Friday, 30 May 2014
Thursday, 29 May 2014
I'm not gonna lie, I'm mostly in it for the fashion. Cannes fashion has a very particular aesthetic: glamour, glamour, glamour. The Couture houses are kings here and I love it.
Here's my top five (well, fiveish) ladies on the Croisette this year...
Blake Lively in Gucci Premiere... Twice
Uma Thurman in Aterlier Versace
Lara Stone in Calvin Klein Collection
Freida Pinto in Oscar de la Renta
Natasha Poly in Oscar de la Renta
Tuesday, 27 May 2014
"It is objectionable in both men and women to cry over a political defeat, but more so in men. Clegg is an embarrassment."
So thinks Louise Mensch apparently. What utter, utter rubbish.
I don't usually 'do' politics on this blog (regular readers fear not, regular service will be resumed shortly) but I'm going to make a very brief exception.
The past few days have been horrible - horrible - for the Lib Dems. Even as someone who's been taking a horribly selfish ('hey guys, you've made me redundant twice now so if you don't want me then I don't want you') sabbatical from active involvement in the party until very recently, I'm hurting right now.
For all the things that annoy me about the party, all the people in it that I don't agree with or straight up don't like (looking in your direction, Matthew Oakshott), it's my party. It's part of who I am, for better or worse. So yes, for all my affected nonchalance, when it takes a kicking I get upset. When it takes a kicking as hard as it has done recently, I get very upset. And maybe there's something weirder about people that don't than there is about me.
It's much more personal than that though. I've made most of the best friends I've got through the Lib Dems; people who've made my life much richer and who I know I'll be friends with for a very long time (not forgetting those who I really wish we're still around - Andrew you're so especially missed at times like this). And a lot of those people have had their lives completely turned upside down by the events of the past few days. Fantastic, hardworking politicians and their, in my admittedly very biased view, even harder working and more fantastic staff woke up on Monday morning wondering what the hell to do now. I've been there, I know how much it hurts, how frightening it is and it's breaking my heart to see people I care about going through it now. Maybe there are people in other parties, even in the Lib Dems, who haven't made these sort of connections or who just don't care about them. I feel really sorry for those people.
That's why I'm in no way embarrassed to admit I've cried over a political defeat in the past few days. I've been hurt and so have the people I care about - why wouldn't I? And if I've shed a tear or several - someone who's delivered maybe three rounds of leaflets, artworked a couple of tabloids and helped out at one count in the past year; who's career and financial security are in no way at stake - then why shouldn't others? Why shouldn't Nick Clegg?
I've only been a Lib Dem member for 10 years. I've never been elected and nor would I want to be. I think anyone who's prepared to be publicly associated with a political party in that way at any level is incredibly brave. To be leader? I think that's frankly a bit insane. To be leader of the Lib Dems at the moment? Well, that's something else.
I think Nick is incredibly brave. I think he's a fantastic leader and a gifted politician. From my experience he's also a genuinely nice guy who cares about this party and what it stands for. Of course he's upset about the last few days and, given how some people seem to think it's entirely his fault (they are of course 100% wrong), he arguably has more reason to be than anyone else. And I know if I was being subjected to the sort of nonsense from people in my own party, let alone the actual opposition, as he has been I think I'd be upset too. He gives a shit, y'know. I like that.
So Louise Mensch can keep her unfeeling automatons. I'm glad we have a leader who actually cares, who hurts along with the rest of us, who isn't so ridiculously backward in outlook that he's afraid to show it.
And, by the way, I hope we have him for a while to come.
So what's to be done now? I'm not much of an expert (you've likely noticed this by now) but for me personally the answer is pretty simple. Put my battered ego back in its box and get back on the horse. I hope a few others will join me. Because if there's one thing that's for damn sure, I have no intention of feeling this bad again come May 2015.
Monday, 26 May 2014
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
Technically, the purpose of the evening is an annual fundraising shindig for The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. In reality it's the most exciting fashion event of the year with anyone who's anyone (and Kim Kardashian) rocking up on the red carpet to show off their fashion cajones.
It's all about the outfits. It's not about looking pretty - it's about making a statement.
It's go big or go home made flesh.
So who rocked my world this year?
Blake Lively in Gucci Premiere
Charlize Theron in Christian Dior Haute Couture
Arizona Muse in Ralph and Russo Couture
Rihanna in Stella McCartney
Reese Witherspoon in Stella McCartney
ELLE WOODS WENT TO THE MET GALA AND IT WAS AWESOME! Ok, bit over excited there, sorry. But seriously, this colour + this neckline = all kinds of win.
Monday, 5 May 2014
For my birthday, The Bloke (yes we're still a thing, believe me we're as surprised as you are) got me a couple of exhibition tickets. When I say 'a couple', I mean single tickets for me to go to two exhibitions I'd been talking about seeing. On my own. He thought they looked boring. Romance.
Anyway, unencumbered by a bored and complaining middle aged man (love you baby) I headed off for a very fashionable Easter Saturday taking in The Glamour of Italian Fashion 1945 - 2014 at the V&A and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at the Barbican.
The Glamour of Italian Fashion is, as the name suggests, an overview of the work of the Italian design houses in the post-war period. And it's a comprehensive overview with menswear and womenswear, couture and ready to wear and shoes and accessories all covered. Set out chronologically, the exhibition is well curated and the explanatory displays throughout the rooms are really informative and accessible (trans: idiot proof).
