The Nursery Slopes

MythologiesFairy TalesLucky children in a school near Hebden Bridge will be having their imaginations stirred when their Year One teacher shows them beans, painted with poster colours, which have been dropped by Jack after escaping from the giant.

I suppose my equivalent is having ordered Barthes ‘Mythologies,’ in French.  All my First Year students are going to read it,  I hope, in English.  A French student and I will try to find some ever more subtle nuances, in the words, by comparing notes.

As Barthes said, “We must not forget that an object is the best messenger of a world above that of nature: one can easily see in an object at once a perfection and an absence of origin, a closure and a brilliance, a transformation of life into matter (matter is much more magical than life), and in a word a silence which belongs to the realm of fairy-tales.”

The cover for the French version has the 1960s Dessus on it and so I can direct you to this page:

SUCH FUN!

Do any of us have enough ‘fun’?

The last time we can be sure we were glimpsing the idea of fun’s potential seems to have been the 1960s.  So now the word is the super signifier for that decade.

Used by Barbara Hulanicki on her ‘Desert Island Discs,’ by Miranda Hart’s fictional mother, often in interviews with Mary Quant; it expresses the possibility of freedom  and pleasure.

Fizzing with the excitements left over from the take-up of Modernism, in the 1950s, by the 60s for the first time in history the young had money to spend.  Quant, Hulanicki, et al were there waiting for their Art School educations to liberalise the rest and so we began to spend every night, ‘out’!

The moment when it was possible to be having the most fun is surely when Modernism morphed into to its ironic younger sister, the multifaceted, ducking, dodging, diving, diva, post-Modernism.

The revolutionary, tone-setting, Biba brought in well-designed clothes and accessories for a new object-of-desire-hungry demographic.

Brighton Art college graduate Fashion illustrator Barbara Hulanicki opened a mail order clothing company with her husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon.  Their Postal Boutique was overwhelmed with orders for a sleeveless gingham shift dress featured in the ‘Daily Mirror.’

Image

Shopping and partly shopping!

Petite Robe Noire Guerlain Party in Paris
Petite Robe Noire Guerlain Party in Paris

‘Cuddle Up’

I’m just about in control!  But last week the urge to own sensational things overwhelmed me.  Not because my senses or my emotions were running away, but because successful creative people were selling me dreams. I always review Burberry. Christopher Bailey is a friend of our university and a truly caring, creative designer.  His use of music is sensitive,  of the moment;  making Burberry Prorsum the most ‘must-hear!’

So I want to know what everyone else is saying about him. Reading Cathy Horyn’s review of the Burberry S/S 2014 show in the New York Times – ‘separates, the new super-soft double-faced cashmere coats in pastels and neutrals, the cardigans and the proposal of a semi-transparent lace skirt’ nyti.ms/15y4AJU

Then I found myself being irresistibly directed to ‘Upon Reflection, Anne Fontaine’s Feminine Touch’ nyti.ms/15uJY54 

As the director of ‘Coco Avant Chanel’ her work is essential viewing for me.  There she is in the New York Times demonstrating how she would not be without her mirrored compact lipstick in ‘Grenade’ by Guerlain!  It’s key to her success, she seems to be saying!

It was meant to be an interview about her latest movie ‘Adore!’  I had to have the lipstick!   pinterest.com/pin/4130652155  How many other ‘Coco Avant Chanel’ fans rushed out or to Paypal to join the party?

Through Fashion, perfume and jewels, rather than anything more practical,  we believe we can lead lives of love, romance and glamour.  And of course, we can!?

Every time I open up the intriguing little compact and apply the enchantingly scented stick to my lips I’m transported to the idyllic worlds of blue trains, Shalimar, Paris and the chicest little black dress on the catwalk.

CHUCK OUT THE DIRNDL, THE WALTZ AND THE WIGS

Dusseldorf airport travellers
Dusseldorf airport travellers
If everyone wore a dirndl there'd be no ugliness!
If everyone wore a dirndl there’d be no ugliness!

IN Vienna’s streets there are no musicians.  Just attractive girl students in brocade breeches and 18thC wigs, handing out leaflets on Mozart and the Strausses. Not even Richard, at that!

Playing lead roles in the creation of a city, Fashion shops draw on the identity of designers and promote emerging talent. It hasn’t happened in Vienna. The sharply dressed Viennese couple, photographed here, at Dusseldorf airport, were shopping for clothes in Italy.

Observing the conservative internationalism of Vienna’s shopping quarters it seems it’s the dirndl and the waltz which stops Vienna becoming a Fashion city.  It’s trapped by its history.

In the plush red restaurant at Hotel Sacher there appears a couture dirndl in soft red wool, with broderie anglaise blouse, sported by slim, elegant, still blonde matron. ‘Wanderlust and Lipstick’ sells the whole kit, the Alpine coats, the edelweis motifs to absolutely everyone; worn for parties, weddings, national celebrations by all the young dudes!

Although Fashion is about status, money, and pleasure, in Austria’s capital, with its history of political upheaval and revolution, home of psychiatry and modern erotic art,  there’s a more measured, less frenetic, approach to our seduction to shop.

