Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hey DJ

Saturday night marked my superstar DJ debut. When I say 'DJ', I essentially mean playing half an hour of songs from my iPod but it was still terrifying, and exhilarating, to have a room of people dancing to your control.

Here's what I played:

Where Did Our Love Go? - The Supremes
(hand claps)

My Lovin (You're Never Gonna Get It)- En Vogue
(time for a breakdown)


Dub Be Good To Me - Beats International feat. Lindy Layton
(you're listening to the boy from the big bad city)


Neneh Cherry - Buffalo Stance
(What is he like?) ... followed, somewhat predictably - if you read this blog regularly - by:


Friends - I'm His Girl
(I'm not just another chick)

The Shangri-Las - Give Him a Great Big Kiss

Beastie Boys - Girls 
 (all I really want - a video in lego) 

SL2 - On a Ragga Tip


New Order - Bizarre Love Triangle
(you say the words that I can't say)

Friday, 25 November 2011

Last-Year Reads: Shoemaker of Dreams, the autobiography of Salvatore Ferragamo

"I love feet, they talk to me." So says Salvatore Ferragamo in his autobiography Shoemaker of Dreams, first published in British in 1957. It tells the story of his rise from a poor Italian family to becoming shoemaker to the stars. It travels from Italy to America back to Italy again, all set against the turbulent history of the 1920s through to the 1940s. But most of all it talks about feet. Ferragamo is passionately obsessive about feet. He begs his parents to let him learn shoemaking, despite it being a profession looked down on at the time. He takes anatomy classes to work out how better to shoe the feet. Truly here is a man who loves feet.

The book is quite a bizarre mixture of three main things. There's the story of his business, then there's mention of the many celebrities who he has made shoes for and, finally, there are lots of ruminations about feet. You can almost picture the deal struck with his publisher: Ferragamo would be allowed to expound his foot theories in exchange for dishing some celebrity stories. I think Ferragamo ended up with the better side of that bargain. 

Before reading the book, I hadn't quite realised what a shoe maverick Ferragamo was and quite how much the modern shoe wardrobe is influenced by his designs. He worked for many of the big studios in the 1920s and the above still is taken from one of his first film commissions, Cecil B. deMille's The Ten Commandments, an Egyptian epic. Take a look at their feet, what are they wearing? Yes, Ferragamo's designs for this film was one of the things that helped popularize sandals as fashion footwear. He even notes in the book how people were gradually asking for more and more of the foot to be exposed in the sandal design - a trend that has continued through to today and the thong style of flipflops. 

Another thing to thank Ferragamo for: platforms. Previously not seen since the Renaissance, these were apparently created for performers who wanted to look taller. This particular pair dates to 1938 but it is striking how modern it still looks.

While working in Italy in the 1940s storages in material forced Ferragamo to innovate with materials such as wood, transparent paper and cork, creating 'wedgies', again a shoe that is still with us. A continual experimenter, He writes that there is "no end to the materials a shoemaker may use to decorate his creations so that every woman may be shod like a princess and a princess may be shod like a fairy queen", before going on to list the wide range of materials he has worked with to create his shoes which includes fish, snail shells and kangaroo. He goes on to say "the material I work with today is my favourite today. Its possibilities fascinate and intrigue".

via Stylehive

And so onto the names. Ferragamo seemed to make shoes for anyone with any power, influence and money in the period, including Mussolini's mistress and Eva Braun. Meanwhile, he continued his exports to America and Britain without the help of the Italian government until the war made this impossible. His political stance - or lack of it - was something he was criticised for in the aftermath of the Second World War. He merely states: "I was an innocent shoemaker who knew nothing of politics except that the actions of politicians has caused terrible harm to me and the world." Jonathan Walford's excellent Forties Fashion book mentions how Ferragamo had been inspired by Italian Futurism to use bright colours - the reds, greens and whites of the Italian flag. However, perhaps because of that movement's links to Fascism, that isn't something Ferragamo states in the book. 

