Saturday, 26 January 2013

Couture Flower Gardens

Valentino: A floral affair
While florals are a timeless print in our Spring/Summer wardrobes, this season they have bloomed like never before. What resided on this week's Couture catwalks had an entirely different feel to the scintillating three-dimensional roses in Holly Fulton's and Oscar de la Renta's Spring RTW collections. Valentino, Chanel, Dior, Elie Saab and Giambattista Valli all opted for a refined, graceful (Chanel a kind of gothic grace!) and involute take on creating their own veritable runway gardens.     I will forever be in love with the meticulous romanticism of Valentino's designs and what Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli had to offer for couture was breath-taking. Though they were of course not the first to base so much on flora and fauna, the duo managed to create a finesse charm in the collection that is true to their trademark creative visions. 
    The show notes read: "In this enchanted garden, the diaphanous albedo of a dream fades away, leaving behind a strong sense of wonder and breathtaking beauty". As the show began, a beautiful piece of classical music directly transported you away to a tranquil, secret garden.
     Chiuri and Piccioli did not take their challenge of creating a fairy-tale garden lightly, using crepe piping to ice layers of organza tulle and form the illusion of stately wrought-iron fences. From then on every swirl had the illusion of a winding stem or an ornate garden gate. Black crepe piping created a picturesque, mobile bird cage that stunned the audience within the first two minutes of the show (below). The elegant, caged and floor-trailing cape came complete with dainty birdies to protect, sewn onto a buoyant dove-grey dress. 

A birdcage made from tubing on tulle
     That familiar, diluted water-colour palette of powdery ivory, nude and blue made up the majority of the show, mixing perfectly with celestial drapes of silk and exquisite ruffles, ruching and needlepoint. Every single flower had an emphasis on craftsmanship  with delicate, frayed chiffon petals cut to look like feathers, and fields of country seed flowers embroidered to show every dissimilarity. The floral adornment on one such ivory wool dress is said to have taken a credible 550 hours to complete. The countrified frock worn by Cara Delevingne specifically showcased the elaborateness of the handiwork. The renaissance feel dress, predominantly in a burnished red and white, was constructed entirely from crocheted flowers of myrtle, lavender and willow. The Valentino atelier crafted identical, richly embroidered pumps to continue the theme of an evolving botanical world. Braided up-dos reminiscent of the Little House on the Prairie too alluded to the flora theme, conjuring images of Prairie Blazing-stars. 

Chiffon petals, trimmed to look like feathers
Cara Delevingne's myrtle, lavender and willow crocheted dress
     Crochet floral patterns reoccurred on the fashion house's signature scarlet-hued gowns, while pretty eyelet detailing was carried through from the RTW Spring '13 collection, mostly on white. The purity of this colour also laid the foundations for a flurry of neatly-stitched daisies, strung into chains. These were again, the total opposite of Miuccia Prada's take on the seasonal flower, which appeared emblazoned onto retro knits and roller-skate look platforms in her spring show. Valentino's daisies just added to the overwhelming debonair feel of their couture collection.

Valentino's dainty daisy chains
     Karl Lagerfeld went further than composing his own secret garden, as one would expect, instead turning the Grand Palais into a replica forest. His models walked a whimsical path, almost hidden amongst the mystical foliage, wearing clothes with just as bewitching a sense of whimsy and romanticism. The soft, spring-appropriate colour palette was there, along with the tulle and Victorian lace, yet also present was a gothic fantasy feel, which emphasised that this was Chanel couture, and not your ordinary haute collection. There was a sense of mystery in this show; Lagerfeld had clearly thought out the concept of an untouched, curious undergrowth where anything could happen. 

