Designs for a Modern Life?

Designs for a modern life www.ShopCurious.com

To la Poisonnerie de l’Avenue, where courtesy of a generous friend, we dined on a feast of melt-in-the-mouth asparagus – followed by a succession of beautifully presented seafood dishes, reminiscent of Elizabeth David five decades ago. My oeufs a la neige (which predictive type keeps trying to turn ‘beige’) au caramel were bursting with flavour (‘flavor’) and retro fabulosity. Though David derided “tacky caramel” as “a recent development, and one which quite wrecks the innocence of a dish that should be frail and pale as a narcissus, just white meringue and creamy yellow crème anglaise.”

Dinner conversation turned to Cyprus, and one of the guests suggested that we are currently in a situation akin to “being in the final stages of a game of Monopoly, where one player has all the remaining pieces.” She surmised that the winner could well be of Middle Eastern origin…

***

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” – Virginia Wolf (sic) was scrawled on the blackboard outside a decidedly empty-looking café on Battersea Park Road. A warm glow emanated from within, but no one had bothered to stop on this wet and windswept stretch of road. I wonder how so many of these places still survive on London’s increasingly deserted shopping streets. I suspect many small businesses all over the country may well be on their last legs.

***

The world of fashion journalism was very much a closed shop until recent years. Most of the old guard trained as professional journalists and rose up through the ranks to command the unassailable snugness of their positions. Indulged with cherished invitations and fashion freebies, they enjoyed a certain smugness too.  Then, when fashion-blogger-young-guns started muscling in on the action, many began to feel threatened. But now they are making a comeback: fashion editors are re-emerging as online content managers. Unfortunately, their reinvention coincides with a rather disturbing trend, whereby both newspapers and magazines are being turned into online shops – along with high street stores.

Top fashion journalists are no longer expected to be independent of their advertising departments (if they ever were?) In any case, advertisements are now ‘campaigns’ in the form of online videos. I was surprised when Grazia’s Paula Reed defected to become Fashion Director at Harvey Nichols. But I wasn’t at all surprised when Hilary Alexander retired from The Telegraph in 2011 (though she still contributes on a freelance basis). The Telegraph’s fashion section now resembles a glorified glossy, where you can purchase all that you see. Curiously, Alexander has recently resurfaced in the newly created role of per una fashion consultant at Marks & Spencer, where she will also have a weekly column on the brand’s website. Meantime, I read somewhere that Sunday Times Style magazine has just launched a shop – is that for subscribers only? And mega-publisher Conde Nast has bought a stake in online fashion emporium, Far Fetch.  Whatever next? The Tesco Times, Sainsbury’s Sun, Morrisons Mirror and Ikea Independent?

***

On the lookout for unusual finds, I visited the Mid-Century Modern fair held at Dulwich College just over a week ago. I wasn’t so much wowed by the fare on offer as the venue for the event.  Sale items were exhibited beside ex-pupil Sir Ernest Shackleton’s boat, the James Caird – overlooked by pieces of history, and portraits of previous masters – along with modernist fixtures far grander than any available for purchase. I did buy something… a Vallauris-style ceramic coffee set – the likes of which I am a hoarder collector. But there were also some fabulous ex-Miami hotel fittings, including a pair of wonderful Lucite table lamps, which I probably should have jumped upon. Of course, I was saving my pennies for Selvedge Spring Fair at Chelsea Old Town Hall, where I bought a dress and a bag – more stuff I don’t need, but all in a good cause.

I also visited the Designs of the Year show at the Design Museum. Of all the finalists, I rather favour the Little Sun (see above left), designed by Olafur Eliasson – a low-cost solar powered LED lamp that emits up to 5 hours of light when fully charged. Around 1.3 billion people worldwide do not have access to mains electricity. This sun-shaped lamp is specifically designed for people living in rural communities to enable them to work, study or cook at night. Due to our recent weather (and fortunes), we Brits may well be in need of a sun lamp soon.

***

My travels along the Battersea Park Road were brightened up by a passing funeral procession. At first I assumed this had something to do with Kenny Ball, whose funeral I think took place on the same day, though probably in a different part of town. So was this extravagant send-off in memory of another jazz performer? An ethereal carriage, drawn by white horses (decked out in feather plumage – see above right), was preceded by black musicians playing the saxophone, trumpet and trombone. As the cortege processed down the street, I had to blink… but it was for real.