Ferragamo is understandably much more comfortable talking about Hollywood stars. However, don't go expecting lots of celebrity gossip. What you do get is a long list of shoe sizes of the stars, which is strangely fascinating: Bette Davis and Carmen Miranda were a 4.5B (US size), Vivien Leigh a 5.5A, Rita Hayworth a 6A while Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn reached a seemingly massive 7AA. Not so big when you consider that's a UK size 5. There are a few insights into the shoe buying style of the stars: Marlene Dietrich "wears the shoes once or twice, enjoys their beauty to the full - and then casts them aside. She too looks for the beauty and the perfection of the future", whereas the divine Audrey, pictured above, "is always natural and completely unaffected, whether she is acting or buying shoes or handbags."

Ferragamo's passion and zeal for shoemaking shines through his book, and what he achieved for his profession is really remarkable, not least in some of the stunning designs he left with us. He died in 1960s but, if he was still around, I'm sure he'd have some very stern words to say about the quality of high street shoes, and the damage it was doing to all of our feet, but I can't help but think he'd rejoice in the array of colour and huge amount of styles we get to pick from today. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Last-Year Buy: Dansk top and vintage skater dress

So I mentioned in my last post that I'd got a bit addicted to WIWT. It's that site I can thank for actually having pictures of my new purchases to show you (albeit all very similar pictures of me pointing my camera in the mirror with a messy bed in the background). It's also made me realise that I'm going through a complete red phase at the moment - it's my favourite colour so sometimes I have to consciously reign myself back from it to avoid looking too much like a crazy red lady/snow white. At the moment I think the balance is there, just about.

Here's what I wore to Summer Camp: a new top courtesy of Dansk, via ASOS on one of their lethal savvy sunday offers. I love the twist on animal print given by the dalmatian pattern, and the fact that it's all primed up with the collar and cuffs. The skirt is the one from Sessun that I featured back in my September issues post: its purchase got lost in the general horror that was that month.

And here's what I wore yesterday, a great new vintage dress that I bought while on my book club weekend away in Stroud. It's made from wool and covered with a flecked black and grey pattern that seems impossible to photograph properly. The bodice is pretty tight but the skirt is perfect for swirling and festive ice-skating, if that wasn't something I hadn't forbidden myself from doing due to general ineptitude. The weekend itself proved a pretty perfect escape: we stayed in a beautiful converted chapel in Slad (with a few Damien Hirsts just for, you know, decoration). Combine that with lots of tasty food, walks, book chat and a brief vintage pit stop and it made me a pretty happy lady.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Made a book, we made a book, look at us - we made a book!

This month saw the official release of the Domestic Sluttery book. I had foolishly thought this was something I'd take in my stride - after all, I've seen through hundreds of books as part of my day job. That wasn't the case at all: I was completely terrified about releasing the book we'd slaved away on for so many hours into the outside world (and I've subsequently vowed to be much more understanding to all my own poor angsty authors). Now I've got over that, I'm so proud of the book and all the work Sian and the rest of the team put into it, and have madly gone the other way, compulsively checking our sales ranking on Amazon. We seem to be doing really rather well which is lovely to see.

We had an amazing launch party last week at the Anova offices, fuelled by all the gin and cake as you'd expect from the Domestic Sluts. We were asked to post our outfits to WIWT, so for once I have a  record of what I actually wore for an occasion.

Ta da! It's my Olivia Rubin dress that I bought for my 30th. Out of sight are some amazing gold shoes, c/o Asos (I was trying to summon my inner superhero). The photo credit belongs to my mum who came down for the event and had the joy of me faffing around trying to get this photo for at least half an hour. Since mastering the technology, WIWT has become a bit of an addiction and I'm posting away on there like a teenager, if only the internet had existed in such a form when I was a teenager.