Lagerfeld's florals were contrasted with gothic make-up and headpieces
     There was a contrasting gloominess to the elegance of the dresses themselves; created by the smudged black eye make-up and intimidatingly long lashes, and the darker-coloured, feathered headpieces that rested over one side of the face. Feathers appeared on many a piece; perhaps to echo the feathery friends that permeate a forest in the spring. But despite the edgier nuance of the collection, Lagerfeld embraced the powerful beauty of flowers like everyone else. They featured as thirties-inspired prints, shapely, glistening appliqués and even topped off tweed jackets in the form of corsages. Bright on black was a key colour contrast, with sequins lifting primary colours, while a monochrome, graphic flower printed flared trouser and jumper combination flew the flag for modern femininity. 
    Lagerfeld toned down the audacity for his finale, as two models walked hand in hand in bridal attire that was artfully and precisely tattered for the gauzy skirts of the gowns to look like frothy flowerbeds. Joining them was Karl Lagerfeld's beautiful godson, Hudson Kroenig, who stole yet another high-fashion show with his angelic looks and early talent for that model walk.
    Despite the dramatic leafy staging, Lagerfeld remained focused on detail, which pinpointed the feel of the collection as true grandeur (with attributes of Helena Bonham Carter). I adored the minute, jewel encrusted butterflies that decorated nude mesh covered shoulders. 

Sequins mixed with three-dimensional flower appliqués
Butterflies and feathers alluded to the flora and fauna catwalk trend

Dreamy flowerbed skirts, and the adorable Hudson Kroenig
      At Paris' Jardin des Tuilieres, Raf Simons succeeded in creating achingly romantic reminders of the delights of spring meadows in full bloom. "I wanted to do a very self-explanatory collection this season. I wanted it to be literally about the season; to be about the very idea of spring," Simons told Harpers Bazaar. The neatly clipped hedges (designed by landscape artist Martin Wirtz) that surrounded a maze-like runway set the scene adequately, yet didn't take away from the clothes, as Simons intended. The simple shrubs mirrored the sleek and clean silhouettes of the fashion house, while a well-manicured floral repetition added interest and a new girlishness to Simons' pieces. The over-sized flower print seen on iridescent organza at Dior Spring RTW was pulled back; this time there was a focus on filigree. Each flower embellishment felt remarkably restrained, in a good way, as Simons has a covetable talent for keeping his couture organic. He kept pieces minimalistic where they should be, and drew the eye where need be with extra streaks of flowers on elbow-length mesh gloves. Charming blossom-like beading and clusters of baby pansies were kept to side panels of dresses or worn on tops with a plain bottom-half, while floral ruffles were at first limited to busts and peplum frills. The delicacy of the stem, blossom and bud embroidered bustiers and square-shouldered sleeveless jackets was just charming, and I loved the sugary-sweet colouring. 

Baby buds and blossom had a prim and sweet feel
Vibrant colours were kept to side panels for a controlled subtlety
Statement flower crowns complimented floral appliqués 
The full effect: individual flower gardens flourished to cover dresses
      Despite the initial frugal use of detail- the floral embroideries evolved gradually as the show went on to cover dresses entirely- the collection lost none of its Dior blue-print. Simons kept his love for volume, using fluid and structured skirts, bubble-hemmed ball gowns, endless peplums and boxy crop-tops. He also added a new dimension to his hair-styling, with the gorgeous floral crowns that rested gracefully on the model's heads. 

Floral artistry at Elie Saab
    Elie Saab delivered his predictable yet eternally-loved selection of fastidiously-crafted fairy-tale gowns, using the natural beauty of botany to enhance his artistry. As often with Saab's designs, there are no words! He will always be appreciated for his ever-lasting skill and eye for what women want. For this season's haute collection, there was not a single jacket or pair of trousers. It embodied the essence of red-carpet splendour- full-length or at least calf-skimming dresses made up of millions of beads, the most luxuriant of fabrics and crystallised floral ornamentation. There are rumours that Dita Von Teese even gasped at Saab's latest creations, entitled: "An Ode To Delicateness". 
Giambattista Valli's foamy, feathered florals
    Seeing as Giambattista Valli's Spring '13 Couture show opened with a flurry of animal prints, I can surely be forgiven for being surprised to see just how amazing the florals were once it was their turn to step into the spotlight. Modern designs of big cat spots and scrupulous shapes morphed into flowing tulle and feathered pastel wonders. There was a wonderful juxtaposition between the frothiness of the flower-covered dresses and the designer's bronze-toned herbaceous headpieces. Models balanced Grecian-look, ornamental crowns on their heads as they walked with poise, which, topped off with the complimentary jewellery alluded to the pulchritude of a forest nymph. 