***

I’m not so sure about the curious art gallery-cum-serviced office in a godforsaken part of Victoria I visited, to behold Kerry Richardson’s “acclaimed video work, The Erudition.” I stood in a four-walled room – an image projected onto one of them, of “a lunar-esque landscape … consisting of holographic trees blowing in simulated wind… a barren, computer-generated landscape” (above top right). I didn’t need to see this, being already in close proximity to the barren building site that is the top end of Vauxhall Bridge Road: I could just walk out into the freezing cold north-easterly wind and swirling sleet to feel the portent of environmental desolation. I thought I’d pop into Westminster Cathedral to warm up on the way home, but a madman was running around shouting obscenities, so I made a speedy exit.

Is there life on Mars? I have no idea, but I can confirm that David Bowie Is at the V&A – and well worth queuing for. 

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

Girl Trouble: Fashion, Feminism and Vanessa Feltz

The girls of St Trinian's 2013

A couple of weeks ago an issue of Sunday Times Style Magazine appeared to be dedicated to the feminist cause. There was an article by Camilla Long on the relevance of feminism today, accompanied by comments from Caitlin Moran and a number of media-savvy younger women involved with female causes. At the end of her piece, Long quoted Whistles Chief Executive, Jane Shepherdson saying, “feminism is not about shaving under your arms, it is about being equal to men.”

The article was immediately followed by an advert for Thierry Mugler’s Angel Eau de Parfum, with Cindy Crawford lookalike Eva Mendes massively airbrushed into a Jessica-Rabbit style dress.  A few pages later came a feature on ‘screen idol vintage inspired fashion’ to ‘bring out your inner showgirl.’ Christopher Kane’s ‘ruffle corset dress,’ £2,395, Vivienne Westwood’s ‘jewelled corset,’ £2,400 and shorts £355, and Balenciaga’s pom-pom coat with knickers, total price £7,200 did little to dispel the notion that we (women) have barely progressed beyond the confines of our Victorian past.

***

It is very easy to be distracted when sitting in front of a computer. Once the inbox is opened, it throws up all sorts of unexpected temptations. One of these was a YouGov survey – thrillingly devised to arouse curiosity as to the questions. As it turned out, these related mainly to trust.  Okay, I thought, I may as well plonk down a few digital dots. Do I trust journalists? No. Do I trust BBC journalists? No. Do I trust ITN journalists? No. And so it went on – with teachers, police officers, MPs and other public servants all getting a look in.

After I’d done the survey, I started thinking about the questions. In fact, they should probably ask people to do a second survey a couple of hours later to see what the results are then. On the subject of journalists, I found myself wondering if there are any I do actually trust.  How about Jon Snow and Krishnan Guru-Murthy? I suppose I trust their reporting skills, but I probably wouldn’t trust them with my daughters (if I had any).  In fact, it was difficult to come up with any journalist I could trust… with the exception of Vanessa Feltz.

Sometimes, usually when driving, I tune into her show on BBC Radio London and never cease to be drawn in by her hypnotic and mellifluous voice. She stands out like a delicious fairy cake in a sea of turkey twizzlers. Here is a lady, all hair extensions and voluptuous curves, who speaks the Queen’s English beautifully, thinks on her feet (or in this case from her seat) – and whose range of vocabulary is a constant source of wonder.  Although I’ve never met her, Vanessa was a contemporary of mine at Cambridge, so must have been in one of the first intakes of women at a formerly all-male college.  She’s as bright as a button, she speaks commonsense and… Omg! Could this have the makings of an overgrown schoolgirl crush – whatever would Vanessa have to say about that?

***

Feltz came to mind when I visited Robina, a boutique in New Bond Street, for an event organized by the Lady Taverners. Today’s gowns are very unlike the first proper evening dress I purchased there, whilst I was still at Cambridge.  Mine was the simplest and tiniest of LBDs. But now, in a section of the street blighted by Crossrail construction works, bagged-up flounces of wedding wear (up to size 22) hang on dusty rails behind the store’s tired looking façade. Robina is closing down after 42 years of trading. I only went along because I felt nostalgic, and sorry for the owners. Though I ended up buying two long dresses I didn’t need – they were such a bargain it seemed silly not to. And at least it was near Mews of Mayfair, where I celebrated Pope Francis I’s election with my godmother over a glass of champagne, or five.