The title of this post is a thinly veiled reference to We Formed a Band, as I had the joy of seeing Art Brut for approximately my 20 billionth time earlier this month. It's been a bit of a gig going few weeks: as well as the Brut, this November I've seen St Vincent, Tom Vek, Summer Camp and Lykke Li (I sadly had to miss out on Cults as it clashed with the book launch) who were all brilliant in their own ways and deserving of a much more fulsome review than that. This week promises Wye Oak, Wild Beasts and Friendly Fires. I'm enjoying all the music hugely but it doesn't halt the feeling that I actually am regressing to teenagehood again any. One serious fact that makes me realise that, my god, I'm really not a teenager any more is that I've just had an offer accepted on a flat. I don't think you can get much more grown-up than that really - terrifying.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Adam Curtis and Pauline Boty

One of my very first posts on this site and my first Last-Year Girl was Pauline Boty. Pauline Boty surfaces again this week on Adam Curtis's blog. It's part of a fascination piece he's written on the Occupy movement, using Boty and her husband Clive Goodwin as examples of the failed dreams of the 1960s left-wing. The piece gives some great details given about Boty, whether you ultimately agree with his argument or not. But his interpretations of their lives took me back to Boty's quote: "Our fears, hopes, frustrations, and dreams. We can pin them on a star who shows them to millions." Beautiful, talented, dead ... Pauline Boty is the perfect pin-up girl for a million interpretations, frustrations and dreams.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Last-Year Girl: Loulou de la Falaise

One of my favourite books I've read recently has got to be Alicia Drake's The Beautiful Fall which charts the alternate paths of Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld in 1970s Paris. It was with great sadness that I learnt Loulou de la Falaise has recently died. As Saint Laurent's muse, Loulou is one of the major, and one of the most likeable, figures in this book.

With Saint Laurent, and his other muse, the fabulous Betty Catroux (who Saint Laurent apparently saw as the female version of himself) at the opening of the Rive Gauche boutique in London.

The daughter of an Anglo-Irish fashion model and a French marquis (of course!) the book credits her with bringing some of the freedom of swinging London to Paris. She comes across well in the book, a bundle of energy, and far from the passivity you might associate with the term 'muse'. In fact she says of that term - in an interview with the Metro of all unlikely places - "I used to get very irritated by that term. For me, a muse is someone who looks glamorous but is quite passive, whereas I was very hard-working. I worked from 9am to sometimes 9pm, or even 2am ... Now that it’s all over, I like to think there’s a bit of my soul in the clothes that were designed when I was there because I was supposed to be a source of inspiration."

Her style seems effortless: piled on jewellery, turbans, men's suits - apparently she was the inspiration behind Le Smoking.

At her wedding party. The woman with her back to the camera is Bianca Jagger.
via Anna Lee

One of my favourite descriptions of her in the book is of her wedding to Thadee Klosswoski in 1977. For day, she wears a white Yves Saint Laurent suit with turban, for night she changes into the dazzling number shown above. The moon headdress is something she made in hours before the actual wedding, in typical de la Falaise spirit. Again in the Metro, she says her style is based on "whim, fantasy. Finding a feather in the park and putting it in a headband and thinking: ‘I’ll go for something Robin Hood-ish.’ Sometimes one element pushes things over the top and you invent something." As well as producing accessories for  Saint Laurent, Loulou applied her style to her own jewellery line. 

"To find inspiration in everything can become automatic if you allow that little machine in your head to work" she said in a Daily Mail feature about her apartment (to find inspiration from another unlikely place).

Strong, sexy, and oh so stylish, Loulou we'll miss you.

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Last-Year Music: Friends

When you see me walking around ... chances are that this is the song that's playing in my head

I've got the honour of doing a DJ session at a party at the end of the month. My playlist has been veering between '60s girl groups and late 80s/early 90s dance. The pop and sass of the Friends track combined with the music selection in the V&A's Postmodernism exhibition (which I finally saw this week) is definitely pushing me in the latter direction. And to this song in particular...

What is he like?
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