Bronze headpieces encompassed the designer's Italian grandiosity
and added a magical feel

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Vintage Delight: Annie and the Mannequins

The brand is run and modelled by twin sisters Maria and Steph Cox
     While browsing through the boutiques of ASOS Marketplace, I came across a real vintage treasure trove!  'Annie and the Mannequins' caught my eye with its professional-looking photographs, stunning models and wonderful variety of classic pieces of clothing. Not only is the brand's name fantastic, imaginative and distinct from what's out there already, the clothes are amazing and again, totally fill a gap in the vintage-junkies market. 
    The vintage fashion emporium was set up by Textile and Fashion Design Management graduate, Maria Cox, who put her innovative love for thrifting primarily onto an Ebay store. The brand is now run full-time by Maria and her sister Stephanie- twins with an impressive eye for taking era-reminiscent pieces and making them current. Together they embraced ASOS Fashion Finder as the perfect creative outlet for everyday fashionistas wanting to influence others with their personal style. The duo have built Annie and the Mannequins up to have a praise-worthy, global customer base and reputation.

Suzanne Emily O'Connor photographs for the AATM Christmas Lookbook
This month's Lookbook, entitled 'Travelling Girls'
   The girls sell their one-off finds on their own site- as well as on ASOS Marketplace. There is a wide selection of different items on each, so check both out- also to appreciate the artwork. The aim of Annie and the Mannequins was to present unique, antiquarian pieces that can be worn in an everyday context- in other words, pieces that are jeans and cut-offs friendly! Instead of coveting the pre-21st century ball gowns, veiled hats and silk evening gloves that are often found in vintage shops-items that are fascinating to look at, yet not so flattering on- the brand provides wearability, with that much-desired character and quirk. The overall feel of each weekly capsule collection is lady-chic, with a high-fashion edge. Though each piece is a vintage gem, the twins manage to refer to key catwalk trends with their savvy styling, and the result is a retro-bohemian aesthetic. 

An image from the S/S '11 collection- I adore this outfit, and the suitcase!
     Looking at the AATM blog, the twins are also Topshop, Zara, Office and Primark enthusiasts, and they often amalgamate their genuine hand-picked items with mod finds to add another dimension to an outfit. The blog is definitely worth a look; with regular styling posts and pretty pictures to indulge your vintage-appreciating minds in. The look books are gorgeous, with themed whimsical scenery: while this month's lookbook is called 'Travelling Girls' (beautiful tattered suitcases, and a charming gypsy caravan-like setting of plush velvet, fringed lamps and decorative china, check), S/S'12 was inspired by a 'Flower House'. 

'Travelling Girls'
'Flower House'
     Annie and the Mannequin's vintage wonderland offers an extensive collection of feminine pieces, varying from cable knit cardis and sequin encrusted jumpers, to cut-out evening frocks and detailed blazers, to cutsie tea dresses and semi-precious stone rings. There's something for everyone- print, polka-dots, a divine dose of luxe velvet, faux fur collars, Isabel Marant-look belts (but vintage of course!), tapestry bags and the odd pair of Chelsea boots. There is a huge choice for your closet, but one guarantee- you are bound to stand out in the crowd with any of these enriching, high quality pieces. The Cox sisters have created their own time machine to the best in reworked and enchanting clothing. Head to to satisfy any vintage cravings! If I had to pick a ten piece wardrobe from this one brand, here is what I would pick. (Ridiculously tough, as I would actually like pretty much everything!!)

Burgundy Velvet Blazer £38
Royal Blue Velvet Feel Button Dress £38 (worn with black floral
and chain patterned blouse, £30)
Mini Dogtooth Patterned Blazer £34
Angora Mix Slate Grey Spike Studded Collar Jumper £38
Cream Lace Shoulder Panel Blouse £30
Blue and Silver Cochella Semi-Precious Stone Ring £14
Navy and Cream Floral Button Up Dress £34
Cream and Black Polka Dot Skirt £30
Wine Red Silver Speckle Cardigan £28
Navy Totally Beaded Silk Light Weight Blazer £38

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow Queens

 Because of the much-awaited arrival of snow this week in the UK, I've put together my pick of the most influential style icons in the most beautiful snowy moments. 