***

Never mind the recession… I read a Business of Fashion (BoF) blog post this week on the subject of Bond Street’s coming megastores.  A wave of new openings of larger-than-life luxury stores, “costing tens of millions of dollars each,” are going to be opened by Spring, 2014.  I had clean forgotten that, until relatively recently, Bond Street was closed on Saturday afternoons. Formerly known for its family owned antique shops and art dearlerships, the street will soon be filled with the vast, gleaming frontages of luxury brands like Chanel, Dior, Fendi, Ermengildo Zegna and Belstaff – all paying record breaking amounts per square foot. Louis Vuitton already has a flagship ‘maison’ in the street – described by (partly LVMH owned) BoF as, “a gilded emporium teeming with blue-chip contemporary art, a private VIP apartment, a concept bookstore and the constant sound of clinking champagne flutes.”  With the help of Crossrail and an influx of tourists from overseas, Bond Street is set to become a premier global destination for luxury shopping: “a super-scale showcase that can generate super-scale revenues…” A bit like Westfield, then, but without the parking.

***

Sometimes where the world is going scares me. But perhaps that’s being short-sighted? This is a concept social historian Carol Dyhouse considers in her latest book (launched today) – Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women. Popular hysteria has often accompanied the progress of girls over the past hundred years or so. Dyhouse’s fascinating study of the evolving opportunities and challenges for girls starts with the ‘white slave trade’ – an urban myth that kept young women imprisoned in their homes and oppressed. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, white slavery became a synonym for prostitution and the sexual slavery that men subjected women to. Late Victorian moralists either saw girls as innocent or fallen.  Marriage was a sort of economic bargain, with the wife being kept in return for sexual services – rather like Doris in Mr Selfridge.

As soon as women tried to do something about their powerlessness, they became ‘revolting daughters’ and ‘rebel girls.’  But with the advent of better education, women grew more adventurous. The word ‘flapper’ originated for a slang term for young prostitute. The Girl Guide movement set out to lure aspiring flappers away from the “temptations of the eyebrow pencil, the lip salve, the rouge pot, young men and sex.”  By the 1930s, Hollywood screen goddesses provided the inspiration for women’s clothing and hairstyles – including revealing bathing suits. There were worries that girls, “seduced by their desire for luxury… might become restless gold-diggers, painted hussies… scornful of homely virtues.” There was even seen to be a link between confectionery and immorality – and buying sweets was associated with delinquency (at least for girls).

Things were different in Bohemian and literary circles, which were open to experimentation in sapphism and homosexuality. But the punishment for ‘good time girls’ was severe. Approved schools for girls attracted “a disproportionate amount of public interest” and girls tended to get into trouble not because of criminal activity, but because they were oversexed. These girls were generally highly intelligent, but seemed to spend an unusually large amount of time adorning their faces. “Criticism of young girls’ appearance, their hairstyles, make-up and mode of dress is common in post-1945 accounts of wayward girls,” says Dyhouse. She also points out anyone who googles ‘reform school girls,’ will probably discover a pornographic website.

Later on came the horrors of beat girls, dolly birds, mixed race dating, juke boxes, readily available contraception, the ‘permissive society’ and Essex girls. The various film versions of St Trinians (between 1954 and 2012) show increasingly sexualized versions of schoolgirls. Natasha Walter has written at length on a return to sexism in her book, Living Dolls. Yes, some women choose to have silicon implants, or frequent ‘thinspiration’ websites. But this obsession with our appearance is nothing new. Okay, ladettes can now compete with men in terms of bad behaviour. And our examination results are better than boys’. But, on the whole, we’re still partial to occasionally painting our nails.

Time has not made women equal. Men and women will always be fundamentally different because of our physical and psychological makeup.  And women’s love of fashion will continue to be inextricably linked to feminist issues.  “Do we need to see the colour pink as demeaning – or is the condemnation of girlishness in itself a subtle form of misogyny?” asks Dyhouse. I wonder what Vanessa thinks…

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

Advance Warning of Mother’s Day…

Philip Treacy hat www.ShopCurious.com

Susan makes an error of judgement and finds herself in Westfield…

If I had a pound for every time I’ve clipped my alloy wheels on a badly designed car park entrance/exit, I’d be a wealthy woman by now. The other time this seems to happen is when my mother is in the car, wittering in my ear, as I’m trying to park.  Last Sunday, I was planning to take her to the Hammersmith vintage fair, but in a moment of madness, I decided to go to Westfield instead. This is something I never wish to repeat.

