Wednesday, 25 May 2011

I Predict a Riot

Anarchy, communism, trotskism, right wing, left wing, neoliberalism, socialism, conservatism... Politics is a complicated and bumpy subject, to put it softly. You all know that, apart from a couple of subtle references and occasional mockery, I have never discussed politics in this blog. I actually am a rather political person (my university made me that way), but this blog is about the fashion industry, style, movies and whatnot. However, recent events in Spain (what is now called the Spanish Revolution, which is actually a pacific movement) make it imposible for me not to talk about politics. Fear not, this is not a post about political arguments or programmes; it's just that, all through the last week, I've been baffled by the attitude that some Spanish "fashionistas" (and especially some internationally known EGO-celeb-bloggers) have showed towards the Spanish Revolution, constantly making it quite clear that politics has nothing at all to do with them. Their problems are others, like flying first class. The fact that almost 50% of under 30's in Spain are jobless despite having MAs, MBAs or two (or more) BAs doesn't affect them at all, since they are all leading fabulous, luxury-branded, beauty-saloned up lives. In fact, hey, politics are for serious unfierce people, right? Fashion has nothing whatsoever to do with politics, right?
Right. Well, I think it's really shallow to think fashion and politics are two completely opposite subjects. With fashion, we inevitably express very many things: what we belong to, what we are different from, what we want to be, what we really are and, of course, the circumstances and time that surround us. And that means politics. I can think of a million examples of politics-influenced fashions and fashions influencing politics: for one, women would never have worn trousers if there hadn't been a war that forced them to work like men. Also, certain goverments once had to establish laws against certain bikinis. And a totally obvious example: those Che Guevara printed T-shirts (oh, the subtle political and fashion statement!). The way we dress is in part political, either because we reflect a political reality or because we want to build one of our own. And it has been this way ever since the first fur bikini worn by a Cromagnon woman.

Philip II of Spain was pretty much the owner of the whole planet in the XVI century. He was emperor to a large part of Europe and all of America. Yet being a strict Catholic (at a time when the Catholic Church was endangered), he chose to wear austere, black clothes devoid of all visible luxury. He didn't want to boast about the immense richness and power of Spain, not out of humility, but to oppose Protestants who had a very different relationship towards money and success than Catholics. You wouldn't know how fast the fashion spread everywhere in the Empire.

On the opposite side, Marie Antoinette wore the most glamourous dresses and the most incredible powdered wigs (remember the one with the miniature boat on top?) as a statement of splendour when in fact France was falling apart. Times of relentless material excess often reflect cultural decadence. But, just like Philip II, she was creating a political statement through her style, and a new fashion trend through her political views.
And it has been the same, all the way into the XXth century.

It is pretty obvious that there is a certain connection between Lenin's ideas and the look of the girl in this picture by Rodchenko.
And hey! This chap is a very popular T-shirt logo!
We have an even closer example:

Kate Middleton's wedding dress was much more than just "gorgeous". It bore the conviction, in the words of Hilary Alexander, that a royal bridal gown should promote its nation's skills. The lace embroideries featured roses, thristles, daffodils and shamrocks, all symbols of Britain; that, together with the French chantilly lace details and the Victorian-cut corset, made Sarah Burton's dress a homage to the history of Britain. (also, actually, wedding dresses started being white only when Queen Victoria decided so, responding to a whole new set of moral values and ideas about femininity).
Remember the last few years before the crisis? We were all careless and rich and really excited about Sex & the City and Carrie Bradshaw's looks. Carrie wrote one column a week and still lived in Manhattan and could afford to wear 365 different high-end looks a year. Wow!

Now that we are all down and out, that we've lost our faith in the banks (and our life savings too), and our confidence as consumers, and now that Sex & the City is no longer "mega cool" but "downright annoying (please stop making SATC movies)", the newest, coolest, most modern fashions look like this:

Which leads me to the Spanish Revolution: when a nation's politicians stop looking to their citizens like:


and start being depicted in the collective mentalities like:


And if whenever politicians (of any established party) speak it sounds as ridiculous, endogamic, incomprehensible and stupid as this,

then it's an unmistakeable sign that something is really wrong with the country's politics. And then it doesn't matter if you are conservative or socialist, rich or poor, or if you wear Che Guevara-printed T-shirts or Rick Owens skirts. And it certainly isn't a question of being too fabulously fashionable to be political or too compromisedly political to be a teeny weeny bit fashionable. It's all about rallying round to make things better and fairer for all of us.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Absolutely Fabulous