With the ‘glittering’ German designer Phillip Plein, Mondial, COS, Musette, Girbaud and True Religion on view and on sale,  script-writers hope that avant garde Fashion, represented by Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester, will be setting the scene alongside a ‘steady stream of young designers’.

Yet  set up to please middle-aged, middle-brow tourists from home or abroad, not even Westwood’s post-modern ‘if only everyone wore the dirndl there’d be no ugliness!’ influence,  on her protegee Lena Hoschek can halt the old world, ‘Austrian-ness’ celebrated everywhere.  Hoschek’s clothes are probably not ironic enough.

Klimt does wonderful business in ties, scarves, trays and books outside the Imperial Palace in Belvedere but Austria’s lasting legacy for the Fashion world might be Sacha Baron Cohen’s camp, lederhosen-wearing travesty Bruno –  the world’s most foolish Fashion critic.

 

Glass coaches, diamond tiaras and blue jeans

Fashion’s power probably reached its zenith when Kate Middleton married the heir to the British dynastic throne of the United Kingdom in April 2011.  Prince William had fallen in love with her, it is said, as she paraded down the catwalk at a charity Fashion show in their shared university town of St. Andrew’s, near Edinburgh, in Scotland.  The signs of the harem had transmitted themselves to the virile young royal.

There is a Cinderella quality to this story and clothes played their part towards this happy ending.  Not that Kate Middleton had set many fires, or brushed many hearths, but she now  rides in glass coaches and wears diamond tiaras.

Her days at boarding school mixing with the Home Counties crowd, and Sloane Rangers set, put her on the right track. She’s an interesting mix of American preppy and English Burberry.  Her love of the outdoors means she is not tempted to wear frilly fussy looks.

Her parents are friends with the people who run Jigsaw and Kate did a short stint as an accessories buyer with them.  There’s  an image of William  and Kate, in jeans, to make the point  that Fashion is for everyone in ‘the new black magic’*.

Some of the changes leading to the daughter of airline officers marrying an heir to a European throne have come through Fashion’s revolutions. They began when everyone wore versions of Christian Dior’s haute couture looks in the 40s and 50s.  Then, Audrey Hepburn’s transformations in  films  Roman Holiday and  Sabrina, from princess to pauper and back again, blurred edges.  The films made European and American women see the power of clothes to alter status.

In the 1960s Mary Quant made fun clothes for dukes’, doctors’ or dockers’ daughters.  Miuccui Prada dresses new generations  of  upwardly mobile professional women just as Coco Chanel did in the 40s and  50s.

Kate Middleton  may live to regret showing off her underwear in a daring see-through creation during the  2002 charity Fashion show at St Andrews university.  This was said to be the moment Prince William, paying £200 for the ticket, became besotted with her.  But the sparkly Audrey Hepburn little black dress she chose when she and the prince were on a break will be recalled with much more affection.

I don’t think she could  have got it more right with the classic silk jersey wrap dress by the London based ‘go-to’ designer Issa she wore for the engagement announcement nor when she appeared in Sarah Burton’s angelic, composed, First Communion lace outside Westminster Abbey.  Will she ever wear jeans in public, again, I wonder?

 

Painted faces and words on tins

Hilary Lloyd's black moons

PERHAPS the hunter-gatherer instinct is satisfied when we get into popular Art shows, with others, standing in line, after wondering whether the berries have all been picked.

Whatever the sensation, seeing the Turner Prize on its second to last day, in Gateshead last week, and the totally oversubscribed Leonardo da Vinci at the National, just before Christmas, I was totally thrilled to be so lucky.  Between them there is more intertextuality, than, you could shake a brush at, in an Art-packed dream.

Martin Boyce, the Turner winner, happened to be at the Baltic, in person.  My charmingly professional friend, Sarah Gilligan, stopped me from rushing over when we spotted him at a table in the restaurant with his family. It was after half a bottle of Voignier, but she must have been rather appalled, for more than one reason, when she saw me clutch for my paperback and start rummaging for a pen.  We did chat to him later.

Hilary Lloyd’s electronic circular designs, seen above, were echoed by a full moon in a Niagara Blue (my bathroom’s new colour) sky over the Tyne.

George Shaw’s paintings are of Tile Hill, the postwar council estate outside Coventry where he grew up and has been painting for 15 years.  He has crafted each view, about 18inches across and 10 inches down, in Humbrol enamel, paint usually reserved for scratches on motor bikes or model soldiers. He describes his painting table as looking like something out of ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’.   This  somehow brings me back to the Leonardo.  He did paint the ‘Last Supper’, didn’t he?

However in the postmodern world, in which we live in, there is another stranger connection.  One or two of the Leonardo portraits, whether  preserved or creatively restored,  look as if their make-overs are from the palette of Rimmel, especially applied, to give them the London look.  There is one particularly creamy lipped Pontiff from Milan worth a second glance!

Gender debate

Oh no, the nasty dispute about  800 metres champion Caster Semenya has nothing to do with race but everything to do with that old chestnut, Sexism.

Her fellow countrymen are very confused.  On BBC 1 a couple of minutes ago the only person who was perfectly lovely and serene was the winner herself and her very beautiful mother.

Why should men want to think that women can run pretty much as fast as they can?