Why on earth do people flock to a large building, lacking natural light and air, and full of chain stores – when they can shop online for the same goods from the comfort of their homes? It reminded me of a down market version of Heathrow Terminal 5. Unfortunately, the champagne bar, located in a section bizarrely named The Village, bore little resemblance to a first class lounge. This soulless enclave of ‘luxury’ shops appeared to have more staff and security guards than customers, whereas some of the other stores were struggling to meet demand – in one case, heaps of discarded clothes were strewn across the floor.

I wanted to ask visitors why they were there. Perhaps it was a place for people from the local council estates to keep warm on a cold winter’s day? Though the number of cars parked below told a different story. This is obviously a ‘destination’ – a haven for tourist shoppers, material girls, their friends… and mothers.  Luckily, I managed to find my car and get out asap – thankfully without scraping my wheels. Both QPR and Fulham were playing at home. The traffic was a nightmare.

***

Talking of which, my mother sold an old autograph book in a sale at Bonhams last week. In it were signatures from the likes of WG Grace, along with cricket and football teams from 1907-8. It made me wonder how people choose a team in the first place. Might your favourite colour, for instance, affect your decision to support a team? Perhaps a brand that appeals – like Emirates, Samsung, or Pirelli?

Or, how about a family allegiance?  Mine came from North West London, so were naturally Queen’s Park Rangers supporters. But when my grandparents moved north, they started following Arsenal. So is it location? My father was a lifelong Arsenal supporter, and I duly inherited his football ephemera, including dozens of match programmes. I now live within striking distance of both Fulham and Chelsea – and, because I can see Chelsea stadium from my window – especially at night, when it is lit up like a giant glow-worm, I feel that I should support the blues (even though I’ve absolutely no interest in or knowledge of how they’re faring). But what accounts for the huge global following of teams such as Manchester United?

***

Befuddled by motherly multiloquence, I ended up traipsing to the London College of Fashion for talk that is due to take place in a month’s time. Nevertheless, it provided for an encounter with some curious hats (see above), which could come in handy if your mother is visiting. Later in the week, I fought back tears on a visit to the Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition at Somerset House.  In its final week, the show was almost as busy as Westfield… full of power-dressed women elbowing each other out of the way to catch a glimpse of tulle, georgette and crepe de chine. Some of the handcrafted creations were so breathtakingly beautiful that I came over all emotional. Though, on reflection, it may just have been relief that my mother had finally gone home. 

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

Feeling, flying and fashion

LFW Feb 2013 www.ShopCurious.com

It’s London Fashion week, voluptuous mutations and pilots who sound like Roger Moore for Susan this week…

Perhaps you can help me? I am trying to think of a suitable caption for this photograph. Incidentally, the logo on the front of the man’s sweatshirt says ‘Dope Chef’. I love living in the swirling soup of global diversity that is cosmopolitan London. You really notice this at London Fashion Week, with its eclectic and intoxicating mix of designers and visitors.

I’ve also spotted that a lot more men seem to be attending London Fashion Week these days. Many of them look to be in their teens, and quite a few seem unsure of their gender. However, Dabblers may be interested to visit Grey Fox, the website of a chap I met who specializes in fashion and style for the older man.

***

I love London even more when the sun shines, but earlier in the week was a different story. Another snowy day, another trip to Paris. This time for the faceless side of fashion. A warehouse wilderness of several thousand screened-off stands masquerading as an international fabric fair.

This is where many fashion houses and designers choose their textiles for collections to come. Whilst we at Fashion Week in London, are buying made-up garments for a season hence – ie Autumn/Winter 2013, visitors to Premiere Vision order fabric a year in advance, for Spring/Summer 2014 – and trend forecasters offer suggestions for a season beyond that.

Meantime, security guards closely protect the fabric samples, lest anyone should dare to photograph, or throw food at them. Though everyone is allowed to touch. Ah, yes… the textiles community is very touchy-feely. NLP practitioners would place this group in the box of kinesthetic people. How are you feeling? Are you getting to grips with this concept now? Never mind, if you’re not, just hang in there and you’ll get a handle on it eventually.

By the way, trends are usually given names. ‘Voluptuous mutations’ was one of the more original. As I sat eating lunch opposite a morbidly obese man, whose face grew larger and redder as he drank his way through a bottle of red wine, I began to get a handle on where the organisers’ inspiration was coming from.

