't see why one wouldn't wear ostrich feathers in Africa; after all, ostrichs are African, so it's almost like going camouflage, right? The thing that worries me in Jean's look is her hairdo. I don't see how anyone could achieve that hair in the middle of the jungle, with no electricity and no haidressers in sight.
The ultimate queen of glamour, sophistication and impracticality is, without the shade of a doubt, Marlene (Dietrich, bien sûr). In the films where she played a character living in exotic places, she showed different levels of "simplicity". A printed foulard seems perfect to give some "je ne sais quoi" to the simplest safari look (then again, I don't think lions are particularly sensitive to detail).
At night, though, and with Gary Cooper (who is much more sensitive than lions to feminine charms), Marlene wraps up in velvet and satin pumps.
Sometimes, sublimely and purposefully ignoring she's not in a Berlin cabaret anymore, she gets the works: tulle, feathers, fur and long dresses. Ok, I admit this is too much even for me; but doesn't she look divine?
Since heels, pretty hairdos and long dresses are relatively useless in the jungle, one can compensate with an item that can add a dashing touch of style to the simplest outfit: a hat. Big, small, rigid or floppy, anything goes. Kate Hepburn's in African Queen is rather cool, but since Bogie takes it away from her and throws it into the river at the end of the film we can look for other options.
Ava Gardner's hat here is a lovely masculine touch that perfectly matches her Saharienne blouse. But Grace Kelly's is an absolute classic. Everyone used to wear those hats. Unfortunately, probably no one does anymore and everyone (even the lions and the tarantulas) would laugh at me if I wore that kind of hat today, but I still would totally wear it.
If anyone knows how to dress in Africa, that's Ingrid Bergman. Alright, that hat would probably get stuck between two trees. And an immaculate white skirt is probably not the most sensible choice. And those sandals are obviously not "practical". Oh well...

And what about Hollywood's version of African atrezzo and home decoration? That has given me a distorted vision of things as well. Until Alicia showed me the pictures of her new home in Benin, I thought living in Africa was a good excuse to have a wooden bungalow with a piano, a bar furnished with all sorts of whisky, lots of carved glass and beaten-looking silver cutlery and dinner parties with moustache-bearing Englishmen dressed in ivory linen suits.
I can't believe how deluded I was. But it's never too late to learn, so I decided to find out how real people actually dress to go on a safari.
And I did.
After having this taste of reality, I think I'll stick to my daydream delusions. They might be absurd and silly, but they are more poetic and fun.