Marilyn Monroe photographed in the snow by Andre de Dienes, 1945

In 1977, Brigitte Bardot travelled to Canada to work with harp
seals, to gain public sentiment against the hunting industry

Audrey Hepburn keeping warm in the snow

Grace Kelly showing Princess Caroline the wonders of winter

A laughing Ingrid Bergman photographed by Bob Landry for Life Magazine, 1941

French beauty Catherin Deneuve on the wintery set of Mississippi Mermaid,
 photographed by Mary Ellen Mark

A youthful Brigitte Bardot wrapped up for the snowfall

Monday, 14 January 2013

Amanda Seyfried: 19th Century Parisian Beauty and Modern Day Style Icon

Amanda for Vanity Fair December 2012
     Amanda Seyfried floated down the Golden Globes red carpet last night, January 13, in a custom-made, laced Givenchy gown with a curve-conscious cut. Les Miserables was named best musical or comedy and though Anne Hathaway deservedly took the award for Best Supporting Actress, I really feel Amanda Seyfried should have been acknowledged in nominations! Amanda first showcased her operatic skills in Mamma Mia, and in romantic drama, Dear John with her song 'Little House'- it's simply beautiful. Having watched Les Miserables yesterday evening, I was stunned again by Amanda's flawless singing voice and her moving chemistry with Burberry's Eddie Redmayne. They made a charming and very realistic couple as Euphrasie "Cosette" Fauchelevante and Maurius Pontmercy. 

Amanda in Givenchy at The Golden Globes 
With Maurius (Eddie Redmayne)
    Although Amanda made a perfect 19th century Parisian beauty, what with her angelic features, naturally fair locks and incredible puff-sleeved dresses and bonnet, her look in the 21st century world is far from traditional. Amanda is perhaps best known amongst chick-flick lovers for her role as Karen Smith in Mean Girls, yet she has managed to shake off that fresh-faced teen persona in order to blossom into a risk-taking fashion chameleon. She is now known for flaunting the best fishtail braid in Hollywood, rather than for her dim but entertaining Mean Girls quotes- "I'm a mouse, duh!" being a classic! 

That famous, loose and flirty fish-tail braid paired with a
Roland Mouret strapless dress
    Despite Amanda emphasising that she still belongs to normality- "I have an easy life. I go to (pharmacy chain) CVS and (local supermarket) Trader Joe's, I take my dog to daycare"- she has undoubtedly found her fashion feet, appearing on endless Best Dressed lists and featuring on the covers of the most prestigious of magazines. Amanda is known for her sophisticated yet fashion-forward sensibility; one that often accentuates her best asset- her lean legs. In an interview with Daily Life, Amanda acknowledged her famous pins, explaining them with genetics: "No matter what I eat, I think my legs will always be good, and thank God. My mum has great legs, even after two kids and being really busy." Her generally slim figure can also be owed to exercise- having practised ballet as a child, Amanda recently converted her garage into a ballet studio, so she could practise without the embarrassment of group classes! She also revealed that she likes to jump rope, and she has been photographed in running gear with her dog, Finn, making keeping fit look quite appealing! Amanda gushed to The Daily Mail last August: "He (Finn) is my best friend. I love him. I think of him and only him. I don't like to be out late because I just want to go home to my dog." It looks like any boyfriend of Amanda's has to be approved by Finn first!

Finn is the perfect work-out partner for Amanda!

Suspender-like tights highlight Amanda's enviable pins in
 a shoot for Interview Magazine

     Being proud of her legs, Amanda favours short hemlines, whether it be a short suit or a mini dress. It is surprising that someone as innocent looking as Amanda is not afraid to dress audaciously; a risk she takes that always pays off is to reveal her legs and bust- usually a resolute 'no' in the fashion handbook. She keeps her wardrobe choices- however revealing- refined, opting for glamorous labels such as Valentino, Dior and Dolce and Gabbana and this is why shorter lengths and scoop necklines work for her. Amanda is a known ambassador for 'green' clothing and is a fan of eco-conscious designer Karen Caldwell, wearing one of her timeless, black frocks to the Red Riding Hood premiere in 2011. The dress was created from an antiquarian coat and lined with material from a vintage silk frock. I love that this shows that Amanda has some input into her red carpet wear, even though she regularly praises her stylist, Elizabeth Stewart. The H&M electric blue, satin tuxedo Amanda made headlines in last year too was from the store's eco-conscious capsule range. She absolutely rocked the smart androgynous look, and the colour was amazing against her hair and eye colouring.