***

There was another encounter with BA too. Despite my appreciation of global diversity, here’s an admission: The reason I mainly fly British Airways is that I am reassured by the pilots’ voices. Nine times out of ten I feel at ease because the pilot sounds like Roger Moore. Only once have I been on a plane with a female pilot, which threw me a bit. And it’s okay if the pilot has a Scottish accent (so long as I can understand him) or – heaven forbid – is Welsh. But if the accent is Geordie, or too strong, or anything other than vaguely British sounding, then I begin to fear for my life. Why is that?

***

The provincial outpost that is Charles de Gaulle continues to dumbfound me. Lost in a maze of renovations, whilst the airport is converted into a (deserted) luxury shopping mall, I finally found the BA check-in desk. I’m not sure why I bothered, as I’d already checked in online. But when they scanned my boarding pass, it was deemed necessary to swipe my credit card.  Not just the one I paid with, but two others as well. There seemed to be something wrong with their system because none of them worked, so it was “okay anyway.” How did I feel about that? Not entirely okay.

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

Feel the Width

Feel the width www.ShopCurious.com

Susan sees signs of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…

According to astrologer Shelley von Strunckel, 2013 will be a ‘year of hope’ – though not necessarily for men. Women are becoming more powerful, and this year will be a ‘tipping point’ in our bid for supremacy. It’s not just power structures that will be changing, but also our sexual identity. There will be less differentiation between genders. Men are already modelling as women – and women are entering into all sorts of model relationships. Like Jodie Foster, whose partner has been female, yet the father of her two sons is a man.  At a dinner last week, Shelley voiced the opinion that we should all have our own manifesto for life and “re-write our own script.” We should become a part of the major power shift that is taking place, as we move from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. The old formal, pyramid shaped structures, invariably headed by men, are being broken down – and in the new flattened out world, women will lead the way.

***

I just hope we don’t get waylaid by the complex thought processes that go into choosing home accessories and furnishings.  We may find ourselves involved in some stressful decision making regarding colour, as, in order to avoid the need to commit themselves (a useful ploy in the current economic environment), design firms have decided to manufacture products in every colour under the sun.

***

“it’s so big!”  Not the sun, but the London Art Fair – as declared by an American visitor I overheard. The show was not simply super-sized, but super-crowded too. It may just be that the lure of free champagne at the preview had got around on Facebook, as a lot of the visitors looked to be art students. But this year the focus seemed to be more on genuine talent rather than shock tactics. Though the gun lobby still got a look in.

***

There were probably a few people who would have killed to get an invitation to Nicholas Oakwell’s couture show at Claridge’s. It was certainly the thickest stiffy I’ve received in a long time. Though the ego boost was soon deflated as, since I’m not a soap star (just a personal friend of the designer since the early ‘90s), I was seated in row B next to master-nose, Roja Dove – whose diamante-encrusted shirt may also have a starring role in the forthcoming Liberace biopic. Mr Dove (not to be confused with the soap of the same name) had created a special perfume to mark the occasion – which, he explained to me, was composed mainly of lilac, but with an unexpected kick… This tied in with the theme of Nicholas’s collection: tsunami (a word not actually mentioned on the invitation, for fear it may have negative connotations).

Occasions of such opulence give me mixed feelings. In this instance, I was totally drawn in by the visual display, not forgetting the sheer artistry and skill that must have gone into creating the collection, which I appreciate will also factor in the UK’s bottom line. I was bowled over by the set design too – the whiter than white room, filled with life-size (and life-like) Japanese cherry blossom trees, would have had Jay Gatsby beaming in admiration. But the sheer extravagance of the event, and of women paying upwards of £30,000 for a dress, sits uncomfortably at a time when most of us are trying to rein in the purse strings. I was sufficiently traumatized by the tsunami to look up the global distribution of net worth on Wikipedia. And this is what I discovered:

Global distribution of wealth

***

There was yet more trauma for the fashion world, when the perils of the size zero lifestyle were confirmed.  A four hundred pound American woman said that her size saved her life, when she fell through the sidewalk into a vault cellar in New York. She broke her arm, but was rescued by fire crews, and claimed that a thinner woman would have died in the fall. Judging from diners at London’s Colbert, where at least 95% of the lunchtime clientele are female (yes, we really are taking over) disasters such as sudden death from falling through a hole in the pavement will be averted. However, an inch of snow is guaranteed to bring life as we know it to a standstill.