The other day I read on Twitter that BBC is preparing a new season of Absolutely Fabulous. Hallelujah! You see, Patsy Stone and Eddie Monsoon are a pillar of the fashion industry (I wonder what this says about the fashion industry) and Ab Fab has been a crucial influence on virtually everyone I know. We all have spent countless hours laughing at the politically incorrect jokes made by these two ridiculous characters. Sometimes too ridiculous and far from reality? Maybe, but even if Patsy and Eddie are a caricaturesque and exaggerated version of actuality they represent something that exists in every woman (and in many men, too). All of us are somewhat like Eddie Monsoon or Patsy Stone (even if we hide it on our everyday life for, well, social survival purposes). But who are you: Patsy or Eddie? Or none? Take my quiz and find out!

1. Which of these is your favourite fashion brand?
A. Lacroix, sweetie, Lacroix! Oh wait, Lacroix is out of business now... McQueen, sweetie, McQueen!
B. Gareth Pugh, Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester... Anything ultra modern and slightly robotic.
C. Burberry Prorsum, I go for understated chic.

2. What does your house look like?
A. Priceless antiques co-exist with contemporary designer furniture, also priceless. Oh, and I posess a lot of modern art: paintings, hanger installations... you know, sweetie.
B. I don't know... there is a bed. A rack for clothes. Packs of cigarettes. Empty bottles. Old racing forms... I guess it's ok!
C. My house is decorated with classic taste. I like floral prints and light tones.

3. What's your ideal holiday?
A. I love fascinating places, authentic places, places where you can spiritually grow... and which have 5-star resorts with a vegetarian menu and jacuzzi.
B. I don't care, as long as I'm riding in the back of a Harley-Davidson with a guy dressed in leather and with tight buttocks.
C. I enjoy a lovely holiday in the coast. Cornwall, for instance.

4. Who is your favourite singer?
A. Janis Joplin.
B. The Sex Pistols.
C. Aretha Franklin.

5. Choose your favourite meal.
A. Food can't just nourish the body, I also has to nourish the spirit, darling. I eat roots, ginseng, seeds, drink celery juice... *munches doughnuts*
B. I haven't eaten since 1973.
C. I love Italian food.

6. Your morning beauty ritual consists of...
A. I wake up my mind and body with a multi-jet shower and essential oils, I have my esteticienne come by to give me my daily anti-aging, replenishing and anti-cellulite treatment, I meditate, I carefully choose a look that perfectly reflects my mood and I have an energizing breakfast while internally I repeat my mantra.
B. I try to find out where I am, light a cigarette and look for my knickers.
C. I have a shower and wash my face with cold water and soap.

7. Kate Moss is sitting at the next table in the nightclub. You...
A. Kate Moss? Did you say KATE? Oh Kate, KATE! Kate, sweetie, darling, Kate, listen; Kate!
B. I show her all my modeling pictures from the 60's, this pup needs to know how a really professional model looks and strikes a pose.
C. I politely ask for an autograph and leave her alone.

8. Do you believe in God?
A. I believe in a higher spiritual force that brings a delicate balance to the universe. I believe in cosmic wisdom. I believe in Buddha. I believe in Hare Krishna. I believe in chanting. I believe in the Kabbalah. I believe in raking stones in a Japanese garden. I believe in Vitamin Water.
B. God? I believe in The Ramones.
C. I believe in love and goodness and charity.

9. Your work is...
A. A holistic approach to human bonding, a global reinterpretation and re-shaping of the basis of beauty, a spiritual accomplishment expressed through new cultural parametres...
B. I say how, when, where and what, and everyone follows my orders. I am a prophet, I am a visionary, I am a dictator.
C. My work requires strong communicational skills.

10. Choose the image that inspires you the most:

Now here are the results!
Did you choose a majority of A? You're Eddie Monsoon!

You're a mystical, open, wandering soul deeply involved in finding the right spiritual paths. You're also completely out of control and totally indisciplined. You can repeat you've had carrot and beetroot juice for supper all you want, everyone knows you've eaten a whole cheese pizza.

Majority of B? You're Patsy Stone!