It's impossible to leave the exhibition without a sense of the enormous debt that fashion in general, and couture in particular, owe to the Italian fashion industry. Some of the pieces are absolutely stunning. The 1950s couture displays were my favourites - the craftsmanship is mind blowing and they're just beautiful to look at. Seeing some of Liz Taylor's favourite Bulgari jewels is a thrill too.
That said, I felt like there could have been more. Yes, the clothes were beautiful but when you consider all that Italian fashion has done, all the drama and the innovation, the exhibition just felt a bit lacking. Good, not great, but worth seeing.
Across town, and the Barbican's Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition is another kettle of fish altogether. The Fashion World is a restrospective of the career of Jean Paul Gaultier. Spread over two floors of the Barbican's art gallery, it covers everything from his couture gowns to stage costumes for the likes of Kylie and Madonna to his corsetry work to his ubiquitous Breton striped tops.
And it's absolutely fantastic.
I don't think I've ever seen an exhibition that I genuinely think is a must see before but this is definitely one. Even if you're not interested in fashion, you should go.
It's not just the breadth of work on display - and how stunning it is - that makes this exhibition something special, though that alone is certainly special. It's the innovative way it's presented. In contrast to the traditional 'here are some things, they're in case or behind a rope, don't get too close and don't even think of taking photos' approach of most exhibitions (The Glamour of Italian Fashion included), The Fashion World shows its pieces on animated mannequins that talk and sing to you. There are no cases or ropes. You're encouraged to get up close and take photos (as long as you don't touch or use flash).
Here's the man himself welcoming guests to his exhibition:
|Jean Paul Gaultier greets you in room one of The Fashion World|
It's hard to pick a favourite piece from this exhibition, but for me the pieces from JPG's mermaid collection were definitely up there.
Marion Cotillard wore the white version of this stunning gold and black gown to The Oscars a few years ago:
And the detail on this corset is breathtaking:
Detailing generally is one of the things I loved most about all of the work on display. And because the display is so cleverly done you can actually get up close and fully appreciate it - none of the photos in this post were taken with a zoom of any kind. Here are a couple of my favourite bits of detailing:
|Jet beading on a denim evening gown|
|'Pin stripe' made of buttons|
|Leopard 'skin' made of beads with rhinestone 'claws'|
That beaded leopard 'skin' with rhinestone 'claws' has to be seen to be believed.
And of course no Gaultier exhibition would be complete without some of his trademark cone bra corsets, as worn by Madonna:
I really can't praise this exhibition highly enough. See it, see it now.
Friday, 2 May 2014
Back in the bronze age when I was in primary school we also did a bit about the Tudors. Or to put it more accurately, we also did a bit about Henry VIII. I remember being fascinated then, and a raft of excellent BBC documentaries in 2012 (I think) rekindled that fascination. Last year I also devoured Hilary Mantel's amazing series of historical novels - Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies - that tell the story of Henry's marriages through the eyes of his right hand man Thomas Cromwell.
I noticed in Mantel's bibliography that the name Alison Weir kept cropping up. She'd also cropped up as an expert in some of the BBC docs. So when I spotted The Six Wives of Henry VIII, her collective biography of the six unfortunate women who married Britain's most infamous monarch, on a trip to the massive Foyles on Charing Cross Road I decided I'd give it a go.
My motivation in buying it was largely as a companion piece to whichever Mantel book I was reading at the time. I was interested to know how much of her narrative and her characters were fictionalised. But that does Weir's work a disservice. It's an excellent book in its own right and well worth reading whether or not you've read any of Mantel's books (and if you haven't then why the hell are you wasting your time reading my blog?!)
Everyone knows the story of Henry VIII and his succession of wives - divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. I imagine/hope most people know the story of Henry divorcing Katherine of Aragon in favour of Anne Boleyn and the resulting split with Rome and religious strife it caused. I guess most people won't know much more than that.
Weir's book concerns itself with telling the stories of all six of the women's lives as well as that of Henry himself and other key figures in the story, including Cromwell. It's told chronologically (so Katherine and Anne do take up more of the book than the other four wives) and researched from contemporary sources.
The quality of the research, to this untrained eye, is impeccable and the analysis offered - informed and balanced, particularly on the more divisive figures involved such as Anne and Mary Boleyn - is one of the major things that makes the book so good. It's also written in an incredibly straightforward and accessible way so that even an idiot like me can follow the story, with its huge cast of characters, and understand the analysis. There's also a refreshing lack of moral judgement of any of the characters too, something that the BBC documentaries and many of the articles analysing Mantel's books suggest is pretty rare on this topic.
For me, the book is at its best when talking about some of the lesser known wives. I particularly enjoyed the chapters about Katherine Parr (who I think is my favourite wife) and Catherine Howard who I didn't really know anything about before reading the book. Mary Boleyn also emerges from the book (and Mantel's) as an amazing character and I've bought Weir's biography of her too.
Overall it's a great read. Did I enjoy it more because of my love for Wolf Hall et al? Probably - it's fascinating to see Mantel's characters as real people, especially as many of the ones I assumed she'd made up are in fact real, especially Thomas Cromwell.
Is it a brilliant book anyway? Yes: it's accessible, interesting and I genuinely learned lots. Highly recommended.