Amanda favours cute and custom-made short suits like this
 satin shorts and tweed jacket combo
Amanda looking gorgeous in a sheer and baroque
embellished Valentino dress
In her recycled Karen Caldwell frock
In H&M's sell-out, eco-friendly electric blue tuxedo
    Amanda's bouncy, often side-swept locks are a vital part of her signature look, with hairdressers describing her hair as the perfect, virgin (uncoloured and undamaged) blonde. Her blonde bombshell look and porcelain skin means she can reference past eras, with a Marilyn-esque ease. I love era-reminiscent pieces on Amanda, from the flapper style Bottega Veneta calf-length dress she wore to the National Board of Review Awards last week, to a scarlet, curve enhancing Prabal Gurung frock that screamed 50's screen-siren. Jimmy Choos, a Judith Leiber clutch and poppy-red lips finished off the magnetising look.

Amanda in a twenties style, nude Bottega Veneta dress

In a show-stopping, Prabal Gurung bustier dress
     Amanda is confident enough (with the help of her stylist!) to experiment with colour. She has played around with every hue from emerald green at the London Mamma Mia premiere, to a variant of purples and the cornflower blue of the Marios Schwab pleated skirt dress she wore to 2013's Critic's Choice awards. There was mixed opinion on this dress, but nevertheless I welcomed the edgier side of the lace and liked her complimentary Roger Vivier sandals and glossy, contemporary top-knot.

In a Miu Miu dress for the Mamma Mia premiere
One of my favourite looks on Amanda- a maroon Lanvin
frock is set off by a statement necklace and nude patent heels
In a Marios Schwab cutwork bodice dress
    Amanda rarely sticks to one specific cut or design, though an asymmetric shoulder and an eye-catching structural ruffle have reoccurred in her wardrobe. Amanda gained extra style credentials at the world premiere of Les Miserables for mirroring the curvy lines of her cutting-edge, monochrome Balenciaga dress (below) with the waves of her hair. Numerous trends can be pinpointed in Amanda's outfit choices each season- from three dimensional florals to abstract prints (Prabal Gurung's purple-toned dress), feathers (a Prabal Gurung Resort '12 marabou-themed gown) to art-deco metallics (Alexander McQueen style) and menswear. 

Balenciaga's spring 2013 monochrome peplum dress
Playing with pattern in a vibrant Prabal Gurung Spring 2012 dress
In another Gurung number at the CDFA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards 2012
Amanda went opulent in floor-length Alexander McQueen
at The Military Awards 2012
    One of Amanda's most influential fashion looks is without a doubt the crimson Prada trouser suit she wore for her front row spot alongside Emma Stone and Dianna Agron at Miu Miu Spring '13, Paris Fashion Week. The straight-legged Resort 2013 suit carried a fabulous 60's vibe with its boxy tailoring and its geeky, cropped trouser. Feminising the traditional piece of menswear with girly accoutrements, Amanda carried a geometric-print doctor's bag from the same Prada collection and wore plum Mary Jane platforms on her feet. Berry lips and a 'I know I look good!' pout set the high-fashion look off. 

In head to toe Prada for Miu Miu's Spring '13 show
      When Amanda is playing the Hollywood star off-duty role, she clearly relishes dressing down and feeling comfortable. "Personally, I love cosy, fashionable things," Amanda told Teen Vogue, citing Alexander Wang as one of her favoured day-wear designers. Her casual wardrobe consists of easy to wear pieces. These include jeans, colour block tees and cardigans, warm blanket coats, calm and collected olive-coloured knits, the occasional plaid shirt, an array of light scarves, a classic Burberry trench and trusty biker boots. She isn't afraid to be papped in oversized hoodies and beanie hats, and dresses for practicality, often wandering the city, take-out coffee in hand, in all of the above pieces. I love that there is such a contrast between Amanda's on duty and off duty closets; while Amanda can wear gym wear and still look gorgeous, her ability to pull off the most high-end of trends seems like it comes completely effortlessly. 

Dressed down for dog-walking in an olive jumper, black jeans,
 biker boots and a matching tote
Full-on glamour for Vanity Fair December 2012