Super fashionable, fantastic, swellegant... you have an ambivalent take on femininity that makes people sometimes wonder whether you're really a man. Your personality is dazzling, probably because most of the time you're under the influence. You're not rock & roll; Rock & Roll is You.

Majority of C? You're... Saffy!

Classical, sensible, intelligent and responsible... You're pretty much perfect, except... you're a total party pooper!

After taking the test myself I must confess to a majority of A's... What were your results? Tell me!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Nuptial Fever

It's finally happened. The Wedding of the Century has taken place - and I admit I watched it live on BBC while gossiping with my friends about everything: the trees in Westmister Abbey (they added a beyond beautiful, slightly medieval forest-like touch that went great with the dress), the Spanish royalty's looks (up with the Queen and down with Letizia!), Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie's fabulousness (I'm a fan) and, of course, Sarah Burton's dress for Kate Middleton. Which came as such a great surprise since I was terrified with the possibility that the Princess would take inspiration from *frets* Lady Di's puffy meringue-like wedding dress rather than Grace Kelly's divine Helen Rose Hollywood-designed number.
The Wedding went smoothly and it was great fun, even for us uninvited voyeurs. And it seems to have triggered a kind of nuptial frenzy that's spreading everywhere like a virus. The wedding planner in me enjoys it all greatly, so I have taken a look back into some chic weddings of the XXth century. I love the genuinely happy expressions of the brides and grooms. The cynical side of me, however, knows that most of the happy weddings below ended in divorce, bitter divorce or misery. Makes a girl think twice before going head over heels for a big romantic wedding with a virginal white dress and a prince charming. But I guess the important thing is to celebrate love with a happy day - and a great party.
I love the way Joan Crawford couldn't (and wouldn't) help being a supermodern 20's vamp, even on her wedding day. Her attitude here is more "dare you?" than "blushing bride-to-be". Slightly inapporpriate. All very Hollywood.

Beautiful Ingrid Bergman married Petter Lindström before moving to America. The marriage went smoothly until she had a scandalous affair (and got pregnant by) Italian director Roberto Rossellini. All this may spoil the romanticism of this wedding picture, but, as she told her friend Humphrey Bogart in the midst of the Rossellini scandal, "now I am happy".

Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles (one of my favourite Hollywood couples) went for a laid back, understated look on their wedding day. Living with a genius proved challenging though for lovely Rita, and soon after the divorce she married Prince Aly Khan.

As happy as she might look in this picture, little did she know her prince of a husband would turn into an extremely cruel man that made her life living hell. Good thing divorce exists.

Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra had a torrid romance. Their marriage, though, seemed sometimes more like a cocktail party gone awry than a marriage at all. Years later, when Old Blue Eyes married Mia Farrow, Ava (showing an extremely feminine acid tongue) said "I always knew Frank would end up marrying a boy". Attagirl, Ava!

What to say about Grace Kelly? She was the prefect bride, the perfect Hitchcock heroine, the perfect princess and the perfect woman. Isn't it paradoxical that the most impeccable, elegant and admirable princess ever was from Philadelphia?

I find this picture of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio really moving. She looks just so innocent and happy on her wedding day. Makes me feel really sorry for the way things went wrong for her afterwards. Her chocolate brown fur collared jacket, by the way, is one of the leading characters in Michael Chabon's novel Wonderboys. If you haven't read that yet do it! It's delirious.

Here's Audrey Hepburn with Mel Ferrer. Very Sabrina and Roman Holiday...

...And Space Age Audrey, some years later, with Luca Dotti. Doesn't she look adorable?

Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in one of their weddings (although I can't quite remember which one). Her hairdo is really the most, I wish more brides got inspiration from it!

After her Factory years, Edie Sedgwick grew her hair and let it go back to her real colour, got a West Coast tan and changed her minimal minidresses for multicoloured hippy-ish numbers. She also got married. Even in this Woodstock-meets San Francisco wedding she manages to look enchanting.

Thank God for John Lennon and Yoko Ono! They always did things their way. Of course they had to defy wedding conventions on the day they got married. They chose white, though.

Mick & Bianca Jagger, AKA Rock Royalty.

Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain in their grunge wedding in Waikiki. She was six months pregnant and wore a dress that had once belonged to Frances Farmer. He said he was too lazy to wear a tuxedo so he just wore his pyjamas.