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

In the Soup…

Susan Muncey is our trendspotter-about-town, and this week she’s dealing with soup, soap, and a “cornucopia of hair, teeth and beards” at a Harvey Nicks launch party…

Sometimes, the things designed to make our lives easier have completely the opposite effect. Take my new food processor – the mini Magimix, designed to fit the modern, streamlined kitchen: I think the instructions must have been translated from French – and the demonstration photographs taken by someone with absolutely no knowledge of kitchen gadgetry.  I tried out each attachment in turn, in an attempt to find out how it worked. Then, inspired by Jamie Oliver’s book, 15 Minute Meals (most of which look as though they’d take at least an hour and fifteen minutes to prepare), I decided to make some soup. However, I didn’t think I needed a recipe, as soup is easy peasy. No?

…No. I pulped three leeks, which seemed to take an age, and involved removing big chunks that the mixer simply refused to blend. Then I added a large onion to the machine, which was reduced to mush with alarming speed and efficiency.  Finally, I placed my soup ingredients into a saucepan with a pack of liquid vegetable stock and proceeded to heat. After ten minutes or so, I thought I’d sample my concoction, only to discover it tasted like boiled wheatgrass. The addition of a tub of crème fraiche, along with some nutmeg, lemon juice, honey and black pepper made little impact on soup’s overwhelming bitterness.  It was also so thick that it took me another ten minutes to wash the gloopy mulch down the sink.  And it stank.

***

Talking of which, it really irritates me when expensive soap cracks, or breaks in half after only a few uses. Yes, I know it’s petty to concern oneself with such things, but is there a scientific reason why bars of soap seem to disintegrate in the shower, yet not in the bath? I guess this is why someone invented shower gel.

***

By the way, has anyone else given up drinking for January? I lasted for 10 days, but on the 11th, had to succumb. A friend, whose on-off love affair with alcohol has included a stay at The Priory, kindly sent me an article by TV’s alien-looking Dr Christian Jessen, proclaiming that a month’s abstinence could do more harm than good.  I was easily convinced.

***

Almost everywhere I went last week, the champagne flowed… and, reluctantly, I declined. I recorded the first episode of Mr Selfridge in order to attend a party at Harvey Nichols on the launch night of London Collections: Men (men’s fashion week). I’m not sure why it was decided to hold a major fashion event at the beginning of the first working week of the year, but I suppose we have to start somewhere. Anyway, I ended up chatting to Harvey Nichols’ Group Stores Director – mainly because he and his partner were among the few guests who looked to be over 30. The room was a veritable cornucopia of hair, teeth and beards (expertly-trimmed facial topiary being curiously popular amongst the youthful fashion crowd). I also managed to snuggle up to male supermodel, David Gandy, for a photo – and, later in the week, enjoyed afternoon tea at Spencer House, courtesy of Woolmark and the tailors of Savile Row. And, you’ll be pleased to hear that the next big thing in men’s fashion, designed by Martine Rose, is the recycled bar towel hoodie (see above left).

***

Closer to home, I was curious to find out more about the busker who plays outside Waitrose in the Putney Exchange Centre. The smiling violinist, called Kai, wears a tailcoat (above right) and entertains shoppers as they queue at the checkout with his renditions of Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit and Boccherini’s Minuet (the one from the Ladykillers). He’s not exactly note perfect – and, in a way, that’s part of his charm. Kai says he busks in a number of locations – it’s his job, but it doesn’t feel like one because he loves playing so much. He’s invited me to perform a duet with him, though I’m not sure I’ll take up his offer unless I can find a particularly good disguise.

***

Isn’t it funny how we can walk around for years without noticing what’s around us, and then suddenly register something for the first time. On my perambulations around Putney, I spotted an inauspicious little side street by Putney Builders’ Merchants. It’s hidden away beside a railway bridge, and you’d never know it was there… which made me wonder why on earth it’s called Grand Parade Mews. Oh, and just opposite is a café and deli called Valentina, which serves simple Italian food that’s actually rather good. What’s more, this month, if you book online, they’re offering a 50% discount. I expect they do an excellent soup of the day too.

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop, ShopCurious.com.

Fashion Trends: What’s Ahead?


This week I’ve written several posts on the subject of hair and headwear. First I spotted a sudden surge in the number of fashion accessories made using hair. Then I noticed that old hairdressers’ dummies are rapidly becoming collectors’ items… In case you don’t know, these are the mannequin heads that trainee hairdressers experiment on.

Finally, I wrote a piece about headdresses. Forget fascinators, vintage inspired headdresses are the latest must have fashion accessory.  In the course of my trend research, I found these images from designer-maker website, Etsy. Thankfully, there’s no obligation to follow trends – or anyone else’s dress sense – but perhaps these images will provide you with a few ideas for Christmas party outfits?

 

The art of teeth

In the strange world where art meets fashion, teeth currently have the curiosity factor. Emma Montague’s jaw bone spectacle arms add a certain je ne sais quoi to plain old sunglasses.

Friction can be found where luxury meets decay and the refined becomes raw. As raw remnants collide with smooth surfaces, hybrid forms take shape within Montague’s collection of handmade eyewear. By subverting status symbols of personal adornment, dualities are left exposed, mirroring our identity.

Sculptor John Rainey has also been inspired by teeth:

Having witnessed the gradual collapse of the distinction between reality/fantasy, fact/fiction, privacy/publicity, my  sculptures are survivors of a struggle for supremacy between the virtual and the actual,” he says.

Granny takes a trip back in time

The 1960s was a decade of immense optimism, when anything seemed possible. Britain led the way in contemporary fashion –  a group of young people was even sent to New York to show off ‘the London look,’ which, according to one journalist constituted a ‘youthquake.’

It was also a time of tremendous change, with fluctuations of skirt length to match. Despite this, early1960s fashion design was noteworthy for its simple geometric shapes and op art inspired textles, like the designs by Foale and Tuffin (pictured above).

The London fashion scene was a-buzz with happening boutiques. Youth culture combined music and fashion in an exhilarating new symbiosis. According to Salman Rushdie, interviewed on BBC’s British Style Genius, the notorious King’s Road shop, Granny Takes a Trip was “colossally cool… the Kathmandu of hippy chic,” smelling, as it did, of “patchouli and what the police called certain substances.” The store even had its own song, released on the Transatlantic label in 1967 – and a promotional vídeo (or should I say film?) starring Jean Shrimpton. However, the Granny Takes a Trip song was banned by the BBC because they thought it was about LSD.

The 1960s was also a time of space exploration – fashions were inspired by the moon and the stars. In 1964, Andre Courreges launched his famous Moon Girl collection. Later in the decade, Paco Rabanne rocked space age chain mail, opalescent celluloid dresses and groovy white mini boots. By 1969, French designers like Pierre Cardin put France firmly back in the driving seat, producing some of the coolest creations in fashion history:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pi_Ck1R3CXQ

1960s pop art-influenced design experienced something of a revival during the post-modernist ‘80s and early ‘90s. But turn the clock forward 50 years and fashion is taking another, more slavish, trip back to the future with geometric prints, long waistcoats and skirts over hipster trousers.

Marc Jacobs’ latest op art inspired collection for Louis Vuitton, recently launched at Paris Fashion Week, oozes pared down lines (and commerciality, if you’ve starved/stapled yourself skinny and feel inclined to bare your midrif/show your knickers).


As shopping now has more to do with op art-like QR codes, and space has been filled with junk, I suppose the past does seem the most sensible place to be? Of course, London is once again a hotbed of creativity – and some British designers still dare to be edgy… But old is very definitely the new new.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EL8Uc10UUng[/youtube]

A version of this post appears in Curious Trends at ShopCurious.com

Fashion Special: Racy Men at Royal Ascot

It’s a shame the sun fizzled out later in the week, but Tuesday was the perfect day for a spot of fashion scouting at Royal Ascot. I thought I’d share a few photographs of some of the fabulous men’s outfits on show, which I’m sure you’ll wish to emulate for the coming season…

I kind of guessed there would be men wearing Union Jacks – though perhaps on boxer shorts, rather than a sequined mini top hat.


Some were sporting yellow buttonhole flowers, or ties, to match the colour of the first day’s Royal Enclosure badge. Unsurprisingly, Nick Robertson, founder of ASOS, was also wearing a big smile.


Fashions ranged from crisp, white ‘80s style suits (above) to tartan-with-silk-voile-and-topper (below).


Veritable curiosities included a gentleman diner’s collapsible top hat.

And somewhat more avant-garde, one chap (who refused to open his eyes) had a glass-beaded green fish perched on top of his head. What on earth do you make of that?


Finally, I’m not sure exactly what marque/model this is, but it was certainly the most racy and stylish man’s accessory I saw all day…that’s assuming it doesn’t belong to a woman.